Become a Catalyst member

Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to catalyst-chicago.org by e-mail

catalyst-chicago.org feeds

Current Issue

Drugs in schools

Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

Former Cleveland schools leader named interim chief ed officer

Less than one business day after revealing that Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso is leaving, CPS officials announced that she will be succeeded by Barbara Byrd Bennett, a veteran educator who ran Cleveland schools for seven years.

Though Donoso’s resignation is not effective until May 31, Bennett will be in town working in an advisory role for a month, spokeswoman Becky Carroll says. Bennett will then serve as interim chief education officer.

CPS officials also announced that CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was bringing Beth Mascitti-Miller, a former colleague from Rochester, NY, to fill the role of early childhood chief officer. Last week, legendary early childhood expert Barbara T. Bowman retired.    

In many ways, Bennett seems the opposite of Donoso, who was relatively inexperienced when Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Brizard plucked her from Colorado.

“Bennett is a seasoned and respected leader with depth and expertise across a broad spectrum of education issues,” Brizard said in a press release.

As the first mayoral appointed chief education officer in Cleveland,  Bennett focused on teacher quality, says Charlise L. Lyles, co-founder and former editor of Catalyst Cleveland, the now-defunct sister publication of Catalyst Chicago. Her passion for quality professional development and training for teachers earned her a good relationship with the teachers union.

“She improved the teacher union’s relationship with the district so that there was respect and considerable trust,” Lyles said.

Lyles also said Bennett also concentrated on improving the principals in Cleveland. “She cleaned house and got rid of quite a few principals,” Lyles says.  

After leaving Cleveland, Bennett worked as a consultant for a number of districts, most recently as Detroit schools chief academic and accountability auditor..  

Bennett is also a trustee for an organization called Common Core, a non-profit research and advocacy organization that pushes for a broad liberal education as opposed to a narrow focus on tested subjects.

Carroll says that Bennett has also worked on teacher union contracts, implemented a longer school day and new teacher evaluations. “Given where we are as a district, she is a good fit,” Carroll says.

Brizard was able to tap Bennett quickly because he knew her professionally, Carroll says.

Brizard turned to Mascitti-Miller as someone he knew and trusted. Before leaving Rochester, he hired her as his deputy superintendent of teaching and learning. In that role, she helped write curriculum aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

 Mascitti-Miller also led World of Inquiry School No. 58, Rochester’s first K-12 school.

A year ago, Mascitti-Miller had applied for – but did not become – interim superintendent of Rochester City School District. Some speculated that her closeness to Brizard, who had fallen out of favor with the Rochester school board, hurt her candidacy. 

16 comments

Danny V wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Sounds too good to be true

We can discount the press release blurbs by JCB and Becky Carroll as suspect. Still, the information from Lyles makes Byrd Bennett sound like an ideal candidate for the CEdO position.

And although the Catalyst story doesn't mention race, we know that it's always an issue in this city. What the Emmanuel people are calling the "cabinet" (you're not in DC anymore, Rahm) was starting to become too white. It's a good thing to see Donoso replaced by another minority woman.

Still, something about that doesn't feel right. Someone who improved relationships with teachers unions? Who dislikes the narrow focus on testing? It's not what this mayor and his unelected school board have been pushing, and it just sounds too good to be true.

Infection Alert!!! wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Jumping from the frying pan into the fire

How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus
http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/how-to-tell-if-your-...

Parents group hits back at billionaire Broad's influence on education
http://thecherrycreeknews.com/news-mainmenu-2/1-latest/5838-parents-grou...

More Details s to come wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Guess who this is about?

The people who participated in developing the budget - including principals, department heads, and grant monitors - were poorly trained. When the budget office made changes to the budget, it didn't always let the affected principals know about it. The district didn't adequately track employee benefits or absences.

This is what people inside the RCSD have been trying to tell you Mary Anna. The current administration is in no way competent to handle the complex socio-political environment of a human systems organization such as a school.

If indeed accountability is important, then we must measure the Sup't on the basic management issues presented in these audits. J.C. moved the Chief of Diversity into the role of Human Capital Director. Those inside the RCSD knew that she had no knowledge or experience that would qualify her for such an important role.

It is under this administration that we purchased expensive upgrades in technological systems without anyway to integrate the old systems so that there would be a smooth transition.

In School Suspension, public transportation for high school students, late start high schools, school closures; blanket fire/rehire schemes for teachers; bad food service contractors; 3 changes to the date for placement day; indoctrinating principals into a "cult-like" mental state; purposefully infusing disequilibrium into the system climate as a strategy (Broad Institute); K-8 designs; single gender groupings; Equitable Student Funding (ESF); autonomous schools have all turned out badly because of poor leadership.

For each of these possibly viable ideas, under this administration, the conceptualization was in isolation, there was not staff buy-in; the implementation was not thought out and therefore led to internal power struggles, the management and monitoring of these ideas was haphazard, and progress reports and program reviews were never scheduled or followed up on.

