VALLAS FACTS: 'The Paul Vallas I Knew'... Paul Vallas and the origins of the corporate 'school reform' policy to eliminate black teachers and principals in Chicago.

[Editor's Note: Over the past couple of weeks, I've been preparing reports on the 1983 Chicago mayoral race and how Chicago segregates. As the discussion of Paul Vallas's time in Chicago continued nationally, it became clear to me that our previous publications about Vallas's racist policies in Chicago had not been read by many, here or elsewhere, so after talking with the man who wrote the analysis below, I've decided to -- again -- reprint it.

"The Paul Vallas I Knew" by Dr. Grady Jordan was first published on line and in print by Substance in March 2002. At the time Paul Vallas took over Chicago's schools, Dr. Jordan was the highest-ranking "line" administrator in the school system. Serving as "High School District Superintendent," Dr. Jordan was in charge of the city's public high schools -- all of them -- in the days before mayoral control. With more than 100,000 students, Chicago's public high schools would have been the second larges public school system in Illinois were they a separate district.

Dr. Jordan's "The Paul Vallas I Knew" outlined Vallas's treatment of black principals and administrators, Over the years, it has been utilized by people in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and elsewhere. People from other cities and districts called us at Substance or contacted Dr. Jordan directly in Chicago when they discovered just how pernicious "The Paul Vallas Method" really was, especially for black children and the nation's segregated urban public schools. Because Vallas always had a handful of well compensated black people as part of his team, it was usually some time before people noticed how the "Vallas Method" had among its results the destruction of black schools, the busting of black unions, and the elimination of black principals and other administrators through privatization and a biased version of "standards and accountability."

We're reprinting "The Paul Vallas I Knew" again here because it is one of those "origins" stories. The racist elimination of black teachers and principals began during the years Paul Vallas ran Chicago's schools for Mayor Richard M. Daley, as Dr. Jordan's article articulates. In the next few days, we will add and update to that analysis. Paul Vallas -- as "The Paul Vallas Group" -- recently received a $1 million contract to do "turnarounds" in Illinois and a larger one for the same work in Indiana. One of the reasons Vallas gets away with this is that he has always made it lucrative for a small number of black people who be part of his group. We will analyze that in future days as well. This article, which we originally published in March 2002, was reprinted here on July 3, 2013, but it has obviously been missed by a lot of people who want to know more now].

Has Chicago seen this much official racism since the end of Jim Crow?... The Paul Vallas I know, By Grady C. Jordan, Ph.D.. High School District Superintendent. 1985-1995. Phone: 773 - 637 -2828. Original URL for this article:

After hearing some African-Americans singing the praises of Paul Vallas, I was reminded of the lady who, after listening to the tributes and eulogy for her late husband, went up to look into the coffin to see who was really there.

The Paul Vallas that I know misused the resources, authority, and prestige of his office to harass, humiliate, intimidate and attempt to destroy the careers of many Black people. Vallas’ negative tone toward Black people was set immediately upon taking office. In selecting staff for the top five positions in his administration, he did not interview one Black man. The pattern that he set of excluding Black men from positions of significance prevails to this day.

Despite this sorry legacy, last June I sat at the bar at the University Inn and saw dozens of Black men, led by Dr. John “Watch Dog” West, parading in to pay homage to Vallas. Even though they must have known that they would not be admitted, I saw several Black women present themselves at the door to register their presence. I guess they wanted “Ol Massa” to know that they tried their damndest to get onto the plantation.

Recently I have become aware of the fact that A. Phillip Randolph, after his long struggle on behalf of the Pullman Porters, turned down an offer of a million dollars to betray his people. During the Civil War, many Black soldiers refused to accept any pay because it was less than that being paid to White soldiers. These were men who understood the true meaning of manhood.

Paul Vallas’ web site lists African American administrators, coaches and others who support Paul Vallas [for Governor of Illinois]. If I may be allowed a personal question: How do you support Paul Vallas when you know that the following happened to me?

-- I was banished from the system -- forever -- as a “black racist.”

-- By contrast, a white colleague who had retired has worked every day in addition to drawing a pension.

-- Had to obtain a lawyer and fight to get my full pension.

-- Despite the fact that after 25 years as an administrator handling hundreds of millions of dollars without a single blemish, I was subjected to three years of a criminal investigation with Vallas’ States Attorney unit coming to my home twice.

But I was not alone among Black administrators and principals who were subjected to ill-treatment by Paul Vallas. I was merely among the first.

It was reported to me that in 1995 during a public meeting at Austin High School, Paul Vallas cavalierly announced that the principal, a Black man, was being replaced. This man, who had done absolutely nothing wrong, was hearing this for the first time. Why did Vallas need to rob this man of his dignity? I am convinced that it is because Vallas operates on the basis of the Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case: “Black people have no rights that Whites are bound to respect.” He will use the taxpayers’ money to buy those Blacks that he feels he needs at the moment. As I heard one Black activist say: “He finds out a Black person’s price and then he doubles it.” With the taxpayers’ money of course.

