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Vallas, Facing Certification Challenge, To Appear On Bridgeport Now Show

June 25th, 2013 · 33 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, Education, News and Events

Paul Vallas

Paul Vallas

Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas is scheduled to take live calls tonight (Tuesday) on Bridgeport Now, the cable show co-hosted by Jennifer Buchanan. The program starts 8 p.m. on Channel 88. It is also streamed live at www.soundviewtv.org. The number to call in is 203-345-0103.

This is a timely opportunity to interview Vallas with the close of the school year. Vallas, who supervised school districts in Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans, joined the school district of Connecticut’s largest city 18 months ago at the urging of Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. In March the school board, with the backing of Mayor Bill Finch, voted to approve a three-year contract for Vallas by a 5-4 vote. The deal calls for Vallas to be paid roughly $230,000 a year, but without the extended health benefits the prior school board approved for former school chief John Ramos to age 65. It was Ramos who had supported a state takeover of schools approved by the school board in 2011 that was invalidated by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

A provision in the contract approved by the board calls for Vallas’ compensation to be docked if he leaves the district for other interests such as Haiti, where he had done prior education volunteer work before his hiring in Bridgeport. Democratic board member Ken Moales, now BOE president, made the motion for a three-year deal, the traditional arrangement for municipal school chiefs, saying the school district needed to make a statement with continuity and furthering the initiatives advanced by Vallas.

In April retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident, filed a lawsuit in state court challenging Vallas’ credentials to serve as school chief. The question of Vallas’ certification is currently being played out in Superior Court.

Five school board seats are on the line this year currently occupied by Democrats Tom Mulligan, Leticia Colon, Bobby Simmons and Working Families Party members Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka. Political parties will conduct conventions next month to endorse school board candidates. Party primaries could take place in September. The general election is in November.

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33 Comments so far ↓

  • Ron Mackey

    Is it legal for the BOE president to make the motion for a three-year deal?

    • Jimfox

      Ron,
      Roberts & Parliamentary rules of order.

      The Chair has the same right to make or second a motion or to debate as any other board member.

      • Ron Mackey

        Can the chairman make motions? Yes, the chairman, if a member, has the same RIGHT to make a motion as any other member. In small boards of not more than about a dozen members present, the chairman usually participates the same as other members. However, in larger assemblies, the chairman has a duty to remain impartial, so would usually not make a motion directly.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Ron,
    With the hope I can learn something from asking these three questions:
    * Are you questioning the Robert’s Rules appropriateness of a BOE President in moving an item like the Superintendent’s contract?
    * Are you questioning the three-year term of this deal?
    * Or are you questioning the “specific legality” of such a motion by the BOE President?

    I am not sure I understand completely what you may find challenging. I look forward to your explanation, if you please. Time will tell.

    • beware

      Here is the RSD district Vallas created. The parents can now take back their schools after the Vallas-created disaster.

      Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation allowing parents in the state-run Recovery School District to vote to return their low-performing school to local control.

      “The measure by Baton Rouge Rep. Ted James lets parents petition the state-run RSD to return a school to local control if that school has earned a “D” or “F” grade from the state for five consecutive years.”

      Maybe this legislation will help to puncture the myth of Louisiana’s Recovery School District, the media’s miracle district.

      dianeravitch.net/2013/06/24/jindal-signs-reverse-parent-trigger-bill/

    • BlackRockGuy

      Here is the real question, JML. Vallas is not qualified, that so-called certification is a phony course that would make a matchbook course look like Harvard or Yale. He has left school systems worse off but made a lot of money for himself. B’port doesn’t even have a full-time drug counselor, something even you would admit is necessary. I am questioning the whole legality of this. I find it quaint you talk about ethics yet you think Vallas is wonderful.
      The contract Vallas has stinks to high heaven. He is getting a six-figure salary for a part-time job he has no valid educational credentials for unless you count that UCONN matchbox course that was created specifically for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if the final exam was him signing his name.

  • yahooy

    Pedantic Putz. Your comments are insulting. You are elitist only in your own mind. Loosen your Bow Tie. Get some oxygen to your brain.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      yahooy–I will do my very best to ask a question and not interrupt!

      • yahooy

        I don’t understand what you mean.

        • Jennifer Buchanan

          When I had Rep. Hennessy on the show you pointed out my very bad interview skills, I believe you called me Ms. Blowhard. Very good constructive comments I have never forgotten–hope to remember that tomorrow night!

          • beware

            Ask why his past “reforms” are not sustainable and what does that mean for Bridgeport.

            Also, don’t let him tell you it’s because he is not there.

