Paul G. Vallas, who has led school districts in Chicago, Philadelphia, and, most recently, New Orleans, took over the leadership of the troubled Bridgeport, Conn., district last week.
The 23,000-student district is one of Connecticut’s least affluent and ranks among its lowest on test scores. The state released statistics last month showing that just 55.5 percent of Bridgeport students graduate in four years, compared with 81.8 percent of students for the state as a whole. In July, the state took control of the district at the city’s request.
Mr. Vallas, 58, said he was approached by Robert Trefry, the chairman of the district’s state-appointed board, and asked if he could help stabilize the district.
“We’re confident we’ll be able to move very, very fast,” Mr. Vallas said. He said he has committed to spending a year in Bridgeport. His plan is to craft a financial and academic plan, and then help the school system find a permanent administrator.
“I love running districts, but I don’t need to be here four years to fix what’s wrong with this district,” said Mr. Vallas, whose title is interim superintendent.
Mr. Vallas has carved out a reputation for taking on districts facing deep problems. In Chicago, after then-Mayor Richard M. Daley took control of the school system in 1995, he appointed Mr. Vallas, his budget director at the time, to serve in the newly created position of chief executive officer. In 2002, Mr. Vallas was tapped to head the Philadelphia district, where he stayed until 2007.
He then moved on to Louisiana’s Recovery School District, which started running most of New Orleans’ public schools following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Mr. Vallas left that position last year and has since been offering education consulting services to Haiti and Chile, both devastated by earthquakes.
He will earn an annual salary of $229,000 as interim superintendent.
A version of this article appeared in the January 11, 2012 edition of Education Week as Paul Vallas to Lead Bridgeport, Conn., District