AUSL? Conflicts of Interest Abound in Board Decision to Turn Around Dvorak, Gresham and McNair... Conflicts of interest charged after Board of Education votes again to turn schools over to AUSL

Thanks to everyone who came out to cover various stories about Dvorak, Gresham and McNair in their fight to remain open. Your journalism helped to provide balanced perspectives and keep a number of pertinent issues at the fore. After everything was said and done, the Board voted to approve the proposed AUSL turnaround of the schools. This issue is fraught with conflicts of Interest.

Even though Chicago Board of Education member Carlos Azcoitia (above right) abstained in the voting to give another three Chicago elementary schools to AUSL because of his own conflicts of interest, the Board of Education's chief lawyer, James Bebley (above left) has never spoken against the many conflicts of interest at CPS since the AUSL contracts, almost all of them no-bid, began flowing years ago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Carlos Azcoitia, a member of the board, voted to turn the school over to AUSL, but recused himself from voting on the contract because he currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Practice in Educational Leadership at National Louis University. National Louis is the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s (AUSL) exclusive teacher preparation partner. Through the “urban teacher residency” approach, the National Louis University and AUSL program structure teacher preparation more like the clinical model used to train doctors. For a full year, the teaching residents spend four days a week in an AUSL classroom in training with a mentor teacher, while also taking graduate courses at National Louis. It seems to me if you have a conflict of interest in voting for the contract, then you have a conflict of interest in voting to turn the school over to a contractor that uses your program to train its teachers, rather than use CPS teachers.

Since its inception in 2001, AUSL has enjoyed strong relationships with the Chicago Board of Education.

These relationships have only strengthened over time. Board of Education President David Vitale served as an unpaid advisor, and eventually became an unpaid Chief Administrative Officer for CPS between 2003 and 2008. He is the former board chairman for AUSL (2009-2011) while CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley is the former managing director of AUSL. Both men resigned their posts with AUSL and immediately assumed their current positions with CPS. Both men are in a position to approve CPS contracts, including the AUSL contracts. They say they are not in a conflict of interest because they are no longer with AUSL. David Vitale voted to turn the schools over to AUSL. (Tim Cawley is not a member of the board, so he has no vote.)

Having David Vitale and Tim Cawley in their current positions is very troubling. There are several vendors in the state who have been authorized to do this work. Yet, AUSL seems to have an exclusive, no-bid relationship. Competing organizations are not taken seriously. Furthermore, there are no minority- or women-owned businesses that do this work for CPS.

Above, former AUSL official Tim Cawley sat a few feet from Chicago Public Schools "Chief of Chiefs" Denise Little during the presentation by Little against the three schools fated for turnaround. Cawley had been the CPS "Chief Administrative Officer" since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took over the city's schools and appointed his Board in May 2011. Cawley's former status as an exceuctive of the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) has never been cited by Board members or CPS investigators as a problem as the Board regularly awards no-bid contracts worth millions to AUSL each time a "turnaround" is proposed. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.It's amazing how I just read where the State of Illinois is fining a man $100,000 for going to work for a company that does business with a state agency for which he worked, within less than a year of leaving the State. In Chicago, we have seemingly created a revolving door and tangled web of people who used to work for contractors or currently work with organizations that benefit indirectly from Board decisions, and no one bats an eye. This is business as usual.

Valerie F. Leonard Expert in Community and Organizational Development

Phone: 773-521-3137 E-mail:

Website: Weblog: (Staying In the Loop)


April 30, 2014 at 12:41 PM

By: Paul Hogan

More CPS Waste

Hey Substance,

I have been noticing that when the Network has meetings at schools, they always buy lunches for everyone. Sometimes it for sixty to one hundred people. How much of the Network budget goes toward food? When did administrators become too poor to feed themselves? When did CPS find a surplus for calories?

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