Callous Toward Vallas, Working Families Party Wants Paul’s Pelt–Parents Step Up For Vallas, Say WFP Obstructs Progress

Paul Vallas
Will Paul Vallas get one more year?

Connecticut’s Working Families Party, with three of its members on the Board of Education, is doing its best to torpedo Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas from serving another academic year. Vallas says he’d like to stay on the job another year as school board members continue moving through a ponderous process of evaluation. Talk about paralysis by analysis. The elected BOE, reseated for more than five months following a special election ordered by the Connecticut Supreme Court that invalidated state control of schools, is moving at bureaucratic pace to vote on Vallas’ contract. That’s just fine in the short term for the WFP because they want him banished to parts unknown.

Democrats on the school board generally hold a hair-thin 5-4 majority over the WFP coalition that want Vallas’ pelt. It begs the question, even if Vallas is not renewed for another year would the WFP coalition approve any school super candidate supported by the majority? Is this really a case of they’re for it so we’re against it? Nothing like a little cooperation, right. The school board may actually vote to extend Vallas’ deal within two weeks.

Baraka, Pereira
Sauda Baraka and Maria Pereira, Working Families Party school board members, have no love for Vallas.

The WFP has scheduled a news conference for Monday (today) at 4 p.m. at Harding High School to explain why they want Vallas out. WFP media alert:

Parents of students at schools run by corporate reformer Paul Vallas–including Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he is the current interim Superintendent, and Chicago, where he was CEO of Public Schools from 1995 to 2001–will speak out about the negative impact he has had on their children’s education. They will urge the Bridgeport Board of Education not to renew Vallas’ contract, which the Board is scheduled to vote on at the March 11th meeting.

Paul Vallas is paid a quarter-million dollars a year in a city where the average household income is barely an eighth of that–as a part time job. He is also paid exorbitant fees for consulting. He has a $1 million contract with the Illinois state department of Education, and a $18 million contract with the City of Indianapolis. He has awarded $13 million in no-bid contracts to his friends and former coworkers while demanding cuts to the schools. He has cut supply budgets in half, and run up huge legal bills.

Former State Senator Ed Gomes and current WFP Board member Sauda Baraka are expected to join Gloria Warner, parent of Chicago public school student and JoAnn Kenedy, parent of two Bridgeport public school students, to explain their Vallas opposition.

The general majority of five on the BOE are Democrats Jacqui Kelleher, Tom Mulligan, Leticia Colon, Hernan Illingworth and Ken Moales. The minority voting coalition consists of Baraka, Maria Pereira, John Bagley and Bobby Simmons.

Vallas supporters say in the year-plus he’s been on the job he’s issued budget discipline, cut administrative fat, built stronger relationships with area universities, shepherded new school construction, initiated a modern textbook program and enhanced school security. Jessica Martinez, a school parent, issued a statement in support of Vallas from the education support group Parents For Progress, claiming the WFP is making up stories.

This is nothing new for the Working Families Party, who from 2009-2011 served on a Board of Education that repeatedly ran up multi-million dollar deficits, laid off teachers and oversaw a school district with the lowest student achievement results in the State.

Since returning to the Board of Education this fall, the Working Families Party has gone right back to their political antics–offering nothing but obstruction, repeated political attacks and petty fighting–but not a single solution or idea for students. This most recent attack is just another example of them putting their own political fights before what’s best for students.

As parents of children in Bridgeport public schools, we strongly condemn this petition. Prior to Mr. Vallas’s arrival, Bridgeport schools faced a crippling budget deficit and devastating cuts in education. In his short time leading our school district, Mr. Vallas has closed an $18 million budget deficit and made a series of improvements that directly impact students.

Our schools are finally on a path toward progress and improvement. Yet, this is exactly the kind of progress that the Working Families Party is trying to obstruct. “It’s clear that the Working Families Party’s only goal is to prevent progress in Bridgeport schools. They are playing political games with our children’s education and future. They have no solutions to offer. All they’re offering is more of the status quo that has failed our kids for years,” said Parents for Progress member, Claudia Phillips.

As Bridgeport parents, we also take issue with the misleading claims that parents are organizing a rally at Harding High School to support the firing of Supt. Vallas. The PTSO president of Harding High School was not even informed that such an event would take place at his school. Furthermore, the District PAC president Ondrea Moore had the following to say: “Paul Vallas has been working hard for a little more than a year. He has made great progress in a short time. We need to work together to reform our school system, not simply obstruct. We need Vallas.”

Finally, we are Bridgeport parents and no one–especially not a political party aligned with anti-progress, special interests–can speak for us.

