Bridgeport No Palace For Vallas, Says Decision To Leave Easy

Paul Vallas experienced tough political environments having led public schools in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans so little Bridgeport, Connecticut by comparison probably seemed like a layup when Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor asked the national education reformer to step up for beleaguered schools in the state’s largest city two years ago.

Bridgeport was hardly a palace for Vallas. Opposition from the teachers union, school board members, Connecticut Working Families Party and a lawsuit challenging his credentials to serve a Connecticut education district schooled him in a heavy dose of Park City opposition. Vallas thought he’d be in Bridgeport for only six months or so, then maybe a year, then he was given a three-year contract. But then a lawsuit followed and last week election of a new school board suspicious of Vallas’ policies. How quickly things can change. Now he’s headed back to Illinois to run for lieutenant governor. And soon in Bridgeport a search for a new super will follow and hopefully civility on the school board.

Linda Conner Lambeck of the CT Post provides the latest on Vallas:

When the call came Thursday evening, Paul Vallas was finishing up what he described as an exhilarating trip to the central part of Haiti with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Staffers for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn were on the line. Vallas had been tapped as Quinn’s running mate in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

“Hesitate? Not at all,” Vallas, 60, the Bridgeport school district’s soon-to-depart superintendent, said Monday from his home in Chicago. “The opportunity to work for someone of the quality of Pat Quinn is not something I would pass up. I’m really excited.”

Full story here.



  1. BOE should continue to move forward. There are three events taking place that should be positives:
    1) Vallas departure–I liked some of his programs (the 1st Responders school is one) and he was able to pull in serious grant money. But his presence created a divide that needs to be bridged. Picking the next Sup will be interesting. It should be someone familiar with similar, urban environments, but not necessarily local.
    2) Baker replaces Moales as Chair. No brainer here. I’ve read Baker’s comments on issues and he does seem to be more thoughtful and collaborative in nature. That is what is needed on the new board. Most of the recently elected members are all speaking in a “go forward” tone. They will need to be strong in that message to counteract some of the other members who want “payback.”
    Moales was put in as chair to be the heavy and face off with the WFP coalition. He overdid it completely which brings us to,
    3) Addition by subtraction of Pereira. She is now the WFP head in the area. Let her focus on that and not the running of the BOE. She needs to stay away. The new board needs to be collaborative, she is not that nor does she know how to be.
    This board needs 9 thinkers and doers who will do what is right.
    I still think their greatest challenge is in parental involvement … they solve that and it is a big step in turning this around.

  2. Another one of those Vallas quotes we will be remembering for a long time.
    He’s quitting.
    Giving 60 days notice.
    He is going to stay with his consulting work.
    BUT he will not expect a buyout of any kind from the district. How utterly precious …

    Vallas said Monday he would likely leave sometime after the first of the year, depending on the will of the new school board that takes the oath of office Dec. 9. He said he is willing to give his 60-day notice and will not expect a buyout of any kind from the district.

  3. Each of you is entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts; though you do have a perfect right to connect verifiable facts together in whatever story that seems consistent and congruent to you. That is one value of diversity of experience, culture, education, etc. In this context, verifiable does not mean a lie or falsehood repeated so often as to seem factual.

    My attention has been on City finances for close to five years yet I seem more famous for wearing bow ties or shaking a snow shovel while seeking an explanation for the profound failure of public facilities last budget year. That is strange to me. It means more than four years of monthly budget reviews, annual CAFR reviews, and fighting for more OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT behavior in the City Council and with Boards and Commissions has fallen on too many deaf ears.

    While at a BOE meeting several years ago I listened to Maria Pereira hold forth on the lack of fiscal info and accountability of the Ramos administration. I understood her comments and saw the same behavior on the City side.

    And then I attended the Charter hearings and knew the Mayor was not accountable on too many fiscal issues, so why should citizens expect better performance from him if he appointed all BOE members? So I supported the NO vote that retained citizen voting rights for the BOE.

    I had watched the multi-year BRBC exam of BOE activity and therefore was surprised in the first several meetings where Paul Vallas spoke, handed out info and answered questions from the public. His was a voice that appeared knowledgeable about public education in an urban scene. He was energetic and concerned about kids. He talked about balancing the budget (without school closings or teacher layoffs but through more efficient positioning of resources).

    I heard him several times before I approached him individually to ask some questions. I read the five-year plan. I saw the budget numbers, including grants and including info on numbers of employees posted accurately, regularly, on time and balanced.

    Wow! What a difference in behavior when compared to the City side. But the various BOE representatives have not pursued finances at their meetings. It’s a shame they left all that understanding to Paul Vallas. Meanwhile Vallas attempted to create the foundation for reform, for change, and for better outcomes for students.

