Departing Schools Chief Failed to File Required Ethics Statements - NBC Chicago
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Departing Schools Chief Failed to File Required Ethics Statements

Last day for embattled schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett will be Friday

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    Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has resigned amid a federal investigation into a no-bid contract awarded to one of her former employers. NBC Chicago's Phil Rogers reports. (Published Monday, June 1, 2015)

    Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s stormy tenure as chief of the Chicago Public Schools is officially over.

    Byrd-Bennett sent a written note to Board of Education President David Vitale, announcing her decision, dated May 29th. But even as she departed in the wake of a lingering federal investigation, the embattled schools chief failed to file required financial disclosure statements which are mandated by state law.

    "I will remain forever thankful for the opportunity to serve the children of Chicago," Byrd-Bennett said in her resignation letter. "I also appreciate the steadfast support of you, the board, and the District, and wish all of you continued success in the important work that you do to further the mission of CPS and the interests of the children that it serves."

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

    Byrd-Bennett stepped down after revelations in April of a federal investigation of a $20.5 million no-bid principal training contract with the Wilmette-based SUPES Academy where she was once employed. The Chicago Board of Education has since suspended that contract.

    The Chicago Teachers Union wished Byrd-Bennett well, but said she leaves Chicago under a "cloud of suspicion and organizational chaos."

    "She is going to be remembered as the person who sold 50 school closings to the people of Chicago," said CTU Vice-President Jesse Sharkey. "I don’t necessarily think in her heart of hearts, Barbara Byrd-Bennett thought they were good policy, but she sold them anyway."

    Sharkey said whoever the mayor picks as his next school CEO, that person should be a veteran educator, preferably from Chicago.

    "We clearly need to have some stability in public schools," Sharkey said. "We should have someone who sees themselves as being accountable to public schools. That would be a good start."

    NBC 5 Investigates has learned that Byrd-Bennett has failed to file two ethics statements which are required by Illinois state law and Chicago ordinance. One of those forms was due to the County Clerk’s office, and a more detailed form was to be filed with CPS headquarters. Both were to have been filed by May 1st.

    Last year, Byrd-Bennett filed both of the forms a month early in April. While the county form asks fairly general questions about conflicts of interest, the Chicago ethics statement asks more specific questions about outside income derived "through self-employment, and/or employment as a full or part-time employee of any individual, organization and/or corporation…"

    The form also asks, "Were you a partner or executive officer of any company, partnership, or sole proprietorship, which performed services for the Chicago Board of Education." It also requests information on whether an employee accepted "any fee, good, gift, entertainment, or any other thing of value with or without the Chicago Board of Education’s approval that exceeds $50.00 in value, from any organization or individual that is soliciting work or business with the Chicago Board of Education, or that has done work or business with the Chicago Board of Education."

    Byrd-Bennett’s contract indicates that she was paid $250,000 per year, with yearly cost of living raises of 3.2 percent. Her contract was in the process of rolling over for another year when she submitted her resignation.

    Byrd-Bennett’s last official day will be Friday.


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