For one thing, properly utilizing School Governance Councils is the law in Connecticut!
In addition, even Governor Malloy, at least when he was a candidate, supported the creation of School Governance Councils. In fact, he promised to expand their use.
In support of the federal government’s Race to the Top program, candidate Dan Malloy backed a 2010 Connecticut law saying that it sought to “engage parents in a meaningful way.”
In a response on the website On the Issues, Dan Malloy wrote, “The bill establishes local school governance councils that include parents and help create a sense of community that can make schooling more relevant to kids, and kids more connected to their community. However, these councils are only required for low-achieving schools. We should not stop there… While governance councils are one tool for improving achievement, they are still a top-down approach to decision-making that limit involvement to only a few engaged parents. My administration will create opportunities for all parents to be involved.”
Apparently the memo concerning his commitment to “create opportunities for all parents to be involved” didn’t make it to the desk of Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools.”
In fact, Paul Vallas’ unwillingness to follow the law and properly include parents, teachers and community leaders in the decision-making process has become so severe that the Connecticut Education Association has taken the unprecedented step of filing a complaint with the State Department of Education.
Although Connecticut law requires that School Governance Councils be utilized in school districts that are facing the greatest challenges, in Bridgeport, Paul Vallas appears either unwilling or unable to meet his obligation to include the community, parents, and teachers in the educational decision-making process.
The complaint against Vallas cites numerous situations in which Vallas violated the law.
In particular, the complaint charges that Vallas failed to provide Bridgeport’s School Governance Councils the opportunity to; (1) to review the fiscal objectives of the draft budget for the school and provide advice before it was submitted, (2) participate, as required, in the hiring process of administrators, (3) work with school administration to develop and approve a school compact, (4) be involved in developing and approving a written parent involvement policy outlining the role of parents in the school, (5) participate in analyzing school achievement data and school needs relative to the improvement plan for the school, (6) assist the principal in making programmatic and operational changes for improving the school’s achievement and the list goes on.
As CEA President, Sheila Cohen explained, “These are just some of the examples of the flagrant disregard Bridgeport Public Schools Superintendent Vallas has shown for School Governance Councils and state law.”
“School Governance Councils have a successful track record of engaging parents, teachers, and community members in important school activities and providing collaborative support to improve student achievement. These opportunities and the benefit of state laws must be afforded members of the Bridgeport school community.” Cohen Added.
In addition to his pattern of failing to appropriately include School Governance Councils, the CEA’s complaint actually cites a school board meeting at which Vallas said that there were priorities more important than governance councils.
After the CEA issued their complaint, the Hartford Courant wrote that, “Vallas, reached at his office late Tuesday afternoon, said: ‘We are really busy and we don’t have time to deal with this type of nonsense because that’s what it is. No one has reached out more than my team — to parents, the teachers, faith-based organizations, even the non-teachers..’”
Vallas made a similar claim to the CT Post saying, “We are in full compliance,” Vallas said, adding, “I don’t have time for this nonsense.”
How Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, handles the complaint will be interesting to watch since Vallas brags that he came to Connecticut because Pryor asked him to take over the Bridgeport School System.
Pryor’s action will also be closely watched because there has also been widespread discussion that Steven Adamowski, the Department of Education’s Special Master for the Windham and New London School Systems has also failed to properly include School Governance Councils in those two school districts.
You can read more about the issue at: http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-teachers-union-complaint-0522-20130521,0,5097870.story and http://www.ctmirror.org/story/union-files-complaint-against-bridgeports-superintendent and http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Union-Vallas-snubbed-governance-councils-4536210.php and http://blogcea.org/2013/05/21/complaint-cites-violations-of-law/