The [Friday] Papers
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel once again tried to write "the next chapter" for Chicago Public Schools on Thursday, this time turning to a trusted ally and political insider he hopes can repair the damaged district," the Tribune reports.
Okay, so the Tribune just adopted Rahm's "next chapter" spin at the same time it passively references a damaged district without saying who damaged it - Rahm Emanuel.
More accurate: "Rahm Emanuel turned Thursday to a trusted ally and political insider he hopes can clean up the mess the mayor has made at the Chicago Public Schools."
Any less objective?
"While Forrest Claypool lacks the education policy pedigree of Emanuel's first two picks to run the schools, his experience is suited for two of CPS' greatest short-term problems: finances and ethics."
Now the Tribune is adopting the mayor's apparent argument that what the district needs most right now isn't someone with an education policy pedigree. That's arguable.
"Claypool made his reputation as a city administrator slashing budgets and issuing pink slips, which could prove helpful as CPS faces a $1.1 billion budget shortfall."
Now the Tribune is adopting the position that a district already cut beyond bone (and already deep into classrooms, if truth be told) needs to keep cutting - and fire a slew of people - instead of raising badly needed revenue.
"And Claypool tried to establish himself as a political reformer by taking on the old-school Stroger family on the Cook County Board, an image in need at a school district facing a federal probe into a $20.5 million, no-bid principal training contract."
Claypool indeed tried to establish himself as a political reformer on the county board - after decades as a Machine loyalist and close ally to Richard M. Daley (including two stints as his chief of staff), whose City Hall was infested with corruption.
At the county, recasting himself as a reformer was a branding exercise that aided the Daleys in pushing out the hapless president Todd Stroger - having had installed him there in the first place.
Claypool's image was also made with the help of the media, given that a boatload of leaks about Stroger's mismanagement were doled out behind-the-scenes by Claypool's office. Then Claypool would be quoted saying how awful Stroger's mismanagement was.
Just to be clear.
"At CPS, Claypool appears content to let others handle classroom details while he tries to figure out how to keep the district afloat financially."
Oh, those niggling classroom details.
"The mayor announced Claypool as his City Hall chief of staff in late April, a week after reports surfaced that then-CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was at the center of a federal grand jury investigation into a contract Emanuel's school board had issued. Once it became clear he would have to replace Byrd-Bennett, Emanuel focused on naming Claypool as her successor, said a City Hall source familiar with the decision who was not authorized to speak publicly."
Why is anonymity necessary here? Why is citing a source even necessary here? We know this.
Plus, I'm convinced that CIty Hall sources who speak anonymously (most often to the Sun-Times's Fran "Steno" Spielman) because they have not been authorized to speak publicly have damn sure been authorized to speak under cover of anonymity (which is tantamount to the same thing) given the temperament of this mayor and the approving nature of the comments.
"Emanuel interviewed internal candidates at CPS to surround Claypool on the district's senior leadership team but did not consider other options for CEO, the source said. Unlike his previous two hirings for the job, the mayor did not conduct a national search, the source added."
I don't need a "source" to tell me the mayor did not conduct a national search. The question for the mayor is, Why? (For more on that, see The [Thursday] Papers.)
And I don't need a source to tell me that Emanuel interviewed internal candidates at CPS to surround Claypool with because of the next paragraph:
"The mayor sought to take the attention off of Claypool's lack of education expertise by announcing other new leadership posts at CPS and the Chicago Board of Education. Emanuel named Janice Jackson, a fast-rising middle manager at CPS, as the district's new chief education officer. And Denise Little, a longtime CPS educator, was picked to serve as Claypool's senior adviser."
The question for the source and the mayor is this: Did he alone conduct the interviews? Is that a wise process? What criteria did he use to make his choices? Shouldn't the superintendent make those hires? Aren't we just getting more of the same, then, instead of a "new chapter?"
"Asked Thursday about Claypool's qualifications for the top CPS post, Emanuel repeatedly referred to the whole team's expertise. But Emanuel also sought to bring cachet to Claypool's hiring, even though the mayor only had to walk down a fifth-floor hallway at City Hall to make it.
"I've worked with some of the country's great Cabinet secretaries at the federal level. I've worked with a number of people at different levels in corporate America, but I've never seen a manager with Forrest Claypool's capacity for leadership," Emanuel said.
