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Vallas: Working Families Party Blocking School Reforms, WFP Refutes Vallas’ Claim

July 5th, 2013 · 39 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, Education

Yes indeed, what better way to celebrate July 4th weekend than give-and-take firecracker jabs from Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas and the Connecticut Working Families Party he claims was behind the lawsuit that challenged his certification to serve. Vallas’ court case is receiving coverage in Chicago, where he once ran city schools, including an NBC affiliate. Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident aligned with Connecticut’s Working Families Party that has three of its members on the elected school board, brought the case in which a state judge ruled that Vallas lacked the legal certification to serve. Vallas remains on the job pending appeal. With five school board seats up for grabs in November, including two occupied by the WFP, members of the local Bridgeport Education Association that represents teachers will be active in the school board election. The WFP receives financial backing from unions. Taylor Leake, communications director for the Connecticut WFP, issued this statement today:

While the court decision was welcome, Paul Vallas is entirely wrong to say that the Working Families Party had anything to do with this lawsuit. It was brought by concerned Bridgeport citizens who felt Vallas shouldn’t receive special treatment, and we had no involvement in it. Paul Vallas lost this court case because of his own arrogance, not because of anyone else’s actions. He is not qualified, technically or substantively, to be superintendent. Paul Vallas claims he can turn around failing school districts, but time and again his leadership results in school closures, teacher lay-offs and poorly performing schools.

Story from the NBC affiliate:

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas called Ward Room this morning, to respond to a post about a judge’s decision to remove him from his job as interim superintendent of the Bridgeport, Conn., public schools.

Vallas, who was appointed interim superintendent in 2011 after the state of Connecticut took over Bridgeport’s schools, was ordered out of his job by a Superior Court judge who ruled he had taken a “sham” course to meet the certification requirements for superintendent. Normally, superintendents are required to complete a 13-month course at the University of Connecticut, but Vallas was taking an abbreviated independent study course approved by the state board of education.

Vallas said he remains on the job while the school district appeals the ruling.

So how did Vallas, who has run school districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and Louisiana, end up in a little place like Bridgeport, pop. 144,229? Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Vallas has made 75 trips to the island, to develop its school system. While there, he met Connecticut Education Commission Stefan Pryor, who asked him to run Bridgeport’s schools after the takeover. Vallas, who sees himself as a troubleshooter for troubled schools, accepted the job. Since he started, he has balanced the budget without laying off teachers, and purchased new textbooks.

“I’m not Rahm Emanuel badmouthing teachers, saying teachers get raises and kids get the shaft,” Vallas said. “I’m going to try to fix things without bloodying people.”

The court case, he said, was instigated by the Working Families Party, a union-funded group opposed to the state’s school takeover.

“This is just another attempt to block us from instituting reforms,” he said. “There’s a lot of intra-district conflict going on, and I’m caught in the middle.”

As for the course at the center of the case, Vallas said state law required a superintendent to be certified in Connecticut, but allow the state board of education to determine certification requirements. Vallas’s course was approved by the board, he said.

“Measuring effectiveness by seat time is a little silly,” Vallas said. “What am I supposed to do, run Bridgeport and sit in a class for 13 months?”

Vallas said he expects to run the district until sometime in the next school, which will require him to negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. After that?

“I go in, fix the system, I move on to something else.”

Would that something else be the financially broke state of Illinois, where Vallas still has a home, and where he ran for governor in 2002?

“Let’s just say I’m still registered to vote (there),” he said.

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39 Comments so far ↓

  • beware

    “Measuring effectiveness by seat time is a little silly,” Vallas said. “What am I supposed to do, run Bridgeport and sit in a class for 13 months?”

    How was he able to run three school districts in three countries and he can’t take an Ed. Leadership class designed JUST FOR HIM … he is transforming from super rock star to crybaby. See here:
    www .nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/02/recovery_school_district_super_1.html

  • beware

    a Bridgeport resident aligned with Connecticut’s Working Families Party

    Hey Lennie … define “aligned with.”

    Aren’t we all aligned with something? A party? A city? A country? A gender? A profession?

    So anyone who opposes a fly-by-night “reformer” is now “aligned?”

    So are those who support him “aligned” with something and if so, what?

    Maybe we should just narrow this down to: Hispanic women who are intelligent and who care about democratic principles, such as following the LAW, or would that be too narrow?

    • LennieGrimaldi

      What’s wrong with Carmen Lopez being aligned with the Working Families Party? She counsels WFP members on strategy, legal and otherwise, sits with members during court proceedings, huddles with them at public meetings. Carmen is very smart, makes strong arguments on behalf of the issues she cares about as well as members of the WFP she’s aligned with. What does “Hispanic women” have to do with it?

