MEDIA WATCH: 'The system was in free fall' according to Mazany... Tribune reporting that Mazany is breaking with Huberman policies, major criticisms of predecessor

As Chicago school teachers and students woke up for the Pulaski Day holiday and the soon-to-be ending of winter, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that current "interim Chief Executive Officer" Terry Mazany is making a complete break with most of the major policies and initiatives of his predecessor, Ron Huberman.

At his final meeting with the Chicago Board of Education (November 17, 2010, above), Ron Huberman presented a Power Point during which he continued to bash teachers and repeat the talking points he had been trying to utilize since his appointment by Mayor Richard M. Daley 22 months earlier. As usual, Huberman's points included a great deal of teacher bashing based on his so-called "Performance Management" program. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Huberman was appointed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in January 2009 after the former Chicago CEO, Arne Duncan, went to Washington to become U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama. Huberman resigned in November 2010 following the announcement that his lifetime patron, Richard M. Daley, would not run for re-election. Mazany took his seat as "Interim CEO" (appointed by Daley) in December 2010.


to the March 7, 2011, Tribune article, Mazany will roll back the power of the area offices (which had become virtually autonomous school districts under Huberman), decrease reliance on standardized tests, and increase the use of veteran teachers in an attempt to replicate the successes of the school system's magnet schools. Manany present the Chicago Board of Education with a Power Point summary of his objectives at the Board's monthly meeting on February 23, 2011.

By the February 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Terry Mazany was ready to present his approach to the school system with a Power Point which basically repudiated the complex "Performance Management" approach of Ron Huberman. Huberman's "Performance Management", which changed criteria for school success every month or two and which refused to admit the impact of Chicago's brutal racial segregation and child poverty on what takes place in schools and classrooms, was characterized even by some Huberman supporters as a bizarre Rube Goldberg that even Huberman couldn't explain coherently. Only the fact that Chicago's media had eliminated experienced education beat reporters enabled Huberman to get away with the twin numerical lies that undergirded his administration (a huge "deficit" that he was never required out outline; and "Performance Management"). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In the Power Point, Mazany emphasized what he called the need for "global" education in Chicago. Mazany did not respond to criticisms about the fact that the Board of Education meets only monthly, behind a phalanx of security, at a location and time virtually impossible for the average teacher or parent to attend (in part because of the "bankers hours" timing of the Board meetings and in part because of the expense of public transportation or downtown parking).

The following article was posted on line by the Chicago Tribune at 12:01 a.m. March 7, 2011 and is supposed to appear in the print edition that morning. In typical Tribune fashion, the article quotes the chief of the Principals' association and a college professor, but leave out the President of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, all Chicago public school teachers, students, parents, and community activists whose growing protests against Huberman's policies (especially school closings) marked the tumultuous 19 months Huberman had power.

Substance confirmed that Karen Lewis was in town during the time the Tribune was reporting the story (below) and that the Tribune could have interviewed any number of teacher, parents, students, and community activists who would have been easily made available had the Tribune bothered to try and talk to any of them.

Interim CPS chief plans for the long haul but hasn't talked to Rahm Emanuel... CPS chief Terry Mazany doesn't expect to be in charge long, but he's reversing predecessor Ron Huberman and leaving Rahm Emanuel a new education plan (By Joel Hood and Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Tribune reporters, 12:01 a.m. CST, March 7, 2011). /videobeta/cf370355-ea88-4d6c-9fe6-85cb14f7bb33/News/Terry-Mazany-interview

Interim Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany attended his first meeting of the Chicago Board of Education on December 15, 2010 (above) and at the time observed a great deal and presented the Board and public with parts of his credentials and record. At the time, Mazany also postponed the expansion of the city's charter schools (although he approved most of those on the December 15 agenda one month later). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Mazany is advocating for eliminating many of the policies Huberman put into place, a move he says will create a more level playing field across the city and better prepare students for global competition.

Chicago Public Schools chief Terry Mazany will complete his 100th day in office this week, a milestone that has him reflecting on the school district's troubles and promoting a new vision to help fix what he considers the chaotic and fractious reign of his predecessor, Ron Huberman.

"The system was in free fall," Mazany said of the district after Huberman's departure in November. "There was plunging morale. Vacancies in key leadership positions. A balkanized organization structure where each unit was doing their own thing. And there was a loss in a unifying vision for education."

Over the last three months, Mazany said he has worked to repair some of the strained relationships between the central office and its employees and to bring his own "culture of calm" to a district that had seen three top executives in two years.

In contract to Terry Mazany's "instructional core", Ron Huberman's "Performance Management" rendered information (called "data" by Huberman and his supporters) virtually incoherent, as the above "Performance Management" wall chart shows. The chart above is posed on the wall of the 15th floor conference room where "Performance Management" sessions were held to further what Huberman called "Data Driven Management." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Now, with another overhaul of CPS leadership looming, Mazany has completed a new education plan that lays the groundwork for the types of changes he says will put the district back on track — transferring power from far-flung area offices back to the district's headquarters, improving employee morale, holding teachers accountable, closing or consolidating schools with low enrollment, placing a one-year moratorium on new charter schools to free up space for those already succeeding, investing in early childhood education and getting away from testing as the sole measure of a student's intellect.

In other words, Mazany is advocating for eliminating many of the policies Huberman put into place, a move he says will create a more level playing field across the city and better prepare students for global competition.

"There is this fractured focus of everybody pursuing their own definition of what quality schools look like, what instruction looks like, each department doing its own thing," Mazany said. "There were a lot more challenges than I had anticipated."

