Choosing Chicago’s next Schools CEO: Jose Torres, Elgin School District U46

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Catalyst Chicago is asking
readers to submit names of candidates they believe would be a good pick
to run the Chicago Public Schools. In the coming weeks, we’ll post short
profiles of these candidates, and others who might be in the running.
We’re inviting other readers to share their views in our “Comments”
section below.

Catalyst Chicago is asking
readers to submit names of candidates they believe would be a good pick
to run the Chicago Public Schools. In the coming weeks, we’ll post short
profiles of these candidates, and others who might be in the running.
We’re inviting other readers to share their views in our “Comments”
section below.


Jose Torres, superintendent of Elgin School District 46

Experience: He is the current superintendent of Elgin School District 46, which serves 40,000 mostly Latino and white students. It is the second-largest school district in Illinois. He was recently appointed to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission, which will explore educational opportunity through the window of school finances.

Before taking over Elgin’s school district, he worked as an area officer in Chicago, overseeing 26 of the elementary schools in Englewood. In 2005, he participated in the Broad Superintendents Academy, a prestigious 10-month executive training program. He also worked as assistant superintendent for Anne Arundel County Schools in Maryland and superintendent of San Ysidro School District in California’s San Diego County. 

Why he/she is a good choice: He is an educator, notes the person who recommended him. As superintendent of District 46, Torres knows something about dealing with budget crises and Illinois’ difficult school funding situation. Torres had to reduce his teaching force by about 246 last year.  He also has actively confronted the achievement gap in his school district. This year he held the district’s first African American Family Education Summit and launched the Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute, according to The Courier News. 

His experience as an area officer  in Chicago would allow him to walk in with a sense of the city and the challenges of neighborhood schools. 

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might select him—or not: Torres doesn’t appear to have any direct ties to Emanuel or the people the mayor elect is said to be talking to. But he might be a nice compromise between a total outsider and an old insider. He also took some heat for signing a manifesto, called “How to fix our schools,” that focused on teachers and called for such reforms as merit pay and doing away with hiring and firing based on seniority. Signed by such controversial luminaries as former Washington D.C. Supt. Michelle Rhee and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, the manifesto was published in the New York Times. Emanuel seems supportive of its ideas.

Previous profiles: Terry Mazany, interim CEO Chicago Public Schools; Robert Runcie, Chief Area Officer; Timothy Knowles, University of Chicago, Urban Education Institute; John White, New York City Schools Deputy Chancellor