      • beware

        Why don’t you correct Vallas’ statement … call him out … the court case was not INSTIGATED by WFP.

        That is a LIE.

        I don’t like your categories if you’re not going to apply them to all involved, especially skipping over his bold-faced lie.

        I chose Hispanic women to point out the absurdity of your descriptors.

        • LennieGrimaldi

          beware, you’re free to come on OIB and state your point of view when you think I’m not getting it correct or not being fair. That’s part of the reason we exist. My point of view is no more valuable that yours and some may think your point of view is more valuable than mine.

          • beware

            So you still don’t want to revise your opening and point out Vallas isn’t being honest? However, you do take the time to opine on associations between citizens. Got it!

          • Joel Gonzalez

            Lennie, I don’t think Carmen Lopez and lots of other women out there are happy with the overall ‘treatment of women record’ of Mayor Finch. Who is the majority on the BOE aligned with?

        • Jennifer Buchanan

          It is well known it was instigated by WFP–not filed by them, but driven and encouraged–and what is wrong with WFP supporting this lawsuit?

          • beware

            Why don’t you call WFP to see if the Vallas Statement is correct rather than just repeating the lie, Jennifer.

            That’s also a reformy trick … keep repeating lies and people start believing them … you’re a quick learner.

            Maybe you can join the Vallas circus when it departs.

        • Jennifer Buchanan

          With all due respect beware, Carmen Lopez called me last winter and asked if I would consider adding my name to the lawsuit she filed. I have the utmost respect for Judge Lopez and her steadfast goal of seeing justice done for all. This suit has not been publicly supported by either the DTC or the RTC. As Lennie has stated, in my meetings Judge Lopez is very open about her alliance with the WFP. In my meetings with her, only members of the WFP were present.

          • beware

            WFP did not instigate or file the lawsuit … bottom line. Think of all the associations you have (professional, political, religious, etc). Maybe you attended a meeting and met with groups, so if you file a lawsuit someday, one or all of those groups “instigated” the filing? Beware Jennifer of who you associate with … you never know what ASSumptions others will make if we apply the same warped logic.

  • jakedog

    “This is just another attempt to block us from instituting reforms,” he said. “There’s a lot of intra-district conflict going on, and I’m caught in the middle.”

    He’s not caught in the middle. He creates it … that is his MO … it’s his specialty and it’s also his excuse. Deal with the crapstorm you create Paul and define R E F O R M.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      jake, with all due respect, the conflict was longstanding before Vallas was appointed, the last Superintendent supported the state takeover because of the existing conflicts in the BOE. I was told by a WFP member the reason they want him out is 50/50–first because he was appointed and Finch likes him, and half is on his past track record. Is this throwing the baby out with the bathwater? There was no mention of the certification issue in this discussion.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    From what I am hearing, the WFP has a real shot of taking all five BOE seats. Vallas will either stay or go. With control of the BOE, the WFP will have the opportunity to really show what they are made of, they will have the opportunity to work with Vallas and move our city schools forward and prove they are not the problem as they are being portrayed–or they will find a new Superintendent and move the schools forward. Either way, it is a win for the city schools and the WFP if they are the solution and not the “problem.”

    • BlackRockGuy

      They cannot take all five seats. The Board of Ed elections are set up so the runner up wins a certain number of seats, which in this case the split would be three and two. They can take control of the Board if that is what you mean.

  • Fluckarella

    Will Vallas convince the Supremes Bridgeport Schools are just his LOVE CHILD?
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=x2icqNPcNS4

  • BlackRockGuy

    He objects to taking the course? That is the requirement for this job. Waivers are only supposed to be granted for interim superintendents. He is now claiming to be the victim … getting paid for a six-figure job for which he has not met the legal requirements … if only the rest of us could suffer such victimhood. Some places you can’t even substitute teach unless you are a certified teacher … which means taking all those ed courses. Just who does Vallas think he is?

  • CT Taxpayer

    The superintendent’s contract allows him to work “side jobs” while he is superintendent of the Bridgeport Public Schools, and that is an indication of the lack of seriousness of this board of education. Any other board would have sent packing a superintendent who is unwilling to give his entire professional focus to the school district that needs an effective leader, for whom it is paying a generous salary. If Mr. Vallas thinks the superintendent can devote anything less than this to Bridgeport, then he doesn’t understand the needs of this district. The board’s allowing this is indicative of the sense of unworthiness and the low expectations so many people have about Bridgeport and the kids. Too many people think this is the best Bridgeporters can expect. It doesn’t have to be that way.

