CPS Positions – Out with the old, in with the new — maybe you?

June 23, 2009 at 10:40 pm 13 comments

If you’re not familiar with how CPS hierarchy is set up, the school system is divided into “areas.”  I actually have no idea how many areas there are, I just know that I live in Area 2.
Each school principal reports into an AIO officer (an Area Information Officer.)  This is sort of the middle management between the Principals and downtown CPS.  Anyone familiar with the business world is well aware of the middle-management concept.  And in theory, it’s a great concept.   Someone with experience and knowledge in education and who knows about best practice ideas helps the principals improve, grow as leaders, and strive to be their best.  I’d think that a good AIO person would share ideas that are successful between the schools in their area and would encourage collaboration and communication.  I’m sure there are some AIO’s who excel at this and some who don’t.

What I’ve seen as the key benefit to this system is that most principals could use some guidance.  Not because they’re bad, but because they work in a vacuum of sorts.  When I used to work in an office I had other people at my level to talk to, share ideas with, collaborate with, etc.  A principal is like a free-floating entity who unfortunately doesn’t have another, more experienced principal in the next office to bounce ideas off of.   It makes great sense to have someone help them along.  The LSC’s (Local School Councils) are charged with selecting principals, renewing their contracts, and giving input in their principal’s evaluation but often don’t know much about education.  I found myself in a position this past year of wanting to give my opinion about how a school should be run, but wishing someone who really knew what they were doing could advise us.

I’ve gotten the impression that the AIO staff focused a LOT on test scores.  Obviously we do as parents as well, but man, it is disheartening to realize how much emphasis this gets in CPS.  Yes, it’s the only objective way to measure “success,” but when I see a really good principal comment that they were thinking strategically about how to administer the test this year (what days, what times, etc) it makes me cringe.  I heard another principal say that the AIO office questions why the schools can’t score as well as Decatur.  Uh duh… that question doesn’t even make sense since Decatur only takes kids who test in.

So to cut to the chase, CPS has cut all the AIO positions this week.  Over 1000 ( new info says 550 non-teaching positions in all) positions eliminated just like that.  I believe there will be new positions created with new names and the axed staff may interview for those (gee, they must be so psyched about that!)  Frankly I’m up for any major change in CPS but here is the thing that worries me:  A posting on the CPS web site for a new (high-paying) Area position that emphasizes management experience more than education experience.

Position: Chief Area Officer
Salary: $119K – $170K
The CAO is responsible for increasing student outcomes and performance for an Area.

I like parts of the job description:
-Guide schools to commit to higher expectations
-The ability to inspire and motivate others
-Intelligent risk-taking

The part that’s surprising is:
Experience managing a complex organization essential
Education experience preferred

PREFERRED?! So like I could apply for this job if I’d managed a mass of people in the world of marketing research?!  Weird.  Scary.  Exciting!  Damn, I wish I had more (any) management experience I’d totally apply for that job.   Is there anyone out there who could apply?  Try it… I’d love to know what happens.  In fact maybe I’ll send in a fake resume – all my real work experience but I’ll make up a bunch of management stuff to see if they’d call me.
So Ron Huberman isn’t an education guy.  I don’t know… maybe it’s just me but I’d think he’d want people under him who are.  Or maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit.  Time will tell.

To see the full position description, click here:

Entry filed under: CPS, CPS Policy / Resources. Tags: , .

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. AIOs /=areas  |  June 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Just to clarify, there were 26 Areas, with 26 Area Instructional Officers, who were all paid at LEAST $144,000. So that’s 26 people who “lost” their jobs, not 1000. Yes, there are Area staff who are also getting cut, but most will have the opportunity to reapply for similar, albeit fewer available, jobs. It makes at least a little sense — as you alluded to, the middle level of management is often the one that gets most bloated; I think there’s a hope that this will provide an opportunity to streamline.

    That said, it’s a huge mistake that there’s not a requirement for having in-school experience, whether as a teacher or school admin.

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  June 24, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for the info. A principal had told me the 1000 number, but as I think about it, it does seem high given that there are 24 areas. Maybe that is the full number of CPS employees being let go this summer?
    I got the sense that there were more than 1 per area who lost jobs but I don’t know what those other positions are. Still, even at 4 per area, that is only 100.

  • 3. AIOs /=areas  |  June 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    1000 is the total number of cuts the district has to make. Probably about 500 will come from Central Office and about 500 will come from schools/areas.

  • 4. the heckler  |  June 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    per my diligent reading of another CPS blog, there have been on going job losses at Central and teachers within the schools.

