job: director, Chicago, no salary info

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at
Fri Feb 1 11:09:25 CST 2008

Patricia Watkins <godslady at>
Tue, 29 Jan 2008 12:48:15 -0600
<colist at>



Chicago, Illinois


Advance Illinois is an independent, objective voice that promotes 
policies to create a world-class education system in Illinois that 
prepares all students to be college and work ready.


Advance Illinois, a new student-focused education advocacy organization, 
seeks its inaugural Executive Director. Advance Illinois aims to improve 
Illinois student achievement and ensure students graduate ready for 
college or work so they can be competitive in today’s global society. 
Illinois is a cultural and economic leader among states and nations. Yet 
the state’s most precious resource – the prosperity and vitality of its 
citizens – is at risk. In the global economy where the ability to 
synthesize, create, and innovate are the currency that matters, all 
citizens need the skills to be competitive. But, without a steep change 
in Illinois’ education framework, many students will find their diploma 
does not ensure they can participate in the workforce with success. 
While education policy reform in Illinois has succeeded in driving 
change in the past, recently Illinois has not been a leader in 
state-level education policy. Several of Illinois’ key opinion leaders 
view today’s situation as a call to action – as not a threat, but an 
opportunity – and want to come together to bring Illinois to the 
forefront of change through Advance Illinois.

With support from Illinois leaders and national foundation partners such 
as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ( and 
Joyce Foundation (, the organization will set its 
sights on making Illinois the top state in the nation for education success.

These leaders are now seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director to lead 
the charge in creating an education environment in Illinois that will 
ensure a prosperous future for all students. Located in Chicago, the 
Executive Director will report to the Advance Illinois Board of 
Directors comprised of top Illinois leaders from government, business, 
education, civic, and grassroots groups. As many important decisions are 
on the horizon, the Executive Director could assume the role in late 
spring or early summer. Advance Illinois Executive Director Page 2 of 9

The Board of Directors desires an Executive Director who has the energy, 
and passion to shape a new organization that will lead Illinois in 
changing education to foster success for all future students. The Board 
of Directors is dedicated to supporting the Executive Director and to 
empowering her/him to achieve the organization’s short-, medium-, and 
long-term goals, which include:

• Hiring a highly talented staff and publicly launching the organization

• Developing a researched-based policy agenda that will close gaps in 
student achievement and prepare students adequately for college and work

• Quickly establishing credibility with key opinion leaders in 
education, business, government, civic, and grassroots groups

• Raising education to the top priority among state officeholders and 

• Building public and political coalitions to influence passage of the 
organization’s policy agenda

• Acting as a partner in implementing and monitoring reform to ensure 
student achievement improves and the achievement gap closes

Further, the Executive Director shall be a thought partner with the 
Board of Directors to make strategic decisions and expand upon and 
execute Advance Illinois’ vision.

Advance Illinois needs a dynamic and inclusive leader who is passionate 
about and dedicated to the mission, savvy and enthusiastic about 
politics, and is able to lead and follow a high powered Board of 
Directors. Successful candidates will have a demonstrated record of 
visionary leadership, as well as managerial success and fiscal 
responsibility in a non-profit, public sector, corporate, or 
entrepreneurial organization. It is preferred that candidates possess 
relevant work experience, including a proven ability to move public 
opinion, experience bringing together groups with diverse interests to 
find common ground, and a history of identifying, developing, and/or 
implementing effective public policy. While not required, an 
understanding of K-12 education reform and knowledge about the social 
and political context and educational opportunities in Illinois are 

The Advance Illinois Board of Directors has formed a search committee 
and retained Isaacson, Miller (, a Boston-based 
national executive search firm, to assist in the recruitment of the new 
Executive Director on this important search.

Please direct all applications, nominations, and inquiries to Isaacson, 
Miller as indicated at the end of this document.


Illinois is a cultural and economic leader among states and even 
nations. On the surface, it appears that Illinois’ education system will 
prepare students to continue this prosperity. Illinois’ student 
population of 2.2 million performs near average on most student 
achievement dimensions including the National Assessment of Education 
Advance Illinois Executive Director Page 3 of 9

Progress (NAEP), ACT, and Advanced Placement exams. Illinois graduation 
rates are slightly above the national average.