The full school board is scheduled to meet Monday night (tonight) at 6:30 at the Aquaculture School, 60 St. Stephens Road. Agenda follows:

1. Call to Order

2. Pledge of Allegiance

3. Roll Call

4. Approval of Board Minutes

5. Student Representative(s) Oral Report

6. Chairman’s Report

7. PAC President’s Report

8. Public Comment(s)

9. Committee Reports

10. Superintendent’s Agenda

11. Old Business
• Technology Update–Donald Kennedy
• Bell Times Update–Donald Kennedy
• Good Schools Bridgeport Foundation

12. New Business
• Presentation & Approval of 2013 – 2014 Capitol Budget Request
• Teacher Attendance
• Approval of Summary of Parent Engagement Policy
• Approval to expand School Based Health Centers in Alliance District
• Approval of the site for the New Harding High School



  1. Is it any wonder why the state took over the schools two years ago? It’s because of these jokers. The Working Families Party has always been the source of the BOE dysfunction. They haven’t even finished the evaluation process and they’re already calling for his firing. And they’re bringing in a parent from Chicago? Who paid for her flight? They really are desperate. They know parents overwhelming support Vallas and it terrifies them. So they start playing their political games again. Baraka and Pereira should RESIGN. They’re an embarrassment to Bridgeport and they are hurting students and the schools with their failed leadership.

    1. Well stated. Neither of them have enough common sense to realize they are a humiliation to the City, as well as to themselves. Exactly what qualifies them to be on the BOE? Has anyone given any thought to checking out their credentials? The parents need to band together to get rid of them before they do any more damage.

  2. Booster and Taxpayer,
    Great to have readers asking questions. As long as you wish to chase down some of the answers seriously and begin to ask more questions.

    Attempting to increase ACCOUNTABILITY in this City for educational results was at least part of the motivation for the NO vote on Charter Reform last fall. If you saw the Mayor claiming accountability to the Charter Reform group and were watching his behavior around fiscal matters, you knew he could not be counted on for ACCOUNTABILITY. So where to look? Well, go to the Bridgeport Public School System web site and see if you have all of the financial info including City and State funding from ECS as well as grants info never before seen organized and in one place. The 2012 budget was balanced and that record is present, including the State forgivable loan. Variance info is posted and is confirmed by direct questions at public BOE meetings.

    I sympathized with questioners of the last regime regarding facts and figures requested. They were not timely, necessarily accurate nor were they comprehensive. I am less concerned with what happened in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans specifically than with the changes I note here. Vallas is present to the public. He has a message he shares. He listens to questions and responds with serious dialogue. Isn’t this unusual in Bridgeport governance, where the Mayor and Police Chief have PR persons to comment for them?

    James Patterson has another novel out this month, 2013, Alex Cross, Run. On page 44-45 profiler Cross’ mother, Nana, who had taught in Washington DC schools for 41 years is present with family at a lottery for school spots. She says, “You know why we’re here today? Because we adults can’t get off our duffs to offer more than a random chance at a good education in the city, that’s why.”

    Patterson continues: “I think the gridlock on education reform in Washington pisses Nana off more than anything else in life. There was no escaping the fact that three quarters of the people in that gym were going to leave disappointed today. Some of them–especially the poorer families–were going to be devastated. The only other free option for high school in our area was one of DC’s dropout factories where less than sixty percent of entering freshmen graduate.”

    Does any of this sound familiar to us in Bridgeport? But there are alternatives opening up here, and parents are being engaged on several levels, and lots of meetings with lots of stakeholders are the order of the day, and the financial reports, run on the same MUNIS system the City uses are getting to the public faster than City reports for the same time period. But this turnaround does not occur instantly. And results that would support hope for the kids in school must be gathered and understood before opinions are formed.

    I have attended a variety of BOE meetings during the past year. I applaud for the most part the answers that are provided and the sources of info that have gone on line, available to the entire public. There are a lot of adults in this community who have sat on their duffs for too many years. There are many who would rather yell or point fingers rather than come to understand how human, financial and material resources are guided to educate youth regularly and dependably. Vallas has a public agenda, it seems to me, and he is pursuing it. The people of Bridgeport and CT are paying him no more than others have earned or are currently earning in such positions today. Payment on a per diem basis where all of his Bridgeport work days are posted (and there has been no criticism of the number of hours he works on those days) actually lowers the overall expense.

    One last thought for those who have an open mind about how things are playing out on Bridgeport education matters at the moment. From Patterson, regarding a student, Ava: “The one thing she didn’t have was hope. It’s what I’d call an inner-city epidemic–and nothing holds a person back more than that.” How about some hope? Some respect for necessary change? Time will tell.

