Former Barbara Byrd Bennett buddy now a finalist for top job in Salt Lake City... Rhonda Corr-Saegert is the latest in a long line of bureaucrats who park their careers in Chicago for a few years and then move on with a lightly padded resume...

Of the three finalists for the top job in the Salt Lake City public schools, two (Krish Mohip, center, and Rhonda Corr-Saegert) are former CPS administrators. Both worked during the scandal-ridden years that Barbara Byrd Bennett was Chief Executive Officer of CPS. Corr-Saegert was the last of the "Ohio Crew" brought to Chicago by Byrd Bennett before the Byrd Bennett administration collapsed following the SUPES scandal and the guilty plea to federal corruption charges by Byrd Bennett herself. Composite photo from the Deseret News of Salt Lake City.No sooner does one district (or at least a large number of activists in that district) realize that having "Chicago Public Schools" on a bureaucrat's resume is not a good recommendation than Substance hears that another district is, so to speak, challenged in this area. Maybe "drinking the cool aid" is an apt description. One district that hired a former CPS bureaucrat a few years ago talked about getting a "rock star." Apparently there is a belief among Board of Education members around the USA that "Chicago" is a positive on the candidate's resume. Or maybe it's just that the Board members are too lazy to do their own search, and thus hire an "executive search firm" that promotes certain myths about Chicago's "success" -- and the people who have done it to Chicago.

And so after Sarasota, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Broward County, and other places got burned because they hired a former CPS administrator, Salt Lake City is about to make the same mistake.

Local news organizations in Salt Lake City recently reported the possibility. Two of the three "finalists" for the top job in Salt Lake City are former CPS bureaucrats. One was a well known crony of Barbara Byrd Bennett, going all the way back to the "Ohio Days" when Byrd Bennett was touting her achievements as "CEO" of the Cleveland schools (with the help of underlings and "Catalyst Cleveland"). A second is a guy who barely registered when he was working in Chicago, but has suddenly been touted as having achieved great things (or at least significant things) here while at CPS.

As the Salt Lake City newspaper, Deseret News, reported on April 8, 2016, Rhonda Corr Saegert is now a "finalist" for the top job in Salt Lake City's public school system.

As readers of Substance remember, Corr-Saegert was one of the last of the "Ohio Crew" hired by Barbara Byrd Bennett during "BBB's" time as Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's public schools. As of April 2016, virtually all of Byrd Bennett's Ohio cronies had left CPS (although at least one of the Michigan people brought into Chicago is still at large with power in CPS). Corr-Saegert quit Chicago before Markay Winston, who had been chief of the strangely named OODLSS department, departed.

Apparently, that was enough to make her a "finalist" for the top job in Utah's biggest city.

The report that Corr-Saegert has been a superintendent in Chicago is a bit overstated. After being hired to a central office administrative position during the summer, Corr Saegert was transferred to a "Network Chief" job. Prior to being hired in Chicago, she had been a principal in Ohio.

Claims made on behalf of many administrators during the era of corporate "reform" have often been, to say the least, "overstated."

Believing the myths created by corporate "school reform" can be expensive in dollars, and sometimes in careers. By ignoring the facts of the infamous career of former Chicago schools "Chief Executive Officer" Paul G. Vallas, former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn doomed his re-election campaign and ensured that Illinois wound up with Bruce Rauner as governor. Quinn was the only state-wide Democratic Party candidate to lose in the recent election, which continued the Democrats with huge majorities in the Illinois House and Senate. Quinn's anti-union policies, combined with his selection of Vallas (without even consulting Chicago Teachers Union leaders or researchers who had followed Vallas's career) ended with Quinn losing the election and Rauner winning. The most infamous of Chicago's former administrators is former CPS Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas. Reality caught up with the Vallas fictions when he was put into the top job in Bridgeport, CT, three years ago. Organized community protests forced the district (and the governor) to acede to the departure of Vallas, who then returned to Chicago (to run for Lieutenant Governor, helping to doom the candidacy of feckless Pat Quinn). After leaving Chicago, Vallas blazed a trail across Philadelphia, New Orlean, and elsewhere, with side trips as a consultant in Haiti and Chile.

