Seventh outside Job for Barbara Byrd-Bennett: How many 'strikes' before she's 'Out!'? ERDI is another conflict of interest and 'Ethics' violation... but the Board members who voted in favor of all those expensive deals continue paying Byrd Bennett while claiming that 'billion dollar deficit'

The members of the Chicago Board of Education claim in May 2015 that the conflicts of interest and ethics violations by Barbara Byrd Bennett have come as a surprise to them. But just about every one of Byrd Bennett's conflicts -- and not just the SUPES Academy ones -- was known to the Board members. Above, the program for the February ERDI conference in Nashville (for which Byrd Bennett was reimbursed by the Board for travel expenses (see below) featured her on the program.Anyone who has ever faced "justice" according to the Chicago Board of Education knows that the Board is more than willing to suspend and fire teachers and others quickly. Many teachers and a handful of principals have been suspended without pay -- no matter what the charges. Often, these suspensions happen when those teachers have been outspoken in their criticisms of the official version of reality promulgated by Chicago Public Schools and the reporters who write stories about "school reform." [See the Editor's note at the end of this article for a dramatic example]. Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale (left) and Board member Andrea Zopp (right) voted in favor of the now infamous SUPES contract at the Board's June 2013 meeting, and have voted for every proposal submitted by CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett since they put her in power by their vote in October 2012. Vitale, a millionaire banker, repeats over and over the mantra that the Board members know what he calls the "true facts" after parents, teachers and other members of the public point out the lies and contradictions of Board claims and policies. Zopp (CEO of the Chicago Urban League) claims to speak for black people in Chicago while she has always voted to destroy black schools and fire black teachers in large numbers. Zopp often criticizes public critics of the Board for not understanding the complexity of the issues while pushing the privatization agenda (with minority contracts as a centerpiece) that is one of her missions on behalf of corporate "school reform." Substance photo at the Board's February 25, 2015 meeting by George N. Schmidt. But as this story is reported on May 5, 2015, Barbara Byrd Bennett is still being paid her full quarter million dollars a year salary. And the people who voted in favor of all of the corrupt contracts she promoted are still in power. Today, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education continue to hold that power, even after the ethnical bankruptcy of their actions is clear to the nation.

Before we go into the latest example Substance is reporting, let's remember that the only reason the SUPES contract attracted some attention from the corporate press was that it was "no bid." An examination of the hundreds of contracts let out by the Chicago Board of Education over the past decade shows that most of the worst of them (including the Aramark custodial re-privatization contract) were bid properly and legally, at least according to the letter of the law. Hence the problem may not be one or two "no bid" deals -- but the deals that were done in full legality. (One of the reasons the Board is now paying Aramark a lot of additional money despite the scandals involving filth in the schools is that the "Chief Administrative Officer" of CPS, Tim Cawley, messed up on the math when he wrote the specs that went into the Aramark deal. But Cawley is still in his $215,000-a-year job, and Aramark is getting even more money than the Board initially voted to pay it...).

But for the general public, at least, the question is still focused on Barbara Byrd Bennett, and her lucrative career in educational administration (prior to Chicago, she was doing very well at the top in Cleveland and Detroit), and a couple of the cronies she brought to Chicago with her (and whose salaries and "relocation expenses were paid by the Board following a Board vote).

Since he took his seat as a member of the Chicago Board of Education in June 2011 (above, at the June 22, 2011 Board meeting) former Northwestern University President Henry Bienen has specialized in a kind of pretentious hectoring of critics of the Board. One of Beinen's most repeated claims is that he and the other Board members (all appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel) have a special kind of secret knowledge that represent what he often refers to as the "real facts" or the "true facts." Those who then challenge his words are silenced, in some cases dragged away from the Board meeting microphones by large security staff. Beinen then votes every month to cover up any possible public record of the discussions from the Board's executive sessions. These routine votes complete the circle of pretentious hypocrisy that talks about "transparency" and then cuts more and more secret deals to privatize as much of the public's educational dollars as possible. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Finally, the question might be: How greedy can one person be?

