School & District Management

Chicago Schools’ Chief Executive Will Step Down

By Robert C. Johnston — June 13, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Paul G. Vallas’ six-year run as the high-profile chief executive officer of the Chicago public schools ended last week with the much-anticipated announcement that he will resign.

The news was the second shoe dropping in a leadership shakeup that began late last month, when Gery J. Chico stepped down as the president of the city’s school board. (“Change Afoot for Chicago’s School Team,” June 6, 2001.)

Speculation that Mr. Vallas was on the way out had grown recently, owing largely to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s public criticism of some stagnant and declining test scores.

Mr. Daley, who appointed both top district leaders in 1995 under a state-mandated mayoral takeover of the schools, was more complimentary at the June 7 press briefing where he accepted Mr. Vallas’ resignation. It wasn’t clear when it would be effective.

The mayor called Mr. Vallas “the best chief executive in the history” of the city’s schools, and he praised overall improvement in reading and mathematics scores and higher student-attendance rates.

“Teachers, students, and principals will tell you there’s a new spirit in the Chicago public schools,” Mayor Daley added. “The old sense of defeatism and failure is a thing of the past.”

For his part, Mr. Vallas denied that the mayor had asked him to leave. “These jobs are not forever,” he told local reporters. “Six years is a long time.”

Mr. Vallas, who previously was Mr. Daley’s budget director, said he would stay on board for awhile to help with the transition. As of press time last Friday, the mayor hadn’t revealed his choices to replace Mr. Chico and Mr. Vallas.

School watchers in Chicago said the leading contender for Mr. Chico’s post appeared to be Michael Scott, the president of the Chicago Park District. As for a Vallas replacement, Chicago Library Commissioner Mary A. Dempsey appeared to be at the front of the pack.

‘Real Pressure’

Mr. Vallas became a national figure after being put in charge of the 432,000-student district, the nation’s third largest.

Under the Chico-Vallas administration, the automatic promotion of students to the next grade was ended, and thousands of students were sent to summer school in a push to raise their achievement. Mr. Vallas had high expectations for all students, and expected other administrators to demand results, observers say.

“He put real pressure on schools like I’d never seen,” said Barbara Radner, the director of the Center for Urban Education at DePaul University in Chicago. “People knew you couldn’t fool this guy.”

The district has also produced six years of balanced budgets and managed $2.6 billion in school construction projects.

Critics of Mr. Vallas direct their harshest attacks at what they contend is a proliferation of shallow curricula foisted on students in the cause of raising test scores.

“There’s some concern the mayor will replace one person without education expertise with another,” said Julie Woestehoff, the executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, a local advocacy group. “We need a real education vision. We hope it’s the direction that the mayor wants to go.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2001 edition of Education Week as Chicago Schools’ Chief Executive Will Step Down

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
How Whole-Child Student Data Can Strengthen Family Connections
Learn how district leaders can use these actionable strategies to increase family engagement in their student’s education and boost their academic achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management After a Rash of Student Suicides, This School District Stepped Up
Hopeless at first over a student mental health crisis, Colorado's Cherry Creek school leaders decided to build a day-treatment program.
13 min read
Image of a bridge made of puzzle pieces with the middle piece moving to connect the two sides.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management What Superintendents Say They Need More of to Help Them Manage Districts
98% of those surveyed said better data would make them more comfortable making decisions.
2 min read
Image of a data dashboard.
Suppachok Nuthep/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Principals Give Thanks—and Shoutouts—to School Support Staff
Custodians, lunchroom aides, secretaries, and bus drivers are “too often forgotten and underappreciated.”
7 min read
Image of a framed smiley face.
zakokor/iStock/Getty
School & District Management How to Recruit and Retain School Board Members of Color
Pay, staffing, and support are key ingredients to persuade people of color to run for their local school board, experts say.
5 min read
Illustration showing diversity with multi-colored human figures.
ajijchan/iStock/Getty