Okay, I'm not quite sure how to deal with this kind of desperate buffoonery, but let's try it this way:
"So, Mr. Mayor, you're saying that Forrest Claypool is a greater leader than Hillary Clinton? Timothy Geithner? Robert Gates? Eric Holder?'
You could go down the line. Make him say it.
"But the Chicago Teachers Union dismissed Claypool's appointment as nothing more than Emanuel turning to a 'political fixer.' During her own news conference Thursday, CTU President Karen Lewis spoke pointedly about Clark's role in closing schools and said Claypool's reputation as a mayoral insider didn't leave her confident that the district would make many positive changes.
"Still, Claypool characterized a Thursday morning phone call he had with Lewis as 'a very good conversation' and added that he hoped both sides could look past their differences and political rhetoric to unite in lobbying state lawmakers for the financial relief the district needs."
The obligatory brief aside before turning back to valorizing Claypool.
Now, this part is precious:
"I know Forrest is exactly the right person at the right time to lead CPS at this moment," Emanuel said. "With the financial crisis at CPS having reached the doors of our schools, Forrest has the skills, but also the relationships in Springfield, to work through these challenges to ensure the gains we've made educationally continue on the right path and that the financial challenges do not threaten them."
Now comes the Tribune editorial board to doubly bless the sainted Claypool:
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel has plenty of problems. One is that he doesn't have enough Forrest Claypools. The mayor has just one, and he has wisely dispatched his best turnaround pro to rescue the Chicago Public Schools."
If Claypool is the turnaround pro, then why isn't he the mayor?
After all, no one is saying we don't have enough Rahm Emanuels around.
"So, no nationwide searches for new leaders. There wasn't time."
Really? Barbara Byrd-Bennett took her leave of absence in April and her contract would have expired on June 30 anyway had she not resigned. Also, every smart organization has a succession plan and a working list of external chief executive candidates. That's not to say I can't see the argument for plugging the hole quickly, but I do see the need to ask the question, because Claypool isn't likely in it for the long haul and we'll soon see Rahm's fifth CPS CEO.
Now to the Sun-Times and outgoing school board president David Vitale, who is truly an abhorrent person.
"Vitale had come to the board in 2011 with education chops - he was CPS' chief administrative officer under former CEO Arne Duncan, as well as president of the board of the private education nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership," the Sun-Times reports.
I'm not sure I'd call those "education chops," but whatever.
"But as the board slashed budgets and shuttered schools under Vitale's leadership, while opening new charters and handing troubled neighborhood schools over to AUSL for a 'turnaround,' his detractors often accused him of being a man of means out of touch with the struggles of working-class parents and their kids."
I find the word "detractors" to be a diminishment, like "critics." Just say who made those accusations: teachers, parents, community organizers, policy advocates - you know, his constituents.
I'm also not sure the main criticism, though, was that he was out of touch, as much as it was his absolute refusal to listen to others with an open mind and to consider that he was the one who quite often had his facts wrong instead of everyone else. Vitale seemed to treat the public - including teachers, parents, community organizers and policy advocates - with contempt. And he ended nearly every board meeting by stating that not everything we all heard from the public - including teachers, parents, community organizers and policy advocates - was factual. That's the way he went out, too, as we shall see.
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Thursday that the decision to step down was made by Vitale alone to give new CEO Forrest Claypool a fresh start. He denied the leadership change was a response to Vitale's fingerprints being all over controversial district borrowing and the $20.5 million, no-bid principal training contract with a company that once employed Barbara Byrd-Bennett. She resigned following a federal probe.
"Weeks ago, when David and I met . . . I said why I thought Forrest was the right person and the team, David offered the idea that he should step down after his tenure because the tradition at CPS has been a CEO and a new chair. It allows us, as I said, to write that new chapter," Emanuel said.
There's that "new chapter" theme. I wonder how long it took for Rahm to settle on that as his media message.
Anyway, what isn't there is that Emanuel didn't disagree and ask Vitale to stay, although WBEZ reports that "The mayor said he was at first reluctant to accept Vitale's resignation, adding that he had to go swimming a few times before he made the final decision."
"CPS declined to make any resignation letter public."
Does that mean there isn't one? Because that's a public document.
So . . . "CPS refused to comply with state public records laws and show us the damn resignation letter."
"[A]fter a press conference at Westinghouse College Prep high school, Vitale explained why he wanted out.
"'Want' is a strong word," he said. "I offered to get out because I've been involved in the system for 12 years one way or another. . . . I've been president of the board for four years. I haven't missed a board meeting."
