Online petition started to fire Vallas _ but who and how many really signed?

Bridgeport– A petition has been started on the website to ask for the removal of interim Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas.
The petition, according to the website, was started by JoAnn Kennedy. Kennedy is a parent of two students at Bassick High School. So far the petition 52 signatures (as of 6:14 p.m. Saturday) including _ reportedly _  Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka. Pereira and Baraka are school board members. Reached on Saturday, Pereira said she saw the petition but had not signed the petition.

“It could be someone being a prankster,” Pereira said in an email. “However, Maria Pereira is a very popular name in the Portuguese community. I just did a search of the White Pages. 11 of us come up in Bridgeport.”

Then as an experiment, Pereira then went on the site and was able to successfully sign the petition using another name and a Stratford zip code. So it is unclear how many names on the petition are legitimate.

The petition does have the support of the Working Families Party according to spokesperson Taylor Leake. In an email, Leake confirmed Working Families was very much aware of the petition and supported it. The website says the petition is a project of Connecticut Working Families, and that by signing, you agree to receive email messages from Connecticut Working Families. Leake’s was the first signature on the petition. Kennedy’s the second. Attempts to reach Kennedy and Baraka were not immediately successful.

Here’s how the petition starts:

“When it comes to running Bridgeport’s schools, Paul Vallas gets an F.”

It goes on to fault his ties to “corporate school reform,” as well as positions and supplies cut from the budget and contracts he has entered into. It also criticizes him for spending too much time doing outside consulting work.

“Paul Vallas has failed Bridgeport’s schools. It is time for him to go.” The petition continues.  “Bridgeport Board of Education: Our students deserve real leadership. Don’t renew Paul Vallas’s contract!” the petition continues.

The petition will be sent to the nine member school board. The board is currently evaluating the job Vallas has done since he was hired in December 2011 by a city school board appointed by the state. That board has since been ruled illegally seated by the state Supreme Court and an elected board returned in September. Vallas has indicated he is willing to stay another year in the role. The evaluation is expected to be completed early next month.

Joshua Thompson, director for education under Mayor Bill Finch, called the petition another example of adults from the Working Families Party intentionally promoting inaccuracies.

“It is incredibly sad to focus on something like this when it is our job to focus on our children and their futures. This petition has no merit,” he said.

(check back for updates)

Linda Lambeck