Bridgeport’s educational warrior honored
Updated 4:32 pm, Tuesday, November 28, 2017
One speaker called her an educational warrior.
Another said Sauda Baraka was a calming spirit on an often volatile school board.
For nearly an hour during the public speaking portion of Monday’s school board meeting, Baraka was showered with tributes and bouquets on what would be her last as a city school board member. She did not run for re-election.
Fittingly, the meeting took place at the Geraldine Claytor Magnet Academy, a school Baraka helped shape into being.
“She kept the wheels on the bus when it got down to the nitty-gritty,” said Ron Rapice, a teacher and member of the school building committee. The school that opened less than a year ago on the footprint of the former Longfellow School.
Focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math — or STEAM — the school is named after Geraldine Claytor, a school aide and volunteer who championed the rebuilding effort until her untimely death. Baraka picked up where Claytor, her friend, had left off.
Howard Gardner, a fellow departing board member, called it visionary for Baraka to push to rename the school after Claytor, an ordinary person who performed extraordinary service to the district.
Baraka called working with West End families to open a school that promised academic rigor, one of the highlights of a tenure that began in 2005.
Her service was interrupted for a year when the school board was taken over by the state — a move ultimately ruled illegal by the State Supreme Court.
She created and led a Males of Color Ad Hoc Committee of the board that works to improve educational outcomes for the district’s minority male students. She is also credited with pushing to make the school district only the second in the nation to require African American studies as a graduation requirement.
“You taught us politics, integrity and character can reside in the same house,” Melissa Jenkins, director of literacy, told Baraka.
Others thanked Baraka for helping them navigate through the system when they had problems with the district. A mother of five, Baraka once served as board chair and finished up her tenure as vice chair of the board and chair of the facilities meeting.
“We need to continue the fight for new facilities,” Baraka told the board while giving her last facilities committee report Monday. “There are a number of projects we need to get done, including Bassick and the Nutrition Center.”
Baraka later said she was humbled by the many expressions of love shared by individuals she has come to love and respect.
“I am eternally honored that they had faith in me to represent them on behalf of their children,” said Baraka.