Lawyer For Vallas Urges Supremes To Overturn Lower Court

A lawyer for Paul Vallas has submitted a 47-page brief arguing for the Connecticut Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that he lacks the proper legal certification to serve as superintendent of schools. In a brief filed on Wednesday, appellate specialist Steven Ecker, hired by the Board of Education to represent Vallas, urges the state’s highest court to reverse Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis. Read the legal brief here.

Steven Ecker
Steven Ecker

Last week the Supremes overruled Bellis’ decision to boot Vallas from the job while the case is under appeal. Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident, filed the legal complaint against Vallas. The Supremes are expected to hear oral arguments in the matter in mid September. In his preliminary statement Ecker argues:

Paul Vallas, a nationally recognized schools administrator who has held city-wide school superintendent/CEO positions in post-Katrina New Orleans, in Chicago, and in Philadelphia over the past fifteen years, has been ousted, by writ of quo warranto, as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools based on the trial court’s determination that he is not properly certified as a superintendent by the Connecticut Department of Education. This result is highly counterintuitive for numerous reasons, first and foremost because the certification at issue is subject, by statute, to an express waiver provision specifically intended to make it easier to bring exceptionally talented out-of-state superintendent candidates to Connecticut. See General Statutes § 10-157(c).2 Such a waiver was issued for Mr. Vallas on June 17, 2013, by the state’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. See PI. Ex. 15 (A207). The waiver explicitly sets forth the Commissioner’s determination that Mr. Vallas (1) had successfully completed his statutory probationary period, and (2) is “exceptionally qualified” for the position of superintendent, which are the two predicates for waiver under Section 10-157(c). Part I of this brief explains why the trial court had no legal authority to second-guess the Commissioner’s waiver determination in a quo warranto action. Part II then explains why the trial court’s construction and application of the certification-waiver statute is erroneous as a matter of law. Reversal is required on either or both grounds.



  1. The Bellis opinion is very likely to be overturned. Ecker’s argument is compelling. Vallas, it appears, was not challenged in New Orleans nor Chicago nor Philadelphia. He was or is credentialed in other states under standards established by the National Education Association (NEA). Each local state educational association has enhanced the NEA standards but not so as to preclude educators from other states to seek employment. Most, like the Connecticut Education Association, require coursework to ensure the applicants are familiar with standards and practices established by the state in which employment is sought. Once the coursework is completed and education and experience is validated, certification follows. Nobody is challenging Vallas’ education and experience, just whether or not he satisfactorily completed mandatory local course work. The CEA thinks he did.

    I’m no fan. I don’t think he should be here. Fair is Fair. If a NY-certified classroom teacher can accept a position in Connecticut pending completion of required coursework and become certified in CT, why should Vallas be treated differently?

    1. yahooy, those other cities just gave Vallas total power with NO questions because they were looking for a miracle worker, here merit is the issue and Vallas failed and he will fail in court again.

  2. As I said before, the Supremes will look at the language and intent of all applicable C.G.S.

    Paging Jennifer Buchanan: Call me at 203-345-9597 ASAP.

  3. Is there anyone in any position of leadership in Connecticut, maybe even in Bridgeport, preparing a “what if” contingency plan if the Court upholds Judge Bellis’ ruling?

    The CT Post reported last week the Bridgeport Board of Ed “won’t be shopping for a new schools superintendent just yet, as it failed on a 4-4 tie vote–with a ninth member absent–to start a search to find a new school leader.”

    BTW, another lawyer, Wendy Lecker, a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center–who is not being paid up to $50,000 by the Bridgeport Board of Ed to defend Paul Vallas–provides compelling arguments, too, re the Vallas case, in the following opinion piece:

    Key sentence: “The law was so clear that even Malloy’s allies, the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, acknowledged that Judge Bellis ruled properly.”

    Stamford Advocate
    July 26, 2013
    Lecker: Vallas saga offers teachable moment on abusing power
    by Wendy Lecker

    “The ouster of Bridgeport superintendent Paul Vallas has become a “cause celebre” among education reformers, who claim it is part of a broader conspiracy to perpetuate the “status quo.” Rather, it is a case study about the arrogance and abuse of power that have become the hallmark of the so-called reform movement.

    The Vallas saga is the story of how an infamous reformer broke the law–a law written expressly for him–and how senior officials put personal and political connections above the law and welfare of Bridgeport’s children.

    Following the illegal state takeover of Bridgeport’s schools, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor invited his friend Paul Vallas to head that district. Having never been certified to teach or work as an administrator, Vallas lacked the legal credentials to serve as an administrator in Connecticut.


    1. Hey Mojo and any interested fellow OIB commenters,
      Why don’t we meet up for an afternoon picnic at Seaside Park after the Supremes rule? If you’re right, Mojo, and Vallas prevails, I’ll bring the food and beverages for a dozen people; if he doesn’t, then you, Mojo, will. *** OK? *** Assuming the City Parks Dept doesn’t get the order to repeal my $5 beach pass, we should be OK. It’d be nice to meet you. Let me know. My e-mail is I would hope at the very least you and Joel “Speedy” G. will show.


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