I don’t know about you, but when I go on a job interview one of the questions I am inevitably asked is: “How much experience do you have for this position?”
Even before I set foot in an employer’s office, wearing my polished black loafers and my speckled navy blue tie, I know that my experience will be a major factor in deciding whether I’m “qualified” for the position. I, like the 12 million other Illinoisans, live in the real world.
Unfortunately, some of our local political figures live in a world where decision-making is strictly a popularity contest and where cronyism still rules. On Jan. 27, Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed, Ron Huberman, president of the Chicago Transit Authority, as the new chief executive officer for the Chicago Public Schools. Buses and trains to students and schools-hmm.
This comes despite the fact that Huberman has never worked in education or ever been a teacher. There’s no denying he has a strong resume otherwise. For the last 21 months, he’s been in charge of the CTA. He’s a former Chicago cop and has master’s degrees in both business and social service administration from the University of Chicago. His short stint as CTA chief has had its share of highlights. Huberman oversaw the expansion of the transit authority’s on-line bus tracker system. Now, riders can more accurately estimate the location of a bus in commute. But he was often a poor communicator when handling consumer complaints.
He was able to steer the transit authority from the brink of “doomsday” job cuts and fare hikes for about 15 months. But he’s done little to improve CTA service overall, and budget issues still persist as shown by the latest fare increase last month. Now, he is in charge of a public school system facing as many as 22 school closings by June with no education business to rely on? Right now, with so many things wrong with the public school system in this city, the chief executive needs to be an educator. The person needs to have an affinity for the school system they serve, not just be able to manage it.
The Chicago Teachers Union lobbied for Daley to name Chief Educational Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins for the top job. She has a doctorate in education and was former school CEO Arne Duncan’s hand-picked choice to be his successor. And she would have been a better choice.
Either she or Chicago Board of Education President Rufus Williams would ultimately have brought experience, passion and knowledge to the position. Along with these attributes, Williams and Eason-Watkins have the experience as people of color in a predominantly black and Hispanic Chicago school system. Culturally, in the era where an African-American can become president, Daley has entrusted the position to an inexperienced Caucasian as opposed to a highly-qualified person of color.
From a political prospective, Mayor Daley has chosen to select someone from his inner circle over the needs of a struggling school district. Huberman will need to make some important decisions regarding the fate of nearly two-dozen schools currently on the chopping block. These decisions will enrage many and leave parents asking what’s next for their child?
I hope he doesn’t revert to his old work habits and tell them to find answers elsewhere.