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One down, fifty (or more) to go... How many 'chiefs' do Chicago's schools need?!... CPS continues wasting millions of dollars on the mercenary hirelings of Barbara Byrd Bennett... And all of them should fired immediately, since they are sucking dollars out of the education of 400,000 children...

Just how many expensive no-bid contracts did the Chicago Board of Education enter into during the years since the current Board of Education was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May 2011? Public attention as of this writing (June 3, 2015) is on the $20 million SUPES contract. But a closer look shows that every month the Board members were voting to approve no-bid personnel hirings of people from out of town who had been cronies of Barbara Byrd Bennett. There is nothing to date on the public record to explain why these people were hired, or how the Board members decided that the unusual jobs and departments which were created for these people were needed in the nation's third largest school system.

Jack Elsey, the Chicago Board of Education's "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation", presented on behalf of the city's charter schools during the May 27, 2015 meeting of the Board. Elsey joined with Andrew Broy, head of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) to do the presentation, and none of the members of the Board even asked publicly why a private organization which lobbies to expand charter schools was allowed to present jointly with an administrator from the nation's third largest school system. Substance photo by David Vance. The abrupt resignation of former Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett made front page news for a couple of days in Chicago, and even merited a short paragraph inside the main section of The New York Times. But once again, relieving Chicago's beleaguered public schools of one destructive bureaucrat solves little as long as the Byrd Bennett legacy is a battalion of mercenaries, almost all of them from out of town, who were hired by a unanimous vote of the members of the Chicago Board of Education without discussion and who still sit in unexplained (and sometimes ridiculous) positions of power at six-figure salaries (plus "performance" bonuses which have never been revealed to the public). This morning, I'll document only a dozen of those who are, as of the May 27, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, still working, still in power, and still sucking down paychecks that are or more of what the average classroom teacher is being paid this year. One additional fact has to be noted. The $20 million SUPES contract which is the center of the current controversy was certainly controversial even when the Board members approved it at their June 2013 meeting. But by then, the Board has approved dozens of no-bid contracts to hire top administrators, almost all of them came from out of town. These contracts are as "no bid" as the SUPES deal, but unlike the SUPES deal, which was buried at the end of a list of more than 50 proposed contracts on the Board's public agenda, the hiring of top officials is not revealed to the public as required by law on the public agenda 48 hours before the meeting. All of Byrd Bennett's no-bid personnel hirings were only revealed to the public when they were published a week after the Board meeting on a document called the "Action Agenda" which is only available on line.

Above, the first of dozens of no-bid hirings by Barbara Byrd Bennett came in the form of a Board Report to hire Jack Elsey, from out of town, to the newly created position of "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation" at an annual salary of $165,000 per year (plus a $7,500 relocation bonus because Elsey was not from Chicago). Virtually as soon as Barbara Byrd Bennett was hired an in her position as "Chief Executive Officer" in Chicago's schools, she began hiring, in no-bid deals, a long list of out-of-town people for top positions at CPS. Not one during the years they voted unanimously and without debate to approve these hirings did the members of the Board of Education discuss publicly why they were doing so, and at what cost to Chicago. But they did regularly vote to hide their discussion in "Closed Session" from the public. One month after the Chicago Board of Education's seven members voted unanimously and without debate (in November 2012) to hire Barbara Byrd Bennett as their second "Chief Executive Officer", the Board members began rubber stamping a large number of out-of-town people, now even characterized in the Chicago Sun-Times as "cronies" of Byrd Bennett, to top executive positions. At its December 2012 meeting, the Board approved a Board Report, signed by Byrd Bennett, creating the position of "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation" and putting a guy named Jack Elsey into that job. The job paid $165,000 per year (plus performance bonuses which have not been made public). Elsey was also paid a "one-time lump sum relocation sign-on and retention bonus..." according to Board Report 12-1218-EX14, which was signed by Barbara Byrd Bennett and than "Chief Talent Officer" Alicia Winckler.

