Barbara Eason-Watkins

In early August, CEO Arne Duncan promoted Barbara Eason-Watkins, principal of McCosh Elementary School in Woodlawn, to serve as chief education officer.

In her 13 years at McCosh, Watkins presided over improvements that raised test scores substantially and brought her personal recognition.

Between 1991 and 2001, the percentage of McCosh students scoring at or above norms in reading on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills rose from 16.1 to 38.2—slightly above the citywide average and six points above the average for schools of similar size and poverty level. McCosh’s student population of 1,000 is 97 percent low income. The percentage of McCosh students scoring at or above norms in math on the Iowa tests rose from 22.8 to 40.7—slightly below the citywide average but a bit above average for similar schools.

Watkins received local leadership awards in 1989, 1990, 1995 and 1997. Based on test scores and recommendations, Catalyst selected her in 1997 for a profile of outstanding school leadership; subsequently, Chicago Magazine named her one of its Chicagoans of the Year.

Watkins has served on the selection committee for aspiring principals applying to the LAUNCH training program (Leadership Academy: An Urban Network for Chicago) and recently was recruited by the University of Chicago Center for School Improvement to serve part time as its director of professional development schools.

Her three deputy chief education officers are central office veterans Armando Almendarez and Carlos Azcoitia, and Eva Nickolich, Region 1 education officer.

As Catalyst goes to press, Duncan has his leadership team in place—a mix of old and new faces—but has not yet worked out who will report to whom. Newcomers include:

Mary Ellen Caron, director of special projects, a new position. She is the founder and executive director of Frances Xavier Warde Schools, a Catholic elementary and middle school with two campuses downtown.

Alyson Cooke, director of corporate and civic partnerships, a new position. Formerly worked for The Chicago Community Trust and Sen. Joseph Biden, Jr. (D-Del.) in Washington, D.C.

Peggy Davis, chief of staff, succeeding Diane Grigsby Jackson. Formerly a partner in the Winston & Strawn law firm and chair of the CPS Monitoring Commission for Desegregation Implementation.

John Easton, director of research and program evaluation, a new position. On leave as deputy director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research; served briefly as research director for former Supt. Argie Johnson and former CEO Paul Vallas.

Hosanna Mahaley, one of two deputy chiefs of staff, succeeding Arne Duncan. Formerly a special assistant for education to Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Jeanne Nowaczewski, director of small schools, a new position. Formerly director of the Public Education Project at Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, which founded the Small Schools Network.

David Pickens, one of two deputy chiefs of staff, succeeding Arne Duncan. Formerly, assistant principal at Arai Middle School and a 2001 graduate of the LAUNCH principal preparation program

Melissa Roderick, director of strategic planning and development, a new position. On leave as an associate professor at the University of Chicago. She was the lead researcher on the CPS promotion policy for the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

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