People’s choice, candidates for CEO

Print More

Local makes good

Patricia Harvey, 53

Current title: superintendent,

St. Paul Public Schools

Size of staff: 6,941

Budget: $509 million

Responsibilities: Since 1999, Harvey has overseen a system of 70 schools and more than 44,000 students.

Previous jobs: Harvey cut her school leadership teeth in Chicago Public Schools. She was an innovative principal of Hefferan Elementary for four years. Then Supt. Argie Johnson made her her executive assistant. When Vallas came in a year later, he appointed Harvey chief accountability officer. She left CPS in 1997 to head up the urban education unit at National Center for Education and the Economy in Washington, D.C.

Approach to improving schools: Harvey’s strategies for running St. Paul schools come right out of a CPS play book. In her first six months, Harvey cleaned house at the central office, created two new positions, chief academic officer and chief accountability officer, and put 11 schools on probation. She recruited Margo Baines, a former CPS accountability colleague, to head St. Paul’s accountability unit. This school year, Harvey has shifted her sights to ending social promotion.

Strengths: Harvey’s housecleaning efforts quickly gained her the respect of business leaders and the general public. Her style is inclusive. To devise plans for boosting tests scores and increasing graduation and attendance rates, Harvey invited over 350 people to participate in 41 focus groups. She set up a call-in survey and invited the public to respond. More than 1,330 people did. “Pat has always been collaborative and open to ideas,” says a former CPS colleague. “She’s a lot more inclusive than [Vallas].”

Harvey has even turned an old weakness into a strength. In Chicago, “she got nervous like everyone else” when visiting the mayor, offered a former colleague. Since then, she’s become politically astute, winning over St. Paul’s mayor, who had been a district critic. Harvey also persuaded voters to approve a $22 million, five-year tax increase. Previously, St. Paul voters rejected two similar proposals.

Weaknesses: Harvey’s honeymoon with teachers is over. She gained their support early on by saying she was one of them. But after Harvey put schools on probation, the rank and file no longer trusts her. Now many are afraid of her. She was also imposing probation on failing schools before improvement plans were fully in place. “Some folks are still waiting to see what the results from all these moves will be,” says Mark Davidson of the University of Minnesota, which analyzes school data for state education officials.

Connections: Harvey was prominent among the advocates of school decentralization in Chicago. Although grassroots groups would still embrace her as a CPS leader, Harvey has no plans to return. “I’ve grown to love St. Paul,” says Harvey. “I’m hungry to do a different set of work than I did in Chicago. I’m not interested in leaving.”

Cozette Buckney, 54

Current title: Chief education officer, Chicago Public Schools

Size of staff: 1,081

Budget: $963 million

Responsibilities: As chief education officer, Buckney is the instructional leader for the entire district. Since she assumed the post in 1997, she has won accolades for recruiting 1,200 teachers to apply for National Board Certification (a year ago, no one applied).

Previous jobs: Buckney began her career with CPS in the classroom. She taught English at Englewood and Austin high schools and was promoted in 1974 to assistant principal at Austin. In 1984, Buckney was named principal of Fuller Elementary; she held the same post at Robinson two years later. She became principal of Jones Metropolitan High in 1989 and was later tapped by central office to head up T.I.M.E, a reengineering project to streamline central office services. In 1995, Buckney became Vallas’ chief of staff and played an instrumental role in alternative schools initiatives, Chicago Academic Standards, and redesigning high schools.

Approach to improving schools: “She is a thoughtful educator who understands that improving teachers and principals’ skills is what helps students succeed academically,” says one school observer. For instance, Buckney supports Leadership Initiative for Transformation (LIFT), a mentoring program for new principals. When she was principal of the old Jones Commercial High, Buckney added college prep courses to the schools’ vocational program.

