Choosing Chicago’s next schools CEO: Michael Milkie, Greg Richmond

Print More

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. 

 


Michael Milkie, superintendent and CEO of Noble Street Charter Network

Experience: Michael Milkie taught math for eight years at Wells High School in Chicago. In 1999, he opened the first Noble Street Charter School High School. As superintendent and CEO of Noble Street Charter School Network, Milkie currently oversees 10 high schools and next year will open a middle school.

Why he’s a good choice: Noble Street officials boast their high schools that have been around long enough to have juniors are among the top ten open-enrollment schools in the city (they exclude selective enrollment, military high schools and most magnet schools, which have a similar admission process as charters). The charter’s students must abide by a strict discipline code that forbids tardiness, requires uniforms and imposes fines for misbehavior. Some observers, and parents, believe this tough approach is needed in high schools. The reader who nominated Milkie wrote “He started, grew and ran the best HS system in Chicago in Noble network schools. We need that sort of leadership for all Chicago schools.”

Milkie also knows how to raise money. Each year he brings in millions in private donations. One of his schools is named after the Bulls franchise and another after one of Chicago’s most prominent and wealthy families, the Pritzkers. Both the Bulls and two of the Pritzker Foundations gave substantial grants to Noble Street last year. Noble Street also received a $10 million federal grant to aid in expansion.

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might select him—or not: Milkie would immediately sound the alarm among critics who contend that his high schools are successful because their strict discipline serves to push students out, as well as those who are generally skeptical of charter schools, including the teachers union. Milkie would also have to make the leap from running a $30 million network of 10 schools to a $5 billion school system with 600- plus schools. 

Milkie is a member of Emanuel’s transition team, and as a candidate, Emanuel visited a Noble Street campus. If Emanuel chose him, it could signal a desire to focus efforts on fix the district’s long-failing neighborhood high schools.


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

Experience: Greg Richmond spent a decade in Chicago Public Schools, where he was responsible for establishing charter schools; prior to that, he was a committee staffer in the Illinois State Senate. Under former CEO Paul Vallas, Richmond sent out requests for proposals to community organizations and educators to start charter schools and he created a loan fund for charter schools to access. He worked with former CEO Arne Duncan to launch Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 initiative. In 2005, he became president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, an organization for which he served as a founding board member. The association is a membership organization that strengthens the professional practices of the agencies that oversee charter schools.

Why he’s a good choice: Richmond is a friend of charter schools, but he also believes in holding them to strict standards. He is seen as an advocate of charter school accountability and quality and thus has been critical of states and districts that provide lax oversight. Richmond also has worked on legislative issues in Springfield and community issues when he worked for CPS.

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might select him—or not: The person who recommended Richmond notes that he would probably be seen as too tied to charter schools. Indeed, people might worry that Chicago is about to turn into New Orleans, where charter schools outnumber traditional schools. But Emanuel supports charter schools, and Richmond is nationally recognized for being a strong diplomatic voice on charter school issues. He also knows CPS. 

 


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

Who is your pick? Take our survey.