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Supremes: Vallas Remains On Job Pending Appeal, Overrule Bellis

July 26th, 2013 · 59 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Education, News and Events

UPDATE: One down and one larger question to go. The Connecticut Supreme Court Thursday afternoon overruled Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’ order blocking Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas from remaining on the job pending appeal of his certification issue. This means Vallas continues as school leader at least until the Supremes rule on the larger question regarding his legal credentials to serve.

Lissette Colón, chief of staff to Vallas, confirmed the decision was issued Thursday afternoon. The Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the matter in mid September. Attorney Steve Ecker, the appellate specialist hired by the Board of Education to represent Vallas, informed the city of the Supremes’ ruling.

Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident, filed the legal action in which Bellis ruled that Vallas lacks the legal certification to lead a Connecticut school district. Bellis, upon request by the plaintiff, ruled that Vallas cannot stay on the job pending appeal. The Connecticut Supreme Court accepted the case at the city’s request for an expedited hearing. The ruling means Vallas will likely remain on the job for at least several months pending the appeal.

The Supremes issued the ruling shortly after lawyers for Lopez submitted a brief arguing why Vallas should be kept off the job. The Supremes saw it differently. So Vallas wins this round with the the larger question pending.

Supremes order is here.

The following members of the court voted on the order, according to a court spokesperson: Flemming Norcott, Jr., Chief Justice Chase Rogers, Richard Palmer, Carmen Espinosa, Dennis Eveleigh and Peter Zarella. Justice Andrew McDonald did not vote. Before he was named to the court McDonald served as Governor Dan Malloy’s chief legal counsel when the state replaced the city’s elected school board with an appointed body. The state takeover was reversed by the state’s highest court.

Senior Justice Christine Vertefeuille did not participate in the vote.

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59 Comments so far ↓

  • Chosen 1

    Bet I know who is paying the legal fees. Us, the stupid taxpayers of the Armpit of Connecticut.

    • BlackRockGuy

      You got it, Chosen. Money talks. This is about privatizing or more accurately profitizing public education. Lots of corporate money; this is not about the kids. In some places Charter schools advertise and offer prizes for enrolling children. If they pulled this in an affluent suburb they would be run out of town on a rail. And McDonald was involved in the case as a member of Malloy’s staff, he should have recused himself.

      • BOE SPY

        Money has to talk. Money can’t write it down because the school kids can’t read.
        High school in New Haven Connecticut, not one freshman could pass a basic skills test to advance to their sophomore year.
        on.aol.com/video/not-a-single-student-at-this-high-school-passed-freshman-year-517870496

        • CT Taxpayer

          It is true the High School in the Community was unable to advance any grade 9 students into grade 10, and that is a very serious concern, whether the problem is with the expectations, with the means of assessing the students, with the instruction or with the attitudes/work habits of the students. Just to be clear, though, it wasn’t a basic skills test; it was their inability to meet the standards for promotion, which are probably much higher than basic skills.

          If anyone thinks a board of education appointed by the mayor is a good idea, remember New Haven’s board of education is appointed by the mayor of that city.

          • BOE SPY

            Where did you get your info about the test? Everything I saw, including the principal of the school on channel 8 WHTN called it a basic skills test. Do you have documentation to the contrary? I do agree with you, some of the responsibility does fall on the students. For a long time I believed most of it falls on the students and most of the huggy feely new-age teaching nonsense is BS.
            The fact the BOE was appointed is nonsense too. What if your mayor appointed all the same people who are elected to serve now? It is not a problem of elected vs. appointed. It is whom you elect or appoint that matters.

      • Jennifer Buchanan

        McDonald did recuse himself, did not vote.

  • Bridgeport Rising

    Good. lol “this is not about the good.” The last 40 years have not been about the kids but let’s just keep doing it that way and hope things magically get better.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    It got kind of quiet around here. Hey Lennie!

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Yes Speedy, it is quiet. Is it because they’re out hustling school board signatures for you?

      • Joel Gonzalez

        No Lennie, I have all the petitions in my possession. Doing some organizing and still need to reach out to some folks. Anyone out there circulating their petitions (for the Democratic primary) can come over to 909 Maplewood Avenue and my wife and I will sign on.
        On another note, I attended the mayor’s press conference at the Charles F. Greene Homes regarding the Police detail in the three Bridgeport housing projects. I posted (See Walking Beat Added …) the link to two YouTube videos from last year showing the conditions of the hallways and staircases there. It reminded me of Lennie’s cat “Stinky.”