There is nothing on the public record showing that the Board members, which were later to be scrutinized for their approval of the $20 million SUPES contract because it was "no bid", asked why they were creating a "no-bid" department and putting a guy who required a "relocation sign-on and retention bonus" for the job. At the time, Chicago became the only school system in the USA to have a "Office of Innovation and Incubation." That office still is not defined in any Board Report or in the Board Rules. Sherry Ulery became known to the general public following the scandals involving the no-bid SUPES contract in mid-2015. But from the day she was hired by the Chicago Board of Education to become "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" in September 2012 the members of the Board didn't bother to ask, on the public record at least, why a school system that did not have, at the time, a "Chief Education Officer" needed a chief of staff for the person who wasn't there. Not did the Board members ask why they were voting to pay Ulery, who was from Ohio and part of what the Chicago Sun-Times is no calling the "cronies" of Barbara Byrd Bennett, $7,500 in "relocation expenses." Substance photo from late 2012 by George N. Schmidt.Although Chicago's corporate media are focused in June 2015 on the corruption involved in the $20 million SUPES contract, there is still no recognition of the fact that during her time as "Chief Executive Officer" at CPS, Barbara Byrd Bennett hired dozens of people, mostly from out of town, into no-bid positions at six-figure salaries. But the Board of Education had begun that process even before Byrd Bennett was hired (first as a consultant in March 2012 and then as CEO in November 2012). The Board actually began that habit when it approved the selection of Jean-Claude Brizard from Rochester New York as the first "CEO" hired by Rahm Emanuel. (Under current law, the mayor appoints both the Board members and the CEO, so the seven members of the Board basically rubber stamped the mayor's selection of Brizard at their June 2011 meeting). Aside from the mindless hypocrisy with which the Board of Education in Chicago votes to rubber stamp privatization work, the "business model" for education governance has resulted in a perversion of structure and the creation of a silly string of officers and officers that should barely exist in business and which really only exists for a serious reason in the military. Once a school system has a "Chief Executive Officer" (instead of a general superintendent) other perversions based on the military model follow as surely as dollars follow greed. One of these is the "Chief of Staff." Those who have been in the military or who have studied the military know that the "Chief of Staff" is a most important person, the detail person who works out the details to follow the decisions of the generals and admirals. Hence, the "Chief of Staff" of the Japanese Navy in 1941 figured out the routes and other details of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (September 7, 1941), just as the "Chief of Staff" of the Supreme Commander, ETO, figured out the details of the Normandy invasion (July 6, 1944) and what was to follow.

But until the militarized "Business Model" was imposed on Chicago's public schools, as the vanguard of this silliness, with the hiring of Paul Vallas (a National Guard Major with no education experience who also served as Budget Director for the City of Chicago) as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools in July 1995, the implications of these militarizations were only just beginning to emerge from the fog of the plans of the Business Roundtable (the organization which initially pushed the idea that a "business model" would save the schools).

When the Board of Education voted to hire Sherry Ulery as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" at an annual salary of $155,000 per year, the Chicago Public Schools did not have a "Chief Education Officer." Nor did any of the members of the Board of Education who voted unanimously and without public discussion in favor of the above Board report ask why the only qualified person to become that kind of "Chief of Staff" had to be imported (from Ohio, it was later learned) at a cost of $7,500 in "relocation expenses." Above, the Board Report hiring Ulery only became part of the agenda of the September 2012 meeting of the Board after the Board came out of Closed Session, and is an example of the no-bid personnel contracts that the Board has been awarding, at high cost, since Rahm Emanuel appointed the David Vitale and Jesse Ruiz Board members in May 2011.The Chicago Board of Education today has dozens of people with the title "Chief of Staff," all of them commanding salaries well into six figures. The Board has never discussed why it needs any "chiefs of staff," let alone many many (several from out of town). But I'll begin with the one who by reports has been called to testify before the federal grand jury investigation CPS corruption, Sherry Ulery. Sherry Ulery became known to the general public following the scandals involving the no-bid SUPES contract in mid-2015. But from the day she was hired by the Chicago Board of Education to become "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" in September 2012, the members of the Board didn't bother to ask, on the public record at least, any questions. One might have been "Why does a school system that does not have, at the time, a "Chief Education Officer" needed a "Chief of Staff for the person who isn't there?" And yet, just after the end of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, the member of the Board voted unanimously and without debate to hire, at an annual salary of $155,000 per year, an Ohio person named Sherry Ulery to become "Chief of Staff to the Chicago Education Officer."