Strengths: Buckney is good at building good relationships and has earned respect of colleagues in the office and at schools. “Out in the field, people feel they can trust her,” says one colleague. “People in the central office are loyal to her.” Her confident management style allows staffers to voice their opinions and argue with her if they disagree. “I’m a teacher by heart,” says Buckney. “I always ask myself, ‘How does this filter down to the child, how does this support a child’s learning process.’ “

Weaknesses: As Paul Vallas’ right hand, Buckney does not have enough authority. “Vallas’ hand is always on the throttle and on the press releases,” says an observer. “She doesn’t have free rein.” Others say Buckney sometimes sacrifices substance for expedience. “She has such a frenetic nature,” says a CPS colleague. “If you spend an hour with her, you see she juggles a lot. She doesn’t have a lot of time to give a lot of time to a singular issue.” Another critic says her loyalties are misplaced. “It’s her job to give schools support and she’s not doing it,” says a CPS insider.

Connections: Buckney gets along with the mayor, but has built her career on relationships she has forged along the way. “She’s someone who worked hard and came up through the ranks on her own,” says a colleague. As a 32-year veteran, Buckney has solid support among the rank and file at CPS. “I’d like to continue in my present position,” she says, dismissing rumors that she plans to retire this year.

Carlos M. Azcoitia, 50

Current title: Deputy Chief Education Officer, Chicago Public Schools

Size of staff: 140

Budget: $20 million

Responsibilities: Azcoitia oversees the Board of Education’s liaison office which services a variety of constituents: local school councils (LSCs) and the LSC Advisory Board, charter schools, corporate partners and newly created student and family after-school centers. LSC training falls under his control, as does the ombudsman’s office, which boasts homework and violence-prevention hotlines. When an LSC ends up at loggerheads on hiring a principal, it is Azcoitia who recommends an outcome to CEO Paul Vallas.

Previous jobs: Azcoitia, who once taught 7th- and 8th-grades, left the classroom in 1985 to direct a vocational-education support unit in central office. Four years later, he applied to be principal of Spry Elementary in Little Village, just as the first wave of reform swept into the system. “I saw an opportunity for more autonomy, and to head up a school in need,” says Azcoitia, who got the job. At Spry, he forced out deadwood teachers, relieved overcrowding by leasing outside space and established an afternoon preschool. Test scores began to rise. Under Azcoitia, teachers at Spry organized two pioneering small schools. One of them, Telpochcalli (Aztec for “house of youth”), linked its program to the Mexican Fine Arts Museum. At central office, Vallas removed Azcoitia as director of the Office of School Reform for alleged overspending, then brought him back, saying, “Carlos, we’ve made a big mistake.” Azcoitia became director of school and community relations in 1996 and deputy chief education officer in 1997.

Approach to improving schools: “Invigorate the neighborhood schools,” says Azcoitia. “You want to improve achievement, reduce overcrowding and extend instructional time.” Azcoitia looks for innovators: “I want people to come to me and say, ‘I’ve thought of this new initiative, and I want to start it.'” He’s been an avid proponent of both small and charter schools, and he headed the committee that came up with service-learning requirements for high-schoolers.

Strengths: Azcoitia’s underlings applaud his hands-off managerial style. “He trusts you to do your job, and he doesn’t micro-manage,” says Mary Koblas, who directs the ombudsman office. Yet he isn’t afraid to fire those who fall below his expectations. Azcoitia moved to Brooklyn from Cuba at age nine and grew up in Puerto Rico, the son of a restaurateur. “Carlos has a respect for poor people and immigrant people that middle-class leaders don’t always have,” observes John Ayers, executive director of Leadership for Quality Education.

Weaknesses: Azcoitia has detractors at board headquarters. “Some of his colleagues think he’s too much of a politician, too self-promoting,” says Ayers. Another well-placed outside observer says, “Carlos did a pretty good job as principal of Spry, but I can’t see any value-added since then. He’s been pulled into the central office, into a non-power position.”

Connections: As the highest-ranking Hispanic administrator in the Vallas administration, Azcoitia is valued by the Latino community. “He’s very forthcoming, and very well-respected,” says Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who knows Azcoitia from his Spry days. Close family members are making a career with CPS. Wife Diana Hernandez-Azcoitia is principal of Kelvyn Park High School, and a daughter teaches in a CPS middle school.

