Their announcements followed months of rumors that Mayor Richard M. Daley was pushing for a change in leadership at the school district. However, Chico and Vallas, who had served together since 1995, both insisted that the decisions to leave had been theirs alone.
(Last February, Catalyst ran profiles of possible successors to Vallas, including several candidates who are currently said to be under consideration: Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, reportedly Daley’s current first pick; Forrest Claypool, former superintendent of the Chicago Park District; and Arne Duncan, Vallas’s deputy chief of staff.)
At a press conference, Daley made a point of thanking Vallas for a job well done. “He has been, quite simply, the best chief executive in the history of the Chicago Public Schools,” Daley said as he announced Vallas’s departure. “I’ve said that no one is irrepleacable, including me. But some people are harder to replace than others, and Paul Vallas is one of them.”
For his part, Vallas thanked the mayor, Chico, and the system’s teachers and administrators. He made a point of thanking several aides in particular: Cozette Buckney, chief education officer; Diane Grigsby-Jackson, chief of staff; Tim Martin, chief operating officer; Cynthia Ashgar, deputy chief financial officer; and Sue Gamm, chief specialized services officer.
He also singled out Beverly Tunney, who has served as president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association during Vallas’s tenure at the board. “Some people refer to her as the Closet School Superintendent,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever made a decision without consulting her.”
Vallas took a moment to praise incoming Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch-Walsh, whose campaign often seemed directed as much against Vallas and his policies as against incumbent Tom Reece, who she defeated last month in union elections.
“I am very impressed with the new union president,” Vallas said. “I’ve had the chance to meet with her. She’s dynamic and aggressive, and she’s gonna do a great job.”