  3. As a lifelong resident of Bridgeport, I’ve seen more progress with the schools in one year’s time than I’ve seen in 35 years. I say give him an opportunity to finish what he has started. For too many years, the school system in Bridgeport has been neglected. You can’t possibly expect one person to come in and fix it all overnight. Give Vallas at least a one-year extension; if we don’t see more progress, then we can cut him loose.

  4. I have attended approximately six BOE meetings over the past two years or so. Four of them were in the Ramos regime and two from Vallas.

    The differences are like night and day. Ramos was an empty suit and the BOE selecting him over the younger candidate from California was a travesty. He was a empty suit who was great at spouting jargon and Kumbaya nonsense but could not implement educational changes.

    Equally as harmful, he could not run the business of education–staffing, budgeting HR, etc. The people he brought in were not up to the task which is why the Finch/Sherwood team could roll them at will.

    With Vallas, we have guy with brains and balls who is more than willing to think outside the box and bring in people (particularly on the business side) who hold educators and administrators responsible.

    Nothing’s perfect but this guy has gotten more things done well in one year than Ramos or Salcedo did in their entire tenure.

    Nobody’s perfect and I am not holding Vallas up as such. However from seeing the WFP in action, it seems to me they are absolutely the problem. I just do not understand them and feel Bagley is their tool.

  5. Well, someone did mention one time Democracy does not work in BPT. You guys wanted and elected a BOE and that is what you got. Now enjoy it.

    I have seen more progress in the last year that in all my time in BPT and that is if you only count teachers showing up on time and not parking in the fire lane.

    As far as the education goes, I do not think there is anything anyone can do about it. Education is not like when we were in school and the teacher could unscrew the top of your head and poured the knowledge in. Oh wait, that is not how it happened. I am hoping you can remember when you were in school and why you got the grades you did. It wasn’t the teacher, lighting, cleanliness, books, et al. It was you either went home and did your work or you did not. The responsibility for education does not fall on the superintendent or the teachers. The impetus for education lies with the student. You can get as much free education as you could ever want at the library. It is hanging all over the walls. You just have to go get it. No one can give you an education. It is not like a welfare check. It is more like a paycheck. You have to fight for it. Those who fight the hardest get the most.

    They tell a story of a guy who went to a one-room, dirt-floor schoolhouse. He studies by candlelight. For all his good choices he became a lawyer. So not all his choices were good. For all his hard work he still ended up with a government job. That was Abe Lincoln. With all our technology and advanced teaching models the truth is if you do not do the work you don’t get the smarts. That is all there is to it.

  6. I have seen progress. My girlfriend is on a parents committee and I have made it to a few board meetings but not many because of my work shift of 3 to 11.

    As a Union member I wonder about the truth of the $13 million in no-bid contracts. Truth?

  7. *** Asking questions and looking for inside and outside the box facts is all well and good; however for the BOE there comes the time for its members to make a final decision. And the decision on Vallas one way or another needs to be made before the new city fiscal year and not after! *** TIME’S A TICKING! ***

  8. It’s long overdue for the parents of Bridgeport school children to take a firm stance and demand the resignation of Pereira and Baraka. These two obstructionists have done nothing other than attempt to impair the path of educational progress. This demonstration is utterly ridiculous, and if I had a child in the school system, I would be outraged at both of them. Has anyone ever given thought to checking out their backgrounds to see exactly what qualifications they have? Having a child in the school system isn’t quite cutting it.

    1. Godiva,
      Why? The only qualifications you need are to be nominated and win the election. There’s no point in checking their credentials unless you’re campaigning against them and you think the voters will think your credentials look better.

      And as far as demanding a resignation, get serious! Show me one pol who ever resigned because a few people “demanded” it. EVERY pol out there has a few people “demanding” their resignation.

      1. Yes, you’re right; but the voters need to hold their elected officials to higher standards, especially when their children’s education is at stake. I know they won’t resign, but it’s the best one can hope for. Perhaps a vote of no confidence would bring them to their senses; but then again, that’s probably unlikely as well.

          1. She works in Finch’s office? So what. Who cares? I don’t work in Finch’s office. Bring back Vallas. Pereira and company don’t care about the kids, they care about their bloated egos.

          2. Nice try, but NOT! Why is it you think anyone who has an opinion contrary to yours has to work for Finch?

  9. Sauda and Maria are doing a great job … they are pointing out how Vallas is pulling a con job. As for qualifications Vallas has NO legal qualification to run a school system and required waivers to run every school system he was appointed to. And maybe you should question Kenny Moales who did not recuse himself when contracts from the BofE were given to schools run by immediate family members …

  10. Once again I want to tear out whatever few strands of hair are left on my head. In my opinion, there is no way Vallas and his team can ‘turn around’ the Bridgeport schools under one contract period. The outcomes cannot turn positive that fast, even with Houdini teamed up with the genie in the bottle!

