CEO of Public Schools
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CEO of Public Schools

The CEO of schools is a new concept which replaces the traditional superintendent in managing the daily operations of a school district. It is a system utilized in struggling school districts in an attempt to turn around failing schools. The goal is to introduce private market ideas into a school system through a CEO with unilateral power to enact necessary reforms. The concept was first introduced in 1995 in the Chicago Public School System.

Function and purpose

The functions of the CEO vary from school district to school district. Whereas the CEO mostly replaces both the roles of the school board and superintendent,[1] other school districts place the CEO below the superintendent and grant power over the day-to-day operations.[2] In Chicago, the CEO has the power to appoint the school board.[3] However, in other school districts with elected school boards, the CEO is often appointed in spite of the board.[4] Using a CEO in a public school system mirrors the typical structure of a charter school which, perhaps, serves as the inspiration for using a CEO of a public school.[5]

Comparison to superintendents

A CEO is different from a superintendent in that the CEO of schools has total control over every decision made by a school district;[6] the CEO decides what rights, if any, are delegated to the board of education.[7] A CEO of Schools often needs no background in education.[1] The goal of implementing a CEO of schools is to remove power from School Boards of ineffective school districts and replace with an individual to bring private market business ideas to the education system. It is a way to address the inequality of public schools and attempt to raise failing schools to a functional level.

Historical development

The first school district in the nation to appoint a CEO was the Chicago Public School district, who appointed Paul Vallas as CEO in 1995.[8] Baltimore implemented reforms to its school system in 1997 which led to the appointment of a CEO.[9] Cleveland soon followed suit by appointing Barbara Byrd-Bennett as CEO under Mayoral Control in 1998.[10]


The appointment of CEO has proven controversial in some instances. The attempt to appoint a CEO of the Youngstown, Ohio school system has been met with a lawsuit.[11] The lawsuit was unsuccessful.[12] Proponents argue that, by removing local control and placing it in the hands of a CEO, it creates a more efficient system which can turn around the school system.[13] Opponents argue that it strips local control and accountability from the management of the school systems.[14]

Another controversy has centered around Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and later Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Ms. Byrd-Bennett was the subject of a 23-count federal indictment accusing her of executing a scheme to give a $20 million no-bid contract in return for a kick-back.[15] She entered a guilty plea on October 13, 2015.[16]

Barbara Byrd-Bennett Indictment

Examples of CEOs of schools

  • The Baltimore City Public School System installed Dr. Gregory E. Thornton as CEO for the 2014-2015 school year.[17] Of note, Dr. Thornton has taken an approach which has restored funding for the arts and reduced school suspensions.[17]
  • The Chicago Public Schools The CEO of Schools is Forrest Claypool.[8] The system implemented by Paul Vallas utilized quantitative metrics by which both students and schools were evaluated; under-performing students were held back and under-performing schools were placed on probation.[18] This resulted in the closure of 82 under-performing schools, replaced by 116 new schools.[18]
  • The Cleveland Metropolitan School District installed Eric Gordon as CEO in 2011.[6][19] Mr. Gordon has implemented a "Humanware" Initiative which seeks to improve "student safety, support, and social and emotional development."[19] Cleveland had the lowest graduation rate of urban school districts in the country as of 2006.[20]
  • Minneapolis Public Schools-The CEO of Minneapolis Public Schools, Michael Goar, served below the Superintendent before being promoted to superintendent.[2] As a sign of the struggles of the school district, African American male students only had a literacy rate of 20%.[21]
  • School District of Philadelphia appointed a CEO in the year 2000.[22]
  • Youngstown City School District- Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill creating the position of CEO of the Youngstown City School District.[1] The School District sued to overturn the Bill and prevent the appointment of a CEO.[4] The litigation is ongoing and the State of Ohio filed a Motion to Dismiss.[23]


  1. ^ a b c Cotterman, Danielle. "Gov. Kasich signs bill for Youngstown Schools CEO". Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b "Meet new leader of Minneapolis Public Schools - Interim Superintendent Michael Goar". KARE. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "Elected or appointed? Pick your poison for Chicago Board of Ed". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b "Youngstown school district sues to block new CEO and state's surprise takeover plan". Retrieved .
  5. ^ NYC Charter Schools, Building the Foundation for an Effective Charter School Governing Board, accessed 10/8/2015,
  6. ^ a b "CEO / About the CEO". Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Ohio Senate passes plan to have CEO run Youngstown schools". Retrieved .
  8. ^ a b Schools, Chicago Public. "Forrest Claypool Chief Executive Officer". Retrieved .
  9. ^ "100 Years: The State Takes Over City Schools". Baltimore magazine. Archived from the original on 2016-04-14. Retrieved .
  10. ^ "CPS : Leadership : Barbara Byrd Bennett". Retrieved .
  11. ^ "Senator Schiavoni Comments On Lawsuit To Stop CEO Takeover Of Youngstown Schools". The Ohio Senate. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved .
  12. ^ WYTV Staff. "Judge allows Youngstown schools state-takeover bill to stand". Retrieved .
  13. ^ Sess, Dave. "Kasich defends decision to appoint CEO to run Youngstown schools". Retrieved .
  14. ^ "Representative Lepore-Hagan And Senator Schiavoni Announce Bill To Improve Youngstown Schools October 16, 2015 | Minority Caucus | The Ohio House of Representatives". Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Barbara Byrd-Bennett Articles, Photos, and Videos - Chicago Tribune". Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Former Chicago/Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett's legal issues may be far from over". Crain's Cleveland Business. Retrieved .
  17. ^ a b "District Office Directory / About the CEO". Archived from the original on 2016-11-13. Retrieved .
  18. ^ a b "Reform Before the Storm: A Timeline of the Chicago Public Schools". Retrieved .
  19. ^ a b "Cleveland Metropolitan School District". CASEL. Retrieved .
  20. ^ Hoyle, John; Collier, Virginia (November 2006). "Urban CEO Superintendents' Alternative Strategy in Reducing School Dropouts". Education and Urban Society. 39: 69-90. doi:10.1177/0013124506291983.
  21. ^ "After years of talk, MPS takes decisive action on the achievement gap". MinnPost. Retrieved .
  22. ^ "National News Briefs; Philadelphia School Chief Ends Tenure of 6 Years". The New York Times. 2000-08-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved .
  23. ^ Staff, WKBN. "State files motion to dismiss Youngstown School District lawsuit". Retrieved .

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