Two years ago, a small group of Black men got together and compared notes on the principals who had been removed from their schools by Vallas. At that time, they came up with a list for 45. Of that number, 42 were Black. In other words, 93 percent were Black. This clearly is racial profiling. Black people who support Vallas should be concerned about this.

Early in the Vallas years, Christine Clayton was serving as principal of Senn High School. There was a racist cabal in the area that always wanted her out. When Vallas came in they found a soul brother. Christine Clayton was out. A hack politician from city hall shattered her career as an educator, for which she had worked hard for many years.


Debrona Banks, Steve Newton, Beverly Martin, Shirley Woodard, Theodis Leonard, and others …the list is long. Every one of these administrators was forced to file — and win — a lawsuit against the Board of Education because of the actions of Paul Vallas.

The number of Black principals and administrators who had to go through endless litigation to secure their rights since Paul Vallas took over is unprecedented. It would cause a major uproar in any other city. The cost to the taxpayers — millions of dollars in legal settlements, fees, and costs — would be a scandal in any city but Chicago and with any administrator but Paul Vallas.

At the same time he was undermining the authority of Black principals and administrators, Paul Vallas was terminating tenured teachers, large numbers of whom were Black, the heart of the school system, using equally unfair methods. Sadly, the teachers had fewer resources during those years than the principals who stood up to Vallas. Most have seen their careers finished by his policies.

In the process, are our children getting a better education? I don’t think so. The Vallas years saw the largest increase in the number of children driven out of the public school system, thanks mainly to the testing programs of Paul Vallas. Paul Vallas is now running for governor of Illinois. If he is successful, he will have a four-year contract with the people of Illinois. He would have every expectation of being allowed to fulfill his contract. Despite the fact that I consider Paul Vallas to be the most unprincipled, unscrupulous, unethical person I ever met in my professional life, I would be the first to say that if he wins fair and square, he should be allowed to fill the contract with the people of Illinois.

Unfortunately for a number of would-be black principals in the Chicago Public Schools, Paul Vallas is not so fair-minded. Local School Councils voted several Black members of the Chicago Public Schools staff contracts, but Paul Vallas would not allow them to fulfill those contracts. The courts have ruled that contracts voted by an LSC are valid. Vallas has spent millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money fighting and losing in court. Here are just a few, all from the past year:

On October 24, 2001, the school board quietly voted to pay a settlement of $261,216 to Steve Newton (and an additional $38,783.21 to his attorney). Vallas had slandered and removed Newton — under police escort! — from the principalship of Marshall High School four years earlier. The same screaming headlines that accompanied Newton’s humiliation at Marshall did not follow the more than $300,000 the school board paid to him because of Vallas’s policies. Also on October 24, 2001, the Chicago Board of Education agreed to pay a settlement of $292,209 to Theodis Leonard, whom Vallas had removed as principal of Paderewski School as part of Vallas’s “probation” policy. Others may follow because of this same problem.

On November 28, 2001, the school board agreed to pay a monetary payment of $80,000 to Beverly Martin, whom Vallas had prevented from taking the position of principal of Gale School five years earlier. During the course of the litigation, the school board paid for three sets of attorneys (for Martin; for the LSC; and for the Board of Education) in a case that cost more than a quarter of a million dollars. On February 26, 2002, Shirley Woodard spoke to the Chicago Board of Education and told the board how she had won a federal lawsuit (and a jury award of $300,000) because Vallas had removed her from the principalship of the South Loop School. Woodard’s comments made the newspapers because she is still not in her principal position and told the board that she is reporting to work every day but not being given duties at the Region 3 office.

And there are others who could be listed.

All of the people involved in the litigations cited here are Black. To my knowledge, all of the people who have been denied contracts under these circumstances have been Black. Everybody who works on any kind of job has hopes of advancement. When you spend time and money preparing for an upgrade, and then have it denied for no reason, it is a bitter pill. One young Black man — Tom Brown — was voted a contract at Taft High School. Vallas would not allow him to have the job. Vallas gave the job to a White man who had not received the votes. Not long after that, the young Black man died. How can all of the Black people who are supporting Vallas support this kind of racism? That’s exactly what you are doing. Recently, some White firefighters in Chicago were awarded damages and positions because it was ruled that they were victims of job discrimination. Vallas not only got away with it, but Black folk from the system are supporting him in his racism. I heard that a Black coach has been escorting him to Black churches.

The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, which claims to be a union representing principals, has maintained complete public silence regarding this Vallas racism and Vallas’ practice of denying Black people their earned principals’ jobs. This sin was recently compounded when the executive board of the association voted to support Vallas for governor and gave his election campaign $5,000. There are a number of Black people on that board. I am herewith calling them out. You know who you are. A lot of other Black people know who you are. For the most part, Vallas singled out black principals to push out of their jobs. More importantly, he refused to allow several to assume their duly-awarded principal contracts. If you voted to support Vallas under these circumstances, or if you have kept quiet while others have, you are a traitor. Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hammer, Martin Luther King, et al must be spinning in their graves at such acts of Uncle Tomism, pathological individualism, and cowardice.

Fortunately, as in the Hanrahan election, rank and file Black people in Chicago have shown that they know who their enemies are despite the Judas goats that attempt to lead them to slaughter for their own selfish reasons.


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