Eason-Watkins may be CPS pick

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • December 17, 2008 @ 9:10 AM

Barbara Eason-Watkins, chief education officer for Chicago Public Schools, is emerging as the leading candidate to replace Arne Duncan as schools CEO.

Duncan, CPS chief since 2001, was nominated yesterday as U.S. Secretary of Education by president-elect Barack Obama.

On a radio program last night, Duncan appeared with Eason-Watkins and endorsed her as his replacement.

“Barbara could be an extraordinary leader,” Duncan said on WBBM‘s "Talk to the Schools," which monthly features news about Chicago schools.

After Tuesday‘s news conference, which she attended, and also on the radio show, Eason-Watkins said it was a “bit early“ to be talking about her interest in the job.

“This is Arne‘s day,” she said.

The new schools chief will be appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, then must pass muster with the Chicago Board of Education. Daley says he's got no timeline for making a choice, and mentioned no specific candidates for the job at an appearance yesterday.

Rufus Williams, president of the Board of Education, says the process for identifying a new CEO has just begun.

Eason-Watkins, 55, would likely be a popular choice, and perhaps the most obvious one within CPS circles. She has had a long educational career as a teacher, principal and administrator, and twice earned the CPS Principal of Excellence Award.

Eason-Watkins was promoted by Duncan to chief education officer in August 2001, just two months after Duncan was promoted to CEO following the departure of former schools chief Paul Vallas.


Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.