More than a week after the Board of Education convened to terminate the contract of New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Carol Birks, details of Birks’s exit package have yet to be released.
The Board of Education convened for a special session on Oct. 2 to terminate Birks’s contract. At that time, the board voted to consolidate negotiating powers in President of the Board of Education Darnell Goldson. After the session, Goldson said the documents were expected to be signed by the end of the week. Still, in an email to the News on Wednesday, Goldson said that Birks has not yet signed the agreement between her and the Board of Education.
“The details will not be available until the document is signed by all parties,” Goldson said. “The major details have been hashed out, the lawyers are working out the minor issues.”
He added that while Birks has 21 days from the Oct. 2 meeting to sign the agreement, he predicts that she will sign before that.
Goldson confirmed at the meeting that Birks will receive between $150,000 to $200,000 in her exit package. In an email to the News, he emphasized that this sum will be closer to $150,000.
Edward Joyner — a member of the Board of Education who voted against negotiating an exit package with Birks — did not respond to a request for comment.
The New Haven Register reported on Oct. 2 that Birks would continue to act in an advisory role to the Office of the Superintendent — the duties of which have currently been assumed by Assistant Superintendent Ilene Tracey — until Birks’s contract has been officially terminated. Goldson confirmed that Tracey and Birks have collaborated as Tracey has begun to assume the role of interim Superintendent.
“Dr. Birks and Dr. Tracey have a good professional relationship,” Goldson told the News. “Tracey has already interacted with Birks on several issues, and I expect that will continue for as long as the contract allows.”
Birks did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In an interview with WTNH-8, Tracey said that she would put the students first.
“I have to make sure that morale is re-established in the system because we are at an all-time low,” Tracey said. “A more pressing need right now is actually the busing issue.”
During her time as superintendent, Birks faced numerous issues including teacher layoffs, a mounting deficit and internal complaints. Previous reports indicate that the Board of Education has been considering Birks’s performance as Superintendent since June.
Still, Birks faced two controversies in the weeks before the Board of Education’s decision to remove her. The Board of Education slashed the number of bus stops from 8,800 to just over 4,000 at the start of the school year as a cost-saving measure.
Bethzaida Roche, a mother with a daughter in New Haven Public Schools, told the News that she was struggling with busing issues as late as Oct. 8.
“[There is] lots of tension and anxiety to some of the kids because some of them had no clue where they were going,” Roche said.
The Board of Education had promised to resolve city-wide bus issues by Oct. 1. On Oct. 2, New Haven Public Schools officials held a public forum on transportation, in which they apologized for issues surrounding busing. At the meeting, the officials explained that they do not have direct oversight regarding bus routes.
Birks also faced criticism for an Oct. 1 decision to block two New Haven reporters on Twitter. The reporters, Christopher Peak and Brian Zahn, were reported to have been blocked from approximately 3 p.m. to 9:22 p.m. that day.
Recent court rulings suggest that it is unconstitutional for public officials to block reporters or dissenters on social media platforms, as it is a violation of the First Amendment.
According to Georgetown visiting law professor Joshua Getlzer, Twitter should be treated as a public forum.
“The Supreme Court has long held that, when the government establishes or operates a public forum like a town hall, the First Amendment bars the government from excluding disfavored voices or silencing disfavored views,” Geltzer wrote in a March Politico article.
Birks was appointed to the role of Superintendent in December 2017.
Nick Tabio | email@example.com