CARMEN L. LOPEZ et al. v. BRIDGEPORT BOARD OF EDUCATION et al.,
Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport
Education; Quo Warranto; Whether Acting Superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools Successfully Completed a “School Leadership Program” Within the Meaning of General Statutes § 10-157. The plaintiffs brought this quo warranto action, seeking to oust the defendant, Paul Vallas, from the position of acting superintendent of the Bridgeport public schools. They claimed that Vallas, who had not been formally certified as a superintendent in Connecticut, failed to properly obtain a waiver of the certification requirements pursuant to General Statutes § 10-157, which provides that an acting superintendent who is serving a probationary period may be granted a waiver of the certification requirements if, among other things, the acting superintendent successfully completes “a school leadership program, approved by the State Board of Education, offered at a public or private institution of higher education in the state.” The trial court agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that, although Vallas successfully completed a three credit independent study course at the University of Connecticut (UConn), the course did not constitute a “school leadership program” within the meaning of § 10-157. The court reasoned that the course did not qualify as a program that was offered by an institution of higher education because it was specifically created for Vallas and was not generally offered as a program by UConn. The court added that the course could not have qualified as a program at UConn because it was merely a single three credit course and because it did not undergo the rigorous approval process that is required before a program is offered to students at UConn. The court further determined that, although the state board of education (state board) gave its approval to the individualized course that was offered to Vallas, § 10-157 did not give to the state board the sole discretion to define the statute’s terms. Even if the course was a program, the court opined, Vallas did not successfully complete a program because the course that he did complete was not the course that the state board had approved. The court explained that the state board’s approval was based on a description of the course, which inaccurately stated that it was a program that had been approved by UConn and that it was comprised of classes, seminars and technology assisted discussions. In light of the foregoing, the court concluded that Vallas was not entitled to a waiver of the certification requirements, and it ordered that he be removed from his position. In this appeal, which was certified by the Chief Justice pursuant to General Statutes § 52-265a, the Supreme Court will determine whether Vallas successfully completed a “school leadership program” within the meaning of § 10-157.