Head of fund that raises cash for CPS resigns

Chicago Public SchoolsTerry MazanyPoliticsArne DuncanElectionsHuman Interest

A mainstay in Chicago’s school reform efforts announced today that she will be resigning as CEO of the Chicago Public Education Fund, a private charity that under her leadership raised $50 million for programs to improve the city’s schools.

Janet Knupp, 46, the founding president of the organization, said she was leaving for personal reasons and is not interested in becoming the next CEO of Chicago Public Schools, a position now held on an interim basis by Terry Mazany.

“That’s not a direction I would see myself going,” she said. “We’ve accomplished a number of things, transformed the quality of teachers and principals at Chicago Public Schools. It’s exactly the right time to explore other possibilities for myself.”

Knupp announced she is leaving this summer, but no date has been set.

The private fund, based on a venture capital model and started in 2000, poured the money it raised  into programs to improve teachers and principals across both traditional and charter schools.

Over the years, the fund has backed Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools, The New Teacher Project, Academy for Urban School Leadership teacher residency program and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s nationally-recognized principal preparation program.

The fund has also pushed for more teachers to get national board certification and has been working with CPS to develop better metrics for teacher evaluation.

Chicago was awarded a $35.9 million federal grant last year to continue linking teacher compensation to student achievement by rewarding principals, teachers and classroom aides in poorer schools, an effort that began under former schools chief Arne Duncan. The fund has been working with the district to develop an incentive plan.

Peter Martinez, director of UIC’s Center for School Leadership, said Knupp understood that improving teacher quality and developing principal leadership were at the core of improving schools. She not only helped organization’s like his get the seed money to start programs, but also raised the profile of those groups helping them to get larger grants and become national models.

 “She played a major role in getting her board to understand the importance of (improving teachers and principals) at a way early stage and then promoting people they were funding to other funding sources and policy makers,” Martinez said.

In a press release, officials at the Chicago Public Education Fund said no immediate successor has been named.

nahmed@tribune.com

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