Vallas to keep working in Connecticut until March 1

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Paul Vallas, Gov. Pat Quinn’s running mate, plans to keep working as the school superintendent in Bridgeport, Conn., until March 1 — 17 days before the primary election.

Since Quinn picked Vallas to be his running mate nine weeks ago, Bridgeport taxpayers have continued to pay Vallas $4,500 a week.

Vallas — the former Chicago Public Schools CEO whose wife and family live in southwest suburban Palos Heights — is required to give the school board a 60-day written notice before leaving his job. His resignation letter is dated Dec. 31, and it states his last day will be March 1.

The Democratic primary, in which Quinn and Vallas are considered front-runners, is on March 18. 

Vallas has continued to work in Bridgeport because “he does not want to leave the Bridgeport school system in the lurch,” says Steven Ecker, an attorney for Vallas in Connecticut. “If he had done nothing and they wanted to fire him, he would have gotten a big payday.”

If the Bridgeport school board had fired Vallas before Dec. 31, the board would have owed him a lump sum of $234,000 — equivalent to one year of his salary — plus one year of health insurance for him and his family, according to his contract.

Instead, Vallas will collect about $72,000 from the school system if he remains on the job until March 1 — 16 weeks after he decided to run for lieutenant governor of Illinois. 

Vallas, 60, has declined repeated requests for comment.

“Paul’s transition will be complete by March, and in the meantime, the governor has been meeting with him frequently,” says Leslie Wertheimer, a spokeswoman for the Quinn-Vallas campaign.

Vallas — who lost a Democratic primary bid for Illinois governor to Rod Blagojevich in 2002 — held jobs running school systems in Philadelphia and New Orleans before being hired in Bridgeport. 

Under his three-year contract with the Connecticut school board that began March 4, 2013, Vallas was allowed to hold outside consulting jobs. 

His company, The Vallas Group Inc., got a contract last year from the Illinois State Board of Education, headed by attorney Gery Chico, who was president of the Chicago Board of Education when Vallas ran the city’s schools.

The state of Illinois paid The Vallas Group $307,031 before the contract was canceled in August. The company was hired to develop a financial plan for the nearly bankrupt school district in suburban North Chicago, and he recommended closing four of the district’s nine schools.

Vallas has had a stormy tenure in Connecticut. Bridgeport school board members had accused him of not being qualified to run the troubled school district, which sparked a court battle that Vallas won in November. 

School board members believe Vallas should leave the system on Feb. 7 — 60 days after they say he verbally resigned, according to the Connecticut Post newspaper. Vallas’ contract calls for his resignation to be in writing.

Contributing: Natasha Korecki

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