And the answer may be astonishing to most working people.

To most teachers and other people who work for a living, it seems like being a "Chief Executive Officer" (CEO) making $250,000 a year (plus benefits and as yet still undisclosed "performance bonuses") is not enough to live on anymore.

In a time when families struggle to make ends meet and the struggle for a living wage is as dramatic as it's been since the days of the "Robber Barons" of the late 19th Century, it always is interesting to see how rich people are never satisfied and their most loyal servants (like Barbara Byrd Bennett) are never satisfied.

Substance News continues to discover the multi-tasking CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett. She still has a one of the highest government salaries in Chicago, and yet is also one of the most prolific workers in any industry since her hiring in April 2012 (and her elevation to the CEO position in October 2012).

To date, we have found that during her employment at CPS Byrd-Bennett has held at least seven positions with outside companies. For any teacher, administrator or principal in Chicago, those jobs would be in direct violation of School Board ethics rules and Chicago government ethics ordinances for government officials.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett is now under federal investigation for improprieties and possible illegalities because of her recommendation of a no-bid $20 Million dollar contract with SUPES Training Academy, of Wilmette, Illinois. In the last few days, it is also being reported that there are now multiple investigations into her concurrent and ongoing employment with "Synesi Associates" (owned by the same guys who own SUPES) and "PROACT Search."

From his first vote as a member of the Chicago Board of Education at the Board's special meeting on June 15, 2011 (above), Jesse Ruiz has voted in favor of every lie the Board has promulgated to the public, and then voted in favor of the cover up which has denied the Board's secret discussions to the public record. Above, Ruiz was still a "member" of the Board at the beginning of the June 15, 2011 meeting (he was later voted to be Vice President). At that meeting, the Board members voted in favor of a lie that claimed that CPS did not have sufficient funds (approximately $100 million on a budget of $5 billion; the percentages matter in big numbers such as these) to pay the four percent raise required in the fifth year of the five-year union contracts originally negotiated between Marilyn Stewart and the Board in 2007 (the contract went from 2007 through June 30, 2011). By the time the Board voted to claim (falsely, as the eventual audit of the Board's Fiscal Year 2011 showed) that it didn't have the dollars for the final year of the unions' deal, a new leadership had taken over the Chicago Teachers Union. The Board's persistently rapacious use of public money for massive privatization helped lead to the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. By April 2015, Jesse Ruiz, despite his record of complete subservience to the mendacious agendas presented to the Board, became the "Interim Chief Executive Officer" after the Board agreed to keep paying Barbara Byrd Bennett her quarter million dollar annual salary while she was on paid leave from her job as CEO of CPS. Substance 2011 photo by George N. Schmidt. The news of more investigations seems be be growing following the full and un-redacted publication of Byrd Bennett�s resume on Substance News (although none of our fellow reporters has given Substance credit for that work, continuing as they have for the better part of a decade of blacklisting Substance, its editor, and most of our reporters...).

Through a recent Freedom of Information Request, it is now clear that Byrd Bennett is a serial ethics scofflaw.

The 7th position Byrd Bennett has held while employed by the Chicago Public Schools is "Senior Advisor for Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI)". Unlike the SUPES (and related) companies, ERDI is based out of suburban Homer Glen, Illinois. The website for the organization is clearly listing Byrd Bennett with her Bio as a "senior advisor."

The CPS Ethics Policy is clear:

"No Official or Employee shall make, participate in making, or in any way attempt to use his or her position to influence any Board decision or action in which he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has any Economic Interest distinguishable from that of the general public." (Section XI. Conflicts of Interset A., Code of Ethics, 25 May 2011, Board Report 11-0525-PO2)

In the strongest evidence of Byrd-Bennett�s proclivity privatization and doing the bidding of the ruling class to dismantle public education in the United States and dehumanize students into products, the Mission of the ERDI organization says it all:

"Our mission is to provide a forum for dialogue between outstanding educational leaders and committed corporate partners to shape products, goods, and services that will inspire excellence in education and enrich the achievement of all learners...

