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Ex-Chicago Schools Chief Will Talk About His Mission to Reform Public Schools

Paul Vallas will discuss "Eighteen Years in the Eye of the Storm" at Elmhurst College Thursday.

Paul Vallas will speak at Elmhurst College Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Elmhurst College)
Paul Vallas will speak at Elmhurst College Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Elmhurst College)

Since 1995, Chicago native Paul Vallas has advanced ideas and implemented reforms that have reshaped some of the largest and least settled school systems in the nation—in Chicago, Philadelphia and post-Katrina New Orleans—as well as in countries struggling to make education more accessible for their children.

Vallas will present Eighteen Years in the Eye of the Storm, part of the Education in Crisis lecture series at Elmhurst College, at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Frick Center, 190 Prospect Ave.

Known for a tough, hands-on, corporate style, Vallas has reformed and rebuilt school districts in the wake of both natural and man-made disasters. He served from 2007 to 2011 as superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, a turnaround district that reformed, rebuilt and relocated public schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In 2010, he was appointed to two international projects. In the first, he was the lead education consultant to the Haitian government in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake, when the government sought to create a public school system that would be accessible to all of Haiti’s children. In the second, the government of Chile asked Vallas to raise test scores in 1,100 of Chile’s lowest-performing schools.

Before going to Louisiana, Vallas served as chief executive officer of the Philadelphia and Chicago public school districts, where he managed and balanced operating budgets in excess of $4 billion and implemented broad operational and educational reforms.

In 2002, Vallas ran for governor of Illinois as a Democrat. He placed second in the Democratic primary, losing narrowly to Rod Blagojevich.

Vallas is no stranger to controversy. He currently is superintendent of schools in Bridgeport, Conn., where he closed the district’s $12 million budget deficit and has begun to implement a comprehensive budget and school improvement plan. But his efforts have drawn opposition from some parents and union officials, and earlier this summer a Superior Court judge ordered Vallas removed from the job because he “lacked the state leadership credential required for the position.” He has appealed to Connecticut’s Supreme Court, which will hear the case in the fall. In the meantime, Vallas has been allowed to stay in his post.

Admission to Thursday's lecture is $10 for the general public and free for Elmhurst College students, faculty, staff and alumni. Tickets are available by visiting www.elmhurst.edu/tix. For more information, call (630) 617-3390.

Source: Elmhurst College

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