Paul Vallas: ‘Decades Of Experience In School Finance and Turnaround Success’–Challenged Blagojevich For Governor

Paul Vallas
Paul Vallas

A number of articles, many of them positive, pop up in an Internet search of Paul Vallas, the new Acting Superintendent of Schools. He has navigated thorny political districts such as Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia. He’s expected to be here perhaps a year or until a permanent school chief is in place. Makes it a lot easier to ignore the politics and do your thing. Vallas, however, is not unaccustomed to politics. In 2002 he waged a close Democratic primary for governor of Illinois against the now-disgraced Rod Blagojevich. Chicago Tribune article here.

An article from the Times-Picayune.

From the Bridgeport BOE:

Board of Education names Paul G. Vallas Acting Superintendent and Sandra Kase, Ed.D as Acting Chief Administrative Officer

The Bridgeport Board of Education today named Paul G. Vallas to the post of Acting Superintendent. The Board also named Sandra Kase, Ed.D. as Acting Chief Administrative Officer. Both appointments are effective January 2, 2012.

Board Chairman Robert Trefry said. “Both interim leaders are well known and respected in education circles–Paul Vallas brings decades of experience in school finance and academic turnaround success, and Sandra Kase is a leader in student achievement and school district turnarounds. We are thrilled to have both of them in Bridgeport to lead the district through this transition.”

“I plan to stabilize the district’s finances while developing a long term balanced budget strategy, to develop and implement a comprehensive education improvement plan in partnership with the school community that will improve student achievement in every school and to help recruit the permanent leadership team for the district,” said Vallas. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of moving this district forward,” he added.

Vallas, who is known for his leadership and expertise in reforming and rebuilding school districts, most recently completed his tenure as Superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, a statewide turnaround district that has successfully reformed the public schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. Under his leadership, schools destroyed by the 2005 hurricane have either been relocated or rebuilt. In addition, he raised students test scores in each of the four years he was superintendent at a growth rate that significantly exceeded the rate of increase in comparable test scores in the state of Louisiana.

Vallas served as the Budget Director for the City of Chicago followed by roles as the chief executive officer of the Chicago and Philadelphia school districts before taking over the Recovery School District in New Orleans. In both districts he raised test scores each year, closed large budget deficits and built and renovated hundreds of schools.

Over the last 18 months, Vallas has worked with international organizations to build a functioning school system in earthquake ravaged Haiti and to improve low performing elementary schools in post-earthquake Chile.

Sandra Kase is a respected educator who began her career as a teacher in New York City schools. She served as principal of the Claremont Community School in the Bronx, where she helped lead a total school reform effort that centered on identifying students’ strengths and special talents to help forge student success. After working as Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Low Performing Schools in New York City, she was appointed Supervising Superintendent of the Chancellor’s District where she was directly responsible for the academic achievement turnaround of 41 failing throughout the New York City, including elementary, middle and high schools. As a result of her efforts, the district was recognized by the Council of Great City Schools in Foundations for Success.

Since 2004, she has served as an educational consultant specializing in school improvement, teacher quality, charter school evaluation and instructional program development throughout New York.

“I am honored to have been chosen to serve as Chief Administrative Officer of the Bridgeport Schools,” said Kase. “I plan to work closely with Paul to identify the outstanding issues in all of the City’s schools that need immediate attention, and to create school improvement plans for each school across the district.”

Both Vallas and Kase have been hired for 12 months, or until permanent replacements are in place. Vallas will receive the same level of compensation as departing Superintendent John Ramos, the funds for which have been raised through private fundraising, Trefry said.



  1. Vallas and Kase have their work cut out for them. The fact they have faced significant challenges in difficult districts in the past is all to the good. They will not be surprised.
    However, what they will target and focus upon in short run or turn into long run foundation for student success remains to be seen.
    Sorry to keep repeating myself, but isn’t it time for the final part of the audit to appear and announce its results??? Wouldn’t that help the new folks in town? Wouldn’t that assist the Charter Revision Group in light of the Mayoral desire to have more say in educational process? And where and why was ‘private fundraising’ done? Aren’t there enough dollars in the school system? He who provides the gold usually wants some say in making the rules, so who is it? Don’t we have enough secrecy in Bridgeport already? Time will tell.

  2. Buckle your seatbelts. Vallas will turn Bridgeport schools upside down, judging by what happened in Philadelphia schools.

    The Times-Picayune article linked above is similar to what I read about Vallas when he was running Philadelphia schools. New Orleans was an unmitigated disaster with the advantage of starting with an entire government paralyzed by Hurricane Katrina. That really opened things up to doing them different.

    Philly, as in Bridgeport, has an entrenched way of doing things. Vallas shook that up. Both cities share a history–a tradition really–of doing things ass-backwards. Being a larger city you can argue the job was tougher in Philly than it will be in Bridgeport.

    You are not going to go into Philadelphia and find everything peachy today. You can argue, persuasively, that things have retreated. They just tossed their superintendent for not doing the job they wanted.

    Vallas, however, set things moving in a different direction, one the community has largely accepted. One reason the superintendent in Philly was ousted was because of a standard set by Vallas. The person didn’t meet the standard: Bye-bye.

    Vallas has political skills. He knows how to schmooze some. He’s also not afraid to piss people off. He’ll have the backing of Gov. Malloy and presumably Mayor Finch. That should be plenty of cover for turning the system upside down.

    From what I’ve read on OIB and in the Post, and from what I’ve seen in the past, most of the politics involving Bridgeport schools is just dumb. Yeah, there are some politics around the edges, but a good administrator should be able to handle that. It’s handling the politics and administration that seems to always mess up in Bridgeport.

    It’s a tough crowd you are trying to educate. Despite the self-evident failures, there are a lot of successes too. Bringing up that bottom may be seen as the most important. I’d argue making sure the kids who really want to learn or who need that little extra bit of encouragement is most important.

    I’m not getting into a beef with either side. Public education is a tough business in Bridgeport. I don’t think there is an argument that you did poorly by getting Vallas.


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