Blondean Y. Davis, 51

Current title: Chief of Schools and Regions,

Chicago Public Schools

Size of staff: 196

Budget: $173 million

Responsibilities: Davis has been CPS’s chief operating officer since 1995. She oversees the day-to-day management of 601 schools through her immediate staff and seven regional offices. Under her arm are the after-school lighthouse programs, summer school, tutoring initiatives and the new college prep high schools. She makes the final decisions on student suspensions and expulsions. She receives as many as 300 phone calls daily.

Previous jobs: Davis became principal of Gompers Fine Arts Middle School in West Pullman in 1983. She established a band and a chorus, brought in male mentors and organized an annual 8th-grade trip to historically black colleges and universities in Atlanta. Davis was tough, but she was able to admit when she was wrong, says Virgil Zanders, a longtime Gompers local school council member. Ten years later, Davis succeeded Marjorie Branch, her mentor, as superintendent of then-subdistrict 10. She made it a point to visit each of her 49 schools monthly and used her powers to put the flagging West Pullman Elementary on remediation, the first such action under school reform. In 1995 then-Schools Supt. Argie Johnson sought to discipline Davis for alleged malfeasance while she was serving as Gompers’ principal. However, Davis was exonerated after a disciplinary hearing. Vallas promoted her to deputy chief education officer in 1995, and she assumed her present title two years later.

Approach to improving schools: Davis believes in principals as “essential” change agents and she supports them as such. “If I had a situation requiring assistance, I’d call her up right now,” says Joan Crisler, principal of Dixon School in Chatham. Davis takes pride in having helped the board expand academic support to schools, notably this year’s deployment of retired teachers and college students to assist in classrooms at 105 poorly performing schools. Extracurricular activities matter, she says, and regular classes should be pitched at grade level, not below.

Strengths: Davis, the daughter of a diesel mechanic who grew up in Englewood, is a product of the city schools who feels a vested interest in their improvement. An immaculate dresser with a signature bun, she goes about her duties with high expectations: “I’m a perfectionist. I tell my staff that on any given day I expect everyone to be excellent. On most days, we should be superior. You can do this if you pay attention to every detail and take nothing for granted.” Staffers say she inspires them. “I dare not fail because I don’t want to let her down,” says deputy William McGowan. Her calm is legendary. “I’ve never seen Blondean ruffled,” says Lula Ford, former CPS leadership development officer. “I asked her, ‘Don’t you ever sweat?'”

Weaknesses: Davis can seem cool and unapproachable, prompting a nickname: the Ice Queen. One prominent reformer rips Davis for lack of vision: “She looks good and can make a nice little speech, but there’s no there there.” She has a reputation for getting even, which she disputes: “You can’t let what you feel color your next decision.”

Connections: She’s a Daley favorite. “The mayor collects options from her,” says Ald. Patrick O’Connor, chairman of the City Council Education Committee. The city chairperson of the United Negro College Fund, she’s also highly regarded in the African-American community. Chums include State Sen. Emil Jones and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

Arne Duncan, 36

Current title: Deputy Chief of Staff to Paul Vallas

Size of staff: 14

Budget: $76 million

Responsibilities: Duncan is responsible for high school service learning and after-school programs for teens, and pitches in on other operations tasks. He was also charged with classifying magnet schools and magnet programs. “It was so hard for us outsiders to comprehend,” says Dawn Clark Netsch, who sits on the CPS Desegregation Monitoring Commission. Duncan also designed the new magnet clusters, set quality standards for all magnets and tracked the flow of desegregation funds. “This was all a major accomplishment,” says Netsch. “The whole thing was a mess before. No one was sure where the money was going.”

