CORRUPTION CPS: When the federal grand jury questions Sherry Ulery and Tracy Martin Thompson on April 21, 2015, the questions that won't be asked -- like why are they in Chicago -- will be as important to Chicago's public schools' future as the ones that will probably be asked...

The perp walks for criminal "educators" now move from Atlanta to Chicago. Two of the highest-paid officials in Chicago's public school system go before a federal grand jury on April 21, 2015, the public must assume, to answer questions, about the no-bid contract to the controversial "SUPES Academy" of Wilmette Illinois.

By the April 23, 2014 meeting of the Board of Education (above), Barbara Byrd Bennett, the "Chief Executive Officer of the nation's third largest school system, was still at the height of her powers, and continually adding to the out-of-town mercenaries she was importing to executive positions in CPS. By that time, Bryd Bennett was also flying First Class back to Ohio regularly, reportedly with some of her Ohio buddies, at Chicago taxpayer expense. Most of the costs of Byrd Bennett and her cronies are still being kept a secret from the public. Although they were all approved by the members of the Chicago Board of Education (and Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz), the Board has denied the public the right to know how many "performance bonuses," and other expenses (including travel) that came about as a result of decisions made by votes of the seven Board members appointed by Rahm Emanuel in May and June 2011. Substance photo by David Vance. The two who are facing the grand jury on April 21, 2015, according to press statements by the President and Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education, are Sherry Ulery and Tracy Martin Thompson (although the press calls her "Tracy Thompson"). It's virtually certain that the questions will pertain to the no-bid SUPES contract. The two may also be questioned on matters related to the "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools, Barbara Byrd Bennett (now on a paid leave of absence). The public is slowly getting a deeper look into the inner workings of the third largest school system in the United States, something that the President of the Chicago Board of Education (David Vitale) and the Vice President of the Board of Education (Jesse Ruiz) have made certain since their appointment by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the Board in May 2011, right after Rahm's inauguration and his decision to "clean house" of the Board members who had been there (all appointed by Emanuel's predecessor, Richard M. Daley). Tracy Martin Thompson was given her present position by a vote of the Board of Education at its December 2012 meeting. She was given the title "Executive Officer, Office of Strategic Support Services," and provided with a salary of $170,000 per year. None of the Board members asked why the Board suddenly needed an "Office of Strategic Support Services" or what it would contribute to the education of the 400,000 children in the nation's third largest school system. Like all of the other out-of-town appointments made by the Board during those years, the position was neither advertised nor bid.

The Chicago Board of Education's "Executive Officer for Strategic Support Services," Ohio's Tracy Martin Thompson, presented the traditional Power Point at the Board's May 28, 2014 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Like the controversial SUPES contract, Martin Thompson's job was created, and Martin Thompson awarded it, with no public input. The Board members did not express any public interest as to why such an important position could only be filled by another bureaucrat from Ohio, or whether Martin Thompson had been part of the "Byrd Bennett" crowd back in their home state.

The Board Report hiring Martin-Thompson (12-1219-EX16, Martin-Thompson, December 2012) also noted that the Board was paying her $5,000 for "relocation expenses" and it was signed by Barbara Byrd Bennett, who by then had become the "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS. The members of the Board voted unanimously in favor of the Board Report hiring Martin Thompson, creating the "Office of Strategic Support Services", and allocating that $5,000 "relocation" expense. At no time did the Board members bother to ask anyone to define the "Office of Strategic Support Services." As of April 2015, there is nothing in the Rules of the Board or in the Board Policies explaining what Martin Thompson was supposed to be doing during the more than two years between her hiring and her testimony before the federal grand jury.

As we previously reported at, by the time the Board of Education's seven members voted to hire Sherry Ulery, also from Ohio, as "Chief of Staff" for the "Chief Education Officer," the Board didn't have a Chief Education Officer. One of those was Sherry Ulery, who was appointed as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" by Brizard, and voted in by the members of the Board, at the Board's September 2012 meeting.

