THE BLOG

The Hubris, er, Huberman Appointment

03/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I am a supporter of Mayor Richard Daley.

I have supported him in all of his mayoral elections since his run against the late Harold Washington. I think he is a great mayor who has done the heavy lifting and that his leadership style is forthright. He makes the hard decisions. He has listened. The city looks great and has flourished under his rule. Most of all, I like his forward thinking. I think he has made Chicago world class, from the flowers to the lakefront to building and re-engineering neighborhoods for the 2016 Olympics.

However, I think the mayor is beginning to behave dictatorially, more like a king than a mayor. Power is quite seductive, and for that reason alone, no one needs to rule longer than 12 years--that is, three mayoral terms. Term limits keep politicians humble and mindful. Perhaps Mayor Daley is losing these attributes.

Exhibit one: The appointment of Ron Huberman as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools is insulting, racist and simply out of order. The community is quite upset on a number of levels. There is public outcry from teachers, parents, students, ministers and community organizers. Enough already. Or as the mayor might say, cuckoo.

Ron Huberman is a wonderful young man. He is the mayor's golden, fair-haired guy. In the past seven years, he has had five different jobs. His career is fast tracked; he has moved from a beat cop to the of head city organizations. Most recently, he ran the Chicago Transit Authority, where he has served since May of 2007. He was Daley's chief of staff for two years from 2005 to 2007. For one year, from 2004 to 2005, he was the executive director of the City's Office Of Emergency Management, which oversees the police and fire emergency operations. His longest serving tenure was at the police department, where he served for nine years as a beat cop working with gang units and special operations.

His career has been outstanding. But the flaw is that he has not served as an educator in any capacity, and his resume does not even indicate he ever took an educational course. He is misplaced as head of Chicago Public Schools.

Whereas his background and experience as a manager and administrator are fine, they are also short-lived. Management is important, and the mayor believes if you are a professional manager, then you can manage any organization. This is where the fallacies lie in his logic. The police force needs a policeman at the helm. The fire department should have a fireman at the helm. A hospital should have a doctor at the helm. The public schools need an educator at the helm. By having served in the field, there are disciplines, processes and procedures that are understood by the trained professional. The professional manager should stick to the management process, which is a skill set of its very own. And that manager should report to the staunch professional. Perhaps this is a different philosophy of management style. If the mayor's philosophy holds, then why do we need a mayor? Why don't we just turn the city over to professional business managers and let them operate the city?

The insult of the Huberman appointment is the passing over of a professional, seasoned, experienced educator, Barbara Eason-Watkins. She is a proven educator. She has been an educator for 28 years, having served as a principal, working with parents, teachers and students. She is nationally recognized and has been educated to be an educator with degrees in elementary education, a master's degree in educational administration and supervision and a doctorate in education with a specialty in curriculum and instruction. Her credentials speak volumes. Place her credentials next to Huberman, and you don't have to be a genius in human resources to see the obvious.

The racial insult is this: The past three Chicago Public Schools superintendents have been white men who have all been strongly supported by black women who have been professional educators. Paul Vallas had Cozette Buckney, Blondine Davis and Lula Ford. Arne Duncan had Barbara Eason-Watkins as his number two and now the same structure is suggested for Huberman's administration. What message is sent to the black professional educator? You can obtain the professional degrees, but you cannot run the system? You can train the non-educator to run the system, but don't you dare aspire to the top job? Why are they obtaining the professional degrees? As the racist plantation practice states, you can serve as a mammy, but you cannot manage the system.

Historically, the two areas that black educated professionals have been allowed to excel in have been education and social work. A work pattern that blacks and women have labored under for so long is to train someone for a position that you know so well and then step back. This has been exhibited in women training men and blacks training whites.

As the country moves forward on the change agenda, this work pattern should be a part of the change. No more training by the overly qualified for the unqualified to take the top position. No more. Enough already. This ultimate insult is the stuff that movements are made of.

I should hope the aldermen, teachers, parents and students walk out of the public schools until an educator is at the helm. At the very most, Huberman's managerial talents should be utilized to assist the professional educator. In other words, Huberman should report to Watkins, not the other way around.

You might ask, "Why is it so important that Huberman be in charge?" I suggest it is not about education at all, but rather the federal dollars that President Obama's economic stimulus package will soon release to rebuild schools and the potential of the state dollars from a capital fund that will be released to rebuild the public schools. This is a lot of contract capital, particularly with a bad economy and approaching an upcoming political election.

Meanwhile, we ought to consider the rearrangement of city departments with new managers. The police chief, Jody Weis, should be placed over Cook County Hospital. Dr. Terry Mason, the commissioner of Public Health, should be placed over the fire department. Father Michael Pfleger should be over Streets and Sanitation, and former Governor Rod Blagojevich should head the Taste of Chicago committee. Cuckoo.