The early resignation of Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman wasn’t exactly shocking, but it has left people speculating about a replacement. Huberman will step down on Nov. 29, well before the end of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s final term. Daley said he plans to quickly appoint an interim replacement for the position.
The CEO’s turnover rate has been too high. Huberman replaced Arne Duncan when Duncan was appointed White House Education Secretary, and now Huberman is stepping down. He is Daley’s go-to guy, his problem solver. The next mayor won’t want one of Daley’s top administrators in the mix.
But hastily appointing a replacement, who will be replaced again by the next mayor, is a poor solution. The schools need a leader with longevity, someone who can finish the initiatives he or she starts. Huberman is unfairly walking away from an open book—some of his initiatives are not fully developed, such as the anti-violence project that pairs students with mentors. While Huberman made changes that helped trim the CPS budget, firing capable teachers and closing schools are decisions a leader with a better background in education wouldn’t make.
Daley should spend the time to find a quality CEO now, rather than appointing a replacement who knows his or her time is limited to the rest of Daley’s term. It would not be fair to CPS students and teachers if progress is stalled while Chicago waits for its next mayor.
An effective search can’t be left to Daley alone, though. The Chicago Teacher’s Union has called for a replacement who has more educational experience than the previous three CEOs but has not presented any candidates. Mayoral candidates in the limelight, like Rahm Emanuel and Danny Davis, could use this as an opportunity to voice their plans for CPS and suggest replacements for the CEO position.
The CEO job involves business skills, but decisions need to be made from the perspective of an educator. Daley should listen to suggestions from the CTU and appoint a new CEO who knows the best of both worlds. If groups want their requests realized, they should present firm demands and concrete candidates to help Daley make the best decision.