CT Post’ Hugh Bailey speaks “Truth To Power” again with latest piece on Vallas

Hugh Bailey’s latest commentary piece is called “School leader’s time is running short.”  The Connecticut Post editorial writer once again speaks truth to power.

The phrase “Truth to Power” was developed by the Quakers in the mid-1950s when it was used in a famous pamphlet that called for the United States to stand up against fascism and other forms of totalitarianism, especially here at home in the United States.

Over the years it has come to describe those who have the courage and conviction to stand up and speak out against arrogance, bullying and the unbridled power of the corporate and government elite.

Here in Connecticut, Hugh Bailey has become one of the most powerful “truth to power” voices in the state.

Here is his latest on the abusive nature of Paul Vallas and his backers.

“For anyone having trouble keeping track, there are now three separate clocks ticking on the tenure of Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas.

The first is a case to be heard Monday before the state Supreme Court, which will decide in coming months whether he is legally qualified to hold his job. A Superior Court judge has already ruled against him; the Supreme Court could overturn that decision, or it could agree and send Vallas packing.

The second took shape in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary, which saw the easy win of three candidates who are dedicated skeptics of the superintendent’s work. There is still a November election to be held, but barring some unforeseen resurgence of local Republicans, who haven’t won citywide office in years, there will be a majority on the school board in favor of hiring someone new.

The third factor limiting his tenure is the superintendent himself, who has repeatedly said he doesn’t plan to be around long.

Of course, that depends on his audience. He told the Connecticut Post after the primary, “I have a three-year contract, and assuming the Supreme Court rules in my favor, I just will continue to work as long as I feel I am making progress.”

In July, though, he told reporters from Chicago and the New York Times that he was looking to stay in Bridgeport for another year or so. The Times story was about the rough political waters in Bridgeport, and saw the superintendent telling a reporter, apparently without irony, “There are some gigantic egos in this town.” This from someone who once compared himself to Michael Jordan.

Maybe since July he’s changed his mind, and is now in it for the long haul. It’s impossible to know. He did, though, insinuate that he would be headed back to Illinois, telling NBC Chicago, “Let’s just say I’m still registered to vote (there).” It was probably a coincidence that he gave a speech last week at an education conference at Elmhurst College, just outside Chicago.

Back in Bridgeport, which could really use a school leader who plans to be around a while, there have been two votes in recent months against the direction education policy has taken, but Vallas insists it’s not about him. In a way, he’s right.

It’s not personal. In fact, many Vallas opponents can come up with a few things he’s done that they support.

The votes against entrenched powers in the city were about much more than the superintendent. Still, the special treatment afforded him to get around certification laws makes an easy stand-in for the kind of cronyism voters are tired of.

The day Vallas leaves is the last day most Bridgeport residents will ever think about him, because the city will still have the same underfunded school district and social problems it had before he got here. That’s been the story with miracle-working school reformers from the beginning.

Vallas, meanwhile, will almost certainly find some other well-paying job. But he’d rather leave on his own terms than be fired or ruled ineligible.

His supporters know he’s leaving — or should, if they’re listening to him. And yet the city is spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend him at the Supreme Court, all for the sake of what will likely amount to another few months on the job.

The more factors that mount against him, and the greater lengths to which the city goes in ensuring he exits on his own terms, the more it looks like it’s the pride and reputation of Paul Vallas on the line rather than the well-being of Bridgeport students.

The sooner he leaves, the sooner the city can get to work on finding someone committed, long term, to doing the job.”

Truth to power is the telling it like it is…something Hugh Bailey has done once again.

  • Castles Burning

    Jonathan, I did not know the origins of the phrase “Truth to Power” so thank you for explaining.

    Yes, this “three clocks ticking” (and we are counting) piece is another homerun for Bailey and all of his readers. The last line resounds with so much common sense and the commentary describes why so clearly that the truth seems crystal clear. Power people, can you hear it?

    • R.L.

      Of course the “Power People” can hear. They just don’t listen. It’s like Adamowski in the last Willimantic board meeting. He missed most of the public comments because he really doesn’t care what the peasants think. He’s going to do what he likes, legal or not, until someone stops him.

      • Castles Burning

        How silly of me to forget that basic difference between hearing and listening. Thanks for the reply. I needed it:).

      • brutus2011

        That’s it , plain and simple.

        Our old friends, power and control.

        Never goes out of style.

  • Linda174

    From the ravitch blog…George Schmidt has the history on Vallas:

    One of the reasons why this Bridgeport and Vallas thing is important is that Vallas is almost a metaphor for much of the corruption and craziness of corporate school reform going all the way back to the birthing of it here in Chicago before Barack Obama was even a cleverly ambitious Illinois State Senator.

    One of the crazier things about Paul Vallas (and the guy is crazy, as anyone who had to deal with him for any time learned) is that he makes up “facts.” And he does it faster than anyone in past years could challenge them. (Today, even Rahm Emanuel has trouble with that trick, since anyone can get to the Internet quickly via a phone). So as Vallas pioneered corporate “school reform” in Chicago after 1995, there was still some room for a lot of creativity.

    Lots of tales emerged quickly about how Vallas acted when he had power over people. He was doing this “Watch me fire somebody…” stuff long before Michelle Rhee reveled in it for John Merrow. It was part of the CEO thingy.

    Like a lot of Donald Trump types, Vallas was also nasty to underlings while slavishly courting overlings.

    Once he had the power to humiliate his underlings in Chicago by “F – bombing” some of the most modest among them, or cleaning his toes during a meeting with his staff, he slowly became more and more bold and self-aggrandizing.