    If Mr. Vallas couldn’t even meet the minimal requirement expected of him, then he isn’t serious enough about serving this school system. He is more interested in promoting the “Vallas brand,” preparing for his next job in some other unsuspecting school district.

    He knew full well he was pulling a fast one by taking that phony Neag course, and he got caught. Now his strategy is to use the red herring argument the WFP instigated the lawsuit. Whether the WFP did or not is entirely irrelevant to the case. The question is whether or not Mr. Vallas meets the legal requirement for being superintendent. He doesn’t.

    • beware

      B I N G O ! You hit the nail on the head. Bravo, CT Taxpayer!

    • Bond Girl

      RED HERRING! Have not heard that term since the middle ’80s with regard to stock offerings. Love it!

    • Steven Auerbach

      CT Taxpayer, is it true Vallas can take outside jobs? Why has this not been a huge issue? Are you sure? I cannot believe that.

      • CT Taxpayer

        Steven Auerbach,
        Yes, it is true. It has been mentioned quite a few times on various websites. He offers no apologies for leaving the state periodically to do other work, saying only he doesn’t get paid for the days he doesn’t work. Then he has the utter gall to say he is making up the days he misses by doing some of his Bridgeport work on weekends–when other employees aren’t around to interact with him. Don’t forget he also has his own educational consulting company.

      • beware

        Vallas Group Debuts Turnaround System with Cambium Learning–Joint Venture Vows ‘No School Turned Away’
        www .prnewswire.com/news-releases/vallas-group-debuts-turnaround-system-with-cambium-learning-157362815.html

      • jakedog

        Vallas lasted longer in both Chicago and Philadelphia than most urban school leaders, six years in Chicago and then five in Philadelphia, but he wore out his welcome in both places. He left the Philadelphia district in many ways transformed, most agree for the better, but still with a sour taste and a big deficit. While he won converts among longtime district staff for his energy and commitment, he alienated the people who hired him; things had become so bitter he didn’t show up for his own sendoff. A similar thing happened in Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley, who had installed him to clean up what had been described as the worst school district in America, eased him out after he had done just that.

        The saga of Paul Vallas, to hear him tell it, is one of too much success.

        “What happens with turnaround superintendents,” he said, “is that the first two years you’re a demolitions expert. By the third year, if you get improvements, do school construction, and test scores go up, people start to think this isn’t so hard. By year four, people start to think you’re getting way too much credit. By year five, you’re chopped liver.”

        But Vallas has little time for reflection or looking back. He is focused on what may be his biggest challenge yet as superintendent of the Recovery School District (RSD) in the ruined city of New Orleans.
        educationnext.org/the-vallas-effect/

      • beware

        Search Vallas Group Turnaround system.

      • John Marshall Lee

        Steve,
        It is common enough here in CT that Superintendents are allowed to “consult” because of their expertise. Check around. Too many comments listed here as criticisms are only partly true and lose their impact when looked at in context. Context is about youth getting educated with choices as to paths they may follow in later life. The Vallas five-year plan and funding seems to direct dollars and attention that way. Perhaps, though Judge has ruled he is not certified, he is well qualified for what he has set in motion in Bridgeport. For a broader reading on education and technology, take a look at The Economist June 29, 2013 where there are two major essays on this subject. Time will tell.

        • jakedog

          Or the context of Vallas promoting Vallas and always looking for his next gig…..superintendents do not take on multiple districts, cities, countries at the same time or have one foot in one city while lining up the next venture….gotta keep moving.

          No school ($$$$$$) turned away:

          Vallas Group Debuts Turnaround System with Cambium Learning–Joint Venture Vows ‘No School Turned Away’

          www .prnewswire.com/news-releases/vallas-group-debuts-turnaround-system-with-cambium-learning-157362815.html

        • Bob Walsh

          Please John, provide this list of Superintendents who are allowed to “consult.”
          And while you are at it, please define “consult.”
          In the Vallas case we are talking about being away from Bridgeport on a regular basis to assist in the management of other school districts.
          If that is a common practice in CT then maybe we can just get some of these certified supers to run B’port on a part-time basis.
          At least then our part-time super will be certified.
          Time will smell.

      • BlackRockGuy

        Steve, he is also running a business on the side doing the same thing to other districts that he is doing to B’port.

