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Teacher bashing requires administrators who have never taught... Former Chicago administrators continue to con school boards at great cost... Rick Mills finally bought out in Sarasota, while Pedro Martinez lands in San Antonio after lucrative Nevada stint...

Now that anyone with Internet can at least get a warning that SUPES and the various "executive search" outfits run out of north suburban Wilmette should be avoided, maybe school districts and school board across the USA will stop hiring former Chicago Public Schools executives -- usually those who have never taught a day in Chicago -- as if for some reason "Chicago" is the magic word. Actually, as more and more districts from Minneapolis and Reno to Bradenton have learned the hard way, Chicago administrators are into a nationwide con job, and naive Board of Education members across the USA are still paying for it.

School districts in Minnesota and Florida learned the hard way that former Chicago Public Schools administrator Rick Mills had no teaching credentials and was only a powerful education executive in the nation's third largest school district because of the massive corruption that has resulted from corporate school reform in Chicago since 1995. Above, Mills during his two-year term as superintendent of the Manatee County Florida schools. Word arrived in June 2015 that former CPS executive Rick Mills was finally ejected from Bradenton, Florida, where he had been running the Manatee County schools for two years. Reportedly, Manatee County had to pay Mills $130,000 to get him to leave without an expensive lawsuit. Meanwhile, after surviving for less than a year following scandals in Reno, Nevada, former CPS "Chief Financial Officer" Pedro Martinez has gone to work heading the San Antonio schools.

Neither Mills nor Martinez ever taught a day in Chicago, and the question remains why their careers continued after they left Chicago. And we don't have the answer to that question -- yet -- although this reporters suspects that it is in part because school board rather than do their own executive searches have relied on various "search" firms -- including those affiliated with the now notorious SUPES Academy -- to do the work for them.

Mills should never have been a public school executive in the first place, but his career in Chicago (and then in Minnesota and Florida) was the direct result of corporate "school reform".

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). He began his Chicago career as chief of JROTC in Chicago. After Chicago made it possible for non-educators to become school executives. The shift came when Arne Duncan converted the "Area Instructional Officers" -- basically, the CPS sub-district superintendents -- into what became knows as "Chief Area Officers." With the wave of that magic wand, suddenly, a former City Hall flunky with a business degree (Pedro Martinez) could become an "instructional leader" and Rick Mills the "Chief Area Officer" for the newly created "Military Schools Area." Before he left Chicago, Mills was actually bossing around a group of high school principals.

Mills didn't begin, of course, as a big shot educator, but as part of the massive military expansion that has been part of Chicago's corporate "school reform." 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."

Jennifer Cheatham -- She came to Chicago from California, never taught a day in Chicago, got a six-figure executive job at Chicago Public Schools, burnished her reputation at CPS, and then decamped to take the top job in Madison Wisconsin without even apologizing for having taken a $10,000 "retention bonus" less than a year before she left Chicago. Cheatham was already working in Chicago (as an "Area Officer") when Rahm Emanuel took over, but in July 2011, Cheatham was promoted to "Chief Instruction Officer" at a $20,000 pay raise to $175,000 per year. She was also paid a $10,000 "retention bonus" (since she couldn't be paid a "relocation bonus" because she already lived in Chicago). The Board members passed the Board Report promoting and retaining Cheatham without comment at their July 2011 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Finally, he became an "Area" chief, after that job was redefined so that someone without any teaching experience or education credentials could be put into the job by the Chicago Board of Education. Mills's Chicago career flourished under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and two of Daley's CEOs, so its a good example of how Rahm Emanuel can't be blamed for all the sabotage and teacher bashing going on in the nation's third largest school system.

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.

Mills and Martinez are far from the only Chicago mercenaries spread across the USA as of this writing in June 2015. Jennifer Cheatham -- the name is almost a joke in the context of how she fleeced Chicago -- is another example. Cheatham came to Chicago from California, never taught a day in Chicago, got a six-figure executive job at Chicago Public Schools, burnished her reputation at CPS, and then decamped to take the top job in Madison Wisconsin without even apologizing for having taken a $10,000 "retention bonus" less than a year before she left Chicago.

Cheatham was already working in Chicago (as an "Area Officer") when Rahm Emanuel took over. In July 2011, Cheatham was promoted to "Chief Instruction Officer" with a $20,000 pay raise (to $175,000 per year). Cheatham was also paid a $10,000 "retention bonus" (since she couldn't be paid a "relocation fee" because she already lived in Chicago). The Board members passed the Board Report promoting and retaining Cheatham without comment at their July 2011 meeting. The Board members did not mention whether they demanded a refund when Cheatham left soon afterwards.

Nobody in Madison Wisconsin bothered to check on Cheatham's actual record in Chicago. Apparently, most school boards are currently using "executive search" firms like the SUPES affiliated Synesi group. Many of them basically spread administrators vetted by the Broad Foundation (which produced Barbara Byrd Bennett, among others) across the USA. Between Teach for America and the "Broads", the countries school districts are being overrun with administrators who repeat the same "data driven management" talking points and who in many cases even use variations on the same "principles" of running school districts (Mills produced a Power Point that was a minor variation on the "Five Pillars" of Barbara Byrd Bennett's Chicago). And I guess an additional question is how long people will put up with his stuff...

