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After bumpy year, CPS hires new network chiefs from within

Bogdana Chkoumbova will become a network chief — one of CPS’ administrators in charge of a cluster of schools — she told her school community in an email late Tuesday. | Sun-Times file photo

Following a particularly tumultuous year, with about a month to go before classes start, Chicago Public Schools rearranged a number of administrators, promoting several high-performing principals into well-paid district leadership roles.

In a letter sent to schools on Wednesday, CPS also announced the retirement of longtime employee Annette Gurley, who will depart as head of the Teaching and Learning department after nearly 40 years of service to the city’s schools.

The cash-strapped district did not, however, consolidate any of the 17 mid-level network offices that directly oversee clusters of schools, and it does not immediately plan to do so, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday. That’s despite a program that has in the past year freed more than 50 principals from network control.

Jackson said she would consider reducing bureaucracy in the future, but meanwhile she defended the network structure because of its relative stability in recent years despite turnover at the top.

“Until we can get stability across the board, we need that level of support so that senior leadership is in touch with what schools want,” she said, adding that she believed network spending was down over past years though the structure remained the same.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said the district’s network spending was $27 million in the year ending June 30, 2015; $21.5 million in the year ending June 30, 2016; and $18.2 million will be budgeted for next year.

So far, in the ever-shifting district, all vacancies are being filled internally, which Jackson says she is proud to be able to do to keep talented educators from leaving Chicago.

“I know there is talent here in our district,” she said. “I feel like I have a good team, I feel like I have people who have weathered the storm and I feel like I have the people in place who can lead the district through tough times to bring about the stability our parents deserve.”

Gurley will be replaced by LaTanya McDade, chief of South Side Network 12, who has been at CPS for almost 20 years as a teacher and principal.

CPS veteran Phil Salemi, chief of North Side Network 2, is being promoted to deputy dhief of strategy and planning, a post vacated by Patrick Baccellieri, who now leads the district’s special education department.

Network 9 will be led by Felicia Sanders, another 25-year CPS veteran elevated from a job as a deputy network chief.

Network 8’s chief Luis Soria resigned to move out of state, but his job has not yet been filled. CPS promoted principals to take three more vacancies.

Eduardo Cesario, principal of Clinton Elementary School, 6110 N. Fairfield, since 2009, will lead Network 2. South Side Principal Jeffery Dase of Coles Elementary, 8441 S. Yates, will take over Network 12. Both men oversaw the rise of their schools from earning CPS’ lowest rating to its highest.

Bogdana Chkoumbova, founding principal of the North Side’s popular Disney II Magnet School, will take over more than 30 schools in Network 10 on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Chkoumbova spent a year planning Disney II before opening the magnet elementary school in fall 2008 at 3815 N. Kedvale Ave., growing the school a grade at a time. In 2013, the school expanded to high school, too, sharing space with Marshall Middle School at 3900 N. Lawndale Ave.

“Together we created a vibrant and distinguished community that, without a doubt, will continue to thrive,” Chkoumbova wrote in an email to her school community. “What makes our school community strong are the inspiring students, the talented and dedicated teachers, and the supportive families. We have built structures and systems to support student learning at high levels, and we have recruited some of the top performing educators in the city of Chicago. With the continuous support of the parent community, the school is positioned to transition smoothly and to achieve even higher levels of success.”

She also wrote that she was excited to be able to reach more students, teachers and principals in her new role and committed to supporting the incoming principal for a smooth transition.

Chkoumbova did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The proposed promotions require formal approval by the Board of Education, a move that’s not expected to be more than a rubber stamp considering that several of the principals have already resigned from their schools.

CPS could not immediately say how many principals have left their posts since July 1, the start  of the new fiscal year. During the last school year, the schools system lost a record number of school leaders — 42 resignations and 23 retirements — since Rahm Emanuel became mayor.

A special meeting of the Local School Council has been scheduled on Aug. 9 at the elementary campus to discuss the transition plans and begin the process to hire a permanent principal at Disney II.