Barbara Byrd Bennett Steps Down Amid Investigation Controversy and Teacher’s Contract Negotiation
By Kai EL’Zabar
Well the other shoe finally dropped and Barbara Byrd-Bennett has resigned as chief executive of Chicago Public Schools amid a federal investigation into a $20.5 million no-bid contract.
Byrd-Bennett made her official exit via a letter last week in, which she stated that she planned to step down Monday. Keeping her cards close like she has since the announcement of the investigation Byrd Bennett did not give any reasons for her decision.
The ex chief executive has been on paid leave since mid-April, when school officials released wide-ranging subpoenas from the federal investigation. Her paid leave was scheduled to end next week, and she had not been expected to return to her post.
The tax payers were anxious to learn of her deal or package. She is not eligible for a pension, nor was she to receive any severance deal, according to CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey. The district referred questions about the timetable for selecting a new schools chief to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.
Byrd-Bennett, has not been accused of wrongdoing, but some wrong happened on her watch. When she took her leave she expressed concern that her presence could divert attention from the pressing affairs of the district as it tackles labor talks with the city’s teachers union and confronts a $1.1 billion budget deficit.
It’s been stated that in 2013, according to CPS records, the district approved a “leadership development services” agreement with the Wilmette-based SUPES Academy for up to $20.5 million that extended through June 2016. This was done upfront and square with appropriate approval and required signatures meeting the CPS check and balance system. So what is the investigation all about?
District records show SUPES was hired on a “non-competitive basis” to train school network chiefs and principals. Byrd-Bennett once worked for SUPES.
Board member Jesse Ruiz, who took over when Byrd-Bennett went on leave, will continue to serve as interim CEO, according to a statement from board President David Vitale. Note that he was one of those who approved the SUPES.
Michael Scudder, Byrd-Bennett’s attorney, said he and his client were declining to comment in light of the pending investigation.
Byrd-Bennett read her brief resignation letter and acknowledged that said she will “remain forever thankful for the opportunity to serve the children of Chicago.”
Regardless of this sad exit Byrd Bennett remained an educator who cares about the children.
Emanuel released a statement saying he was, “saddened by the circumstances that have led to Barbara’s resignation and I wish her well.”
The timing of Byrd-Bennett’s departure also lands as the terms expire for several school board members, who are appointed by the mayor.
Andrea Zopp, a board member and who recently announced her resignation as CEO of the Chicago Urban League to seek a U.S. Senate seat, announced her resignation from the school board and Urban League last week.
Chicago Teachers Union officials said Monday that they were “not surprised” by Byrd-Bennett’s resignation, adding the investigation that forced her departure “sets a horrible example for our students and the educators who look to her leadership.” What they didn’t say is that they were never too fond of her anyway, Howevr thy made their peace because of Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, local 1 of the American Federation of Teachers to whose aid Byrd Bennett came for the sake of the children.