Four years ago, schools Superintendent Neil Cavallaro dismissively told the New Haven Register that West Haveners were angry over his plans to gut the tech ed program at the high school because Westies “just like to fight about everything.” Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that the real reason Westies are angry over their schools is because Mr. Cavallaro, in collusion with a corrupt teachers’ union leadership, is systematically destroying our education system.
Folks, there’s a brick building on the corner of Campbell Ave. and Brown Street in the heart of our city which has my great-great grandfather’s name on it. It was built in 1909 and is still owned by my family. As a homeowner, a taxpayer, a graduate of our school system, and as a teacher at the high school for 12 years, I know exactly why our schools are in such a mess. This mess is not the result of bad teachers, bad kids, or “changing demographics.” It is the product of the collusion between a grossly immature, ignorant, and mean-spirited little man and a corrupt teachers’ union (WHFT) leadership. It is well past time for Mr. Cavallaro to go.
Right now I am fighting in court for my professional life. Last December I was abruptly removed from my classroom at the behest of Mr. Cavallaro. After I had filed a lawsuit against the school system and a complaint against my union with the state labor board, Mr. Cavallarro’s agents placed me on an “intensive support” program. While out of school on a documented medical absence, Mr. Cavallaro, in a characteristically brave move, used two women in the system to tell me by phone that my job was at risk and that I could be forcibly escorted from the high school if I attempted to return as planned. Having grown up on the corner of First Avenue and Center Street I am not properly accustomed to being threatened by women, so I asked these two ladies to tell Mr. Cavallaro to put his threats in writing, which he did, causing me to wind up on paid administrative leave, where I remain until these issues are resolved in court.
I did not seek out this set of circumstances, I deeply regret the harm done to my students by my removal from the classroom last December, and I am looking forward to returning to the profession I love when these matters are resolved.
Since then, Mr. Cavallaro and his agents have attempted to prevent me from having a termination hearing before the Board of Education. Right now, they are trying to force me to have an “arbitration hearing” before their hand-picked “neutral” hearing officer Laurie Cain, a confederate and stooge of Board Attorney Floyd Dugas. Two years ago Ms. Cain ruled against Wallingford municipal workers when she determined that they weren’t entitled to be paid for work cancelled during an “emergency” snowstorm, a decision that ignited a firestorm of costly union grievances and appeals to the state labor board. The people who are attempting to destroy my teaching career and to deprive me of my livelihood will not be allowed to hide behind an arbitrator or a “hearing officer.” The threats and costly games will stop.
My constitutional rights have been violated and my rights under the law continue to be violated. My Superior Court lawsuit against the school administration is a public document and is available from any Board member, any WHFT union steward, or any WHFT officer. Those concerned about the future of our kids and of our school system are invited to obtain a copy and to read it carefully. I stand behind every word under oath.
The outward symptoms of our school system’s decline — declining test scores, staff turnover, lawsuits, no-show administrators, out-of-control coordinators, a Board of Ed sometimes focused on protecting and promoting relatives, etc. — cannot conceal the real sources of the problem at the top of both the system administration and the WHFT. Most Westie teachers remain good teachers and we will not be scapegoated. Local politicians who play footsie with Cavallaro need to remember two words — John Picard.
This has never been just about me. When I arrived in the school system from Wilbur Cross a dozen years ago, Westie teachers had one of the best contracts in the state. Under Patti Fusco and her successors, it’s been downhill all the way. How did this happen?
The simplest and best answer is that a stupid and corrupt union leadership hitched their wagon to the least respected and most personally disliked superintendent in West Haven’s history, taking the union and the entire school system into the toilet.
This is why we fight, Mr. Cavallaro.