Round two: Bridgeport education heading back to court

One year after the state Supreme Court ruled that the state illegally appointed members to Bridgeport's Board of Education, the same lawyer who won that case is asking the courts to expel the district's superintendent.

On behalf of two Bridgeport residents, Norm Pattis has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court alleging that Superintendent Paul Vallas's contract, approved last month in a split vote, is illegal.

Vallas

 

"The man is unfit for office under state statute and should be removed immediately," Pattis said during an interview.

State law requires all superintendents in Connecticut to be certified by the State Department of Education, which requires a candidate have a master's degree plus 30 credits in courses relating to becoming a superintendent and eight years of teaching or administrative experience. These requirements can be waived for up to one year by the state's education commissioner while the candidate completes an "educational leadership program" approved by the 11-person State Board of Education.

Now in his 15th month of leading the state's largest public school system, Vallas is not fully certified.

The lawsuit alleges that the time provided by law to get properly certified has expired, and the three-year contract the local school board approved to pay him $234,000 a year is illegal.

"Bridgeport shows a curious inability to read the law," Pattis said.

Requests made to Bridgeport Public Schools and the State Department of Education regarding whether the former education leader of Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans is enrolled in a program that was approved by the state board went unanswered.

Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the State Board of Education, said during an interview that he does not think the state board has approved a program for Vallas.

"I certainly don't remember that coming up yet... I don't think that has come to us," he said.

Bridgeport's school system has been tumultuous since the state ousted the former, locally elected board of education. Pattis succeeded last year in persuading the state Supreme Court to rule that that takeover was illegal because the proper steps were not followed by the state and Bridgeport.

Members of the current Bridgeport school board are divided in their support of Vallas, voting 5-4 last month to approve his contract.

Vallas was unavailable this afternoon for an interview.

 

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