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Analysis before talk of closing any schools

Chicago's interim Schools CEO Terry Mazany announced Wednesday proposals consolidate eight schools insix others this fall.

Chicago's interim Schools CEO Terry Mazany announced Wednesday proposals to consolidate eight schools into six others this fall.

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Chicago's interim Schools CEO has not yet decided if he will close any city public schools next year -- a contentious process that usually kicks off in January.

Three days into his new job, Terry Mazany said former Schools CEO Ron Huberman left him no recommended list of closings, something usually released in January and voted on in February after hearings.

"I have not made a determination'' on whether to close schools next year, Mazany said Thursday.

"I need to assess all the factors and the basis for doing it,'' said Mazany, who is "on loan'' from the Chicago Community Trust -- where he served as CEO -- until a new mayor taps a replacement.

Although schools can be closed for poor performance, low enrollment or facilities issues, Mazany said, "I haven't decided which direction we're going yet.''

Last year, irate aldermen charged the closing process was confusing, secretive and left schools little time to defend themselves. In response, Huberman vowed to warn schools and parents months before January of any closure plans.

One top priority, Mazany said, is to fill the chief education officer spot that has sat vacant since July 1.

Rather than use a headhunter, Mazany is personally "assessing the existing talent in the school system.''

His initial days have been filled with understanding a projected $700 million deficit because the financial crunch is "going to really dominate the new year,'' Mazany said. However, he called it "premature'' to talk about staff cuts.

His two main goals, Mazany said, are establishing "stability and focus." The district "drifted away from an emphasis on high-quality teaching and learning," and he would like to re-establish that focus, he said.

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