  • Chosen 1

    Vallas oversaw the large privatization of Philadelphia schools in 2002, allowing private managers and for-profit institutions to run public schools. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans’ public schools, Vallas led the effort to reform and rebuild that district through the massive expansion of charter schools.
    There was a rally to support Vallas in Bridgeport last night.
    ​(Source: Connecticut Post)
    Sonia Giebel is an intern at the Notebook.
    EVERY MEMBER OF A UNION AND EVERY DEMOCRAT SHOULD READ THAT BEFORE VOTING IN 2015

  • Mojo

    *** Vallas “half-stepped” his agreement in taking the certification course with the State and the State “did not” follow up to make sure the required certification agreement was met by Vallas. Now it looks like the rest of his contract time will be spent in a courtroom while he’s getting “paid” well and once again the kids will end up getting the short end of the pointing stick! And the WFP (if they win) might get a political attaboy in their continued personal struggle against city government. *** BPT ZOMBIE EDUCATION AT ITS BEST ***

  • Steven Auerbach

    Thank you all for the clarification. It may be acceptable for superintendents to take side consulting jobs, but it doesn’t make sense in Bridgeport, which needs 100 percent focus. It is not acceptable for him to leave the district at his convenience consulting elsewhere. He may very well be qualified but taking a job at his salary seems like we need 100 percent. The fact he does not get paid when he is not here does not make me feel comfortable. If we can get a refund on his salary if there is little improvement is what should have been addressed in his contract. Now I am on the fence.

    • BlackRockGuy

      Steve, it should never make sense … Even in a small school district. That is a full-time job anywhere but as you say B’port.

  • Black Rockin

    Can I sue Vallas for not giving me my tax money’s worth I paid in Bpt? If the lawsuit is filed in a place where he is working outside of Bpt? Hook me up with a summons sheriff in IL, somebody.

  • jakedog

    Comment left on the Ravitch blog … someone who goes way back and knows history re: Vallas, link at the bottom:

    George Schmidt:

    By the middle of the 20th Century, reporters were trained to check for accuracy, not to simplify reality into “two sides to every story” stuff.

    “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!” was a motto of reporting that came out of Chicago.

    It’s a compliment to Diane Ravitch’s blog that Paul Vallas dispatches one of his former minions to blow smoke into the eyes of people taking a closer look at the actual Vallas record.

    Diane Fager’s versions of the wonders of the Paul Vallas record typifies the way in which Vallas has always tried to manipulate the media. He does it by working directly himself or through surrogates, often former subordinates like Fager. When I read the original anonymous testimonial, I thought it came from Cozette Buckney; Phil Hansen is no longer available to sing Vallas’s praises because he’s dead … The Vallas fan club has been around (and usually well compensated) for a long long time.

    One of the wonderful things about the educational leadership career of Paul Vallas was how intensely he worked the press.

    From the day he was announced as the mayor’s choice (because of his “business acumen” ????) to head Chicago’s schools (Vallas’s actual private sector business experience had been at his family’s suburban restaurant; his other work was overseeing patronage as Chicago’s Mayor’s Budget Director, the job he had before he became the Business Roundtable’s choice for the first CPS CEO), Vallas was intense about his publicity stuff.

    Reporters who wrote (or spoke) even a line that wasn’t to Vallas’s liking would either hear from him directly (often in late night phone calls) or from a well-paid surrogate (as in the present case). Those who asked him impertinent questions (or who laughed at the absurdity of his claims and hypeactive posings) usually got the “I’ll get back to you on that …” stumper that was patented here in Chicago. Those of us who actually published the facts about Vallas’s regime (most famously for me, the actual content of the CASE tests Vallas had spent millions of dollars on in Chicago) could expect enormous pressure (in my case, a million dollar “copyright infringement” lawsuit and termination for “copyright infringement …”) and usually (as in the case of Grady Jordan, who wrote about Vallas’s racism) slanders or worse.

    One day, the Paul Vallas event will become a case study for reporters to study in school, just as the Harvard Business School uses case studies. But for now the whole spin cycle is still spinning, so we’ll have to continue adding to the portfolio now that the Connecticut courts have added a new chapter.

    For the rest of the USA, Paul Vallas is the first reason to quarantine anything or anyone emerging from Chicago as a “school reformer.”

    But there is a fine history to all this …

    And since Diane Ravitch is a historian first, it’s fun to do the history here in the present tense.

    Paul Vallas became “Chief Executive Officer” of Chicago’s public schools in 1995, as soon as the (Republican majority) Illinois General Assembly had passed the “Amendatory Act of 1995″ beginning “Mayoral Control” of large, largely minority urban school systems. The Amendatory Act was the beginning of it all, and Paul Vallas was the first of the non-educators to get the top job of reforming public education.

