SUBSCRIPT: Brizard's bureaucrats must be fluent in Ptydepe... The secret is out. To work in the 'new' CPS administration you have to master pdydepe and pass a test on it administered by Jean-Claude Brizard...
We've finally discovered the secret to getting a top level (and highly paid) job in public education in Rahm Emanuel's Chicago in 2011 and 2012. You have to be bilingual — in Ptydepe. Rahm's been looking to get the most highly qualified people to do things for him since he went out of public life for three years and earned, by the sweat of his brow and the callouses on his hands, a mere $18 million on Wall Street as a "Relationship Banker." So now he's brought the same secrets to governing the nation's third largest school system.
Some of us at Substance thought it was a joke when Rahm Emanuel's team made sure that wealthy suburbanite Tim Cawley became "Chief Administrative Officer" of CPS — and then got a residency waiver so he could continue living in Wilmette (where class sizes are 20) while issuing guidelines for "efficient" space utilization in Chicago (where class sizes must be 30 or more).
After all, if Cawley's bureaucratic experience at Motorola and AUSL (the Academy for Urban School Leadership) didn't prepare him for a $215,00-per-year job bossing around teachers and other workers in the nation's third largest school system, what does? It's the old "Do as I say — OR ELSE — not as I do" thing. If Chicago's Arne Duncan can become U.S. Secretary of Education after a career as a second-rate professional basketball player — and Rahm become a multi-millionaire from a brief stint in "Relationship Banking" — for Chicagoans anything's possible.But the mystery was still puzzling us, so we forged onward for the solution. Aside from some droll crony capitalism, what was the secret to a quickie rise in the CPS hierarchy? No sooner had the question been asked than we heard that Alicia Winckler, the erstwhile "Chief Human Capital Officer" of Chicago Public Schools, had morphed into the "Chief Talent Development Officer." What? Same job; same former Sears Holding bureaucrat; "rebranding" she told us it was. "Rebranding," like "turnaround", is one of those things corporate types love. So Cawley went from being a "turnaround" guy to being the Chief Administrative Officer, and Winckler became rebranded as a "Talent" gal? But how did one ace the interview? What were the performance matrices? Still a mystery...
We could barely roll our eyes except to consider that at $205,000 a year Winckler might have been miffed that she was being paid $10,000 a year less than the Wilmette guy, Cawley. By the new standards of the Rahm Emanuel school board, Winckler was underpaid. But, heck, we heard, maybe Cawley scored higher on the Ptydepe test. So "rebrand" she did, with the deftness of a ballerina.
But these were only the beginnings.
It went on, all summer and into the fall of 2011. By July 2011, CPS had created the post of "Chief Officer for Communications" for a young Lane Tech alumna named Becky Carroll at $165,000 per year. That move almost made us long for, of all people, Carroll's predecessor, Monique Bond, whom we thought overpaid at a mere $130,000 per year. Bond at least knew her way around Chicago's schools (and police bars). Becky Carroll didn't hale from Motorola or Sears, like Cawley and Winckler, or grace her resume with the MBA (which seems to be required to be a leader of educaton nowadays in the City of Broad Shoulders), but... It gets better: Becky Carroll had worked in the administration of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and apparently escaped with her political virginity intact. Hence the big bucks job at CPS, even if her Ptydepe skills were underperforming.
By New Year's Day 2012, everyone reading the news knew Becky. Becky Carroll is the one in charge of explaining all that "transparency" that CPS and Rahm prattle about — while making sure that important documents (like, for example, the "Certified Administrators Report" required by Illinois law, which CPS supposedly made public in November 2011) was printed in four point type and sideways. Just to keep all that "transparency" on track Rahm's way. Clearly, Carroll's worth 20 percent more than Monique in Rahm's world.
But for 2011, it was the gift that kept on giving as Chicago continued to expand its administrative ranks.
Take the first "Chief Portfolio Officer" ever hired by an American public school district, Oliver Sicat.
A guy named Oliver Sicat — whose previous job had been running one of those Noble Street charter schools that eliminates the unfit in a sort of rigged "Race to the Top" — suddenly became the "Chief Portfolio Officer" of Chicago Public Schools by vote of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education at its August 24, 2011 meeting. None of the corporate wizards on the Board (graced at the top of the capitalist food chain by billionaire Penny Pritzker) bothered to ask, at least in public, why the nation's third largest school system needs such a thing as a "Chief Portfolio Officer," let alone why Chicago taxpayers should be paying such an entity $162,500 per year in a job that had never existed (and probably never been thought of) before Chicago invented it.
