Eason-Watkins to be next Schools Chief

Print More

Barbara Eason-Watkins, chief education officer of the Chicago Public
Schools, will soon replace Arne Duncan as chief executive officer,
according to two sources close to the district’s succession planning.
President-elect Barack Obama officially selected Duncan as his
Secretary of Education during a press conference this morning at Dodge
Renaissance Academy.

Eason-Watkins, who has been Duncan’s chief education partner from the
start of his administration, would not answer questions about a
promotion. “Today is Arne Duncan’s day,” she said after the press
conference. Barbara Eason-Watkins, chief education officer of the Chicago Public Schools, will soon replace Arne Duncan as chief executive officer, according to two sources close to the district’s succession planning. President-elect Barack Obama officially selected Duncan as his Secretary of Education during a press conference this morning at Dodge Renaissance Academy.

Eason-Watkins, who has been Duncan’s chief education partner from the start of his administration, would not answer questions about a promotion. “Today is Arne Duncan’s day,” she said after the press conference.

Watkins spent much of her educational career as the principal of McCosh elementary in Woodlawn, where she developed a reputation as a no-nonsense but highly collaborative educational leader. Test scores and attendance climbed significantly during her tenure.

From A tour of duties, Grant Pick described some of Watkins qualities:

More than anything, Watkins focused on her faculty, making sure they had enough textbooks and supplies so that “no one had any excuse for not teaching,” she says. She learned how to buck up teachers who weren’t bad per se, but “just needed a little extra support.” With only one school clerk, she also was forced to master office routines—”all the nitty-gritty,” she says. As she would go on to do at McCosh, Watkins also got teachers to plan together, “and that way we broke down their levels of isolation.”

He adds later:

At McCosh, Watkins has made teamwork her hallmark. Each spring, when McCosh prepares its school improvement plan (SIP) and budget, including $1.3 million in discretionary state and federal dollars, Watkins involves two dozen teachers and staff plus a couple LSC members. “It is a ‘we’ thing,” she says. LSC Chair Coleen Cokely, a substance-abuse counselor and a McCosh alumna, remembers months of early-morning SIP meetings.

Catalyst Editor Lorraine Forte talked with Duncan and Eason-Watkins in September 2007 about the district’s “chance to be the best school system in America.” Read the interview.