With an unemployment rate of 13.7%, the highest in the state, economically depressed and desperate Rockford, Illinois has basically turned its public school system over to Paul Vallas.
Technically, Vallas is still the boss of New Orleans’ Recovery District, which he turned into a Mecca for school privatization following the Katrina disaster. Rockford’s disaster is man-made but where some see disaster, Vallas sees opportunity. He nailed down a huge contract for his consulting company, engineered the acceptance of Chicago-based, privately-run charter schools, and now he’s brought in his New Orleans deputy, Lavonne Sheffield, over the objections of several board members, to be Rockford’s new superintendent. Rockford’s business honchos are hoping that Sheffield’s ties to Vallas and Vallas’ ties to Arne Duncan, will turn on the federal tap.
This observation comes from Rockford Star Editor Chuck Sweeny:
With Sheffield’s connection to Vallas, and his connection to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and President Obama’s financial and political commitment to improving public schools, Rockford’s could, indeed, be “poised for greatness.”