Paul Vallas — who was recruited by the state’s education commissioner to run Bridgeport Public Schools — is stepping down as the district’s superintendent to be the running mate of Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

“I have been presented with an unexpected and extraordinary opportunity,” Vallas said in a statement. “I am extremely honored and have accepted, recognizing that this opportunity require that I will need to resign my position as the Bridgeport Public Schools Superintendent.”

The Illinois governor confirmed his choice in a statement.

“Paul is an independent problem solver with a proven record of reform. He will be a strong lieutenant governor for the common good,” Quinn said Friday.

Vallas has had a tumultuous couple of years in Bridgeport, the state’s largest public school system and one of the lowest-achieving districts. A Connecticut Supreme Court decision is pending on whether Vallas has the proper prerequisites to even be a superintendent in the state. He also lost control of his local school board during this week’s election when several candidates opposing him won a spot on the board. The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, also filed a complaint with the State Department of Education, saying that Vallas shut teachers and parents out of discussions and decisions.

Despite all this recent drama, Vallas said the decision was not an easy one.

“I will not leave the district suddenly, or in a lurch, but will work with the new board as it searches for a new superintendent, set a timetable and ensure that it is fully equipped to build on the progress the district has made during the past two years,” Vallas said.

He cites opening five new schools, buying new textbooks for students, making schools safer and exanding alternative programs as his successes during his tenure.

Excel Bridgeport, an education reform group in Bridgeport that’s backed changes Vallas has made, expressed sadness in his departure.

“Although we acknowledge that Paul Vallas has been a polarizing figure, he has helped Bridgeport make important gains. Following Superintendent Vallas, we must select a dynamic leader that will build on his successes but also find ways to build bridges in our community. With only 26% of third graders in Bridgeport reading at grade level, we need a superintendent who sets a vision for our 20,000 students and measurable achievement goals that will move our schools — and our children — forward,” executive director Maria Zambrano said.

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

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.