Paul Vallas’ new corporate partnership signs $18 million deal with Indianapolis School System

With the first day of school only weeks away; new administrators throughout the school system, including three brand new principals at Bridgeport’s three main high schools, and lots and lots of unfinished business, Paul Vallas and “The Vallas Turnaround System” have signed a three-year, $6 million dollar a year, deal with the Indianapolis School System.

The pattern is becoming all too familiar.

First came the state’s illegal attempt to take over the Bridgeport School System.

Instead of stepping back and developing an honest and fair process for moving forward, state and Bridgeport officials pushed forward, as the saying goes, like a herd of bulls in a china shop.

And that process introduced Connecticut to Paul Vallas and his $229,000 a year job to “turnaround” Bridgeport’s schools.

Then Vallas pushed through more than a dozen no-bid contracts, totaling about a million dollars a year, to bring in his team, including a number of people who actually worked for his private consulting company, “The Vallas Group.”  (That doesn’t even count the $12 million in no-bid contracts for various computer software some of which was supposed to be ready but isn’t).

Then came word that The Vallas Group had signed a three-year; $1 million contract to help low-performing schools in his home state of Illinois.

Then came the additional news that The Vallas Group and Cambium Learning Group, a national, for profit company, were joining forces to market the “Vallas Turnaround System” to states, cities and schools around the country.

And now we learn that on July 24, 2012, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners voted to enter into a contract with Paul Vallas and VOYAGER Learning, (a subsidiary of Cambium Education, Inc.), to turnaround fifteen Indianapolis schools.  The price tag of which is $6 million a year for three years, the total amount not to exceed $18.1 million.

Each chapter was met with the same answer.  No problem, according to Vallas and his supporters.  He works very hard, more than 10 hours a day, even on weekends.  That or, he is just the “supervisor” for other projects, or news, that his team takes care of the details, he only works on the big picture.

But the final answer was always the same, the students and taxpayers of Bridgeport will get his undivided attention.

Imagine Governor Malloy discovering that his Commissioner of Education or Commissioner of Economic Development or even his chief of staff took on a private consulting project that was 4 times their salary and then another one that was 18 times that amount.

Would Mayor Bill Finch be fine with his Chief of Police or Fire Chief or Chief of Staff taking on massive consulting jobs in other states while claiming to be fulfilling their legal and moral responsibility to the people of Bridgeport?

It’s unclear if Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education even knew that the Vallas operation was trying to pick up an $18 million project when they voted to extend Vallas’ contract earlier this summer.

It’s also not known when Governor Malloy, Mayor Finch, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor or the State Board of Education were told that while Vallas collected his $229,000 Connecticut salary, his team and corporate partners were agreeing to at least two projects totally nearly $20 million.

But just last Thursday the members of the State Board of Education showered Vallas with complements.  One board member, Charles Jaskiewicz, told Vallas and Robert Trefry, the chairman of the illegal Bridgeport Board of Education, to “keep up the good work.”

And it is certainly not clear which would be worse.  That Malloy, Finch, Pryor, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education and the State Board of Education knew that Vallas was engaged in these other activities and chose not to say or do anything or that they didn’t know.

What is clear is that plenty of others knew.  In fact, in their 2nd Quarter stockholder earnings conference call on August 8, 2012, Cambium Learning Group, Inc. (you can find them on the Nasdaq at “ABCD”), reported that while net revenues for Voyager Learning were down 33% over the year before, things were looking up.

According to their official corporate filings, the company told their stockholders and Wall Street analysts that “in June, the Company announced an exclusive partnership with The Vallas Group, Inc. to bring nationally known education reform leader Paul Vallas’ unique school improvement model to struggling schools across the nation.”

And then they added that, “during the first half of 2012, the Company was selected as the school turnaround provider for 15 schools in Indianapolis, IN…”

Meanwhile, in stark contrast to Vallas’ assurances that none of these contracts will diminish his ability to lead Bridgeport’s schools, there remain numerous questions about the impact Vallas’ actions, or lack thereof, will have on Bridgeport’s school children, Bridgeport’s schools and the taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport.

Tonight, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education is meeting.  It will be interesting to see if the Malloy Administration or the Finch Administration or the Board itself begins to explain how this incredible situation was allowed to develop.

  • Linda174

    This article is as one sided as the CT Mirror piece, but once you get past the slick promotion read the comments by NOLA citizens. This is what Bridgeport should be thinking about. Most are not complimentary and the readers question the reporter’s objectivity.

    Different year and place, same spin and deceit.

    http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/04/paul_vallas_leaves_new_orleans.html

    • Castles Burning

      The comments are heart-wrenching,especially when you hear those who have been through so much plus Valls praying for those in Haiti.

