Former Connecticut Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez is not only a leading advocate for public education but she is a true champion when it comes to standing up and speaking out on the most important issues facing our communities, our state and our nation.
Born in Puerto Rico, a life-long resident of Bridgeport, a lawyer, a Judge, an activist, a truth-teller, Carmen Lopez has transferred the debate on issue after issue after issue.
Unafraid to speak out, unwilling to be silenced, Carmen Lopez has taught me and many others that one of Gandhi’s most famous observations is a profound statement of truth;
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
The legal briefs in the case of Lopez v. Vallas have been submitted and tomorrow the Connecticut Supreme Court will hear the oral arguments presented by the attorneys representing Carman Lopez and Paul Vallas.
The case itself is very simple. Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Paul Vallas does not have the credentials to serve as a superintendent of schools in Connecticut. Despite a law specifically written for Vallas by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Vallas failed to take the necessary steps to meet the statutory provisions that would have allowed Pryor to waive Vallas’ need for certification.
Instead of completing a school leadership program, as required, Vallas took a single, three- independent study. As the deadline for action approached and well into Vallas’ three-credit independent study course work, the State Board of Education, following a directive from Stefan Pryor, voted to define Vallas’ three credit independent study course as a school leadership program.
Now the City of Bridgeport and their mayor, Bill Finch, are spending upwards towards $100,000 in taxpayer funds to defend and appeal Vallas’ effort to illegally hold on to the $234,000 part-time superintendent’s job in Bridgeport.
If the Supreme Court overturns the Superior Court’s decision in an attempt to allow Vallas to hold on to this job it will be throwing out the most basic precedents on how courts are interpret the meaning of laws and statutory construction.
But as everyone recognizes, the reality is that this case isn’t really about statutory construction.
Lopez v. Vallas is about whether the rule of laws applies to everyone or whether we’ve reached a point in the United States where an elite class of elected officials, policymakers and corporate officials are correct in their belief that they, and they alone, function above our legal system.
As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the case of Lopez v. Vallas, I asked Judge Lopez to explain to Wait, What? readers the underling facts and meaning surrounding this case.
Here is what Carmen Lopez wrote;
Lopez v. Vallas:
I am from Bridgeport.
I live in Bridgeport.
And, I love the City of Bridgeport and its hardworking, decent and upright people.
I am very tired of well-heeled corporate and political manipulators who don’t live in Bridgeport and their attempts to force feed this City a diet they would never consume themselves.
Paul Vallas would never be hired as the Superintendent of Schools in Trumbull. Steven Wright, the Chairman of the Trumbull BOE, who voted in his capacity as a member of the State BOE to disenfranchise the residents of Bridgeport as part of the 2011 illegal takeover cabal, would be appalled at that prospect.
Terry Jones of Shelton, another member of the State Board of Education, who voted for the conspiratorial takeover, would never think of hiring Paul Vallas to run the schools in his community.
These two suburban Board of Education members, and others like them, would undoubtedly demand a properly certified and credentialed superintendent to lead their school system.
But not for Bridgeport!
The issue before the Connecticut Supreme Court in this case is very simple. Will the Rule of Law as established by the Connecticut General Assembly prevail over the political machinations of insider wheelers-and-dealers who have sought to game the system and foist Paul Vallas on the people of Bridgeport.
Connecticut is known as the Constitution State. We value and revere the Rule of Law and insist that it be applied evenly and fairly to all of our residents. Paul Vallas cannot qualify to be Superintendent of Schools under the laws adopted by our Legislature. The law very clearly and unambiguously sets forth the credentials that anyone must have before assuming the public office of Superintendent of Schools in any local and/or regional Connecticut School District.
Paul Vallas and his apologists have made a mockery of the Rule of Law by claiming, with a straight face, that a three month independent study course is a substitute for the “School Leadership Program” required by law.
He claimed to have completed this independent study course which was offered to no other individual, in satisfaction of the statute’s requirement. The only recourse citizens and taxpayers have in the face of this blatant abuse of power and manipulation of the system by the well-connected is found in the Courts.
The writ of Quo Warranto, which was filed, claimed that Paul Vallas was not qualified under Connecticut law to serve as Bridgeport’s Superintendent of Schools. Superior Court Judge, Barbara Bellis, in a fact based memorandum of decision, upheld the Rule of Law and determined that Vallas did not meet the statutory requirements.
She found these facts after hearing the testimony of many witnesses, including the Dean of the School of Education , who testified under oath, that Paul Vallas cursory association with UCONN was not a ‘school leadership program’ as that term is generally understood.
Paul Vallas disagrees with Judge Bellis’ findings and insists that his three credit course is a ‘school leadership program’ within the meaning of the Statute.
The State Board of Education has rubber stamped Paul Vallas’ and Stephan Pryor’s claim, that the three credit independent study course is a school leadership program.
Stephan Pryor argues, in his amicus brief, that the statute bestows on him the authority to determine whether a single course is a school leadership program.
What we have witnessed to date is a display of executive branch arrogance which can only be checked by an independent judiciary. Only the courts stand between this abuse of power and the people of Bridgeport.
A decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court affirming Judge Bellis’ ruling will validate the Rule of Law and demonstrate a respect for the people of the City of Bridgeport which Paul Vallas, Stephen Pryor and the State Board of Education have been unwilling to show.