Regardless of who is charge of each department, if this many mistakes have been made on a system wide level, there is a big problem with the leader.

More Details s to come wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

adding 9 more administrators

As you watch listen to Superintendent Brizard's choice of words. He starts early on with a reference to "Those of us in the trenches". He frequently, as you will see uses references to warfare. Here I thought we were in the business of education. He states that we are being watched by others outside of the city. By whom? and who is he really trying to impress? He should be wanting to impress us. He refers to the push back on school based budgeting and he admits it hasn't worked in a number of places. Then why are we trying it? He refers to the fact that ESF hasn't worked in Seattle because the "haves did not want to equalize with the have nots." I personally don't see any millionaires enrolling their kids in the RCSD, so who are the haves? This is a classic bit of pitting one group versus another for control over what? Underfunded City Schools?. He states "it is the battle you have in poor urban centers" Again a reference to Warfare?. So who is the enemy but we better circle up the wagons. Principals are not happy with ESF because they don't want control or autonomy? So why did they become principals unless they wanted to be a leader? He makes a reference to "the new battlefront" - Again warfare - everyone gear up we must be going to war- against who or whom? In regards to the 5% rate of college readiness he says it is a joke and meaningless, because the way the data was analyzed. So if another District scored at 80% that was a joke as well and that Superintendent is telling his staff it was a joke. But then he states that OK maybe we're not doing great with Black and Latino males (roughly about half of the District's students). Then he makes a comment that we don't try to explain anything in the media? So how are parents or the community at large supposed to learn anything. He discusses network teams - and why are we hiring people while we are laying off people - hiring more administrator's 3 more administrators for each school chief. So we are getting rid of teachers but hiring more administrators. If we have less staff who are they going to supervise? He states that the principal's top job is to train their teachers - I thought it was to be a leader and a CFO? He states that we can't cut central office anymore - but as he already said we are adding 9 more administrators. Nine administrators with salary and benefits equals how many teachers? He again makes a reference to the battle. So to summarize its Central Office staff versus everyone else in the District and in the community.

Past Transgressions wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Lookie here same old cronyism

Beth Mascitti-Miller lacks the required credentials and does not fit the "role model" critieria. JC Brizard really made a mockery of this by appointing almost all un-qualified and un-deserving "outsiders" to various posts throughout his administration.

Here are just a few examples:

1. Leslie Anne Boozer - Chief of HCI - outsider - No NYS credentials

2. Laura I Kelley - Asst to Superintendent - from parts unknown - No NYS credentials

3. James Fenton - Chief of Strategic Planning - from parts unknown - No NYS credentials

4. Elizabeth Mascitti-Miller - Deputy Superintendent of Teaching & Learning - internal - No District-wide Admin credentials

5. John Scanlan - Deputy Superintendent of Administration - Oklahoma City or somewhere - No NYS credentials despite reportedly being a "Broad School" graduate.

6. Jerome Underwood - Sr. Director of Operations - outsider - No NYS credentials

7. Shaun Nelms - School Chief - outsider - received his SDL certification 02/2011

8. Mary Doyle - Chief of School Innovation - outsider/from Rochester - No NYS credentials

9. Gladys Pedraza-Burgos - Chief of Youth & Family Services - outsider/from Rochester - No NYS credentials

Now these folks would have you to believe that the SEG employees do not need to be certified and that somehow they are a special "breed" like none other. The reality is that they are just regular folks who got their jobs through politics, nepotism, and chronyism. There is nothing special about these folks and they certainly have not demonstrated any extra-ordinary talents under Brizard's leadership.

In fact, these appointments are a direct violation of the Federal Education Law of 2004 that clearly states that no employee can be appointed to a district-wide administrative post without possessing a NYS SDA or SDL certification.
http://www.examiner.com/article/rcsd-new-leadership-should-scale-down-se...

Hired Gun wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Union Busting Expert

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, an African-American career educator, seems to be Donoso's complete opposite. She has been able to walk the line between the traditional superintendent's role as manager of under-resourced urban districts in Cleveland and Detroit and the new push towards dismantling and privatizing these districts. For example, she's an executive coach for the Broad Superintendents' Academy, of which Brizard is an alumnus. She also works for New Leaders for New Schools, which has become a trainer for charter school principals.

Someone of Byrd-Bennett's stature doesn't just drop everything on a few day's notice to come work on autocrat Rahm's plantation. This must have been in the works for a while. The internal crisis at CPS must be pretty deep and the deal must be pretty sweet.
http://michaelklonsky.blogspot.com/

sad educator wrote 2 years 22 weeks ago

to Past Transgressions

You are so TRUE...look at the hoops you need to jump through to just be an Elementary Teacher according the recent catalyst article. I am one...so I am no belittling the position....but if you want to run a school district of 400k...you don't even need a teaching license? ie Duncan and Huberman??? Or even be licensed in Illinois to teach or have a type 75...????????????? I think you just need to spend a weekend at an Aspen Institute Spa Weekend and anti union meeting and you are set............