Previous jobs: After graduating Harvard University in 1987, Duncan spent several years playing professional basketball in Austria. In 1992, he founded Ariel Foundation, the philanthropic offspring of Ariel Capital Management and money manager John W. Rogers. Under his leadership, the foundation adopted a class of 40 6th-graders at Shakespeare Elementary, promising to pay college tuition for every student who graduated high school. Thirty-two students stuck it out. In 1998, Duncan was appointed director of CPS magnet schools and was promoted to his current position a year later.

Approach to improving schools: Create new ones, says Duncan, who favors school choice. When he was with Ariel Foundation, he helped create Ariel Community Academy, a small elementary school in impoverished Kenwood/Oakland. “I’d like to see the range of high-quality school options … increase throughout Chicago. I want parents to have three to five strong choices.”

Strengths: Duncan knows how to get things done without making enemies. “He’s like a Pied Piper,” says Rogers, who’s known Duncan since high school. “People want to be around him and work with him. That’s a rare gift.” Admirers say working with and for children comes naturally for Duncan. “When we were kids, he would hang out at his mother’s after-school tutoring program and help her tutor.”

Weaknesses: While no one disputes that Duncan is a hard worker and his heart is in the right place, what hurts him is his youth. Says one central administrator, “He’s a great guy, but he’s green around the collar. As a CEO, he’d need help. In that position, you need a global view of the system, both operational and education, and he doesn’t have that.”

Connections: Education is a family affair for Duncan. His father is a professor at the University of Chicago. His mother founded the Children’s Center in Kenwood/Oakland and has tutored children for over 40 years. His brother teaches in Quaker schools in Philadelphia. His sister, Sarah, is the executive director of Ariel Foundation. His wife, a former physical education teacher at The University of Chicago Lab Schools, is the school’s athletic director. Rogers calls Duncan, along with his own parents and Martin Luther King, one of his personal heroes.

Armando M. Almendarez, 52

Current title: Chief Officer, Office of Language, Cultural & Early Childhood Education, Chicago Public Schools

Size of staff: 310

Budget: $125 million

Responsibilities: Almendarez oversees three major programs. In 1997, he became director of bilingual education, a $50-million program that serves close to 62,000 students. Almendarez made his mark by creating newcomer centers, tracking student progress in bilingual programs and moving them more quickly into English-speaking classes. Last July, Almendarez also took on fine arts and early childhood education.

Previous jobs: His first CPS job more than 20 years ago was a teacher’s aide. “I’ve done just about every type of duty possible,” he says. He taught six years at Pickard Elementary, then served four years as assistant principal at Davis Elementary. In 1990, he became principal of Brighton Park Elementary, then moved to Hedges Elementary three years later. He spent several years as a region office administrator before he was promoted to central office in 1997 to oversee bilingual education.

Approach to improving schools: Careful planning, teamwork and accountability. “Any type of success that I’ve had is because of the people I’ve been able to work with,” he says. So far, twice as many bilingual students are completing the program within three or four years. Preliminary data suggest that these students are performing well—the median growth in reading for students who left bilingual classes in 1999 was 1.4 years, Almendarez says.

Strengths: Almendarez is one of Vallas’ go-to guys, with a reputation for being a creative manager who can take on a challenging task and make it work. For instance, he is combining the new tuition-based preschools, which target middle-class families, with established needs-based preschool programs. “One of the things I like is the follow up and the organization of his department,” said Alphonso Valtierra, principal of Galileo Academy. Principals who worked with Almendarez in Brighton Park remember him as a strong team leader who helped them to pool funds and bring in an integrated math program.

Weaknesses: Traditional bilingual educators accused Almendarez of being a willing accomplice when the board enacted a policy that set limits on the program. The three-year cutoff divided even Hispanic leaders, and Almendarez says he “still has some cuts and bruises” to show for it. Now early childhood advocates are complaining that he is siphoning resources from the state-funded prekindergarten to staff tuition-based preschools. Though most often calm and composed, Almendarez gets “a little flustered” when early childhood meetings get heated, says Laurie LeBreton, a consultant for Parents United for Responsible Education.

