BOARDWATCH: Of course a career that includes working for Kaplan Higher Education and other corporations prepares a guy to become the new CPS 'Chief Communications Officer'

The Board of Education was explaining at its July 23, 2014 meeting how it didn't have the dollars to pay for teachers in the city's real public schools, while parents, teachers, and others who actually read the budget asked why CPS had increased the size of the budget for various bureaucratic departments (while claiming to have "reduced administration). The Board voted at its June 27, 2014 meeting to hire Ron Iori and pay of its new "Chief Communications Officer" $165,000 a year. The Board Report on the hiring doesn't mention Iori's corporate career, or whether his contract includes merit pay.

Just to put Iori's $165,000-per-year annual salary in perspective, when Arne Duncan left for Washington, D.C. in January 2009, the guy who was doing the communications work for CPS (and who followed Arne to D.C.) was Peter Cunningham -- who was being paid $120,000 per year. Since Rahm Emanuel became mayor in May 2011, CPS has been expanding both the size of the bureaucracy and exploding the pay levels of the top bureaucrats.

The new person in charge of CPS messaging, branding, and re-branding is Ron Iori. But a functional question for today is what qualifications you need to become a major public education executive in the third largest school system in the USA in 2014. While one answer is that you come from outside Chicago, and another is that you are vetted by corporate America, there are a few others of interest. Every week CPS has been circulating among its top people a bulletin (being dubbed the bullshitetin) about the CPS hierarchy. And readers will be heartened to learn that the new CPS communications chief officer is all of the above. He even loves cats. Like many of his newly hired colleagues, Iori knows little or nothing about K-12 education, but has an MBA from the University of Chicago. Thus he joins a growing group that might be called the University of Chicago alumni association within the CPS hierarchy. Others with the U of C MBA include security chief Jadine Chou and College and Career aspirational chief Aarti Dhupelia.

An easy prediction is that the new guy in charge of "Communications" will continue the record-breaking streak during which the nation's third largest school system has refused to hold regular press conference, choosing instead to try and sneak its messaging into the city's corporate media through selected leak or by semi-private telephone press briefings.

Here is what CPS published on the guy:

Take Five with Ron Iori: Chief Communications Officer

A recent addition to CPS, Ron brings a plethora of experience to the role of Chief Communications Officer. After earning a Journalism degree from Ohio University, he worked as a reporter and copy editor at the Michigan City Dispatch before returning to his hometown of Cincinnati to work at both the Cincinnati Inquirer and the Cincinnati Post. His focus at the Post was business news, which eventually led him to a 7-year stint with The Wall Street Journal, during which time he also earned his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

After his time on the East Coast, Ron shifted his focus to the business side of journalism, working as an assistant to the publisher of the L.A. Times. His responsibilities included heading up the companys employee communications department, which is what first sparked his interest in public affairs.

He spent a year at a crisis PR firm in L.A., after which he became Director of Media Relations for Allied Signal an aerospace company that manufactures airplane parts. After 3 years, Ron moved to the companys automotive division, which eventually led him to Detroit and a corporate communications career with Ford Motor Company.

Since 2010, Ron has held senior communications roles with H&R Block, Aramark , and Kaplan Higher Education while also establishing his own consulting company.

As Chief Communications Officer for CPS, he oversees the Districts day-to-day relationship with Chicagos media while maintaining a communications strategy that serves the needs of all internal and external stakeholders, including parents, students, staff, and community partners.

Q: What attracted you to a career in the field of education?

Ive always really liked education. Growing up in Cincinnati, I was fortunate to receive a good education, and Ive always appreciated that. My interest in the field began with my alma mater, Ohio University, with which Ive remained strongly connected. My position with Kaplan, as well as some consulting Ive done for Franklin and Marshall College, raised the interest level that much more, making the opportunity with CPS an exciting next step. This is my first foray into primary and secondary education, and I think it will be an interesting bridge from my experiences in higher ed.

Q: What goals to you have for the CPS Communications Department?

I want to continue to build a strong team one that can create and execute a long-term communications strategy that reflects the vision of our CEO and supports the needs of all stakeholders. I also want us to build stronger relationships with schools and other CPS departments so that we can collaborate on sharing the many positive stories happening in our District every day.

Q: What are you passionate about personally?

My family, especially my wife Robin and our two children, Louis and Francesca. Both of my kids are very artistic Louis plays the violin, viola, guitar and bass guitar, and will be starting this fall at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Francesca, 15, is a talented dancer. She studies ballet, jazz, and modern dance, and also loves horseback riding.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to exercise, especially riding my bike and lifting weights. I also read a lot (mostly Shakespeare and Civil War literature) and really enjoy all forms of rock music.

Q: How does being a parent impact your work in education?

I think there are many ways it can be helpful. Practically speaking, its useful in this work to be in tune with kidsto understand what they like, what they wear, what bores them versus what gets them engaged. Being a parent also forces you to keep up with the technology that shapes the world of younger generations. And if youre going to work in the field of education, it helps to just understand the psychology of kids, which as a parent you cant help but try and do.

Quick Facts: Pets: A dog named Sam and a cat named Bugger Favorite Sports Team: University of Kentucky Basketball Favorite Snack Food: Cashews Most Prized Possession: iPod


July 24, 2014 at 1:37 PM

By: Mary Egren


Wow. There's a qualification: "I've always really liked education." It's almost comical.

Also, where will his 15 year old daughter be attending school?

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