News Review: Vallas’ illegal contract leads to suit against Bridgeport Board of Education, Commissioner Pryor and Vallas

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, while the CT Post’s story is at

  • Apartheid First

    First off, the laws never should have been changed to allow Adamowski to be superintendent in Hartford without certification–for all of 4 years! He had ample time to do his certification–otherwise, his application should never have been considered. It is bad enough that Adamowski’s application was accepted given his lack of qualifications–but he was also offered the job, renewed, and paid “merit” pay! Who in Hartford went to the extraordinary length of securing the waivers and changes in legislation for Adamowski? The Mayor, Perez? Andrea Comer, BoE member?
    Second, why should Adamowski now be teaching or mentoring in a university setting, when he has shown his disregard for the laws and requirements governing the professionalism of educators? What’s next, schools of education arguing against the certification of teachers? Oh, wait, that does happen! It’s called the mindless promotion of TFA and the institutionalization of “School Reform” studies, as currently taking place at NEAG.
    Third, are there any requirements for State Commissioner of Education?
    Jonathan Pelto’s coverage from yesterday has been taken up by Diane Ravitch! I hope the victims of Vallas from Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia, and Adamowski’s in Cincinnati and Hartford see that! It gives one hope for the future of JUSTICE!

    • JMC

      And in February of 2012 language was inserted into pending CT legislation that would specifically enable Adamowksi to tap into the State Teachers’ Retirement Fund to be credited with the years, I think it was four, that he recently put in while uncertified.

      • Do we know which legislators put that language in?

        • Jonathan Pelto

          The language was part of SB 24 when it come out of the Education Committee – so as best as I can tell it was in the draft that came from the State Department.

          That said, turns out there is a VERY STRANGE difference. The bill, as it came out of committee, required the education leadership training be through a new entity called the Connecticut Leadership Academy. It was later changed to any Educational Leadership Program at a public or independent institution of higher education.

          The term Connecticut Leadership Academy may ring some bells with Achievement First watchers…!

          Sec. 30. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2012) (a) The Department of Education shall create the Connecticut School Leadership Academy program to provide educational management and professional development programming to school leaders who are certified teachers or administrators under chapter 166 of the general statutes or teachers or administrators enrolled in an alternative route to certification program. Any such teacher or administrator may apply to participate in the Connecticut School Leadership Academy on a form and manner prescribed by the department.

          (b) The Department of Education shall, within available appropriations, provide grants to the Connecticut School Leadership Academy. The Connecticut School Leadership Academy may charge tuition to local or regional boards of education or any individual participating in the program pursuant to subsection (a) of this section. t

        • Apartheid First

          Unbelievable! Can we get more info on this? I mean, Achievement First is Stefan Pryor’s baby! How nice of him to bolster it up with training academies and such. How great it would be if the charter school management company that he co-founded could also become a school reform leadership academy which would hand out certificates to the likes of Vallas and Adamowski–two reformy leaders who have gone out of their way to promote Achievement First.
          And let’s not forget the mysterious leadership academy and training zone run by TFA for future education reform superstars. I’ll bet Nate Snow knows something about this. He actually offered some “position” to Adamowski in a TFA Leadership workshop right at the moment Adamowski was forcing TFA on Windham… We need more info on this, Jonathan! As well as on the stooges on the Ed. committee of the state legislature.

        • Apartheid first
        • Charlie Puffers

          There is a Leadership Academy at Achievement First in Hartford using Gates money. There are people doing internships now. It’s very cushy compared to the traditional way of becoming an admin which is to continue teaching and take courses at night and try to squeeze your internship in over the course of a year while teaching full time. The AF Leadership Academy relieves interns of their teaching duties and pays them their salary while they intern for a year. Nice, huh? To be accepted you probably have to have fewer than 23 years teaching experience and be under 30.

        • Apartheid First

          Thanks for this info.
          Sounds like something maybe Steven Adamowski, the great admirer of Achievement First, the former recipient of Broad money, denizen of reformy “think tanks”, erstwhile “CEO” of Cincinnati Schools, would have impelmented. Adamowski probably rolled out the red carpet. Funny how Connecticut has seen the confluence of Adamowski, Pryor, & Vallas plus Gates, Walton/Walmart/Broad, and Rupert Murdoch money so recently. These carrion flies descend in swarms, don’t they?

      • Charlie Puffers

        What really pisses me off about Adamowski trying to dip into our retirement is that he came to Hartford treated us like shit, cut teaching jobs, support staff, etc then wants to take the money paid into a fund by the people he shit on. Many people had to take an early retirement or collect unemployment because of him and they are now foreclosing on their houses or going through bankruptcy. He waltzes unscathed to the bank never questioned by the local media about the lies and fraud. How does the guy sleep at night?

        • Apartheid First

          Wow, Adamowski’s even more demonic than I thought.
          Unemployment? Foreclosure? We need something like one of those bread riots they had right before the French Revolution.. they had some other “novelties” at that time, too, let me try to remember…
          I know that there are “nice kids” and well-meaning folks who will defend TFA, but if TFA weren’t an option, Adamowski could not have fired and dumped so many real teachers.

  • Imagine if Bridgeport’s Mayor did a little research on those schools districts Paul Vallas turned around, or should I say left in shambles. You know dig a little deeper than hey Paul you are brillant right? Perhaps even asked Paul: I see you haven’t stayed very long in any one place. Is this because you miracles don’t meet the test of time? Or your work is something that it’s best to get out of Dodge before the —- hits the fan?