Brizard named new CEO of Chicago Public Schools

April 18, 2011

Linda Lutton and Natalie Moore

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Updated 12 p.m. April 19, 2011 Jean-Claude Brizard will be the new CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced the selection this morning of the Rochester schools superintendent. Brizard stood beside Emanuel as he made the announcement.

Promising to hit the "reset" button on education in the city, the mayor-elect also announced an entirely new school board—many with ties to education through Chicago’s corporate and civic communities. In addition he named other top members of the schools team, including a chief education officer with a background in charter schools pulled from Denver Public Schools.

"I have a team," said Emanuel. "The problems are of a depth and a scale that you could not just do it with one person—it’s not possible. So I decided I wanted to have a fresh start and hit the reset button on education in the city." (See Extras below for audio of press conference.)

David Vitale will be president of the Board of Education. Jesse Ruiz, current chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, will serve as vice-president.  Additional board members include Penny Pritzker, head of the Pritzker-Traubert Foundation; and Henry Bienen, a professor at Northwestern University; and Andrea Zopp, head of the Chicago Urban League.

Brizard has led the 32,000-student Rochester City School District in Rochester, New York, for just over three years. He pushed a number of reforms there that fall into line with reforms Emanuel supported during his campaign, including an expansion of charter schools, single-sex schools, closing failing schools, and merit pay for teachers. The Rochester City School District highlights improvement in the graduation rate during Brizard’s tenure, and Emanuel cited test score increases there during his announcement at Kelly High School on the city's Southwest Side.

But Brizard has had a rocky relationship with Rochester’s teachers union, which originally supported him for the superintendency. Earlier this year, teachers there slapped Brizard with a no confidence vote.

In Chicago, teachers gave Brizard a cold reception, and blasted the team Emanuel chose to lead the schools, complaining it is top-down and lacks "regular people."

"We hope that his past practice doesn't predict the future," said Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey. "We support education policy that works for everybody--for kids, for parents, for the community, and yes, for the teachers and educational support staff that go to work every day and make the schools work."

A recommendation Brizard made to close schools in Rochester brought parents, teachers, and students out to protest. The elected school board there eventually voted not to implement the closures. In Chicago, with the team announced yesterday surrounding him, Brizard is likely to have more latitude in seeing his ideas through.

Brizard is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which has become a training ground for big-city school superintendents. Before becoming Rochester’s superintendent, Brizard spent 20 years in New York City schools as a science teacher, a principal, a regional superintendent, and eventually as a top administrator overseeing high schools.

Brizard will face trial by fire: Chicago Public Schools face a $720 million budget hole that must be plugged by August at the latest. The district is under the gun to come up with a new way to evaluate its teachers. Chicago has 12 times more students than Rochester.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Education and former CPS chief Arne Duncan commended Emanuel for choosing "a diverse and outstanding team to lead the Chicago Public Schools and take education reform forward." Emanuel said he vetted the Brizard decision with Duncan.

Emanuel named the following indivuduals to leadership positions Monday:
(Source: Rahm Emanuel's transition 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. Previously, Dr. Donoso served as the turn-around principal of two K-8 charter schools in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles and East Harlem, New York. Prior to becoming a principal, Dr. Donoso taught high school English and Advanced Placement History for eight years at Foshay Learning South Los Angeles. Approximately 70 percent of her students went on to become the first in their family to attend four-year universities. 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 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. He began his career with Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer packaged-goods company.

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. Prior to holding that position, she was a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Fels Government Research Service, where she worked on data-driven performance management for Philadelphia public schools and the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation. Sáenz began her career in non-profit leadership at Congreso de Latinos Unidos, where she led an initiative to open the first bilingual one-stop career center in Pennsylvania. 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.

Becky Carroll, Chief Communications Officer

Becky Carroll has directed communications policy for the City’s Housing and Planning and Development Departments and the Mayor’s Press Office. She managed the communications and community outreach strategy for the launch of Mayor’s Daley’s Five-Year Affordable Housing plan and served on the Cabrini Green/Near North Side Redevelopment Plan Task Force. In 2007, Carroll joined President Obama’s campaign as National Director of Women for Obama, where she implemented a national outreach strategy to engage women voters. She spent the last two years in the private sector as Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. She is a graduate of the Chicago Public School system. Carroll holds a Bachelor's in Communications and Political Science from Loyola University. 

