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At central office, major turnover but minimal savings

An analysis of budget documents and employee rosters shows that CPS leaders didn't make promised cuts in central office, but there has been dramatic turnover in staff.

To pass a balanced budget last year, CPS leaders promised to find $107 million in savings by reorganizing central and area offices. But while the massive reorganization was carried out, only a small number of cuts were made, a Catalyst Chicago analysis of employee rosters has found.

CPS trimmed about $10 million from area offices, now called network offices. Yet the number of central office staff increased, as did the money spent on their paychecks--by about $2.79 million, with more administrators earning six-figure salaries.  

CPS budgeted $50 million more for central office personnel in the 2013 budget than it did last year.

The district says that of the 1,258 positions in central office, 189 are vacant and that many of them won’t be filled. However, all 1,258 are included in its 2013 budget, according to the district’s interactive budget website. 

The current administration has done a fundamental restructuring in central office and there is a lot of movement in positions, says spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler. She insists that looking at aggregate numbers does not show the whole picture.

“It is not [comparing] apples-to-apples,” she says.  

Rod Estvan, a veteran policy and budget analyst for the advocacy group Access Living, says that the board may indeed intend to make the cuts it announces but finds, as the year goes on, that additional staff are needed for one purpose or another.

“It is not necessarily a sleight of hand,” he says.

And while central office staffing has crept up recently, it is significantly smaller than it was five years ago. In 2007, there were about 1,600 employees in central office.

Lots of new faces

The central office has experienced a radical turnover in personnel compared to a mere two years ago, according to the Catalyst Chicago analysis of employee rosters for the past three years. Less than a quarter of the people who worked at district headquarters at 125 S. Clark Street in 2010 are still working there.  

As more newcomers arrived, CPS officials ponied up more money for top-level administrators. Currently, 30 top central administrators earn $150,000 or more, up from 21 in 2011 and 14 in 2010.

All but one department chief is new to the job (the exception is  Alicia Winckler who is still the chief talent officer). In all, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has 17 chiefs of departments, plus a budget officer. Among them are administrators holding new titles, such as chief portfolio officer and chief health officer. 

The portfolio chief and the recently hired chief transformation officer are part of the district’s effort to transition to a full-fledged “portfolio” district. In portfolio districts, all schools have the same autonomy as charter schools, in that they buy services rather than merely being given support from central office, says Betheny Gross, senior research analyst for the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Gross says the hiring of Transformation Chief Todd Babbitz signals to her the intent to completely overhaul the district. He is being paid $195,000 to run the Office of Strategic Management.

Babbitz, who has worked for consulting firms but has no experience in education, has been charged with implementing the long-term vision of the district and serving as a “strategic thought partner,” according to CPS. Like former CEO Ron Huberman, he hails from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Under Huberman, the district had only nine department chiefs and, for most of the time covered by the employee rosters, the 

Turnover bad for students

The Chicago Teachers Union is concerned about how the upheaval in central office affects children, says CTU researcher Sarah Hainds.

At a recent Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force meeting, district officials said that all the people who were in charge of the transition plans for students in closing schools had left the district and failed to leave paper-work about the plans, she said. As a result, the new staff was able to reach only about 40 percent of the students to remind them what school they will be attending in September.

 “It really seems like there is absolutely no historical knowledge of anything coming out of central office,” Hainds says.

Schools also have to adjust to a new configuration and role for the mid-level bureaucracy.  

Huberman made good on his commitment to staff up the area offices, with resources from attendance coordinators to intervention specialists. His philosophy was that the area offices were close enough to the schools to force change.

Networks also are part of the portfolio school district lingo, Gross says. In New York City, also a portfolio school district, schools select their network based on similar needs and identifications.

Brizard’s administration assigned schools to networks based on geographic areas.

He and his team, however, have reduced the number of workers in the networks by about 100.