But as eventually has come out from every stop on the Vallas itinerary, corruption, Chicago-style followed. Even into 2016, school districts are still being forced to pay the bill for falling for the nonsense called the "Vallas Method." In March 2016, a federal judge ruled that $7.2 million in a federal anti-poverty grant had been misspent by Philadelphia's public schools ten years ago -- when Vallas was CEO. "The Philadelphia School District owes the U.S. Department of Education $7.2 million for federal grant funds misspent more than a decade ago, a federal appeals court ruled this week," one Philadelphia news organization reported a few weeks ago [see below].

Vallas left Chicago under a political cloud, and his rescue by the Republican governor of Pennsylvania at the time was partly, as subsequent events showed, because he was a major force behind the ideology and practice of corporate "school reform." Vallas had been put into office at the top person in Chicago's massive public schools system not because of his skills as an educator (he had never taught in a real public school), nor because of his skills as an "executive" (his most recent job had been budget director for Richard M. Daley, then Chicago's mayor. From the beginning in 1995, the top executive jobs in corporate reform of public education usually went to people who were willing and able (with the support of a compliant corporate media) to preach the talking points of corporate "reform."

Vallas was not the only Chicago City Hall crony to be installed at the top of CPS. His colleague from the mayor's office, Gery Chico, had been Daley's "Chief of Staff" when he was dispatched to run the city's massive public school system as President of what was called (for a couple of years) "The Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees." (Schools being reformed didn't any longer have boards of education, they got "reform boards of trustees...").

Since any real improvement in schools, or in school sub-districts (such as Chicago's "Networks", can only be measured over a long period of time (at the least, three to five years), any claims of "gains" based on less time are simply ridiculous. In the case where school boards accept, or even believe, such claims, it's obvious that due diligence is seriously lacking.

Chronology and precision are needed, but have rarely been applied when school districts have hired former Chicago administrators.


SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Board of Education has narrowed the field of applicants in its search for a new superintendent to three finalists. They are Rhonda Corr, Alexa Cunningham and Krish Mohip.

The finalists were chosen from a field of 33 candidates. The board conducted the initial interviews during March and plans to make a final hiring decision by May 1.

The board anticipates conducting final interviews, in an open session April 18 – 20 and will also take part in a community forum. A schedule of events will be posted on the district's website as soon as it is finalized.

Corr served as area superintendent in both Indianapolis and Chicago where she led nearly 30,000 students in diverse areas, making gains in academic attainment.

Cunningham has served as superintendent for the Tolleson Union High School District in Tolleson, Arizona, since 2011. Since joining the district, it has experienced growth in student enrollment, staff, programs and academic success.

Mohip has been working in the Chicago Public Schools in various capacities since 2000 as teacher and principal. He most recently worked as head of a department tasked with transforming some of the most challenged schools in the city.


Philadelphia schools owe U.S. $7.2M for misspent grants.. Paul Vallas was not named in the report, but he was the school district's CEO at the time., By Martha Woodall, Staff Writer, POSTED: March 12, 2016

The Philadelphia School District owes the U.S. Department of Education $7.2 million for federal grant funds misspent more than a decade ago, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

The decision comes as the district struggles in the face of the state's continuing budget impasse. Unless the district receives its full allotment of state money, officials say, schools will not be able to remain open through June.

Raven Hill, a district spokeswoman, said Friday: "At this time, the School District is reviewing the opinion internally and with outside counsel."

The case stems from a federal audit in 2010 that found "widespread misuse" of $138.4 million in grant funds from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006.

In its audit, the Inspector General's Office of the U.S. Department of Education said money intended to educate low-income students was spent on things such as catering, a mini-fridge, a microwave oven, greeting cards, and salaries and benefits for employees who had nothing to do with the grants.

Also, a former chief financial officer told authorities federal grant money had been used to help plug a $66 million deficit.

Government reports said that the district's budget and grant monitoring practices in 2005-06 "suffered from systematic failures," and that the record was "replete with actions by [the district] that were intentional, improper, and taken with reckless disregard for the regulations and statutes."

The district has since tightened its fiscal management.

