Paul Vallas Writes on AJC Blog Praising the Georgia Opportunity School District. Is He Looking for a Job?
Update: I received a tweet from Lindamarie via Twitter that linked to an article about Paul Villas and the Bridgeport School District in which he was superintendent. It’s a stinging indictment of Villas and the reform movement he headed. It’s a must read.
Last week, Maureen Downey ran an article entitled Former NOLA School Leader: Georgia Did the Right Thing) on her AJC blog, Get Schooled, written by one of the key architects of Louisiana’s recovery school district. Now a consultant with the Chicago-based DSI Civic (a financial restructuring company) , Paul Vallas served as Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District from 2007-2011. He was also Superintendent in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Downey explained that Vallas received a few question about his article lauding Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to privatize Georgia’s failing schools by turning them into charter schools–the go-to solution for whatever politicians think will solve the fabricated crisis in our schools.
I find Downey’s uncritical portrayal of Villas’ ideas surprising and disappointing. On one day she will publish articles written by Georgia researchers pointing out the untruths and problems about the Opportunity School District, and how it will harm public education in Georgia, but then on the day that the House approved the Governors’ Opportunity plan, she published the Vallas article praising the plan. Why not ask people in Georgia to write about the OSD, such as Professor Stephanie Jones of Policy Studies at UGA, an activist scholar specializing in school reform, or Professor Kristen Buras, professor of Policy studies at UGA., who done extensive research on NO Recovery School District, and articulates research based finding contrary to reports about the New Orleans experiment.
But, no. She asks Paul Vallas, a Chicago consultant who left his job as superintendent of the Bridgeport, Connecticut school district, to write an article about the Georgia Opportunity School District.
Larry Cuban, Emeritus Professor at Stanford, sees Paul Vallas as a “sprinter” type of superintendent. Sprinters come in fast, take swift actions, and exit quickly. Vallas, instead of being the marathon type of superintendent who takes time to think through problems of school change, and is deliberate and not confrontational, was in and out of four different school districts, including New Orleans.
His latest stint was superintendent of the Bridgeport, Connecticut school district. What Downey doesn’t tell us is that Vallas was challenged and sued by Connecticut officials because he did not have certification to be superintendent of a public school system. He signed up for an online course, and supposedly passed, but was still sued. His case went to the Connecticut Supreme court, which ruled in Vallas’ favor only because of a procedural mistake. Some complainants charged that Vallas was given preferential treatment by having certification requirements waived by the state.
And the case get even messier. Vallas was not hired by the local school district, but by a state appointed board. This is exactly what will happen in Georgia. The Georgia superintendent of the Opportunity School District, much like the Vallas’ of the neoliberal reform world, will not be selected by elected local officials, but by a state group of appointees. Appointees of the Governor. Former Connecticut judge Carmen Lopez, who filed the case against Vallas, did so because Vallas was imposed on the Bridgeport School District. Ms. Lopez put it this way:
“Paul Vallas was imposed on the city,” she said. “Then we find out that he lacks something as basic as having certification.
“There is a movement in this country to change education as we know it, and you start that where people are vulnerable,” she said. “There’s never any discussion with the people, who are looked on as incompetent. … The only recourse we have is the court.”
Sprinter type superintendents such as Paul Vallas, or Michelle Rhee act in similar and predictable ways by eroding the integrity of the “turnaround” school district, and later deposit mud when they exit the school district as quickly as possible.
I wonder. Is Vallas jockeying for the job of Superintendent of the Opportunity School district?
He certainly has the experience, and Governor Deal recently visited Vallas’ former school district, the New Orleans Recovery School District.
In the next post, I will analyze the “great ideas” that Vallas wrote as a reply to readers about the pat on the back for the bad deal that Georgia’s “chronically failing schools were dealt.