Not did the Board members ask why they were voting to pay Ulery, who was from Ohio and part of what the Chicago Sun-Times is no calling the "cronies" of Barbara Byrd Bennett, $7,500 in "relocation expenses." By that time, "relocation expenses" had become common in Chicago Public Schools, since it seemed that the Board of Education had to hired only people from out of town (see below for more examples) to the top jobs. Also ironic, in retrospect, was that Ulery was hired on the recommendation of Jean-Claude Brizard, who was by that day being forced out of his job by Mayor Rahm Emanuel so Barbara Byrd Bennett could take his place.

At the October 22, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, the "Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer" Robert Boik (above right) conferred with the "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett (foreground left) while Board member Deborah Quazzo looked on. Quazzo and Byrd Bennett were gone by June 3, 2015 (Quazzo will be at her last Board meeting at the end of June; Byrd Bennett resigned on May 29 or 30), but Boik remains in the job he got in March 2012 because of the recommendation of Barbara Byrd Bennett. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Ulery didn't spend much time as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" at $155,000 per year. As soon as Barbara Byrd Bennett became CEO (in November 2012), she created a Board Report which made Ulery Chief of Staff to the CEO -- with a raise to an annual salary of $165,000 a year! Again, there was no discussion at the Board meeting, and the Board members voted unanimously in favor of "Board Report 12-1219- EX15" to give Ulery that $10,000 a year raise even though she had only been working for CPS for three months.

Ulery wasn't the only "Chief of Staff" sitting on the side at the May 27, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. A few feet from Ulery sat Robert Boik, the Board's $165,000 per year "Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer" (not to be confused with the "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer"). Boik had been working in Detroit helping undermine democracy in Detroit's public schools in March 2012 when the Chicago Board of Education hired Barbara Byrd Bennett as the highest paid consultant in its history -- and hired her aide Boik to become "Chief of Staff..." to the guy Byrd Bennett would replace as CEO a few months later. No one on the Chicago Board of Education asked, in March 2012, why Chicago needed to hire a guy who had been working in Michigan as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer" for Chicago. The seven members of the Chicago school board voted unanimously and without debate not only to hire Robert Boik to the job -- but also to pay him $12,500 "relocation expenses." No one on the Chicago Board of Education asked, in March 2012, why Chicago needed to hire a guy who had been working in Michigan as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer," but the seven members of the school board voted unanimously and without debate not only to hire Robert Boik to the job, but also to pay him $12,500 "relocation expenses." Boik was still in his job at the May 27, 2015 meeting of the Board, even though his clout, Barbara Byrd Bennett, was on her way out. There has also been no explanation as to why Jean-Claude Brizard recommended Boik, who was a crony of Byrd Bennett in Detroit, for the "Chief of Staff" job six months before he learned that he was on the way out of Chicago. Above, the Board Report from March 2012 that hired Boik.Boik is still in his job. At the May 27, 2015 meeting of the Board, even though his clout, Barbara Byrd Bennett, was on her way out, there is Boik. There has also been no explanation as to why Jean-Claude Brizard recommended Boik, who was a crony of Byrd Bennett in Detroit, for the "Chief of Staff" job six months before he learned that he was on the way out of Chicago. Above, the Board Report from March 2012 that hired Boik.

