Co-chair Advisory Board

Mr. Paul Vallas

Paul G. Vallas is a nationally recognized education and public sector finance expert with forty years’ service working in the public interest. Paul consults to underperforming school districts to help them more effectively leverage finances, strengthen educational delivery, and narrow the achievement gap. Paul in 2016 headed the team that delivered to the Department of Justice a comprehensive program to revamp education and occupational training in the nation’s 122 federal prisons, a pillar of President Obama’s criminal justice system reform agenda.

From 1995-2013, Paul spent 18 years successfully managing large urban school districts facing difficult challenges. While leading the Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Bridgeport, Conn., public schools, Paul dramatically improved student academic performance, resolved financial crises, rebuilt crumbling building facilities, facilitated labor peace, and, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, reconstructed an entire system of schools. His skills in leveraging community partnerships, budgeting for districts, and recruiting talent to classrooms have been instrumental in bringing deeply needed resources into classrooms.

Paul’s expertise in budgetary and organizational oversight can be traced to his tenure as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Revenue Director (1990-1993) and then Budget Director (1993-1995). Appointed Chicago’s first CEO of Chicago Public Schools in 1995, Paul led the transformation of a district called in 1987 “the worst in the nation” into “a model for the nation” by 1998, delivering sound fiscal management of the district’s $4.2 billion budget and leaving Chicago Public Schools with $300 million in cash reserves. As CEO of Philadelphia’s schools (2003-2007), Paul directed what was the district’s largest ever construction program. His education policies in Philadelphia moreover prompted an increase in the number of schools meeting Adequate Yearly Progress from 26 to 166.

Brought in to manage New Orleans’ failing schools after Hurricane Katrina, Paul headed the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) from 2007 to 2011. Paul’s stewardship of the district resulted in African-American student achievement in New Orleans rising by 75 percent and the percentage of high school student drop-outs reduced by half. Paul also guided the development of the master plan to build and renovate New Orleans schools after securing the largest FEMA settlement in U.S. history ($1.8 billion).

Paul’s success piloting RSD through post-Katrina prompted the international community to also seek Mr. Vallas’ expertise. After the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Inter- American Development Bank (“BID”) asked Mr. Vallas become its lead education consultant to guide the late Haitian President Réne Préval’s Presidential Task Force to develop a plan to create, finance and operationalize the first publicly funded school system in Haiti. That work involved interactions with World Bank, UNESCO, International Red Cross and many other NGOs. Concurrently, actor Sean Penn requested that Mr. Vallas join his J/P Haitian Relief Foundation’s Board of Directors as finance committee chair. Retitled as Community Organized Relief Efforts, or C.O.R.E., the organization sheltered and administered to 60,000 internally displaced earthquake refugees. C.O.R.E. provided lifesaving relief work in the earthquake’s aftermath and during the 2011 cholera epidemic, including the distribution of more than 100 tons of medical supplies and the treatment of 450,000 patients. It removed 1.3 million tons of rubble, including the collapsed National Palace. Now that C.O.R.E.’s activities have evolved from relief to sustainable rebuilding, it is responsible for 6,000 students in educational programs, has provided business training to 2,500 adults and counts 12,500 participants in its community programs. It is now leading Haiti’s reforestation project, in conjunction with France and the Sean Parker Foundation.

BID also sent Mr. Vallas to Santiago, Chile after than country’s major 2010 earthquake, tasking Mr. Vallas with helping the Ministry of Education develop effective strategies to improve the quality of its 1,100 poorest and underperforming schools. Mr. Vallas has also developed strategies for expanding quality public education in Pakistan and the Sudan. He traveled to Khartoum in 2014. Mr. Vallas has a passion for work in developing countries and for helping populations in crisis, both at home and abroad.

After serving as Interim Superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools (2011-2013), Paul was the Democratic Party of Illinois’ nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2014. He ran for Governor of Illinois in 2002, and Mayor of the City of Chicago in 2019.