Newmaker: Paul Valace

By Joetta Sack-Min

Paul Vallas loves challenges, from the political, to the administrative, to the task of educating some of America’s most economically disadvantaged students. Now, after successful but frequently charged tenures as superintendent/CEO in Chicago and Philadelphia, the hard-charging, occasionally abrasive Vallas faces his biggest test: the academic resurrection of New Orleans.

In May, shortly after announcing that he would leave Philadelphia when his contract expired, the 53-year-old Vallas agreed to be superintendent of the New Orleans Recovery School District. He is undaunted about leading the state-run takeover district, which is in charge of 22 of the city’s 58 public schools. Thirty-one of the schools are charters; the rest are operated by the Orleans Parish School Board.

During a wide-ranging interview with Associate Editor Joetta Sack-Min, Vallas discussed the end of his tenure in Philadelphia, what it was like to work under political “master” Richard Daley in Chicago, and the opportunities to make a difference as New Orleans continues its struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

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