  • guest

    Call me naive, but I didn’t think public employees, or superintendents, could hold down other jobs, including consultancies.
    I’ll bet Steven Adamowski is busy creating a Special Mastery System to sell to other states.

  • Buygoldandprosper

    I can imagine a late night infomercial pitching The Vallas Method.
    This is so sad to read about,daily,and what is worse is knowing that these folks will be donating to DAN MALLOY and others,anonymously with Pac money. Basically Malloy is selling the schools for his future political gain under the guise of education reform.

    • Castles Burning

      OH (with mouth wide open).  I did not “get” that.  Thanks for connecting the dots . . .

    • Linda174

      They don’t want to “throw or waste money” at poverty, sickness, etc, but they are happy to throw it at schemes to add to their personal fortunes.

      Vallas will suck every little penny he can get out of the public coffers for himself, his cronies and his connections all lined up to cash in on the “reform” train.

      We live in a sick society motivated by money, greed and power and led by hucksters who are willing to use children and teachers as pawns in their get richer quicker racket. Like vultures, they will move on to another ruse when there is nothing left on the carcass. To feign concern for the poor minority child
      is the biggest con of all.

      • Brutus2011

        Amen, Linda174, amen.

      • guest

        yes!

      • Bronx

         These people rationalize their behavior similar to criminals I’m sure….While people might do calisthenics in the morning to get their day going, I’d be willing to bet Paul Vallas chants “I fix problems…I fix problems” in the mirror to make himself believe it… It’s time we hit them where it hurts, and make people aware of the reputations they deserve rather than what they portray. I look forward to this Friday Linda…

  • Bronx

    I think the Vallas Method late night infomercial could follow Miss Cleo and the “Spray on Hair” infomercials from back in the day and be the least legitimate of the three… If only Vallas and his cronies could be even remotely as effective as the ShamWow…

  • bport

    I highly doubt the BOE or the Mayor will explain anything as they believe that they are above explanation, how unfathomable as that may be.  I’ve attended board meetings and observed the dishonesty and deceit.  It’s all smoke and mirrors with the outcome being stealing our children’s money to ensure their financial stability.

  • guest

    Check it out, not everyone believes that Michelle Rhee has been exonerated:  http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/12/jay-matthews-slams-d-c-cheating-investigation/

    • Linda174

      She recently appeared in Hawaii to speak with her husband.

      The fact that Rhee and Johnson are speaking about education and ethics is an all time low for the morality in our country.  All questions had to be submitted ahead of time and they were filtered. The event was controlled by the moderator. Link below…

      Rhee, the TFA dropout who has lied her way to prominence, and her husband who is on tape, “apologizing” to a 16 year old girl he groped and fondled and then tried to “hush” with a payment of $1000 per month for life. Here are all of the horrific details: 

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/22824701/Criminal-Referal-By-Gerald-Walpin-re-Kevin-Johnson-8-7-08 

      • Linda174
      • guest

        OMG!  unbeliebable.

      • Buygoldandprosper

        “Referring to the 266 teachers she laid off, Rhee told a national business magazine: “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children…”

        As usual with people like RHEE and MALLOY,rules apply to the general population. Her husband got a free pass to grope because he is special. 
        Has anyone ever looked into where Dan Malloy sent his kids to school? Did Dan ever take advantage of his position in Stamford to have his kids enrolled in what were considered desirable magnet schools while the rest of the town got wait-listed?  Of the three Malloy kids,how many went to private schools and why?  Going private for a public service kind of guy might indicate Dan’s real commitment to public education… 

        • Guest

          I know he sent one or more of his sons to Stamford High School because one of them was mentioned in the press as being involved in a problem at the school.  I don’t know where he sent them for the elementary/middle grades.

        • Linda174

          Even the 266 is a lie. I found this on another site about The Rheeject:

          Michelle Rhee claimed she fired 266 Washington D.C teachers for the following reason: “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. … Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?” That statement was factually incorrect. When pressed by the union and the D.C. council, Rhee eventually admitted that only one teacher out the 266 fired had been accused of sexual impropriety. Oh, well – one teacher, 265 teachers — it’s close, right? Michelle Rhee engages in smearing and slandering teachers all the time – that’s her claim to fame, the broom that put her on the media’s radar, if you will. However, she knows all about sexual predators since she married one.

        • guest

          Wait, she gets to lie like that?  These people are worse than my worst nightmare.