Another example of the lack of due diligence about administrative hirelings with Chicago roots comes in the recent decision by the school board in San Antonio Texas to hire Pedro Martinez, who came to Chicago Public Schools from City Hall in Chicago and, like so many others, never taught a day in the classrooms of Chicago. And yet in April San Antonio hired Martinez, after his controversial final days in Nevada.

The newspaper in Reno, the Reno Gazette Journal, reported on the latest in the Martinez saga:

Washoe County's former public school superintendent Pedro Martinez will be taking over the San Antonio Independent School District in Texas. The San Antonio School Board hired Martinez as district superintendent in a special meeting on Monday.

"I am honored to have been selected for this position and look forward to bringing my experience with other urban districts in Chicago and Nevada to SAISD," Martinez told the San Antonio community on Monday. "The District has accomplished a great deal over the past several years with improved graduation rates and extensive work to update and improve school facilities, but there is much more to do for SAISD to realize its full potential."

Former Chicago Public Schools budget director (and later "Chief Financial Officer") Pedro Martinez (above right) has managed to get himself hired as an administrator in two states since he left CPS. This has taken place despite the fact that Martinez had no teaching experience or credentials in Chicago and had only the imprimatur of the Broad Foundation when he left town. Above, Martinez arrived from City Hall in 2008, and joined John Maiorca (above right) in the CPS budget department. When Maiorca retired, Martinez was made "Chief Financial Officer." Despite Martinez's complete lack of educator credentials (and some questionable claims about his accounting background, according to critics in Nevada), San Antonio supposedly loves him. "Pedro's qualifications, experience and personal narrative make him exceptionally qualified for this position and we could not be more pleased with this decision," said Board President Ed Garza [as reported in the Reno newspapers last month. "Since first introducing Pedro to the community on April 13, we've received overwhelming support from across the district and the community." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Martinez was up against one other finalist, Scott Muri, deputy superintendent of academics at Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. However, Muri withdrew his application on April 28 after being named the sole finalist for superintendent of another district.

That left Martinez as the only finalist in San Antonio.

The School Board could've taken a step backward and replaced Muri with another finalist from the list of 20 applicants, but it opted to hire Martinez.

"Pedro's qualifications, experience and personal narrative make him exceptionally qualified for this position and we could not be more pleased with this decision," said Board President Ed Garza. "Since first introducing Pedro to the community on April 13, we've received overwhelming support from across the district and the community."

Martinez's salary and contract terms will be decided in a May 11 meeting.

The district is one of 15 serving the San Antonio area and has about 55,000 students, making it somewhat smaller than Washoe's 63,000-student enrollment.

San Antonio marks the second time Martinez has been named a superintendent finalist since his resignation from Washoe. He was one of four finalists for superintendent of Boston Public Schools but was not hired by the school board early this year.

Martinez's superintendency in Washoe lasted only two years, coming from Clark County School District in 2012 where he was deputy superintendent.

His resignation resulted from a public conflict with the Washoe School Board.

In a closed door meeting in July, the Washoe School Board tried to fire Martinez for allegedly falsifying his accounting credentials.

The attempted firing ignited a legal battle in which the district ended up paying Martinez a $700,000 settlement to resign, and the state levied fines against the six board members present in July for breaking Nevada's Open Meeting Law.

Martinez hasn't been without work since leaving the district.

In January, Gov. Brian Sandoval tabbed him as temporary superintendent of the proposed Achievement School District, which would be a state-run system taking over Nevada's worst public schools and putting them in the hands of charter school operators.

Martinez has been working with the Nevada Department of Education to plan the Achievement District and write corresponding legislation. To take over local schools, the Achievement District needs changes to state law granting it such authority.



Comments:

June 10, 2015 at 8:48 PM

By: bob busch

comment

Great story George!!!

September 4, 2015 at 11:29 AM

By: Tom Snyder

Nightmare on Rick Mills Street

Excellent article George. We were so glad to be rid of "Superintendent in Chief" Rick Mills down here in Florida I can't even express it. Of course there were those who defended him because he did help pull us out of a financial crisis but he completely gutted our staff, killed morale, and polarized our community in the process. Oh the stories we could share about our experiences dealing with the Mills regime... He was so bad, we even had a public school go through the very difficult process of converting to a public charter school to protect itself from his all out assault and attempts to raid its fundraising coffers. The tactics he used during that conversion process were absolutely despicable. He was a nightmare! One small correction, it was actually Bradenton (Manatee County), not Sarasota. Sarasota County is south of Manatee County :)

September 22, 2015 at 4:15 PM

By: Rick Mills

clarity on article

For the record:

Minneapolis Public Schools was well aware that I did not have a Superintendent license before I was hired. While I served as CEO at MPS, I earned a Superintendent license from Minnesota for the purpose of being a Superintendent. The recently appointed interim Superintendent of MPS did not have a Superintendent license when appointed.

As far as the charter school conversion at Manatee, that was already in motion before I arrived at Manatee. An application was filed within a short time after my arrival.

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