Paul Vallas could have settled for a peaceful retirement. After all, the 53-year-old superintendent has earned it, having successfully managed and improved large urban school districts such as Chicago and Philadelphia. Instead, he's taking on his toughest challenge yet, having agreed to lead New Orleans' beleaguered, state-run Recovery School District.

In making the move, Vallas will oversee a school district that was considered one of the worst in the nation even before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the population and wreaked havoc on its schools.

Now the head of Philadelphia's public schools, Vallas will take over as superintendent...

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