Pereira v. State Bd. of Educ., No. 18833.

Decision Date28 February 2012
Docket NumberNo. 18833.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesMaria PEREIRA et al. v. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION et al.Robert Walsh et al. v. State Board of Education et al.Laurayne Farrar–James et al. v. Board of Education of the City of Bridgeport et al.


Norman A. Pattis, Bethany, with whom was Kevin Smith, New Haven, for the appellants in the first case (named plaintiff Maria Pereira et al.).

Michele C. Mount, with whom was John Kardaras, for the appellants in the second case (named plaintiff Robert Walsh et al.).

Josephine Smalls Miller, with whom, on the brief, was Atiya Sample, for the appellants in the third case (named plaintiff Laurayne Farrar–James et al.).Mark F. Kohler, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Maura Murphy Osborne and Michael K. Skold, assistant attorneys general, for the appellees (named defendant state board of education et al.).John P. Bohannon, Jr., for the appellees (named defendant board of education of the city of Bridgeport et al.).Steven D. Ecker, with whom, on the brief, was Peter M. Haberlandt, Hartford, for the appellees (defendant Robert Trefry et al.).

John B. Orleans filed a brief for Bridgeport Education Fund, Inc., et al., as amici curiae.



The dispositive issue in this reservation is whether the state board of education (state board), violated General Statutes § 10–223e (h) 1 when it authorized the commissioner of education (commissioner) to reconstitute the board of education of the city of Bridgeport (local board). 2 Specifically, we must determine whether the failure of the state board to require the local board to undergo and complete training, as mandated by § 10–223e (h), rendered void the state board's authorization to the commissioner to reconstitute the local board. In that connection, we also must address whether a resolution, which a majority of the local board passed, requesting that the state board authorize reconstitution of the local board resulted in a waiver of the state board's obligation to require training. We conclude that the state board's failure to require training rendered void its authorization of reconstitution under § 10–223e (h) and that the local board's resolution had no effect on the operation of the statute. We therefore answer the dispositive question in the affirmative.


The following undisputed facts and procedural history are relevant to our analysis. The state board has designated the school district of the city of Bridgeport (local school district) a low achieving school district under § 10–223e (c)(1) 3 for at least seven consecutive years. The local school district also has failed to make acceptable progress toward benchmarks established by the state board, pursuant to § 10–223e (a) and (c), and has failed to make adequate yearly progress pursuant to the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub.L. No. 107–110, 115 Stat. 1425, codified as amended at 20 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq. (2006 & Sup. III 2009), for at least two consecutive years while being designated as a low achieving school district. Students at virtually all levels in the local school district generally underperform on proficiency tests offered in recent years. Specifically, in the 20092010 school year, only 66.5 percent of students in the local school district in grades three through eight were proficient in mathematics and only 53.5 percent were proficient in reading, as measured by the Connecticut Mastery Test. Similarly, for the same period, only 32.3 percent of students in grade ten were proficient in mathematics and only 39.5 percent were proficient in reading, as measured by the Connecticut Academic Performance Test.

The local board was established by the charter of the city of Bridgeport (charter), with all the powers of and duties imposed on boards of education under Connecticut and federal laws. See Bridgeport Charter, c. 15, § 2. Pursuant to the charter, the local board consists of nine members, who must be electors of the city of Bridgeport and serve four year terms. Id., at § 1(a). Elections for the local board are staggered so that, every two years, either four or five members of the local board are elected. See id., at § 1(b) and (c). The charter further provides that, in the event of any vacancy in the membership of the local board, the remaining members will elect a new member, of the same political party as the vacated member, for the balance of the term. Id., at § 1(d).

