O'Brien Goes to the Head of CIC

Concluding a search that started last fall, Cable in the Classroom last week named Peggy O'Brien its new executive director, effective early next month.

O'Brien is currently chief learning officer and COO of online education service Kiko.com (which stands for Knowledge in, Knowledge Out). She previously was vice president for education with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Prior to that, she served as head of education for The Folger Shakespeare Library.

Led by CIC chairman and Discovery Communications Inc. president Judith McHale, the nonprofit group screened hundreds of applicants before narrowing the search to a half-dozen candidates.

"This was a central hire for us," McHale said. "We wanted to find someone who could lead this initiative going forward" and build on what O'Brien's predecessors had forged over the past 10 years, she added.

O'Brien brings several key assets to her new role, McHale said, including experience in the education environment, a technical background and TV expertise gleaned during her days with the CPB.

She'll be responsible for getting a firm handle on the needs of the education community and determining the tools that teachers are looking for, so that she can convey those requirements to the cable industry, McHale said.

"I see her as a bridge between the two communities," she added.

O'Brien also has the skills to act as a strong spokesperson for CIC, McHale said. The CIC board wants to ensure the cable industry gets due credit for its $1 billion investment in providing schools with programming and educational aides, as well as wiring and technology, she said.

A former teacher who holds a Ph.D., O'Brien began her career at a high school in Washington, D.C. McHale said teaching credentials were not a necessity for the CIC position, although the board was looking for someone with strong ties to the educational community and an understanding of its needs.

According to a press release, while at CPB O'Brien offered developmental and financial support to a free, national broadcast and Internet channel designed to help teachers with professional development. She also directed a coalition called "Ready to Learn."

Taffy Patton has served as interim executive director for CIC since former managing director Megan Hookey's departure at the end of last year.

McHale was supported in the search for the new executive director by fellow committee members C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb, The History Channel general manager Dan Davids, Advance-Newhouse Communications president Bob Miron, and Time Warner Cable senior vice president of corporate affairs Lynn Yaeger.