        As to the Vallas case, I think the the Supremes saw some issues with the two State Statutes–the one with the 30 credit requirement and the one pertaining to the State DOE power to waive the requirements. Does one supersede the other? What was the intent of the laws? Things like that. What will happen? Time will tell.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Come on jakedog, the blog host is “always fair and never biased.” Lennie is one of the few blog hosts who step in on occassion to answer questions and pick the brains of the readers and posters. Lennie loves a “challenge.”

  • Mustang Sally

    This is beginning to look like yet another two-way pissing match to me. There are so many things to consider but it has become about “The War” once again. Not qualified, ruling, appeal, overturn ruling, another appeal and the beat goes on. In my opinion, the bigger man walks in this scenario. Drop it. It’s our money paying for this crap and we really have bigger fish to fry. I am not in love with Vallas, but at least it’s clear to me both sides are perpetuating this sideshow now. Jeez. Somebody show some class and WALK.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Having been at the most recent two Board Meetings where the public had no RIGHT to speak per current rules, but is allowed to attend and LISTEN, it seems to me CLASS would suggest LISTENING well to what is being covered and what is being ignored in terms of standard business for a Board of Education. The real business is slowly getting done, but so much shows no discussion. There is money and accountability for the past 18 months for the most part. Schools are getting built. Choices are being offered to secondary school students. There are more than a handful of parents, grandparents and other responsible family members commenting favorably on activities of the past 18 months.
    Nevertheless the BOE is basically about scorched-earth civility. Change begins with just one person. In this case if there were five or six the ones who are NOT MODELS of civility or public conversation will expose themselves to full identity. Those who may wish to address an excitable crowd should be ready to leave the room at any moment. Time will tell.

    • BlackRockGuy

      Schools are getting built and the building contractors who contributed to Finch are getting their money’s worth. Vallas eliminated electives. Accountability … are you getting paid by Excel for writing this? Why is Moales steering huge sums of money to schools run by his bankrupt church and why was he allowed to have classes in a school that didn’t even have an occupancy permit?

    • Joel Gonzalez

      I agree with your posting, JML. However, I’m disturbed and concerned with Kenneth Moales behavior. I understand there is a time for the public to speak and a time for them to listen without disrupting a meeting. But when it comes to the right of other BOE members to speak and the public right to hear them out without any objections or interference from the BOE President, there is no justification for that. When is the City Attorney going to call on Moales for violating the free speech of other BOE members? What makes it worst is the other four BOE members on the majority who after the free speech violation, make a motion to adjourn, second the motion, and vote to adjourn.
      If I’m on the BOE and the chair refuses to yield the floor to me, I’d have three options: 1) Do nothing (2) seek legal remedy (3) start a small fire in the middle of the floor and send smoke signals. If I decided to do option number 3, would you fault me? Number 1 wouldn’t solve a thing and number 2 would cost at least $50,000. For every cause there is an effect.

      • BOE SPY

        Don’t forget, the WFP had the chair and they gave it up. I am not clear as to why. It seemed like a silly thing to do. As I understand it the chair has the deciding vote in case of a tie and other perks but they gave the chair to Moales. Does anyone have any insight as to why someone would do that?

        • Joel Gonzalez

          BOE SPY, your spying satellite missed this one:
          Kelleher (a Democrat) was the chairwoman who gave up the seat. To answer your question as to why, it has to do with the fact the BOE chair and the Superintendent set the agenda and control the game. They meet in private.
          blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/2013/03/25/kenneth-moales-jr-the-new-chairman-of-the-bridgeport-board-of-education/

          • BOE SPY

            Thx. Sorry for mixing up Kelleher’s party affiliation. However, your reasons as to why Kelleher would give up the chair are just as vague as Pelto’s logic. Kelleher said it was so she could participate in BOE debates.

