May 25, 2011

The Chicago Public Education Fund Announces new Chairman, transition plan

The Chicago Public Education Fund Announces new Chairman, transition plan

The Fund launches search for new CEO, strategic review to align priorities with new CPS administration

May 25, 2011


The Chicago Public Education Fund (“The Fund”), a private venture capital fund dedicated to transforming public education in Chicago, announced today that Brian Simmons will succeed Penny Pritzker as the organization’s chairman. Simmons will lead a strategic review process that will culminate in the hiring of a new chief executive officer and the development of a revised set of strategic goals for the nationally recognized non-profit.

After Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked Pritzker to join the Board of Education for the Chicago Public Schools, she informed The Fund Board that she was resigning her position as Fund chairman and director. The Fund Board accepted her resignation at its regularly scheduled Board meeting on May 17.

A founding director of The Fund, Pritzker became chairman in 2009 and has played an integral role in shaping strategy and driving investments that have had measurable impact on the quality of principals and teachers. Most notably, she led The Fund’s overhaul of the CPS principal eligibility process that resulted in some of the toughest principal hiring standards in the nation. The Pritzker Foundation has donated more than $4 million to The Fund since its inception in 2000.

“The Fund has been a true catalyst for change in Chicago education,” Pritzker said. “It has been a premier vehicle for private sector investment and involvement in the improvement of our public schools. I am proud of what we accomplished and look forward to seeing more great things from The Fund under Brian’s leadership.”

Simmons, a civic leader and a co-founder and partner of CHS Capital, LLC, has been a member of The Fund’s board since 2007 and most recently served as one of the organization’s Vice Chairmen. He had also chaired the Investment Committee since 2008, which oversees The Fund’s programmatic efforts around principal and teacher hiring and evaluation. Under Simmons’ leadership, The Fund spearheaded efforts to broadly enhance CPS teacher hiring capabilities as well as a new framework for teacher evaluation that includes more rigorous measures of teaching and outcomes.

Simmons said he is excited to lead the organization during this critical time. “We have a tremendous track record of tangible results that Penny and others established before us. Everyone on the board believes that The Fund is well-positioned to build upon these accomplishments and make some dramatic gains for schools and students.”

In coming months, The Fund will undergo a short strategic review period to gain consensus among investors and constituents, and alignment with the new CPS administration. It has also launched a national search for a new CEO. Current Founding President and CEO Janet Knupp announced in March that she will be resigning her post later this summer to pursue new opportunities.

Under Knupp’s leadership and with the support of The Fund’s Board of Directors, the organization has successfully raised $50 million, including $20 million in a 12-month period. Leveraging this capital, The Fund invested in a portfolio of programs that have raised the bar of principal and teacher talent across Chicago’s traditional and charter schools, while also improving student learning gains.

“We were one of the first to test the venture capital model in public education, and it has worked,” Knupp said. “We seeded some of the most reputable and most effective programs preparing and supporting principals and teachers in Chicago today – New Leaders for New Schools, Teach For America, The New Teacher Project. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead an organization that has fundamentally improved the quality of principals and teachers in our traditional and charter schools.”

A new CEO is expected to be announced before the end of 2011. In the interim, the organization will be headed by Jason Cascarino, the Chief Operating Officer who has been a leader with The Fund since 2006. Cascarino has directed projects across all aspects of The Funds’ programs and operations, including leading strategic planning for the organization’s third investment fund.

Cascarino will work with the new chairman and other directors to finalize strategic direction for The Fund, which will include bringing current strategic initiatives to completion and exploring new projects driven by the most critical needs of the Chicago school system moving forward.

These current initiatives include:
• Redesigning CPS’ teacher hiring process to ensure all Chicago children have access to high-quality teachers;
• Developing a best-in-class teacher evaluation framework that uses a combination of measures to assess teacher performance rigorously and fairly while supporting their continuous improvement, and;
• Developing an expanded learning strategy to increase instructional time and to fully tap the potential of online learning to extend the reach of great teachers.

The strategic process will be overseen by: the Fund’s Executive Committee — Simmons, Kenneth Griffin, Barbara Malott Kizziah, Jana Schreuder, and Helen Zell; the chairs of the Fund’s three working committees—Jill Garling, Bobby Mehta and Griffin; and Scott Smith, the founding chairman of The Fund.