CPS may grant residency waiver for high-ranking official
Chicago's school board is expected to decide today if it will grant a waiver allowing its new chief administrative officer to live outside the city.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has endorsed the two-year waiver so that Tim Cawley, the third-ranking CPS executive, can continue to live in Winnetka.

CPS grants waivers for teachers in high-need areas like special education and math, but this would be a first for an administrator, district officials said. And the waiver would come at a time when the district has been vigorously enforcing the residency rule.

Cawley, 55, says he was upfront with the mayor when he was first considered for the job, explaining that he couldn't move into the city immediately. He and his wife adopted a girl from Ukraine last year and do not want to force the 12-year-old to move just as she's settling into the North Shore community.

"It's not possible for us to uproot her one year into her life in the U.S. and say, 'You've got to move. You've got to leave your friends. You've got to leave your school, and we're moving into the city,'" Cawley said. "I understand how people would look at this and say, 'Why are you special? Why are you different?' and all I can say is I feel like I'm very much the right guy for this job, and getting this waiver was one of the critical criteria of being able to accept it."

Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, questioned making an exception for a high-ranking executive.

"It seems to me if you're going to have a standard for one group of people and you're going to apply it in a Draconian fashion and another group doesn't have to follow those same rules, that's not fair," Potter said.

Emanuel, whose residency was challenged during his campaign for mayor, has said he won't lift the rule that requires city workers to live in Chicago. The controversial rule, which has applied to public school staff since 1980, is promoted by CPS as a measure to keep staff connected to the city, decrease absenteeism and encourage local spending that contributes to school tax revenues.

Tarrah Cooper, an Emanuel spokeswoman, said Cawley brings 30 years of experience in the financial sector to a district facing a $712 million budget deficit.

"The mayor respects Tim's unique situation and decision not to immediately relocate his young daughter, who is new to the country," Cooper said.

Cawley, who is expected to make $215,000 this school year, came to the district from the Academy for Urban School Leadership, where he was the managing director for finance and administration for the organization, which runs turnaround schools in the city. Before that, he had worked at Ameritech and then Motorola, where he was a senior vice president.

Martin Koldyke, a venture capitalist who founded AUSL and started the Golden Apple Foundation, a nonprofit organization that recognizes outstanding teachers, says he was "smitten" with Cawley when he first met him.

"What Tim was able to do at AUSL was make sure we did a good job of fiscal management," Koldyke said. "He's an executive who brings energy and the ability to carefully analyze situations."

Cawley, who was initially named by Emanuel to be CPS' interim chief operating officer, will be given the title of chief administrative officer on Wednesday. He will be responsible for running the district's day-to-day operations such as finance, transportation, facilities, security and safety — everything outside the classroom.

Though CPS has had a residency rule for three decades, it began a vigorous crackdown last year. More than 70 cautionary notices were sent out to staff who lived outside Chicago, letting them know they had six months to move into the city. About 23 CPS staff, 10 of them teachers, eventually lost their jobs because they didn't live in the city.

This April, the board updated its policy to allow teachers in certain high-need positions to be able to live outside Chicago: special education, mathematics, science, reading, bilingual, world language and physical education. Librarians, school psychologists, guidance counselors, speech pathologists and school nurses were also given waivers.

Altogether, 1,000 teachers are in waiver-eligible positions, said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.

Cawley said he and his wife co-own a condo in Streeterville with another couple and spend time there when visiting downtown. They pay property taxes, but it is not their primary residence.

The Cawleys' three sons are grown, and they decided to adopt a daughter last year. They went to Ukraine, where they met Polina, whose mother died when she was 9 and whose father abandoned her, Cawley said. She arrived in the U.S. in April 2010 and began school in Winnetka. Cawley hopes that in two years she'll be ready for high school and they can move into the city.

Tribune reporter Kristen Mack contributed.

nahmed@tribune.com