Will Supremes Keep Vallas Hangin’ On? Court Hearing Today

Paul Vallas
Paul Vallas case goes before Supremes.

UPDATE: Linda Conner Lambeck of the CT Post shares her take from today’s hearing here.

The Connecticut Supreme Court this morning (Monday) heard oral arguments to determine if Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas has the proper legal certification to lead a Connecticut school district. The Supremes agreed to review an expedited appeal of a lawsuit brought by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident, following a lower court ruling by Judge Barbara Bellis removing Vallas for lack of legal credentials. The Supremes ordered that Vallas could remain on the job pending appeal.

Pattis, Lopez
Attorney Norm Pattis and Carmen Lopez during court hearing before Judge Barbara Bellis. Photo courtesy of Connecticut Post.

Appellate specialist Steven Ecker, hired by the Board of Education to represent Vallas, summarized arguments made in his legal brief. The court also heard from attorney Norm Pattis representing Lopez. Bruce Levin and Barbara Schellenberg, attorneys from the Bridgeport-based law firm Cohen & Wolf prepared the legal brief here on behalf of Lopez.

The State Board of Education, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Attorney General George Jepsen are also involved in the Supreme Court case on behalf of Vallas arguing Bellis’ decision undercuts the authority of the State BOE.

In his preliminary statement to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Ecker argues in part:

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.

The plaintiff’s preliminary statement argues, in part:

This case is about the integrity of our legislative process, specifically whether an important statutory requirement can be trivialized under a claim of state agency supremacy and immunity from judicial review. Indeed, underlying Defendant’s arguments is the notion that, if a public official is popular or desirable enough, then the rule of law need not apply to him. Defendant is right about one thing. General Statutes 10-157 is meant to provide flexibility, setting forth a path for an uncertified superintendent who the Commissioner of Education deems exceptionally qualified, to obtain a waiver of certification. But, in adopting the narrow exception to the general rule that certification is required for this position, the legislature made clear that neither the State Board of Education, nor the Commissioner, has unfettered discretion. Specific standards still must be met before that waiver can be granted.

Irrespective of how the Supremes rule in this matter, Vallas will face a new-look Board of Education following the November 5th general election. Democrats Andre Baker, Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey, the challenge slate winners of the September 10 primary, are overwhelming favorites for election with five open school board seats. The other two slots will be filled by state-mandated minority-party representation among Connecticut Working Families Party and Republican Party candidates.



  1. Together again! The Best of Buds!
    Anthony Musto and State Rep. Auden Grogins at the Burroughs Community Center Monday September 23rd From 6:30-7:30PM
    2470 Fairfield Ave, Bridgeport CT.

    1. This is not a co-sponsored event from what I understand, Jim. From the news I am getting, Musto put out the invitation the day after the primary, without checking with Grogins. They both were having office hours on the same day, but there is no “event.”

      In my opinion, the flyer was spun to look like a co-sponsored event by Musto and his peeps. The stinky part is the timing of the flyer. It was released immediately after the endorsed Democrats got spanked in the primary. Coattail ride much, Anthony? Too obvious, you need smarter strategists.

          1. Mischievous is one way of saying it. Sour grapes is another way of saying it. Has Fluck ever won a political race on his own?

  2. *** Even though Vallas “agreed” to take a State Educational Course but “never made good on his agreement,” I believe he’s been in the school mix long enough to have the educational credentials needed to be Bpt Supt. I also believe if given a chance, in the end if he does not have what it takes to do the job the results will show “loudand clear.” Meanwhile, other than helping his ex-State Rep buddy Finch, what does the State Attorney General George Jepson have to do with this case I wonder? *** I guess “time will tell!” ***

  3. The voters of Bridgeport owe a great deal of thanks to retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident, for stepping up and coming forward and fighting back against the powers of The State Board of Education, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Attorney General George Jepsen and Mayor Finch and the BOE in hiring Paul Vallas who lacks the educational credentials to be the Superintendent of Schools in Bridgeport.

    There have been many on OIB who have made complaints or who have formed organizations or have written letters about issues concerning Bridgeport but it is retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez who took real action and who has shown all of us how to fight City Hall. Win or lose, thank you Carmen Lopez.

