'NETWORK CHIEFS' have often been outsiders who have no Chicago or Illinois teaching or administrative certification or experience...

Former Chicago "Chief of Schools" Rick Mills has baffled school districts in Minnesota and Florida after he received jobs there in school administration based on his experience in Chicago. Mills, who was hired by Paul G. Vallas to head Chicago's ROTC and military schools programs in 2000, was later moved into a job as a "Chief of Schools" when the Chicago Board of Education ended the credential requirement for these significantly powerful administrative jobs in the nation's third largest school district. Mills's most recent administrative job in Manatee County Florida ended in mid-2015 amid an expensive controversy. Like their predecessors in Minneapolis, the Florida school board members believed that because Mills had been an administrator in Chicago that he had some kind of legitimate education credentials in Illinois or somewhere. Like a number of his colleagues in the top ranks of Chicago's "Networks", Mills had never taught in Chicago or been credentialed to teach or administer schools in Illinois. Only Chicago's unique versions of reality -- and corporate "school reform" -- promoted Mills and dozens like him since the late 1990s. Chicago is the only school district in Illinois that has a group of people whose titles are "Chief of Schools." In Chicago, a "Chief of Schools" is in charge of a "Network." Neither "Chiefs of Schools" or "Networks" exist in any other district in Illinois. The history of the "Networks" is also a history of the evolution of what were once sub-districts from entities requiring certified Illinois educators to a group of individuals whose qualifications were never challenged by the members of the Chicago Board of Education, who routinely approved their employment and powers since the late 1990s, when Paul G. Vallas was the "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago Public Schools.

It seems as if some other school districts in America don't do as much "due diligence" when they select their school leader. Mills left Chicago for Minneapolis five years ago, after serving for a time as head of ROTC and military programs in Chicago, then being elevated to "Chief Area Officer" when the Areas were renamed and the requirement that a "chief" of a Chicago sub-district be a certified educator was quietly dropped. When Mills arrived in Minnesota, it was discovered that he was not a certified educator, and instead of being named superintendent (or CEO) of that state's largest school district, Mills became an assistant superintendent. He later received his Minnesota license to be an administrator via what school officials called an "alternative route" (involving his providing a "portfolio" of his accomplishments). But by then, in 2013, Mills was applying for other school leadership jobs, and he was eventually hired by the Manatee County school board in Florida.

Mills lasted two years in Manatee County. He was pushed out following a series of disagreements, and as he was facing a school board election that had clearly made his regime a central issue. Mills blamed democracy for the problems in Manatee County and left that district in July 2015 after serving two years of a four-year contract there.


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