(Co-written by Jonathan Pelto and Retired Connecticut Judge and public education advocate Carmen Lopez)
“Yes officer, I know I was driving 65 miles an hour in a 25 mile an hour school zone and yes I know it is “illegal” to drive that fast, but you don’t understand, that law doesn’t apply to me. I’ll be going now. Have a nice day.”
In July 2011, the loyal Democrats on the Bridgeport Board of Education illegally voted to disband the elected Bridgeport BOE.
At the time, Bridgeport’s City Attorney, Mark Anastasi, told them that their action was legal. He said that the Board had the authority to throw Bridgeport residents out of positions to which they had been elected and replace them with an appointed board, some of whose members did not live in Bridgeport and one of whom did not even live in Connecticut.
The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a stinging rebuke told them they were wrong.
Two days ago, on Monday, 4, 2013 we learned that the loyal Democratic majority failed to learn the most basic lesson of all…Illegal means it is not legal. Illegal means you cannot do it.
On Monday night, despite being told over and over that their actions were illegal, the Bridgeport Board of Education voted to make Paul Vallas Bridgeport’s permanent (rather than acting) superintendent of schools and to give him a three-year contract.
However, the law prohibits the Bridgeport Board of Education from hiring Vallas for anything other than Acting Superintendent and they cannot offer him a three-year contract until he meets certain legal requirements.
Some readers have asked for a more detailed explanation surrounding the legal issues that 5 of the 9 Bridgeport Board of Education members refused to acknowledge. Here are the details, for those who are interested.
It is heavy on the legalese but it explains why their actions are illegal and why Vallas’ contract is null and void.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-157 sets forth the process that a local board of education must follow when selecting a Superintendent of Schools.
Subsection (a) of the statute states that “No person shall assume the duties and responsibilities of the superintendent until the board receives written confirmation from the Commissioner of Education that the person to be employed is properly certified or has had such certification waived by the commissioner pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.”
Subsection (c) states that “The commissioner may, upon request of an employing local or regional board of education, grant a waiver of certification to a person (1) who has successfully completed at least three years of experience as a certified administrator with a superintendent certificate issued by another state in a public school in another state during the ten-year period proper to the date of application, or (2) who has successfully completed a probationary period as an acting superintendent pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, and who the commissioner deems to be exceptionally qualified for the position of Superintendent.”
Paul Vallas DOES NOT QUALIFY under subsection (c) for a waiver because he has not met the steps required under the law. That means he cannot serve as Bridgeport’s permanent superintendent and he cannot serve more than 1 year as Acting Superintendent.
However, the law did not deter the five loyal Democrats from doing as they were told and vote to violate Connecticut law.
Here is the background;
Paul Vallas was hired by Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education as an “Acting Superintendent” on January 9, 2012 and provided a contract that ran through December 31, 2012. On June 25, 2012, the contract was renegotiated and extended to July 1, 2013.
Connecticut General Statutes 10-157(b) addresses the particular instances that a local board may appoint an “Acting Superintendent” rather than a Superintendent. At the time that Vallas was appointed to the position of “Acting Superintendent”, Section 10-157(b) of the law read as follows:
(b) A local or regional board of education may appoint as acting superintendent a person who is or is not properly certified for a specified period of time, not to exceed ninety days, with the approval of the Commissioner of Education. Such acting superintendent shall assume all duties of the superintendent for the time specified, provided such period of time may be extended with the approval of the commissioner, which he shall grant for good cause shown.
On December 16, 2011, then chairman of the illegally appointed Bridgeport Board of Education, Robert Trefy, submitted a letter to Commissioner Pryor, pursuant to 10-157(b) requesting the Commissioner to “approve the appointment of Paul Vallas as Bridgeport’s Acting Superintendent of Schools for a ninety (90) day period commencing January 1, 2012.”
Also on December 16, 2011, Robert Trefy sent Commissioner Pryor a letter stating that “In anticipation of your approval of the appointment of Paul Vallas as Acting Superintendent of Schools for Bridgeport for the ninety (90) day period commencing January 1, 2012, pursuant to my request for said approval as set forth in a separate letter of this date, I am also writing to request that you extend the approval of the appointment of Mr. Vallas as Bridgeport Acting Superintendent pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes section 10-157 (b) for an additional period of time of April 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012.
The “good cause” shown for said extension is the anticipated need of this additional period of time to search for and achieve the employment of a superintendent.
Please confirm said nine (9) month extension at your earliest convenience.”
On December 23, 2011, Commissioner Pryor responded to Mr. Trefy’s in two separate letters.
In one letter, Commissioner Pryor stated that “The purpose of this letter is to approve the appointment of Paul G. Vallas as acting superintendent of schools for the Bridgeport Board of Education for the 90 day period beginning January 1, 2012, through March 30, 2012.”
In the second letter from Pryor, also dated December 23, 2011, he stated that “I am pleased to extend the approved service time for Mr. Vallas from April 1, 2012, through December 31, 2012. This extended time period will allow Mr. Vallas to develop a long-range plan for reform of the system and assist with the hiring of a successor to continue the implementation of the developed plan. This letter, therefore, confirms Mr. Vallas’ eligibility for an extended appointment as acting superintendent of schools for the Bridgeport publics, effective April 1, 2012, through December 31, 2012.”
So as a result of the actions of the illegal Board of Education and Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Paul Vallas as authorized to serve as Acting Superintendent until December 31, 2012.
