Clout's Cesspool: How Mayor Daley Packs CPS With Patronage While Corporate Chicago Media Look the Other Way

[Editor's Introduction. April 28, 2009. Substance is reprinting the article below as a result of the announcement on April 27, 2009 to some media (not this newspaper or Website) that the administration of Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman had received the resignation of "Chief Administrative Officer" M. Hill Hammock as part of what Huberman's media chief, Monique Bond, characterizes as a kind of efficiency based housecleaning.

April 22, 2009. While Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman decided to created another media event on April 28 by leaking to the Chicago Tribune that he had gotten rid of one top administrator (Hill Hammock) as part of a close examination of the CPS bureaucracy, only a few days before the media fanfare Huberman was sitting less that 25 feet from dozens of patronage and clout-heavy executives during the April meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. As reported over the years by Substance (most recently in "Clout's Cesspool" in the October-November 2008 edition), CPS has been an ever-expanding place for City Hall to hide patronage appointments at the highest levels. Above (center) on April 22 was the newest $100,000-per year executive to join the ranks "behind the railing" during Board meetings. Greg Minniefield returned to the ranks of the highest paid people at CPS with the return of his clout, Michael Scott, now (again) President of the Board of Education. Seated around Minniefield at the most recent school board meeting are others who owe the jobs as much to political clout and patronage as to the need for the job, the title, or the person. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Supposedly, the Huberman administration is going through the executive ranks at CPS and getting rid of what appears to Mr. Huberman to be dead wood. Seven months ago, based on information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act at the end of the 200-7-2008 school year, Substance published the investigative story we called "Clout's Cesspool." The title and headline for the story were prompted by an outburst from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley at his July 2008 press conference announcing that the 2008-2009 CPS budget would not need a tax increase.

As Daley went off script in response to reporters' questions, he told the assembled Chicago press that before he took over the public schools in 1995, the system was a "cesspool." Actually, at the time of Daley's takeover (courtesy of the Amendatory Act of 1995), the CPS administrative bureaucracy had been trimmed to the lowest level in a quarter century. Its expansion since the Daley administration's takeover in 1995 has been done behind a smokescreen of media events proclaiming the "Miracle" of mayoral control.

At a July 23, 2008, City Hall press conference, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (center above, at microphone) told Chicago reporters that the CPS administrative and budget teams had done such a great job that the school board would not have to ask for a tax increase for the 2008-2009 school year. By the end of April 2009, CPS had asked for the resignation of Chief Administrative Officer Marion Hill-Hammock (above right). With Hill-Hammock's resignation, the only member of the CPS team from the above photograph still at work at the present time is Chief Financial Officer Pedro Martinez (second from left). As of the end of January 2009, Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan (above left) had gone to Washington to be Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama. Budget Director Beth Swanson (above, second from right) has been on a leave from CPS. Within eight months after Daley proclaimed the miracle of the 2008-2009 budget, Duncan's successor, Ron Huberman, hosted a press conference to announced that the Board of Education was facing a $475 million "deficit" for the 2009-2010 school year. None of the reporters at Huberman's press conference except Substance even asked how things could have become so different in so short a time as the time between the City Hall event (above) and the Board's deficit proclamation. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Miracle Management Team Daley installed at the school board beginning in 1995 supposedly introduced hard nosed business practices that have completely reformed Chicago's public schools. The opposite is in fact the truth, as the following article, and numerous other reports in Substance, have demonstrated. The public schools of Chicago that have been serving the city's poorest children in the nation's most segregated ghettoes and barrios have been under ruthless attacks since 1995. The number of schools on academic probation is higher today than it was when Mayor Daley took over the schools. And the privatization of much of the school system's work -- from charter schools to hundred million dollar computer payroll systems that don't work -- have burdened the City of Chicago with costs that will be a burden for decades to come. George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance and SubstanceNews, April 28, 2009].

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE "CLOUT'S CESSPOOL" ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON PAGE ONE OF THE PRINT EDITION OF SUBSTANCE IN OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2008. COPYRIGHT 2008, 2009, SUBSTANCE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Permission to reprint or quote from this article is hereby given provided that Substance received full credit as follows: "Reprinted from Substance, October - November 2008. Copyright 2008, 2009 Substance, Inc. and SubstanceNews. Those who utilize this material are asked to contact Substance by e-mail or phone within 24 hours after publication or republication. Csubstance Phone: 773-725-7502.