            Any reforms or changes that are effective should be long lasting and not be in need of one single person to make a significant impact. Otherwise it is just a well-orchestrated shell game designed to make one person look great. You know who.

          • beware

            Please ask about all fees, charges and paperwork … what every other student would pay to take courses at Uconn … see Pelto link below:

            Vallas didn’t attend UConn’s Educational Leadership Program because he didn’t have the credentials to get into the program. Instead he took a single three-credit independent study course, which Commissioner Stefan Pryor has been attempting to call a “program” in order to meet the certification law.

            But Vallas never applied to go to a UConn program

            And Vallas never was accepted to UConn a program

            Vallas didn’t pay the UConn application Fee of $75.00

            Vallas didn’t pay the General University Fee of $1,368

            Vallas didn’t pay the Infrastructure Maintenance Fee of $468

            Vallas didn’t pay for Graduate Matriculation Fee of $48

            Vallas didn’t pay the Transit Fee of $110

            Vallas didn’t pay for the Technology Fee of $150.

            What Vallas did pay for was the in-state rate for a three-credit course–a course his friend, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, is now calling a “program” … A program that Pryor then used to waive Vallas’ need for state certification.

            jonathanpelto.com/2013/06/25/pitiful-vallas-and-pryor-performance-on-the-witness-stand-in-the-bridgeport-superintendent-case/

          • Fluckarella

            Jennifer, last night’s show was great! The interview was 100% better. Keep up the good work.

  • Ron Mackey

    John Marshall Lee, I’m not questioning the three-year term of the deal. Your other two points are my concern, can the BOE President move anything and yes, I am questioning the “specific legality” of such a motion by the BOE President.

  • beware

    BPS, see your future here … the status of the Vallas “reforms” in Chicago, Philly and NOLA:

    CHICAGO (Reuters) – The Chicago Board of Education is due to vote on Wednesday on a controversial proposal to close 54 schools in the country’s third-largest public school district in what would be the largest mass school closing in the nation.
    news.yahoo.com/chicago-school-board-vote-mass-school-closing-110105605.html

    Reform Philly, leave it bankrupt, which leads to school closures and dividing a community and uprooting children in poor neighborhoods. See here:
    www .nytimes.com/2013/03/08/education/philadelphia-officials-vote-to-close-23-schools.html

    Close schools to save money, spend $400 million to build prisons:
    www .alternet.org/education/philly-closes-23-public-schools-generously-builds-400-million-prison-where-kids-can-hang

    Take over a city school system after a natural disaster, shock doctrine techniques … charterize the entire city and voila you have today’s NOLA fiasco, rated 69 out of 70 school districts. See here:
    jonathanpelto.com/2013/05/22/doing-to-bridgeport-what-he-did-to-new-orleans/

    New Orleans: don’t you believe it:
    deutsch29.wordpress.com/page/2/

  • yahooy

    Jennifer,
    My initial comments were directed to JML, not you. You don’t wear bow ties, do you? On you they would look good. I hope you have a good interview with Vallas.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      Maybe I will borrow a bow tie from JML tomorrow night in your honor! I will do my best to have a balanced exchange of questions for Mr. Vallas. There are both severe critics and hopeful supporters bending my ears, a track record and ongoing lawsuits, but most importantly our schools (and many other urban schools) are full of children who are suffering because our system is failing them. Looking for the bottom line and the three-year plan.

      • beware

        And the failing system is our society overall. You have a failing city in a failing state in a failing country. Poverty is the issue we all want to overlook. Dumping all of society’s ills on one institution and one profession takes the heat off the politicians who can’t solve the problem … beholden to corporations, money and greed trumps all. The void is being filled by the circling vultures who have their slogans memorized as they raid the public coffers and suck off the public teat. He’ll be long gone when all of you are left to pick up the pieces and start all over again … his track record is in plain sight. In desperation you overlook your fate. An instant fix is short lived. Long-term solutions take all entities working together. That strategy doesn’t fit a campaign sound bite or win elections or rake in big dough for the edufrauds, so it won’t happen. Watch him avoid the hard questions and repeat his reformy edubabble ad nauseum.

  • beware

    Educate yourself quickly to what this is all about … another city, another scapegoated school, teachers and sacrificed children.

    Yeah, it’s all for the kids and it’s the civil right$ i$$ue of our time. HA!

    Read all about it:

    “Honestly, I didn’t even know what “education reform” meant … I thought it was a bunch of talented people swapping ideas about how to best educate the children of poverty. I thought it would be fun, challenging, and engaging. In my ridiculous mind, I could see a group of teachers sharing ideas, lesson plans, and stories. I really believed I was going to learn something positive about public school. I didn’t know it was a scam engineered to deprofessionalize the teaching business, and hand the jobs off to cash-strapped ivy leaguers that couldn’t find positions in their fields of study.

