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.
On Thursday, September 12, Vallas will present Eighteen Years in the Eye of the Storm. His talk is part of Elmhurst College’s Education in Crisis lecture series, a yearlong look at the significant challenges facing American education. Other speakers in the series will include urban theorist Richard Florida, veteran journalist Peg Tyre and Pulitzer Prize–winning author and historian Taylor Branch.
Education in Crisis lectures are part of a rich series of fall cultural events at Elmhurst. For educators, several of the lectures, including the Paul Vallas event, will qualify for Continuing Professional Development Units (CPDUs). Forms will be available at each event that qualifies.
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 struck 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 January 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 the 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 that Vallas be 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.
Vallas' talk at Elmhurst will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 12, in the Founders Lounge of the Frick Center. Admission is $10 for the general public and free for Elmhurst College students, faculty, staff and alumni. Tickets are available online. For more information, call (630) 617-3390.