Huberman booed, Watkins cheered

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Newly seated Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman heard few words of encouragement at his first Board of Education meeting today. Demonstrators, gathered in opposition to recently announced school closings, cheered instead for Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins, Huberman’s chief competitor for the district’s top job.

“I’m sorry Watkins wasn’t named CEO,” said longtime parent activist Wanda Hopkins, who attended the meeting to lobby against school closings. “Maybe then we’d have a better chance.”

Newly seated Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman heard few words of encouragement at his first Board of Education meeting today. Demonstrators, gathered in opposition to recently announced school closings, cheered instead for Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins, Huberman’s chief competitor for the district’s top job.

“I’m sorry Watkins wasn’t named CEO,” said longtime parent activist Wanda Hopkins, who attended the meeting to lobby against school closings. “Maybe then we’d have a better chance.”

Outgoing Schools Chief Arne Duncan and School Board President Rufus Williams both voiced public support for Watkins as CEO in recent weeks. But Mayor Richard Daley surprised the education community with his own pick: former CTA President Huberman, billed as an effective manager but lacking in education experience.

Watkins has agreed to stay onboard as Chief Education Officer, the district’s number two post. She even took the unusual step of releasing a public statement this week: “I am deeply committed to educating the children of Chicago. That is my life’s work. I am going to continue in my role as Chief Education Officer, and I will keep working hard every day to make our schools better.”

Huberman gave a brief speech at the meeting, saying that he “can’t think of a greater endeavor” than improving Chicago Public Schools. He also noted that he is “simply one person on a team,” and that he looks forward to working with that team for CPS.

CTU president Marilyn Stewart also spoke at the meeting and called for a moratorium on school closings and thanked Huberman for calling her personally to notify her of his appointment before the public announcement.