READ ALL ABOUT IT AT SUBSTANCE FIRST! On September 8, 2012, Substance predicted Barbara Byrd Bennett would push out Brizard

Now and then, Substance takes the time to note how badly the people of Chicago are being served today by the city's craven corporate media, and how much context still matters when covering the news. It is also important when analyzing reality in the heat of conflict. So we are proud to remind our readers that on September 8, 2012, predicted that Barbara Byrd Bennett, the mercenary hatchet person who most recently helped destroy public education in Detroit, was in Chicago to take the job of Jean-Claude Brizard. Before we print the story we published then in full, we also note with pride that our September Home page, available now in "Back Issues", has the most complete coverage of the build up and reality of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 anywhere. We will work to keep our website going because we are confident that the ruling class will continue to try and whitewash the history all of us just made, and there has to be somewhere for working class people to get the truth.

Readers who wish the details of how corrupt Byrd-Bennett has been can also read the Substance publication of Susan Ohanian's history of that career, which is available both at Substance and on line at


LET'S CALL THIS: "WHO WAS ON THAT ELEVATOR?" Yesterday as I covered the quickie exit of the CPS negotiating team from CTU headquarters for Substance, I was struck by the fact that our quarter million dollar "Chief Executive Officer", Jean-Claude Brizard, was again AWOL from the bargaining. That's nothing new. After all, the negotiations have been going on, through more than 55 sessions, since November 2011, and Brizard has managed to get away with that particular truancy the whole time.

But there was a group of six people — the CPS "bargaining team" of September 7, 2012 — desperately waiting for that elevator door to close, and it's worth sharing a "Who's Who" of who was in that groups. This is especially important since most of the current crop of talking heads and pretty faces in the "news" business in Chicago are as clueless as some metaphor that might today escape me (well, I'll let someone with a more politically correct mind come up with the metaphor for that level of journalistic degeneration in the Second City; all the ones that come to my mind this morning fall into traditional Chicago historical figures like Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John and their side businesses...).

No Brizard at the Mart on September 7, 2012. And to most reporters in this town, the six people who were there are unknowns because, like the fifth season of "The Wire", Chicago's news persons are less than informed about the stories they have to cover. ("Beats" are where you learn the ins and outs, but beats are not "cost effective" in a business that provides "content" but no longer context or accuracy).

A major fact of the Board of Education's latest "team" at the CTU is that the FNG from Detroit — ("Chief Education Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett) — was part of the six people who ducked quickly into the elevator at the Merchandise Mart and did the bugout boogie as reporters tried to get questions answered. If this were New York, where there are still some reporters who know the beats, somebody besides Substance this morning would be asking how an FNG administrator who just arrived from destabilizing and privatizing Detroit could become, overnight, one of the six most important educational executives in the nation's third largest school district on the verge of the first massive teacher strike in a quarter century.

As late as six months ago, no one in the world would have guessed that one day soon "Barbara Byrd-Bennet" would be one of the six most important people in Chicago in deciding whether Chicago's kids (including my two littlest ones) would be in school on Monday [September 10, which turned out to be the first day of the strike forced on Chicago by CPS and the administration of Rahm Emanuel] or helping Mom and Dad on the picket line.

The whole team is worth a look. So let's put this bunch in the perspective of that nonsense about how CPS is always "broke," how executives always know better than teachers, and how those who rule are by definition more "qualified" to run the schools than the rest of us (or an elected school board). While the teachers, students and parents are being told "Sit down and shut up!" by their officially chosen leaders, CPS is playing a scene out of the waning days of a decrepit aristocracy that was clueless right up to the moment their heads tumbled into those baskets as Madame Defarge knitted away.

Six of them, then the elevator door closed and reporters went back to listen to Karen Lewis and wait for the next spin special out of the ever expanding CPS "Office of Communications" (and the propaganda chieftain, Becky Carroll). CPS is broke, but as the strike nears, the "Office of Communications" has 20 people working in it — triple the number as when Rahm took over — under a chieftain who is being paid 50 percent more than her most famous predecessor.

The leader of the CPS bargaining team, who has been at the table since this bargaining began in November 2011, is an outside lawyer named Jim Franczek. Since June 2011, when the Rahm "team" took over at CPS, the Rahm Board of Education, while "broke", has paid Franczek's firm more than a million dollars.

But let's not stop there. There was another lawyer besides Franczek jumping in that elevator. That was Joe Moriarity, who is one of more than 40 lawyers who works in the Board's "Law Department." That "Law Department" fills up the entire seventh floor of 125 S. Clark St. Chicago parents are about to get an inside view of it, since the Board will be sending lawyers from the seventh floor across Chicago next week to be pretend teachers in the Scab Centers (excuse me, "Children First Centers") that Brizard yesterday asked the CTU not to picket.

