School & District Management

Former New Orleans Recovery District Chief to Lead Conn. District

By Christina A. Samuels — December 21, 2011 1 min read
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Paul Vallas, who has led school districts in Chicago, Pennsylvania and most recently New Orleans, will take over leadership of the troubled Bridgeport, Conn., school district at the beginning of the year. In July, the state board of education took over the 23,000-student district at the request of Bridgeport’s mayor, school superintendent and school board president.

The Connecticut Post has the full story:

Vallas, 58, was named Tuesday as interim superintendent in the state's largest city, whose district has some of the state's lowest test scores and deepest poverty. He starts Jan. 1, and will inherit both a $6 million budget gap and a state-appointed school board whose very existence is being weighed by the state Supreme Court. Vallas, sitting earlier on Tuesday in the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, said he is not intimidated. "I am used to taking on great challenges and going into crisis situations," he said. "Our plan is to move fast."

Vallas has carved out a reputation for taking on districts facing deep problems. In Chicago, after then-Mayor Richard Daley took over control of the school system in 1995, he appointed Vallas, his budget director at the time, to serve in the newly-created chief executive officer position. In 2002, Vallas was appointed to be the superintendent of Philadelphia public schools, where he stayed until 2007. He then moved on to the Recovery District of Louisiana, which had started running most of New Orleans’ public schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

He left that position earlier this year, and has since been offering consulting services to Haiti and Chile, both devastated by earthquakes. That work was coordinated by the Inter-American Development Bank. He’s also dropped in on the Kansas City, Mo., district to offer advice on administrators to fill open positions there, according to a recent article in the Kansas City Star.

According to the Connecticut Post article, Vallas does not intend to stay for a long time in Bridgeport. He said his plan is to create a financial and academic plan for the district, and then help the school system find a permanent administrator to move the plan forward, he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.