Rick Mills leaves Minnesota for Florida boss gig

Just when Chicago principals were noticing that half the "Chiefs of Schools" they are supposed to bow down to seem to be packing their bags and distributing resumes across the USA, the media begins to bring to Chicago the news of the mercenaries who have already left Chicago before the latest round of Rahm "cuts in bureaucracy" hits them and their cronies. Jennifer Cheatham is now superintendent of Madison, Wisconsin, for those who recall how often she protested that Chicago was her one and only true love.

Rick Mills is now the superintendent of the Manatee County Florida school system, thanks apparently to the leadership qualities gained during his years in Chicago.But the biggest coup d-etat has come from Manatee County Florida, which just made former Chicago military schools chieftain Rick Mills its superintendent. Mills, who evacuated Chicago two years ago for what was supposed to be the number two job in Minneapolis (which he wasn't qualified for; no administrative certification, since, as fans remember, he never taught or was a principal her in Chicago) is now bringing DATA DRIVEN MANAGEMENT to Sarasota and that part of Florida.

Substance hears that Mills utilized his Chicago reputation as a tough guy boss to get the Manatee County job. Apparently, just as he left out some facts when he went to Minneapolis, he's left out a lot about his lurid track records now that he's landed in the land of bikinis and an infinite supply of -- is that "data" or just "date bait"?

Unlike many of the mercenaries who have passed through Chicago's revolving door administrative ranks and then gone on to other towns and school districts across the USA, Mills actually had years to gain his various reputations, first as Paul Vallas's military expansion chieftain, and at the end of his time in Chicago as one of the city's high school "Chief Area Officers."

Substance is looking forward to hearing more of the details from people who had first hand experiences with Mills's Power Point pointednesses.


June 12, 2013 at 7:47 PM

By: Timothy Meegan

Mills -- An 'area wide meeting' with THE COLONEL

We took a school bus to Senn high school for something my principal called an"area wide meeting". Apparently he had quite a reputation. The colonel, as he likes to be called, did not disappoint. His PowerPoints were like faberge eggs, beautifully decorated and ornate on the outside, but hollow and devoid of life on the inside. I remember well his performance management sessions where teachers were encouraged to find coverage for their last class and attend the PM dressed up in their best. Admins and teachers prepped and scrambled and stressed to meet the demands of the colonel. So much time and energy wasted, taken from the kids.

June 12, 2014 at 9:15 PM

By: B H Alcorn


Incredibly, Mills has been able to affect every school in the county with his "divide and conquer" techniques. He moves principals for no reason, Over 200 teachers were "let go" last year at the end of the year and he had to rehire those that were still here in the fall while others moved on to other counties for teaching jobs. They were excllent teachers. Recently, he unloaded on school suport staff, some who had been in the system for over 20 years and told them they were not needed anymore because they didn't have the "right set of skills needed" for their jobs. Control is more important to him than the kids, teachers or anything else in the system. His gestapo tactics have created an aura of fear within the system.He's gone after every person who might be a threat to him and, in some way, tried to ruin their professional careers. He is ruthless but I do believe many are beginning to see who he really is. He needs to go.

June 13, 2014 at 7:48 AM

By: Holly Clouse

Rick Mills

I teach in Manatee County, Florida. I have 34 years of experience. NEVER have I been so demoralized,minimized and ignored as this past year with Mills as much Superintendent. Students are robots and we were to be automatons. If he sends us one more military inspirational you tube video ,I will scream.

He and his minions are wrong, just plain wrong. We teach humans, they don't fit well in boxes.

June 13, 2014 at 8:06 AM

By: Betsy Davis


Mills has been horrible for our community. He lacks major leadership skills. More like a Robot in the army then a leader who knows the students and teachers.

June 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Rick Mills and the Chicago tyrants

Rick Mills was hired fresh out of the Army by former Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Paul G. Vallas and slowly wormed into educational leadership, in a way that is now typical of how Chicago operates (and why the rest of the country should quarantine itself from anyone sporting a "Made In Chicago" educational pedigree. Mills was first assigned the job of expanding -- to the point where it is now the largest in the USA -- Chicago's "military high schools" program. At various times, Mills sported the title "Chief of Military Schools" or "Director of ROTC and military programs."

During that entire time, from the end of Paul Vallas's regime (1995 - 2001) into the middle of the Arne Duncan years (2001 - 2009), Mills, like his sponsors Paul Vallas and Arne Duncan, constructed an "educator" background to is resume where none had ever existed before.

Hence, by the end of the Duncan years, Mills was ready to be assigned as an "educator." The way this trick was done was for Chicago Public Schools to change the job of the sub-district superintendents into new ones, finally ending the requirements that the subordinate "chiefs" in the nation's third largest school system have educational experience and credentials.

That took some time. First the sub-district chiefs were called "Regional Education Officers" (REOs). Then, after Vallas, they became "Area Instructional Officers" (AIOs). The "regions" were rebranded as "areas." Unlike other major school systems, Chicago was in a constant churn of corporate rebranding, the only constant being that all the chiefs were called "officers" following the military and corporate models that Chicago was establishing for the nation.

The key rebranding came when the "Area instructional Officers" (AIOs) became "CAOs" -- "Chief Area Officers." Note that the "Chief" was still there, but that there was no mention of "instruction." The requirements for the job no longer included state administrative certification (which requires teaching experience in Chicago).

Mills suddenly became a "Chief Area Officer." He was not the only "chief" who had never been an Indian (i.e., in the classroom or in a principal's job), but he was the most aggressive. And he was suddenty placed in charge of a large number of the city's high schools, even though he had no -- and is NO -- high school teaching experience or certification.

Then Mills decamped, first to a couple of years in Minnesota. After hiring him, Minneapolis discovered, too late to save itself several hundred thousand dollars, that Rick Mills was ineligible to be a superintendent or sub-superintendent there because of state law. (If that sounds like the same experience Paul G. Vallas eventually came up against in Bridgeport, Connecticut, it was the same; most states still require their school administrators to know something about schools, from the classrooms to the principals' offices...).

Mills then began trying to get out of Minnesota, where he (like Vallas in Connecticut) had hit a dead end.

And then Sarasota came calling, and Mills was able to get the votes necessary to become a schools "chief" in Florida.

His silly "data driven management" and all that nonsense about the "culture" of his "team" is also something that was first done in Chicago. But he also has a tendency to find a certain kind of talent among certain very young but ambitious subalterns. Their ambitions are, of course, perfectly legal, if a bit unseemly.

I have a hunch that he hasn't abandoned that part of his "culture" since arriving at a place where a lot of people can be wearing bikinis instead of parkas. The question is: Why was he hired in the first place?

And I guess an additional question is how long people will put up with his stuff...

May 15, 2015 at 8:06 PM

By: Amelia Davis

Rick Mills Says Goodbye to Manatee County

Hey George! Here's the answer to your question regarding how long people will put up with his stuff ... Rick Mills "retired" from Manatee County Schools this week.

June 10, 2015 at 4:58 AM

By: Scott Woodworth

Rick Mills got six-figure good-bye in FL

It's being reported that former Chicago school official Rick Mills received $130,000 to leave Manatee County (Sarasota).

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