Former Philly Superintendent Could Lose Job in Connecticut Election

Paul Vallas has angered activists with pro-reform efforts in Bridgeport.

Paul Vallas, who was the superintendent of Philly schools once upon a time, has proven a lightning rod of controversy in his latest stop, Bridgeport, Conn. Tomorrow’s school board election is widely seen as a referendum on his future there.

Salon reports that Vallas already faces a lawsuit challenging his credentials for the position.

But Vallas’ greatest threat comes at the ballot box tomorrow: In hopes of expanding their defiant faction to a majority, critics of the (pro-testing, pro-charter, anti-teacher tenure) approach ran in the September Democratic Primary and, in an upset, beat the mayor’s favored candidates. On Tuesday, they’ll face off against Republican candidates in an election likely to leave the anti-Vallas, WFP-friendly faction with between four and six of the board’s nine votes. Assuming Vallas survives the lawsuit, whichever side holds a majority on the board will be positioned to determine his fate.

Defending his record, Vallas told the Atlantic’s Molly Ball in September, “We brought this district back from the brink without cutting a single teacher. If that’s controversy, it’s made-up controversy.”

“What we’ve seen since Paul Vallas became superintendent is much more of an emphasis on testing, and lots of cuts to services and programs that kind of make the school experience more comprehensive for students,” WFP’s Farrell countered last week. She cited students “being tested every six weeks.” Farrell told Salon that “If the team of five Democrats and Working Families Party candidates win, those policies will be rolled back. But they’ll be continued probably if we see the Republicans win.” If they take control, Farrell said, WFP-backed progressives would shift resources “back into the classroom,” because “There are some classrooms right now in Bridgeport where there are 40 students and one teacher. Nobody’s learning in that classroom.”

Salon says the election results could ripple into the education debate nationwide—and it’s true that issues of teacher tenure and the effects of charter schools have weighed heavily in the Philadelphia school district’s recent challenges to become financially solvent. Will Vallas’s fate mean anything here?