    So where does the savings come in if the former AIO’s were making in the 140K and this new position I assume most of those will be applying for goes to 170K?

    All of this management seems to go against the flow of just letting teachers TEACH and children LEARN!

    I think I may apply too. With that salary, I could help 1000’s of students, afford to pay for an additional teacher for my daughter’s school and make way more than I do now volunteering full time for CPS! It would be a win/win all around!

  • 5. Peggy  |  June 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Ugh, AIO’s. As a teacher, in my opinion, this is the biggest waste of money ever. You could hire 2 teachers for every one AIO. Or 4 teacher assistants. They come around and tell teachers to put up word walls….but then they don’t realize what a word wall really is, so they never (at least not in my school) corrected the teachers who were totally misusing the concept. They asked us to put up more student work on the wall. First we were told to make sure the grades on the work were clearly displayed. Then they said, no, we couldn’t show grades due to privacy issues. Then the fire department came in and said we had to take it all down due to fire hazard issues.
    I was teaching in a classroom with 31 kindergarteners, no assistant, virtually no supplies (unless I bought them myself), 3 behavior disorder kids, 4 kids with learning disorders and 100% ESL and 100% of them living in extreme poverty. The board should fire every single one of the AIO’s and have smaller class sizes in the primary grades.
    I know AIO’s don’t cause high class sizes, but they sure do make teachers angry…..paid double or triple what most of us make to walk around and tell us what to do when they don’t understand the pedagogy behind it!

  • 6. cpsobsessed  |  July 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Peggy, thanks for the insight. Kind of makes me wish that someone would create a show like The Office, but about a school. There’s so much ripe material.

  • 7. Just cut  |  July 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Just another insight on the Area structure. The Areas support the schools by coaching teachers in literacy, math, science, and special education. I was a literacy coach within the Area structure and was just given a certified letter yesterday in the mail that my position will be cut. I am considered a teacher and it is amazing that the “1000” jobs that were cut were stated as “non-teacher positions”. That of course was not the case. All of the literacy coaching positions were eliminated. Now, teachers within CPS will not get the coaching support needed to improve instruction for all students.

  • 8. cpsobsessed  |  July 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Just cut – so sorry to hear that… both for you and for CPS. I know the literacy coaching is extremely useful. As a parent, I felt better about CPS knowing teachers were coached in this. Reading is vital to everything in life and if nothing else we need to make sure that kids are effective readers when they leave CPS.

  • 9. Rita  |  July 1, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    to Just cut – Loosing your position is tough. I’m in a state job (social servcies) right now, and without a budget, we’re all worrying about what happens.

    But I think that that those cuts were states as “non-classroom positions”, which is different than “non-teacher positions”. so, unfortunately, your job was at risk.

    Good luck

  • 10. finally!  |  July 1, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Peggy hit the nail on the head. The post from justcut is heart-breaking, of course, and I can’t help but feel bad for someone who just lost a job. However, some jobs just shouldn’t exist. Coaching in CPS has never been very successful. There is no accountability and in all the high school in which I have taught the Area coaches have been on tangents to the principals and to the other mandating agencies within CPS.

    I have had some experiences of good mandated professional development in CPS, but it hasn’t been from Area coaches. Perhaps there have been one or two who have been sincere and somewhat effective; however, I have not met those people. Sincere usually means teacher-hating and effective just doesn’t happen within the conflicted and confused structure of the Area Instructional Offices.

    My own bitter experience is that area coaching has always been at odds with local school PD. And since the only good PD I have ever had within CPS has been teacher-driven–for example, the old CHSRI program run by master educator David Joliffe–area coaches have for me always been obstructionist.

    I had heard that Areas were being abolished, but of course that was too good to be true. There is so much that can be done to improve schools but none of it is ever going to happen as long as schools, principals, teachers, and students are tied up in the straight-jacket of top-down prescriptions for improvement.

  • 11. Sallie Ellis  |  May 24, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    According to the principal, assistant principal and lead literacy teacher of an elementary school with a demographic that consists of a 99.9% African American or Black student population, grammar and spelling cannot be taught in isolation by teachers of Area 16, CPS, or the state of Illinois. I would like to know if this is true, and if so why not?

  • 12. Terry  |  December 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I am currently IHSA/ASEP Certified to coach. I am a football coach and looking for a Chicago Public School. Does anyone know of any schools in need of football coaches?

  • 13. judi debusk  |  November 5, 2016 at 1:56 am

    Timely commentary . Incidentally , if your company has been searching for a MD DHR/SSA 1279A , my colleague filled a sample form here https://goo.gl/r6Hz5t

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