Connections: Almendarez is not married and grew up an only child. He sits on the board or advisory board of the Symphony Orchestra, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Mexican Fine Arts Museum. He is a founding member of the Network of Hispanic Administrators.

Forrest Claypool, 43

Current title: VP of management and business development, Netgov.com

Size of staff: 105

Revenue: $4 million

Responsibilities: Claypool creates corporate partnerships for Netgov.com, a government services software firm. Netgov.com’s programs allow municipal agencies to use the Internet to collect parking fines and business license fees, post property auctions and court records and e-mail constituents.

Relevant previous jobs: Claypool served as Mayor Daley’s first chief of staff from 1989 to 1991. In 1993, the Mayor tapped him to take on the unenviable task of overhauling the Chicago Park District. At the time, the district had an operating budget of $300 million and some 8,000 full-time and seasonal workers. Five years later, staff had been cut 25 percent, and private companies were running Soldier’s Field and district-owned parking garages, marinas and golf courses. Park district staffers were then available to develop and run programs at neighborhood parks. Claypool left the park district in 1998 to head the mayor’s re-election campaign staff.

Approach to improving an organization: Like Vallas’ approach to fixing CPS, Claypool focused on cleaning its financial house and sprucing up its image. When he arrived, the agency was dogged by budget shortfalls, public criticism and charges of mismanagement. He opened the lines of communication. “We were up-front about the [reorganization] plan,” he says. It took more than a year to pare down staff, but staff who remained had a stronger sense of the district’s mission, says Gwendolyn LaRoche, park district director of external affairs. “Employees came to understand and respect his goals.”

Strengths: Claypool pulled the district out of red ink by boosting its revenue stream, says former district planner Ed Uhlir. He also made sure the parks focused on better serving its users. “Forrest did a yeoman’s job of turning around a system that didn’t focus on customers’ needs,” says LaRoche. She noted Claypool also created the Chicago Park District University, a training center for park employees to learn how to teach and work with children.

Weaknesses: Claypool had zero tolerance for critics of his reorganization efforts, say park advocates, and he would often overreact to minor criticism. In fact, he wrote personal letters to Friends of the Parks board members decrying the group’s suggestions.

Connections: Claypool has solid political ties that extend beyond City Hall. In 1984, he helped found David Axelrod’s political consulting firm, Axelrod & Assoc., and served as managing partner for five years.

N. Gerry House, 53

Current title: President, CEO, Institute for Student Achievement

Size of staff: 100

Budget: $14 million

Responsibilities: House’s mission is to expand the Institute for Student Achievement, a non-profit youth development program, beyond its base in Lake Success, NY. So far, the Institute is running programs in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Fairfax, Va. More cities will be added this year, House says.

Previous jobs: House was superintendent of Memphis City Schools from 1991 to 1999. Her efforts for reform catapulted her to national attention and won her national awards, including 1999 Superintendent of the Year from the American Association of School Administrators. Memphis is the nation’s 20th largest school district. When House left, close to 120,000 students attended 162 schools, and the district’s operating budgeting was close to $600 million.

During her eight-year tenure, House oversaw sweeping changes. She ordered every school to choose one reform model from more than a dozen provided by such sources as New American Schools, or come up with one of its own.

“The school reform was very successful,” says Bill Todd, a former teacher who also served a term on the school board. Todd estimates nearly 70 percent of the district’s schools complied with House’s order. Those that complied early outperformed those that waited, according to a report released last summer. But Memphis schools on average still perform below national norms. Some principals and teachers were reluctant to participate in House’s reforms because they viewed her as an outsider, says Todd. Previously, she led the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district in North Carolina.

Approach to improving schools: Reducing bureaucracy was a major element of House’s reform strategy, says former assistant Judy Farris. She eliminated many middle management positions and relied, instead, on school principals to keep her informed. She created clusters of a dozen schools and designated one principal as its facilitator. House met every month with the 12 cluster facilitators. “We were undergoing so much change, we wanted principals to learn from each other,” she says.

