Breaking up is hard to do

The relationship between Philadelphia's former superintendent, Paul Vallas, and the district's School Reform Commission (SRC) survived a bit of a rough patch about this time last year. So it's no surprise that as Vallas prepares to head south to run the schools in New Orleans, some folks are giving him a less-than-fond sendoff. Critics are pointing to the district's "surprise" $73 million budget shortfall, which surfaced in the fall, as a severe blot on his record. Vallas said he regretted being "too passive" on budget issues, but most observers seem to agree that the SRC, the city, and the state share responsibility for the oversight. For his part, Vallas claims that the SRC gradually took away the flexibility that had once allowed him to implement fundamental and innovative changes. "It begins to come apart piece by piece, and it begins with micromanagement," he said. "By year five, you're chopped liver." Strong executives usually clash with their boards, especially when things go wrong. And, as in Philadelphia, blame is often parceled out by both sides. Let's hope things work out a little better for Vallas in the Big Easy. That city's schools may not have time to endure any bickering.

"Vallas in with roar, out with rancor," by Susan Snyder, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 17, 2007

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