  4. I have heard no person in the area who claims the School System was performing adequately as measured by any standard other than the ability to consume appropriations averaging about $250 Million per year of State, local, Federal and grant dollars. Open, accountable and transparent process had disappeared (if it was there in the first place, in the mists of history). Results of testing throughout the system at different levels showed decreasing results. Teaching professionals could find many reasons for pupil failure (and many are very reasonable, as well as remediable), including curriculum, no books, ancient technology, old schools, lack of money in the Bridgeport system (including failure of Finch administration to increase City contribution for four years), kids entering schools without preparation, troubled, poor and/or single-parent households, etc. Finally, the Board members could not gather under a common cause with civility to work together month in and month out on behalf of Bridgeport public education. DYSFUNCTION ruled the day.

    Reform was sought at several levels. A high-energy reformer crafting a five-year plan with balanced budgets was engaged and began to implement multiple changes, renewals nd reforms at a rapid rate. At this moment many parents, grandparents and community stakeholders have become impressed with many changes they see especially the reactions of children in the system.

    It is not perfect, certainly, but it seems headed in the planned direction. Those who have expressed opposition to the reform have attacked the man with the plan, Paul Vallas. They have attacked his work in previous cities with partial or untimely information or provided critiques from others with an agenda, personal or philosophical, but not practical, necessarily.

    Teaching professionals in Bridgeport have a union contract that comes from negotiations in recent years. Such negotiations are facing the system currently. The unions and some member teachers have been disturbed about parts of the Vallas plan but offer no coherent alternative. Others are critical of the fact the Vallas credentials, expertise and talent are not from a traditional educational track to Superintendency. (Are they concerned when they attend local hospitals that no longer have a Medical Doctor as President?)

    Some critics have attempted to assign personal financial gain to Vallas decisions made in the past two years. With the regular financial disclosure by Chief Financial Officer Marlene Siegel, I find no evidence of any impropriety and the books are far more open than in previous administrations. I find far greater information released each month on money and people employed by the BOE as well as grants info previously not public.

    When will the Board and school administration begin to share with the taxpaying public some of the issues about where efficiencies can be found in compensation packages more akin to similar work in the private sphere? We need to address all of the children of the community certainly, but those on the front line were not pursuing that objective in an accountable manner in the years leading to 2011, and leadership must guide them to quality standards and monitor behavior and results throughout the system. Time will tell.

    1. More babble from JML. John, you love to talk about open and transparent. He does not MEET the credentials required to be a superintendent. Vallas is making decisions on educational policy. And one of the biggest problems with many hospital presidents may very well be many of them don’t have medical backgrounds.
      Every school system he has been at is in shambles. Sounds like what you like about him is he wants to lower teacher salaries.
      Vallas wants to hire unqualified Teach for America personnel instead of credentialed teachers. The following article speaks for itself.
      www .washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/29/how-teach-for-america-recruits-get-preference-for-teaching-jobs/

    2. With respect because you are entitled to an opinion. You raise an interesting point. Do we care if a hospital’s president is not an MD? Therefore, according to you, we should not be concerned that the head of our troubled education system in Bridgeport is run by an experienced albeit uncredentialed professional. I would think your endorsed precedent may allow the Bridgeport machine to place the likes of Carroll, Woods, Testa, Timpanelli and even Finch himself into that role, which influences millions in spending.

      1. BRG and yahooy,
        You guys need to begin doing some original thinking, don’t you? Perhaps it seems easier mouthing a ‘party line’ and trying to put words into my mouth?

        The Teach For America teachers were in Bridgeport with a BOE contract for several years before Vallas ever came to town. Why not admit it? Yet neither of you have found fault with that fact until TFA became a Bridgeport Education Association issue and you joined their chorus. Instead of this low-performing school closing through attrition (as neighborhood youth applied for other City schools), the Dunbar School community looked at and supported this year’s plan. It included at least eight additional TFA people in their classrooms, and they were enthusiastic about this change at the BOE meeting a month ago. Do you attend BOE meetings to see the variety of response coming from residents?

        I cannot remember either of you, or the CT Post, or other community sectors expressing an opinion as hospitals began to operate under a different management paradigm in recent decades. Doctors are certainly important to the intensive and acute care issues dealt with today in hospitals, but running the whole enterprise may be beyond the span, education and experience of medical doctors. Can a similar situation be developing in poor urban environments where the schools are asked to solve so many issues with respect to youth and families, yet the folks in charge are trained and certified to be educators:
        • where “classroom management” is not a daily issue
        • where almost all youth appear by first grade with language skills including a vocabulary allowing them to progress rapidly and consistently
        • where parent attention is assumed regarding child’s progress and
        • where funds and like resources have been less available to City public schools than in the suburbs.