Prior to August 5, 2011, the local board was composed of Barbara Bellinger, the president, Leticia Colon, the vice president, Delores Fuller, the secretary, and Nereyda Robles, Thomas Cunningham, Thomas Mulligan, Maria Pereira, Bobby Simmons and Sauda Baraka. All members were elected by the electors of the city of Bridgeport. In 2011, four local board members, namely, Bellinger, Fuller, Robles and Cunningham, were at the end of their four year terms, and their positions were set to be filled no later than the November, 2011 Bridgeport municipal general election. The other five members, namely, Colon, Mulligan, Pereira, Simmons and Baraka, had another two years remaining on their terms as of 2011.

In 2010, some members of the local board had sought and completed certain training offered by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. The first training session, which was held on March 5, 2010, focused on the roles and responsibilities of the local board and its members, and provided certain tools and techniques for holding more productive local board meetings. All local board members except Simmons and Baraka attended this session. The second training session, which was held on October 5, 2010, focused on the state Freedom of Information Act and Robert's Rules of Order. All members except Simmons, Baraka and Robles attended this session. Neither of these training sessions was mandated or required by the state board.

Beginning in January, 2011, and continuing through July 5, 2011, local elected officials in the city of Bridgeport consulted with either or both the chairman of the state board, Allan B. Taylor, and then acting commissioner of education, George A. Coleman, regarding the possibility of the state board reconstituting the local board following a formal request by the local board. Local board members Simmons, Baraka and Pereira were not aware of, informed of or asked to participate in these communications any time prior to July 1, 2011.

On Friday, July 1, 2011, at 4:55 p.m., a notice of a special meeting of the local board, to take place on Tuesday, July 5, 2011, at 6 p.m., was issued by Fuller. The agenda for the special meeting, as provided in the notice, included a discussion and vote on two resolutions concerning requests and recommendations to the state board. Copies of both resolutions were attached to the notice. The local board convened the special meeting on July 5, 2011, with all nine members present. By a vote of six to three, the local board passed the resolution concerning the reconstitution request (resolution), with local board members Baraka, Pereira and Simmons voting against it. The resolution provided, inter alia, that the local board (1) was unable to function effectively, (2) could not properly and effectively oversee the local school district and meet its improvement plan, and (3) had received training to help it function more effectively as a board but that this training had not enabled it to meet its responsibilities and, further, that additional training would not be helpful.4 In light of these circumstances, the resolution requested that the state board authorize the commissioner, pursuant to § 10–223e (h), to reconstitute the local board.

The following day, July 6, 2011, the state board held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, which was open to the public. After the meeting was called to order, the state board voted unanimously to add the local board resolution to its agenda. During the meeting, the state board received public comment regarding the resolution and then voted, five to four, to authorize the commissioner to reconstitute the local board. On July 14, 2011, Coleman sent a letter to Bellinger, the local board's president, copying all other local board members and giving notice of his intention to reconstitute the local board pursuant to the authority granted to him by the July 6, 2011 vote of the state board. On August 5 and 16, 2011, Coleman appointed seven new members to the local board: Robert Trefry; Kenneth Moales, Jr.; Michelle Black Smith–Tompkins; David Norton; Jaqueline Kelleher; Judith Bankowski; and Hernan Illingworth (reconstituted board). The effect of these appointments was to remove all previous members of the local board from their positions. By operation of § 10–223e (h), the members of the reconstituted board retain their positions for at least three years, during which time no local elections will be held for positions on the local board.

Shortly after Coleman's July 14, 2011 letter to the local board, former local board members Pereira and Simmons filed an action in the Superior Court against the state board, Coleman, Bill Finch, the mayor of the city of Bridgeport, John Ramos, the superintendent of schools for the city of Bridgeport, former local board members Bellinger, Colon, Fuller, Robles, Cunningham and Mulligan, and reconstituted board members Trefry, Moales, Smith–Tompkins, Norton, Kelleher, Bankowski and Illingworth. Around the same time, Robert Walsh, George Pipkin and Pertrinea Cash–Deedon, electors of the city of Bridgeport who had submitted over 3000 petition signatures in order to qualify as candidates for the local board, filed an action in the Superior Court against the defendants in the Pereira case, as well as Santa I. Ayala,...

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