New Chief Education Officer for CPS

A new Chief Education Officer of of Chicago Public Schools was announced on Friday, February 11.  Charles M. Payne, is now in what is called the number two position in CPS, number one being Terry Mazany. Mr. Payne is a professor at the University of Chicago.  He teaches urban education, school reform and race minority relations. He is also the author of "So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools".  The Chief Education Officer position was most recently held by Barbara Eason-Watkins, who left last June to become the superintendent of the Michigan City Indiana public schools. The position has remained vacant since her departure.

Ideally the number one person handles the business end of running CPS, the number two person oversees and directs the academic end of things.  While it is good to see this position filled after months of being vacant, the clock is running out on the Daley administration and positions both one and two will be up for grabs with the swearing in of the next mayor. Payne has said he is on loan form the university and in not interested in the CPS job full time.

Many individuals within the cps system were hoping for an insider to take this position, someone who has been a teacher or principal in a Chicago Public School.  While Payne has years of experience as a university educator, he has never been a teacher nor a principal for younger students.  Mazany responded to this concern by saying he had tried to get an insider to accept the Chief Education Officer position but most were not interested in the temporary aspect of it. 

The duet of Mazany and Payne plan to focus on writing an "educational plan" for the city.  According to Payne the last educational plan was written eight years ago. Payne said Friday, “My job is not to teach. My job is to facilitate writing a plan. What do you need to facilitate that process? You need a broad knowledge of what successful districts are doing across the country, and you need some knowledge of good practice. I think I bring those things.’’

Of his choice to select Payne as his second in command, Mazany said "The Chicago Public Schools has many outstanding professionals. Since I assumed the position of interim CEO, I have been impressed on a daily basis with the commitment and dedication our employees have to educate our more than 400,000 students.  I believe that Charles Payne will strengthen the district’s commitment to teaching excellence and practices in our schools and classrooms that support parents, students, teachers and educational programs.”

Whether or not Charles Payne is capable of providing insight, leadership and direction to CPS does not seem to be in question.  He certainly appears to have the background to write an educational plan for Chicago Public Schools.  What remains to be seen, besides the plan itself, is whether or not the new mayor will feel obligated to follow that plan.