Patrick Rocks, General Counsel

Patrick Rocks is the current general counsel to the Chicago Public Schools. Previously, Rocks was First Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago's Department of Law. Rocks earned a Bachelor's at Loyola University and graduated from John Marshall Law School.

Alicia Winckler, Chief Human Capital Officer

Alicia Winckler is the current Chief Human Capital Officer of the Chicago Public Schools. Previously, she served as a senior human resource manager for several major corporations, including Sears Holdings, Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. She holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of South Dakota and a Master's from the University of Colorado at Denver.

Office of the Mayor

Elizabeth Swanson, Deputy Chief of Staff for Education

Elizabeth Swanson is the Executive Director of The Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, which invests in people and programs that enrich the life experiences of Chicago’s children. Prior to joining the Foundation, Swanson led the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Office of Management and Budget under CEO Arne Duncan. Swanson has also served as director of the CPS Office of Extended Learning Opportunities. Swanson has devoted her career to youth development and education reform, working for both local and federal government, as well as a number of non-profit organizations. She holds a Bachelor's from Amherst College and Master's in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. Swanson's two school-aged children attend CPS schools.

Board of Education

David Vitale – Board of Education President

David Vitale served as Chief Administrative Officer of Chicago Public Schools under CEO Arne Duncan. Before joining CPS, Vitale was Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Board of Trade and Vice Chairman and Director of Bank One Corporation. Vitale currently serves as Chairman of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit teacher residency program, and as Executive Chair of Urban Partnership Bank. Vitale's daughter is a CPS student. He holds a Bachelor's from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Jesse Ruiz – Board of Education Vice-President

Jesse Ruiz is Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education and a partner at the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath. Ruiz served as a Commissioner on the Chicago Public Schools Desegregation Monitoring Commission. He is chief legal counsel to the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus and the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation. In early 2011, Ruiz was appointed to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission, which will examine the impact of school finance on educational opportunity.

Henry Bienen – Board Member

Henry Bienen served as President of Northwestern University from 1995 to 2009. Under his leadership, Northwestern grew its research output, academic standing, and facilities. Previously, Bienen served as Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Beinen has been a consultant to the U.S. Department of State. He received his Master's and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and his Bachelor's from Cornell University.

Dr. Mahalia Hines – Board Member

Dr. Mahalia Hines served as a principal in Chicago Public Schools for 17 years. Prior to that, she was a teacher in Chicago Public Schools for over 14 years. Dr. Hines works closely with the Common Ground Foundation, which empowers youth in urban neighborhoods, and continues to share her knowledge and experience as a mentor to new principals. She earned her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois, where she focused on how to prepare teachers for urban education. She also holds a Master's degree from Northeastern University and a Bachelor's degree from Central State University.

Penny Pritzker – Board Member

Penny Pritzker is a businesswoman and education advocate. She chairs the Chicago Public Education Fund which raises venture capital for high-impact investments in Chicago Public Schools. She also co-directs the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation which supports programs for Chicago children in the areas of education, health and fitness, and arts and culture. Pritzker is Chairman of the Board of TransUnion, Chairman/CEO of Pritzker Realty Group as well as chair and co-founder of Vi (formerly Classic Residence by Hyatt), The Parking Spot and Artemis Real Estate Partners. She holds JD and MBA degrees from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in Economics from Harvard University.

Rod Sierra – Board Member

Rod Sierra is Chief Marketing Officer of Johnson Publishing Company, which publishes Ebony and Jet magazines. Sierra has worked as a deputy press secretary to Mayor Daley and as Integrys Energy Group's Vice President for Public Affairs. Sierra is the parent of three CPS students.

Andrea Zopp – Board Member

Andrea Zopp is president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. She has been general counsel for several major corporations, including Sears Holdings Corporation and Exelon. Zopp also served as First Assistant State's Attorney for Cook County. Zopp has been a CPS parent since 1997. Four of her children have graduated from CPS schools. From 2002 to 2004, Zopp served on the Local School Council of Henry R. Clissold Elementary. She holds both a Bachelor's and a JD from Harvard University.