January 30, 2009

Daley taps U of C alum Huberman to head Chicago Public Schools

Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Ron Huberman (M.B.A. ‘00, A.M. ‘00) head of Chicago Public Schools this week. He will replace Arne Duncan, a Lab Schools graduate, who was appointed Secretary of Education in the Obama administration.

Huberman, who faced boos and heckling at his first school board meeting, will have to face parents and teachers upset about the plans to close and reorganize 22 schools under Daley’s Renaissance 2010 plan to open 100 new schools, which were announced by Duncan. Protesters came to the meeting dressed in black and called for Huberman to place a moratorium on closing the schools.

Community and educational leaders are wary of Huberman, criticizing his lack of experience as an educator. But Board of Education president Rufus Williams defended Huberman and expressed enthusiasm at the appointment. Duncan has also supported Huberman and cited the failure of many educational leaders to succeed as managers.

Before his nomination, Huberman served two-years as Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) president, where he improved train and bus service. Before his appointment to the CTA by Daley, he held positions as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff and manager of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Huberman also served as a police officer for nine years, taking a leave to earn his joint degree at the University. Prior to working for the mayor, Huberman returned to the Chicago Police Department, where he gained national recognition for his development of an advanced video surveillance system.

Huberman’s master’s degrees are in business administration and social service administration, and he holds a bachelor’s in psychology and English from the University of Wisconsin— ­­M­adison. He chose to study at both the SSA and Chicago Booth so that he could understand economic and social problems of inner-city neighborhoods while also gaining the technical and management skills he would need to run a police department.

Edward Snyder, dean of Chicago Booth, applauded Daley’s decision to appoint Huberman.

“I have had the opportunity to see Ron in action on the job. He is one of the most impressive leaders I have ever seen. The Chicago Booth community is proud of Ron Huberman’s commitment to public service and his exemplary record,” Snyder said in a written statement.

SSA faculty also had high praise for Huberman.

“Ron Huberman represents the high level of smarts, accomplishments, and dedication to public service that characterize graduates of the School of Social Service Administration,” SSA dean Jean Marsh said.

Harold Pollack, associate professor and faculty chair of the Center for Health Administration Studies at the SSA, said that the wide range of skills students gain in their department can be applicable across a wide range of public and nonprofit organizations.

“Some of these skills, taught in the classroom and in the field, involve knowing Chicago communities and developing the cultural competence to successfully collaborate in a diverse urban environment,” he wrote in a statement.

“We also teach concrete policy analysis tools—cost-benefit analysis, decision analysis, and the use of statistical analysis—that are especially timely in a post–No Child Left Behind world to any policymaker working in American public education,” he wrote.

For the field experience component of his degree in social work, Huberman worked on a domestic violence project in the trauma center of Cook County Hospital during his time at the University. While earning his degrees, Huberman planned to return to the police department and eventually become chief of police.

Huberman took an education reform course at the SSA from co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research Melissa Roderick, who has spoken out in support of Huberman.