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CPS names interim chief education officer

Outgoing chief educatiofficer Noemi Donoso chats with Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard 2011. FILE PHOTO | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Outgoing chief education officer Noemi Donoso chats with Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard in 2011. FILE PHOTO | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 1, 2012 12:22AM

A national education consultant who helped lead reform efforts in Detroit, Cleveland and New York City has been tapped as “interim” chief education officer in Chicago, officials said Monday.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett will serve as “chief education advisor” until May 31, when she will take over as “interim’’ chief education officer for Noemi Donoso, officials said.

Byrd-Bennett’s role beyond serving as interim chief education officer is “unknown at this time,’’ Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said Monday.

However, Ziegler said, Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard talked to Byrd-Bennett about joining the Chicago team last week — before Donoso’s resignation was announced Friday evening.

In a news release Monday, Brizard said Byrd-Bennett “has the experience to step in on day one and provide the leadership required to support critical reform initiatives designed to drive student achievement.’’

He called Byrd-Bennett a “seasoned and respected leader with depth and expertise across a broad spectrum of education issues.’’

Byrd-Bennett served as CEO of Cleveland Public schools from 1998 to 2006, and as chief academic and accountability officer for Detroit Public Schools from 2009 to 2011. Detroit had the lowest reading scores among the big-city districts tested in 2011 on the nation’s report card, and Cleveland had the second-lowest scores.

However, in Detroit, Byrd-Bennett helped the district make required annual progress under the No Child Left Behind law for the first time in years, Ziegler said. In Cleveland, she almost doubled the graduation rate, Ziegler said.

Over the last year, Byrd-Bennett has served as “executive coach” to several leaders in the Chief Education Office, so “she’s familiar with the programs here,’’ Ziegler said. She also has worked as an executive coach for the Broad Superintendents Academy.

Byrd-Bennett also served as supervising superintendent in the chancellor’s district of New York City in the late 1990s, overseeing some of the lowest-performing schools in the district.

She won a 2001 award from the Council of Great City Schools for her leadership of Cleveland Schools and has received several honorary doctorates.

If Byrd-Bennett stays on to become full-time chief education officer, some wondered how, as an outsider, she would be received.

“There is a long history of outsiders getting chewed up by the system,’’ said Don Moore of the reform group Designs for Change. “We seem to be drifting back to the kind of chaos the system was in in the late 1980s.’’

Also Monday, CPS officials announced that Beth Mascitti-Miller will serve as the new Early Childhood Officer, succeeding national figure Barbara Bowman, who resigned last month. Mascitti-Miller is currently deputy superintendent of teaching and learning in Rochester, N.Y., where Brizard served as superintendent before coming to Chicago last year.

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