Paul Vallas

Paul Vallas ousted as temporary leader of Chicago State University

Jan. 30, 2018
University trustees terminate the contract of the former Chicago Public Schools CEO in the wake of reports that he might run for mayor of Chicago.

Paul Vallas, former leader of the Chicago and Philadelphia school systems, has been fired as the temporary chief administrator at Chicago State University after disclosing that he was planning to leave the job early to consider a run for mayor of Chicago in 2019.

The Chicago Tribune reports that university trustees voted unanimously to immediately terminate Vallas’s contract as chief administrative officer of the struggling university. Vallas, who has served as chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, the Philadelphia school district, and the Recovery School District in Louisiana, was appointed to the Chicago State board of trustees in January 2017 and subsequently took the job as chief executive officer.

Vallas’s contract called for him to fill the administrative role until July 2018. But late last week, saying Chicago State was “on the right track,” he said he planned to leave the job months early to consider an electoral challenge to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

After canceling Vallas’ contract, trustees also eliminated the job title altogether and said they would not hire anyone to replace him.

Chicago State Board Vice President Nicholas Gowen said he felt that Vallas was the university solely to further his political ambitions.

“I find it unfortunate that he would attempt to use Chicago State University as a platform to run for the mayor of the city of Chicago,” Gowen said.

Vallas issued a statement that he thought recent attacks on the purpose of his job at Chicago State were politically motivated.

Vallas’ brief tenure at Chicago State was steeped in politics from the start. Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed him to one of four open seats on the board of trustees

The governor expected the new trustees to help stabilize the university, which was mired in persistent financial troubles and steep drops in enrollment.

The appointment came as a surprise since Rauner and Vallas are longtime political rivals. Weeks later, Rauner maneuvered to elevate Vallas. Unconvinced the board was doing enough to enact the sweeping changes the governor wanted, Rauner pushed to make Vallas a temporary crisis manager, an upper administration position that would have given him more authority to spearhead reforms until a permanent president could be hired.

Trustees went a different route. They announced in March that they would hire a new interim president and create a position for a chief administrative officer. Vallas was allowed to apply for both, but only after he withdrew from the board. In April trustees hired Rachel Lindsey, a former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, as interim president, and Vallas was hired as chief administrative officer.

Though Vallas’ job always was meant to be temporary, his early and unexpected departure marks another shift for Chicago State, which has struggled to maintain steady leadership.

Gowen said the presidential search committee expects to present a final choice to the board in May.

The university continues to be beset with dwindling enrollment and deteriorating facilities. Chicago State’s student population has dropped for 15 consecutive semesters, data show. Fall enrollment was 3,171 — less than half of what it was in 2010.

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