Chicago School Chief Resigns

Barbara Byrd-Bennett Leaving CPS Amid Criminal Probe: Deficit And Confusion Remain [Video]

Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced on Tuesday morning that she was leaving her CPS position. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago schools chief resigned amid a federal investigation into a $20.5 million no-bids principal training contract with SUPES Academy.

According to CBS Chicago, Barbara once worked for SUPES as a consultant. She also pushed very hard to grant the company the exclusive contract. Although Byrd-Bennett was not implicated in the ongoing investigation, she elected to go on leave back in April. The Chicago Tribune reports she feared her presence amid the controversy “could divert attention from the pressing affairs of the district.”

In truth, the federal probe is but one of a few serious challenges that have plagued the CPS in recent years. The district is struggling to overcome a $1.1 billion deficit. There are also labor talks underway with the city’s teachers union. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis didn’t speak to Barbara Byrd-Bennett directly prior to her resignation, but they did exchange text messages.

“I did venture to say, ‘Well… You know, you did what you were brought here to do: Close 50 schools and take the blame for it.’ “

Lewis also believes that it would be ideal that whoever succeeds Barbara be familiar with Chicago. She told CBS Chicago that with a billion dollar deficit to contend with, there’s “just no time for a getting acquainted tour.”

When Barbara Byrd-Bennett took her leave of absence, her position was filled by board member Jesse Ruiz as a temporary solution. Board President David Vitale said in a statement that Ruiz will serve continue to serve as interim CEO until a permanent replacement for Byrd-Bennett is named.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett kept her farewell brief, only typing out a few short sentences. She gave thanks for the opportunity to “serve the children of Chicago and the District.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement that he was “saddened by the circumstances that have led to Barbara’s resignation” and that he “wished her well.”

Byrd-Bennett leaving her CPS leadership position casts a dark cloud on the school district’s prospects — she’s actually the fourth Chicago school chief to exit within the past four years. Sarah Karp of the Better Government Association says the series of departures have taken a heavy toll on Chicago schools.

“The principals are getting directives every couple of years that are totally different from the one before.”

All this confusion makes it very difficult to schools to move forward with education in a unified and productive manner.

[Image Credit: CBS Chicago]

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