Terry Mazany selected as interim schools CEO

Print More

As interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Terry Mazany says he will seek
to provide stability and won’t press for any big changes. But he will
tweak one of outgoing CEO Ron Huberman’s major initiatives: performance
management. As interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Terry Mazany says he will seek to provide stability and won’t press for any big changes. But he will tweak one of outgoing CEO Ron Huberman’s major initiatives: performance management.

Mazany, who is taking a leave from his position as president of the Chicago Community Trust, said he thinks Huberman’s creation of a system for getting and looking at data was “remarkable” and “unlike any other school district.”

Yet he thinks the lesson learned was that data can only tell so much. “We learned the limits of data-driven instruction,” Mazany said.  “We have a platform to build on.”

That Mazany plans to take some of the emphasis off of data analysis will be welcome news to some teachers, said Jackson Potter, chief of staff for the Chicago Teachers Union. Potter said that data can help teachers pinpoint gaps in student knowledge, but not as a bludgeon as it was to be used under Huberman.

This is one of many areas where Potter says he believes Mazany will be more reasonable than Huberman. Potter broke from the combative tone often used by the union with Huberman to say that Mazany is a respected leader in education who seems to care about public education. 

Potter didn’t even take issue with Mazany’s stated support of Chicago’s charter school initiative, which the union sees as a failed quick-fix education reform.

As would be expected of any appointee by Mayor Daley, Mazany is on board with the mayor’s education philosophy. Mazany, who serves on the board of directors for the Renaissance Schools Fund, said he will continue the work of opening new charters.

At the same time, Mazany has experience with traditional education initiatives. He oversaw a $50 million Trust initiative designed to improve literacy and professional development, as well as new schools in Chicago. The literacy initiative paired poorly-performing schools with university experts who worked with teachers on strategies to teach reading.

Mazany made it a point of noting that he has run school districts in Michigan and California and that he started a doctorate in education leadership at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Mazany first joined the Trust as director and senior program officer for its education initiative, and said he considers himself an educator, though he has an MBA and has spent time as an archaeologist and dendrochronologist – using tree-ring chronologies to date human settlements and develop past climate records.

Daley said he plans to install a chief education officer to work alongside Mazany. The chief education officer position has been vacant since this summer, when Barbara Eason-Watkins left to become superintendent of Michigan City, Indiana schools.

At the Tuesday press conference where Daley made his fourth and final appointment of a CPS leader, Daley stressed the importance of having a CEO with managerial experience. “You can’t have an educator trying to run everything,” he said. “We all know that doesn’t work.”

The chief education officer position was created under Daley to provide direction on instruction and curriculum, something that a CEO with business experience might not have.

The Chicago Community Trust agreed to pay Mazany’s salary and allow him to take a leave. Mazany will only collect $1 from CPS.

Mazany said the Trust board considered the step as their civic duty. He said he saw the position as a welcome opportunity, but that it is not a position he wants to hold under the next mayor. “Let me make it clear, this is not permanent,” he said.

But Potter would like Mazany to play an active role in setting the stage for the next CEO. Potter said the union would invite Mazany to its Blue Ribbon Committee that is going to come up with CEO recommendations for the next mayor. The committee is made up of the union and a host of community organizations.