Claypool packs public schools with CTA cronies at a cost of more than a million dollars and growing... Claypools cronies and goons spreading across the public schools' executive ranks... 'You can run, but you can't hide'...

Forrest Claypool developed a public persona as an "independent" over the past 20 years, but in fact at every point he was a corporate privatization specialist. And he was never able to get elected to any post when he ran on his own. Above, Randy Ernst (left) shakes hands with Forrest Claypool (center) after Claypool's defeat in November 2000. Claypool is with his son Max (at right) and trailed by wife Daina Lyons and daughters Caitlin and Lee. The event took place at the Ivy League Baseball Club at 3637 N. Sheffield Avenue in Chicago, after Claypool had conceded to his opponent Joe Berrios in the contest for Cook County Assessor.Anyone who believed that Chicago Public Schools had cleaned house after an ongoing grand jury investigation -- and the threat of FBI indictments for possible bid rigging by the last Chicago Public Schools CEO -- now we have the newest Chicago Schools leader yet again bringing on board what might be called "the usual suspects" from outside education to run a multi-billion dollar school district. Barbara Byrd Bennett, who was the second "Chief Executive Officer" appointed by Rahm Emanuel, is still being investigated. Most of the cronies she had brought with her into top jobs (many of them from Ohio and Michigan) are gone now.

So the new crony crop, the "Claypool Cronies" they might be called, is still growing.

Since Rahm Emanuel appointed his Chief of Staff to be chief of the nation's third largest school system, the additions to the bureaucracy have grown, while Claypool has tried to diver attention from his patronage hires by talking about the handful of bureaucrats he has been eliminating.

Claypool is the former "independent" candidate for office (Cook County Assessor) and has been the appointed head of the Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago Park District. Since July 2015, he has added to the number of transportation experts who are now education executives.

As has been reported here and other media outlets, CPS is now increasingly run by a the group the used to run the CTA with Claypool. By a Substance count, a half dozen CTA cronies have been placed into top jobs at CPS, the cost totaling over $1,000,000 in compensation and benefits. None of them has any education experience or credentials at all. Metaphors can barely do justice to the Claypool regime: Its like running a hospital by appointing ditch diggers to oversee brain surgery. Scary indeed, as more and more observers are noting.

Back to Claypools cronies. None are cheap; they are all making six-figure salaries. Some are even over $200,000 mark (Claypool is being paid $250,000 per year, with undisclosed other perks). Some would think making that much money, Claypool would have the decency to hire some people who have education credentials and experience. So far, that is not happening much.

Claypool's hiring of Doug Kucia as his "Chief of Staff" at an annual salary of $175,000 was approved by the Board of Education without discussion or debate.Take for example his chief of staff, Doug Kucia, who has been riding the Claypool coattails since his Cook County Board and CTA days. Some inside sources have called Kucia a "hired goon." He was hired at an annual salary of $175,000 plus benefits on July 27, 2015 only few weeks before his birthday in August. No public education credentials or experience?

Another hire lives out of the city. Ronald DeNard, hired August 21, 2015, as the "Senior Vice President of Finance" is making $225,000 plus benefits a year. Prior to August 2015, Chicago Public Schools didn't have a "Junior Vice President of Finance."

Despite the fact that every year CPS teachers and other workers are investigated and sometimes fired for violating the school system's "residency" rule. Currently, the State Law requiring all officers and employees of the Board of Education be residents of the City of Chicago that are consistent with state law, 105 ILCS 5/34-83.1, and to establish new provisions to the residency requirement. DeNard not only gets to live in south suburban Flossmoor, but makes the second highest salary out of more than 48,000 employees in the district. Like Claypool and others, DeNard arrived at CPS without any public education credentials or experience.

There are others, but one here for now. Substance News found a little hidden crony with a cool job. Randy Ernst was hired July 27, 2015 to be the new "Director of Sports Administration" at $125,000 per year. So Ernst is the head coach for the entire school and district: the head coach of coaches. Oddly enough, he does have some experience as a PE coach, according to the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) on the Illinois State Board of Education website.

Then just when we thought that Claypools cronyism was getting remediation we found some old history on Coach Ernst on the interwebs. First there are the multiple contributions to Citizens for Claypool by someone fitting the coachs profile. Kind-of disappointing Claypool would hire someone that contributed to his campaign, but not unusual in a State that has sent three governors to prison for corruption.

Substance News then continued to dig to find that one crony that did not fit the pattern. Will the new CPS CEO do the right thing and hire someone just for merit and experience in public education? So far, a search for that person has been for naught.

Coach Ernst has long been a tried-and-true Claypool crony. Surfing the waves to the Internet, we came across a picture from Claypools loss to Joe Berrios in the November 4, 2010 election for County Assessor. In the picture is Coach Ernst, consoling buddy Claypool at the Ivy League Baseball Club after Claypool conceded to his opponent Berrios.


October 4, 2015 at 10:44 PM

By: sammy hill

New Sports Director Ernst

I guess making contributions can eventually pay off. This should be good to watch. Will the newspapers blow it up when this guy screws up? He's never worked in cps before so it will be interesting to see how the sports program goes. Other directors were under a microscope in the media. I wonder if he will be too. It's still "who you know"in CPS. Some things never change.

October 5, 2015 at 3:26 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Mr Ernst

Randy Ernst was Chief Program and Recreation Officer at the Chicago Park District, another former government agency run by Mr. Claypool. While in that position Randy Ernst was part of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case where a fired Park District worker was awarded $ 42,750.00 after a jury trial. To see an appeal of this case which the park district lost and in which Ernst is specifically mentioned go to

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 2 =