By George N. Schmidt

From May through August 2008, Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan had claimed for the sixth year in a row that the budget for the Chicago Board of Education had “reduced administration.” During those months, Duncan refused to provide the public with any precise budget information, reducing his claims to talking points and Power Point charts which supposedly showed how “administration” had been reduced by a certain percentage (without providing any numbers; just percentages).

For the sixth year in a row, the claim was not true.

Had Duncan’s annual claims been tabulated and added up, the public would have discovered that Duncan had eliminated virtually all of the school system’s central office staff between 2001 and 2008. Had Duncan been “reducing bureaucracy” at the rate and level he had been claiming in the media since 2002, he would have left behind just enough “bureaucrats” to fill just one floor at the Board of Education’s huge headquarters at 125 S. Clark St.

Instead, every floor in the building (with one exception, which is rented out) is filled with staff from the Duncan administration. While the central and executive functions pack the entire fifth, sixth, and seventh floors, every floor from the first through the 18th is filled with people working every weekday, with many at desks on weekends as well. In addition to the central offices at 125 S. Clark St., — three blocks from Chicago's City Hall — CPS also has a half dozen outposts across the city housing central offices ranging from Sports Administration to In-Service training, all with executives and administrative people hidden from public view. Beyond those central administrative offices, CPS has at least 26 "Area Instructional Offices", each with its own executive and administrative staffs. There are around 18 Areas for elementary schools and six for high schools, plus an "Area" for "Small Schools" and one for "Military Schools." Each Area Office comes with an Area Instructional Officer (AIO) whose annual salary is at least $140,000. Each AIO has his or her own staff of administrative assistance and other aides.

The Miracle Management Hoax at Chicago Public Schools

Yet to read the reports in the Chicago Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune, or to do a fast review of the "news" as it's been presented on television, “administration” has supposedly been shrinking at CPS for the entire 21st Century. Additionally, while public bodies such as the Cook County administration under Todd Stroger and subject to almost daily scrutiny by corporate media reporters for the smallest signs of corruption or patronage, it has now been longer than a decade since anyone in the press except Substance has taken a close look at the expensive jobs and politically connected people working for the third largest public school system in the USA.

Anyone who tried to Google facts about CPS will find a long string of articles which quote Arne Duncan’s talking points. These articles repeat the information provided on the Power Point charts, often delivered first at "Editorial Board Briefings" that set the agenda for what then is served to the public as "news." All present this version of "news" without examining whether anything that was said or presented by Arne Duncan and his growing public relations staff was accurate, let alone true.

The school system’s own budget and expense documents have shown, every year since Arne Duncan took power in July 2001, that Duncan has increased the number of people working for the city’s public schools in top executive and administrative positions. The cost of these people has risen at a greater rate than the cost of teachers. But so far, none of these facts has become “news” in Chicago.

In addition to expanding the number of people in non-teaching executive and administrative positions, Duncan has radically expanded the number of executive and administrative departments within the school system's byzantium organizational structure. Duncan has been able to claim that he “reduces administration” and is “cutting bureaucracy” by narrowing the definition of administration and relying on the fact that most news organizations in Chicago have been reduced to taking stenographic notes of what those in power say.

Under deregulation, anyone can be a 'teacher' and part of the 'instructional budget'

Duncan and his staff have also been widening the definition of “instruction” to include hundreds (perhaps thousands) of bureaucrats who work for the school system but don’t reach regular classes every school day. In part, this is necessary because most of those who have been hired for executive positions at CPS since deregulation and mayoral control began in 1995 are not certified as teachers or administrators under Illinois law. That result of deregulation begins with Arne Duncan himself, who would not be allowed to work as a substitute teacher in any Illinois school district, but because of the mayoral control model in Chicago can serve as "Chief Executive Officer." Duncan and his handlers count on the majority of Chicago’s TV, radio and print reporters to ignore the facts, avoid asking detailed questions, and simply report “news” as quotations (and Power Point visuals) from Arne Duncan and those who support his version of reality.

The CPS '$100,000 Club' reaches an all-time high

August 2008 is the last time CPS publicly made available its detailed “Position Files” in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Substance.

The “Position Files” provided to Substance [see sidebars, “Freedom from Information, Chicago Style” and “Budgets, Budgets, What Is the Budgets?”] for details on these problems. The most recent Position Files available to the public were for the final pay period of the 2007-2008 school year.