          • Lifelong Bpt

            You are right Joel, but if you remember, back after the election, after Kelleher was elected chair, they offered the vice chair to Sauda. At the time they said they were “extending the olive branch” to the WFP. At the same time, they spread the committee head positions to everyone. That was another move the majority made right after the election to try to reach out to the minority members. Sauda turned down the vice chair spot at the time. If she had accepted, I doubt Kelleher and the Dems would have had Kelleher relinquish the top spot. I think the move to put Moales at the top was to counter the aggressiveness of the WFP (namely Sauda and Maria). I am not a fan of either, but Moales has gone over the top in his role as chair–not a fan of his actions either.
            We all see how the young people act in this city, and we always wonder what can be done, but look at the examples they get. This BOE (most of them) are shining examples of how NOT to act and resolve conflict.
            Election time is coming. They will all say it is about the children, but no one has clarified how this current fight is about the children. It is about control, ego, win-at-all-costs mentality.
            I know, many will say it is about Vallas’ certification, his prior record, he is a state and Finch guy, etc. But for the sake of the children, has anyone actually reviewed whether the programs worked or not? Perhaps he is a short-term fix-it guy, reduce the contract to one year, city option for another until we see results. And I mean any program he either started or existing projects he helped push through. He does not get credit for anything that was previously approved. For example, how is the expanded summer program working, etc?
            The one area we should be concerned with–student performance–is the one we hear least about.

          • Joel Gonzalez

            Whoever told you the Chairwoman couldn’t participate in BOE debates? Kelleher should have been left where she was. Remember, “quitting” was already a disease spreading on the BOE. I’m sure during BOE meetings Kelleher was asking herself, “Why did I leave the chairmanship to such an ____________ (fill in the blank, OIBers).

            “Your reasons as to why Kelleher would give up the chair are just as vague as Pelto’s logic …”

            So you know how to read electronic graffiti, too.

          • BOE SPY

            Kelleher gave that as her reason for quitting. I read that in a CT Post article. As far as the vague comment, I wasn’t being a smart guy. Just a confused one. You said she quit because ‘it has to do with the fact the BOE chair and the Superintendent set the agenda and control the game. They meet in private.’ So Kelleher quit because she did not want to meet with Vallas in private and set the agenda?

            As far as Pelto goes, I would have to write a book. Pelto makes a line of dots and leaves the reader to connect them into a picture he has carefully framed out using rumor, coincidence and innuendo. Moales was Finch’s campaign manager and Finch appoints him to the BOE. Would you have Finch appoint someone who he does not like or someone who does not like Vallas or a lot of people who get along? Moales was also elected to the same position. Moales leads a church. The church has a daycare, school and many properties around the city. Lots of churches have that. The church’s business paperwork is a mess but no one in the church has any business training. The state gave money to daycares. All daycares and Moales got his share. It is a lot of things that can have perfectly logical explanations that are presented in ways to look odd.

          • beware

            “The church’s business paperwork is a mess but no one in the church has any business training.”

            Doesn’t Moales claim to have a business degree? Isn’t that “training?” Isn’t Moales “the church?”

  • OutsideInsider

    The writing is on the wall, folks. For those of you who are blinded by the fantasy of removing Paul Vallas from office, let me spell it out for you.
    First, Supreme Court accepts emergency appeal (rare), setting an expedited briefing schedule and a hearing date in September. (Extraordinary. Ordinarily, an appeal is not heard for months after being filed). Then the Supreme Court reinstates the automatic stay of enforcement of the judgment Judge Bellis had wrongfully terminated. If you seriously believe the Supreme Court did all of this just so it could affirm Judge Bellis, then you will also believe the world is flat. Judge Bellis will be reversed and Paul Vallas will keep his job. In the end, it will have been those who filed and pursued this case in the first place who have cost the city the time and money necessary to get an incorrect decision reversed. Since they presently claim to be so concerned about wasting resources on this matter, will they be voluntarily reimbursing the city for its expenses after the Supreme Court overrules Judge Bellis on the merits once and for all?

    • beware

      McDonald, Andy? Is that you?

    • BlackRockGuy

      Incorrect? What planet do you live on? Vallas did not meet the statutory requirements to be a Superintendent … PERIOD! And when the legislature wrote an exception just for him he didn’t even meet that. He is not even certified to be a teacher or a guidance counselor ANYWHERE! The resources that were wasted, all the money that is being GIVEN to Moales, all the money being GIVEN to high paid consultants, all the money wasted on the wrong books. And this is OK with his supporters because he is doing it out in the open?

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Why would they have to pay for the cost? The law is clear and the opposition is covered by the same law that protects Vallas from having to cover the legal cost.

      Why not an expedited hearing on the main issue is my question. Since you’re so sure Bellis will be reversed, you could have found out for sure, yesterday. I’m sure the Supremes saw issues with two conflicting State Statutes as I stated in an earlier post. Time will tell.

    • Bob Walsh

      Did I miss something??? Has Vallas offered to reimburse the city if the court rules against him?