    Even the people who were committed to the same program with Vallas had to be careful when around him. During the Vallas years, Gery Chico and Vallas used to host a monthly press briefing at Chico’s law office overlooking downtown Chicago. One time, Vallas was lying about how “everybody knows” that before Vallas, Chico and mayoral control CPS was graduating “valedictorians who couldn’t read…” When we challenged that for sourcing, they said, “Well Ros [Rossi] reported it in the Sun-Times”. Ros, who was sitting there, said I DID NOT!

    So they went on to the next “everybody knows…” nonsense, until we stopped them and demanded the sourcing for that claim about the “failure” of CPS before the advent of mayoral control and corporate reform. They finally referred us to Vallas’s aide Cozette (at the time “Chief of Staff”) and she eventually supplied us with propaganda from three of the most corrupt examples of “journalism” in Chicago — John Kass, Jacqueline Heard, and the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

    The way it hit was this. The Tribune ran a story when a kid went to Malcolm X College and complained to reporters (who were looking for further proof that Chicago’s schools were “America’s Worst” following that verdict form William Bennett) that she had to take remedial courses. The child, who was a very special special needs child, told the reporters that she had graduated from Orr High School with “honors” a few years earlier. That was just one of many examples of how we got sucker punched by those on the attack against real public schools.

    For a few years, as some remember, many of us were providing extra positive reinforcement to kids in EMH and TMH classes. So there would two “graduations” with honors. The EMH kids could get a special ed diploma that said “Honors.”

    When Vallas blindsided us with that nonsense we finally got the sourcing from Cozette. Kass and Heard had reported, based on the kid’s family’s version of the graduation, that she had been an “honors” student. Maybe someone even said “valedictorian.” The Tribune reported it as another example of the collapse of standards in Chicago’s (“Worst In America”) public schools.

    But the guess what was this.

    The principal of Orr High School (a friend of mine at the time) contacted the reporters and told them the truth, asking only that the story be corrected with some sensitivity for the family (which really didn’t get how special those “honors” were).

    Instead of reporting the story in context, Kass, Heard, and the Tribune’s editorial board pushed the story way beyond its original telling, even going so far as to editorialize about the scandal.

    Without ever mentioning the truth.

    Vallas was a master of the oversimplification and the silly one liner. When challenged for facts, he would make something up and then try to get away — he’s always VERY VERY BUSY…

    It worked for a time in Chicago, as we reported. Eventually, though, his ego grew so large that he began not only humiliating his underlings (he seemed to take special pleasure in talking pseudo-tough around church ladies who worked under him) but making fun of the guy who had created the whole Vallas Show: Richard M. Daley, our mayor.

    By early 2001, the word had gotten back to Daley that Vallas was mocking him behind his back. Daley was easy in some ways to parody, but he was also a very astute politician who knew how to count votes and dollars and who also knew that he had friends (thanks to his own stuff and his family) in every ward (and possible on every block) in Chicago.

    By April 2001, Vallas was mocking Daley behind his back and lying to him to his face. In April 2001, Vallas told Daley that the opposition candidate in the Chicago Teachers Union election had “no chance.” Then Vallas doubled down and told Crain’s Chicago Business that he was supporting the incumbent in the union election, Tom Reece.

    When the votes were counted, Reece was out of office and the CTU, as of July 1, 2001, had a new president, the “reformer” Deborah Walsh (who quickly changed her name to Lynch).

    The same day Lynch took office, Vallas was out of office. Aren Duncan replaced him as CEO, by appointment of Daley.

    Vallas had already been planning his political future, but told the press that he needed some rest after six years of leading “reform” and that maybe he’d play some ball with his sons and all that family values stuff. (I told people at the time that I hoped his kids didn’t get out the gloves and the hopes to see more of their egomaniacal Daddy…).

    No sooner had that summer ended than Vallas got the “call” to run for Governor of Illinois. But that required that Vallas first win the Democratic Party primary. Which is when he made up all that stuff for his resume that we investigated and proved false in early 2002.

    After Vallas was crushed in Illinois politics, his national sponsors in the corporate media and right wing political circles took up his cause. First, he got to undermine Philadelphia, thanks to Tom whats his name, the governor who first foisted corporate reform on Philly. When Vallas’s lies and corruptions there became too much, they handed him New Orleans, fresh from the destruction of the United Teachers of New Orleans, the largest and most powerful union of mostly black members in Louisiana. The plutocracy has taken care of him from Haiti to Chile and now to Bridgeport. But the guy’s craziness hasn’t changed. Once he told people his favorite movie was “Patton,” about another crazy CEO type. But the difference between the World War II general and Paul Vallas was that Patton actually had to prove his worth in battle, whereas Vallas was always a fraud. But sometimes when I’d go to cover the Vallas shows, I’d hum the “Patton” theme tune just for fun.


    • Mary Gallucci

      Excellent! Thank you so much, Linda, for this superb testimony by George Schmidt, and thank you to Hugh Bailey for another wonderful column.
      It is way past time to oust these frauds, like Vallas and Adamowski.

  • George

    As I am sitting here grading essays at 9:00 on a Sunday morning, I am thinking very un-Sunday morning thoughts after reading this. I’m cautiously optimistic given the growing tide of opposition, but it infuriates me that we have to fight this type of shit in order to get students, schools and, yes – teachers: we matter, too – what they need to help these kids acquire the skills and information they need to function in this world. Until then, I’ve got to wait for the new generation of mastery test to be piloted in my district so that we can waste more time on test prep. It’s time to revolt people!

    • R.L.

      It’s past time. Unfortunately, we may have to revolt against our union leadership first. They should be rallying the troops. Do you hear the crickets?