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Detroit now reviewing contracts entered into by Barbara Byrd Bennett during her time in power there...

Barbara Byrd Bennett was hired as a "consultant" by the Chicago Board of Education at its March 2012 meeting. During the same meeting, the Board voted to hire Robert Boik as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer" at a salary of $165,000 per year. At that time, nobody but Substance noticed that the Chief Executive Officer (Jean-Claude Brizard) already had a "Chief of Staff." The following month, Byrd Bennett's title was changed to "Chief Education Officer" and Boik became her "Chief of Staff." Above Boik (right) and Byrd Bennett (left) consult during a Board of Education meeting. At the time the Board of Education's members voted unanimously and without debate to hire Byrd Bennett and Boik. No one asked why Chicago needed two executives (Byrd Bennett and Boik) who had just completed the partial destruction -- through privatization -- of Detroit's public schools. Since the corruption investigation into Byrd Bennett, more of the story has been coming out, and as of October 13, 2015, the Detroit News announced that there is also now an investigation into Byrd Bennett's activities while she had power in Detroit. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Within hours after former Chicago schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett pleaded guilty in Chicago federal court on corruption charges, the Detroit News is reporting that Detroit's school system is investigating Byrd Bennett's contracts during the time she had power in Detroit. As reported on October 14 by Jean Schwab in Substance, federal authorities are also investigating other cities tracing some of the trail of the career of Barbara Byrd Bennett. During the years prior to her arrival in Chicago, "BBB" (as some called her) had a career in power in Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Detroit. Thanks to her sponsorship by corporate school reform billionaires (most notably the Broad Foundation, owned by billionaire Eli Broad) Byrd Bennett went from city to city as a "school reform" chief. Now that she has finally been caught in the corruption that many suspected had been her stock in trade for more than a decade, it remains to be seen whether local officials (as in Detroit) or federal officials will find further evidence of her corruption.

DETROIT NEWS STORY, OCTOBER 13, 2015

Convicted ex-Chicago school boss’ DPS term scrutinized, by Shawn D. Lewis, The Detroit News 8:46 a.m., October 13, 2015.

A former Detroit Public Schools official who pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding the Chicago school system faces scrutiny over her tenure in Detroit.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was the chief academic and accountability auditor for DPS from 2009-11, was convicted of one count of fraud in federal court. Federal authorities alleged that as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, she steered $23 million in no-bid contracts to two education firms in return for $2.3 million in bribes and kickbacks.

One of those firms, Synesi Associates LLC, which trains principals and school administrators, was awarded contracts with DPS while Byrd-Bennett was working for the district, according to records posted on the DPS’ website.

Under a plea deal, prosecutors recommended that Byrd-Bennett be sentenced to 71/2 years in prison, the Associated Press reported. She had faced a maximum of 20 years on each of 20 fraud counts in the indictment.

According to six-month expenditure reports from May and November 2011, DPS paid $1,487,654.08 to Synesi for “Consultant Services/Curriculum/Office of Accountability.”

The report from November 2011 also lists an invoice of $128,698.77 to Synesi as “disapproved.”

In a statement Tuesday, a DPS spokeswoman said the district is cooperating with authorities.

“DPS is committed to transparency in all of its business operations,” spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said. “As with any matter where there are allegations of misconduct, the district investigates internally and works cooperatively with the law enforcement agency handling such matters. In the case of Ms. Byrd-Bennett, we are continuing to work closely with law enforcement officials.”

Zdrodowski declined to comment further.

Byrd-Bennett, 66, was hired to work for DPS in April 2009 by then-Emergency Manager Robert Bobb and left the district shortly after him in June 2011.

She became chief education adviser for the Chicago Public Schools in April 2012, according to a biography posted on that district’s website. She was named CEO in October that year by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and resigned four months ago after the federal fraud investigation became public.

The indictment against Byrd-Bennett alleges the owners of Synesi and its parent firm, SUPES Academy, offered her money and a job once she left the Chicago schools. Byrd-Bennett formerly worked for SUPES Academy, a training company.

SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates LLC owners Gary Soloman and Thomas Vranas are accused of offering her money along with sporting-event tickets and other kickbacks in exchange for the contracts, the Associated Press reported. Both Chicago-area men face multiple charges, including bribery and conspiracy to defraud.

Speaking outside court after entering her plea, Byrd-Bennett voice quivered as she addressed Chicago’s 400,000 schoolchildren, their parents and her former co-workers.

“I am terribly sorry and I apologize to them,” she said. “They deserved much more — much more than I gave to them.”

Keith Johnson, a former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said Tuesday he was “surprised and disappointed” when Byrd-Bennett was charged. “She worked very well with me while she was with DPS, and she was very instrumental in helping me get our peer assistance and review program together” for the district’s teachers, he said.

Johnson noted that Byrd-Bennett and DPS had faced criticism during the 2009-10 school year for a $40 million contract the district entered with book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcout. Byrd-Bennett once worked for Houghton Mifflin Harcou



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