Magazine article The Quill

Quill: Public Service-Newspaper/wire Service

Magazine article The Quill

Quill: Public Service-Newspaper/wire Service

Article excerpt

To the citizens of Waterbury, Conn., nepotism has always been a part of city politics. It had always been viewed as an unavoidable circumstance with little significant damage to the public.

But Sean Patrick Lyons and the staff of the Waterbury Republican-American realized patronage had seeped deep into the educational system of the community - to the detriment of the public schools' youth.

Lyons began looking at patronage after observing the political culture within the city, which still operates on a spoils system. "We quickly found that teaching positions were the largest block of jobs not controlled by civil service rules in the city, and in fact were among the highest-paying in the nation," he said. "Once we learned those positions were not being advertised and that a couple of relatives of school board members had been hired, it all began to snowball from there."

What they discovered was disturbing. The mayor and school board members operated a closed-door hiring system that allowed them to dole out dozens of teaching jobs in the past several years to a network of relatives, friends and campaign contributors. Their practices left a school district with a teaching force that was 90 percent white, although two-thirds of the students are minorities.

Lyons and his investigation team encountered strong resistance from both the Waterbury school board and the mayor's administration to gain access to resumes and records of teacher hiring.

"They were very reluctant to [release the files], and once we got hold of those records, it was easy to see why," said Lyons. …

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