Supporters turn out for Vallas
Posted in the Trumbull Forum
#1 Jul 1, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- Having lived in the Park City for a few years already, Florisca Carter did not enroll her children for public education when the time came because she wanted "better for them."
"But I hope, with the work (School Superintendent) Paul Vallas is doing, maybe they can enroll their children," Carter, the director of school operations for Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Elementary, a public charter school, said during a rally held Monday in support of Vallas at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in the city's East Side.
The narrative Carter evoked -- that of a failing school system with a chance at redemption embodied in an embattled superintendent unfairly targeted by critics -- was not unique among the speakers at the rally, who fed defiance to about three dozen supporters hungry for it.
The spark for their fervor came Friday, when state Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Vallas is not qualified under state law to serve as superintendent and ordered him removed from the position he has held for 18 months.
"It feels like people are picking on the children of Bridgeport," Carter said during her remarks at the rally.
The city attorney's office has appealed Bellis' decision and a stay was placed on the ruling, Vallas said, allowing him to continue working, he expects, well into the upcoming school year.
"I'm very confident it will be overturned on appeal," he said.
The most recent troubles for Vallas -- who has been both praised as a savior for the city's schools and slammed as something closer to a dictator since the state took over the city's Board of Education, ousting the elected board, and appointed him superintendent in December 2011 -- began when city activist Carmen Lopez sued Vallas, claiming he had not taken the school leadership program required by the state to become a superintendent for the state's largest city.
In her 27-page decision, Bellis, the judge who presided over the ensuing trial, agreed with critics like Lopez, herself a retired Superior Court judge, that Vallas had taken a "sham" course to become qualified to serve as superintendent.
"I'm used to this," Vallas said prior to Monday's rally, during which he also spoke. "I've been in tough districts in the past ... My focus is on getting the job done."
Among the more ardent supporters on Monday were Mayor Bill Finch and the Rev. Kenneth Moales, president of the city's Board of Education.
Finch, who spoke first, likened Vallas to a knight, imagining him atop a "white horse" when he came to Bridgeport.
"And now they're throwing mud on that horse," he added.
Moales called on a more recent example of heroism, describing the superintendent as a firefighter responding to a terrorist attack.
"He runs to fires," Moales said, likening the city's school system to a burning building. "As he sees the building falling ... rather than run away from the fire he runs into the heart of it."
"I go to where I'm needed," Vallas said during his remarks, which began only after a standing ovation from the crowd in the church's chapel. "I'm committed to the cause here."
To quantify that cause, prior to the rally Vallas summed up the city's school system in monetary terms.
"This is a very poor, struggling school district but people in this city pay property taxes that have sometimes been twice as high as surrounding districts," he said. "They're not getting their money's worth."
#2 Jul 22, 2013
I would have bet money that she couldn't fit that whole thing in there.
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