Vallas makes emotional exit

June 28, 2001


"The Paul and Gery Show" gave way to "The Arne and Michael Show" on
Wednesday as the Chicago Public Schools' two new leaders acknowledged they
have a tough act to follow.

Sitting in on his last School Board meeting, CEO Paul Vallas was so overcome
by emotion while thanking his administration colleagues that he had to leave
the room.

Vallas, ordinarily an unstoppable talker, went silent, raised an index
finger and pushed the microphone away. He tried to continue twice before
shrugging, standing and making a brief departure.

"We had so many, so many great partners," said Vallas, named to his post by
Mayor Daley in 1995 and leaving now under pressure from the mayor.

Complimenting Daley's choice of Arne Duncan to replace himself and Michael
Scott to replace School Board President Gery Chico, Vallas said, "I'm
absolutely certain they will hit the ground running."

Before resigning and leaving the room with Vallas in tow, Chico said during
the reformers' tenure the board had "restored hope, vision and credibility
to a system that once was known only for its label as the `worst in the
nation.' "

Their leadership delivered seven balanced budgets, negotiated two four-year
teacher contracts, built 15 new schools and 29 additions, eliminated social
promotions, and, in Chico's words, "significantly improved the quality of
our teacher corps."

Scott, president of the Chicago Park District since 1999, praised the pair
as "extraordinary human beings" who made a "Herculean effort."

Former Vallas aide Duncan told reporters after the meeting that his boss and
Chico "set a fantastic example for me. . . . I was honored to have the
chance to learn from Gery and Paul."

Duncan will be paid $180,000 a year. That's the salary that board members
tried to give Vallas in March, but he agreed to take only $174,000.

Neither of the new men said much, leaving the day to their predecessors, who
heard their praises sung by several in the audience.

In other business, the board approved:

* A $4.4 billion budget that will fund 500 new teaching positions while
eliminating 400 "noncritical, nonteaching" jobs. The budget is $15.8 million
less than this year's but includes a 2.7 percent increase in operating

* Closing of Jacob A. Riis Elementary School, 1018 S. Lytle. Although the
board has put $400,000 into renovations, officials said too few children
attend the school to keep it open.

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