    Even before Vallas took over the public schools of Chicago, he was spinning his narrative with the help of certain reporters who had opted for good storytelling over accuracy and boringly checked out facts.

    I remember the Chicago Sun-Times, in an early “Who is Paul Vallas?” story, quoting Vallas’s Mom–yes, his mother–about how hard he worked at high school football because our humble hero was not very talented but always substituted hard work and grit for whatever … That motherly endorsement came as if that, for some reason, was why he should, with no education experience (but with a long record as a Democratic Party and City Hall hack), become the head of the nation’s third largest school system.

    This episode is just the latest in one version of the Vallas Spin. Testimonials.

    The other (which has probably happened, but Our Pal Paul is too humble–and/or too busy busy busy–to go directly to Diane Ravitch …) is to call the person making the original report.

    By the time Vallas’s star was rising in Chicago, the media were in decline. Chicago’s City New Bureau (for decades the training ground for reporters in Chicago) was terminated. No longer would reporters (from famous ones like Mike Royko and Kurt Vonnegut to the average street reporter) be taught that reporting began and ended with accuracy under the famous motto: “If your mother says she loves you, Check it Out!” No, by the time Vallas was creating his clip files, a reporter could quote Vallas’s mother with a straight face and not have an editor send her back to basic training! By the time Vallas was finally dumped by Mayor Daley in May-June 2001, even the Vallas media manipulation machine had worn out its welcome and Vallas’s frenetic phone calls to favored reporters weren’t taken as a good thing any longer. Also, some of the reporters who had done Vallas’s dirty work (based on “inside” dirt against Vallas’s enemies) were also leaving the business. (I go once a year to spit on the monument to one of those guys, a reporter who turned pundit and ended his career disgraced by the number of times he ran Vallas’s slanders as his own words in the Sun-Times …).

    Vallas as out in Chicago in July 2001. He told the press he was going to relax and spend some time with the kids, maybe play a little baseball blah blah blah. At the time, I told people it was really sad for Vallas to pull that one on his own kids, since it was clear he was already looking to make a political bed for himself in Illinois or Chicago. Sure enough, within a few months, Paul Vallas was running for the Democratic Party nomination for Governor of Illinois. During that time, we published an extensive refutation of just about every claim Vallas was making, including a resume padding (he claimed “teaching” experience he never had and that stuff about eye glasses) and some typical tall tales (nobody ever saw that “600 page …” thingy Vallas supposedly authored, for example, just as nobody has ever seen evidence of this claim by Vallas’s person here that Paul was a “historian”) …

    Anyway, we’ve reprinted some of those old articles at http://www.substancenews.net this week just so readers in 2013 could note that had people been paying attention to the accuracy of the facts in 2002 (and before, as we published them in Substance) maybe Philadelphia, New Orleans, and now Bridgeport would not have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) on the Vallas Hoax. But the method hasn’t changed, as we can see here. A humble saint Paul Vallas is, whose entire life has been dedicated to the children, Paul Vallas’s has. Often in history these kinds of versions of reality get treated unkindly in fiction. I’m thinking of Grandgrind in “Hard Times” or so many of the others satirized by Charles Dickens. But Paul Vallas and his Vallasizations of reality (as well as the “Vallas Method,” most recently exemplified here) are still costing public school districts dollars and time. So it’s worth returning to a story about which the facts have long been clear.

    “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!” still holds.

    dianeravitch.net/2013/07/05/in-defense-of-paul-vallas/

  • jakedog

    A lengthy breakdown over the years. Eye opening, indeed!

    A must read for ALL:

    VALLAS FACTS: ‘The Paul Vallas Hoax’ in the March 2002 Substance exposed every lie, half-truth, and self serving utteration of Vallas … But it took other places a decade to check out Vallas’s nonsense and try to stop his ‘school reform’ nonsense.

    [Editor’s Note: Substance had the story first, with all the facts. Paul Vallas was a fraud ten and fifteen years ago, in 1998 or 2002, just as he has been exposed to be in 2013 in Connecticut. But the facts were ignored for more than a decade. And during those years Paul G. Vallas (and at times his so-called “team”) cavorted around the country, pushing the toxic sludge of corporate “school reform” across the USA (and even into other nations). How did it happen? Basically, the majority of reporters (and school board members) simply recycled Vallas’s own versions of reality, carefully selected from a pile of news clippings from Chicago. The contrary evidence was ignored, while members of the Business Roundtable and other plutocrats pushed Vallas on one school district after another.
    www .substancenews.net/articles.php?page=4370

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