Forrest Claypool: A Trainwreck Waiting To Happen?

What started out as a formal press conference announcing CPS CEO Forrest Claypool’s resignation ended up as a “you know you wrong, but we got your back” farewell from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The announcement of the long-time public official’s resignation was not a surprise due to the latest report from Inspector General Nicholas Schuler slamming Claypool for lying and violating CPS ethics policy; rumors of his removal circulated a few days before the announcement.

Mayor Emanuel vehemently backed his head of the third largest public-school system in the country in the same manner he supported former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy. It just wasn’t a “good look” so he accepted his resignation, concluding his post the last day of December. But who really works on the last day of December at CPS headquarters—outside of assistant administrators and the maintenance staff?

How many CEOs does it take before CPS gets it right? Each position and role, Claypool has held—he had no prior history, rising up in the ranks within that department. So, the question remains—who really is at fault? Claypool is not an educator nor did he have any experience building an educational institution within the Chicagoland region.

Chicago taxpayers had to endure the catastrophic scandal of Barbara Byrd-Bennett and her business associates stealing money from a $30 million no-bid contract. Although Bennett pleaded guilty and is currently serving her sentence—the mayor’s latest appointment bows out in disgrace. During the 2015 mayoral election, Chicago voters highly favored an elected school board during a nonbinding referendum—transparency and accountability is required.

Adding more salt to the mayor’s wound, the Illinois Senate voted 53-2 to approve an elected board—not appointed by Emanuel in May.

Not a fan of Claypool’s style of administration, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released an official statement on his departure.

“Our members are delighted to see Forrest Claypool go, but he’s got to take his policies with him. Ninety-nine percent of our members voted ‘no confidence’ in him last year because his decisions have pushed thousands of students out of Chicago Public Schools, he’s cut our schools’ funding to the bone and he’s populated his administration with cronies and political insiders while running roughshod over the voices of parents and teachers.”

Although the next steps of Interim CEO Janice Jackson are to take over where her predecessor left off—she has a great deal of clean-up on her hands. An educator and former principal of Al Raby and Westinghouse College Prep High School—some Black faith leaders are calling for the mayor to make her appointment a permanent one.

A special press conference was held on Tuesday with pastors in support of Jackson.

“Dr. Jackson’s support in our communities is deep and wide”, says Rev. Cy Fields, President of the Leaders Network and Pastor of New Landmark Church. “She is a product of the system and a professional educator. We have an opportunity to have grassroots support for a system with grassroots leader.”

CTU is not letting up on Jackson, saying: “She’s got to show that she will take a different approach on revenue, reject her predecessor’s agenda to close schools and expand charters, and start listening to educators and parents.”

Now, with the high profile National Teachers Academy (NTA) closing to build a high school and expand more room for the growing South Loop community—along with three Englewood high schools—Claypool may be getting off easy–too easy for many left holding the bag at the expense of our students.

State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) also shares her concern. Her office released a statement:

“With today’s departure of Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool, I am calling on Janice Jackson and Frank Clark to keep our schools open and put the resources in place to educate and support our children.”



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