Hartford Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, Chair-Attorney Richard Wareing, Dr. Gislaine Ngounou and The Persistence of Callous Leadership.
Compassion, love, and heartfelt are not usually words associated with education, especially in most cities, but it should be. Instead, those words have been replaced by legal departments, callousness, protecting our own interests and overlooking the interest of the children. Such is the case with the Hartford Board of Education and how they have mishandled a life, yes, a human life—a child. On Saturday March 19, 2016 the Hartford Board of Education hosted a conference on Race Racism & Equity in Education at Bulkeley High School. It was a half day event that featured renowned Professor Philip Lee who serves as the Assistant Professor of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, an expert on law especially as it relates to systemic racism in education in America.
When I heard about this event, I immediately called one of our board members at The Scribe’s Institute to inform her that this would be a great opportunity to be exposed to information on this much avoided topic. I felt it would be a perfect professional development day for her and other board members. She went to the event based on my word and drove from Westchester, New York to Hartford early Saturday morning with her 13-year-old daughter. There were 3 of our board members in attendance and one officer. In my mind the information they all received would be of great value to our literacy organization.
While the information received from Dr. Philip Lee was quite remarkable, not everything received that day was as valuable, as you will soon discover. Throughout Dr. Lee’s presentation he showed various PowerPoint visuals. Our board member asked her daughter to take snapshots of the presentation on her phone so that she would have access to the information. The young girl was sitting next to the Executive Director of Compliance at the Hartford Board of Education, Mr. Eduardo “Eddie” Genao. Mr. Genao honed in on this young child and began being friendly with her and then asked “Could you please send me the pictures that you just took?”
Unassuming, the little girl forwarded the pictures of the presentation to his cell phone. She thought nothing of it as he was an older man possibly in his sixties and she being just 13 years old. After they left the meeting, Mr. Genao possibly an hour later began texting inappropriate messages to the child. Things like, “Hello, how are you doing.” “What’s your name?” “What kind of things do you like to do?” “Where do you live?” All of the questioning were quite inappropriate but not yet reaching the level of illegality. Concerned, her mother called me and told me about the texts and I immediately inquired about the man and discovered that it was Eddie Genao.
Although the texts on that weekend did not appropriate being arrested they were still unfitting for a grown man, let alone a Board of Education worker to be sending a little girl. With that I immediately informed Dr. Gislaine Ngounou who is the Chief of Staff for the Hartford Board of Education. Surely I thought that she would take my clear messages seriously and bring reprimand to Mr. Genao for inappropriate contact with a child via text messages. Ultimately, Dr. Ngounou confessed that her day was hectic and thus too busy to tend to this child’s concern. I was quite appalled that in her position, second in command to the superintendent, that she trivialized the life a child. Quite frankly she did not care neither to my knowledge did she say one word to the superintendent about my text, something she is legally required to do since it involves a child’s safety. Yet Dr. Ngounou continues to receive a paycheck from tax dollars, for doing nothing!
With that I copied the entire text and emailed it to Attorney Richard Wareing, the newly re-appointed Board Chair. I thought surely he would deal with the matter immediately. In more than two weeks he has not responded. For the next two weeks after the texts were infrequent though still inappropriate. On Sunday, April 3, 2016 the texts went from inappropriate to perverted, sexual, pornographic and illegal. It was at this point that I decided to take measures to contact the police. I knew that at this point that it was no longer a situation that the Hartford Board of Education could handle. I also realized at that point that the Board of Education and its Superintendent Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez by her ignoring this grave situation did not care and was not going to respond at all.
After I contacted the authorities, the Hartford Police Department quickly responded to the tip and began the process of dealing with the matter. When they began their investigation, secured warrants to seize property at Mr. Genao’s home, it was then that Mr. Genoa decided that he would resign from the board as evidence concerning his impropriety was mounting high. Once the press release concerning his resignation went public it was only then that the Hartford Board of Education even acknowledged that there was a possible problem. As of this writing no one in question, Dr. Ngounou, Attorney Wareing, or Dr. Schiavino-Narvaez has reached out to me or the mother of this child who was sadly victimized. None of them have made a call.
Having raised and educated 5 beautiful children and being an educator of more than 100 children in Hartford’s north end through our literacy program I know first hand what fathering means and what being a responsible parent requires. I’m gravely concerned that the top tier of Hartford Board of Education leadership, all of whom are Harvard graduates are unfamiliar with basic words such as compassion, love, and heartfelt. I wonder if Dr. Schiavino-Narvaez’ daughter was accosted would she take such a callous and cold position as she has thus far concerning another person’s child? I wonder if the fact that neither Dr. Ngounou or Attorney Wareing does not have children at all that they may possibly be desensitized to what it means to protect a child from danger?
Whether anyone understands how to protect a child or not is a question that is far too late to deal with. At this point many residents of Hartford do agree that the option to ignore parents, child advocates, schoolteachers, principals and school employees have gone way too far. Education has never been about the superintendent of schools, her chief of staff, or the board chair. It has always been about the children. For the City of Hartford to maintain its honor, all three of these people should lose their positions immediately! They are all high risks to our children, to the City of Hartford. If this negligence happened in any other sector they would have been fired already.
It’s time that we begin to shed words that stall progress once and for all like: “we’re in a meeting”, “workshops and seminars”, “I’m busy,” “I can’t take the call,” “my director of communication will respond” and replace those words with “compassion, love, and heartfelt” And until the language changes your children and my children will be subject to pedophiles and rapists, without a chance for justice because the superintendent, the chair, and her chief of staff are all in meetings and too busy to respond.
Dr. Aaron Lewis 4/7/16