August 24, 2009
Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman and Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason Watkins today announced a sweeping overhaul aimed at creating a more efficient and performance-oriented structure for management of schools across the city.
Twenty-three Area Instructional Officers (AIO) positions, which formerly provided support for geographic clusters or specific types of schools within CPS, are being eliminated and will be replaced with 22 Chief Area Officer (CAO) positions.
The changes are effective with the upcoming start of the 2009-10 school year.
“We are streamlining the first-line management structure of our school system and instituting strategies that focus on developing leadership and accountability to improve student outcomes,” Huberman said. “This new management focus will enable principals and teachers to focus on the priorities of instructional learning, a strong academic climate and more positive student-teacher relationships which can create better student outcomes for CPS students in schools throughout Chicago.”
In addition to one area for special education, the former AIO offices were reorganized into 15 elementary areas and six high school areas. The elementary areas remain essentially the same with geographic boundaries (albeit with the elimination of two areas), while the high school groupings will be determined by geography and curriculum choice.
The core task of the new CAOs is clear, Huberman said: “Dr. Barbara Eason Watkins and I have set very clear expectations for performance standards and results. The Chief Area Officers will be charged with driving improvement in the schools that comprise their areas and they will be given resources and autonomy with specific expected outcomes,” he said.
“For example, each CAO will meet weekly with senior CPS leadership to review performance measures and help identify strategies for improvement. Once those strategies are identified, CAOs will be tasked to ensure that they are fully communicated and executed at the local school level.”
The District is placing more focus on the CAO to better support school environments to improve student outcomes while reducing the focus on ensuring compliance, compiling log reports and paperwork.
Funds have been shifted from Central Office budgets to the area offices to provide the Chief Area Officers with the available resources and flexibility to target and enhance their school programs. As part of the District’s continuing streamlining and efficiency efforts, some positions were eliminated from the old Area Instructional Offices. A new position – a senior data analyst – is being added to all of the new area offices.
“This analyst will be charged with providing data-driven assistance to each CAO to identify school-by-school opportunities for improvement,” Huberman said, “They will also help run performance management sessions between the CAO and individual schools.”
Overall, the plan is for budgets in area offices to increase, but exact figures are not yet available as the District’s budget has not yet been approved by the Chicago Board of Education.
CPS has been engaged in a rigorous, nationwide search for CAO candidates, he said. At least half of the CAOs have been recruited from within the District and from the ranks for existing AIOs, who had to apply for the new positions. More than 500 candidates applied for the Chief Area Officer positions, he said. Of this number, 60 were interviewed – more than half of them external to Chicago Public Schools.
“The demonstrated interest we saw from candidates applying for these positions is a clear indication that there is no shortage of innovative educators who see an opportunity in what we are trying to do as a District,” Huberman said. “We will continue to analyze what is working and what is not and we will support success but make changes where performance and analysis shows us change is necessary.”
Each of the new CAOs will oversee either a group of elementary or high schools. Autonomously Managed Performance Schools, turnarounds and charter schools will not fall under the Chief Area Officers. A separate CAO will oversee special education schools.
Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 407,000 students in 666 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.