Thanks to a Wait, What? reader from Rhode Island, I’ve learned that according to press reports, Peter Horoschak, Superintendent of Schools in Warwick, RI, that state’s second largest school district, was put on administrative leave today. According to the Warwick School Committee’s Vice Chairman, the action was due to a personnel matter. Superintendent Horoschak reported that he is unaware of what the issue may be.
Few may realize that Horoschak served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education, and Assistant Secretary of the State Board of Education, in the mid-1970s. He also served as Superintendent of Schools in Stamford, Connecticut, in the early 1990s.
Horoschak played a key role in the famous 1978 Bridgeport teacher’s school strike, which led to the passage of Connecticut’s landmark 1979 Teacher Collective Bargaining Act, a law that requires that deadlocked teacher contract negations are resolved through binding arbitration and not strikes.
With no mechanism to resolve issues, and strikes illegal, 1,250 Bridgeport teachers went on strike September 6, 1978. The Bridgeport strike garnered worldwide attention. Bridgeport Superior Court Judge James Henebry ordered that teachers be rounded up and jailed.
In the first week, at least 135 Bridgeport teachers were arrested and taken to the Connecticut National Guard’s Camp Hartell. Over the 19 day strike, a total of 274 Bridgeport teachers were sent to jail.
Despite efforts by both sides to send the unresolved issues to binding arbitration, the Connecticut court blocked the effort, claiming that binding arbitration was not allowed under Connecticut law.
Following the failure to get the issues to binding arbitration, Horoschak, who was the State Department of Education’s point person on the strike, ordered the parties back to the bargaining table. With continued pressure from the state, the strike was eventually settled.
However, twenty years later, Bridgeport’s teachers remained the lowest paid in Fairfield County and the second lowest paid public school teachers in Connecticut.
As the Bridgeport Education Association celebrated the strike’s 20th anniversary, Jack Reh, the President of the Bridgeport Education Association, at the time, noted that “16 teachers have resigned to take better-paying jobs in other districts since school opened in August.
Now, 14 years more years have passed and the famous Bridgeport teacher’s strike was 34 years ago.
However, the City of Bridgeport started this school year off with a series of layoffs, including 14 special education teachers.
At the same time, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s interim superintendent, and “education reformer extraordinaire,” managed to find about $1 million to pay for a series of consultants who were hired on no-bid contracts. Further, many of these consultants actually work for Vallas’ private consulting firm; a company that recently signed a $1 million contract to work with schools in Illinois and an $18 million contract to work with 15 schools in Indianapolis.
Despite the publicity about these out-of-state contracts, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education made no effort to publicly review the appropriateness of the no-bid contracts. The new, democratically elected Board of Education has, to date, also overlooked Vallas’ use of no-bid contracts.
Sadly, these issues reflect a broader concern reality about the demise of an active and independent media. The Connecticut Post, Bridgeport’s newspaper of record, hasn’t even written a story about Vallas’ $18 million dollar contract in Indianapolis, and it is hard to imagine that anyone there or at any Connecticut newspaper, have realized that the Warwick superintendent put on leave today is the same individual who played an important role in the great Bridgeport strike of 1978.