But there are additional "Chiefs of Staff" beyond Ulery and Boik. Sitting with Boik and Ulery at the May 27, 2015 meeting was Abigayil Joseph, whose title is "Chief of Staff to the Board of Education." Joseph got her present title from David Vitale after Rahm Emanuel's new Board was put into power in May 2011. There are dozens of other "chiefs of staff" throughout the CPS bureaucracy, despite the ludicrous claim my Rahm Emanuel that his administration has cut "$700 million" from administration (a claim most recently made in May 2015 in Springfield). In fact, the actual cost of administration has increased under the Emanuel administration, and the sleight of hand about cuts is done because (a) no one in the media examines closely even the most absurd claims by Rahm Emanuel and (b) the Board when pressed claims that the "$700 million" in cuts comes from "administration and operations..." Operations can be just about anything the Board chooses to claim to have cut.

Joseph is a regular at Board of Education meetings and acts as a gofer for Board President David Vitale. She was made "Chief of Staff to the Board of Education" at the July 2011 Board meeting. Joseph is one of the few people working in the "chief of staff" positions at the top today who was already working for CPS when she was promoted, having been hired originally in July 2003. She worked in various bureaucratic positions from then on, and has never been a classroom teacher. Her current salary is $145,000 per year, and contrary to most of the others, she was not paid a "relocation fee" or "hiring" or "retention" bonus when the Board gave her its "Chief of Staff" job.

How many "chiefs of staff" does one big city school system need? Lots. At the May 27, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, attentive members of the press and public could view the "Chief of Staff to the Board of Education" (above left), Abigayil Joseph, sitting two seats in front of the "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" (above right), Sherry Ulery. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Prior to the current era, the Board's chief administrator was always the Board's Secretary, and for decades (perhaps even a hundred years) the jobs that have now been put for the "chief of staff" of the Board of Education were done by the Secretary and a small staff. But the Board still has its "Secretary to the Board", Estela Beltran. Her annual salary is only $113,000 per year, despite the fact that she has been working for the Chicago Board of Education for more than a quarter century and actually knows the city's schools and how its operations were done prior to the Board's becoming overrun with men and women whose ideology was to privatize as much as possible before they were stopped.

It's necessary now to pause and review how much mendacity is currently going into the Rahm Emanuel Board of Education's activities. A dramatic example of that mendacity came in Springfield during the final week of May 2015, when CPS officials went before the members of the Illinois General Assembly and told one of the bigger whoppers of the Emanuel years -- the claim that since Rahm Emanuel became the chief chief of schools' chiefs in Chicago the miracle mayor had reduced "administration" by $600 to $700 million! Although they've been saying these number to gullible (or tanked) reporters for years, Rahm's people are now testifying to those numbers, which are both ridiculous and possible an indication of how the current leaders of Chicago's schools know almost about Chicago's schools, the history, reality, and present state of the nation's third largest school system.

The would be plausible were it not for the fact that the two top leaders of the school board, Board President David Vitale and Vice President Jesse Ruiz, have been in top executive positions for more than a decade. When Arne Duncan became "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools in 2001, following the dumping of Paul G. Vallas by then Mayor Richard M. Daley, there was some public concern expressed that Duncan wasn't up to the job. That was certainly the truth. Following a career which included basketball at Harvard University, Duncan had spent most of his adult years playing professional basketball in Australia before returning to Chicago and utilizing his community clout to get a middle level job at CPS. And he had no business experience except perhaps in negotiating his professional basketball contracts 12,000 miles from Chicago. Amid great fanfare, the Board announced that the solution had arrived -- David Vitale. According to the initial reports and the adulatory articles in the press, especially in the Chicago Sun-Times, David Vitale, a veteran business leader, was going to begin the position of "Chief Administrative Officer" of CPS -- at an annual salary of one dollar! And so it was that Chicago first discovered that its public schools had the need of a "Chief Administrative Officer" in addition to its "Chief Executive Officer" and various other chiefs. Vitale was central to the Board's administrative workings from that point on, and whenever complex financial activities were presented to the press at public press conferences (which CPS didn't stop holding until Vitale became Rahm Emanuel's Board President in 2011) Vitale was there.