    “Now I know that people like Michelle Rhee made millions off the backs of the teachers she fired. I know that most of these people have cheated, including some in my own Apollo program. The Atlanta Journal Constitution even did a nationwide study, and can prove mathematically that these districts have failed to educate these students in spite of their “so-called” reforms. This wrong-to-right erasure math is indisputable …

    “As for me, I don’t need a study; I can tell everyone about the chaos, the achievement gap, the poverty, the filth, the lies, and the smokescreen.

    “It is funny that Arne Duncan (Obama’s Secretary of Education #erasetothetop) came out here and toured Lee HS with my SIO, and he listened to a few talented students, and the police cracked down on the school before his arrival, and they managed to sign up all of the students to some kind of college (mostly 2 year institutions) and convince Arnie that it is a “turnaround success.” But you only have to look at him closely to see he is a Walmart kind of guy. And now we have the privatization of the public trust … we have the Walton Foundation, The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation, and countless other vultures, and venture capitalists, including Pearson (the great testing empire), all throwing money to this “teacher witch hunt” fully engaged in the age-old philosophy of “you gotta spend a buck to make a buck.” So, they are making the bucks off of me and my students, and I am helpless to stop them.”

    dianeravitch.net/2013/06/25/warning-to-new-teachers-in-houston-you-are-disposable/

  • beware

    Some more reading to get you up to speed:

    Don’t forget that in December, 2001 the Philadelphia public schools were taken over by the state of Pennsylvania and the District been run ever since by the state’s School Reform Commission. Since that time it has had a succession of high paid Superintendents who were brought in from outside the District, including Paul Vallas, Arlene Ackerman and the current Superintendent William Hite. Ackerman had (she was on its board while Superintendent in Philadelphia) and Hite has (Broad Superintendent Academy Class of 2005) close ties with the Broad Foundation.

    Since the takeover in 2001, the Philadelphia School District has been like a medieval town which is surrounded by an outside army and starved into submission until it is weakened for the final assault, which is now happening in Philadelphia.

    For some detail on this history see:

    The 2013-14 “Doomsday Budget” of the School District of Philadelphia:

    How did it come to this?
    www .defendpubliceducation.net/psd-doomsday-budget

    schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/stop-school-funding-ignorance-now-a-philadelphia-story/

  • BlackRockGuy

    And let us not forget Walker and many of his supporters including Bow Tie Man think Vallas (who has been declared by state school chief Pryor to be qualified by virtue of a do-it-yourself matchbook course) is wonderful despite all the wreckage he seems to have left in every city whose school system he ‘reformed.’

  • John Marshall Lee

    For about five years I have been trying to learn about how governance works in Bridgeport on a practical level. After reading the Charter and some of the Ordinances, I decided to “follow the money” as much as I could through one local story after another. I thus came to see how the Charter and Ordinance processes for creating budgets, for allowing changes and transfers, for reporting monthly or annually in different forms, and for providing opportunity for the public to learn, to speak and to be heard and receive response, how all of this worked “by the book” or “by habit and comfort for those in charge.”

    I noted Public School meetings were “hot spots” regularly for failing to provide adequate public info. When the new Superintendent came to town in January 2012, I paid particular attention to how a budget was rapidly formulated and managed in the last six months of 2012. I saw what happened this year with an elected BOE after the Finch Charter Change did not pass, and saw another budget year be managed to balance even with a $1.1 Million hiccup in the spring when the City reduced its commitment with an approval of the City Council. And I looked at the formation of the 2013-14 budget and see another balanced budget (connected to a real five-year ‘educational reform’ plan) assuming that agreement is found for the City meeting the annual “minimum budget requirement.”

    What I have noticed is the discord at the meetings is no longer about the amount of money for the system necessary to create a positive change for kids in the classroom. Isn’t that in itself an improvement for Bridgeport? A balanced operating educational budget? A Capital budget with $600 Million of structures and educational resources and improvements in the pipeline? Questions on current Bridgeport topics generally get a response, and comments for the most part seem respectfully handled, certainly a different mode of operation than the current Bridgeport City side!

    Can this be accomplished by a selfish man who is out to line his pockets, who is an educationally incompetent bumbler, who is faking it, in any case and not working in the District for the District much of the time? Those are a few of the accusations that are frequently offered by many who hide their identity on this and other blogs. Do they have no issue with educational governance perhaps but rather with a “businesslike” Superintendent who will face contract negotiations with one or more unions soon?