As everyone who knows curriculum and budgets knows, lawyers are priceless and are also the best teachers at any price. Just like we need more MBAs to run everything at CPS from "Instruction" and "Administration" to security and safety (true that: the new head of security at CPS is an MBA from my alma mater, the University of Chicago).

But the elevator was filled.

Another person grimly hoping the door would close (don't take my word for it; look at the expression on her face in the photograph) was Beth Swanson. Four years ago, in July 2012, Beth was working at CPS as budget chieftain. Beth stood with Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan at City Hall and declared with a straight face that CPS was doing so well financially that CPS didn't need to raise taxes for the schools.

After Arne left to perform Chicago's version of audacious hope on the rest of the USA (it's called "Race To The Top" this time around; when the Chicago Boys first unveiled this plan — charter schools, union busting, privatization, etc. — 40 years ago in the Southern Hemisphere it was called fascism behind the bayonets of Augusto Pinochet) Beth went to work as chieftain of the "Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation" (that's Penny and her spouse).

When Rahm got himself elected behind that barrage of Hollywood hype, hokum about how much glitz he had, and disinformation, Beth Swanson morphed into Rahm's top education person. She sat in the public section of a few Board meetings (while Penny snarled at Karen Lewis as one of the seven members of the Board appointed by Rahm) until some news people began noticing she was there. After that, Beth had a seat behind the back door so she wouldn't be asked any questions about all those rubber stamps she was making sure were stamped right where Rahm wanted.

And then there is Alicia Winckler, the $200,000-per-year former Sears Holdings person (qualification to lead education, an MBA and corporate experience) whose current job is "Chief Officer, Talent" at CPS. Two years ago, Winckler was "Chief of Human Capital" until the capitalist crazies running CPS realized (after some mockery from Karen Lewis and thousands of teachers) that it might not work to refer to teachers and other humans beings as "capital." So, voila!, in September 2010 or so, "Human Capital" became "Talent."

But the really interesting person in that elevator was Barbara Byrd Bennett. This time a year ago, she was helping destroy the Detroit Public Schools system, dispatched with the blessings of the Broad Foundation to work with the latest corporate chieftain there. Suddenly, after the abrupt (and still unexplained) departure of Noemi Donoso (who served less than a year as the Emanual team's "Chief Education Officer"), Byrd-Bennet arrives in Chicago as "Chief Education Officer" and before she can even find her way from Bogan to Bowen without a GPS she's one of the six experts at the bargaining table for CPS.

What's that signal? Look to who is not at the table. Yesterday (September 7, 2012) Jean-Claude Brizard was busy sending a ridiculous letter to Karen Lewis asking that CTU not picket the 144 Scab Centers (er., excuse me, "Children First Sites"). The night before, Brizard was doing a sparsely attended "Tele Town Hall" (CPS was calling parents, including me, in the middle of the thingy, to up their numbers...).

Clearly Byrd Bennett is not just another Noemi Donoso. The bet of the smart money? Byrd-Bennett takes over from Brizard as soon as the strike is over. Apparently, in Rahm's eyes Brizard's experience in trying to wreck the Rochester Public Schools was not enough for his plans for Chicago. Byrd-Bennett actually helped dismantle the Detroit Public Schools. So, naturally, by September 2012 she's got a "seat at the table" with all the other hacks and mercenaries stalling and repeating mindless talking points as the strike is about to begin.

At least David Vitale has one thing going for him. He's so rich he doesn't need the money, so he was the only person squeezing into that elevator yesterday who wasn't being paid very big bucks to be there.

And what about Brizard? His pride has never been an issue (it rarely is for a mercenary). If the Board dumps him in the next few months after the debacle of the "Children First Centers" breaks loose next week (only the most recent of the fiascos exposing his complete inability to organize anything serious), Brizard will leave town with an additional quarter million dollars (or more) as the buyout he's going to get, the price of failure, so to speak. And since the ruling class makes certain that its minions honor its version of omerta, Brizard is likely to land "on his feet" after his next humiliation (after all, Rochester was nasty stuff if you had any self-respect) somewhere in that plutocratic alternative universe that the Broads, Pritzkers, and the other billionaires have been building for just such times and realities as this. 


October 13, 2012 at 12:35 PM

By: Luis Aguilera

Corruption in CPS/Education Reform

Another good article with good leads to go by...Thanks Mr. Schmidt - again! I might just have to embed this link in the follow-up to this essay that today stands at 2700 reads and continues to climb...Please share with family, friends, educators, etc. so that we can have a serious discussion on just what exactly is happening to public education today...Thank you!

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