April 28, 2005

Venture philanthropy welcomes new leadership

CHICAGO—The Chicago Public Education Fund welcomed three new members to its board of directors Thursday, and elected Tim Schwertfeger, chairman and CEO of Nuveen Investments, as its chairman.

H. John Gilbertson, Jr., managing director and head of investment banking for Goldman Sachs & Co.’s Midwest region; Barbara Malott Kizziah, vice-president of the Malott Family Foundation; and Helen Zell, executive director of The Zell Family Foundation, joined the board at The Fund’s annual meeting. Schwertfeger assumed the role vacated by Scott Smith, president of Tribune Publishing, who retired as The Fund’s founding chairman.

“We’re thrilled to welcome John, Barbara and Helen to our board and look forward to working with them as we continue to identify, cultivate and position great leaders in the Chicago schools that need them the most,” said Janet Knupp, president of The Fund. “We’re also excited about Tim’s new role. He has been a dedicated investor and partner, and I have no doubt The Fund will benefit from his leadership.”

Smith, who served as The Fund’s chairman for six years and oversaw The Fund’s growth from a start-up nonprofit to the leading investment partner for Chicago Public Schools, will remain active on the board. During his tenure as chairman, The Fund invested in and provided strategic management assistance to a portfolio of programs that improved principal preparation, opened the doors to non-traditional teachers, and boosted the number of National Board Certified teachers in low-income schools across the city from 11 in 1999 to 377 today.

“Scott was an ideal founding chairman whose leadership proved invaluable in The Fund’s initial stages,” Knupp said. “Thanks to his vision, dedication and hard work, thousands of children in Chicago’s public schools have benefited from better leadership in the classroom.

At the meeting, The Fund also elected Penny Pritzker, chairman of Classic Residence by Hyatt and president of the Pritzker Realty Group, as vice-chairman, and thanked three founding directors whose terms expired – John McCarter, Anne Hallett and Leon Jackson –for their years of service.

“Penny has been a key supporter and we’re excited to welcome her as vice-chairman,” Knupp said. “John, Anne and Leon were instrumental in helping to create The Fund and we’re immensely grateful for their contributions.”

The leadership changes come one year after The Fund announced its Leadership Fund II, a $15 million effort dedicated to positioning teams of great leaders in Chicago’s neediest schools. With nearly two-thirds if the fundraising complete, the effort builds upon the success of Leadership Fund I, a $10 million campaign completed in 2003.

To date, The Fund’s combined efforts have resulted in fundamental changes to Chicago Public Schools’ recruitment and hiring practices. Principal preparation standards have become more rigorous and the ranks of “master teachers” in Chicago have grown. Furthermore, nearly one-third of the district’s new first-year teachers now come from alternative teacher certification routes that target mid-career professionals and recent graduates of the nation’s best universities – teachers whom studies have shown to improve student achievement.

“By partnering with business, civic and CPS leadership, we’ve made great strides in improving Chicago’s schools,” Knupp said. “There’s still plenty left to accomplish and we’re confident The Fund will continue to help school leaders make a positive impact on student achievement in the years ahead.”

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As a venture capital fund for public education, The Chicago Public Education Fund is an unprecedented catalyst for improving school leadership and student achievement system wide. Launched by a group of corporate and civic leaders, The Fund brings private sector dollars and expertise to high-impact programs aligned with Chicago Public Schools priorities. Find out more at www.cpef.org.