Oh yea.....you have to be sponsored by Obama or a Billionaire
?

BTW if she anything to do with Detroit?? I feel sorry for US ALL..that place is a MESS and teachers got the shaft!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 22 weeks ago

New Early Childhood chief officer

It is truly a shame that CPS is dismantling the Office of Early Childhood, it’s leadership and it’s support system. Again bringing someone with no experience in the field of early childhood education, just like Brizard has done with other departments. It is truly a travesty and a sad day when someone without credentials to lead in the field of early childhood.

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 22 weeks ago

Catalyst quotes Catalyst and all's OK with the unions

There is an old saying, "One source is no source." So we hear from various sources — all of which amount to one course — praising Barbara Byrd Bennett and how good a "fit" she is for Chicago after her work in Cleveland and Detroit.

Of course, we hear from "Catalyst Cleveland" about how Byrd-Bennett was good at working with the teachers union there — but nothing from the teachers union.

And nothing in Detroit except the title — nothing for example about union busting and privatization under Robert Bobb. And, of course, nothing from Detroit's decimated union(s) about her.

I guess this is par for the Catalyst's version of reporting at this point in history.

After all, this hagiographic nonsense about Byrd-Bennett comes during the same week when Catalyst's Linda Lenz talks about Chicago's public schools in the "Rahm's first year..." issue of Crain's Chicago Business and manages to devote a page to prattling without mentioning the Chicago Teachers Union — or the more than 25,000 active duty teachers and ESPs who are supporting the union and the leadership under Karen Lewis. I have a hunch that when thousands of Chicago Teachers Union members show up at Congress and Michigan and crowd the Auditorium Theater on May 23, Catalyst will find someone to quote praising Jean-Claude Brizard, "Common Core," and the latest churning of top leadership at CPS.

This kind of reporting could miss a fart in a crowded elevator.

Or, even worse, report with a straight face that the scent was Chanel Number 5.

But in a way, that's par for the Catalyst course.

Getworking from Cleveland wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Watch out Chicago, here she comes!!!

http://www.clevescene.com/cleveland/bait-and-switch/Content?oid=1498631

I'm amazed that this woman can still find employment in the education realm. The Cleveland school districts was left in shambles as Ms. Byrd-Bennett left with her money bags full.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

I have to say, Chicago Public School are the winners. Barbara is one of the most caring Chief you could ever ask for. Tough and sometimes ruthless, for education Barbara will work harder then you ever seen before. I worked for Barbara in Cleveland. People hated change. On day one, changes were being made for education and not for those who worked there. I never saw a CEO come to work at 5:30 a.m. and never left the building until 1:00 a.m. and start the next day all over again. She will work hard to help turn things around, you wait and see. I would call her a no non sense leader.....

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Byrd-Bennett — just another out of town mercenary

Chicago doesn't need another quarter million dollar a year bureaucrat who trails a bunch of anonymous cheerleaders who prattle on about her work ethic. I can bring in a couple of dozen "caring..." teachers who have just been put out of their jobs by Byrd Bennett and her mercenary buddies, from Jean-Claude and Bob Boik to those swarms of MBAs who know nothing about teaching and Chicago and seem to think the reality of the world is seen through the Bottom Line of Excel.

If she was truly "caring" she would have refused the job offer and told Chicago to hire one of its own as Chief Eduction Officer. And if she were truly this heroic hard worker, her cheerleaders would post their praises of her without hiding behind some fig leaf as "Anonymous".

Anonymous wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

You are wrong about New Leaders

A vast majority of their principals in Chicago work in traditional, neighborhood CPS schools, not charter schools.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

You are wrong about New Leaders

A vast majority of their principals in Chicago work in traditional, neighborhood CPS schools, not charter schools.

Northside wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

I agree

Why would any caring educator come to Chicago to make 250k a year to close schools and work for Rahm? Really?

George N. Schmidt wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Byrd Bennett, the merc hired for the Hit job

It's nice to read this stuff from less than one year ago. Of course, the Catalyst puffery notwithstanding, the record was clear then. Today if the Sun-Times is accurate, Byrd-Bennett takes another shot at another major school district, having earned her reputation by attacking the real public schools of Cleveland and Detroit. My major interest as of Spring 2013 is whether the rest of the reporters in Chicago will continue reporting Byrd Bennett's lie about how it's time to face the music, bite the bullet, do the hard job -- BLAH BLAH BLAH -- and ignore the number of schools that have been closed since Williams, Dodge and Terrell in 2002. And the number of vacant school buildings going back to Mulligan and Near North High School.

All the facts are now available, so that every time Byrd Bennett repeats another one of those lies she is scripted for, instead of playing "He said/she said" "journalism" (as if there were two "sides" to every reality, and not a place where the facts mattered and accurate reporting was the job) everyone just reports the facts and then puts Byrd Bennett's latest script at the end of the article as the most recent example of the Orwellian and Kafkaesque reality in Chicago during the Raign of Rahm.

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more