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.

Compared to superintendent

A CEO is different from a superintendent in that the CEO of schools has total control over every decision made by a school district;[1] the CEO decides what rights, if any, are delegated to the board of education.[2] A CEO of Schools often needs no background in education.[3] 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.

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,[3] other school districts place the CEO below the superintendent and grant power over the day-to-day operations.[4] In Chicago, the CEO has the power to appoint the school board.[5] However, in other school districts with elected school boards, the CEO is often appointed in spite of the board.[6] 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.[7]

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


  1. 1 2 "CEO / About the CEO". Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  2. "Ohio Senate passes plan to have CEO run Youngstown schools". Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  3. 1 2 3 Cotterman, Danielle. "Gov. Kasich signs bill for Youngstown Schools CEO". Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  4. 1 2 "Meet new leader of Minneapolis Public Schools - Interim Superintendent Michael Goar". KARE. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  5. "Elected or appointed? Pick your poison for Chicago Board of Ed". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  6. 1 2 "Youngstown school district sues to block new CEO and state's surprise takeover plan". Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  7. NYC Charter Schools, Building the Foundation for an Effective Charter School Governing Board, accessed 10/8/2015,
  8. 1 2 Schools, Chicago Public. "Forrest Claypool Chief Executive Officer". Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  9. "100 Years: The State Takes Over City Schools". Baltimore magazine. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  10. "CPS : Leadership : Barbara Byrd Bennett". Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  11. "Senator Schiavoni Comments On Lawsuit To Stop CEO Takeover Of Youngstown Schools". The Ohio Senate. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
  12. Staff, WYTV. "Judge allows Youngstown schools state-takeover bill to stand". Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  13. Sess, Dave. "Kasich defends decision to appoint CEO to run Youngstown schools". Retrieved 2015-10-20.
  14. "Representative Lepore-Hagan And Senator Schiavoni Announce Bill To Improve Youngstown Schools October 16, 2015 | Minority Caucus | The Ohio House of Representatives". Retrieved 2015-10-20.
  15. "Barbara Byrd-Bennett Articles, Photos, and Videos - Chicago Tribune". Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  16. "Former Chicago/Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett's legal issues may be far from over". Crain's Cleveland Business. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  17. 1 2 "District Office Directory / About the CEO". Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  18. 1 2 "Reform Before the Storm: A Timeline of the Chicago Public Schools". Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  19. 1 2 "Cleveland Metropolitan School District". CASEL. Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  20. Hoyle, John; Collier, Virginia (November 2006). "Urban CEO Superintendents' Alternative Strategy in Reducing School Dropouts" (PDF). Education and Urban Society. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  21. "After years of talk, MPS takes decisive action on the achievement gap". MinnPost. Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  22. "National News Briefs; Philadelphia School Chief Ends Tenure of 6 Years". The New York Times. 2000-08-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  23. Staff, WKBN. "State files motion to dismiss Youngstown School District lawsuit". Retrieved 2015-10-04.
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