    And if you are a professional today teaching in Bridgeport, are the necessary changes taking place threatening to you? Do you see opportunities for personal growth and recognition in the five-year plan? Do you see the potential for changing the results for the youth passing through your classroom year after year? Are the messages coming from your professional representation, your union, identical to your own thoughts? Is it time for you to speak up and be heard as well? Time will tell.

    • beware

      Any thought or idea opposing you of your BFF Vallas must be orchestrated by the union? How simple you are … how easy to shrug off opposition by blaming it on the union. Kind of lame, actually.

      That’s not working anymore. Citizens, parents, taxpayers see the self-appointed elite deformers for what they really are … opportunistic carpetbaggers feigning concern for the poor brown and beige child while scurrying away to the next eduventure well before the circus ringleader is ever held accountable.

      Loosen the bow tie … you are losing all sense of logic and common sense or you too are spellbound by the faux celebrity status. Does he call you two or three times a day, too? You and Finch must be fighting for equal time. Share, boys … play nice now.

    • jakedog

      Time has already told you … you don’t want to learn. Evidence has been provided repeatedly. Take off the rose-colored glasses. Time has passed. You are being used; you have been fooled. There is not much left to tell.

      • John Marshall Lee

        jakedog, I have learned so much it is scary. And you (and all those who critique my salute of Vallas’ fiscal record of OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT) are welcome to ignore that which you may not understand, but in Bridgeport it must be called progress.

        One thing is everything you said is opinion … and unsubstantiated, except to your criteria level. That is a serious part of “the Bridgeport problem.” I hear something I never knew before and there is a human target to pin it on. Bingo!!!

        So your posting is brief, breezy and could be insulting if I thought you had a track record of posting “SIPOO” … Something in Place of Opinion. Time will tell.

        • Ron Mackey

          JML, who is against fiscal record of OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENCY, that’s like being against motherhood and apple pie. Where are those articles and comments from other cities telling us how Paul Vallas was and is such a great reformer? PT Barnum would have loved to meet Vallas.

        • beware

          Another self-appointed, overly egotistical, pompous windbag fool.

          Time has passed. Nothing to tell.

          • John Marshall Lee

            Ron,
            Against Open Accountable and Transparent? The current administration is against OATS! That is what a fair reading of my comments would reveal. It is not just a “ZOMBIE public” that has gotten dumbed down for years and fails to vote, or note what is going on, there is an embargo on OPEN. That is why you hire PR people. They tee up “happy events” and limit comment for the tough times when even CITY COUNCIL members want to know WHEN WERE WE TOLD?
            ACCOUNTABLE? Just look at “the education Mayor” who took back with City Council approval $1.1 Million from this year’s BOE budget, and put out the 2014 budget without the minimum City budget requirement of over $3 Million. I know questions about a $400,000 “double cost” driveway have caused another type of ACCOUNTABILITY mess in the City but as to serious stuff, for the kids in the classroom? How about it? Show us the money! And TRANSPARENCY? There are some $600 Million of capital projects in the pipeline for the BOE by itself. Where is that accessed on the City website? Where are all the capital projects? Regarding the School Building Committee, there are 9 members with Holloway, Banta and Martinez from the Council, who are the BOE and Mayor appointed members? What is their assigned MISSION? When do they hold MEETINGS? Where are the MINUTES? And the MONEY has been authorized by the Council after proposal by the administration, but how does the public see into the process if these simple questions are not well known and no reports come out on this process? Some have asked about JOBS for small businesses that are not union shops but may be prohibited due to language of RFP or RFQ. Any comments?
            Change is ongoing. Improvement as a mission is not. Why are the results shown by beware and others not disclosing the results for the time period he was in the ‘hot seat’ and maybe a year or so later? Who was your ‘elected hero’ at any level during the past 30 years? What happened within 2-3 years of the ‘hero’s’ departure? Was there enough demonstrated success and structural endurance to carry progress? Time will tell.

          • John Marshall Lee

            beware,
            Something you wrote yesterday resonated with me. So you are not a teacher, are you, but you want a job with the school system like you once enjoyed pre-Vallas? The work you advocate for is necessary work, no doubt, but Vallas is a numbers man. You must have caught on by now. And in all the material you asked me to read, there was precious little that showed “data driven” results, was there? Or did I miss something?
            So people can call me names, impugn my personality or comment on my lack of style, that’s OK. As we all understand, I have a right to write and frame my comments or opinions, just as you do. But when I provide facts, sources and information that can be checked for accuracy, that is different from what you have offered. And when I state I am not seeking a job, or a contract, or an elected office (unless we suddenly find ourselves with a Board of Finance), in a word, no personal rewards for my reporting or advocacy or just plain digging, I would like others to make a similar revelation. A writer with a personal agenda needs revelation to the reader. You are cheating the reading public otherwise. Time will tell.