As of the deadline for the October-November 2008 issue of Substance, CPS has not provided the Position Files for any pay period during the 2008-2009 school year (FY 2009).

The “Position File” is one of several key budget documents. Others include the Proposed Budget, the Final Budget, and the Comprehensive [audited] Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Position Files tell the public how much each employee of the Chicago Board of Education is scheduled to earn during a particular fiscal year, and how much that individual has been paid as of the date the file is generated.

In a system as large as CPS, Position File is being updated daily. Ultimately, the Position File is part of the data to generate the tax information that every employer is required to provide to state and national income tax locations. Despite the fact that most Illinois school districts now provide this information to the taxpaying public on the Internet and in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, at CPS it is a closely guarded secret. (An even greater secret is the equivalent for Chicago's ever-growing network of publicly funded charter schools. CPS does not require the charter schools to provide the public with the same detailed salary information about employees as CPS compiles, and all charter school budgetary information is included in the CPS budget in an enormous category -- reaching hundreds of millions of dollars annually -- called "contractual and other services".)

Position files tell part of the story. Charter schools allowed to keep pay data secret

Position File no longer tells the entire story of how much CPS is paying to how many people to educate Chicago’s public school children. Because of the massive (and generally secret) expansion of privatized public schools (most of them charter schools and “campuses”), Chicago taxpayers (because of a sleight of hand that has gone unchallenged by public bodies with the power to force change) can learn how much every person working in regular public schools is being paid this year.

The public, however, has been forbidden to see how much taxpayers are paying to the “educational entrepreneurs” (as Duncan fondly calls them) who operate and work in Chicago’s more than 100 charter schools and campuses. This situation is unprecedented. Combined with the “1099 file” (which is supposed to cover all consultants and contractors) and information on contracts, the Position File should provide up-to-date information about how the public’s education dollars are being spent in Chicago.

The '$100,000 Club'

The expansion of highest-paid CPS employees continues According to the Position Files for the end of the 2008 Fiscal Year, the number of individuals being paid more than $100,000 per year had risen to an all-time high in Chicago.

Those whose salaries are at or above $100,000 per year now includes at least 1,208 individuals, according to CPS budget information provided to Substance after long delays in responding to requests under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. This information only includes the basic salary of each individual, and does not include benefits (such as medical insurance) or bonuses (which are being paid to a growing number of CPS executives). For several years, Substance has called this group “The $100,000 Club.”

Of these 1,208 positions paying $100,000 or more by the end of the 2007-2008 school year, a total of 268 positions were in administrative, technical, and executive capacities in the system’s sprawling central and “area” offices.

The rest included virtually all of the school system’s public school principals and the majority of the school system’s assistant principals (whose median salary exceeded $100,000 per year for the first time in FY 2008).

This article examines the quantitative and qualitative changes at the very “top” — the people, starting with Arne Duncan, who actually control the central levers of power in the vast school system. Examining who these people are and what they do has become more and more difficult since Mayor Richard M. Daley was given complete control over the city’s public schools in 1995. At the end of the 2008 Fiscal Year (henceforth, “FY 2008”), a majority of those $100,000 Club individuals were in job titles that did not exist (and performing jobs that hadn’t been needed) when Arne Duncan was appointed “Chief Executive Officer” of the nation’s third largest public school system by Mayor Daley in July 2001.

Deregulations and redefinition


The reasons for this vast expansion of the highest paid jobs in the Chicago Public Schools are varied. A significant one is the historical drive by Mayor Daley and his top aides to redefine and restaff administration in the city’s public school system. These redefinitions and restaffings were made possible by the massive deregulation approved by the Illinois General Assembly in 1995 with the passage of the “Amendatory Act”.

In an era when “deregulation” is under increasing scrutiny — and municipal budgets are under great pressure — the number of political patronage appointees working in these highest paid positions in Chicago’s public schools are at a level unprecedented in the history of the Chicago Board of Education.

Not since the scandal ridden days of the Great Depression has the Chicago Board of Education provided as many patronage jobs at all levels of the schools system. But whereas during the Great Depression, most of the patronage jobs within the city’s public schools were at the lowest levels (such as school custodians), under Mayor Richard M. Daley patronage now extends to the highest paid and most powerful jobs in the school system.

