City Colleges Chairman Gery Chico resigns to concentrate on his mayoral campaign
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Gery Chico speaks after as his appointment to the City Colleges Board of Trustees by Mayor Daley in March of this year.
City Colleges Chairman Gery Chico has resigned to concentrate full-time on his campaign for mayor, prompting Mayor Daley to replace him with a prominent Hispanic businessman.
"I believe it is the right thing to do to resign my City Colleges position and concentrate on one thing: working hard to become the mayor of Chicago," Chico wrote in a letter delivered to Daley last week.
"Over the next few months, I intend to campaign vigorously and wish for nothing to disturb the reinvention effort that is under way at City Colleges."
If the City Colleges Board approves, Chico will be replaced by 39-year-old Martin Cabrera Jr., founder and chief executive officer of Cabrera Capital Markets.
As the largest Hispanic financial services firm in the country, Cabrera has been a frequent participant in city bond issues.
"I believe that Martin Cabrera brings a great perspective and the leadership and management experience needed to implement the reinvention plan that [Chancellor] Cheryl Hyman and Gery Chico have been working to develop," Daley said in a press release announcing the leadership change.
"The mission of Chicago City Colleges must be updated to meet the economic challenges of today and tomorrow. Martin has the financial background and expertise to do that."
Cabrera said his parents "instilled in me a passion for education" and he looks forward to putting that energy to work for the City Colleges.
"I was fortunate to have mentors and role models who helped guide me throughout my life. And I believe in the importance of giving back and helping our young people achieve success in life," he said in the press release announcing his appointment.
In March, Daley put the team of Hyman and Chico together with a mandate to "reinvent" a system with declining funding and bulging enrollment.
They hit the ground running and rocked the boat by laying off 225 employees, eliminating 86 unfilled jobs, cracking the whip on executive credit cards and travel to pump more money into technology and training for 115,000 students. For the second straight year, the system also reduced its annual property tax levy - this time by $3 million.
With Daley's blessing, the new team also talked about closing the "open-door" admissions policy at Chicago City Colleges, arguing that remedial classes for students who can't cut it carry a $30 million price tag the system cannot afford.
Amid a nationwide nursing shortage, nursing programs at two Chicago City Colleges were phased out to focus limited resources and guarantee that students graduate from the nationally accredited programs they need to qualify for, what Hyman called the "best jobs."
The surprise decision forced nursing students attending an unaccredited program at Olive-Harvey College to transfer to Daley or Malcolm X colleges for the fall semester. The nursing program at unaccredited Kennedy-King will end Dec. 11, with the close of fall classes.