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Bridgeport Superintendent Could Lose Job After Lawsuit Questioning Qualification

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Paul Vallas is know as a “master-reformer,” able to transform ailing school districts once he’s at the helm.

Since he stepped in as Bridgeport interim superintendent in 2011, many say he has improved the district by building new schools, balancing the budget and getting laptops for students.

But according to a judge, the man with all of the qualifications you’d want in a superintendent, lacks the one thing he needs to have the job in Connecticut.

So the judge has ordered him off the job, pleasing the plaintiffs and their attorney, Kevin Smith.

“Regardless of what you think about Paul Vallas, the court’s decision is that he wasn’t qualified under our law,” said Smith.

It’s a state law that requires superintendents to have a leadership certificate, which at the time of Vallas’ hiring, could only be obtained through a 13 month course at UConn.

Vallas was hired as an exception, with the State Board of Education approving an abbreviated program for him.

But critics, including the two women who filed suit against him, call it a sham.

“Does a three credit independent study course satisfy program requirements as the law states? We don’t think so, and I don’t think the judge did either”, said Smith.

Legally, a temporary 10-day stay is in place, during which the defense can file a motion for review and challenge the judge’s decision against Vallas.

But it appears the case will ultimately head to an appeals court, and while the judge ruled against Vallas, he isn’t packing up just yet, nor are his supporters, who include the mayor and the governor.

“We’ve had a failing school system with people who’ve had the piece of paper called the certificate, and an improving school system with Paul Vallas,” said Mayor Bill Finch.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also weighed in on the case this week.

“If you’re asking me – do I believe that someone who has been the superintendent of Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago is able to do that in one of our communities of 135,000 people, the answer is yes.”

But if the defense can’t overturn the stay, the superintendent’s office opens up for a new candidate, regardless of the appeals process.

The certificate requirement is a law that Mayor Finch would like to see changed, calling it a technicality that could jeopardize the future of Bridgeport children.

“If you don’t need a certificate to run a school system that’s as large as Chicago’s, why do you need it to run little old Bridgeport?” said Finch.

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2 comments

  • Rebecca

    It is quite interesting that there is some argument over state requirements for being superintendent- teachers must be certified by the state they work in, including (in ct) a one year unpaid internship. We would never waive this requirement for someone who was touching the lives of one class- why would we think vallas should not have completed this program? I do not think it is an excuse that he was considered “qualified” in Chicago and New Orleans (people should really research the outcomes after he left at those systems). It takes more than two years time to turn around a school system but he seems to leave places before having to deal with the broken systems he has left behind. This comes down to one simple problem of our time- who is considered “above the law” in our system. Usually the answer to that question lies in the bank account- those who have more need to follow rules less.

  • Nick

    The real answer to this "shocking turn of events" is that Vallas has never been qualified to be superintendent anywhere. He was able to get away with it due to his political friends and connections, Certification isn't a technicality; the work, training, and experience that goes into certification is what makes someone capable of doing a job and we would expect the same from any professional. Vallas isn't a professional. He's a snake-oil salesman.