Chicago Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett Resigns


In the middle of a federal investigation into a Chicago Public School’s $20 million no-bid contract, chief executive of CPS Barbara Byrd-Bennett has submitted her resignation.

In her letter, which she submitted to school board president David Vitale, she said she appreciated the support she had received from the board and that she wished them all “continued success in the important work that you do to further the mission of CPS and the interests of the children that it serves.”  The letter did not offer a reason for her resignation, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement: “I am saddened by the circumstances that have led to Barbara’s resignation and I wish her well. As a city, our focus must remain on finishing the school year strong and tackling the billion dollar budget deficit that threatens the progress our students, teachers, principals and parents have made over the last several years.”

Her resignation comes as no surprise to the district.  Byrd-Bennett has been on paid leave since a federal investigation began in April.  That leave was set to end on Friday.  She had been appointed chief executive of Chicago Public Schools by Emanuel in 2012.

The investigation comes as federal officials were made aware of circumstances surrounding a decision the district made in 2013 to offer a $20.5 million contract to SUPES Academy.  The for-profit company offers leadership training for principals and administrators and once hired Byrd-Bennett as a consultant.  At the time the contract had been offered, Byrd-Bennett suggested giving the contract to SUPES, and the board approved the decision.

Prior to the contract debacle, Byrd-Bennett had closed 50 city schools in one of the most controversial moves of her tenure.

While it was not specifically stated as the reason for her departure, Emanuel alluded to the investigation in a press release on the subject, writes Mark Peters for The Wall Street Journal.

“I am saddened by the circumstances that have led to Barbara’s resignation and I wish her well,” Emanuel said in a two-sentence statement released by his office Monday.

Ever since Arne Duncan resigned from the same position in 2009 in order to become the US Secretary of Education, the district has had four schools chiefs.  Duncan held the position for eight years, reports Don Babwin for ABC News.

“It just makes you really sad for the city,” Duncan said of Byrd-Bennett’s leave when he visited Chicago last week, according to the Sun-Times. “There’s been a lot of turnover and we need stability.”

The district is facing a contentious time, between a $1 billion budget shortfall and the underfunded pension system.  In addition, contract negotiations are set to occur this year with the Chicago Teachers Union.  During the last set of negotiations in 2012, teachers in the city went on strike for the first time in 25 years.

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