Right, none of this has anything to do with the controversy that caused Byrd-Bennett's resignation and opened up the CEO job in the first place, without which Vitale would still be board president.
"The appointment of a white male Thursday to replace a black woman as schools CEO made it all the more important for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make Forrest Claypool part of a salt-and-pepper leadership duo."
Um, the district has more Hispanic students than black or white students - and almost as many as black and white students combined.
My understanding is that interim CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz didn't want the job permanently - and that's not to say he would have been considered - but you'd think he would've alternately been a candidate for board president. He remains as the board's vice chair.
But onward . . .
"The mayor did that by choosing businessman Frank Clark as school board president; rising star Janice Jackson, a beloved network chief, to serve as chief education officer; and longtime CPS educator Denise Little as Claypool's 'senior adviser.'"
Again, no Hispanics.
Back to Vitale:
"Sources recently told the Chicago Sun-Times that Byrd-Bennett's employment contract was presented as a done deal by Vitale. One said Vitale 'was the one who managed her contract. He was very, very supportive of Barbara.' Another characterized the board generally as 'president-centric.'"
So Vitale ran the show.
"My job is to be president of the Chicago Board of Education and all that goes with it," Vitale said. "Whether the press has got the stories right - that's a different story. But I don't care. I'm proud of the accomplishments we've had with the kids."
See what I mean? It's pretty rich for Vitale to complain about the press when all they did for years during his reign was fact-check his ass and find that he and the rest of CPS were serial liars.
Back to the Trib for more of Vitale's contempt:
Afterward, as Claypool and Clark stuck around at the high school to greet well-wishers and answer questions, Vitale walked out as reporters followed him.
Right. The board was too busy to spend an "enormous" amount of time vetting the district's largest no-bid contract with the dude who essentially acted as agent for Byrd-Bennett, whose own contract Vitale "managed."
"There's a lot of facts out there about what has gone on and when, that I don't believe are actually accurate in the press, OK?," Vitale also said, according to the Sun-Times report.
Again with the facts.
"We followed the exact process we should have followed on that contract. I have no regrets on that one. I've said we handled the SUPES contract in a professional way and we did it the right way, and I have no regrets about what we did."
I'm not sure what's worse - if he believes this or he's lying.
Here's what I wrote to someone this morning who asked me if Claypool could solve the district's financial crisis.
"No. How? He might be able to calm things down but if he's there simply to cut, cut, cut . . . well, that's no solution. I think he's there to calm things down, streamline management, fix Barbara's and Vitale's messes . . . they'll make a show of him chopping off a few heads, doing things that supposedly show savings, but the real ballgame is in Springfield and revenue and Rahm."
"In naming a trusted political ally and local technocrat to take over Chicago Public Schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that his strategy of bringing in outsider educators with experience managing other school districts was not working," Catalyst writes.
"Instead, Emanuel went back to the leadership structure his predecessor, Richard M. Daley, had put in place a decade earlier by hiring a non-educator to lead the system. That's when Daley named his budget director, Paul Vallas, as CEO and his chief of staff, Gery Chico, as board president."
I suppose, but I don't suppose Daley's structure worked either or we wouldn't (still) be in this mess. Also, Daley's other CEO picks were Arne Duncan, who came from inside CPS, and Ron Huberman, who came from CTA after working at CPD and OEMC, and I wouldn't call their tenures successes, either.
"The very fact Claypool was allowed to answer questions both during and after the press conference showed the level of trust Emanuel has in his new CEO - something that was not visible in 2011, when Emanuel presented his first pick for the job: Jean-Claude Brizard. During that press conference, Brizard - an educator and schools administrator whose previous post was at a much smaller school district in upstate New York - read from prepared notes and was whisked away before reporters could ask questions."
"Claypool, meanwhile, spoke freely and without notes as he gave some general ideas about how he'd run the school district. He said he plans to look both within Chicago and outside the city for the expert help, and will 'follow best practices' to support teachers and principals in schools."
Is the district not already following "best practices?" Has it not already asked for expert help?
Either this is an indictment on Rahm's CPS, or it's meaningless rhetoric.
And finally, more on Clark (though I'll have more next week):
By far, Clark's appointment to the school board is the most controversial. He retired from a 40-year career at ComEd three years ago after serving as the company's chair and CEO.
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Posted on July 17, 2015
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