By now, most know the story well…
Governor Malloy and Mayor Finch work out a deal to take over the Bridgeport Schools and appoint a new school board. Despite the action being deemed illegal, the new appointed board fires the old superintendent, costing taxpayers $220,000, since they had to buy out that guy’s contract.
Paul Vallas, education reformer extraordinaire makes his debut here in Connecticut, along with his growing entourage of associates, assistant, aides and consultants.
To balance this year’s Bridgeport school budget, Vallas cuts a variety of programs and lays off dozens of school teachers and education professionals.
Left with a $3.4 million shortfall (1.5% of the budget), Mayor Finch trades the democratic rights of his constituents for a $3.4 million “loan” from Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s education commissioner.
Meanwhile, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s interim Superintendent of Schools, has been using no-bid contracts to lock the taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut into tens of millions of dollars in future bills. Oh, and the no-bid contracts, all with companies that he has done business with in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and elsewhere.
First came the June standardized tests, but Vallas said Bridgeport got a “good deal” on those.
Then came the $10.5 million dollar contract for textbooks, the first payment of $2.6 million is due by the end of this year. Bridgeport certainly needed new textbooks, but it’s a bit of problem that the Vallas Team ordered some of the wrong textbooks (A British Literature anthology for every high school senior when the school system doesn’t even teach British Literature in 12th grade). Alas, if they had only taken the time to check with the teachers.
Then Vallas and Company dropped the software Bridgeport Schools have used to track special education students and, instead, locked the City into a long-term contract for a system called Easy IEP. At the time, Vallas failed to reveal that had signed a multi-million dollar contract with the owner of Easy IEP when he was the CEO of the Chicago School System and again when he was the CEO of the Philadelphia Schools. Easy IEP’s parent company, PCG, even features the two victories on its corporate website.
Then Vallas ends Central at Night’s “alternative education and credit recovery program” and replaces it with a new “alternative education and credit recovery program” called Twilight. Along with the name change, he drops the City’s contract with NovaNet software and signs a new contract expanding the use of “Apex Learning. Apex also had contracts with the Philadelphia and Chicago school system.
Then there is Vallas’ decision to purchase Rubicon Atlas, a powerful curriculum mapping program. Rubicon’s pitch is that their software provides “a tool to organize, communicate and disseminate information” and that it “is the solution to managing curriculum and sharing instructional best practices across grades, subjects, schools, and cultures.”
Although powerful and potentially very useful, the software is not cheap and requires a tremendous commitment of time and money to recruit and train employees on how to use the software, and even more time developing and aligning the curriculum to the common core standards. One nearby community spent three years developing and enhancing their Rubicon based curriculum, and that was just in their math department. Many schools in New York City use the Rubicon Atlas software but actually have to dedicate much of their professional development time to training teachers on how to work with the program.
Readers won’t be surprised to learn that Vallas is big on Rubicon Atlas. The software has made an appearance in most of the school systems Vallas has gotten involved in. In fact, in 2010, when Vallas get a big consulting contract to help rebuild Haiti’s schools system, Rubicon sent a team “armed with school supplies, apparel and professional development” to help develop Haiti’s school system.
And finally, word on the street is that Vallas has or will soon be signing a contract with Schoolnet, an “Instructional Improvement System (IIS) [which] helps schools increase student achievement and teacher effectiveness.”
And one guess who put Schoolnet on the map?
Schoolnet’s website highlights its work in the Chicago Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia.”
According to one blog post in December 2008,
Paul Vallas approved $6,000,000 in Philly public education funds for Schoolnet to operate a “curriculum reform project.”
The Board action read; RESOLVED, That the School Reform Commission authorizes the School District of Philadelphia, through the Chief Information Officer or designee, to amend resolution #E-17 dated May 21, 2003 with Schoolnet to increase the amount payable by $342,000 for a revised total of $6,042,000 for Phase I of the curriculum reform project beginning June 1, 2003 and continuing perpetually.
Yup, at least perpetually to the point that the Philadelphia Schools paid out $20,000,000 between 2004 and 2008, and at last check, the number was still climbing.
Oh, and perhaps the greatest irony of all is that Schoolnet website reads, “in June 2011, Schoolnet was acquired by Pearson, the world’s leading learning company. Schoolnet and Pearson share a common vision where we believe in learning – all kinds of learning – for all kinds of students. Pearson offers world-class solutions for K-12 education, including PowerSchool Chancer SMS, PowerTeacher and others.”
Yup, Bridgeport bought that only two or three years ago.
Updating software and technology is part of any turnaround program, but all at once? And all with using no-bid contracts?
Bridgeport may need $3.4 million to balance this year’s budget, but just wait till you get the bill for all these new software programs.
And with the state of Connecticut picking up 80 percent of Bridgeport’s school expenses, the incredible Paul Vallas’ spending spree of 2012 is going to mean higher taxes for the people of Bridgeport and every taxpayer in Connecticut.
Just one more question. Did Bridgeport’s illegally appointed Board of Education approve all these contacts?
If anyone sees Paul Vallas, can you please take away the credit card before he bankrupts us all.