How to Identify a Liar

By mid-April 2009, a number of people had asked Substance why we were publicly, either on blogs or in Internet and print, stating that Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott and Chief Executive Officer Rob Huberman were liars.

A few examples will have to suffice.

With the return of Michael Scott to the office of President of the Chicago Board of Education, CPS also added a "new" (but old) $100,000 per year position to its budget. Above, Greg Minniefield, Scott's special assistant, attends his first meeting of the Board of Education in more than two years. Minniefield was once again in a major executive position, courtesy of Michael Scott. But a month before Minniefield went back on the CPS payroll, Scott had told Chicago reporters that he was "cutting" his staff budget by "ten percent." That statement was made during a press conference to announce that CPS was facing an alleged "deficit" of $475 million. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The photograph at the top of this editorial is from the April 22, 2009 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. The person in the photograph, Greg Minniefield, was again sitting in the executive seats behind the railing at the monthly meeting. For two years, Minniefield had been absent from that seat, during the time when Michael Scott was working as a real estate developer and not on the Board of Education.

When Scott joined CEO Ron Huberman on March 11, 2009, to announce that the Chicago Board of Education faced a "$475 million deficit" for the coming fiscal year without presenting any real numbers -- just precentages -- to back up the claim, one of the things Scott told reporters was that he was "reducing his staff by ten percent." Since Chicago's press corps has been a cheerleader for the Daley administration's version of "school reform" for years, it was no surprise that only one reporter asked for details. The rest of the media simply reported the "unprecedented" "deficit" and, in come cases, Scott's claim that he was going to be imposing austerity on the office. Which office would be more austere was also left out. What did Scott do? What Scott actually did was increase the cost of the Office of The President in two ways.

'Unpaid' Board members get huge 'expense' allowances

At the March 25, 2009, Board meeting, the Board approved an increase in "expenses" for the Board members. Scott was part of the unanimous vote to approve that increase. While Scott continues to remind people that the members of the Chicago Board of Education "don't get paid" for their services, he leaves out the expenses. Scott initiated the Board's considerable expense accounts the last time he was Board President (2001-2006, while Arne Duncan was "CEO"). As soon as he returned to the Board, he made sure the expenses were increased.

Scott was saying the costs had been reduced. Scott was claiming he was imposing austerity and all that. The rest of Chicago's press corp dutifully reported those huge 'deficits" and all that. By the end of April, Catalyst's blog, to take one example, was talking about that alleged 'deficit' as 'about a half billion dollars.' That's the official version of reality, as most Chicago residents get it in the general corporate media.

Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott (above, rear) presides over the April 22, 2009 meeting of the Board. In front of Scott is Board Attorney Patrick Rocks, whose Law Department sees its job as defending every action taken on behalf of the school board appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, no matter what the possible legalities or illegalities are. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. As Board President, Michael Scott is now receiving $36,000 per year in "expenses" that do not require receipts or invoices. The other six members of the Board of Education are each receiving $24,000 per year in "expenses." Technically, they are not being 'paid.' There are more than 5,000 people (from lunchroom workers and some security people to many teacher assistants and privatized custodial people) working full time for CPS this year who are being paid less than Scott's "expenses."

Bringing back a six-figure bureaucrat

At the same time, Scott brought back his assistant, Gregory Minniefield. By March 2009, Minniefield was going around to meetings at schools with David Pickens, identifying himself as a special assistant to the President of the Board of Education. As late as early April 2009, the Chicago Board of Education had not officially approved such an appointment for Minniefield. Minniefield was paid more than $100,000 per year during the last term of Michael Scott as President of the Chicago Board of Education. Although the Board has not yet published its official appointment of Minniefield, it's safe to assume, as this is written on April 25, 2009, that Minniefield was not sitting among the Board's highest paid executives on April 22 by accident.

Although Ron Huberman also announced that he was going to make cuts outside the schools, he immediately began ordering cuts in the schools.

Mr. Huberman's expanded public relations and 'strategy' staff

Six weeks before the April Board of Education meeting, Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman (above left) and Board President Michael Scott (above at podium) appeared at a March 11, 2009 press conference to announce that the Board was facing a massive $475 million "deficit" for the upcoming 2009-2010 fiscal year. At that time, Huberman said that he would be cutting administrative fat and Scott told reporters that he was cutting his "office" by ten percent. Two weeks before telling the media that he was going to be cutting bureaucracy and not schools, Huberman has added his own staff to the CPS budget (including publicity chief Monique Bond, above right, at a salary of $130,000 per year and Sarah Kremsner at a salary of $150,000 per year) while ordering massive cuts in school staffs. Scott immediately made sure that his assistant Greg Minniefield (in photo at the beginning of this article) was on the payroll at a salary in excess of $100,000 per year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Simultaneously, Ron Huberman began expanding his own administrative staff.

At the February 25, 2009, meeting of the Board of Education, Huberman had gotten the Board's approval of the appointment of Monique Bond to the $130,000 per year position of "Officer, Department of Communications."

On the same day, Huberman recommended that the Board appoint Sarah Kremsner to the position of "Officer, Department of Strategy and Planning" at an annual salary of just under $150,000 per year. CPS had not had a "Department of Strategy and Planning" since Arne Duncan created it and hired University of Chicago professor Melissa Roderick to head CPS "strategy" planning in 2001.

Huberman said one thing, but he did another. Neither Huberman, Bond, or Kremsner has any experience or license to practice education in Chicago or anyplace else in Illinois. Only because of Chicago's unique approach to school governance -- mayoral control since the passage of the Amendatory Act of 1995 by the then all-Republican Illinois General Assembly and its signing by then Republican Governor Jim Edgar -- can Huberman, Bond, or Kremsner work in a top job in Chicago's school system. In the suburbs, they wouldn't even be permitted to work as substitute teachers. Scott said he was reducing the costs of his office when he said there was a "deficit" of $475 million.

Since that date, Scott has voted to approve an increase in his own expenses and has added a $100,000 per year assistant to the Board's payroll.

Huberman told the press the school system was facing a 'deficit' of nearly $500 million, without providing numbers of back up the claim.

Huberman said he was going to reduce administration and maintain classroom services.

Then he turned around and expanded administration and began cutting school-based services. What else can one call those contradictions if not lies?

And what else can one call those who say these things but liars? 

Posted April 25, 2009, 6:00 a.m. If you reproduced or cite this article or any of its graphics, please inform your readers the following: Copyright 2009, Substance, Inc. Originally published on line at Then contact Substance at Csubstance @ or by phone at 773-725-7502.


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