Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CPS reorganization: Brizard to realign 'mini-superintendents'

Do you think this change will help the Chicago Public Schools?
Two months into his new role overseeing Chicago Public Schools, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has begun reorganizing a school system he calls "fragmented."

Brizard will tell Chicago Board of Education members Wednesday that the district will change the structure of its middle managers, whom some in the system call "mini-superintendents."

The number of chief area officers will be pared from 24 to 19, renamed "schools chiefs" and grouped to include all the high school and elementary principals in a region so the chiefs can work to align curriculum.

"That's a big change," said Barbara Radner, director of DePaul University's Center for Urban Education. "Until we fix the fact that eighth-graders are graduating unprepared for high school, we'll continue to have a high dropout rate for high school and kids won't be prepared for college."

Restructuring middle management and central office staff has been a top priority for most new CEOs in Chicago. In fact, the newly dubbed schools chiefs were called area instructional officers before they became chief area officers. But Brizard promises his district remodeling will be different.

"This is not about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic," he said. "It really is a different look. You're not going to see the level of independence in the area as you saw in the past. We're going to create a level of coherence within those areas."

Shortly before he left office, then-interim CEO Terry Mazany had suggested restructuring area officers too. He said area officers each determined their own assessment tests and curricula, leading to a districtwide disconnect that he called chaotic and fractious.

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