Louisiana on Friday picked one of the nation’s most prominent education reformers to run the troubled school district of New Orleans, as schools here continue to grapple with physical and administrative damage from Hurricane Katrina.
The new superintendent, Paul G. Vallas, who is credited with changes in school systems in Chicago and, most recently, in Philadelphia, was chosen to take on what is seen as one of the more singular challenges in American education: creating a working school district where many of the buildings are ruined, many of the teachers are missing and thousands of students might return suddenly. When they do, they will be among the neediest — the poorest and lowest-achieving — in the nation.
As a superintendent in Philadelphia and Chicago, Mr. Vallas raised test scores with the help of after-school programs, new schools and revised curricula. He is generally regarded by schools experts as one of the more energetic practitioners in the field. But speaking Friday in a shuttered school in the Lower Ninth Ward, he seemed to recognize the special difficulty of this task.