Despite the smaller number of staff, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said schools and families are getting the support they need. Brizard’s administration has also created parent and school support centers, giving parents and principals a place to call should they need assistance.

“We have a far more robust network team and school support staff in place to directly aid schools and parents,” she argues.  She adds that some central office programs were eliminated so that money, staff and funds could go out to the schools.

Mass exodus of principals

CPS employee rosters also show a high turnover in principals--at a time when a pension enhancement program made retirement attractive for many veterans. Between 2010 and 2012, 341 principals, or about 44 percent of the total, left their jobs.  

Hainds of the CTU says the union is concerned that it will be difficult for them to handle increased autonomy – another CPS goal—with less support from networks and central office.

As for teachers, their numbers are down by 477 in the employee rosters but that may change. CPS agreed in August to hire about 500 new teachers to help staff an extension of the school day and to add enrichment activities.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

Good research, but dont believe B. Carroll for a moment please

it is a mess at 125 and the network offices are of little help. Contradicting mandates come out; confusion rules the day. One source directs you to an office or person, that office or person directs you back to the original source. Then they blame the issue on a person no longer there--and no one will still fix or follow through on the issue. With CPSgoolge, 125ers can hide-they do not answer emails, and do not list a phone number to call. If a phone number is listed, it’s wrong. Schools cannot find who is working where or find what department to call.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

Catalyst--did you get an official oganization sheet from CPS?

Really, you need to get a score card--then call names and numbers at random to see if it is true and correct. Good luck getting a real list of all the departments, then the chiefs and then how many-actual number work for each of them. There are two reasons why you will not get a full or real list: 125 does not want you to know and/or 125 is such a mess, they do not know. They are making it up as they go along.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Network Offices

With new Chiefs and new staff in the network offices I seriously doubt the schools are getting the support they need. Newly hired staff and Chiefs are unfamilar with the schools they service. Many of the newly hired are from other states or have very little education knowledge to really get the job done. This has added to the confusion created by Central office leadership.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago


Central Office staff hired as "administrators" who had current teaching credentials saw their staffing change without notice or warning starting in October of 2011, from "administrator" to "TEACHER!" Why? Because then CO can claim fewer administrators!

I was one of those whose staffing was changed. Because of the confusion and chaos, documents did not reflect the change, the salary was very near the same, and I did not find out until April! By then I had been let go.

Inside view of CO: Chaos.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

This is why one must look at the position # in EVERY paycheck

as well as the amount paid to you in your paycheck. (And now must watch sick days too, since CPS-Winkler wants them from you!)
The amount: CPS makes pay mistakes. The postion: to see if CPS has changed it without my knowledge or permssion. Sick days: so CPS takes the right ones when you are ill.
Also, many at network/CO change from Administrator or Teacher or to Career Service positions to knock people out of the CTU, to reduce salaries, to place them in the city pension fund (instead of CTPF) and/or to hide the position from Catalyst et al.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Central Office

I have attempted to work with CO for over 20 years. It has never been as bad as it is now. There is no organizational chart, no one returns phone calls or emails. When the situation becomes so bad that parents threaten suit, response from the law department is punitive (for the school), officious, and generally unhelpful. We are desperate for knowledgeable people working in the trenches who have our childrens` best interests at heart. If you don`t spend some part of each day with one of our students, what is there to bting to the table?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

From the inside: the Networks

From the inside: the Networks do very little. They mostly forward emails. The Networks/Areas/Regions also used to be susceptible to CTU pressure, so they would tell principals to back off from evaluating teachers unsatisfactory. My recommendation: cut Networks and save $40-$50 million.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Networks exist to spy on the schools, allowing the area officer

to pick his/her friends for these costly jobs. And 20 years--you are right, Central Office is up for grabs.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Revision to key point made in the article

The article was very interesting and informative. On light of the information provided, I'll be doing some research. However, I need to clarify what I believe is an error stated. The "500" teaching jobs that opened up in August weren't for "new" teachers, but rather for those of us placed in the reassigned teacher pool of veteran educators.

