Education Reform is on the Horizon

By: Ashmar Mandou

Mayor-elect announces major changes in CPS system. During a press conference Monday, Emanuel introduced Jean-Claude Brizard as the new CPS CEO. “I am honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to serve Chicago,” stated Brizard.

Historic education improvements are underway after Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced Jean-Claude Brizard as the new senior leadership for the Chicago Public School system. “Nothing is more important to the city’s future than the education of our children,” said Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. “This is the right team to lead the Chicago Public Schools as the state prepares to offer Chicago the tools we need to succeed.” Emanuel shared the announcement at a news conference on Monday at Kelly High School located on the Southwest Side.

During the news conference Emanuel depicted the new CEO as a ‘results-oriented manager and experienced educator who is able to make tough choices in order to put students first.’ With over 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in New York City, Brizard undertakes major contentions within the CPS system such as, $720 million school budget deficit and a looming battle of contract negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Recently, CTU came to a consensus to support Senate Bill 7, which is a comprehensive education improvement package that establishes performance measurements based on various criteria, including student growth. The legislation is the first step toward building a stronger education system throughout Illinois, according to CTU. Upon the announcement, CTU President Karen Lewis expressed skepticism over Emanuel’s choice of CEO. In a statement sent out to the media, Lewis believes Emanuel’s decision is a ‘failed quick fix’ to solving CPS woes. She adds, ‘Emanuel’s choices are heavily dominated by banking interests and nearly void of any education expertise.’ However, not all shared Lewis’ opinion. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commended Emanuel’s choice of new leadership as the proper step to lead the CPS system and take education reform forward. “Like many school districts, Chicago faces considerable education and budgetary challenges, but the people announced bring tremendous experience, knowledge and commitment to the job,” said Duncan.

Compared to schools in New York City and Houston, Chicago lags in school hours. The Chicago school day is the shortest in the country, according to the Illinois Education Association. Chicago students receive close to 1,000 hours of school per school year, whereas students in New York City attend school for approximately 1,270 hours a year, which means ‘New York students receive about 41 more days of instructional learning time than students in Chicago.’ The Illinois Education Association also stated that by the time a Houston public schools student graduates, he or she will have received nearly three years more instructional time than in Chicago. Emanuel introduced the rest of the CPS team:

Dr. Noemi Donoso, Chief Education Officer
Dr. Noemi Donoso is Director of Denver Public Schools’ Office of School Reform and Innovation. Previously, Dr. Donoso was Chief Academic Officer for the high-performing Camino Nuevo Charter Academy network. Dr. Donoso served as the founding principal of Camino Nuevo’s first middle school. Dr. Donoso holds a Ph.D. in Education Policy and Planning from the University of Southern California, a Master’s from Rutgers University and a Bachelor’s from Mount St. Mary’s College.

Tim Cawley, Chief Operating Officer
Tim Cawley is currently Managing Director for Finance and Administration at the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Cawley joined AUSL after a 30-year business career, holding senior management positions at Fortune 500 companies. Cawley has served as Senior Vice President of Global Logistics and Fulfillment for Motorola’s Integrated Supply Chain, President of SBC/Ameritech International, and Chief Executive Officer for RevellMonogram.

Diana Ferguson, Chief Financial Officer
Diana Ferguson is currently the Chief Financial Officer of Chicago Public Schools. Before becoming CFO, she served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The Folgers Coffee Company, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Merisant Worldwide, Inc. and Chief Financial Officer of Sara Lee Foodservice, a division of Sara Lee. Ferguson holds a B.A. from Yale University and a Master’s degree from Northwestern University.

Andrea Sáenz, Chief of Staff
Andrea Sáenz currently serves as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education in the United States Department of Education (USED). Previously, Sáenz was executive director for the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, where she collaborated with Fortune 500 employers, universities and Chicago Public Schools to increase Latinos’ access to professional and management careers. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from Scripps College and a Master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

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