The Board of Education deliberately obfuscates its budget, changes job titles from one year to the next, and refuses to provide the public with either the specifics of particular $100,000-per-year jobs or the details of the backgrounds and resumes of the people who are currently employed in those jobs. For the past ten years, on several occasions, the top administrators of the city’s public schools have told Substance that requests for the job descriptions and resumes of those in those jobs is none of the public’s business. As a result, it has become nearly impossible for anyone outside the system to review these expensive decisions or to evaluate the qualifications of people who are being paid salaries of between $100,000 and $205,000 per year, with enormous powers over the future of Chicago and its children.

Chicago’s form of school deregulation is unique in Illinois. In school districts large and small across Illinois access to the highest paid jobs is strictly limited to those who have been certified and licensed to do certain jobs (from superintendents to financial officers). Since 1995 Chicago has been allowed to hire anyone in some of the most highly paid, sensitive and important jobs in public education.

Deregulation leads to massive patronage in ‘ESP’ executive ranks

Because of the deregulation exclusive to Chicago, at least six of the ten highest paid executives working for CPS have no qualifications to work in public schools systems in any district in Illinois except Chicago. A similar percentage of central office workers may represent political patronage within the system's vast central administrative offices and centers. The Chicago Board of Education has refused for several years to provide Substance with information about the work history, training, certification, and college and university background of its highest-paid executives, refusing to provide this information despite requests under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It is therefore more difficult to analyze on the basis of what work record, training and education, or experience various individuals were placed into positions.

These individuals in the Top Ten who are 'ESPs' are:

Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan

Chief Administrative Officer Hill Hammock

Chief of Staff Bryan Samuels

Chief Attorney Patrick Rocks

Chief Financial Officer Pedro Martinez

Budget Chief Elizabeth Swanson

Chief Information Officer Robert Runcie

Among the more than 250 administrative, technical and executive employees working for $100,000 or more per year for CPS, nearly half are in job titles that did not exist as late as 2002, when Arne Duncan completed his first year as Chicago's 'Chief Executive Officer'. A significant minority are doing jobs for which there is no public job description.

Virtually all of them are working based on credentials which the Board of Education refuses to disclose to the public or even discuss in public.

This installment of Substance’s analysis of “School Reform — Chicago Style” covers only the highest-paid administrative, executive and technical jobs in the system and those who hold them today. It will not include principals and assistant principals who work in the schools or discuss how over a period of 12 years the pay of principals and assistant principals has risen from a bit above the pay of the average teacher to more than double the pay of most of the teachers working in the system’s classrooms.

The majority of members of the “$100,000 Club” have been Chicago public school principals and assistant principals, but a very large number of them are executives in the system’s central and area offices.

Because of the deregulation of the schools under the Daley administration, many of the members of the “$100,000 Club” had no prior experience in education before they were hired by Arne Duncan or (in a few cases) by his predecessor, Paul Vallas.

For these analyses, Substance uses the term “executives” for all administrators and technical employees in this pay category. During the past five years, Arne Duncan has reclassified so many jobs and made so many false claims about reducing what he calls “administration” that it is no longer possible to make the distinction between those who work in “administration” and those working in direct services to children in the schools. A sweeping overhaul of the Board of Education’s job classification systems completed beginning three years ago has changed the job titles of some individuals at the top. These changes have only been noted in Substance.

Three “budgets” keep information from the public

In order for anyone to understand what is going on in CPS personnel finances, at least three ‘budgets’ are needed to review the Chicago Board of Education ‘Budget.’ The budget documents themselves are also questionable. In all, Chicago produces three budget documents in the course of a fiscal year (roughly, between July 1 and June 31). These are First, the “Proposed Budget” (“Proposed Budget”) is circulated prior to the annual budget hearings;

Second, the “Final Budget” (Final Budget) is eventually printed and made available to the public some time after the Board of Education votes to approve the final budget, and;

Third, the “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” (CAFR), is completed by December of the fiscal year just ended, but usually not available to the public until January or later (more than six months after the end of the fiscal year on which it reports).

In addition to the three “budgets” (all of which are eventually available to the public in book form), the Board collates three major forms of budgetary information, each a massive compilation of information which reveal the daily operations of the system. All data for this article come from Board of Education budgetary information, especially the “Position Files” (budget documents which list all employees by annual salary, job title and position number).

