Q & A With Paul G. Vallas
Paul G. Vallas, the new superintendent of the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans, spoke to Education Week on July 18, seven weeks before the first day of the 2007-08 school year. Mr. Vallas talked about his agenda for the upcoming school year and how he plans to lead the district out of the crisis mode it has been in since Hurricane Katrina struck two years ago.
Q: What goals have you set for getting schools open on Sept. 4 and ensuring that the chaos of last year’s opening weeks, when there weren’t enough textbooks and teachers, is not repeated?
A: First of all, I am telling people that when schools open in September, they can really give us an immediate report card. First and foremost are the facilities. Of course, the facilities in the school system were horrendous before the hurricane. Really, some of these buildings should be used or sold to movie-production companies for their apocalyptic films that show what the end of the world looks like. Anyway, right now, we are focusing our attention on classroom modernization so that even though the kids might be in second-rate buildings for the time being, there is no reason why they can’t be in first-rate classrooms. Here’s the checklist: I want all the classrooms to be painted, to be air-conditioned, to be well-lighted and ventilated, to have modern textbooks, and to have teachers equipped with superior curriculum and instruction models that have benchmark testing and supports. I don’t want any classroom to have more than 20 kids in it. And at a minimum, the 5th through 12th grades should have access to technology with at least eight computers in every classroom. We are also going to strive to get a teacher’s aide in as many classrooms as we can. I want these classrooms to...
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