However, disaggregated data shows many challenges facing Illinois. An 
average graduation rate means only an estimated 20 percent of Illinois 
ninth graders will eventually graduate college. Illinois’ racial and 
socio-economic achievement gap is amongst worst in the nation. Students 
perform disproportionately higher on Illinois state achievement exams 
than on NAEP, indicating Illinois standards may not be rigorous enough 
to ensure success. These problems are exacerbated by inequitable funding 
across Illinois’ 870 school districts caused by a heavy reliance on 
local property taxes.

In the broader world context, Illinois is an average state in a 
below-average nation. Today, the United States ranks in the lower fifty 
percent of developed countries in reading, mathematics, and science in 
the Programme for International Student Assesment (PISA). Data shows 
U.S. students are less likely to graduate in high demand technical 
fields and qualify for today’s high demand jobs. These observations of 
global competitiveness are becoming apparent to Illinois’ corporate 
leaders who have faced increasing difficultly in finding Illinois 
students that possess the skills needed to compete for jobs in today’s 
economy. Our students’ future does not hold certain success unless they 
can compete with students across the globe.


Through the course of their work in Illinois, the Bill and Melinda Gates 
and Joyce Foundations recognized the opportunity to increase Illinois 
students’ chance of success in the emerging global economy. Research 
from other states showed that a statewide education advocacy 
organization could move the student achievement needle. The two 
foundations therefore started an initiative to form a statewide, 
student-focused, and reform-minded education advocacy organization in 

Working with The Boston Consulting Group (, an international 
strategic management consulting firm, and Education First Consulting 
(, a national education policy 
consulting firm, the foundations identified ten dedicated Illinois 
leaders from government, business, education, civic, and grassroots 
backgrounds to form a steering committee to create a strategic plan for 
Advance Illinois. At this stage, the steering committee has developed a 
blueprint for the first four years of the organization’s operation, 
which includes a working mission, policy priorities, and launch plan.

Several dedicated steering committee members have become founding Board 
members and recruitment is under way to round out the 15 member Board of 
Directors. Advance Illinois will have a bipartisan, high-powered Board 
of Directors consisting of the top government, business, education, 
civic, and grassroots leaders in Illinois. Advance Illinois Executive 
Director Page 4 of 9

All involved believe that Advance Illinois must make an investment early 
on to engage Illinois opinion leaders, stakeholders, and communities to 
understand the issues Illinois faces, and to develop policy solutions 
that will advance system reform and student achievement. The Executive 
Director should have the skill set and determination to undertake this 
task and define a compelling policy agenda around four immediate term 
policy priorities including:

• K-12 expectations, standards, assessment, and accountability

• Teacher, school, and district leader quality

• Quality and effective use of data

• Innovation and differentiated intervention and support

As initial policy reforms are implemented, Advance Illinois will expand 
its work and inform policy discussion in areas such as funding and state 
and district level education governance. In addition, without losing its 
primary focus, Advance Illinois will opportunistically participate in 
state-level discussion in other policy areas that advance the 
organization’s mission such as early childhood education, post-secondary 
access and affordability, and increasing education intensity.

To influence policy change that improves student achievement and 
prepares students for work and college, Advance Illinois will use three 
core strategies.

• Build a research-based policy and public education platform: Distill 
existing research to identify the most pressing Illinois student 
achievement needs; use research combined with stakeholder feedback to 
create a compelling policy agenda; and educate legislators and the 
public about these needs and solutions.

• Mobilize key opinion leader support: Spark key opinion leaders to 
support the Advance Illinois policy agenda and persuade legislators to 
create change.

• Build political and public will for change: Create grassroots support 
for change through a network of coalition partners; couple grassroots 
momentum and earned media to motivate the public and legislators to 
drive change.


