CPS Officials Announce New Chief Education Officer: Charles M. Payne 

University of Chicago professor, expert on urban education policy and reform to serve as interim Chief Education Officer.

Chicago Public Schools Interim Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany today named Charles M. Payne, Jr., as the new Chief Education Officer of the nation´s third largest-school system.


Payne will serve in an interim capacity and succeeds Dr. Barbara Eason Watkins who held the post beginning in 2001.  Eason Watkins left the District in June of 2010.  Payne comes to Chicago Public Schools with a broad background in education and urban school reform policy. He will be on-loan from the University of Chicago for the next several months.


"Today´s announcement comes at a critical time when the district´s top priority is to continue to advance the quality of instruction across all schools in the district," said Interim CEO Terry Mazany. "It is equally important that we engage our communities, families and teachers to be more involved in the educational process of our students and their academic potential."


Payne possesses more than 20 years of higher education experience and serves as the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.  He is a member of the University´s Committee on Education and an affiliated scholar with the University’s Urban Education Institute, which has a long history of doing research on Chicago Public Schools, as well as preparing teachers and developing new approaches to help improve education in urban areas. Scholars from UEI have held a number of important advisory and leadership roles for the district.


Payne currently serves on the research committee for The Public Education Fund in Chicago and has worked on numerous projects that studied urban education issues in Chicago. In recent years, he has served as a member of the steering committee for the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Research Advisory Committee for the Chicago Annenberg project and the board of the Chicago Algebra Project as well as Executive Director for the Urban Education Project.


An award-winning author, Payne has written several books on the persistence of failure in urban schools as well as the successes. Among his recent works is So Much Reform, So Little Change (2008) which examines the education reform movement in America including the disconnect between education policy discussion and the daily realities faced by urban school districts.


Today´s announcement at Fiske Elementary School, located at 6145 S. Ingleside, also highlights Payne’s extensive work and collaboration with the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Zone. Fiske Elementary School is one of several schools in the Woodlawn community that focuses on cultivating the academic levels of a child’s life.


“I have worked with Charles over the past decade and I believe that Charles has the right vision, passion and understanding of what it takes to accelerate the rate of education improvement,” said Mazany.


“The Chicago Public Schools has many outstanding professionals. Since I assumed the position of interim CEO, I have been impressed on a daily basis with the commitment and dedication our employees have to educate our more than 400,000 students,” Mazany said.  “I believe that Charles Payne will strengthen the district’s commitment to teaching excellence and practices in our schools and classrooms that support parents, students, teachers and educational programs.”


Payne holds a bachelor’s degree in African American studies from Syracuse University and a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern. Prior to coming to Chicago, Payne served as professor of African American Studies and History at both Duke and Northwestern Universities as well as Assistant Professor of Sociology at Haverford College, Williams College and Southern University.


Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 410,000 students in more than 670 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school system.