Rivera for mayor?

"The news of Dr. Manuel Rivera's resignation as superintendent of schools came as a surprise to much of the city ..."

You might be forgiven if you thought this was from a story over the summer in The Day about Rivera's abrupt departure as superintendent here.

But, no. The quote was the opening sentence of a story published in The Hour newspaper, when Rivera quit as superintendent in Norwalk to take the same job here in New London.

"There were many different factors that affected my ultimate decision to resign," the Hour reported him saying in 2014. I could probably find nearly the exact same quote from him in The Day from this summer.

Indeed, Rivera has a history of some fickle career decisions, surprising some with an unexpected departure as superintendent in Rochester, N.Y., when publicly accepting a job as superintendent in Boston, Mass., where city officials were then stunned when he backed out before signing the contract to take a New York state job.

Rivera has yet to fully explain publicly, in my mind, what he says are the complicated reasons for leaving the superintendent job here.

I thought the most disappointing aspect to his sudden resignation was the fact that he had promised from the outset that he was in it for the long haul, to finish converting the schools in his hometown to an all-magnet system.

But the newest Rivera surprise — he said this week he plans to run for the New London Board of Education — seems to me to validate his original promise, to help the school system in the town where he grew up.

I can't understand the sniping and criticism of Rivera that has followed his announcement that he is running for the school board.

Some worry he would try to micromanage from the school board. On the contrary, he knows more than anyone why school board members should not do that.

Really, have New London voters ever had a more qualified candidate to vote for?

Not only does he have the impeccable credentials that made him the successful candidate to run the Boston school system, he spent enough time on the job here to know the New London system much more completely than any traditional candidate ever could.

I believe him when he says he would be a tireless advocate for New London schools and aggressively seek education funding.

Best of all, he is offering to bring all that experience and knowledge as an unpaid volunteer on the school board. He doesn't even have children in the school system.

It's hard to picture his candidacy as anything less than a selfless, generous effort to help the city where he was born.

And yet longtime Board of Education member Jason Catala, also a Democrat, greeted news of Rivera's candidacy with a big raspberry.

Catala called Rivera's candidacy a "conflict of interest."

I can't think of any possible conflict. It worries me that a school board member doesn't seem to know the meaning of conflict of interest.

Catala did go on to complain in a news story that Rivera could end up voting on his successor, the next permanent superintendent. That's certainly not a conflict of interest.

While Rivera may be an excellent candidate, given his credentials and experience, he will face some political headwinds this fall in a city election that is going to revolve around the budget, the last big tax increase and spending money on education.

But in the little he has said so far as a candidate, it doesn't seem he is going to shrink from a full-throated advocacy for spending public money on education.

Who knows, if he wins this one, he could end up as a candidate for City Council or mayor, maybe an even more direct route to be sure the school system gets the money it needs.

After all, the last mayor was fickle in his ambitions, too, running for re-election, then not running, then running again.

This is the opinion of David Collins.



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