A new hope

Many of us had high hopes that New Orleans's school makeover would offer a silver lining to the Katrina tragedy. But when schools opened last autumn, many didn't have enough classroom space, books, or even food for their students. Some were also rife with fights and gangs. Things have since improved, but New Orleans's Recovery District still faces monumental hurdles. And who better to address them than Paul Vallas? Philadelphia's outgoing superintendent will take the reins of New Orleans schools starting July 1, where he'll operate just 22 district schools and oversee (as of now) 17 charter schools. That's a light load compared with Philly's hundreds of thousands of students. Vallas isn't fooled by the numbers, however. He knows his work in the Big Easy won't be easy. Yet he's excited: "For me," he says, "the opportunity to come down here and build a school district from the ground up is too good an opportunity to turn down." Optimists at heart, we're hoping for the best.

"His challenge: Rebuild New Orleans' schools," by Greg Toppo, USA Today, May 7, 2007

"Vallas takes reins at N.O. schools," by Steve Ritea, New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 5, 2007

"Welcome, Mr. Vallas," New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 6, 2007