By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

In preparation for Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas’ departure in August, state education officials took the first step in the transition to new leadership on Monday, as State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek appointed a new liaison to the RSD to handle governance issues.

Patrick Dobard, who serves deputy director of governmental affairs for the state education department, will work with Vallas, whose RSD contract ends in August.

Pastorek wrote in a memo to RSD stakeholders that both Vallas’ and Dobard’s roles will remain the same, with Dobard simply providing additional support.

“Mr. Dobard will be detailed to New Orleans for the next several months as needed,” Pastorek wrote in the memo, which was made public by The Cowen Institute, a New Orleans education think-tank.

Dobard previously served as Pastorek’s confidential assistant, helping Pastorek in 2007 bring in Vallas’ leadership team, and leading efforts to get school facilities back up and running with hot food and clean restrooms immediately after Katrina, Pastorek said.

Pastorek praised Vallas for his work over the past four years as RSD superintendent, saying that Vallas has done “an amazing job at great personal sacrifice for the benefit of New Orleans children.”

Since Vallas’ appointment in 2007, he has had many supporters express sentiments similar to Pastorek’s, as well as many critics who faulted him on everything from lagging RSD test scores to his time spent doing consulting work outside of RSD offices.

In 2010, Vallas announced his first major consulting gig, to do largely pro-bono work with the Inter-American Development Bank to come up with a revitalizing plan for schools in disaster-ridden Haiti. Shortly after Vallas began traveling to Haiti in March, he spent all of his RSD-paid vacation and sick time, and eventually the state began to dock his $7,800 net bimonthly pay. In February, Vallas announced that he was headed to Chile for a $500,000 consulting deal to help turn around low-performing schools. This deal marks the largest paid gig for Vallas during his time as RSD superintendent. Vallas said he received “nominal” fees from his Haiti work, but that he only began receiving these fees in August.

The search for a new RSD superintendent is already underway, and the state hopes to place a successor by April, said Rene Greer, state public affairs director.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...