        • Linda174

          DC teacher suing Rhee:

          Whistleblower sues Rhee, alleges ErasureGate cover-up
          The plaintiff in the case, Bruno Mpoy– a former teacher at a school flagged for high erasure rates– alleges that his principal instructed teachers to alter scores on the DC standardized test. When he brought this to Michelle Rhee’s attention, Rhee allegedly responded by firing him. Rhee has been less than forthright in her previous comments about the scandal—attacking a USA Today investigation as “lacking in integrity”, and stonewalling reporters.

          http://www.rheefirst.com/second_amended_complaint.pdf

        • guest

          I forgot to add–the other teachers she got rid of–they should all be filing lawsuits against her.
          The one who “missed 78 days”–given the way this woman twists everything, it was probably someone with a serious illness.
          I really think Rhee should be arrested and tried for these crimes.

        • Linda174

          She lies all the time. She only appears in tightly controlled venues or for groups of privatizers and business people. She never appears anywhere in our country when she will be debated. She was on tv in England…watch this Brit knock her down a few pegs. The smile quickly fades from her putrid face.

          She is being sued by a whistle blower. I will post that next. Her false claim to fame must end soon.

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18592185

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  • Jroneson

    A brilliant commentary, Jon. As usual, you expose so much truth. I wonder who is listening?

  • jonpelto

    Thank you all for spreading the word and weighing in on these vital issues.  To those who think we will simply stop raising these issues and go away, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you of the following words;

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”  ― Mahatma GandhiI’m not sure what stage we are in at the moment, but we won’t stop until we take back our country and that includes our public schools.

    • Brutus2011

      Jon, you do a great civic service by posting such a quality blog. I know there are those who might disagree, but as someone who went into teaching with rose colored glasses and had experience hand me my head, I know that 99% of our citizenry have no real idea of how our public education system works. Thanks to you, your readers and commenters, along with Malloy in a strange way, there seems to be a gradual dawning of just how much information asymmetry those professional education managers and local politicians are using as a cloaking device. 

      t

    • Castles Burning

       Thanks for the quote and spirited words.  I needed them.

  • Bill Morrison

    If you have ever wondered about who is trying to do something about these obvious acts of corruption, please come to our meeting this Friday, August 17, at Mulberry Street Pizza in Manchester at 4:00. The link is http://themulb.com/.

    This will be our third meeting about the so-called education reform movement as it is practised in CT. We currently plan to begin holding demonstrations, handing out pamphlets to the public, and contacting reporters. We need your help! Please join us!

  • 3111white

    Vallas spent almost the entire last year of his time as the
    RSD Supt. in New Orleans out of the country “helping”
    Haiti and Chile with
    their education systems after their disasters. For some reason, the state of Louisiana didn’t seem to
    have a problem with that. He was almost always out of the country during BESE
    (state board of education) meetings. When a couple of BESE members questioned
    his continued absence – i.e. how could he be fulfilling his duties as the Supt.
    Of the RSD when he was out of the country 70% of the time? – they were told
    that it was built into his contract that he could take on other consulting jobs.
    They were told “his people” were handling the day-to-day. Only problem was that
    he was being paid almost $300k to be in charge. Meanwhile, the RSD schools
    never improved much from before they were taken over, and there were numerous
    budget problems when the federal disaster aid dried up. (Which is
    coincidentally when he decided to take his leave of N.O.)

     

    Also, he did the exact same thing in N.O.  – brought in numerous “consultants” at
    exorbitant prices to get things moving, which mostly included no-bid contracts
    with out-of-state companies for shady educational services. All were people who
    were connected to him politically or worked with him in Philadelphia
    and Chicago.
    They got rid of the La.
    people – said they couldn’t afford so many people on staff – and then hired the
    outsiders at salaries so high as to be laughable. (majority were 25 years
    oldish, many were TFA with little education experience). He spent money like it
    was going out of style for very questionable products and services. (See past
    nola.com reports on the bus system that cost La. twice or three times what it was costing
    in other cities and states.)

     

    And let’s not forget when Vallas got caught driving a
    state-issued car back home to Chicago every
    other weekend and having the La.
    taxpayers pick up the tab on the gas. He claimed he “didn’t know” that he wasn’t
    supposed to use the state car for personal use. Well, first he claimed that he
    was “working” on the entire trip, but that didn’t hold up when it was
    discovered that he was attending Illinois
    political meetings. He got caught when he wrecked the state vehicle in Ill., which triggered
    the state legislative auditor to investigate further. But no worries, the State
    Supt. at the time (Paul Pastorek, a previously high-paid attorney and biggest
    crook you can think of) offered to pay the state back for Vallas’ gas because
    he supposedly gave Vallas the authority to drive the car back home – claiming he
    really didn’t think that was an illegal use of state property?!?!?  Geez. Of course, that debt was never really
    paid back.

     

    People of CT., please beware. Vallas is bad news. He will
    suck your community dry and then bug out when the frying pan gets too hot,
    leaving you with nothing but debts and confusion.

