For the Record: Network offices

October 30, 2013

CPS officials announced Tuesday that they are cutting the number of networks, the mid-level administrative units that work directly with schools. Nearly every administration has reorganized these offices at least once.

The new networks will include elementary and high schools in a given geographic area. In the past, high schools and elementary schools were in separate networks or areas. District officials said they are making this move in order to foster more “coherent, continuous delivery of instruction for students.”

The move also will save money. Instead of 19 offices with about 16 employees each, the district will have 13 offices and will end up eliminating 79 jobs.

Schools run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, military schools and alternative schools will not be part of networks.

The structure and duties of these area units has shifted significantly over the years. In the 1970s, the district had 27 sub-districts. In cost-cutting moves over the following two decades, the number was cut to 23, then to 11.

Under former  CEO Paul Vallas, the units were called regions and the number reduced to six.

In 2002, Arne Duncan, who had just been named CEO, created 24 area offices and called their leaders instructional officers. His successor, Ron Huberman, reshuffled the offices yet again, creating more for high schools and fewer for elementary schools. The leaders were dubbed “chief area officers.”

Huberman beefed up the offices to reflect his commitment to move resources away from central office and closer to schools, and added staff to help schools with performance management and data analysis.

Under Jean-Claude Brizard, the area units were renamed yet again, becoming networks and sharing a support center that was supposed to provide access to central services such as facilities management, operations, and technology and compliance personnel.

The reorganization was in line with Brizard's embrace of the idea that schools should have the autonomy to "buy" the services they need.

It remains to be seen how the new reorganization under CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett will make a significant impact on school improvement.

Jenna Frazier contributed to this report.