New Organization Chart for CPS Shows that Educators Are No Longer Welcome in Huberman's Executive Ranks
One of the many major political changes in Chicago revealed in Ron Huberman's 2010 - 2011 proposed budget for Chicago's public schools is that trained professional educators are definitely not welcome in the executive ranks of Chicago's public schools. The unprecedented and radical change in governance amounts to a virtual coup d'etat against professionalism in public education in the city that has been pioneering much of what has become the national model for corporate "school reform."
A few details are necessary for the reader to fully understand what is taking place in Chicago. On Page 314 (print edition) of the Proposed Budget, 2010 - 2011, Huberman, for the first time, provides the public with his organization chart. The chart shows that while claiming a budget "deficit" for the past seven months, the Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's public school system has been adding to the ranks of unqualified outsiders running most key departments — and almost all of the ever-expanding "Area Offices."
In a dramatic shift that even goes beyond what his predecessor, Arne Duncan, tried, Huberman has relegated those with classroom and school-based principal experience in Chicago to the sidelines. Huberman's "Data Driven Management" and "Performance Management" claims — neither of which has been proven in any school system in the USA — are the apparent basis for his policy, allowing those without practical experience or professional training to supervise those who actually do the work.
According to the mythology of "Data Driven Management", anyone who can read the bottom line of a spreadsheet is fit to run a major urban school system — and tell teachers and principals, some with decades of experience, not only what to do but how to do it. And, in the present context, those who are picked for the executive ranks in Chicago's public schools also have the power to declare teachers and principals a failure and reconstitute entire schools, using a process that's been given the corporate name "turnaround."
At the same time, Huberman has been hiring or promoting more than two dozen individuals who would not be permitted to teach — let alone perform administrative duties — in any other public school district in the State of Illinois. Illinois, outside of Chicago, requires that teachers be certified to teach after completing a certain amount of professional training. Illinois, outside of Chicago, also requires that public school administrators hold administrative certificates.
Since the summer of 2009, when he changed the qualifications required for the position of "Area Instructional Officer" (AIO) to "Chief Area Officer" (CAO), Huberman has been filling more of the executive ranks with people who are not trained or certified educators. At the same time, he has been purging certified educators from most of the ranks of central and area offices in the nation's third largest school system.
Ron Huberman himself has never taught a day in his life, and his career has been beholden to his political patron, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. After a brief career as a Chicago police officer, Huberman was promoted by Daley to various positions, most recently (before CPS) to the presidency of the Chicago Transit Authority. During his years in various positions of power, Huberman has surrounded himself with a large number of aides, many of whom he brought with him to the public schools when he was appointed Chief Executive Officer in January 2009 following the appointment of his predecessor, Arne Duncan, to be U.S. Secretary of Education by President Barack Obama.
There has been no public discussion of this change, which can only be characterized as revolutionary. Instead, the seven member Chicago Board of Education, usually without any public discussion, has rubber stamped the Huberman changes. One of the most dramatic came when Huberman, reportedly over the objections of former "Chief Education Officer" Barbara Eason-Watkins, purged certified educators from the area offices, replacing many of them with political appointees or those recommended by outside entities, especially the Broad Foundation.
The change in the job requirements for an "Area Officer" came during the summer of 2009, without public discussion or debate. Reportedly, Huberman's colleague from City Hall and the Chicago Transit Authority, Adrienne Hiegel, drafted new job qualifications for the area officers. The area officers went from being "Area Instructional Officers" (AIOs) to being "Chief Area Officers" (CAOs). Unlike the AIOs, the CAOs were not required to have any educational certification or background in Chicago or Illinois.
The dramatic shift in executive power in the nation's third largest school system, comes as Chicago comes under increasing national scrutiny because the national education policy of the Obama administration — "Race To The Top"— is now being foisted on the entire nation based on the unproven claim that its components "worked" in Chicago. Meanwhile, in Chicago itself the Huberman administration, prodded by Daley, is reversing even the remnants of the old system, replacing it with pure patronage and executive edicts based on what is not even a standard private sector corporate model.
From Districts to Regions — and from District Superintendents to "Region Education Officers"
For as long as written records exist, Chicago's vast public school system, which by the mid-20th Century was the third largest in the USA, has been operated with various levels of authority and responsibility. By the 1980s, the school system had a "General Superintendent" who was assisted by various deputy and assistant superintendents. On a regional basis, the vast city, which stretches for more than 25 miles from northwest to southeast at its edges, was divided into sub-districts. Each sub district was run by a "District Superintendent," the highest level of what might be called middle management. For more than 50 years into the 1980s, according to CPS histories and Board of Education records in the possession of Substance, all teachers, principals, and superintendents had to be certified educators with Illinois teaching and administrative credentials. Even when outsiders were brought into Chicago (for example, Ruth Love in 1980), they had teaching and administrative experience and were eligible to hold the Illinois credential.