Without explaining to legislators the underling intent of the language, as part of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill, the Malloy Administration submitted language to change the superintendent statute so that Mr. Vallas could become superintendent without being certified.
The following language was passed and signed into law.
Note that words that are underlined were added and words that are in brackets were removed:
The new Section 10-157 of the Connecticut Statutes reads as follows: (Effective July 1, 2012):
(b) A local or regional board of education may appoint as acting superintendent a person who is or is not properly certified for a [specified] probationary period, [of time,] not to exceed [ninety days] one school year, with the approval of the Commissioner of Education. [Such] During such probationary period such acting superintendent shall assume all duties of the superintendent for the time specified [, provided] and shall successfully complete a school leadership program, approved by the State Board of Education, offered at a public or private institution of higher education in the state. At the conclusion of such probationary period, [of time may be extended with the approval of the commissioner, which he shall grant for good cause shown] such appointing local or regional board of education may request the commissioner to grant a waiver of certification for such acting superintendent pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.
(c) The commissioner may, upon request of an employing local or regional board of education, grant a waiver of certification to a person (1) who has successfully completed at least three years of experience as a certified administrator with a superintendent certificate issued by another state in a public school in another state during the ten-year period prior to the date of application, or (2) who has successfully completed a probationary period as an acting superintendent pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, [or (2)] and who the commissioner deems to be exceptionally qualified for the position of superintendent.[In order for the commissioner to find a person exceptionally qualified, such person shall (A) be an acting superintendent pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, (B) have worked as a superintendent in another state for no fewer than fifteen years, and (C) be certified or have been certified as a superintendent by such other state.]
Note: This language means an acting superintendent can only serve for up to one year and during that year shall successfully complete a school leadership program, approved by the State Board of Education, offered at a public or private institution of higher education in the state.
In addition, the new law allows the Commissioner to waive the need for certification IF the person served as an Acting Superintendent AND completed the school leadership program. Now, instead of having to be certified in another state, Vallas could become superintendent IF he served as acting superintendent for up to one year and completed the leadership course.
Since the law took effect on 7/1/2012, it could be argued that Vallas now had until June 30, 2013 to complete his leadership course. (One year after the date of the new act).
Meanwhile, Vallas had announced that he was leaving on June 30, 2013 and made no effort to take the course.
Then things started to get bizarre;
The first bizarre event occurred when Vallas announced that he had changed his mind and wanted to stay, despite the fact that his consulting company had signed a three-year, one million contract with the State of Illinois and apparently signed a three-year, $13 million contract with the City of Indianapolis.
The second bizarre event occurred when Commissioner Stefan Pryor wrote a letter on January 23, 2013 to the Bridgeport Board of Education that read, “. . . Mr. Vallas may only serve as Acting Superintendent through December 31, 2013.”
As the law clearly states, an individual cannot serve as an Acting Superintendent for more than one year. The law took effect on July 1, 2012. Vallas’ time as an Acting Superintendent comes to a close on June 30, 2013. How Commission Pryor interpreted it to mean that eighteen months and not a year is a mystery.
However, even if Commissioner Pryor had the authority to say 18 months is the same as a year, the Commissioner’s letter determined that Vallas may only serve as an Acting Superintendent and not a permanent superintendent and he could only do so until December 31, 2013.
Aside from the difference between June 30, 2013 and December 31, 2013, the law is clear.
If Vallas completes his term as Acting Superintendent and “DURING SUCH PROBATIONARY PERIOD, SUCH ACTING SUPERINTENDENT SHALL SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE A SCHOOL LEADERSHIP PROGRAM, APPROVED BY THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, AT A PUBLIC OR PRIVATE INSTITUTE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE STATE,” the Bridgeport Board of Education could request the Commissioner of Education to waive the need for certification.
However, until that is done, the Board cannot act to make him permanent superintendent.
On Monday night, the Bridgeport Board of Education had a series of options.
The Board could have maintained Vallas’ contract with a termination date of June 30, 2013.
The Board, using Commissioner Pryor’s Letter as evidence, could have tried to extend Vallas’ contract to December 31, 2013.
But the Board could not name him anything but an Acting Superintendent AND could not extend his contract beyond December 31, 2013 because he has not completed – in fact – he has not even enrolled in a leadership training program.
Yet, that is exactly what the Board of Education did on a vote of 5 to 4.
The Board violated Connecticut law by naming him Superintendent and violated Connecticut law by extending the contract beyond December 31, 2013.
To reiterate, if Vallas completes his leadership training program, the Board could name him superintendent and could offer him a three year contract, but even then, it could only do so AFTER he has completed those tasks AND after the Commissioner of Education has waived the need for certification based on Vallas having done those things.
A contract that is illegal is null and void.
Paul Vallas IS NOT the permanent Superintendent of the Bridgeport School System.
Paul Vallas DOES NOT have a contract that goes beyond June 30, 2013.
No matter how much Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor or Mayor Finch want things to be different, the law is absolutely and totally clear.
The Bridgeport Board of Education will need to re-vote to extend his contract through December 31, 2013 or he must leave the post in June.
If the Bridgeport Board of Education wants Mr. Vallas to be the permanent Superintendent then they will then have to wait and see if Mr. Vallas completes a leadership training program before June 30, 2013.
Anything short of that is breaking the law.