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Gery Chico, Former Top Chicago Official, to Lead Illinois Board

Gery Chico, who was a mayor player in former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's efforts to overhaul the city's schools more than a decade ago, has been named as chairman of Illinois' state board of education.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn named Chico to the post on Tuesday. He is replacing former chairman Jesse Ruiz, who was recently appointed to serve on the Chicago Board of Education.

Chico joins the board at a dynamic and challenging time for the state's schools and its 2 million students. Last year Illinois lawmakers approved a broad measure that requires that teachers and administrators be evaluated on the basis of student performance, and state officials still have much work to do in figuring out how that mandate will be implemented. More recently, lawmakers have approved a bipartisan measure that will tie teacher tenure, advancement, and layoff decisions to performance, rather than seniority. (Many states have taken similiar steps.)

Chico has experience working through contentious school issues.

He formerly served as president of the Chicago school board, as an appointee of Daley. In that post, he worked closely with then-city school chief Paul G. Vallas in guiding an overhaul of a troubled district.

Vallas and Chico were credited with bringing academic improvements and innovations to the city's schools, as well as financial stability to the district's messy finances. In 2001, Vallas was replaced by Arne Duncan, who as we all know eventually went to work for another Chicagoan on a bigger political stage.

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