By the late 1980s, when the longest teachers' strike in Chicago schools history (19 days in September 1987) prompted calls for a new kind of "school reform," Chicago was subdivided into 23 sub-districts, 20 for elementary schools and three for high schools. Each of the sub-districts was headed by a district superintendent. Each of the district superintendents had been a classroom teacher, principal, and higher level administrator. While there were occasional promotions outside of the traditional lines, because an administrative credential required at least six years classroom teaching and a masters degree, virtually all of the school system's top administrators — like police, military, and other leadership groups — had experience at every level.
In 1989, the first radical decentralization of Chicago's public school system reduced the number of districts to 11 (one high school and ten elementary school) and the corresponding number of district superintendents accordingly.
In 1995, the so-called Amendatory Act (which gave Mayor Richard M. Daley complete power over the city's public schools) ushered in another era of sub-district contraction. The Amendatory Act gave Daley the power to appoint a Chief Executive Officer and the members of the Chicago Board of Education without any additional review. Daley's first Chief Executive Officer, his former budget director Paul Vallas, reduced the number of administrative sub-districts to six. Vallas also renamed those "regions." Each "region" stretched horizontally across the city from Lake Michigan to the city limits. Each was headed by an "REO" (for "Region Education Officer"). Each REO was a veteran educator, certified by the State of Illinois.
Vallas to Duncan, from REOs to AIOs
When Mayor Daley ousted Paul Vallas from the job of "Chief Executive Officer" in July 2001 following the unexpected election of Deborah Lynch as President of the (then) 33,000-member Chicago Teachers Union, Vallas's replacement, Arne Duncan, was, like Vallas, a political appointee who had never taught or been principal of a public school. Within a year, Duncan had abolished the "Regions" (and the "Region Education Officers", or REOs) and replaced them with "Areas" (and "Area Instructional Officers," or AIOs). Like their predecessors, the AIOs had to be trained, experienced, and certified educators and administrators. The AIO structure came under the newly created "Chief Education Officer", who was Barbara Eason-Watkins (a former Chicago principal).
At various times during Duncan's administration, Chicagoans who were paying attention were puzzled by the alphabet soup of bureaucratic titles. Barbara Eason-Watkins was the "Chief Education Officer," while another administrator was dubbed "Chief Instruction Officer". In theory and on the CPS organization charts, the "Chief Education Officer" presided over the "Area Instruction Officers", who were supposed to be overseeing education in the areas.
During the Duncan years, the number of "Areas" and corresponding "Area Instructional Officers" slowly expanded. By 2009, when Duncan left for Washington, D.C., and Mayor Daley appointed Ron Huberman to the post of "Chief Executive Officer," there were (roughly) 20 elementary areas and six high school areas. Each of them was presided over by an "Area Instructional Officer" who had to be a certified school administrator. (The reason I report "roughly" is that CPS changed the number of areas from time to time, also creating areas that didn't have a numerical designation, like what was for a time called the "Military Area Office" and an area office for "Small Schools" — while they were being encouraged with funding from the Gates Foundation).
In addition to the area offices, CPS had expanding departments whose duties seemed to overlap with the area offices. The "high schools" office in the central office grew during the Duncan years, while the administration also created the high school area offices.
The Huberman Model: All veteran educators are ousted
Ron Huberman was appointed CEO of CPS in January 2009. Immediately, he began staffing existing and newly created positions in the executive ranks with cronies from the Chicago Transit Authority and other places he had worked or come into contact with them. Sarah Kremsner, one of Huberman's colleagues from the Transit Authority, suddenly became the school system's "Chief Performance Officer". The "Chief Communications Officer" was Monique Bond, who came to CPS from the Police Department (along with a new "Chief Officer for School Security and Safety," Bond's close friend Michael Shields). A woman named Pat Taylor was appointed "Chief Operations Officer."
The main reorganization, however, was taking place under the radar of public scrutiny. Huberman was redefining the Area Officers so that he could hire people with no training, experience, or credentials in education. By the end of the summer of 2009, the Board of Education had give the nod to the change, and at summer's end in 2009, a new crop of "Chief Area Officers" came into being, most of them without Chicago teaching or administrative experience. Over the next several months, Huberman expanded the areas, appointing as many non-educators as possible into those jobs.
The process was culminated when Barbara Eason-Watkins finally resigned in May 2010. By that time, she had been stripped of her power and had watched many of those who she had promoted stripped of not only their power, but also their jobs. Eason-Watkins was leaving Chicago to become head of the public schools of Michigan City, Indiana, a small school district about an hour east of Chicago. Despite a tear-filled tribute at the May Board of Education meeting, it was clear that Ron Huberman and the members of the Board had forced her out by taking away her power and, in the opinion of many observers, humiliating her.
There has been virtually no coverage in the Chicago media of the restructuring of Chicago school governance under Ron Huberman. In future issues of Substance, both print and on line, that process will be covered in depth.