    As we know, he was confronted by persons who contested his ability and experience to apply different approaches to this failing urban district. He was accused of many things that never proved true. The accusers never suggested a PLAN B alternative that would be financially balanced. And they did not address Mayor Finch and the City Council regularly to address their failure to provide the “Minimum budget requirement” for public schools this year. Why not?

    How did that local neglect by the City look to Vallas critics? They ignored it. Vallas was an easier target to get fixated upon then the Mayor. And you could malign the man with accusations of not being in town, while the truth of the situation has been his presence for more hours and more days than past leaders. His activity in Haiti happens to be appreciated by Bridgeport Haitians who know what public education means on that part of the island of Hispaniola with the French tradition.

    And the “privatization” warnings have created real fear although who can point a finger at Charter School advocacy independent of parents? And out-of-town money? It has been present in funding the campaigns against him through the Education Association, teacher union money from folks who for the most part do not live in Bridgeport AND minority party funding and commentary, also mostly from out of town. How has this been different from the criticism of “hedge fund money?” And the accusation of fiscally bogus behavior benefiting Vallas buddies? Lots of hot air by people who SHOOT first without being fact ready, or having decent aim at the whole picture.

    When it comes to national searches for those familiar with poor urban environments, we need to remember the teacher unions formed an alliance with the minority party out of fear for jobs and status quo. (If that is not true, where was their alternative plan early on, advanced with public discussion, and funded with attention to youth and to taxpayers? Such alternative planning advanced at BOE meetings would have helped this community more than the “agenda gotchas” practiced by some.)

    So Illinois has opened an opportunity that has been welcomed by many in the Chicago press who remember Vallas’ competent and fair-minded activity for all people, including union members in the past. And we in Bridgeport will lose the sense of what his multi-city experience means to good contracts with and for professional educators I am afraid.

    And what does a community do when families are not present to support their students, to vote for representatives, and to learn who, what, why and how of the paths of public money spent daily without stand-up behavior? Stay tuned to see what Bridgeport does. Personnel on CC and BOE are changing. What will they pursue? Time will tell.

    1. JML, you are so much more than a bow tie and snow shovel. You are many times the voice of reason and respected for the time and effort you freely give in attempting to get Bridgeport back on the road to fiscal responsibility. When it comes to Paul Vallas your support for him fell on deaf ears. He is gone and now we start again. I remember the loathing for Salcedo and Ramos. It is clear Vallas would not have been successful implementing his plans as the teachers just were not supportive. They also do not like change. I had a very interesting conversation with a second-year teacher who was one of the few who believed Vallas was good for the system. The new teachers coming on board would be the best chance to implement change, the seasoned teachers are content with students failing consistently and do not take responsibility for their jobs because they are all protected by an obsolete union. I know that is awful to say if I were running for Mayor, the truth is the teachers unions never support the Mayor who makes it to office. We need more aggressive teachers who are determined to succeed and we need to support the teachers by taking students with behavioral issues out of the classroom. Teachers have a difficult job and do not need to be catering to students with extreme special needs in the classroom. The future doctors, lawyers and scientists are neglected and teachers are relegated to baby sitters for students who suck the life out of the classroom.

      1. Which set of books did he show you, JML. I find it interesting the same group of right-wing Republicans like Torres think this guy is wonderful and these are all people who favor privatization of public services.
        I especially like some of the examples of his management skills like ordering the wrong books and once in teachers had to take time out to scan books into the system because this so-called education expert with no academic or practical experience in the field ordered the wrong software.
        Every school system he has supposedly ‘reformed’ is still failing miserably.
        And Steve, as for “obsolete unions” they are the real heroes who have complained about the lack of resources allocated for teaching Bridgeport’s kids.

  4. I’m with you, John Marshall Lee. The whole thing was a witch hunt, pure and simple. A group of incompetent, disenfranchised individuals lost their power to the state, and they would not stop throwing stones until they got got their power back, and took down the figurehead that reminded them of how bad they sucked.
    Seriously, best of luck finding someone to replace him. I don’t suspect there are too many people lining up for this job. Why would they? They could make more working in the ‘burbs and not having to put up with anything like they have to here. Carmen Lopez? Here’s an idea for you … buy some plane tickets so you can travel the country in search of the next one. This should be on your dime, lady.

  5. *** FACT–whether certified or not and not picked by the usual way of selecting a school supt, he’s never really been given a fair opportunity to implement many of the changes he had in mind, no? It’s been an uphill battle since day one with very few important measures accomplished that benefit the staff or kids! Now it’s time to start all over again with many new players and another Supt. hunt! *** LORD HELP THEM! ***


Leave a Reply