Paul Vallas Goes Back to School

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — April 18, 2013 2 min read
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Paul Vallas, the superintendent in Bridgeport, Conn., and former leader of Louisiana’s Recovery School District, and the Philadelphia and Chicago public school systems, headed back to school this spring. Kind of.

Despite his experience as superintendent in a number of the country’s largest school districts, Vallas is not certified to be a superintendent in Connecticut. And so, after the school board voted last month to keep Vallas on board as a full superintendent with a three-year contract, a lawyer who has successfully contested other education policy changes in Connecticut filed a lawsuit saying that having an uncertified superintendent was detrimental to the city’s children, reports.

Now Vallas has started an independent study in leadership at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education in order to earn his certificate. Here’s a glance at the course of study Vallas will undertake at Neag. The program is tailored to Vallas’ previous experience. He’ll be focusing on six standards: Teaching and Learning; Vision, Mission, and Goals; Managing Organizational and Systems Safety; Collaborating with Families and Stakeholders; Ethics and Integrity; and The Education System.

BUT, until just this week, that program hadn’t been certified by the state. Connecticut’s state board of education approved Vallas’s course of study on Monday.

Vallas was hired to be interim superintendent of the Bridgeport district in December, 2011. A state law passed last summer allowed an uncertified candidate to become superintendent on a probationary period, as long as that person completed an educational leadership program. That law has not been used in any other district in the state, as far as I can tell.

Vallas’ tenure in Bridgeport and the state-level actions that have been taken to keep him there have been (predictably) polarizing: Some say he is shaking up a system desperately in need of a change, and others say the changes have been too much too fast and fear that he will ultimately open the district to charter schools and privatization. ( reported on some of this controversy.)

Vallas has helped reduce a dramatic budget deficit in the district. It’s too soon to tell whether students’ test scores have improved since he has been in charge, but the city’s schools were in dire shape academically before he came on board.

The governance of the entire school system in Bridgeport has been the subject of a battle for control in recent years. The locally elected school board was dismantled and replaced by a state-appointed board in a move that was later deemed unconstitutional. Vallas was hired by the state-appointed board, but the board that voted 5-4 to keep him on is a reconstituted elected school board, according to the Hartford Courant.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.