By the January 23, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Ohio's Sherry Ulery was seated among the Board's top executives and was being paid $155,000 per year as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer." The fact by that time was that Chicago Public Schools did not have a "Chief Education Officer." Like Jean-Claude Brizard, who was also gone by early 2013, Noemi Donoso was gone. Donoso had been hired as "Chief Education Officer" by the Rahm Emanuel Board of Education (in June 2011), but had left by January 2013. Like many others, Donoso was paid relocation expenses when she was imported to help run Chicago's schools, albeit briefly. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One of the things the Board members apparently missed when they voted to hire Ulery at an annual salary of $155,000 was that by that time CPS did not have a "Chief Eduction Officer." The one who was put into that job by Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education in June 2011, Noemi Donoso, from Colorado, was already on her way out the door, and the Board never even bothered to replace her with a new "Chief Education Officer." Nevertheless, until her recent departure, Ulery drew a six-figure salary as "Chief of Staff" to an "office" who didn't exist. Ulery was the last out-of-town executive hired while Brizard was still signing off on the Board Reports for such things, although every indication is that the proposal to hire Ulery was made by Barbara Byrd Bennett.

The Board Report hiring Ulery (12-0925-EX6, Ulery as Chief of Staff to CEO) is available in the "Action" agenda items for the Board meeting of September 2012, a meeting that took place a week after the end of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. Ulery was also awarded $7,500 for "relocation expenses." None of the Board members asked, during the public portion of the Board meeting at least, why CPS needed a "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer," why the best qualified person for that job had to be "relocated" from Ohio, and why the job should be awarded without being advertised nationally, say, in a publication like Education Week, which routinely is filled with pages with such ads. The SUPES contract was not the only major contract for services that was awarded without competition by the Chicago Board of Education during the past four years.

One week after the Chicago Board of Education voted that it would not pay the four percent raise for the remaining year of the five-year "Marilyn Stewart" contract, the Rahm Emanuel Board met formally in a full Board meeting for the first time and approved a quarter million dollar three-year contract with Jean-Claude Brizard, who had just received a vote of no confidence from the teachers in Rochester, New York, where he had been superintendent. The Board also established a major policy by voting to award Brizard $30,000 to move himself from Western New York to Chicago, a distance of less than 600 miles. The hiring of out of town administrators did not begin with Rahm Emanuel's appointment of the new Board of Education members in May and June 2011, following Rahm's inauguration. From time to time, albeit rarely, Chicago Public Schools had been bringing in executives from other cities. Substance was the only publication noticing the trend, but even during the final years of the Daley administration the trend was minor.

And then, in May 2011, the Board of Educaion hired Jean-Claude Brizard from Rochester, New York, as "Chief Executive Officer," Noemi Donoso, from Denver Colorado, as "Chief Education Officer," and a dozens others within a few months from everyplace except Chicago and within CPS. And explosion of out-of-town hirelings (and relocation expenses) had begun.

Jean-Claude Brizard's first major recommendation was that the Chicago Board of Education hire Colorado charter school person Noemi Donoso to become his "Chief Education Officer." After years of having Barbara Eason Watkins as "Chief Education Officer" of CPS, the school system had had a brief interim CEdO after Ron Huberman resigned following the October 2010 announcement by Richard M. Daley that Daley would not run for re-election in 2011. Donoso was the first CEdO who came to Chicago from out of town. Her $195,000 per year salary, along with her $21,000 "relocation and transition expenses" were both unprecedented.The Board of Education's Communications Department was immediately reorganized under the new board to provide the public with as little communications as possible. The Board hired former Blaogijevich aide Becky Carroll as its $165,000 per year "Chief Communications Officer." Carroll began a policy of refusing to hold press conference and blacklisting Substance and other publications that asked critical questions from the Board's press release distribution lists. After leaving CPS in 2014, Carroll went on to work for the Rahm Emanuel PAC, "Chicago Forward," which paid for a lot of the negative campaigning that took place during the 2015 municipal elections in Chicago (both at the ward and citywide levels).


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