Choosing Chicago’s next schools CEO: Linda Darling-Hammond, Thomas Darden

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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. 


Linda Darling Hammond, Stanford University



Experience: Linda Darling-Hammond is Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where she launched the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute and the School Redesign Network. She was a member of President Barack Obama’s education transition team and was considered by many education observers to be on the short list for U.S. Secretary of Education. Her research, teaching, and policy work are focused on school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity. From 1994-2001, Darling-Hammond was executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a blue-ribbon panel that issued the widely-read, influential 1996 report, “What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future.” Darling-Hammond is the author of numerous opinion pieces and more than 300 publications.

Why she’s a good choice: Her extensive experience and credentials, and her background as a champion for the teaching profession would likely play well with educators, parents and community activists. The reader who nominated Darling-Hammond cited her extensive experience and personal qualities: “She has charisma and personality to lead.”

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might choose her—or not: Darling-Hammond is a highly respected player on the national education stage, making it unlikely she would want to leave her post at Stanford to enter Chicago’s rough-and-tumble political fray.


Thomas E. Darden, Jr., School District of Philadelphia

Experience: Thomas E. Darden, Jr. is the deputy superintendent for process improvement and compliance for Philadelphia, the ninth largest school system in the country. His job is to scrutinize contracts, grants, and improvement plans. Darden is a graduate of the 2009 class of The Broad Superintendents Academy, the executive training program run by the Broad Foundation. Darden has extensive experience in business and finance. He was managing director of Reliant Equity Investors, a private equity investment firm based in Chicago that he co-founded in 2000, worked for various private equity firms and has held various management positions in Fortune 100 companies. While in Chicago, he was a member of the board of directors of the Chicago Public Education Fund.

Why he’s a good choice: He has ties to Chicago, experience in a large urban district and is committed to public education, something he talked about in this 2007 interview with Catalyst Chicago.

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might choose him—or not: Darden has education experience and a business background, and Emanuel said in response to a Catalyst survey that the next CEO should have both. Emanuel has also said Chicago must draw from top national talent in choosing the next CEO, so Darden’s status as an outsider works in his favor.


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


Jose Torres, Elgin School Superintendent


Jo Anderson, Jr. , senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan


Andres Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Schools


Yvonne Brandon,superintendent, Richmond, Va., public schools


Donald Feinstein,executive director, Academy for Urban School Leadership


Diane Ravitch, education historian and author 

Michelle Rhee, former chancellor, Washington, D.C. Public Schools

Peter Gorman, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools 

Barbara Eason-Watkins, former CPS chief education officer

Michael Milkie, superintendent and CEO of Noble Street Charter Network

Greg Richmond, president and CEO, National Association of Charter School Authorizers

Who is your pick? Take our survey.