        You mention money and spending, yet neither of you mention the City took back $1 Million of appropriations from the school budget for the 2013 year with a City Council vote, though they had not met their 2013 ‘minimum budget requirement.’ And each of you are silent on the failure of Finch and Sherwood to come clean on the failure to appropriate and fund the 2013 $3.3 Million MBR at all. What’s up guys? Isn’t the BEA worried about this? I certainly cannot be seen to be a supporter of lack of open, accountable and transparent City behavior. I attack it specifically while you ignore it and attack Vallas. The Finch administration has seen fit to keep $4.3 Million so far from transferring to the BOE because of its own needs. Where is your voice? This is money for kids in the classroom, right?

        Retired Judge Lopez has her own personal opinion and set of beliefs she has pursued. She has also been a school supporter with her time, talent and experience at Harding HS in recent years. She has set in motion legal process. And we are awaiting those results.
        The Supreme Court will doubtless come to a decision on the issues of qualifications, credentials, and whether Vallas can stay in the City to continue the reform plan. Meanwhile, too many, including each of you, are not aware of the ongoing reform, attempts at change (a bumpy road itself), and the specific changes required of professionals within the Bridgeport system to match the changes occurring throughout the state and nation by teachers in the education of youth.

        Stay tuned. We need more info on what to expect if we are parents of a pre-school child! We need info about changing expectations for those in elementary school so families can be ready to effectively make a secondary school choice! And parents of high school students need to monitor the progress to further skill training, college opportunities (some open to students while in City high schools) and the work force. These are short term expectation changes. An example of this is news about Harding football players under newly hired Coach Cochran. Last June six students showed up for initial tryouts. By September 21, the team is 2-0 including an FCIAC win. Community excitement, for sure! Different leadership. Different outcomes. Time will tell.

        1. You are arrogant. Worse, you are single-minded. Those of us who object to Vallas do so for good reason. We simply believe his past performance in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans does not make him the man (or woman) we need to straighten out the Bridgeport school system. There is an AP article circulating today indicating the people of New Orleans were greatly disappointed. They counted on him to restore their school system post Katrina but he failed to deliver satisfactory results. In Philadelphia, so says today’s AP report, Vallas left a system unable to sustain itself, eventually running up a $75,000,000 deficit before a more skilled administrator was identified and hired. I don’t think he is right for the job here. A lot of local people feel that way as well. That leaves me to wonder just who the hell do you think you are that you can so blatantly insult all who oppose your boy. Remember, you have convinced no one in this town that you really know of what you continually conger up without the benefit of facts. Some people around here think that type of person is simply a bullshitter.

          1. yahooy,
            I am sorry to disappoint you. As you have said, I have a right to my opinion and it is stated with my real identity.
            You have a right to your opinion but when you fail to disclose your identity, it cuts some credibility from your statements.
            Paul Vallas is not my boy. He came to town as a reformer. I provide almost automatic trust to a newcomer, but I have learned to verify. I attended many meetings, listened to what was said and saw changes that were new to Bridgeport schools and City governance.
            In the face of Jonathan Pelto and other ‘critics,’ I have sought out other info from Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans that counters the criticisms. People connected to the ‘anti-Vallas’ movement are not going to be convinced by such research, unfortunately. And folks like you like to provide info out of context with the positive face of reform.
            That $75 Million mid-year deficit was about 3.5% of the $2 Billion school budget. Did you research what happened by year end? That deficit was reduced to $18 Million and was the only deficit Vallas ran in 6 years in Philadelphia. Where’s your context? Where’s your concern for communicating accuracy, yahooy? I think people might begin to see you as a bullshitter, do you think?