Strengths: “Her intelligence is her biggest strength,” says Todd. House is also a visionary who could make things happen, he adds. Others cite her ability to take on a task and see it through, often yielding positive results.

Weaknesses: One of House’s strengths, self-sufficiency, at times was a weakness. “She operated a lot on her own,” says Todd, leaving many to wonder what she was up to. Her approach fostered dissent nearly as often as it promoted positive change, says Todd.

Connections: House has no connections to Chicago and says she’s staying put in New York. “I just left a superintendent position; I wouldn’t be interested in coming back.”

Mary Dempsey, 47

Current position: Commissioner,

Chicago Public Library

Size of staff: 1,400

Budget: $80 million

Responsibilities: Since Dempsey was named commissioner in 1994, Chicago Public Library has built 23 new branches and renovated or expanded to three existing facilities. The system now services 2 million library card holders, and the Harold Washington Library, the city’s main branch on State Street, receives more than 6,000 visitors a day.

Previous jobs: Dempsey, an attorney, worked in private practice between 1987 and 1989. During that time, she served as special counsel to the Board of Education and helped implement the 1988 Chicago School Reform Act. Between 1990 and 1993 she was an attorney with powerhouse firm Sidley & Austin, specializing in legislative and governmental affairs.

Approach to improving an organization: Dempsey is credited with scaling up technology in the libraries by purchasing more computers and making the Internet more accessible for staff and library users. “Mary Dempsey is single-handedly responsible for making sure the libraries became a lot more technologically savvy,” says Cathryn Baker, branch manager of the Blackstone Library. “I now have a computer connected to the Internet at the reference desk,” said Baker, “I don’t have to bump someone off a public computer to look something up.”

Strengths: Strong, practical leadership is Dempsey’s trademark. “She has a plan and she follows through,” says Sulzer Regional Library Director Leah Steele. “She’s not all over the map. If anyone could handle the schools it’s Mary Dempsey.”

Weaknesses: While some characterize her leadership as “strong”, others consider it Draconian. “Mary Dempsey has ruled with an iron fist,” says retired Sun-Times reporter Charles Nicodemus, who closely followed Dempsey’s efforts shortly after she was appointed commissioner. “Mary Dempsey is a strong administrator who dictates policy. She’s not known for brooking dissent.” Such inflexibility would not be effective in the larger, more diverse world of CPS, he adds.

Connections: Dempsey was handpicked by Mayor Daley to overhaul the library system. In addition to having the mayor’s ear, Dempsey is well-known in the legal community. She’s on the board of the Chicago Bar Association and is married to attorney Philip Corboy Sr., one of the nation’s top personal injury lawyers.

SHEILA LYNE, 64. President and CEO of Mercy Hospital and Medical Center. From 1991 to 2001, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, where her initiatives included the Office of Violence Prevention, the Office of Lesbian and Gay Health, a citywide asthma prevalence survey and the Big Cities Health Inventory.

JULIA STASCH, 53. Chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley from April 1999 to December 2000. The first woman to hold the job. Formerly at Stein & Company, a real estate services firm, where she moved up the ladder to president and chief operating officer. Also served as chief executive officer for Shorebank Chicago Companies, deputy administrator in the U.S. General Services Administration and a Chicago public high school history teacher.

JOHN ROGERS, 43. Chairman and CEO of Ariel Capital Management, Inc., one of the country’s largest African-American owned money management and mutual fund companies. Created the Ariel Education Initiative in 1989, which organized the Ariel Community Academy in 1996 in response to a small-schools initiative of the Chicago Public Schools. Former board chairman of the Chicago Park District.

ELAINE SCHUSTER, 56. President and CEO since Jan. 1 of the Golden Apple Foundation. A Golden Apple board member since 1991. Formerly, school superintendent of the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Before that, principal of Immaculate Heart of Mary IHM High School, a girls school in Westchester.