Vitale was praised for his civic mindedness, while critics were reminded that he was a multi-millionaire who didn't need the extra money and supposedly loved the public schools so much that he was doing the job virtually for free.

But apparently Vitale's business experience forced him to approve a myriad of "Chief Officer," "Chief of Staff," and "Chief" appointments without public discussion during his years as a paid Chief Administrative Officer and subsequently as President of the Chicago Board of Education.

Other departments that currently have "chiefs of staff" are Special Education (currently called "Diverse Learners"), "College and Career Readiness", and "Governance" and the "Office of Support Services".

-- Tiffany Gholston is currently the "Chief of Staff" of the "Office of College and Career Readiness" at a curtent annual salary of $115,000.

-- Anthony McPherson is the "Chief of Staff" for the office called "Governance" at an annual salary of $150,000.

-- Lynn Moore Nelson is "Chief of Staff" in the Office of Special Education, at an annual salary of $145,000 per year.

-- Pedro Soto is the "Chief of Staff" at $115,000 per year in the office of "Support Services."

Despite regular prattle from the Board of Education President David Vitale, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and others about "transparency," none of this information is easily available to the public. It has to be dug out, literally forced out, as both daily newspapers have lately been doing using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Take a simple enough question: How many chiefs are there in America's third largest school system in May and June 2015? This is a question that couldn't really be asked about most public school systems in the USA. Why? Because most public school districts have principals, teachers, and superintendents -- not the "chiefs" fetishized by the "Atlas Shrugged" fantasist who have dominated corporate urban school reform (and the U.S. Department of Education) for the past two decades or more. Principals, teachers, and in some cases superintendents have been the case for as long as democratic public schooling has been the norm for the USA. It took us a long time to get from the "common school" to Arne Duncan.

How many people working for CPS in June 2015 have the title "chief" in their name?

On August 24, 2011, Jean-Claude Brizard continued the Rahm Emanuel revolution in corporate school governance by recommending that the Chicago Board of Education create the position of "Chief of Schools" and put more than a dozen individuals into those positions at newly created places called "Networks." Previously, since corporate mayoral controlled "school reform" had begun in Chicago in 1995 under Paul Vallas and Richard M. Daley, CPS had had sub-districts, then "Region Education Offices," then others -- and finally "Chiefs of Schools." The difference in August 2011 was that the "Chiefs of Schools" no longer needed to have taught or been principals or have served in any educator positions at all. The revolution was complete, but the proposal, like the others that had followed after Rahm Emanuel's Board took power, was not on the public agenda of the Board meeting. Because it was a "personnel action" it didn't have to become public until after the meeting came out of Closed Session.The answer is "At least 29." But it's not possible to find it easily. The Board deliberately buries it, then obfuscates it, then tries to doubletalk it if the obfuscations fail. (Later, we will examine the Board's 'Office of Communications" and why it should be called the "Office of Cover Ups and Obfuscations", but that's for later; now, chiefs).

The Board of Education periodically publishes a document called the "Position Roster" on its Web site, but that document is generally a cover up of the actual facts of who is working in which departments at the school system's central office. Begun during the years Ron Huberman was CEO of CPS, the "Position Roster" was an attempt to divert the public from the existence of the "Position File," the computer document which listed every person working full or part time for the Chicago Board of Education, from the top executives to the lowest paid custodial workers. Substance began acquiring the Position Files in the late 1980s and had archived them ever since.

Twenty-nine individuals today hold the title "chief" at CPS, although there may be more.

On August 24, 2011, Jean-Claude Brizard continued the Rahm Emanuel revolution in corporate school governance by recommending that the Chicago Board of Education create the position of "Chief of Schools" and put more than a dozen individuals into those positions at newly created places called "Networks." Previously, since corporate mayoral controlled "school reform" had begun in Chicago in 1995 under Paul Vallas and Richard M. Daley, CPS had had sub-districts, then "Region Education Offices," then others -- and finally "Chiefs of Schools." The difference in August 2011 was that the "Chiefs of Schools" no longer needed to have taught or been principals or have served in any educator positions at all. The revolution was complete, but the proposal, like the others that had followed after Rahm Emanuel's Board took power, was not on the public agenda of the Board meeting. Because it was a "personnel action" it didn't have to become public until after the meeting came out of Closed Session.