The successful Executive Director must achieve short-, medium-, and 
long-term goals:

• Short-term goals: The Executive Director will hire a highly talented 
staff; build a strong relationship with the Board of Directors; 
establish credibility with key opinion leaders in the legislature, and 
among business, education, civic, and grassroots groups; publicly launch 
Advance Illinois in fall 2008; lead a stakeholder outreach initiative to 
gather input to inform the policy agenda;
Advance Illinois Executive Director Page 5 of 9

develop a compelling research-based policy agenda; and begin to build 
public interest in education reform

• Medium-term goals: The Executive Director will lead Advance Illinois 
in building the credibility needed to secure broad-based support for the 
policy agenda; build a coalition network to support Advance Illinois’ 
work; raise education to the top of state officeholders and candidates 
agendas; and influence concrete victories in the state legislature 
within three years that will begin to enact Advance Illinois’ policy 
agenda and impact student achievement

• Long-term goals: The Executive Director will work with coalition 
partners and state officials to continue to enact policy change and 
assist in implementing on-going policy changes and in monitoring their 
impact on student achievement to ensure students are increasingly 
college and work ready.

The scope of responsibility for the Executive Director includes the 

• Flesh out the strategic model and implementation plan: The Executive 
Director will work with the Board of Directors to make strategic choices 
to define a policy agenda and build upon and execute the launch plan. 
Further, the Executive Director will build the organization to provide 
the human capital necessary for the organization to achieve its 
objectives. This includes hiring and leading highly talented and capable 
staff located in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois. It is anticipated 
the organization will have eight staff including the Executive Director 
when fully operational in 2009. Key staff will include a communications 
director, research and policy director, community outreach director, and 
government relations manager.

• Build partnerships and alliances: The Executive Director will expand 
upon and execute the vision for Advance Illinois by developing strong 
relationships with Illinois policymakers, government agencies, and 
coalition partners. This will require the Executive Director to build 
rapport with and gain support from existing education groups. To garner 
support, the organization will have to translate complex education 
issues into simple actionable policy tactics that will move the needle 
dramatically to improve student achievement. The Executive Director will 
have to build Advance Illinois as a credible group within the Illinois 
landscape and communicate the organization’s goals extensively through 

• Maintain and expand funding partners: In the first three years of 
operation, it is anticipated that Advance Illinois will have a stable 
base of funding support from national and Illinois foundations to cover 
an annual run rate of approximately $1.8 million. The Executive Director 
should expect to regularly meet with existing donors to keep them 
informed of progress and seek their counsel on pertinent issues before 
the organization. The Executive Director will
Advance Illinois Executive Director Page 6 of 9

be expected to secure funding for 2011 and beyond or for additional 
requirements beyond the budgeted run rate.

• Manage milestones through to completion: The Executive Director will 
carry out a successful four-year launch plan by delivering on 
organization milestones (some of which were included above in addressing 
the short-, medium-, and long-term goals of the organization) and moving 
an education reform policy agenda in Springfield, Illinois, in the 
Governor’s office and in the state legislature that impacts student 
achievement. The Board of Directors will look to the Executive Director 
to create and report appropriate metrics to ensure the organization is 
making progress towards its mission.


The successful candidate will be a high-caliber leader who is:

• Passionate about the mission and aligned with the proposed policy 

• Savvy and enthusiastic about politics and expanding the state’s 
leadership role in education reform

• An excellent communicator who is able to be the public face and voice 
of the organization to various constituencies (e.g. parents, students, 
educators, administrators, policymakers, journalists, business, civic, 
and foundation leaders) and who is equally capable of delivering 
inspiring messages to community leaders or legislators

• A strategic thinker who is also versatile and skilled at working in a 
broad range of settings and influencing diverse audiences

• A visionary leader who comes to Advance Illinois with a fresh, 
optimistic, and new take on opportunities to make Illinois a leader in 
education reform

• A diagnostician capable of taking findings from research and the field 
to develop compelling and effective policies

• Able to become a key contact for the media and build deep 
relationships with media reporters and editors in all major Illinois 
markets to generate substantial coverage of the organization’s work

• Capable of leading and following a high powered Board of Directors

• Committed to leading Advance Illinois until major policy wins are secured
Advance Illinois Executive Director Page 7 of 9

• Willing to invest in building a statewide Advance Illinois presence by 
committing to significant travel around the state to engage Illinois 
stakeholders, and is able to spend significant time in Springfield, 
Illinois building relationships and support for the organization’s 

Additionally, the Executive Director should possess a visionary yet 
hands-on leadership style, which includes moving people to take action 
and make change happen; an ability to easily adapt to ambiguity and new 
challenges; a desire to serve as an inclusive leader; and a commitment 
to working in the trenches and digging into the details alongside 
her/his staff.