    • Baffled in Bridgeport

      Better question … when is Finch going to reimburse taxpayers for all of the shenanigans of the last two-plus years? Mr. Democracy Doesn’t Work has triggered all of this and if he had just done his job with the slightest bit of integrity, none of this would have happened. He owes us–not the opposite.

  • flubadub

    Here is an interesting post from a commenter on Diane Ravitch’s blog:
    Mr. Vallas could have received the benefits of the $1,000,000 liability insurance provided by the AASA–The School Superintendents Association if he were an active member. Unfortunately that requires the appropriate state certification. Many school systems pay for membership in case dust-ups such as this one occur.

    www .aasa.org/content.aspx?id=1326&terms=bylaws

    ARTICLE III MEMBERSHIP
    SECTION 1
    Voting Members
    1. Active Member
    Active Membership is open to all persons who serve as a school system leader or who are in an administrative position in a:
    (a) public or private school system, or
    (b) regional, state, or national educational agency or association and who possess a valid license for the position as may be required by law.

    • BOE SPY

      If Vallas wins in the Supreme Court and they judge he is certified, I would join that group. I would think this is not the last legal challenge he will face.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    While we all wait in anticipation of what time will tell regarding the Vallas affair, come and take a walk with me to the Charles F. Greene Homes without having to leave your home:
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=1JqzOJ4TCGA

  • Bob Walsh

    I will laugh my ass off if PV wins and is out of here by the end of the year for a better offer.

    • beware

      Plan on it … he is a quick-fix carpetbagging privatizer. This is just one more stop on his parade. Read full Op Ed, excerpt:
      The Vallas cronies’ disdain for the law is exceeded by their contempt for Bridgeport’s children. Vallas’ departure was predictable. Superintendent turnover is so common today that the head of the American Association of School Administrators calls superintendents “highly paid migrant workers.” Furthermore, from April to the judge’s decision on June 28, the Bridgeport Board of Education or its committees met 28 times. Discussion of a contingency plan in case Vallas was ousted was never on the agenda. In fact, while Vallas was on trial, the board convened a special meeting to appoint him as the permanent superintendent.

      Bridgeport officials had ample time to plan a smooth transition from Vallas before school resumes in September, but stubbornly refused. In his appeal, Vallas now claims his departure will result in chaos. If the district cannot run without his presence, he must not be an effective manager. And if there is chaos, it is caused by the board’s unconscionable negligence.

      The Vallas saga is the age-old tale of abuse of privilege by the powerful and well-connected. That is the story of American education reform. One can only hope that when the Connecticut Supreme Court hears this case, it will once again remind Bridgeport officials, as it did in 2012, that no one is above the law.
      www .stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Vallas-saga-offers-teachable-moment-on-4689763.php

  • Bob Walsh

    BOE SPY is right on the money when he talks about New Haven schools. This is a problem with all urban school districts in the state, not just Bridgeport. And PV’s history proves his change, if real, is not long term. The state has a legal responsibility to provide an equal education to all the children in the state. That is the case Bridgeport should have before the Supreme Court and not who should be Super.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Wasn’t there some kind of case under circumstances similar to the one you describe, Bob? Wasn’t the mayor of Stamford one of them to join the case?

    • BOE SPY

      But is it a problem with urban schools or urban school children? Some kids in urban schools do very well and go on to greatness. Some kids in Greenwich schools drop out. Both schools suffer the same problems, it is just a question of numbers. I do not know but how did bussing work out? Did the kids bussed in do better or did the suburban schools just get crappy? One could theorize from Darwinism those who succeed (for the most part) are successful due to some genetic advantage. If successful people marry successful people that advantage would be reinforced on top of the nurturing their children would receive.
      The problem could also be a question of cultural beliefs. The kids of successful people believe they should do well. Parents and society encourage it. Their schools are known to be the best so the students feel a pressure to do well. The children perform to the expectations they are held to.
      People like to think it is a question of money. BPT spends ~$13K/student and Greenwich spends ~$18K. That would be the number of students in the school system divided by the BOE budget. That looks like a lot, but equalize the budgets by taking into account the pay differences (largest BOE expense) between Greenwich and BPT teachers.
      www .greenwichct.org/upload/medialibrary/36e/boeGEAcontract10-08.pdf
      www .bridgeportedu.com/HR/hr.html
      Then take out the costs of all the classes that Greenwich offers and BPT does not, like horseback riding. These classes cannot be shown to affect test scores or graduation rates. You may find BPT spends more per student.