It was only during the Vitale-Emanuel administration that the deliberate cover ups became grotesque, almost laughable, following Rahm Emanuel's claim (which was reported at the time by this reporter) that in his first year in office, his Board of Education had "reduced administration" by "$400 million"! That lie, which is still being peddled by CPS officials, has now escalated to $700 million, an overstatement of several thousand percent. At the time Rahm Emanuel appointed David Vitale as President of the Board and Jean-Claude Brizard as CEO of CPS in May 2011, the Board was spending no more than $250,000,000 on administration. As early as the waning days of the administration of CEO Arne Duncan (who left in January 2009 for Washington, D.C.), CPS officials had been proclaiming annual reductions in "administration" that would have left the costs in negative numbers (and the system's central offices vacant) had they been accurate. But except for Substance, no reporter ever checked the numbers that were prattled out by various CPS officials.

One of the dozens of no-bid deals approved by the unanimous vote of the Chicago Board of Education was the hiring of Barbara Byrd Bennett's Ohio crony Tracy Martin Thompson at an annual salary of $170,000 per year to head the newly created "Office of Strategic Support Services" at the December 2012 Board meeting. The Board voted to rubber stamp the recommendation, which was made during the Board's Closed Session, by Barbara Byrd Bennett and Alicia Winckler. Winckler was the Board's head of personnel during the Vitale and other years. During those years, that office was called various things, ranging from "Human Capital" (which became unpopular) to its current title, "The Talent Office." Winckler left CPS in early 2015.The same is currently true about the "billion dollar deficit" claim that is reported as news without verification by the rest of the media in Chicago today. The Board of Education is required by law to provide the public with a Proposed Budget and to host three hearings before voting on the budget. Those meetings are supposed to be held in June, prior to the end of the Board's fiscal year (which is June 30). Again this year, CPS will dodge the law and delay the hearings as long as possible, with most observers expecting that nothing will happen before August.

As a result, CPS officials can make up any numbers they want and create another phony "deficit," as they have since Ron Huberman proclaimed the first "billion dollars deficit" six years ago. The trouble faced by truth is that the only accurate (and audited) numbers from the Board's finances come 18 months after the beginning of the fiscal year, in the form of the Comprehensive Audited Financial Report (CAFR). The most recent CAFR, presented to the Board and public in January 2015, covers the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014 and shows that the Board's claim of a deficit for the 2013 - 2014 school year was, again, a lie.

But to return to the ever-propagating "chiefs" in America's third largest school system, it's worthwhile to examine the hiring and deployment of another one of the Barbara Byrd Bennett cronies (the word now being used by the Chicago Sun-Times) who was hired from her Ohio home after Byrd Bennett got the top job in Chicago in November 2012. That person is Tracy Martin (whose name plate until she disappeared from the Board meetings listed her as "Tracy Martin Thompson."

Like many of the others from Byrd Bennett's inner circle, Tracy Martin Thompson's hiring was recommended to the Board by Byrd Bennett and approved unanimously and without debate at the Board's monthly meeting of December 19, 2012. Because personnel items do not have to appear on the Board's public agenda, the public only learns about such things by researching the Board's "Action Agenda," which is not public until about a week after the Board meetings.

