In his opening remarks Thursday morning at the Chicago Principals and
Administrators Association’s annual conference, interim schools CEO Terry Mazany drew applause several times, including after he acknowledged that central office sometimes makes principals’ lives harder.
In his opening remarks Thursday morning at the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association’s annual conference, interim schools CEO Terry Mazany drew applause several times, including after he acknowledged that central office sometimes makes principals’ lives harder.
“You get dumped on all the time. Central office creates obstacles, roadblocks for you. We’re not always friendly to you, and for that, I’m sorry,” said Mazany.
Association President Clarice Berry lauded him in her introduction.
“From my perspective, it’s a breath of fresh air to finally have someone in there who’s an educator,” Berry said. Mazany was a public schools administrator in California and Michigan before joining the Chicago Community Trust; he is on leave from the Trust while serving as interim CEO.
Mazany said that as interim leader, his work will focus on several goals: organizing the district administration and chief area officers to support principals; building a more equitable system; and creating “coherence,” a district-wide consensus about goals and student outcomes.
He also highlighted the importance of the “five essential supports” for school improvement, identified by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Just as during an earlier speech at the City Club of Chicago, Mazany emphasized the school system’s global context. He highlighted shrinking resources, slowing population growth in developed countries, a rebalanced economic order dominated by Brazil, Russia, India and China, and other world changes identified in a series of reports by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Mazany took several jabs at standardized testing throughout his speech. He said that when he left the field of education a decade ago, portfolio-based assessments and project-based learning were on the rise.
“Ten years later I’m back, and it’s like time stood still. What happened? No Child Left Behind,” he said.
As he did at the City Club, he compared schools under the law to factories that set a goal of making sure all cars have wheels. The result: a picture of an 8-wheeled sports car with extra useless wheels attached to its hood and trunk. “We have… a narrowing of the curriculum, focusing on outcomes that are actually meaningless in the global economy,” Mazany said.
Even so, he said, it’s important to pay attention to how well schools are preparing students for the next grade, especially during transitions like those between preschool and kindergarten, and high school and college.
He also stressed the need to develop self-confident students with strong social-emotional skills and reiterated his desire for a rich curriculum. “If young people have to be creative entrepreneurs, and they’re never even exposed to an art class to learn about creativity, how are we going to get there?” he asked.
After the speech, Debra McGhee, an assistant principal at Bouchet Academy, said his speech was “refreshing.”
“We are so used to being beaten down,” she said. “It is refreshing to know that somebody understands what administrators are going through in the buildings.”
But meeting the ambitious goals Mazany laid out will take extra resources, said Richadine Murry, the principal of Ashe Elementary.
She noted that one of Mazany’s examples of globalized learning, Chinese president Hu Jintao’s recent visit to Walter Payton College Prep, “doesn’t represent our whole system.”
“I don’t think we have enough [resources] available to us. I don’t think there’s equity in dividing the resources,” Murry said. “[But] if you’re given what you need, you can accomplish everything.”