As first reported by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas in the CTMirror, Attorney Norm Pattis has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court alleging that Superintendent Paul Vallas’ contract to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools is illegal.
Pattis is the attorney who brought the case that led Connecticut’s Supreme Court to rule that Governor Malloy’s attempted takeover of the Bridgeport School System was illegal. In that case, an illegally appointed board of education, appointed by the Malloy administration, was removed and a democratically elected board of education was reinstated.
However, early last month, the five Bridgeport Board of Education members loyal to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch voted to give Acting Superintendent of Schools, Paul Vallas, a three-year contract despite clear statutory language that would make such a contract illegal.
This new lawsuit, brought by retired Connecticut Judge Carmen Lopez and a Bridgeport parent, seeks to have Vallas’ contract ruled null and void.
As Attorney Norm Pattis explained to the CTMirror, “Bridgeport shows a curious inability to read the law.”
In Connecticut, state law requires that all teachers and education professionals hold the appropriate state certification. However, the law was changed in 2007 to allow the Commissioner of Education to waive the certification requirement for superintendents in very specific situations. In that case, the law was modified by the General Assembly to allow Steven Adamowski to serve as Superintendent of Schools in Hartford despite the fact that he did not have the certification necessary for the job.
The lack of certification issue arose again with the arrival of Paul Vallas who also lacked the necessary experience to be a superintendent in Connecticut.
In this case, the Malloy administration added language to Malloy’s “Education Reform” proposal to broaden the Commissioner of Education’s ability to waive certification for superintendents. Ironically, at the same time, the bill sought to strengthen qualification requirements for teachers..
The final language of Malloy’s education reform law allowed an uncertified individual to serve as an Acting Superintendent for up to one year, but in order for that person to become a permanent superintendent, they were required to successfully complete their probationary period and must have complete a school leadership program at a Connecticut institution of higher education.
In Vallas’ case, the majority of the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education granted him permanent superintendent status despite the fact that he HAD NOT completed his probationary period and HAD NOT completed the required school leadership program. In fact, he hadn’t even begun the school leadership program that was mandated by the law.
As the CT Post story notes, “When Vallas’ contract was approved in March; board member Maria Pereira warned the majority that what they were doing appeared to her to be illegal, despite assurances to the contrary from the city attorneys and state Department of Education. They were proved wrong once before, she said.”
Pereira is absolutely correct. Bridgeport’s city attorneys and Malloy’s Department of Education were wrong before and it cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, these people still seem to be missing the point that the rule of law means that law applies to everyone.
The CTMirror story can be found at http://ctmirror.org/story/19600/round-two-bridgeport-education-heading-back-court, while the CT Post’s story is at http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Lawsuit-challenges-Vallas-qualifications-4401209.php