Massive confusion in the Board of Education’s computer systems and budgetary management documents, much of it increasing during the past two years, have made it impossible for anyone to say precisely at this time how many people in the Chicago Public Schools are actually being paid more than $100,000 per year.

The reasons for this include erratic labeling of costs for more than 50 individuals in the Board’s own computer systems, the attribution of huge pension and benefits costs to individual lines assigned to individual employees, and the refusal of the Board of Education to disclose the pay of charter school teachers and administrators.

In sum, the number of people being paid by Chicago’s $6 billion annual public schools budget in excess of $100,000 per year is far greater than the 1,208 who are listed in public information acquired by Substance after a lengthy discussion under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). ‘Chief Executive Officer’, ‘Chief Officers’, and ‘Officers’ of an unlimited number of kinds...

No one in Chicago every asked that the city’s school system be divided into ‘Officers’ and enlisted men and women, but almost as soon as Mayor Daley took over the schools, an unprecedented division of labor was imposed. The “CEO” craze had barely begun in 1995, when Republicans joined Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to create the first school system “Chief Executive Officer”. Little known to the rest of the country, the era of the Imperial CEO in urban school systems had begun. As each new job was created (generally in a category that would allow the Board of Education to fill it with an ‘ESP’ with no Illinois teaching or other qualifications), the unprecedented division between ‘Officers’ and the ranks grew.

Prior to July 1995, when the Republican majority in the Illinois House and Senate gave Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley absolute power over the city’s public schools system, Chicago’s schools were administered by individuals holding traditional Illinois certifications and in traditional job titles.

Today, 13 years later, all Illinois school districts except Chicago are run by superintendents.

Chicago is run by a ‘Chief Executive Officer,’ who is assisted by a ‘Chief Education Officer,’ a ‘Chief Administrative Officer,’ a ‘Chief Operations Officer,’ a ‘Chief Purchasing Officer,’ and a host of other 'Officers' — including more than two dozen ‘Area Instructional Officers.’.

The law that created the “Chief Executive Officer” job at the top of the Chicago public school system was called the “Amendatory Act” because it amended the earlier school reform law. But while the School Reform Act of 1988 was a major shift in the direction of democracy in educational governance in Chicago (and later the USA), the Amendatory Act was an unprecedented shift toward dictatorship.

Once the “CEO model” was firmly in place in Chicago, the city’s Board of Education became essentially a rubber stamp for the school system’s “Chief Executive Officer”, who was an appointee of the city’s CEO, Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The massive deregulation and privatization mandated by the Amendatory Act of 1995 also changed both the nature of governance in CPS and the underlying philosophy behind it. Chicago was no longer to be supervised by a “superintendent of schools”. Instead, following the corporate models being imposed on many enterprises in the USA, Chicago’s schools would be governed by a “Chief Executive Officer” (CEO). Chicago’s first CEO was Paul Vallas, who was head of the system for the six years from July 1995 through June 2001. After major differences arose between Vallas and Mayor Daley, Vallas was given a golden parachute (a “consulting” job from CPS at the cost of more than $200,000) and Mayor Daley appointed Arne Duncan as Chicago’s second “Chief Executive Officer.”

But the creation of a “CEO” to run the schools didn’t stop with one job title. The notion that a school system should be divided between “Officers” and others (“enlisted men and women” perhaps?) was permeated through the entire system. By 2008, CPS had more than 40 people whose titles included the word “Officer”. These included “Chief Education Officer,” “Chief Administrative Officer”, and “Chief Officer for New Schools.”

By June 2008, according to the CPS Position Files, CPS had the following officers (this is just a sampling): Chief Executive Officer Arne Starkey Duncan was being paid $183,750 per year.

Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins was being paid $183,750 per year.

Chief Technology Services Officer Robert Runcie was being paid $170,500 per year.

Chief Administrative Officer Marion Hill Hammock was being paid $170,000 per year.

Chief Financial Officer Pedro Martinez was being paid $165,000 per year.

Chief Human Resources Officer Ascencion Juarez was being paid $157,000 per year.

Chief Specialized Services Officer Renee Grant Mitchell was being paid $156,000 per year. [She retired in June 2008].

Chief New Schools Development Officer Joshua Edelman was being paid $145,000 per year.

The Chicago Board of Education’s “Chief Officer for Instruction and School Management”, Flavia Hernandez, was being paid $141,119.68 per year.

The Chicago Board of Education’s “Chief Officer for Instruction and School Management”, Flavia Hernandez, was being paid $141,119.68 per year.

