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New regime takes over

By Michael Martinez and Ray Quintanilla

  As they ended their six-year tenures Wednesday, Chicago Board of
Education President Gery Chico capped his last meeting with an "I will
resign at this point," but CEO Paul Vallas was uncharacteristically at
a loss for words, even momentarily leaving to stave off tears.

Without Chico, the board then awarded Vallas a departure package worth
$218,750, which requires Vallas to help the system's new leaders until
Sept. 30 and then serve as a consultant for one year after Oct. 1.

    If the 100 days of Vallas' unused sick and vacation time are added
in, his severance package is $266,695. Vallas' yearly salary was
$150,000 for five years and then rose to about $175,000.

During a farewell speech, delivered as the board was about to approve
another annual tax increase to the maximum allowed under state law,
Vallas became choked up as he thanked a long list of senior staff

"Let me pause for a second," said Vallas, repeatedly holding up a
forefinger seeking a moment's pardon.

After 10 seconds of silence, Vallas, known for liking the microphone
in his long, fast-paced speeches, left the room to a standing ovation
and then returned a few seconds later. "I had to take a quick bathroom
break," he joked.

In an interview, Vallas declined to comment on his exit package. For
purposes of comparison, his predecessor, former Supt. Argie Johnson,
received severance pay of $131,249 in 1995--nine months' salary--in
addition to a $180,000 annuity.

Ted Kimbrough, who preceded Johnson, received a severance package in
1993 worth two years of his $175,000-a-year contract, in addition to
travel to and from a California home, a $25,000 housing allowance,
unlimited expenses, and a pension benefit that pays him $30,000 a year
for life.

Vallas said he will set up an office at an undisclosed local
university, from where he will assist the schools' new management team
as needed for the next 15 months.

Later, the board installed Michael Scott, an AT&T lobbyist and
executive, as Mayor Richard Daley's handpicked successor to Chico.
Scott then led the board in appointing Arne Duncan--Vallas' deputy
chief of staff and selected by Daley to succeed Vallas--as the
system's new CEO with an annual salary of $180,000.

Duncan and Scott said they looked forward to a smooth change of
leadership. The system faces its first significant tumult since 1995
as test scores dropped this year and reform has stalled.

"Education is the key" for students to become productive citizens,
said Duncan, 36. "Nothing is more important."

In business Wednesday while Chico was still presiding, the board
approved a $3.6 billion annual operating budget to become effective
July 1. It calls for a spending increase of $95 million, or 2.7
percent, and the layoff of 400 non-classroom employees. Taxes will
increase by $18.12 for a $100,000 home.

The board approved the merger of two new charter schools that have not
yet formally opened. Passages Charter School and the Chicago
Children's Choir Charter School will open in the fall under the name
Global Village Charter School. The schools were merged because the
board ran out of charters to issue, officials said.

Also getting the go-ahead was The LEARN Charter School, making it the
system's 15th charter school, the maximum allowed by the state.

Parents from Riis Elementary, 1018 S. Lytle St., pleaded with board
members to renovate the crumbling school, but the board voted to close
it in the fall and send pupils to nearby schools.

Tim Martin, the system's chief operating officer, said it's likely the
school will be demolished and its land sold. "Any proceeds will be
used to improve other neighborhood schools in the area," he said.


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