Board ignores budget 'crisis' when it comes to paying outside lawyers and hiring out-of-towners and paying 'relocation' expenses for top administrators

The seven Chicago Board of Education members may pretend that their supposed expertise in business qualifies them to lead the nation's third largest school system, but as another round of budget hearings approaches (budget hearings are November 5 at Payton and King high schools) looms, the Board once again has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on out-of-town bureaucrats, outside lawyers, and continued "relocation expenses" because CPS can't find qualified talent in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Board claims it is "reducing bureaucracy" and "administrative costs" and that the city's schools are facing a "financial crisis."

The Board Report (which passed unanimously and without debate) approving an additional three quarters of a million dollars to the Franczek law firm, on top of the million dollars the firm has been paid in less than a year.But there was no crisis in finances on October 24, when the Board voted to pay another three quarters of a million dollars (on top of nearly one million in less than a year) to one outside lawyer.

Nor wast here any talk of the "financial crisis" (except during the mandatory Power Point by an administration official) when the Board voted the month before to pay one out-of-town bureaucrat a salary of $155,000 a year — and an additional $7,500 in "relocation expenses." Another out of town talent was served up an annual salary of $195,000 per year — plus the usual "relocation expenses."

At the Board's October 24 meeting, the public was obliquely introduced to the two latest new hires. Taking their seats behind the railing with the latest group of CPS big shots were Sherry Ulery and Peter Rodgers.

One of the latest out-of-town hirelings of the Rahm Emanuel Board of Education is Sherry Ulury (above right). Ulury was hired by the Board as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" at the September Board meeting, at an annual salary of $155,000 per year. The Board also voted to pay her a $7,5000 "relocation fee". Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Ulery is the new "Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer" at an annual salary of $155,000 per year (Board Report approved at the September meeting). Peter Rodgers, at a salary of $195,000 per year, is the fourth "Chief Financial Officer" for CPS in two years. The Board also added another chief of chiefs of chiefs to the "Network" system, and voted to pay another three quarters of a million dollars to James Franczek, who was head of negotiations in the recent contract negotiations with the CTU.

Hardly a day goes by in Chicago when the mayor doesn't hold some kind of media event featuring corporate leaders touting some plan of Rahm Emanuel. And at the Chicago Public Schools, the Board of Education appointed by Emanuel in June 2011 contains the largest number of millionaires in history — and one billionaire. The Rahm Emanuel public schools are supposedly being run more and more based on sound business principals. But if a stable leadership group is one requirement for success in corporate America, the constant churning of public education executives since Emanuel took power — unprecedented in the city's history — should give rise somewhere to concern. Since Emanuel's Board was appointed in 2011, the school system has had two "Chief Executive Officers" and four "Chief Financial Officers." Additionally, other ranks have been disrupted, some repeatedly.

On October 26, 2012, Chicago Public Schools announced that on Monday, November 5, the Board would be holding budget hearings again on the "Amended Budget" for the 2012 - 2013 school year. Although the Board had claimed that its "Proposed Budget" in July included raises for all school system workers (including administrators), at the October 24 Board meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley presented the Board with a Power Point that appeared to double the amount of money CPS was claiming the contract with the Chicago Teachers Union would cost. Although Board members asked more critical questions than in the past, they still allowed some of the most unusual aspects of the presentation to go without comment.

Cawley also told the Board that because the Board had violated provisions of the law, additional hearings would be held the first week of November. Earlier hearings had not complied with the requirement of public notice. The new hearings are scheduled for the evening of November 5 at Payton and King high schools in Chicago. Sign in for testimony for each site is between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., while the hearings will go from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. For the third time in as many months, CPS has refused to provide printed copies of the budget to the usual locations: the city's public schools; the aldermanic offices; and the city's public libraries. CPS officials have claimed since their appointment by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the printing of the budgets is "too expensive," but the total cost of the printing and distribution of the budgets in the manner that has been traditional in Chicago for more than 150 years would cost less than the Board of Education has approved for "relocation" expenses for out-of-town administrators approved since the Board members were appointed by Emanuel in May 2011.

But during the previous three years, the Chicago Public Schools has played what criticcs are calling "Management Musical Chairs" with the top jobs in the system's budget office, while at the same time purging the ranks of the middle level people who actually knew the budget and did the work. The complete budget hearing announcement reads:

CPS to Hold Public Hearings On Amended Budget... New Hearing Dates Will Give Public Additional Time to Comment and Provide Feedback. October 26, 2012

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will host two additional public hearings for parents, teachers and community stakeholders to learn about and comment on the amended budget for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY 13).

The meetings will be held simultaneously on Monday, Nov. 5 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at:

[img=5646]King College Preparatory High School

4445 S. Drexel Blvd.

Walter Payton College Preparatory High School

1034 N. Wells St.

Sign-up for public participation at the hearings will take place at each location from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Although the Chicago Board of Education approved the FY 13 budget in August, CPS has amended the budget in order to account for the additional costs associated with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) contract agreement. The contract adds a total of $103 million to the FY 13 budget, all of which is tied to salary increases.

The amended budget reduces administration, finance and operations spending in the Central Office, avoiding cuts to classrooms as promised by CPS, the Board of Education and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In addition to the Nov. 5 hearings, CPS held hearings on Oct. 16. CPS will present the amended budget to the Board of Education at its next monthly meeting on Nov. 14.

The almost comic instability at the top of the CPS administration since the Board of Education was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the time of Emanuel's inauguration in May 2011 has been unnoticed in the city's corporate media.

Additionally, when the Board's bond rating was lowered by the three rating agencies (Moody's, Standard and Poors, and Fitch), the Management by Musical Chair problems fomented by the Emanuel administration were ignored, while the teachers' contract and the strike received most of the blame for the lowered rating. The seven members of the Board do not discuss these personnel decisions in public, and they have sealed the execuctive session records.

Although there were some disruptions in personnel during the years that Richard M. Daley was mayor and appointed the school board, the destruction of the CPS human infrastructure since the inauguration of Rahm Emanuel and Emanuel's appointment of the current seven member school board in May and June 2011 is unprecedented. In what amounted to a purge, Emanuel's Board got rid of many of the most experienced people in the CPS budget officers during November and December 2011, leaving the office with fewer and fewer people who knew anything about the complex finances of the nation's third largest school system.

In addition to churning the top job, the Emanuel school board has also purged the middle ranks, depriving the system of more and more of its institutional knowledge. The process has also been expensive. Since Emanuel took over, CPS has been hiring most top level executives from outside Chicago and paying them a "relocation fee" for moving to the city. The largest of these went to former Chief Executive Officer Jean Claude Brizard ($30,000 for moving from Rochester New York in May 2011) and Brizard's successor Barbara Byrd Bennett ($30,000 for moving from Detroit this year).

Both Brizard and Byrd Bennett were budgeted to be paid a quarter million dollar salary each year, $50,000 more than the longest-lasting CEO in Chicago schools history since mayoral control began. In his last year, Arne Duncan, now U.S. Secretary of Education, was paid $200,000 per year. Duncan, like all of his predecessors, was not paid any relocation fee when he got the job.


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