            I question those who want to get rid of Vallas because I see the public school system glass as becoming more than half full. And that is progress.
            In the meantime I will take issue with ‘your facts’ and arguments, which when researched appear to mean in a system with 300 schools and 10 times our Bridgeport school population, in six years of financial management Paul Vallas balanced budgets (even though when he came into the system, he had to find an answer to an operating deficit of several hundred million, which he did). And one year, he ran an operating deficit of less than 1% you attribute as the reason for his leaving?
            Our City of Bridgeport has flat-funded education, and is delinquent in supporting the five-year reform plan, though all elected people are out to get their photographs taken at groundbreaking. This City is running deficits on the City side comparable to 1% annually and the public is not aware, because the June financial reports are not final. and the annual CAFR (external audits) are not discussed with the public but show the steady reduction in the City fund balance, ECS and Library funds “clawed” back by the administration to show a lower deficit and no Mayoral attention to the document even though it is the only time annually the public gets a look at our balance sheet issues.
            yahooy, there are people running for office this year who have been reading my posts on OIB for several years. More than a couple have called to sit down and find out more about fiscal matters, about City process and governance. BOE is part of the “big picture” and in operation it looks better run than the City side. That’s what it looks like when you look at the books. The City prints those reports and some are on the City site. Others take more effort. But the folks visiting me can see I am not “congering up” anything. I am fact based. I look at the entire City. I am open to meet with folks and have made that offer to you before and now again, 203-259-9642.
            Come out of the dark closet, fellow poster. Look at all the facts, the good, the bad and the really ugly. Use your own thinking mechanism. You are not a parrot. Time will tell.

        2. By ‘idiots running our buildings’ do you mean certified, trained, CT administrators with a background in education? You could file a complaint and get things changed. Inform the principal you are in the middle of a lesson and you are not her secretary. Honestly, the superintendent can hardly micro-manage every classroom. This is why we have layers of leadership. Just unplug the phone and put it in your desk drawer. Then report it broken. You should also teach the kids to feel the door before opening it. Granted, if a kid opens a door and there is a fire behind it they could get hurt or killed. What if you opened the door and were incapacitated? Then all the kids could be lost. You should start following the rules and teach what you are supposed to. You can use student shortfalls observed in other subjects to modify your lessons but changing from subject to subject just makes your lessons tangential and disorganized. I wouldn’t want you to think you are above the rules.

    3. JML–Don’t forget, many of the contracts that were negotiated ‘in good faith’ were done so with the unions having people sitting on both sides of the table. The teachers union even managed to get teachers exempt from the proposed law that would exempt city employees from holding a seat on the city council. Apparently, teachers are not city employees. Talk about splitting hairs. Teachers can hold seats on the city council and the BOE without conflict of interest issues.

  5. *** It’s a shame it takes a retired Superior Court Judge to get any “real fast action” going in Bpt concerning BOE issues, etc. I think Vallas’ past educational experience may help him “win” this court battle, however the educational course asked for by the State and agreed to by Vallas might prove to be his downfall in the end, no? *** The average Joe ain’t got a clue one way or another. ***

  6. Let’s put it this way, my friend. Philadelphia didn’t erect a statue of Vallas just as they didn’t erect a statue for Rocky. You just be careful of spewing forth baseless fact. Some people think you know what you’re talking about. I’m not one of them. There isn’t one shred of credible data that supports your Philadelphia rebuttal that I could find. All I could find was information stating Vallas left Philadelphia without accomplishing a plan that would sustain a successful education program. Furthermore, you pedantic putz, this isn’t about you. It’s about Vallas’ worthiness.

    1. yahooy,
      Kids resort to calling names when they are frustrated. If you can’t find the data about the fiscal year in which Vallas had a midyear $73 Million deficit but reduced it to $18 Million by year end, then you’re not trying very hard. After all you are predisposed to find him not worthy. And you hide behind a false name.
      By the way, I have invited you to call me. I can cover what you missed if you really want to know the facts. However, if you wish to continue “spewing,” don’t let me stop you, after all you have already decided what I say is not credible.
      As far as “accomplishing a plan that would sustain a successful education program,” doesn’t that require some more skeleton before that opinion is rendered? Just like, what is the Bridgeport expectation of those who are attacking Vallas’ worthiness???

      He was to close schools and fire teachers. He only wished Charter Schools. Many people were saying that a year ago. What is true and factual today. It seems no schools closed. No teachers were fired, or were there one or two? And where are the Charter Schools at this moment? Give us the facts yahooy, please. If a pedantic putz can do it, certainly an expert on Philadelphia public sculpture should be up to the task. No? Time will tell.

      1. JML,
        I’ll get back to you with a response worthy of your pseudointellectualism. Hang on please.

        Lennie and Ray,
        I heard there was a change in OIB publication policies. I missed the memo. What is the current policy on the use of the F-bomb?