      • flubadub

        I’m sure to be excoriated for this comment, but can I infer from your comment if we were to replace the Bridgeport school system (teachers, principals, administrators, superintendent, BOE) with one of our nationally ranked neighbors (Darien, Greenwhich), it would have little impact due to circumstances beyond their control?

  • Bob Walsh

    The state of Connecticut gives the wealthiest cities and towns ECS money and then tells them since they spend so much already for schools it’s OK to put that money in their general fund for tax relief. Come on Bill, take on the state in a fight that is right instead of being an asswipe for the governor.

    • Baffled in Bridgeport

      You’ve forgotten as a State Senator, Finch didn’t have the guts or intelligence to challenge the ECS. BTW, didn’t have the credibility either.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      You’re sounding like the former mayor of Stamford.

    • JMart

      ECS money was to be a 50-50 split between the towns and the state. The State gives Bpt 7%. You already get more than your fair share. You actually should be penalized for the 70% dropout rate. Pay for your own bills, you may appreciate public education more.

  • Bob Walsh

    Hartford gets more money than Bridgeport.
    New Haven gets more state money for education than Bridgeport.
    Tell me it’s all about the children.
    The state has a legal obligation to provide the children of Connecticut with the same level of basic education.
    Plain and simple, the state is not performing.

  • JMart

    ECS Grants per Resident Student ST. of CT. 2009-2010.
    Greenwich–$390.
    Bridgeport–$7,702. This year $7,810.

  • JMart

    New Haven gets $200 more. Hartford $1000 more. What a slap in the face to the CT taxpayer, all three with >70% dropout rates. How about we start thinking outside the Tax and Spend box and reduce this criminal spending, maybe we will start seeing Greenwich-type achievement levels.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      My understanding is inter-district Magnet schools are funded at 90% at the state level. New Haven and Hartford have set up more Magnet schools, thus the extra funding.

  • JMart

    Still a large investment for the Connecticut taxpayer with very little payoff.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      Yes, schools cost more every year, the outcome does not change, yet if we do not pay our taxes and educate our children by government standards a man with a gun will come to your door and give you the choice to pay, use the service or go to jail. Just does not seem a system that has the customers’ (taxpayers) best interest in the plan. Or am I missing something?

  • Mojo

    *** TIME’S A TICKING TOWARDS “FAILURE ON EVERY LEVEL” WITH PRO AND CON SIDES TO BLAME! *** THANKS! ***

    • JMart

      Jennifer, there are Districts in this State that are spending less than the $13,500 Bridgeport gets per student and a lot more that are under New Haven-Hartford’s $17,000-$18,000 per student. None of them even come close to getting the ECS money these 3 districts get. It is criminal. Tax and Spending is not solving this problem, just making it worse.

  • Valkyrie

    Suburban school district children have better support from the homes they come from, for the most part. Unfortunately a lot, maybe most, of the city/urban school district kids lack some of the most basic needs at home, like nutritious meals and a bed. Hungry children cannot learn. Because of this, it costs more to educate children from low- and no-income homes. A lot of that ECS money goes to feeding these children, rather than on educational tools like books, smartboards, computers/laptops, etc.

    • John Marshall Lee

      I think you may discover the Title I funds that feed most of school-age youth are Federal funds, not State ECS funds. So Federal taxpayers are providing nutritional assistance perhaps two times each day for a majority of youth. Growing kids need good nutrition of mind and body.
      Professional teachers and allied workers have salaries, healthcare benefits, retirement plans, sick days, etc. that make up the bulk of education budgets … not tools, or books, or technology.
      With so much to be done, wise administration is required, and a BOE that could sort out first things first, work with its public and with its administrative leaders may have some chance to make a dent in what we all call poor outcomes, poor educational performance, or a waste of time, talent and lives. Time will tell.

  • BOE SPY

    Valk–The choice seems to be more about what you want vs. what you need. Go to a high school and see how many kids are dropped off in Beemers and such. Was that choice between the fancy car and the private school? Watch the kids with the I-junk and the Abercrombie and stench clothes. Was that choice between fly clothes and pencils? I am sure not all the folks make these choices. We do not need to worry about them. Those would be the kids who are going to do well. It is the folks who make the choices I am talking about we have to worry about.

  • Mojo

    *** WIN OR LOSE, TIME AND MONEY HAS BEEN WASTED WITH NO POSITIVE OUTLOOK IN SIGHT, NO? ***

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