Transit Official Named Chicago Schools Chief

Education Secretary Arne Duncan supports his replacement, but others criticize his lack of experience.

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The new leader of the nation's third-largest school system has no experience running schools. But Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says Ron Huberman ,his former chief of staff, is well suited to be Arne Duncan's replacement as the head of the Chicago system. Huberman, 37, was selected by Daley to serve as the leader of the 408,000-student district now that Arne Duncan is the U.S. secretary of education. Huberman has been the president of the city's transit authority since 2007. Before that, he was director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Daley says he was impressed by Huberman's management skills.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that several people are not happy with the mayor's choice. According to the newspaper, Duncan lobbied "hard and long" for Barbara Eason-Watkins, a veteran educator in the city who served as his chief academic officer. But at yesterday's announcement in Chicago, Duncan had only praise for Huberman. He called him "a brilliant pick." Eason-Watkins, who was not at the press conference, has agreed to serve alongside Huberman, who said his priorities are to make schools safer and continue the district's trend of improvement.

Daley defended his choice of Huberman against critics like the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who said the mayor should have launched a national search and given veteran educators, including minority candidates like Eason-Watkins—an African-American—more consideration. Daley did not address Jackson's criticisms directly but said, "Just recall the time when schools were run exclusively by educators and not managers. It did not work, and the system repeatedly failed our children."

Huberman's appointment does underscore an interesting trend in urban education. In recent years, several struggling urban school systems have seen some measure of success under the leadership of noneducators. Two examples: Joel Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer who runs the New York City Department of Education, which won the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2007, and Michael Bennet, an education neophyte, who made improvements as superintendent of Denver schools before his recent appointment to the U.S. Senate. One exception: David Brewer, a Navy man with no education experience, who was recently ousted as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District because schools were not making progress fast enough.

Do you agree with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley that noneducators make for better school superintendents? Why or why not?

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