The government at first sought the return of $10 million. The amount was reduced to $7.2 million based on a five-year statute of limitations.

The case moved through hearings at the Education Department for years as the district and the Pennsylvania Department of Education together challenged the audit findings.

It landed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit last December. The state education department asked the court to overturn a decision by former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who had ordered $7.2 million repaid.

In an opinion filed Thursday, a three-judge panel declined to review the matter, allowing Duncan's order to stand.

Casey Smith, deputy communications director at the Education Department in Harrisburg, said the state was involved because the department administered the federal grants Philadelphia schools had received.

Smith said the department could ask for the entire Third Circuit Court to re-examine the case or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The department has not yet decided its next steps," he said.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2006, the district received $245 million in federal grants. In May 2007, the Office of Inspector General began a comprehensive audit to see how the money had been used.

A spokeswoman said the office was auditing large districts at that time, and Philadelphia was one of them.

The final report found that the district lacked written fiscal policies and procedures for grants, had not followed its contracting policies, and had used federal grant money to buy items and pay for services that were supposed to be paid with local and state funds.

Auditors said district staffers told them in interviews that officials had known since the fall of 2005 that the district was heading toward a deficit.

The reports said a former chief financial officer told auditors that the deficit was partly the result of a lack of internal financial controls. That official also said district higher-ups began using federal grant money to pay other bills to reduce what had become a $66.1 million deficit.

The strategy - which violated federal guidelines - was described in spreadsheets for the former CEO as "deficit relief," the auditors said.

Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis, the district's chief financial officer at that time, said Friday that she did not speak to the auditors on the matter because she had left the district before the inquiry began. She said auditors would have talked to one of her successors.

Paul Vallas, the district's CEO at that time, was not named in the report. He could not be reached for comment Friday. But shortly after the 2010 audit was released, he had disputed its findings.

"Nowhere in the report does it suggest officials engaged in the misappropriation of federal funds during the audit period," Vallas said in January 2010.

He also said that the federal government had been encouraging schools "to use grant money in more flexible ways."

Using federal grants to plug a deficit was not mentioned then.

Vallas left the district in June 2007 amid rancor over a "surprise" deficit of $73 million that emerged in the fall of 2006.



IPS [Indianapolis Public Schools] to hire top aide of embattled former Chicago schools chief. August 27, 2015, by Hayleigh Colombo

Indianapolis Public Schools is hiring a top aide of ousted Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to help its struggling schools improve.

The school board Thursday will vote to approve paying Rhonda Corr-Saegert $130,000 a year as an academic improvement officer to oversee principals and support school operations.

Corr-Saegert, a former schools chief in Chicago, was laid off this summer along with other top Chicago schools officials in the wake of a federal investigation into Byrd-Bennett’s controversial decision to offer a $20.5 million, no-bid contract for principal training to a company she used to work for. Byrd-Bennett resigned from CPS in June.

Corr-Saegert, who previously worked as a principal in Cleveland, was almost unavailable to take the IPS job. A Cleveland-area school district offered her a one-year contract as its superintendent but in early August rescinded its offer to her to lead Parma City Schools. Byrd-Bennett wrote one of her recommendation letters to the Parma school board.

IPS board member Kelly Bentley said there was no reason to be concerned about Corr-Saegert’s connection to the embattled former CPS official or the rescinded Ohio superintendent contract.

“Everybody’s got something,” Bentley said. “Based on her credentials, she’s more than qualified for the job. Clearly, (Superintendent Lewis Ferebee) knows what her past is, but her attributes far outweigh whatever it is.”

IPS said in a written statement that it had fully vetted Corr-Saegert, who could not be reached by IBJ for comment.

“IPS conducts a thorough investigation of each recommended hire, and would not propose a candidate if any concerns had been discovered in the process,” spokeswoman Kristin Cutler said in a written statement.

But another school board member, Gayle Cosby, said she was concerned about the hire, which the board will vote on Thursday along with nearly 350 more new administrators and teachers to fill vacancies in the district.

“I certainly hope that the administration is selective and applying a certain level of scrutiny to new hires,” Cosby said. “IPS administration doing the hiring will ultimately be held responsible if there is a lack of attention to detail when vetting candidates.”