Paul Pastorek, the former Louisiana schools chief who helped lead the overhaul of New Orleans’ schools after Hurricane Katrina, has agreed to a contract with Puerto Rico’s Department of Education to provide various services as island schools continue their recovery from their own catastrophic storm, Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The Metro newspaper in Puerto Rico reported Tuesday that Pastorek’s contract with the island’s education department requires him to help on a variety of fronts, from aiding the school system in getting hurricane recovery funds to implementing the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. The contract reportedly runs until June 2019 and is worth a maximum of $155,000, at $250 an hour.
Pastorek could not be immediately reached for comment. Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said that in addition to his broad portfolio, Pastorek has proven particularly helpful as the island sets up seven new administrative regions for its public schools.
“He’s not trying to figure this out. He’s lived through all this and led through all this,” Keleher said, referring to Pastorek’s post-Katrina experience.
Late last year, we spoke to Pastorek about his perspective on the challenges facing Puerto Rico’s public schools. He said that in some ways Puerto Rico’s difficulties were greater than those in Louisiana, given that its school system was more than five times as large as New Orleans’ when Katrina struck, and that it could be harder for the U.S. territory to attract a new influx of teachers than to the Crescent City.
“If they have to face the same challenges we did, it is going to be a difficult and a long slog through no fault of their own,” Pastorek said. “There are few options that are easy, automatic, and elegantly right.”
Pastorek was superintendent of Louisiana schools from 2007 to 2011. He won praise from some quarters for the performance of New Orleans schools when they were placed under state control after Katrina. But teachers’ unions and others vigorously criticized him for being inflexible on policy matters and inattentive to the needs of educators.
American Federation of Teachers’ President Randi Weingarten blasted Pastorek’s contract with Puerto Rico, sayin in a statement that, “Make no mistake, Pastorek and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos share a vision for education, closing schools, privatization and disinvestment from public schools--and it will mean more disruption.” (The teachers’ union in Puerto Rico is an affiliate of the AFT.)
Since then Pastorek has worked at as co-director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation’s education work, and as an independent education consultant.
Metro reports that Pastorek is also responsible for helping to seek philanthropic support for the island’s education system.
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