Education reform champion Paul Vallas was hired to turnaround the worst achieving schools in the state of Connecticut—Bridgeport. He had successfully run school systems in Chicago, New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) and Philadelphia. He was required by the state board of education to take a “school leadership” course. He did so according to the board and his instructor at UConn. So Vallas should be well on his way to improving the schools in the state’s largest city, right? Guess again.
Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis was persuaded by the opponents of school reform that the leadership course was basically a sham, that Vallas is not qualified and that he is to be removed from office. Fortunately, Supreme Court Justice Chase Rogers came down on the side of reason and ruled Tuesday that the highest court in the state will decide the case and review it in an expedited manner.
Given Vallas’ resume and track record, any contention that he is not qualified to run Bridgeport’s schools is laughable on its face and deeply troubling when one looks at the motivation of those opposing him.
The very core motivation of Vallas’ opponents is that he will put the kids first and to do that he will need to institute reform measures that are anathema to the teachers unions and their long-winded toadies on various blogs. One particular blog is so predictable and so sycophantic that anyone who reads one entry could write the next one (assuming the reader can get through it with its “War and Peace” length).
Then there is the question of the objectivity of Judge Bellis. Legitimate concerns have been raised in Bridgeport about her impartiality. She should have erred on the side of caution and recused herself.
Bridgeport is rightly appealed the nonsensical ruling. The plaintiffs’ attorney seems to think the appeal process is of no use. Attorney Norm Pattis told the Wall Street Journal, “The fight is over. We won. He’s done.” Now he’s saying, “I suppose [the state Supreme Court’s decision to take the case] is inevitable. There’s no doubt we will prevail.” Don’t count on it. The facts in the case are clear: Vallas is qualified under any reasonable definition. It’s not Judge Bellis’ job to decide if Vallas passed the required leadership course, that’s the state board of ed’s job.
However, more troubling is the fact that the people opposing Vallas do so because they fear reform. They fear stricter evaluations of teachers. They fear their cushy status quo will be upset. Student achievement is not at the top of the list of anti-school reform forces. Keeping the same failing system is. That’s sad.
The court should reverse Bellis’ decision and reinstate Vallas immediately, for the good of the students.