Lesson from Connecticut: Five signs that your superintendent stinks


by Amanda Litvinov/Photo by Carsten Knoch

Last week, the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to consider whether Bridgeport superintendent Paul Vallas must leave his post after a lower court ruled last month that he lacks the qualifications legally required of his position.

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It seems that the administrator—a national figure in the so-called “education reform” movement—who had no problem setting unrealistically stringent demands on educators refused to meet the requirements of his own position, even after they were watered down just for him. But the truth is that not holding the proper credentials is only one of the problems with Vallas’ resume.

Take a lesson from Bridgeport. Here are five signs that your superintendent is not cut out for the job:

1. The last school district he ran is now bankrupt

“In Philadelphia, [Vallas] was known for what is variously called the ‘contracting regime’ and the ‘diverse provider model,’ as he ushered in an era of private companies contracting to run various school services as well as schools,” said Jerusha O. Conner, an education professor at Villanova University, in a recent interview. The endless array of new programs Vallas introduced left the district even shorter on resources than when he started.

2. To prepare for the job of superintendent, he devoted about a week’s worth of work to an “independent study”

Vallas’ predecessors all held advanced degrees in education. The state-appointed school board watered down the qualifications to a certificate specifically so they could bring Vallas to Bridgeport. In his own testimony, Vallas admitted that the work he did to earn that certificate “could have been completed in a week.”

3. He spent his first year as superintendent making opportunities for his big business buddies, not for students

Vallas went around special education teachers and the city of Bridgeport’s contracting laws when he rammed through a contract worth millions to his friends at Public Consulting Group in April 2012. The IEP administrative software he promised would make educators’ lives easier arrived eight months late and required weeks of training. It is estimated that Vallas engineered at least a dozen no-bid contracts that cost taxpayers more than $13 million.

4. He accepts taxpayer money that should go to educating students for his own legal fees

Bridgeport Mayor Finch rushed to defend Vallas, whom he once described as a knight on a white horse, committing taxpayer money that could be used to educate Bridgeport’s students to defend an unqualified superintendent (the 2012-13 school budget shows over $1 million was spent on Vallas’ legal fees during his first full year). That’s what prompted Bridgeport mom Tammy Boyle to launch an online petition demanding the mayor drop the defense.

5. When challenged about his credentials, he compares himself to Michael Jordan

Vallas explained that not allowing him to run the Bridgeport Schools because he lacks appropriate certification is ”like saying Michael Jordan can’t coach basketball because he doesn’t have teacher certification.” Huh. He seems to think he was on a winning streak before coming to Bridgeport, but the facts tell quite a different story. Vallas is certainly not the only education “reformer” to rewrite history, but perhaps he’s done it with the most flair.

Reader Comments

  1. We are in Michigan and as far as I can tell we have NO qualifications for superintendent. Our current district superintendent is a CPA!

  2. Mr. Paul Vallas, as you are aware, is a former head of the Chicago Public Schools, as is the present Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
    Neither held the required State of Illinois Superintendent credentials.
    Even substitute teachers in Illinois have to hold valid substitute certificates.

  3. Although it may be just a coincidence of time and place, Arne Duncan was Paul Vallas’s assistant in leadership of the Chicago Public Schools. Duncan succeeded Vallas in Chicago. Both were advocates for charter schools.

  4. The bankrupt school district sounds like our last superintendent. Ran our district into the ground, now the State has taken over. The state is here, not because the students were not learning, because of fiscal mismanagement. The Super in this story couldn’t have done all this by himself, he had to have a Board of Buffoons to help him take this district to hell in a hand basket.

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