  • BallsyInBridgeport

    Sounds like “beware” has a touch of vendetta, no?

  • Ron Mackey

    John Marshall Lee, you reply to my question, “Where are those articles and comments from other cities telling us how Paul Vallas was and is such a great reformer? PT Barnum would have loved to meet Vallas.”

    • beware

      Ron … here’s some more details on his record:

      Who is Paul Vallas and why is he coming to Madison?

      Here’s a short version. When Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley was given control of the Chicago schools in 1995, he appointed then City Budget director Vallas as CEO. Vallas served ’til 2002, when disappointing progress the defeat of a Vallas-friendly slate in the teacher union election led to his resignation (and here). He ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for Governor losing to Rod Blagojevich. From there it was to Philadelphia, where he served under the State appointed School Reform Commission from 2002 to 2007 and oversaw (among other things) what was then “the nation’s largest experiment in privatized management of schools.” He flirted with other Illinois gubernatorial runs in 2005 and 2008, and the Cook County Board President in 2009 as a Republican (prompting the question, what kind of person became a Republican between 2008 and 2009). Vallas then became head of the State-administered and Charter-dominated Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD), where he served from 2007 until 2011. The RSD is now unquestionably the largest school privatization effort in US history (see this great video of a parent complaining that when Charters are the only choice, there is no choice, more here). More recently he was tapped by an illegally appointed Board as interim Superintendent in Bridgeport CT. His $228,000 salary is being paid for by the private Bridgeport Education Reform Fund. Not surprisingly, Vallas’ plan for Bridgeport includes extensive blurring of the line between public and private. It should probably be mentioned that Vallas’ resume also includes well compensated activities in Chile (leading to mass protests against the reforms he brought) and Haiti on behalf of the Inter-American Development Bank.

      Read full article:
      madisonamps.org/2012/05/23/who-is-paul-vallas-and-why-is-he-coming-to-madison/

  • beware

    To the Madison school board:
    I strongly object to the District donating resources for hosting Paul Vallas, a prominent privatizer of public education. He and his approach to education (privatizing public schools; de-unionization of employees; increased emphasis on testing; and reliance on private sector models) while lacking any credible evidentiary support, already has the backing of wealthy foundations and hedge fund managers. With backing not from the education community, but instead the rich and powerful, he needs no additional assistance from the Madison school district or legitimate non-profit organizations.

    Vallas has left trainwrecks behind in the Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago school systems. These school districts have increased segregation, increased staff turnover and instability, and rendered no measurable credible improvements. While some attribute negligible increased test scores to Vallas’ tenure, it is quite likely that these questionable improvements are more from test “scrubbing” (see, e.g., washingtonindependent.com/110519/louisiana-school-group-alleges-new-orleans-scrubbed-testing-scores-to-inflate-results-state-officials-deny-claims) and weeding out challenging students (see e.g., americanindependent.com/190386/new-orleans-schools-a-nexus-of-poverty-high-expulsion-rates-hyper-security-and-novice-teachers) than real progress. Even cursory research about Chicago and Philadelphia will reveal widening achievement gaps, increased segregation, and other deteriorations either under Vallas’ tenure, or under systems he put in place.

    Vallas’ approach is generally disdained by the education community, that sees the value in measures such as de-segregation and smaller class sizes. However, folks who lack an actual background (as does Vallas) like the “quick fix” idea that Vallas purports. If installing novice educators, increasing segregation, privatizing public schools, increasing staff turnover, and de-unionizing workforces actually rendered benefits, then the proponents would not be limited to wealthy groups without education experience. That is why the NAACP has taken a strong stand against the privatization of public education.

    It is not just that Vallas’ ideas are wrong and destructive that disturbs me about the May 26 forum. The school district and Boys and Girls Club are giving voice to an idea that already has overhwhelming financial support. As parent groups and educators across the country seek to protect and improve public education, CEOs and privatization-friendly foundations push an agenda that has neither succeeded anywhere nor has credible evidentiary support. Vallas and other “reformers” already have resources on their side–I object to my taxpayer dollars or my school board giving more aid. That’s kind of like Microsoft passing the hat for donations.

    I hope that in the future the Madison School District does not use its resources to disseminate a message that already has billionaires’ backing and that undermines public education.

    Sincerely,

    Ted Lewis
    1910 Keyes Ave
    Madison WI 53711

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