'No legal basis for Vallas to remain in his $234,000 a year job...' Connecticut judge orders Paul Vallas to vacate Bridgeport schools chief office now

While former Bridgeport Schools Supt. Paul G. Vallas continues to vow to remain, a Connecticut judge has ordered Vallas to vacate his office now. The order came on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, but Vallas looks like he is going to take a stand in the schoolhouse door. The following was reported in the Connecticut Post late on July 10, 2013. Readers might be interested (see below) in the remarks of the judge who noted that Vallas will not be suffering harm by being removed, since in earlier testimony he told the court that he is expecting to receive a $1 million fee for "consulting work" he is doing.


Paul G. Vallas photographed at a July 1, 2013 rally in Bridgeport Connecticut. Photograph by Brain Pound.Court orders Vallas out, but he's not packing yet, By Daniel Tepfer, Connecticut Post, Updated 11:13 pm, Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BRIDGEPORT -- In a victory for the critics of embattled interim Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas and a bitter rebuke of Mayor Bill Finch, a judge Wednesday ordered Vallas to immediately vacate his office.

Vallas, however, isn't packing up yet.

Lawyers for the city quickly asked the state Supreme Court for an expedited review of the case, which means Vallas can stay in place for at least another 10 days. Still, the ruling threw the state's largest school district into confusion.

"The residents of the city of Bridgeport are entitled to have a properly credentialed superintendent," state Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis said in denying Vallas a stay, or the chance to remain on the job while he appeals her earlier decision, which deemed him unqualified.

Members of the school board and other residents critical of Vallas leaped to their feet and embraced following the judge's decision. But Vallas, who had urged the judge not to throw him out, citing the harm it would do the city's schools and his reputation, didn't hear the judge's words; he quietly left the courtroom moments before the decision.

"I'm just so excited," exclaimed Debbie Reyes-Williams, who along with city activist Carmen Lopez, had sued to have Vallas removed. "Now, when my children complain about having to do their homework, I can explain to them what we accomplished here for them."

Board of Education member Maria Pereira said she was both shocked and pleased by the judge's ruling.

"You could see that this was a really tough decision for the judge to make and I support her 100 percent," Pereira said.

Kevin Smith, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, argued during the hearing that there was no legal basis for Vallas to remain in his $234,000 a year job after Bellis ruled in June that he had not fulfilled the state's requirement for school superintendents. It would be better for Vallas to go now, rather than wait until the middle of the school year, he said.

But Hartford lawyer Steven Ecker, hired by the city to represent Vallas, told the judge that vacating the stay would essentially make Vallas' appeal moot because the school superintendent would seek employment elsewhere.

"Certainly, the decision is disappointing," he said later. "We will seek relief in the appropriate court."

Following a trial last month, Bellis ruled Vallas, who had been superintendent of the New Orleans and Chicago school districts, did not complete a state-mandated school leadership program and was therefore not qualified to be superintendent in Connecticut.

Vallas was appointed in late 2011 by the city's state-appointed school board, with a recommendation from state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, in an effort to shore up Bridgeport's struggling schools. Vallas lacked the leadership certificate that, at the time, could only be obtained by completing a 13-month program at the University of Connecticut.

On April 15, the state Board of Education made an exception just for Vallas. It approved an abbreviated program -- essentially an independent study under the supervision of UConn Professor Robert Villanova -- for Vallas to take instead. But the court didn't buy it.

Taking the witness stand in his own defense, Vallas listed all the improvements he had made to the floundering school system and the plans he had in the works to continue progress.

"We are in a critical process that requires I continue to shepherd the process," he told the judge.

In her decision, Bellis ruled said Vallas would not suffer if she lifted the stay, pointing out he had testified he was expecting a $1 million payment for doing outside consulting work while he was superintendent. She also pointed out that he knew taking the Bridgeport position was risky.

"This would be the best time to replace a superintendent," she added.

The decision left the politically divided school community as fractured as ever.

Bridgeport Board of Education Chairman Kenneth Moales Jr. said Vallas would stay as "our leader."

"We have a host of other options," he said, without elaborating. A special meeting of the school board will be held Monday to discuss the matter, he said.

Jennifer Alexander, acting chief executive officer for ConnCan, a school reform advocacy group, called the ruling "yet another example of petty politics getting in the way of strengthening Bridgeport's public education system."

Mayor Bill Finch, who championed Vallas at every turn, said the superintendent did good things for Bridgeport schools.

"We filled huge education budget deficits, avoided layoffs, increased funding, built new schools, gave every high school student a laptop computer and all schoolchildren new textbooks for the very first time, all because of Paul Vallas, the five Board of Education members who support him and my administration," Finch said. "What could this judge, whose children do not attend Bridgeport schools, be possibly thinking? I'm confident an impartial, higher court will give Bridgeport kids some of the justice they have long deserved. I want to keep Paul Vallas here fighting for our kids."

Pryor was disappointed but not surprised by the decision, his spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said.

"As a highly experienced superintendent, Mr. Vallas' qualifications for this position are clear," Donnelly said. "We look forward to the appeal and hope that the final outcome of the legal process will serve the best interest of Bridgeport's schools and students."

[Staff writer Linda Conner Lambeck contributed to this report.; 203-330-6308; http://]


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 2 =