clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

CPS CEO to hire two San Antonio schools officials as his top deputies

Patti Salzmann is expected to be named the district’s new chief education officer as soon as next month, and Ken Thompson is set to take the chief operating officer job this week, sources said Monday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Pedro Martinez outside Benito Juarez High School on Wednesday morning.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduces Pedro Martinez as the new CPS CEO earlier this year.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Two San Antonio schools officials are following CPS CEO Pedro Martinez to Chicago to become his top two deputies in the nation’s third-largest school system, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Patti Salzmann is expected to be named the district’s new chief education officer as soon as next month, and Ken Thompson is set to take the chief operating officer job this month, sources said.

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Mary Fergus confirmed Thompson’s arrival Monday and said the Board of Education will vote on his hire this week. Fergus said Thompson would be the only personnel matter taken up by the board, and “additional appointments will be put forth by CEO Martinez to the board over the next few months.”

A San Antonio Independent School District spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment or confirm the moves.

Salzmann and Thompson’s additions to Martinez’s administration will mark the new CEO’s first major hires at CPS, as he begins to fill a leadership team packed with interim positions and vacancies ever since a slew of officials followed former schools chief Janice Jackson in leaving the district.

Jackson’s administration was lauded for its makeup — largely educators after a series of leadership teams featuring business heads with no classroom experience.

Salzmann and Thompson don’t necessarily fit the mold of Jackson’s group.

Patti Salzmann
Patti Salzmann
San Antonio Independent School District

They’re part of a team of officials who report to the superintendent in the San Antonio Independent School District. Salzmann is the deputy superintendent for academics and school leadership, running a large department of administrators who manage learning at the district. Thompson is the district’s chief technology officer, leading a group of about 16 officials in the information technology department who all oversee their own teams of employees.

Salzmann is a career K-12 administrator who has worked in Martinez’s old district for three and a half years, first hired by Martinez in May 2018 as an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, then for the past two years as the system’s chief academic officer. She spent the previous 17 years at a different San Antonio area district, her last job there being an administrator overseeing curriculum and instruction.

Kenneth Thompson
Kenneth Thompson
San Antonio Independent School District

Thompson, meanwhile, has spent the past two years spearheading SAISD’s technology response to the pandemic, primarily working to equip students with computers and internet to bridge an access gap seen in much of the country, including in Chicago. Thompson, who has two master’s degrees, has about two decades’ experience as an IT executive. He was hired by Martinez and moved to San Antonio in 2018 after leading IT at the Baltimore City Public Schools.

Thompson will effectively become third in charge at CPS, overseeing all school operations at the district’s 600-plus facilities, notably while the schools’ troubled facilities department is in the midst of transitioning to a new model overseen by a new vendor.

In San Antonio, some insiders viewed Martinez as a sort of manager-in-chief rather than an educator-in-chief. His lack of educational background often means he surrounds himself with experts in each department and lets them run their areas while checking in to oversee their work, sources said.

His decisions not to retain Maurice Swinney as chief education officer and Lindy McGuire as chief operating officer, who both have been filling those roles on an interim basis the past few months, reveal Martinez’s early preference to fill his team with aides he knows rather than necessarily those with CPS experience.

Swinney spent six years as a CPS principal before he was elevated to lead the district’s then newly created equity office in October 2018, where he oversaw budgets and policies to help address the inequitable allocation of resources. He took over as interim education chief in June when LaTanya McDade left for the top job in a Virginia district.

Chicago Public Schools Interim Chief Education Officer Maurice Swinney speaks during a press conference at the new building of the John Hancock College Preparatory High School in the Clearing neighborhood, Friday morning, Aug. 27, 2021.
Chicago Public Schools Interim Chief Education Officer Maurice Swinney speaks during a press conference at the new building of the John Hancock College Preparatory High School in the Clearing neighborhood, Friday morning, Aug. 27, 2021.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

McGuire has spent the better part of two decades either at CPS or City Hall in various administrations, from a legislative and policy analyst role with the City Council’s finance committee, to a chief of external affairs job at CPS, deputy chief of staff for former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and most recently senior advisor to ex-CPS CEO Janice Jackson. She took the interim chief operating officer role in June when Arnie Rivera left.

Fergus, the CPS spokeswoman, said McGuire will return to her role as a senior advisor, and Swinney “will continue with the district in an expanded equity and innovation role.”

Before Swinney and McGuire, two former educators in McDade and Rivera, each with decades of experience, filled those positions.

Chicago Public Schools Interim Chief Operating Officer Lindy McGuire listens during a Chicago Board of Education meeting at the CPS headquarters in the Loop, Wednesday morning, Aug. 25, 2021.
Chicago Public Schools Interim Chief Operating Officer Lindy McGuire listens during a Chicago Board of Education meeting at the CPS headquarters in the Loop, Wednesday morning, Aug. 25, 2021.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

McDade, who was with the district for more than 20 years, was a longtime CPS teacher and served as Keller Elementary’s school principal, then as a network chief who oversaw principals before assuming her role as chief education officer in 2016. In that position, McDade was in charge of the teaching and learning side of the school district. She was also responsible for overseeing the transition of lessons from classrooms to computers amid the pandemic last year.

As chief operations officer, Rivera oversaw the district’s budget process and management of its buildings. Rivera was in and out of CPS starting in 2004 when he taught first grade. He later rose through CPS central office as then-CEO J.C. Brizard’s deputy chief of staff before he served stints at educational foundations and was an education liaison for Emanuel, who later appointed him to the Board of Education. Rivera helped negotiate the past three Chicago Teachers Union contracts and is married to a CPS teacher and is the father of a CPS student.