Tracy Martin Thompson (above right) sat with Elizabeth Mascatti Miller (above left, with glasses) in front of the TV and other cameras during the infamous May 22, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. The reason for the large media turnout at that meeting was that Barbara Byrd Bennett was recommending the closing of 50 Chicago public schools because of "under enrollment" and because CPS was facing financial problems. Byrd Bennett hadn't seen any financial problems the previous December, when she told the Board to hire her Ohio friend Tracy Martin Thompson at an annual salary of $170,000 to head the newly invented "Office of Strategic Support Services." The hiring of Martin Thompson was another of the dozens of no-bid personnel deals approved by the Board during the years after Rahm Eamanuel appointed the Board and his CEOs following his May 2011 inauguration. Mascatti Miller (in the rear in the above photo) was hired from Rochester New York by Byrd Bennett's predecessor, Jean Claude Brizard, apparently because no one in Chicago was qualified to head the pre school office, which is what Mascatti Miller was hired to do. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt, May 22, 2013 at the Chicago Board of Education meeting. At the December 19, 2012 Board meeting, David Vitale and the members of the Board approved the hiring of Tracy Martin Thompson as "Chief Officer, Office of Strategic School Supports" at an annual salary of $170,000 per year, and with a "relocation allowance" of $5,000. There was not then, nor has there been since, any discussion of why CPS suddenly needed an "Office of Strategic School Supports" or why the only person in the world qualified to head that office was a buddy of Barbara Byrd Bennett from Ohio.

It was another "no bid" deal. But because it wasn't reported in Catalyst, apparently it's not a scandal. But Tracy Martin Thompson was involved enough in something that she was subpoenaed to appear before the federal grand jury.

If nobody at the Board was going to explain why Chicago Public Schools suddenly, in December 2012, discovered that the city's children needed the services of an "Office of Strategic Support Services" and a $170,000 per year bureaucrat from Ohio to run it, it was only a beginning. The office expanded quickly, even if it had no official reason for existence, say in the Rules of the Board of Education. By the time they hired Barbara Byrd Bennett to be Rahm Emanuel's second "Chief Executive Officer" for the school system in November 2012, the seven members of the Board knew that they were accountable to only two realities: (a) do anything Rahm wanted and (b) don't get caught. The meandering comments, usually carefully scripted, made during the public sessions of the monthly Board meetings were almost an afterthought.

By the time Barbara Byrd Bennett was running things at CPS, the Board of Education was also routinely ignoring its own requirement that major hires be put into a Board Report and eventually reported to the public. One of those subpoenaed to appear before the federal grand jury is the Board's $140,000-per-year "Executive Director of Leadership Development," Rosemary Herpel. Apparently, someone at CPS slipped the appointment of Herpel through the Board without bothering to go through a routine Board Report, even though a new hire at $140,000 per year almost always is reported to the Board, first in Closed Session, and then when the Action Agenda comes out to the public. Herpel, according to the Board's Position File, has been on the payroll since September 2012.

The fetishization of the militarized model of "leadership" has gone further in Chicago than in any other city, and many of the experiments in how far the rulers could push things were also begun here. The ability, for example, of the ruling class to dictate the imposition of a completely unqualified novice like Arne Duncan into the top job following Mayor Richard M. Daley's removal of Paul Vallas in July 2001 was a significant moment. Unless one believe that everyone who has graduated from Harvard University is qualified to do any major job in the world, Duncan was simply not the man to run America's third largest school system. But with promotionals from Catalyst and others who serve the ruling class, suddenly Duncan's paltry experience in CPS was a great find, and he was catapulted into the job of "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago Public Schools.

The gradual shift away from professional educators to others expanded under Duncan, but it was not until Duncan was gone from Chicago (he became U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2009) and Richard M. Daley was no longer mayor that the absurdities reached heights that even the most skeptical critics would have not imagined possible a few years earlier. The peak has been reached under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the scandals that have followed should be showing the failure of both the so-called "business model" (it's really simply a military model without the key fact of military promotions -- experience at each level of leadership) and the jargon of contemporary entrepreneurial capitalism at its silliest.