The Board of Education paid more than $600 for a one night stay in a Nashville hotel during the ERDI conference at which Barbara Byrd Bennett was a speaker. The information above, and much else, is slowly being revealed to the public because of numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Substance reporter John Kugler.�ERDI exists to allow educational leaders the opportunity to influence the development, refinement and delivery of the products and services entering the educational setting in the USA so that those products and services can best meet the needs of children. Because the schools and districts that ERDI superintendents lead are important consumers, ERDI gives them a unique opportunity to comment on and shape what goes into the schools they serve. No other venue in this country offers leaders the chance to help create and streamline the products that affect the lives of the learners who will build a new future for our world!� (ERDI, 2015, )

Throughout the time Barbara Byrd Bennett has been CEO of the nation's third largest public school system, the members of the Board of Education, Byrd Bennett, and those she has hired into top executive positions have constantly proclaimed that the mission of CPS is to make students "college and career ready" (following the Common Core and the edicts of the U.S. Department of Education) and not necessarily to provide all children with a decent, fair and appropriate public education. The corporate definition of the "mission" is one of the keys to the destructive work that they have all been engaged in.

More interesting than the continued evidence that Byrd-Bennett was working for interests outside of the Chicago Public Schools where she was employed the documents used for this report show that CPS officials not only knew about these conflicts of interest, but supported Byrd-Bennett�s ethics violations.

The ERDI connection comes from expense documents submitted for reimbursement by Byrd Bennett.

The line that members of the Board of Education and others at CPS did not or do not have knowledge of any conflicts of interest of the CEO is false.

One document submitted as evidence for reimbursement clearly lists Byrd Bennett as Senior Advisor ERDI on a February 16, 2014 Program schedule for the ERDI Winter Conference Schedule in Nashville, Tennessee. Again as the resume Byrd-Bennett submitted for employment with Chicago Public Schools had many red flags, these reimbursement documents show that as late as February 21, 2015, the Board of Education knew about Byrd-Bennett listed as having position in an organization that violates the ethics rules for Chicago government employees.

Did the Chicago Board of Education suspend its so-called "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley from his $215,000-a-year job when it was revealed that Cawley's incompetence was costing the Board millions of dollars because of his math errors in bidding out the Aaramark re-privatization contract for custodial work? NO. the Board members continue to rely on Cawley's "business" skills while they pursue the massive privatization of public assets as their policies. Cawley was hired by the Rahm Emanuel Board members in May 2011 despite the fact that he had no teaching or administrative experience in public education, but was instead a former executive for Morotola and a "turnaround" administrator at the controversial "Academy for Urban School Leadership" (AUSL). Here is the list of jobs that Barbara Byrd Bennett has connections, including when and by who they were reported:

1. Broad Superintendent Academy "Executive Coach" Reported (February 2013) SubstanceNews

2. SUPES Leadership Academy "Senior Advisor" (July 2013) Catalyst

3. New Schools for Chicago "Director" Reported (January 2014) SubstanceNews

4. Catapult Learning �Senior Advisor for strategic planning" (April 2015) SubstanceNews

5. Synesi "Senior Advisor of school turn around" (April 2015) SubstanceNews

6. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt "Superintendent in Residence" (April 2015) SubstanceNews

7. Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI) �Senior Advisor� (May 2015)

[Editor's Note: The most dramatic example in the history of Substance, of course, is that CPS was able to suspend without pay a high school teacher with a virtually perfect record within a few weeks after he published six of the infamous CASE tests in the pages of this newspaper (back when it was in print and before we went on line). The teacher was George Schmidt, who was eventually fired by a vote of the Board of Education (August 2000) and blacklisted from teaching across the Chicago area. And yet, the public is supposed to believe, in 2015, that Barbara Byrd Bennett, who is under federal investigation for a range of corruptions, should be suspended with pay while she works with her lawyers to fight the growing list of possible charges against her. Even in Chicago, there might be a limit for the hypocrisy in high place.]