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.