THOMAS PAYZANT, 61. School superintendent in Boston since 1995. Previously, U. S. assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education in the Clinton administration and, before that, school superintendent in San Diego. In 1999, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents named him superintendent of the year, and he was one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year, an honor bestowed by the American Association of School Administrators.

NORMAN BOBINS, 58. Board of Education member since 1995. Chairman, president and CEO of LaSalle National Bank. Board chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and commissioner of the Chicago Public Building Commission. Board member of the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies and WTTW-TV, Channel 11.

WILFREDO ORTIZ, 51. Since September 1999, chief officer of high school development for CPS. Formerly, principal of Curie Metropolitan High School and Lowell Elementary School. He has won several awards for his leadership as a principal, including a Mentor Principal award in 1998, and for his efforts in bilingual education.

GENE SAFFOLD, 45. Board of Education member since 1995. Managing director of the Public Finance Division for the Chicago office of Salomon Smith Barney. He is an active member of the Civic Federation of Chicago.

DIANE LAM, 52. School superintendent in Providence, R.I., since 1999. Previously, superintendent in San Antonio, Tex., and Boston. A native of Peru, she was the principal of a bilingual school, directed and advised several Title 7 programs and, as superintendent, restructured the bilingual education programs in Boston, San Antonio and Providence.

RODERICK PAIGE, 60. When suggested for Chicago, he was superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, the country’s fifth largest district. Now he is U.S. Secretary of Education. During his seven-year tenure in Houston, test scores rose dramatically and violence decreased. Previously, he served on the school board there. He has worked as a coach, athletic director and dean at Texas Southern University.

ANTHONY ALVARADO, 58. Chancellor of Instruction, San Diego Public Schools. Formerly, superintendent of District 2 in New York City, where he mounted a staff development program considered one of the best in the country. Also served briefly as chancellor of the New York system.

WARREN CHAPMAN, 53. Education program officer at The Joyce Foundation. An architect of the $50 million Annenberg Challenge program in Chicago. Formerly supervised the Illinois Alliance of Essential Schools at the Illinois State Board of Education. Visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana, where he teaches graduate-level courses on the sociology and social foundations of education.

PHILIP HANSEN, 52. Chief Accountability Officer, CPS. Previously, director of intervention and principal of the Henry R. Clissold Elementary School. Formerly, president of the Beverly Area Planning Association.

CREG WILLIAMS, 40. Since 1998, director of the CPS Education-to-Careers Department, formerly known as the Department of Vocational/Technical Education. Formerly, principal of Oglesby Elementary School. He has established career programs for students in the performing arts, as well as sheriff, police and firefighter training academies to prepare students for careers in public safety.

MARTIN “MIKE” KOLDYKE, 68. Founded Frontenac Company, a venture capital firm in 1971 and retired as an active member in 1993. Founder and trustee of the Golden Apple Foundation. Board chairman of WTTW-TV, Channel 11 and the Chicago School Finance Authority. Board member of the Chicago Public Education Fund and The Chicago Community Trust.

LEON JACKSON, 56. President of Multi-Fac Corporation. Chair of the Chicago Academic Accountability Council. Active in school reform through Chicago United, Leadership for Quality Education and the Chicago Public Education Fund. In the early 1980s, served on the Chicago Board of Education.

DOMINGO TRUJILLO, 55. Region 2 education officer. Formerly, principal of Eli Whitney Elementary School. Also, previously served as the Instructional Cadre Principal/Support Manager of Project CANAL in CPS’ Department of Equal Educational Opportunity Programs.

HAZEL STEWARD, 62. Region 3 education officer. Recognized last year by CPS and the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association as an outstanding leader. Formerly, principal of Tilden High School, where she led clothing drives, established a gifted program and addressed truancy by posting the pictures of truant students on a bulletin board. She plans to retire within the year.

SHERYE GARMONY-MILLER, 57. Region 6 education officer. Formerly, principal of Gregory Elementary School. A member of advisory boards for several education institutions, including the Center for Urban Research and Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the DePaul University School of Education and the Principals’ Center at UIC. She plans to retire at the end of the year.

