Vallas & Pryor hold court in a Bpt church basement on school reform

BRIDGEPORT — Before he caught a 8:20 pm train to DC to testify on education reform, still Interim Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas spent more than an hour with Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor in the basement of the Mount Aery Baptist Church Tuesday evening explaining the state’s new education reform law and how it will impact Bridgeport.

Pryor told the largely appreciative crowd of more than 70 people that the city was virtually the epicenter of the state’s efforts, which will include teacher tenure reform, focus on the state’s 25 worst performing schools and a hands on approach from the commissioner and state department of education. He couldn’t bring himself to say outright that ‘yes, the district is going to get a $3.5 million bailout from the state.’ Instead, he said a solution will be forthcoming when the legislature reconvenes to fill in the details to the state’s 2012-13 budget plan.

Vallas told the crowd he is “one implementer bill away” from carrying out his school reform plan.  After both talked about the bill and each other — Pryor went into detail about Vallas’ fear of flying and Vallas talked about Pryor’s help when the two went to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake — they took questions from the audience.

Vallas was asked about his plans to cut 48 positions from the district even after he got closed to what he asked for from the state and city. Vallas said he is trying to “right size” the district and suggested that some of the services that guidance staff do now in the high schools, would be picked up by community agencies like RYASAP, Americorps and college students. Not sure if they are planning to do all this for free.

That has a number of teachers in the district up in arms. Many say the district doesn’t have enough teachers and that the district’s 40 percent drop out rate won’t solve itself by replacing trained counselors with untrained, non-permanent volunteers or college students. On top of that, many teachers are saying they are getting no information from the administration on the changes underway.

What do you think? Will Vallas be here long enough to get anything done? Do you think what he and the state are proposing will do anything to reduce the achievement gap?

Let me know.

Linda Lambeck