BRIDGEPORT -- Interim Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas says Bridgeport remains his day job, but he has also lined up a three-year, $1 million contract to help repair low-performing schools in his home state of Illinois.
The group would get $311,250 in the first year, with two one-year renewal options offering up to another $319,375 each.
Vallas said the group, which includes a team of seven or eight other educators, bid on a turnaround contract to work on two struggling school districts in Illinois. He said the bid was put in months ago at about the time he started in Bridgeport.
"This is part of what I do," Vallas said. He wouldn't name the school districts or the other principals in the group. They all have worked with him in some capacity in Illinois. None are working in Bridgeport, he said.
He said his role will be to provide guidance and direction.
"My role is going to be modest. It is going to be more supervisory," he said. "That project will not detract from my work here. I am not going anywhere."
Vallas said he intends to remain in Bridgeport at least until his contract is up Jan. 1, 2013. His wife and family live in Palos Heights, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
The news comes as Bridgeport's state-appointed school board has been meeting behind closed doors with Vallas to extend his contract with the district beyond its expiration date. The latest session was held Monday, and board chairman Robert Trefry said Tuesday morning he hoped to have the deal sealed by the end of June so a void is not left when the district gets its elected school board back in the fall.
Later Tuesday, when informed of Vallas' deal with Illinois, Trefry said he called Vallas and got assurances he intends to stay.
Trefry said as part of Vallas' one-year-contract with the district, he is allowed to do outside consulting work and is not paid for the time he spends away from the district.
"I said from the beginning there may be other projects I may be working on," said Vallas, who has a national reputation from working in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
He was brought to Connecticut's neediest urban school district at the request of state Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor as a "change agent." His assignment was to help straighten out the district financially and set it on a course for academic improvement. A five-year plan has been developed and approved by the board, but has yet to be carried out.
"We want to make sure we don't leave a void in the district," said Trefry of the board's efforts to get Vallas to stay longer.
Vallas has stated on a number of occasions he wants to stay to carry out some of the initiatives in a five-year improvement plan he developed for the district. His $229,000 salary continues to be paid from a Bridgeport Education Reform Fund that was set up in January shortly after he arrived in the district. The fund is held by the Fairfield County Community Foundation. Contributors to the fund remain anonymous, as does the total amount raised. So far, $315,250 has been dispersed from the fund to pay Vallas' salary through June and for several of the consultants he has brought to the district.
Vallas said Illinois would be the Vallas Group's only job outside of work done in Haiti and Chile, but that he works with others groups as well. "That's what I do," said Vallas.
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