Rahm Emanuel's CPS "team" was announced in May 2011, at the time Emanuel was inaugurated as mayor. It included seven members of the Board of Education, headed by David Vitale, and his first choice for "Chief Executive Officer," the failed superintendent of the Rochester New York school system, Jean-Claude Brizard. The choice of Brizard filled some of the new criteria that Emanuel believed was in demand by those who had been critical of Mayor Daley's years in charge: Brizard was an "educator" and he was black. The shallow criticisms of Daley for putting Paul Vallas, then Arne Duncan, and then Ron Huberman is charger of the city's schools was quickly shown in its bankruptcy. Rahm's school board fulfilled only one demand -- it reflected a "rainbow" of "diversity." Mahalia Hines and Andrea Zopp were African American. Rodrigo Sierra and Jesse Ruiz were Latino. Pennty Pritzker, Henry Bienen, and David Vitale were white. And CEO Brizard was black and had, once upon a time, been a teacher and principal -- something he constantly reminded people of.

Brizard not only received a contract that was to pay him a quarter million dollars a year, plus "performance bonuses" for meeting undisclosed "performance criteria". He also received a "relocation allowance" of $30,000, something that was unprecedented because until then Chicago's public schools had not been in the habit of bringing in out-of-town talent, let alone proclaiming that these people were not only the best for the jobs, but the only available ones.

And though the SUPES contract -- which has obsessed the public and most corporate media since the federal investigation was revealed a week after Emanuel was safely re-elected in April 2015 -- was supposedly a scandal because it was "no-bid", by a year after Emanuel's Board was in power it was clear that "no-bid" contracts were going out by the dozens, although none would ever appear in the Board's public agenda. Instead of advertising in the usual places (The New York Times Sunday Review Section; Education Week, to name two major ones), members of the Board of Education simply began hiring those who were recommended to them on the Board's secret "Closed Session" agenda, and nobody in the public would learn they (or their jobs) had even been in play until a week (or more) after the Board meeting was over. Even if the reporters remained at the Board meeting while the Board members were in "Closed Session," when they took notes quickly as the Board ran through its votes they would have had no way to knowing what each "item from executive session" meant, since the Board Secretary did not provide the patient members of the public who waited (sometimes for as long as three hours) with copies of the additional Board Reports that described in full the hiring of each of the new out-of-town executives who were moving quickly into positions of power at CPS.



Comments:

June 3, 2015 at 8:11 AM

By: Kim Scipes

Corruption at CPS

This is an excellent account of some of the common--and in your face--corruption that has been going on in CPS. Thank you for putting it out so clearly. Why hasn't the Tribune and Sun-Times done this quality of reporting? Again, thanks for an excellent report!

June 3, 2015 at 10:13 AM

By: Rod Estvan

How much is spent on these salaries

George on top of the two Chiefs of staff named you indicate there are dozens of others holding the similar administrative titles in the CPS administration. If we assume there are 26 such positions all ar $166,000 per year that comes to about $4.3 million.

While that doesn't cover the pension costs of CPS, having that money freed up certainly would not hurt. I think if there are these many of these Chief of Staff positions iit is scandalous. It would do well to get a exact figure on this and propose to formally eliminate many of those positions for the next budget year.

Rod Estvan

June 3, 2015 at 9:24 PM

By: Keith Plum

Will any of these people be able to draw a pension?

George, excellent work! Will any of these "chiefs" be able to draw a pension?

June 3, 2015 at 11:33 PM

By: John Kugler

Even Worse than Imaginable

Is the fact many of these chiefs have no Illinois State Educator credentials. Then there are those that have no teaching or administrative license in any state in the nation. And last of course are those that have no education background at all. We are processing all of these names and also investigating everyone's residency for a full report in the coming weeks.

June 5, 2015 at 7:39 AM

By: Nathan G.

BBB "Restoring Trust"

Does anyone remember when BBB "[had]the recipe for trust"? Accompanying article: http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=3830§ion=Article

June 5, 2015 at 7:40 AM

By: Nathan G

Accompanying image

http://www.substancenews.net/assets/images2/1628700764.jpg

June 5, 2015 at 10:26 AM

By: Susan Ohanian

chiefs

Even for Chicago, with its history, this is breathtaking.

Thanks for the impressive coverage.

As concerned/outraged citizens, everybody with a Chicago residence should e-mail this article to Chicago media.

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