  7. JML,
    The Dunbar community was represented by fewer than 10 parents when the presentations were made for which school model would be used this year. Also, you mention dysfunction in the BOE. Can you please provide an example where the Rubber Stamp crew didn’t get their way via their 5-4 majority? I would think the WFP’s questions and challenges are what a minority party is supposed to do. It really irks me to hear there’s dysfunction when the vote has always gone the way “the machine” has desired. It’s obvious “mayoral control” over the Board has not worked. It’s certainly time for the people to have a chance.

  8. I was at the hearing this morning driving up and back with JML and a respected Poly Sci Prof from Fairfield U and library board member Don Greenberg. Mr. Dixon from the Post was keeping count of the judges’ questions to each attorney–Vallas’ attorney was asked 9 questions and 34 for Norm Pattis. It was a very enlightening conversation about points of law and what the legal argument was really about on the drive home. I do hope the court issues an opinion long before the general election.

  9. There is a prestigious public accounting firm that provides financial services and some certified opinions to the City of Bridgeport. I believe that firm is Blum and Shapiro. I could be wrong. But my point is should a CPA firm be managed by a non-certified public accountant? This has nothing to do with Blum and Shapiro. They are managed quite well by highly skilled and licensed CPAs for good reason. On a regular basis the Accounting Standards Board and various other accounting related think-tank boards issue pronouncements that need to be implemented into the manner in which financial standards are applied to the way financial results are reported. A Managing Partner (CEO) who is not a CPA could not possibly have the knowledge to guide his or her firm towards compliance with these ever-changing methodologies.

    So is the same principle with a School System. Are we not denying our children the best possible education if the Superintendent is personally unable to interpret and implement effective teaching programs to ensure the knowledge that is derived in the classroom is consistent with generally accepted principles designed to insure the ability to compete and progress in whatever the future of the student holds? Lee Iacocca was hired to turn around Chrysler because he knew how to build cars.

    1. So what super did we have who did that? I would venture to say none of them did. I would not mind if BPT’s super were a CPA. CPAs understand how to run finances. Bill Gates does not know how to build or program a computer. He is a salesman. How is Chrysler doing now after Iacocca left? Chrysler was failing, Iacocca came and left and now they are failing again. Is Iacocca a turnaround auto-shyster?

  10. Regarding Bill Gate’s programming skills from Wikipedia:

    At 13 he enrolled in the Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School’s rummage sale to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school’s students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC, and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he said, “There was just something neat about the machine.” After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students–Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans–for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.
    At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC’s software in exchange for computer time. Rather than use the system via Teletype, Gates went to CCC’s offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in Fortran, Lisp, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when the company went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences, Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in Cobol, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school’s computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with “a disproportionate number of interesting girls.” He later stated that “it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success.”

    Regarding Chrysler after Iacocca also from Wikipedia:
    2012 Revenues for Chrysler, LLC $68,000,000,000 ($2,000,000,000 profit seems far from failing)
    12th largest automobile manufacturer in the world (without Fiat)

    Iaccoca didn’t leave Chrysler under controversy. When he took over I bought the stock for about $3.00. When I sold it I earned the largest profit of any stock I have ever held to that date.

    What’s with you? Just throw a bunch of bullshit out there hoping someone more stupid than you will believe it?

    A superintendent of schools must be an educator, fully qualified and credentialed. A wise superintendent would hire a highly skilled business executive to manage the fiscal aspect. But when it comes to academics, the superintendent has to be sensitive to the absolute needs of the students and the teachers. He or she must have the intellectual capacity to envision programs that will provide the students with the tools they will need for future success. He or she must also be able to manage the implementation of these programs and develop a system of metrics to determine ultimate successes or not. Who can dispute this? Assholes, probably.

    1. OK, that would work. Having a business Super who hired a highly skilled academic executive would work as well. Isn’t most of the academics given in school regulated by the state? They tell you what a kid needs to learn in each grade and you decide what program you use to teach it?
      BTW: I meant this news about Chrysler. When it was an American car company. When Chrysler went bankrupt. Before the Italians bought it.
      DETROIT (Bloomberg) — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has hired Ron Bloom, who helped run President Barack Obama’s auto-industry team, to advise the carmaker on buying the rest of Chrysler Group, a person familiar with the matter said.

      Bloom, now vice chairman of Lazard Ltd., a financial and asset management company, will assist the Fiat boss in trying to strike a deal with the UAW’s retiree health-care trust, the only other shareholder in Chrysler, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

    2. From your post it would appear you consider Bill Gate a computer programmer from his life experience programming computers in high school. Even though he is not a certified programmer and has no degree. Just like Vallas and running school systems.


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