Bennett’s Future at CPS in Question Amid Probe

Federal authorities are looking into CPS CEO and a $20 million no-bid contract awarded to her former employer

The federal investigation into Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the $20 million no-bid contract awarded to a suburban training company had some officials on Thursday openly questioning whether she'll be able to keep her job.

"I'd be interested in knowing what people have known and how long they've known it," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said as he left the day's contract discussions. "If Barbara Byrd-Bennett does not wind up staying on, that will be the fifth CEO in four years, and that becomes an issue."

"We're concerned about the effect this has on the integrity of the district," he added.

Federal agents left Wilmette-based Supes Academy, Byrd-Bennett's former employer, on Tuesday with records and files. Supes won that multi-million contract in 2013 to provide service training for CPS principals.

Bennett is likely being asked to turn over her own bank records as part of the investigation.

"They'll make a determination if anything unusual came in as a result of that contract being awarded," said former U.S. Attorney Larry Beaumont.

Sarah Karp, the deputy editor for Catalyst Chicago, a CPS watchdog group, was among the first to ask questions about the contract and said she found it odd that CPS wouldn't make use of other resources in the city for in-service training.

"There's a whole bunch of people that have done principal training in Chicago," she said. 

In a statement, Supes Academy said it "stands behind the countless hours of training it has provided to Chicago Public Schools."

Still, Blaine Elementary School principal Troy LaRaviere was among those questioning whether the money was well-spent.

What a colossal waste of time this is," he said. "That's $20 million CPS could have invested in the education of our children."

Bennett's contract is up in June, and with CPS facing a $1 billion budget hole, members of the Chicago Teachers Union said the investigation is a distraction. 

CPS has put a clamp on information regarding the investigation. District officials declined to confirm if Byrd-Bennett showed up for work Thursday or name her attorney.

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