    • guest

      Wow, thank you!
      Please comment more when you have a chance.

    • Castles Burning

       Yes, as we are seeing that does seem to be his SOP.  Thanks for all of the details, especially about the accident.

  • Guest

    Interesting article about the man hired to be principal of Bassick High School.  Is this someone who wants to be a principal, or someone who is working his way back to Connecticut, waiting for a superintendency to open?  Is this someone who can work with Bassick’s teachers and parents, or is this someone who is going to destroy the work accomplished over the past two years?
    http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/hernando-county-school-superintendent-wayne-alexander-exits-with-a-mixed/1035731

    • Linda174

      Great….sounds like he has been trying for a while to get back to CT. He will take a principal position now with the hopes of moving on to a superintendent position later. Read this:

      Morale fell to “lowest level in decades”

      In April, the teachers union called for the School Board to remove Alexander, less than two years into his tenure, and rescind all teacher nonreappointments pending review by an independent committee. Teachers dressed in black picketed the board meeting, and a union resolution presented to the board said morale among district employees was at its “lowest level in decades due to unnecessary reductions in staffing and blatant favoritism in nonreappointments.”

      The budget picture brightened some, and the School Board reversed the staffing cuts and put off most of Alexander’s budget recommendations. But the damage had been done.

      Alexander was already on notice for what some School Board members saw as a breach of contract by not informing the board that he was looking for a new job in New England.

      “Last year, he was more interested in searching for jobs up North than focusing on the budget, and he went for a very doom-and-gloom approach that hurt the morale and culture,” Vitalo said.

      Alexander calls the union’s actions “politics in its purest form.”

      • Linda174

        And this:

        Malcolm says he told Alexander his continued use of the phrase “have and have-nots” to describe schools was too divisive, and he warned him about what Malcolm called his my-way-or-the-highway approach to management.

        “Let’s face it, the man was a polarizing figure,” Malcolm said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would not have made that choice. There’s going to be a lot of healing going on.”

        Alexander himself has acknowledged he can be too direct and can come across as arrogant. Sweeney said Alexander could have done a better job communicating with the press.

        Alexander maintains the media were aggressive, focusing on what he considered to be non-stories and invading his privacy.

        • Just An Educator

          Oh, I can just see how this is going to work for the Bassick High School community — NOT!  Mr. Vallas, where is your judgment? 

    • Linda174

      Wow….read the comments!

    • Brutus2011

      I have come to the opinion  that the professional education manager class needs to be phased out. The difference in income, including pensions, is so much greater than classroom teachers and paras that there is too much incentive for all kinds of managerial cow-pucky. 

      Our public schools are the one place were the Gordon Gekko wannabes cause more harm than good.

      In other words, top-down dictatorial cultures don’t work and I believe that bottom-up collaboration just might. 

      Ask yourself what you would do to protect a 10K per month salary with a 6 figure pension in your future?

      Pecuniary incentives really count but all too often are ignored.

  • Just An Educator

    The internet is a wonderful thing.  It’s too bad that the board of education didn’t bother to do the simplest research about the candidates for high school principalships they awarded last night.  The people in Brockton, MA, did do their homework and they chose not to hire Wayne Alexander when he applied there.  Note some of the comments:
    “Alexander faced pointed questions from the Brockton School Board Monday
    night about his tendency to jump from job to job and the recent unrest
    in the school district he has led for the last two years.”
    “Alexander’s job history — eight administrative positions since 1990 —
    “raised a red flag,” Brockton School Board member Richard Bath said
    during the 75-minute interview.”
    “Alexander will be back in New England on May 20. He is the one of two finalists for the superintendent post in Westerly, R.I.”

    The article in its entirety:  http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/article1000412.ece

    • Just An Educator

      Note:  I should have stated clearly that the above article is in reference to Wayne Alexander, who has been appointed high school principal at Bassick High School.

    • guest

      Kinda like the Adamowski story.  He went from the wreckage of Cincinnati, to a finalist interview in Seattle (jumping from district to district every 3-5 years)–Seattle did its homework, and didn’t hire him.  Instead, Hartford snapped him up.  Unfortunately, the corporate media and paid-for politicians of Connecticut won’t let the truth out about his failures in Hartford, and his strong-man tactics in Windham, where he wants to bulldoze his losing, reformy policies.
      see here, for example:  http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030929&slug=adamowski29m

  • Bill Morrison

    If anyone wants to help take action to stop the corruption being perpetrated against Connecticut by these so-called “education reformers”, please join us at Mulberry Pizza in Manchester on Friday, August 17 at 4:00. This will be our third meeting, and we will be planning demonstrations, attracting news attention, and other acts of resistance.

    We are a team of educators, parents, and community members, so we welcome anyone interested in joining us.