Preference will be shown for individuals with relevant experience, 
including those who bring a history of identifying or developing 
effective policy at the state level in a public policy area where 
multiple voices and competing interests are present, such as education, 
health care, housing, or transportation; a proven ability to move a 
high-level agenda; work in state-level politics as a government 
relations staffer or lobbyist; and/or experience bringing together 
groups with diverse interests. Entrepreneurialism and a fresh approach 
to seemingly intractable challenges also are valued significantly.

An understanding of K-12 education reform issues is desirable, as is 
knowledge about Illinois specific opportunities and challenges related 
to the Illinois political environment, key legislators and opinion 
leaders, and the diversity of student learning environments.

A demonstrated record of managerial success as a fiscally responsible 
manager, strong leader and people developer within a non-profit, public 
sector, corporate, or entrepreneurial organization is imperative, as is 
the capacity to work with current philanthropic supporters to ensure 
Advance Illinois complies with all funding requirements. Successful 
candidates must also be comfortable securing additional sources of 
sustainable funding for Advance Illinois to support the budget in 2011 
and beyond. Ideally, candidates would also posses access to a personal 
network that positions Advance Illinois for a strong launch in 2008.

Candidates could come from a wide range of backgrounds including, but 
not limited to:

• A campaign manager for a state or national candidate or issue

• An elected or appointed official

• A senior staff person to an elected or appointed official

• An entrepreneurial leader from the private sector with a demonstrated 
track record in politics and/or public policy
Advance Illinois Executive Director Page 8 of 9

• An executive from a state or national education policy organization 
with a track record of advocating for change

• An advocacy or public policy leader from a related field

• A superintendent or other local education leader who has demonstrated 
excellence in statewide public policy issues.

The candidate will have to be innovative and creative, confident and 
lucid, and able to deal with complexity and ambiguity.


An undergraduate degree is required. An advanced degree, such as a 
master’s in a related discipline, is preferred.


Compensation will be competitive and commensurate with background and 


Advance Illinois will be based in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago is a city 
of neighborhoods, rich in ethnic and cultural diversity. A true urban 
melting pot, Chicago’s residents hail from every country in the world 
and many different ethnic backgrounds: African-Americans comprise 
approximately 39 percent of the city’s population; Latino-Americans 
comprise approximately 20 percent of the city's population; and 
Asian-Americans comprise approximately 4 percent of the city’s population.

Today, Chicago is one of the most influential cities in the world. 
Chicago attracted 44 million visitors from around the nation in 2006 and 
is the United States' third-largest convention destination. Visitors and 
residents alike will find the city offers a wealth of cultural and 
entertainment opportunities including spectacular museums, sporting 
events, restaurants, shopping, and lake front recreation. In addition, 
there is a broad spectrum of living options found within the city limits 
of Chicago from urban high rises to single family homes on tree line 
neighborhood streets. The downtown business district is connected via 
public transportation to the city neighborhoods and suburbs.

Chicago has the third largest gross metropolitan product in the nation – 
approximately $442 billion according to 2007 estimates, and is a major 
financial center with the second largest central business district in 
the United States behind New York City. This affords not only numerous 
opportunities for Advance Illinois to garner corporate support, but also 
many options for family members to find employment in Chicago. Advance 
Illinois Executive Director Page 9 of 9

Since the 1890s, Chicago has been a world center in higher education and 
research. One of the world's top research universities, the University 
of Chicago, is located in Hyde Park, while another world renown 
institution, Northwestern University, is located in the northern suburb 
of Evanston.


Interested individuals should send curriculum vitae with cover letter 
to, or contact:

Michelle Cruz-Williams

Vice President & Director

Isaacson, Miller Inc.

334 Boylston Street, Suite 500

Boston, MA 02116

Tel. 617.262.6500

E-mail: 3575 at


Herb Berg

Vice President and Director

Isaacson, Miller Inc.

1875 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 710

Washington, DC 20009

Tel. 202.682.1504

E-mail: 3575 at


Kevin Michael Hicar

Senior Associate

Isaacson, Miller Inc.

1875 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 710

Washington, DC 20009

Tel. 202.682.1504

E-mail: 3575 at

Electronic submission of credentials is strongly preferred.
Advance Illinois is an equal opportunity employer committed to inclusive 
hiring and dedicated to diversity in its work and staff

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