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Lightfoot taps former City Clerk del Valle as school board chief to ‘hit the ground running’

Del Valle said Tuesday he has discussed the school board with Lightfoot. But, del Valle insisted that nothing had been finalized.

Miguel del Valle
Then mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle voices opposition to moves to limit teachers’ collective bargaining rights during his 2011 campaign. File Photo.
Rich Hein ~ Sun-Times

Former City Clerk and mayoral challenger Miguel del Valle is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to serve as president of the Chicago Board of Education, City Hall sources said Tuesday.

Last week, the entire school board resigned en masse, setting the stage for Lightfoot to appoint an entirely new board with a heavy emphasis on parents, local school council members and other stakeholders.

The interim board will serve until an elected board is seated. Lightfoot campaigned in support of an elected school board.

But she has asked state Senate President John Cullerton to put a brick on a pending bill creating a 21-member elected board, calling the proposed size and structure so unwieldy, it would be virtually impossible to get anything done.

Del Valle said Tuesday he has discussed the school board with Lightfoot. But, del Valle insisted that nothing had been finalized. And neither he nor mayoral press secretary Anel Ruiz would confirm that del Valle is the new mayor’s choice to lead the Chicago Board of Education through this interim period.

But del Valle said he had no problem with leading a school board that would serve only until an elected board is seated.

”I would feel just fine because I’m a proponent of an elected school board. ... It could be two years. It could be three years. It could be four years. But, we’re going to get an elected school board. It’s going to happen,” said del Valle, who has three grandchildren who attend Chicago Public Schools.

Earlier Tuesday, Lightfoot told the City Club of Chicago that she had chosen a new school board president and that her choice would “need no introduction” to the city.

That’s certainly true of del Valle, 67.

The first Hispanic ever elected to the state Senate and the first to serve as assistant majority leader, Del Valle served as chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee and as co-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Education Funding Reform.

He also served on the Senate Higher Education Committee and was co-founder of the Latino Advisory Council on Higher Education.

Del Valle also sponsored legislation to provide Illinois schools with more higher education teachers, comprehensive health coverage for every child in Illinois and increase funding for advanced placement courses in Illinois high schools.

After being appointed city clerk in 2006 to replace indicted City Clerk Jim Laski, del Valle was elected city clerk in 2007. When then-Mayor Richard M. Daley chose political retirement over a seventh-term, Del Valle ran for mayor himself and finished third in a field of six with 9% of the vote.

Miguel del Valle
Then mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle greets commuters at the Roosevelt Orange, Green and Red Line stop at 22 E. Roosevelt Rd. in 2011. File Photo.
Keith Hale~Sun-Times

In 2013, he was appointed by then Gov. Pat Quinn to the state Student Assistance Commission, where he continues to serve. The commission distributes financial aid to needy Illinois students.

Until an elected board is seated, del Valle said it’s important to have a board in place that will work with Lightfoot to carry out her “vision for what public education in the city of Chicago should look like.”

”There are things that she cares about that need to be addressed now. We cannot wait until we pass legislation and subsequently elect a school board to begin implementing the kinds of things that she feels are needed. That would be wasting time. The mayor wants to hit the ground running,” del Valle said.

And what are the marching orders for the new board?

”The extension of early childhood education. There are kids on waiting lists. That has to be addressed. The development of career and technical education. Some people call it vocational education,” he said.

”Making sure that the resources that are needed to strengthen neighborhood schools are there so that we can then reach a point where all the attention is not just going to selective enrollment schools and resources going to charter schools but also going to the neighborhood schools. Those are top priorities.”