David Pickens was the guy who kept former Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan's clout list. The list was used to pressure selective-enrollment-school principals into accepting the otherwise ineligible children of VIP's through the back door. Pickens was the buffer between Duncan/Daley and the schools. He was the one who had to deliver the list to the principals. Daley's nephew, Patrick Daley Thompson, was a middle-man in the process and knee-deep in the scandal. But after Tribune reporter Azam Ahmed, broke the story, Pickens, who is African-American and one of the few black educators in the top rungs of the CPS bureaucracy, knew he would have to take the fall for the untouchable Duncan.
Friday, he resigned quietly. So far, Duncan has let his faithful assistant and childhood friend go under the bus without so much as a peep. Such is the culture at CPS under mayoral control and now the culture at the DOE under Duncan.
"David was a very honest and loyal lieutenant to Arne Duncan," said Bill Gerstein, a high school principal and longtime friend of Pickens. "He was loyal to a fault and honest to a fault. In organizations, oftentimes the people who do the work and follow through on initiatives — they're the first ones to go."
Before arriving at the central office, Pickens was a seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher and basketball coach at Price Elementary in the Kenwood neighborhood. He was nominated for a Golden Apple Award in 1999 for exemplary services. Pickens was given many tough assignments throughout his tenure with Duncan, including oversight of school closings. Administrators and teachers sometimes referred to Pickens as "Dr. Death" because his presence might signal a school's demise. (Tribune)