The Chicago Board of Education’s “Chief Officer for Language and Cultural Development”, Diane Zendejas, was being paid $141,000 per year.

And so on. Officers and Chief Officers abounded in CPS, while descriptions of the jobs they were supposed to be doing were nowhere made available to the public, and the qualifications for each of the Officers and Chiefs was, according to CPS, none of the public’s business. [As noted earlier, the response to a FOIA for the curriculum vitae, resume, or work history for the highest paid CPS executives for the past 13 years has been “none of your business”].

Chiefs of Staff for the Chief of Staff who needs a Chief of Staff

Just as in the military upon which much of the CPS administrative structure is based, officers need adjuncts, executive officers, and chiefs of staff.

Another major change, little recognized at the time, in school governance in Chicago came about with the creation of the “CEO” job in 1995. The CEO of the school system was appointed by the mayor. So was the Board of Education (called the “Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees” from 1995 through 1999). But one of the first things the CEO did was appoint a “Chief of Staff” — another job title (like “Officer” and “Chief Officer”) that had not existed in education in Chicago (or in any other school district in the USA) prior to 1995.

In 1995, Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago appointed two political cronies to the top jobs in public education.

Daley’s budget director, Paul Vallas, was made Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools.

Daley’s Chief of Staff, Gery (pronounced “Gary”) Chico became President of the “Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees” (the name that was given to the school board between 1995 and 1999; it is now the “Chicago Board of Education” again).

Neither Vallas nor Chico had any previous executive experience in the private sector.

Vallas had been a political maneuverer in Illinois and Chicago Democratic Party budget activities for more than a decade.

Chico, a lawyer who had little or no courtroom experience, had been a political patronage worker (and, some say, Daley’s patronage chief) for the previous five years.

Nevertheless, once they were in power in the school system, their executive talents were praised repeatedly in the press and by the various public relations outposts of the Daley administration.

Within five years after the appointment of the school system’s first “Chief Executive Officer,” Chicago’s public schools began to witness a proliferation of “Chiefs of Staff.”

By 2008, under Arne Duncan, there were chiefs of staff for the Board of Education, chiefs of staff for the Chief Executive Officer, and a chief of staff for the “Chief Education Officer.” In at least one case, a “Chief of Staff” had his own “Chief of Staff.”

Currently, the second highest paid “Chief of Staff” working for the Chicago Board of Education is the Chief of Staff of the Board of Education. Steven Washington was paid $155,175 for his work during the 2007-2008 school year. But Washington has his own Chief of Staff, as well, so to speak, former Board of Education Chief of Staff Brandi Leigh Sandner, who is being paid only $145,709.37 for her work last year. Presently, Sandner, who worked as Chief of Staff when she was Brandi Turco, is “Deputy Chief of Staff” to the “Chief of Staff” in the officer of the Chicago Board of Education. Neither Sandner (Turco) nor Washington has any classroom experience in Chicago’s public schools.

But if Washington and Sandner are not the highest-paid Chief of Staff persons at CPS, who is? And where did he come from?

That honor goes to “Chief of Staff” Bryan H. Samuels, who was paid a few hundred dollars more than Steven Washington during the 2007-2008 school year as “Chief of Staff” (in the office of the “Chief of Staff”). Samuels reportedly came to CPS (with no education experience) from the State of Illinois, where he had worked for some time. Of course, CPS refuses to provide the public with any information on Mr. Samuels’s qualifications to be “Chief of Staff” so it’s difficult to say.

Like Steven Washington, Bryan Samuels has a “Deputy Chief of Staff.” David Pickens, the “Deputy Chief of Staff” to the “Chief of Staff” in the Office of the Chief of Staff was paid $132,600 last year. The Board of Education has not explained why Mr. Pickens’s work as a “Deputy Chief of Staff” was worth less than the work of Brandi Turco (Sandner) as “Deputy Chief of Staff” to the Board of Education, but Pickens was paid almost $10,000 less as a deputy than Turco.

Principals and SuperPrincipals

Between 1998 and 2008, the average salary of Chicago principals nearly doubled. The average salary of Chicago teachers did not. The reason was that the Vallas administration created a new tier of executives, and worked behind the scenes to make executive salaries commensurate with the new ideology of “Officers” and “Enlisted” people. Many principals began to talk about themselves as “Chief Executive Officers” of their schools. This way of talking may have begun to take a beating as Wall Street and the myth of CEO omnipotence collapsed with the stock markets beginning in September 2008, but education is often far behind the wisdom of other marketplaces.

