SUBSCRIPT: CAOs do Infomercials for AUSL and other turnaround scams worthy of the Academy Awards

…One of the most Hollywood things about the annual Hit List Productions at Chicago Public Schools is the new inclusion of the lengthy Infomercial for AUSL (Academy for Urban School Leadership) as part of the official “case” made against schools targeted for “turnaround” by the Huberman administration.

Chief Area Officer Geraldine Middleton reads from the Board's script about why Gillespie Elementary School needs to be subjected to "turnaround" under the auspices of the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Ms. Middleton was speaking during the opening "testimony" (no cross examination; no verification of the credentials of the Board's "witnesses" for the prosecution) in the hearing on the turnaround reconstitution of Gillespie Elementary School. The script reading by Middleton and other CAOs during the hearings also runs out the clock, so that there is not enough time to hear from all the witnesses from the schools. At some hearings, more than a dozen people have been left behind without being allowed to speak when the hearing officers abruptly terminate the meetings. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Of course, Ron Huberman is too busy to attend the hearings, blah blah blah. Just ask his publicists at Chicago magazine (the ones who did that “Tough Ex-Cop To Save Public Schools” story last August). Huberman is busy out there in the danger zones helping ghetto schools develop their $60 million “Culture of Calm” and posing with packs of preachers and priests for the latest media events he stages.

But for the 2010 production, Huberman’s underlings do an almost Academy Award job promoting the various fictions put forward by the underlings of Mayor Daley. Take the new “Chief Area Officers.” After Huberman stalwart Adrienne Hiegel earned her $130,000 a year by redefining the "AIO" job into the "CAO" job (CAOs don't need Illinois credentials, the Board decided, so any outsider could be hired to do the dirty work, and many were, from parts far and wide) Chicago had a bunch of commisars posing as educators to police principals and others in scenes almost like those in COMSTAT in that famous third season of The Wire. (Difference? The tyrants in the COMSTAT scenes are actually cops who know policing; Chicago's CAOs know less about Chicago schools than Ron Huberman and the CTA and City Hall gang now in power under out "Tough Ex-Cop).

Anyway... Chicago's CAOs are now doing the nightly Infomercials for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL is the entrepreneurial outfit that’s been doing “turnaround” with the verve — and no evidence of success but a bunch of expensive marketing nonsense — of a Cicero Ave nightlady who plies the world’s oldest trade.

AUSL executives Audrey Donaldson (left writing) and Madeline Miraldi (center, with glasses) carefully monitor each "turnaround" hearing. By the day of the Gillespie hearing, hearing officer Fred Bates was helping AUSL by telling teachers that AUSL does not get rid of virtually all the staff at schools it gets for "turnaround." Left out of the carefully scripted AUSL narrative is the fact, revealed by CEO Ron Huberman in answer to a Substance press conference question on January 19, that every "turnaround" contractor gets more than $1 million additional money during the first year of "turnaround." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Of course, AUSL is making sure it gets its money’s worth, so their actors and actresses are carefully monitored. Every night “turnaround” is on the agenda, at least two observers from AUSL sit in the background taking notes to make sure the CEO reads the script rightly. On February 4, 2010, for example, Audrey Donaldson and Madeline Miraldi, two $100,000 per year AUSL edupreneurs, sat primly in the midst of their latest victims (the parents and teachers of Gillespie school) while CAO (Area 17) Geraldine Middleton read from the script.

Middleton’s script, which ran to three pages and took more than five minutes, did double duty. First, it ate up clock time so that the parents and teachers from Gillespie got less time during the hearing to present the facts. And, as noted, Middleton was doing a lengthy Infomercial for AUSL. Since the hearing officer refuses to answer questions, and the “witnesses” for the Board are not subjected to cross examination, the newly arrived (in Chicago) Middleton couldn’t be asked how she knew all those wonderful things she was reading from the script about AUSL: “At Sherman School of Excellence…” blah blah blah…

According to Middleton, who has reportedly been in Chicago much less than one year and still can’t find her way around much of the city without a GPA, even the most recent victims of AUSL (Bethune, Dulles and Johnson) are doing great this year. How to know? The three schools were destroyed last year, based on the final Hit List prepared by Arne Duncan, and don’t have enough “evidence” about their miraculous AUSL success to get them a passing grade from the average high school teacher.

But you don’t get to be a CAO in Chicago in 2010 without being good at marketing and bad at facts and truth. After all, Mr. Huberman didn’t hire all these out-of-towners with no Illinois administrative experience or credentials at $154,000 per year [for the average CAO as of November 2009; Middleton was offered $160,000 per year in August by Huberman] to be straight with Chicago. Their job is to bully the schools with “Performance Management” nonsense and read carefully from their scripts when ordered to perform hatchet jobs on schools and principals like Gillespie’s… 


February 6, 2010 at 3:17 AM

By: kugler

CAO Prefect Fit w/ HuberTeam

this cao was kicked out of north carolina because her district did not get off of probation. what a joke and now she is the prefect hack criminal to violate state and federal ed laws along with the hubercrazies.

just think about it she "resigned" as superintendent to be an area officer. does not sound like career advancement to me but running away from the boot and she found a home in the corrupt cps administration of the daley kingdom.

Halifax County Superintendent Resigns

The troubled school system is now being run as a partnership between the county and the State Department of Education.

Earlier this year a superior court judge threatened to force a state takeover of the school system, which has been plagued with low student test scores. Instead the state and the school system entered into a partnership to help Halifax County make improvements in its schools.

Middleton, superintendent for the past two years, has accepted a position with the Chicago Public School System, the third largest in the country.

Moore maintains innocence

Charleston school officials asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate after seeing the scores plummet this year as well as a higher- than-average number of student eraser marks on 2007 tests and improbable academic gains among students in 2007. SLED has opened an investigation.

Halifax County schools Superintendent Geraldine Middleton said she wasn't concerned about the investigation at Sanders-Clyde because nothing has been proven. Middleton supervised Moore in Charleston, and Middleton said she hired Moore in North Carolina because of her knowledge of curriculum and instruction. Middleton does not believe Moore was involved in any wrongdoing.

February 11, 2010 at 8:29 AM

By: Susan Ohanian


Substance offers readers across the nation a new Word Watch for school improvement: Chief Area Officers. Give high-priced executives a new title so they don't have to meet credential requirements that travel with old job titles.

As you can see in the Huberman announcement of the CAO appointments, there are several ways to get this job:

1) Claim responsibility for a school's dramatic increase in standardized test scores;

2) Graduate from Broad Foundation Superintendents Academy;

3) Graduate from New Leaders for New Schools Principal Training Program;

4) be retired from the military.

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