Prior to Sicat's ascension to the highest ranks in American public education, he had distinguished himself by being one of the most shameless self-promoters of the Age of Diversity (before the world re-discovered the difference between the "99 percent" and the "one percent"), but it soon became clear that Sicat was especially skillful at giving good Power Point (even if the proofreading was on the weak side). And Sicat had an Orwellian genius for Ptydepe neologisms. Who else could have declared, with a straight face, that Chicago's public schools had "122,000 underperforming seats," as Sicat did a month after his lucrative job was approved?
By early December 2011, Rahm Emanuel had ordered his Police Department and his Public Schools to assemble for a major publicity stunt at Police Headquarters, where Rahm orchestrated one of those media events he specializes in. On December 13, 2011, Chicago got a preview of its first "CompStatCPS" session. The event was staged specifically for the city's TV reporters, and featured a cast of virtually every police brass hat in Chicago, a half dozen testifying CPS principals, and dozens of rank-and-file cops to fill in the cheap seats.
Front and center at the CPS head table, adjacent to Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer Jean-Clause Brizard, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was the latest talent trolled up by Rahm's team — the new CPS "Chief Officer for Security and Safety," who arguably knew the least about security and safety (and certainly about the gangs plaguing about a hundred CPS schools) of anybody in the room. An MBA may prepare you for Power Point, which was intensely on display during the December 13 media event, but it's disconcerting when the head of security at CPS doesn't even know enough to wince when a principal proclaims that she is the main "gang leader" at a South Side high school facing major gang problems.
But, nevertheless, there she was, at $150,000 per year.
The new CPS "Chief Officer Security and Safety" is a mid-career climber named Jadine Chou. Chou's qualifications for the top cop job at CPS include an MBA from the University of Chicago, a stint at Motorola, the usual diversity cred, and, last but not least, a "Portfolio" job at the Chicago Housing Authority. As we said earlier, while Becky Carroll makes us (almost) long for Monique Bond, Chou definitely reminds us that her predecessor, Michael Shields, at least had some security and law enforcement experience.
Obviously, the two things that will disqualify someone from a top executive position in the Brizard/Emanuel school system are (a) experience in teaching and (b) a knowledge of Chicago's schools and their complexity. The more simple minded, the better, and the more corporate, the best, seems to be the new rule.
So what does all that have to do with the recent death of Vaclav Havel and the real qualification for a CPS administrative job in 2011 and 2012? In order to get a high paid boss job in Chicago's public schools, you have to not only have a corporate mindset, but you have to speak Ptydepe.
One of the supposed qualifications that made Jean-Claude Brizard the fourth "Chief Executive Officer" of America's third largest schools system had nothing to do with the fact that he's much taller than the mayor who made him, or that he actually once taught in public schools (albeit not in Chicago), which is more than could be said for any of his erstwhile predecessors — Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman, and (as an interim) Terry Mazany.
Unreported in the other media, Brizard apparently had a hidden talent that wasn't presented to the public while he was escaping from Rochester New York, to the hisses and boos of the town he had served as schools superintendent for a few years. Brizard is more than bilingual — he is multi-lingual. And his most singular ability, on display virtually every day, is to declaim and exclaim about Chicago's schools in Ptydepe. Forget about proofreading or fact checking the Power Points. The key to Brizard's usefulness (at least for the time being) to Rahm and the ruling class is a sincere attempt at a smile and the ability to babble in Prydepe, — which Brizard shows at every opportunity.
So he was definitely Rahm's guy to vet and approve the rest of what he now refers to as his "team."
Readers who don't yet know what Ptydepe is should review Haval's plays about Stalinist Czechslovakia. For the past couple of years, we had thought that we needed to update Ambrose Bierce's 19th Century classic "Devil's Dictionary" to illuminate what's going on behind those bland platitudes that continually come out of CPS officials, most currently out of Jean-Claude's mouth. But Pdydepe is really the key, so we'll let Ambrose Bierce rest a little while longer.
[Editor's Note: Subscripts apologizes to our readers for our inability to list all of the newly appointed leaders of education in Chicago, especially those whose main qualification is their ability to babble in "MBA" and do Power Point in Ptydepe. The final list stretched to more than 40 people, all being paid more than the highest-paid principals in Chicago, by the end of 2011. But many of them will be on display at the "turnaround" hearings in January and February, and at those performance art events called the monthly meetings of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance will provide an online calendar of the highlights of coming events as soon as we confirm. So we decided to add a special section on them all in our January 2012 print edition. Print subscribers can expect to receive the January 2012 print edition by January 15, 2012. If you are a print subscriber, call if you haven't received it by then. If you aren't a print subscriber, we don't know how you're going to learn how to say "Network" and "Chief of Schools" in Ptydepe, but maybe we'll issue that dictionary later. ]