Byrd Bennett presentation at Board meeting was full of duplicitous dodges

After a year during which no meeting of the Chicago Board of Education was without a couple of Power Point presentations, usually presented by a recently hired executive whose main qualification for the job was an MBA degree, the presentation by the "Chief Executive Officer" of America's third largest school system on the alleged successes of the massive school closings in May 2013 was unprecedented: No Power Point.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett (above) delivered her report on the alleged successes of the schools closings without using a Power Point or providing much of the data that might or might not have supported her bar graphs claiming the "successes." Board of Education members, all of whom were present during the presentation at the March 26, 2014 meeting, sat as if there were nothing unusual in an administration that had wallowed in Power Point for nearly two years to suddenly leave out all the footnotes and public information necessary to review the CEO's claims. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But the only Power Point at the March 26, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education was about how some volunteers were not going to have to be fingerprinted. And that Power Point was presented to the Board by a former City Hall factotum named Phil Hampton, who currently holds the title of "Chief Officer for Family and Community Engagement" (FACE). Barbara Byrd Bennett didn't do a Power Point to accompany her report on the supposedly successes of the school closings.

Once the "good news" portion of the March 26 meeting ended, Byrd Bennett began a lengthy narrative that was not accompanied by any documentation available to the public. A nine-page document was distributed to some members of the press, but not to the general public present in either of the two meeting rooms at the time. (The Board was meeting in its fifth floor chambers; the "overflow" room was also in use on the 15th floor).

According to the "School Consolidation Report," during the 2012 - 2013 school year CPS "had space for 511,000 students but only 403,000 were enrolled in [the] schools." The claim was that instead of alternatives to closing schools (for example, lowering class size or utilizing rooms for specialized services and community activities), and throughout the process of arriving at the number of schools to be closed CPS officials stuck to their carefully designed script.

The nine-page "School Consolidations Report" was not presented with footnotes, nor did Barbara Byrd-Bennett do a Power Point with footnotes to help readers understand the complex and controversial issues discussed in the report. The first page of the report (above) speaks about the CEO in the third person, although it was essentially delivered by Byrd Bennett at the meeting. An odd facet of the "School Consolidation Report" is that it was being followed by Byrd Bennett, who seemed at times to be reading from an edited version of the report, was that the narration was in the third person: "As a result of this crisis, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett created a Commission on School Utilization to begin a community dialogue around potential school consolidations and the impact that a more efficiently-run district would have on students and school communities."


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