Mazany said he has not spoken with Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and does not consider himself a candidate to become the schools' chief full time. Emanuel has said he wants the new chief in place by the time he takes office May 16. But Mazany sees an opportunity "to do some good here" before a new administration is put into place. And he is using his education plan as a set of guiding principles to whittle away at a budget deficit now approaching $750 million.

"I'm absolutely convinced this is the right work, the right thing to do," Mazany said. "I would be negligent, and accused of being a caretaker, if I didn't take these steps.

By the time Huberman resigned in November 2010, his "Chief Performance Management Officer" Sarah Kremsner (above center during the November meeting of the Chicago Board of Education) was in charge of a department that was costing more than $20 million and expanding. Like Kremsner herself, the people in the department (and in the area offices who worked as "Performance Management" experts) had no teaching experience in Chicago's public schools and, for the most part, no Illinois teaching or administrative credentials. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. "As we are grappling with how do you decide what $750 million to cut, I would much rather have research on my side. I would much rather have this framework on my side."

But will Emanuel? The new mayor made fixing the school district a central piece to his campaign. But as he builds his transition team to help chart its new course, some educators wonder what Emanuel will make of Mazany's sharp rebuke of CPS policies.

"It would be a good idea for whoever is coming in to have a road map, somewhere to start, because it's a colossal mess right now," said Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals Association. "Right now, CPS is all over the place. It's in a major state of dysfunction."

Barbara Radner, director of DePaul University's Center for Urban Education, said Emanuel would be wise to take the plan seriously.

"I really believe that he has to," Radner said. "Emanuel made key promises, and one of them is to get schools right, so he has to."

Mazany's education plan revolves around a set of core principles: aligning district standards to world-class standards for teaching and learning, ensuring assessment tests match what the students are learning, advocating for principal leadership, promoting teacher development through universities and teacher-education programs, and developing new ways to hold teachers and schools accountable.

Under Huberman, some teachers complained that assessment tests didn't always coincide with lesson plans students had tackled that school year. Some also complained that some schools were testing more than others. Radner said it was as if CPS were operating as "a bunch of school systems" and not one.

Huberman disagreed and said that spreading power to regional officers was the only way to deal with such a massive school district. He credited schools' higher test scores with some of the freedoms given to principals to innovate and make their own choices about curriculum.

"I have great respect for Terry. This is just a philosophical difference of how you manage a school system like the Chicago Public Schools," Huberman said. "In order to drive accountability in the system, we had to empower people and allow them to make decisions.

"In my time as chief, we had to make some really hard decisions, and I stand by the decisions."

By the time Ron Huberman's so-called "Performance Management" program was in place at the beginning of the 2009 - 2010 school year, Substance was exposing both the professional absurdity and the enormous cost of the program. Chicago's other media refused to take a close and critical look at the Rube Goldberg "Performance Management" system, even when it was being used to destroy schools during the 2010 school closing hearings (at which five schools were declared "failing" and turned over the the Academy for Urban School Leadership for "Turnaround"). Substance graphic shows the front page of the September 2009 print edition of Substance.Mazany said he has a few tasks ahead of him before he leaves his position. He plans to meet with Emanuel's transition team to help with budget planning and identifying areas to cut. He's pushing CPS to develop a new technology plan and compiling a list of as many as 30 under-used schools that the next administration should consider closing or consolidating. He is working to re-establish partnerships with universities and teacher colleges that he said were "pushed away" under Huberman.

While he still has a platform to speak out, Mazany also is calling on CPS to follow the success of its magnet schools by investing in more experienced teachers and trying to replicate that model at struggling neighborhood schools. He set a lofty goal of transforming up to 10 schools a year.

"The school system has to serve only one master — the students," Mazany said. "The pace of decisions will only get faster from here on out."


March 8, 2011 at 4:28 AM

By: John Kugler

Chaotic and Fractious

No unifying vision for education as the result of the chaotic and fractious reign of Ron Huberman former CPS CEO. -Mazany

My version of events is a little more direct and corroborated by Huberman's past performance in other departments: he creates chaos to cover up corruption, patronage and cronyism. He left all his CTA buddies in nice paying jobs at CPS and that they are absolutely not qualified for nor is it probably legal to be paying those high priced hacks with educational funding under state school code. Did any of them even go through the proper hiring procedures and Board reports?

Remember Lumpkin!

$154K yr. Chicago public schools job for ex-Daley aide Barbara Lumpkin will serve as deputy CEO for external affairs for the Chicago Public Schools, forging partnerships with the business community to support school programs.

No education credentials or experience! Just a Daley crony hired by Huberman at the expense of firing tenured credentialed teachers.

March 11, 2011 at 4:25 PM

By: The Retired Principal (RP)

CPS Will Close Additional Schools!

Historically CPS have used "under-utilization" as a reason for closing or consolidating schools! CPS has identified 224 schools as utilizing less than 50% of their capacity! From 2001 to 2010, CPS has closed 72 schools, impacting 21,197 students: 83% African-American students, 15% Latino students, 15% of these students have a learning disability and 91% of these students are eligible foe the Free/Reduced Lunch program! CPS will be giving these building closed because of "under-utilization" to charter schools! CPS now have 71 charter schools, with 33,701 students, operated by 31 organizations (no-unions)!

March 16, 2011 at 3:24 PM

By: The Retired Principal (RP)

Timothy Knowles

Timothy Knowles from the University of Chicago will be the next Chief Executive Officer for the Chicago Public Schools!

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 1 =