And what timing -- right in the middle of union negotiations and Rahm's reckless move to impose his will, including a longer school day, on local schools. It was Donoso's job to ramrod the longer school day, push the Common Core curriculum, crack down on principals, and try and put a positive spin on miserably failed school turnarounds.
CTU Pres. Lewis calls it “troubling” that Donoso was leaving “at a time when seven or eight new initiatives have been imposed and implemented on teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians and their students.’’ She's right. I mean, who does that?
Obviously Donoso does. The highest-ranking Latina in Rahm's "cabinet" previously led the Office of School Reform and Innovation in the Denver Public Schools, overseeing charter and turnaround efforts. She left that job after less than a year to come to Chicago. Prior to Denver, Donoso was the chief academic officer for Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, a network of six charter schools in L.A.
Donoso was CPS’ first full-time Chief Education Officer since Barbara Eason-Watkins left the district. Eason-Watkins was the last remaining African-American educator in the top ranks of CPS, before Rahm brought in J.C. Brizard from Rochester. Donoso’s selection was supposed to signify the final break from traditional public education to an urban system based primarily on privately managed, union-free charter schools.
Did Rahm, who's approval ratings are plummeting, underestimate the strength and scope of teacher and community resistance? You bet. Was Donoso too weak and unfamiliar with Chicago communities -- especially the African-American community, which has been the hardest hit by chaotic school closings and loss of teaching jobs? Is that why Rahm dumped her?
Then, three days after Donono's "resignation" comes the announcement that she is being replaced by Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who while in Cleveland, was the highest paid superintendent in the nation. Byrd-Bennett’s role beyond serving as interim chief education officer is “unknown at this time,’’ Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said Monday. However, Ziegler said, Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard talked to Byrd-Bennett about joining the Chicago team last week — before Donoso’s resignation was announced Friday evening.
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.
CPS also announced on Monday a replacement for Barbara Bowman as Early Childhood Officer. Beth Mascitti-Mille worked with Brizard in Rochester, N.Y., where she was a deputy superintendent of teaching and learning. Bowman is returning to the Erikson Institute.