The sudden rise of one Chicagoan and fall of another in recent days holds a unique significance for New Orleans’ Recovery School District superintendent, Paul Vallas.
Arne Duncan, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for secretary of education, was among Vallas’ trusted deputies when Vallas led the Chicago Public Schools.
Rod Blagojevich, the scandal-ridden Illinois governor, edged out Vallas to secure the Democratic Party nomination in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Vallas’ former protege in urban education has made a name for himself in use of innovations such as a financial reward system for successful teachers, a pay-for-performance strategy. His former political rival, on the other hand, has become a household name because of pay-to-play allegations.
Shortly after his loss to Blagojevich, Vallas left his native city to lead the Philadelphia school system. A year-and-a-half ago, he moved to New Orleans to take over the recovery schools position.