Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Parsing Paul Vallas' Work Schedule

Finally, a public records request was honored by the RSD in a timely fashion.

After a slate of quotes by RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas indicated potential interest in running for Governor of Illinois in 2010, I thought it appropriate to examine whether or not Mr. Vallas' campaign efforts were already underway.

I requested Mr. Vallas' personal schedule dating from January 1st, 2008 and met with RSD communications director Siona LaFrance to view the documents.

She expressed some concerns that I, as a blogger without specific ethical obligations, might cherry-pick Mr. Vallas' travel dates and describe them out of context just to portray Mr. Vallas as on his way out the door.

I'm not that good. Nobody has ever disputed that Paul Vallas is a hard working administrator. He's never been known for too many rounds of golf. He stays on the clock. The amount of time Mr. Vallas has spent out of Louisiana is not gratuitous if his schedule is accurate, particularly when considering that some trips coincided with school holidays and that all trips to Illinois included time with his family in Chicago.

Besides, as Ms. LaFrance indicated, Blackberry technology ensures that Mr. Vallas is always on the job, even if he is physically out of the office.

In the end, Mr. Vallas' personal schedule reveals that his travels out of state did tend to mix business and pleasure. Here are my findings:

Mr. Vallas was in Chicago from January 11th to January 15th with no listed political events.

He left Louisiana again at the end of that month, traveling during Mardi Gras season from January 25th to February 3rd. This time, there were some listed events. January 29th featured a meeting with Gila Bronner of the Bronner Group in downtown Chicago. The next day, Mr. Vallas attended the State of the City address in Peoria, Illinois and met with Lee Graves
about the internet safety program he financed, Portcard. That evening, he dined with Jim Franczek back in Chicago. January 31st, Paul Vallas traveled to Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb. He attended a symposium and gave a lecture. Ten points to whoever can tell me which popular hotel/motel/inn chain he stayed at.

Vallas' next trip was from February 29th through March 5th. On March 1st, he spoke to the KIPP board in Chicago. On March 3rd, he held various meetings in Chicago during the day and one more with a development corporation from Northwestern University in the evening.

On March 4th, Paul Vallas traveled to St. Louis and met with Rick Sullivan, the CEO of the St. Louis public schools weeks after Mr. Sullivan began searching for a new superintendent for the St. Louis public school district.

On March 13th, Vallas left again for Chicago and returned on the 16th. This one purely family oriented, there were no listed events or meetings.

Then it was spring break. Mr. Vallas traveled from March 21st to March 30th. On March 25th, he spoke at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York. On March 26th, Paul Vallas returned to Philadelphia for a few days to deliver some talks at some local universities. In Philadelphia, he opened the possibility of running for governor of Illinois.

At the end of April, Mr. Vallas took another week in Illinois. There were meals or meetings on both the 26th and 27th. On the 28th, Mr. Vallas taped an episode of Chicago Tonight and spoke at the City Club of Chicago and Northwestern University. That night, he dined with City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty. It was at the City Club that Vallas again admitted consideration of the Illinois gubernatorial race in 2010.

Around a month later, Vallas spent another week in Illinois from May 24th through the end of the month with some more meetings and family functions.

I requested Mr. Vallas' personal schedule to examine how his much-speculated interest in moving to Springfield, Illinois jived with his duties at the RSD in New Orleans. After examination, it would be misleading to characterize his travels as detrimental to his job performance here. He's not taking lots of extra days off, it appears to be on his own time.

It would be just as misleading to characterize his meetings with various politically connected individuals or groups as significant campaign groundwork. Mr. Vallas has largely been honest about his intention to lead the RSD on a temporary basis and has not denied that he may be interested in elected office in Illinois after he leaves here.

I do have questions about his March 4th meeting with Rick Sullivan in St. Louis. I do wonder if the open superintendent job was discussed. I emailed the communications staff at the RSD for clarification and will publish the answer once I receive it.

UPDATE: Siona LaFrance answered my email. She says that Vallas did not discuss the superintendent's job with Rick Sullivan, just the concept of school reform.

Also, upon browsing Illinois blogs, I noticed a post by "Chicagoland's premier local-access political talk show" where it is speculated that Vallas could entertain running in Illinois as a Republican. Again, only speculation, but Berkowitz does describe an interesting scenario.

1 comment:

Editilla said...

Err'ah say ah say BOY...
you are that "good".