Sarah Karp wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

You are right...

I was trying to indicate that new teaching positions were added to the roles. But you are right that they may have been filled by displaced teachers, as per the interim agreement's preference given to displaced teachers. Many would like to know how many were actually filed by displaced teachers?

Concerned Advocate wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

125 clark

Has anyone looked into the background - credentials of the individuals hired as chiefs at central office? Many are in "over their heads" and have little or no previous experience in a system as large as ours. Also - when did we start giving relocation and signing bonuses??? I thought our district had financial problems.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago


I agree that it is a good idea to check your paystub for errors. However, in my case, it was impossible to tell. The stub looked like a teacher's from day one, the sick days reflected administration, the position number was an administrator's #, and nothing reflected any changes. My paycheck was so screwed up it was impossible to tell when my staffing was changed. Waaaaay beyond someone misentering into Kronos.

Pondering wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Insidious if anything

Has anyone noticed that there seems to be a trend by the Chicago power brokers that be to fill principalships and CO positions with folks from elsewhere? I noticed that back beginning with Arne there was always talk of national searches for candidates to fill spots that could be filled with homegrown talent? I mean if Arne can get the CEO job on what little experience he had in education, how dare he and those after him toss out born and raised Chicago talent. But this seems to be an issue with CPS and CCC. I work with adult literacy programs and was formerly with CPS and as I travel from site to site at area schools I note that principals being forced out ae replaced by non-Chicagoans. Tied into this, as mentioned in the article, there is also a slant for hiring U of C grads. Seems U of C has its tentacles wrapped tight within CPS. several charter schools especially are tied to U of C. Huberman came out of U of C and although gone he is starting up some new venture with Dr. Freynd (formerly of OSI - and another out of towner hired into a top spot) to perform research or open a charter or something like that.
Is anybody doing their research and following the dollars here?

popreist wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Control issues

Of course, Pondering! The aim is to control a new batch of edu-zombies. Rahm and Obama seek privatization and this cannot happen with the old guard (effective or not). Get new principals, teachers and admins, foreign to the politics and history of the city and create ur own cash cow!

Pondering wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

On target

Absolutely! These folks have no clue. And they just breed uncontrollably and mess up things more and more. YEAH! They are giving bonuses to these new principals. I need to call the news folk.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago


Area oficers couldnt name two teachers let alone a students name. They just give teachers websites from other districts and make you feel inadequate. Very few are from Chicago. Some are nice but some are snobs. Never really give you real concrete help just half apple theories. Maybe they help principals. But as for teachers parents and students nada. Just try to find any of there work or plans or curriculum maps on

Anonymous wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago


CPS has systematically replaced veterans teachers and administrators with out of towners. However, one or two positions like,the Chiefs were principals and yes, they do not have a clue as to how to help the teachers or principals in their Networks. Some of these Chiefs advertise positions in their networks and require group meetings and group performances that require activities that ask questions concerning their network decks. Beware of these type of interviews because you will not get hired if they use your ideas. Many network, central office and administrators are Harvard grads as well as U of Chicago and Broad Foundation alumni.
The influx of outside educators in CPS Central office has now become a given and has been for a few years . As mentioned in another comment,many of the out of towners are arrogant, unfriendly and lack the social skills and education skills to coach and mentor teachers or principals.

O.T. Bright wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Teacher Turnover: Terrible Principals

CPS "leadership" is nothing but a con job on tax payers. Whether CPS imports "leaders" from out of town, changes the organization patterns of "areas" and "networks," or changes staff members' job descriptions everything either stays the same or gets worse for our kids. Can someone tell me why principals like Rigo Hernandez and Millicent Clyburn Robersone are still in charge given their treatment of teachers and parents? The good old boys and girls network is alive and well at CPS and our children lose every time.

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