Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday that despite a judge ruling that the superintendent of Bridgeport is not eligible to run the district, he supports him staying in office.

“Do I think someone that someone who was superintendent of Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans is qualified to be a superintendent in the state of Connecticut? The answer is yes,” Malloy said.

Malloy’s comments to reporters Wednesday come hours before a superior court judge is set to hear arguments to allow Paul Vallas to remain the superintendent until the appeals process play out.

A judge ruled two weeks ago that Vallas — who has run the 21,000-student district for the past 17 months — did not follow the proper steps to gain state certification to become a superintendent.

State law requires all superintendents in Connecticut to be certified by the State Department of Education, which requires that a candidate have a master’s degree, 30 credits in courses related 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 State Board of Education.

In April, the state board approved an independent study created for Vallas by the University of Connecticut as a valid program. But the judge said Friday that the short, independent study he completed in May at the University of Connecticut was merely a simulation.

“There is no doubt that Vallas received preferential treatment,” the judge wrote in her 27-page decision.

But Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who introduced Vallas to Bridgeport officials, said that Vallas is more than qualified to run Bridgeport schools. “There is no doubt that he is well qualified,” he said. “We look forward to the legal issues being resolved.”

Pryor added that he disagrees the judge’s conclusion that the program was weak. “It was a tailored program aimed at ensuring that it built upon the candidates individual strengths and needs for further development. There is no doubt about that. That was what was presented for approval [to the state board] and that is what was ultimately enacted.”

In a split-decision this month, the local Brigeport school board did approve Vallas to become their leader. Malloy pointed to that vote as more proof that Vallas should stay in office.

“Its a local issue and Bridgeport got to do what Bridgeport thinks is best for its students,” he said. “I am hopeful this all works out for Bridgeport.”

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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