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Parent Advisory Council Members in Conn. Sue Local Superintendent, Board

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Parents in Bridgeport, Conn., who have been at odds with their school superintendent and board, are now taking them to court.

Former members of the Bridgeport Public Schools' District Parent Advisory Council filed a lawsuit against Fran Rabinowitz, the district's interim superintendent, and the school board for removing members of the group's executive board. The ousted parents are seeking punitive damages from Rabinowitz in addition to seeking a temporary restraining order that would return them to their positions.

The Bridgeport Board of Education voted 6-2 on Feb. 23 to dissolve the council's executive committee and withdrew all of its support, including federal funding, staff, and office space, according to the lawsuit filed March 3. The board also voted to establish a new District Advisory Council.

Title I schools (schools that receive additional federal funding for serving a high percentage of low-income students) are required to have Parent Advisory Councils, to inform and engage parents at those schools. Parent Advisory Councils also help develop spending plans for federal funds (1 percent of the Title I allocation) set aside for parent involvement. The District Parent Advisory Council is made up of the school-level leadership of the Parent Advisory Councils. 

The Connecticut News reports that Rabinowitz advised the school board to eliminate the District Parent Advisory Council's executive board because the group adopted procedures that disenfranchised other parents. According to the newspaper, the executive board booted parents from their leadership roles on Parent Advisory Councils because those parents were also associated with charter schools and other educational advocacy groups.

But the lawsuit states that the Bridgeport school board's vote was taken to silence some of the council's executive board members who have been "vocal and critical" of some school board members, Rabinowitz, and Bridgeport Mayor William Finch. The executive board members accused them, according to the suit, of undermining "the quality of education for all students in the Bridgeport public schools by systematically underfunding the schools and showing favoritism to individuals supporting charter schools." 

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