    It will take several union contract terms in order to revise the management/teacher union relationship for the better. The National Education Association/Teachers union in New Haven recently negotiated the final stages of a new set of teacher workrules and performance expectations. That took at least four union contract negotiations over a six-year period. Does the minority think this stuff happens in 12-18 months?

    Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not in the best interests of Bridgeport’s children.

    1. Don’t try to convince those self-serving WFP ladies of this–they have tunnel vision. Nothing they do has the best interests of the students in mind, they have their own agenda, mainly consisting of getting their names in the press.

  11. BlackRockGuy, what is it that Kenny Moales who did not recuse himself when contracts from the BofE were given to schools run by immediate family members …, tell us some more so I can understand this better?

  12. It is all well and good to ask lots of questions and everyone should be asking for truthful answers. Before Vallas arrived in Bridgeport the system had been stagnant for five years under Dr. Ramos. Dr. Salcedo brought in good professional development, important technology, and demanded the use of data to show real academic gain. Remember Bridgeport received a nomination (one of five cities) for the Broad Prize. That nomination came about because, for once, data showed children were indeed learning. Thank you Dr. Salcedo.

    Dr. Ramos could have been a star by just continuing the forward gains and programs he inherited. Instead he chose to dismantle them and the district became mired in whining about funding, and an absolute lack of accountability for leadership or achievement.
    There is no doubt the district was awakened when Mr. Vallas arrived–and there needed to be dramatic changes.
    However, why it is Mr. Vallas and the Excel parents chose to put forward as unique and new reforms that were already in place? Mr. Vallas did not build three new magnet high schools … in fact they are five years behind schedule. Students have been able to take college courses since the ’90s–also not new initiatives, and a formal partnership with the area universities and colleges has existed for 8 years.
    Mr. Vallas HAS brought in new textbooks and enough for all students–however they are not aligned with the new Common Core Standards.
    The district needed reform, Mr. Vallas has started the ball rolling, and now it is time to begin the Superintendent search to bring in a permanent educator who will make a five-year commitment to the district and who will have the support of ALL nine board members.
    THEN we will see real and sustainable reform.

  13. I cannot fault anyone in this City for projecting “our Bridgeport culture” onto the new team in town. Our inbred DTC, City Council and Office of the Mayor have more experience in providing for narrow specific interests of connected persons than with broader sustainable budgets, basic services and economic growth.

    Where was your outrage for consulting firms hired in recent years at $2 Million per year with no one keeping track of when they worked, what was accomplished or how it affected kids in the classroom? Consultants brought in to do specific tasks for a few days, weeks or months on a per diem basis without benefits can get the work done that is necessary for the plans to go forward, and the expenses to be limited. It’s not about cases of paper relative to personnel, and it never was.

    Were teachers cut overall by Vallas? What about central office changes? Sounds like you are in the system. Has anything changed for the better as many are saying? Professional development is critical and Vallas has promoted that. What is it students need, in your opinion, that is being denied to them by the Vallas plan and team? What would your five-year plan look like? Just asking. Time will tell.

  14. I am very pleased to see an educator respond to this blog–and every point that person makes is accurate. Teachers are still bemoaning the loss of the IFL professional development–it was the best the district had ever used. All I hear now is “where is the real professional development” and when Mr. Vallas and Dr. Kase talk about why there are so many 1/2 days for PD they imply the current teaching staff is less than stellar.

    At the last BOE meeting Mr. Vallas announced he only eliminated three teaching positions. I have no idea where that number came from but the last number I heard was 121! And teachers were holding their breaths all summer wondering if they would be back.
    As mentioned, the reading department has been decimated, curriculum department heads are gone, all new staff in the Personnel office with no history of programs or systems.
    He told BOE members at an evaluation meeting when asked about new grants he had brought into the district and how that compared to past years, that there was no record of past grants submitted or received. I think the Grants Director would be appalled at that statement–who by the way is expected to bring millions into the district with no other professional staff in the office.
    I spoke to a parent about the textbooks and yes her son (6th grade) is not allowed to bring home the text and didn’t actually receive a new book until late November and many of the supplementary materials are still not in the classrooms.
    A simple distribution of materials at the end of the year last spring would have enabled teachers to familiarize themselves with the new materials and also let principals determine if they received the right number of books–and they could have been processed over the summer–not well into October.
    Change was/is needed but thoughtful implementation with the input of teachers and principals would have made this a more seamless and more effective transition.
    I’ll say it again … begin the search for a permanent Superintendent now who is a real educator and will be able to move the district forward for sustainable academic gains.


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