As Chicago Public Schools struggle to close a multimillion dollar budget deficit, a Near Northwest Side Principal is under fire for racking up $17,000 on his school credit card to travel overseas.
Between January of 2009 and June of 2010, Ogden International School Principal Kenneth Staral used the credit card to pay for trips to Europe, the Middle East, Central America, and Asia, records obtained by Fox Chicago and the Better Government Association show.
Staral said the trips were in support of an international studies program he created at the school to teach students about countries, cultures and issues around the world. But while students paid their own way and stayed at hostels, Staral used his CPS credit card to stay at five star hotels and dine at Michelin rated restaurants.
His credit card charges also show lavish spending here in Chicago: $1,200 at Gibson’s in the Gold Coast to host students and officials from other countries and $1,400 for a gathering at Hugo’s frog Bar next door.
Tim Cawley, the new chief administrator for CPS, said he’s considering tearing up all the districts’ credit cards.
"These are tough fiscal times and every dollar needs to be spent on doing the things that are helping children," he said. "And it's not clear how a nice dinner at a Gibson's helps the children at the school of Ogden."
CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said the school district has tightened up rules regarding credit use, but she acknowledges those changes came after Staral’s spending spree.
The case has been referred to the CPS inspector general, said Sainvilus.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said Staral should reimburse the schools.
"You will find across the city that teachers spend on average $1,500 a year on school supplies out of their own pocket," she said.