“We’re fighting the Good Fight”

I would like to use my blog as an opportunity to discuss not celebrities, but something that resonates a little closer to home. More specifically, my home town, tiny and picturesque Branford. I graduated from Branford High School in 2008, my brother in 2010, and my sister is on tap to graduate in June 2013. Between the three of us, we have seen our fair share of injustices. Enough so for me to use this as a forum to let the Branford BOE know that they have really pushed the envelope with their most recent scandal.

The media portrays Carolyn Lippolis as a knife wielding maniac. This could not be further from the truth. I was first introduced to Carolyn my freshmen year at BHS. I remember her first class like it was yesterday. I nervously arrived late after searching all over for the B-Wing. I approached her, and she reassured me that it was fine and it happens to almost everyone. I took a seat. Something about her really stayed with me as she began talking. She seemed like a genuinely happy person, I don’t think she stopped smiling that whole first class. We all went around the room, introduced ourselves…I could tell that this was going to be my favorite class. Turned out, I was right. Second period couldn’t come soon enough, and most days I wished the bell would never ring. She engaged her students, took the time to explain and demonstrate, and made us laugh. I still remember her lessons, Rome, the cast system in India, 9/11, D-Day, Pearl Harbor…we covered it all. After freshmen year, we remained very close. She was the advisor to Animal Rights, Italian Club, and was involved in Youth in Government.

No matter what, I knew she was always in my corner, especially when I needed her most. Junior Year I was placed into an Algebra 2 class with a teacher who was the complete opposite of Carolyn. She was the kind of teacher who you dreaded going to her class, watched the clock the whole time, and ran out as soon as the bell rang. Math was never my strong suit and this teacher would basically go over the text book word for word. Not to mention, she got frustrated when you didn’t understand a concept or theory, and was unapproachable. On top of it all, she was a complete lush. Yes, she would show up wreaking of alcohol. Carolyn tutored me after school on her free time for no extra money because that’s the kind of teacher and person she is. She helped me pass a class that at one point in time, I was in danger of failing.

Senior year, she wrote my college recommendations and even discussed school choices with me. She was at my Graduation party, and took me out to dinner before I went off to school in September. She remained close, keeping up with me and again being there for me when I encountered yet another cross road. After being at Salve for a full semester, I didn’t know if I wanted to transfer or leave. I suddenly began to question the decision entirely. Mind you, I was no longer her student. She took the time to calm me down and helped me to make one of the best decisions I have ever made…which is another story entirely. None the less, she was there for me in my darkest and brightest moments. So this is me, doing what I can to help her, just like she has done with me time and time again.

There are many things that bother me about the situation at hand. As it stands, Mrs. Lippolis was fired last night in what was supposed to be an “open meeting.” By “open,” one would assume that the tax payers of this town would be able to speak of the wonderful, caring, and supportive teacher she is. Instead, hoards of supporters showed up dumbstruck to find out that not only would they not be heard, but the administration had already had their minds made up. Opposition to the boards decision fell on deaf ears. A decision based on the complaint of a student who was getting a bad grade in her class. It would appear to me that the BOE jumped at this student’s out cry because the current BHS administration has had it out for Mrs. Lippolis since it took over. I was there to see the beginning of it, throwing out all her stuff during Summer Vacation (one of my own projects was tossed in this series of immature lash outs), a series of write ups for cell phones going off, fringed slacks, and finally..cancelling Italian Club for no reason.

To all of these grievances…I ask, were any other teachers reprimanded for similar actions? There are active teachers at BHS who spend the whole day on facebook, texting on their phone, answering calls in class, show up drunk/hung over, wear sweatpants, wear mini skirts. What about those teachers? Were similar actions taken on them?

And how about this student? I complained about my math teacher and was told there was nothing they could do because she was tenured. The rules were not bent for me, so why should they be for her? Or perhaps its because I am not the daughter of an important person in town so my griefs are not taken seriously. The fact of the matter is this, Branford favors who they want to favor. They do this with their students, athletes, faculty, staff, and coaches. If they don’t like you, they fire you. They have done this before with countless others. It is time that everyone know the corruption that goes on in this town.

As for this incident that got her fired, I was not in the classroom that day. I can only speak from what Carolyn has told me. The knife was used a few days prior for a class party to cut a cake, she actually borrowed it from Mr. Bannon and his cooking class. The knife was shown only for demonstration purposes. It was briefly taken out, shown, and then put away. Even the Teacher’s Aide confirmed that it was only used for demonstration purposes. She even held it to her own skin to show that this knife would not break skin. The New Haven register article reports that the school only interviewed 3 students from the class for testimonials, no doubt the same three whose parents called to complain. It is a shame that three students can hold a teacher’s job in jeopardy, especially for a teacher who brought others so much joy. It is a serious injustice what was done to Mrs. Lippolis but it is an even bigger travesty that tax payers in this town were not allowed to speak out about it. But then again, why would they give her job back if they already gave it to the Superintendent’s nephew? Yes, the newest addition to Branford High School is Hamilton Hernandez, none other then Hamlet Hernandez’s name sake. Hernandez denies having any relation, however when this same teacher substituted for Mrs. Wright a few years he said it was his nephew. So what changed? What changed was Hernandez now feels the need to cover up his family ties, especially since he hired him around the same time Carolyn’s teacher’s license was up for renewal…which he refuses to sign. This might come as a surprise to you Mr. Hernandez but you are actually obligated to sign it by law, you can disagree with it, but you still have to sign it.

As you can all see, the evidence against the BOE is simply outrageous. They used an isolated incident to get a beloved teacher fired. They placed her on leave the same year she received an award for her stellar presence in the classroom. There are still a lot of unresolved issues here, but they are not with Mrs. Lippolis, but rather the BOE and current BHS administration.