Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CTA president to run Chicago Public Schools


CTA president to run Chicago Public Schools
NOT DUNCAN'S PICK | Huberman gets Eason-Watkins to stay as 'partner'

January 26, 2009

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter/fspielman@suntimes.com
Convinced that Chicago public schools need a proven manager at the helm, Mayor Daley today will name CTA President Ron Huberman as schools CEO after convincing bypassed chief education officer Barbara Eason-Watkins to swallow her pride and stay on as Huberman's partner.
A tireless mayoral trouble-shooter with no background in education, Huberman, 37, replaces Arne Duncan, newly-appointed U.S. education secretary.
» Click to enlarge image
Despite having no background in education, CTA President Ron Huberman will replace newly-appointed U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to run the Chicago Public Schools.
(John H. White/Sun-Times)

Before departing for Washington, Duncan recommended Eason-Watkins as his successor to continue the slow, but steady momentum they had built together toward improving test scores and graduation rates, upgrading neighborhood schools and turning around chronically-troubled schools.
Duncan felt so strongly about Eason-Watkins, he recommended her repeatedly -- so often that he was told to back off.
Sources said Daley ignored Duncan's advice because he's convinced Huberman's management experience -- honed at the Chicago Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the CTA and as the mayor's corruption-fighting chief-of-staff --makes him an ideal fit to run the Chicago Public Schools.
Sources said one of Huberman's first tasks will be to take a closer look at safety procedures for team sports in the wake of an outbreak of violence that forced CPS to ban visiting fans from away games. Huberman also plans toconduct a broader review of school security.
To placate Eason-Watkins, sources said top mayoral aides at first approached her about becoming City Colleges chancellor. When she refused the consolation prize, Huberman convinced the popular former principal to stay on as his "equal partner" instead of bolting for Washington.
"Barbara's the key to all of this," said a source familiar with negotiations that ended Monday.
Sources said Huberman's annual salary will be $225,000, roughly $20,000 more than Duncan's. That's because Huberman has decided not take a pension from the Chicago Public Schools and, instead, to buy time and take his CTA pension at a later date.
A mayoral confidante, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that school reform in Chicago picked up steam, only after Daley "broke the mold" of having "recycled educators" run the nation's third-largest school system.
"The mayor so values the educator, he wants that job to be undiluted by administrative work. Those jobs need to be separate," the confidante said.
The Huberman appointment is vintage Daley. The mayor has long believed that "good managers can manage anything" -- even if they don't have a clue about the agencies under their command.
As chief-of-staff, Huberman endeared himself to Daley by cleaning house in the wake of the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals and by installing an elaborate performance accountability system at City Hall patterned after the one pioneered by General Electric Corp.
At the CTA, Huberman has made a series of budget cuts, technology and customer service improvements; survived the threat of "doomsday" fare hikes and service cuts with a new labor deal and a Springfield bailout; and raised fares when expenses rose, tax revenues declined and Gov. Blagojevich ordered free rides for seniors.
Daley has had a progressions of fair-haired boys -- from Forrest Claypool, David Doig and John Harris to Paul Vallas and Bill Abolt -- who have hop-scotched from job-to-job before falling out of favor with the notoriously demanding mayor.
Huberman is the latest fast-rising start to follow that meteoric path. He can only hope he doesn't flame out like most of his predecessors.
Contributing: Rosalind Rossi


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