Prior to the advent of major divisions of labor in public schools in the USA, “principal” was more often an adjective (as in “principal teacher”) instead of a noun. The evolution of the word into a noun (and its current morphing into the equivalent of the “CEO”) is subject for another study.

While the school principal was enhancing both her pay and her self-image, CPS was busily creating a new category of “principal”. For want of a better word, we need to call these individuals “Superprincipals.”

Like “Officers” and “Chiefs of Staff”, Superprincipals are a creation of corporate school reform in the Daley era. Unlike “Officers” and “Chiefs of Staff,” however, Superprincipals as yet don’t have their own special job titles. Basically, a Superprincipal is a principal who is added to a school that already has a principal, or who is left in charge of a “school” that no longe

r exists. There will probably be more Superprincipals in the years ahead (especially as the Duncan administration promotes “Turnaround” as the latest way to repair supposedly broken schools). One such superprincipal is Keith Foley. Foley had been principal of Lane Tech High School, where he was earning around $120,000 two years ago. Suddenly, Arne Duncan announced that the principal of Marshall High School needed a proven mentor, and Foley was dispatched as a Superprincipal to Marshall.

Foley didn’t replace Marshall’s principal. He simply moved in with him. So Marshall High School now has two principals for the price of more than two. In the 2007-2008 school year, Keith Foley was paid $152,155.80. Marshall’s regular principal, Juan Gardner, was paid $118,373. 55.

While some Superprincipals are paid to work inside schools that already have principals, others are paid to run schools that don’t exist. One such Superprincipal is Joann Roberts. Roberts briefly made a name for herself in the e

arly part of the 21st Century by heading up a Board of Education program called “Intervention” (a long ago predecessor to “Turnaround”). Despite the best efforts by some Board of Education media cheerleaders to present both Intervention and Roberts in a favorable light (Catalyst magazine followed Roberts and her crew around breathlessly for a few months until the joke became clear even to them), it quickly became clear to some school system chiefs that Roberts was, to say the least, significantly challenged in a number of areas. For example, when she found out that one of her schools was the “Spartans” she announced that she would show the movie “Spartacus” to raise morale. It wasn’t until it was reported in Substance that “Spartacus” (the Hollywood movie) was not about Sparta (a city state in Greece) but about a slave revolt in Rome (a very different historical entity) that Roberts stopped prattling about her historical knowledge. She quickly added to CPS lore, however, by proclaiming that Collins High School (one of the Intervention schools) could “raise” its scores on the TAP tests (which were the CPS “standard” for high schools at the time) from the 20th percentile in “reading” and “math” to the 75th percentile! She even had banners printed up and put around the schools announcing the goal. When Intervention collapsed and the Board had to cover up many of its cruder patronage corruptions and oddities, CPS officials discovered the Roberts knew too much to be simply dumped. Since 2002, she has been a Superprincipal, often without a school to principal at. During the 2007-2008 school year, for example, Roberts was listed in the CPS Position File as “Principal” of Donoghue Elementary School. Citizens looking for Donoghue in the CPS calendar of regular public schools during the 2007-2008 school year, however, would have been hard pressed to find Donoghue. By then, Donoghue had been given away by CPS to the University of Chicago, where it has been serving as the “University of Chicago Charter School, Donoghue Campus.”

During the 2007-2008 school year, CPS paid Joann Roberts to be “Manager” of Donoghue at an annual salary of $131,025.11. By the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, CPS promised to be expanding the ranks of Superprincipals. In early September 2008, CPS hosted a barbecue at the newly turnarounded Harper High School. During the 2007-2008 school year, Harper had one principal. For the 2008-2009 school year, Harper will have three.

By June 2008, things had changed significantly in the “Office of the Chief Administrative Officer.” The Chief Administrative Officer was now “Marion Hill Hammock” at $175,000 per year salary. The office had seven other people listed at various lower salaries. And David Vitale had gotten a significant raise. The man who had worked for four years for CPS for one dollar a year was listed, in the Position File, at an annual salary of $2,080. Admittedly, that’s a far cry from the $170,000 salary of Hill Hammock. But it’s a raise of nearly 3,000 percent from his previous salary of $1 per year.


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