FRED NEWMANN, 64. Professor emeritus of curriculum and instruction, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Former director of the National Center on Effective Secondary Schools and of the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.

ARTHUR L. BERMAN, 65. For 22 years a state senator representing the northeast section of the city and nearby suburbs. Before that, a state representative. Longtime chair of the Senate Education Committee and a chief sponsor of the Chicago School Reform Act of 1988. A lawyer, he now serves as CPS director of labor mediation services.

Paul Vallas, 47

Current title: CEO, Chicago Public Schools

Size of staff: 43,000

Budget: $4 billion

Administrative background: In 1985 Vallas was named director of the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission, the budget arm of the state legislature. He became City of Chicago budget director in 1990, where he was known for his accessibility to aldermen. By the time he left for CPS in 1995, he oversaw a department of 68 employees with a $2.5 million annual budget. (He also ministered an annual city budget of $3.5 billion.)

Management style: Vallas conducts a staff meeting of his cabinet once a week, normally on Tuesday mornings. He also huddles regularly with individual departments. “I follow the mayor’s model,” says Vallas. “You make the decisions, but make sure they’re the right ones.” Yet he is in constant touch with his subordinates—Blondean Davis, chief of schools and regions, speaks with him 15 times a day—and he never forgets to pass on his jottings from small notebooks he carries with him to school visits. He motivates staffers with a sense of urgency. “Everything has this moral imperative about it, that we have to do this or that for the children and the city,” says Chief Education Officer Cozette Buckney. He also exhibits a nasty temper, “but he lets it go afterwards,” says Sue Gamm, chief of specialized services. “He doesn’t let it linger at a person.” When Vallas believes a staffer is not cut out for his or her job, he eases them out.

Strengths: Along with Board of Education President Gery Chico, Vallas has put a firm, unprecedented stamp on the system, intervening at poorly performing high schools, keeping peace with unions and undertaking a multi-billion dollar school renovation program. He’s been rewarded with improved test scores and renewed public confidence. One Vallas illustration: CPS is holding on to more top-performing 8th-graders, who tend to leave CPS for private or parochial high schools.

Vallas has raised expectations, says Fred Hess, director of the Center for Urban School Policy at Northwestern University. “The culture here for 20 years was that poor and minority kids just couldn’t learn. Paul rejected that. He expects our kids to do better, and now if kids fail to learn, it’s presumed they aren’t getting a good education. That’s a big change.” Vallas is unusually accessible to the public. In December, for instance, he stolidly fielded parent questions and complaints for 2 1/2 hours at Southside College Prep. “Was I combative?” he says. “Yes, but when I left, people felt good about my having been there.”

Weaknesses: Vallas’ critics, particularly reform groups PURE and Designs for Change, bash him for flunking students en masse, which studies have shown leaves students worse off academically and emotionally down the road. Vallas hasn’t invited the reform groups inside the tent. Vallas “just doesn’t like dissent or disagreement,” says PURE Executive Director Julie Woestehoff. “He’s repressive.” As an administrator, he’s faulted for being a bottleneck, the one and only go-to guy. He also can be rash, as, for instance, in last year’s broad hints at removing a beloved Morgan Park High School language teacher for mishandling a student’s return from Spain. “I might have waited a day,” he says, “but if you don’t threaten to fire somebody you don’t get answers.” Even subordinates say he loves the press too much. “It’s my responsibility to communicate what we’re about,” counters Vallas. “I don’t need a spokesman. If there’s an issue, I’ll deal with it and give you the facts.”

Connections: Vallas still basks in Mayor Daley’s favor, despite his submitting his resume to President-elect George W. Bush for consideration as U.S. Secretary of Education. “But I don’t operate with a contract,” he says. “I’m here as long as the mayor wants me. I work from year to year. Come June, we’ll see if I re-up.” The CEO says he and Chico have gotten better at working in tandem. “Our egos are well controlled,” he says. “We close ranks on critical decisions. We’ve been doing an act together for a long time now.”