Teachers Union Files Complaint Against Superintendent Vallas

The Hartford Courant

Bridgeport's reform-minded schools superintendent has come under fire from the state's largest teachers union, which on Tuesday filed a complaint accusing the district of illegally excluding teachers, parents and community leaders from the educational process.
    The union, the Connecticut Education Association, filed a complaint with the state Department of Education charging that the district -- led by Superintendent Paul Vallas -- is violating the law regarding School Governance Councils that were created to involve community, parents and teachers.
    "The beneficial purpose of School Governance Councils has been largely ignored by the Bridgeport Public Schools and Superintendent Vallas," Gary Peluchette, a Bridgeport teacher and president of the Bridgeport Education Association, said in a statement. The complaint was filed on Peluchette's behalf.
    Vallas, reached at his office late Tuesday afternoon, said: "We are really busy and we don't have time to deal with this type of nonsense because that's what it is. No one has reached out more than my team -- to parents, the teachers, faith-based organizations, even the non-teachers."
    Vallas said he is busy trying to improve the long-troubled Bridgeport system, one of the lowest performing in the state. "I'm really dealing with serious reform issues," Vallas said, including, he said balancing a budget without laying off teachers or reducing resources in schools.
    It was state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor who tapped Vallas as a good candidate to help Bridgeport about 18 months ago. The Bridgeport Board of Education hired Vallas in December 2011. As education commissioner, Pryor, who worked with Vallas in Haiti to help rebuild its school system after the 2010 earthquake, has 10 days to review the complaint. He can either dismiss it or, if he considers it substantial, order an investigation.
    Kelly Donnelly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said in an email that the state agency is reviewing the complaint.
    The complaint charges that state laws were violated because -- among many reasons -- the school governance councils were not given an opportunity to review or comment on the fiscal objectives of the draft budgets for various schools before submission to the superintendent. The complaint also states that councils did not participate in the hiring of administrators and were not involved in analyzing school achievement data.
    Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen said in a statement, "These are just some of the examples of the flagrant disregard Bridgeport Public Schools Superintendent Vallas has shown for School Governance Councils and state law."

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