Controversy over Bassick parent election
Updated 3:29 pm, Wednesday, November 29, 2017
BRIDGEPORT — Bassick High School has its share of problems.
Low graduation rates, a new principal just about every year and frequent fights.
The latest skirmish appears not to be between students.
Principal Byron Williams has called for an election Friday for new Parent Teacher Student Organization leadership, over the objection of the current president, who insists his time isn’t yet up.
Williams, through email, said the two-year time period to hold the position of president has ended, and that an election must be held. A notice announcing the election was posted this week to the school website.
“Wow,” Albert Benejan, the sitting president, said when told of the announcement.
A day later, a link with five candidates running for the office was posted.
One of them is Benejan, a parent fixture in the district who has a full-size classroom as his own office at Bassick and is there all day. Other candidates are parents Ondrea Moore, Rosario Castillo, Michelle McRae and Jennifer Wieland.
Benejan said for a principal to take over the parent election is unprecedented. Usually the election is handled by a committee of parents. He also said he worries about who will oversee the 7 a.m.-7 p.m. balloting outside the school gymnasium and who will count the votes.
This is not the first time the district has stepped in where parent organizations are concerned. Two years ago, the Board of Education voted to disband the district-wide Parent Advisory Council at the urging of interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz, over rules that prohibited parents who belong to any other educational advocacy group, including charter schools, from serving as council officers.
Joanne Kennedy, who had children go through Bassick, said there is no comparison between the two situations. Kennedy supports Williams, calling him a consummate professional who follows policy.
She is not alone.
Wieland, one of the candidates for PTSO president, told the school board this week that her children have gone through 13 principals between Curiale, a K-8 school, and Bassick High school. She rattled off each of their names.
“Finally, you have a principal who is qualified and wants to stay and has the vision we have as a community school,” Wieland said.
Benejan also has supporters, many of them Spanish-speaking parents who rely on him for translation.
“I would hate to see him go,” parent Rosa Ortiz told the school board through a Spanish interpreter this week.
Jessica Martinez, a parent just elected to the school board, said “Albert can be difficult to work with, but his heart is in the right place.”
“He fights hard for all the children of Bassick,” she said in a letter to district officials.
Benejan, meanwhile, described Williams’ selection as principal this past summer as “heartbreaking.”
Williams was passed over two years ago as Bassick principal for Tomas Ramirez, who lasted a year. Over the summer, Williams was passed over again for a Norwalk school administrator, Marie Allen. She accepted the job, then backed out when Norwalk convinced her to stay.
During a second round of interviews, parents and Bassick’s School Governance Council — Benejan is part of both — each recommended against Williams. Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson went with Williams anyway.