Catalyst Chicago is asking readers to submit the 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 the candidates. We’re inviting other readers to share
their views in our “Comments” section below.

Catalyst Chicago is asking readers to submit the 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 the candidates. We’re inviting other readers to share their views in our “Comments” section below.

Robert Runcie, chief officer for Area 17

Experience: Robert Runcie has served as chief information officer and chief administrative officer for CPS. He is now the chief officer for Area 17, a group of elementary schools on the Southeast Side. He is a 2009 graduate of the prestigious Broad Superintendents Academy, a 10-month executive training program designed to train business executives for top management positions in urban school districts. Before joining CPS, Runcie was founder and president of a management consulting and technology service company. Runcie earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Why he’s a good choice: He is an insider and would not have a big learning curve to get to know the system. As chief administrative officer under former CEO Ron Huberman, Runcie was driving an initiative to engage parents, teachers and residents in five low-income neighborhoods to think critically about how to improve their schools, with the goal of prodding groups to recommend strategies from the bottom up rather than have them imposed from the top down in typical CPS fashion. Though Runcie was pulled from his central office post, he’s still working on the initiative and winning high praise from community organizations. One activist who recommended him wrote this:  “He seems to have taken a great deal of time in understanding issues and portraying potential strategies that would be more fair and help rectify CPS’ relationships in these communities.”

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might select him—or not: Runcie is African American, and many activists and parents want a leader of color. However, he does not have experience as a teacher or principal, and there also has been some criticism of the rollout of CPS’ student data system, which he was responsible for as chief information officer.  There’s no indication that he has any relationship with Emanuel or anyone who is tied to Emanuel. One survey respondent who recommended Runcie wrote that he “appears to have little concern for Chicago politics.”

Timothy Knowles, University of Chicago, Urban Education Institute

Experience: Timothy Knowles is a member of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s education transition team. He is the John Dewey Director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, which operates the U of C’s charter school network and runs the prestigious Urban Teacher Education Program, a two-year master’s degree program.

Before coming to Chicago, Knowles was a deputy superintendent in Boston and co-director of the Boston Annenberg Challenge, a national effort to improve literacy instruction. Knowles founded a school in New York City’s high-poverty Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, was the founding director of Teach for America in New York and taught African history in Botswana. He received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and African history from Oberlin College and a master’s degree and doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Why he is a good choice: Knowles is widely respected in the local and national education communities, has a reputation for being straightforward and has experience in another large urban system. In Chicago’s education world, his name is on most everyone’s short list.

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might select him—or not: Knowles might well be the leading candidate, if he hadn’t said on several occasions that he is not interested in the job. His opinion on whom Emanuel should select as CEO is likely to carry considerable weight.

John White, New York City schools deputy chancellor

Experience: John White is currently the deputy chancellor for talent, labor and innovation at the New York City Department of Education. His responsibilities include human capital development and management of the iZone, or Innovation Zone, a network of schools that are piloting the use of technology for learning and rethinking time and staffing. 

White is also overseeing New York’s new guidelines that make it tougher for teachers to earn tenure, a strategy he told the New York Daily News  is “part of a culture shift” to make sure only the most effective teachers stay in classrooms.

White floated a plan in February to do away with seniority based layoffs, but eliminate the incentive to get rid of higher-paid veterans by keeping a school’s “average teacher salary” budget the same for two successive years, the  New York Post reported.

Previously, White was chief executive officer for portfolio, responsible for developing new schools, closing failing schools, and adjusting grade configurations, enrollment and locations of existing schools. White has also served as deputy chief operating officer for the district. Before he joined New York City schools, he was executive director of Teach for America Chicago and Teach for America New Jersey. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Virginia and was a member of the 2010 class of the Broad Superintendents Academy.

Why he’s a good choice: One survey respondent said White is “experienced as a classroom teacher and district leader, has worked closely with Joel Klein, and formerly worked for Teach for America in Chicago.”

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might pick him—or not: White’s focus on reforming tenure and layoff policies, and using technology to transform learning, could hold appeal for the mayor-elect. White is reportedly interested in the job. 

Previously profiled candidates:Terry Mazany, interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools

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