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Emanuel Looking Outside Chicago for CPS CEO

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 18, 2011 2:00PM

The Tribune reports today that Mayor-elect Emanuel may be looking outside the city for a new chief executive for the Chicago Public Schools. Emanuel himself has said that finding a new CPS CEO is his top priority (sorry, police with low morale).

Emanuel is looking to bring stability to a position that has seen three men fill the role in the past three years, who can address the major issues facing the school system - balancing a $750 million budget deficit; improving test scores; improve its own morale problems and be able to deftly negotiate a new contract with a teachers union that didn't back any mayoral candidate in the February general election. Emanuel prefers someone with experience in handling any or all of these issues and high on his list is Baltimore City schools CEO Andrés Alonso.

Alonso and Emanuel have similar ideas about reforming troubled school systems. Before Alonso's 2007 arrival in Baltimore, that city's school system was in a state of decay so bad the state of Maryland was poised to take over parts of it. Alonso diverted millions of dollars in education funds from the system's administration offices directly to the schools, slashed the central office staff by a third, closed schools that were failing and replaced ineffective principals, gave principals at other schools more fiscal autonomy, and the dropout rate decreased by fifty percent. Alonso's sweeping reforms for a school district that was graduating less than half of its students was the subject of a detailed New York Times article last December.

Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, told the Tribune that she's skeptical of the schools system under Emanuel, fearing that his reforms will be an escalation of the plans implemented by Mayor Daley — a focus on magnet and charter schools, and selective enrollment — that have effectively led to the re-segregation of the school system.

"Everything that he has said points to his wanting to move even more aggressively into corporate-style school closures and punishing-teacher-type of reforms that haven't been working."

Others on Emanuel's short list, according to the Tribune, are Peter Gorman, superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina; Jerry Weast, retiring school superintendent from Montgomery County, Md.; and John White, a deputy chancellor in charge of talent, labor and innovation for the New York City Department of Education. Educators say Dr. White would be a good fit because of his experience dealing with a large urban school district.

To that list we ask: Why not consider interim CPS CEO Terry Mazany? He does have a background as an educator and, as president and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust (which has donated millions to the school system over the years), Mazany has a good understanding of the problems facing the school system. Mazany is also not treating his interim tag as an excuse to just skate until Emanuel is sworn in. He's been actively searching for a chief education officer — a position that's been vacant since Ron Huberman replaced Arne Duncan as CEO — and reversing many of Huberman's decisions so that the Emanuel Administration has something resembling a tidy school system when Emanuel takes office.