CPS CORRUPTION: 'Single source' contracts (for some things) are no longer cool with Jesse and David... How the Board discover the 'Talented Ms. Saegert' (and about 60 other executives) since May and June 2011?... Not one of them was ever advertised in Education Week or the Sunday New York Times...

As Rahm Emanuel and his ilk have known and practices since his days as a fundraiser for Richard M. Daley (and then Bill Clinton), one of the tricks is to set the media agenda. And as Rahm once again proved in the recent mayoral election, it usually works as long as corporate media are cooperative (and only look so far into the facts). And so it was that on the day that two top executives in the nation's third largest school system were testifying in front of a federal grand jury, Rahm's boys at the Chicago Board of Education grabbed a couple of cheap headlines by announcing (fanfares all around) that they were "suspending" single source contracts. At least for things like principal and "network" chief training from outfits like SUPES.

Because the Board Report covered a personnel matter and was therefore exempt from the Board's public agenda under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, the public had no way of knowing that the Board (and Barbara Byrd Bennett) had discovered another talented executive from Ohio to fill a top administrative position in Chicago's public schools prior to the Board's October 2013 meeting. As the Board Report above shows, Byrd Bennett recommended that Saegert become a "Network Chief" at an annual salary of $151,000 per year. What was not discussed is that Saegert had been hired out of a job as an Ohio principal, and that the position of "Network Chief" that Byrd Bennett put her in was, like the SUPES contract, a "single source" deal. And yet on April 22, 2015, when the CPS "Interim CEO" Jesse Ruiz announced sententiously that CPS would be suspending "single source" contracts no mention was made of the fact that the majority of top executives hired by Ruiz and his fellow Board members since June 2011 had been hired on the basis of what amounts to "single source" hiring of top personnel. But of course "single source" hiring of executives (including "Network Chiefs") is still OK with the new "Interim CEO" Jesse Ruiz and the current Board of Education President, David Vitale. Otherwise, how did Chicago discover that a principal from Ohio was suddenly worth $151,000 a year to become a "Network Chief" in Chicago? A year after Ruiz, Vitale and the rest of the members of the Board had voted to approve the now infamous SUPES contract?

But first, a little background from the record, available to anyone who wants to read all the details after the Board of Education publishes its "Action Agenda" following each of the monthly meetings of the Chicago Board of Eduction.

On October 23, 2013, the members of the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously -- without discussion or debate -- to name am obscures Ohio Principal named Rhonda Sargert as "Chief Officer" for "Network 10" on Chicago's southwest side. A year earlier, Sargert had been a principal in Ohio. Suddenly, Chicago's Board of Education discovered that Saegert's talents were so great that Chicago needed her here (without advertising for the job in, say, Education Week or The New York Times Review section) and she was hired.

On April 22, 2015, that might be news, but isn't yet. The massive agenda for the April 22, 2015 Board of Education meeting had been on the Web since Monday, April 20. But like all the other expensive executive hirings since June 2011, there is nothing on the public agenda about hiring more executives from among those in the once infamous "Barbara Byrd Bennett Club." That group, which included dozens of people from out of town, has now been facing federal grand jury subpoenas. But while the Board of Eduction rushes to cover up the latest public exposure of its corruption, the potential to continue "single source executive hiring" continues.

Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz at the January 22, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Ruiz's vote was one of those cast at that meeting to expand Chicago's charter schools less than nine months after Ruiz had voted (with two exceptions) to close 49 of the city's real public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Little information was available about her talents when the Board hired her in 2013. Apparently, she is both a "small schools" and "turnaround" specialist. By 2012, she was being paid a little less than $90,000 a year as one of a number of principals at a "turnaround" school in Ohio. And according to a bulletin from the Ohio state board's "turnaround" office, she was part of a successful team (although given the brief time the team had been doing its work, it's difficult to establish what the success claims were based on). Here is what the Ohio "Turnaround" bulletin said about Saegert:

"Highlights of Reform Model... Lincoln West High School is utilizing the Turnaround Model. Lincoln West is set up as a small school with four academies. Two of the three principals have been consistent since they were hired. Maria Carlson started in 2009 and is the current principal of Community Wrap Around Academy and Dr. Irene Javier is the current principal of World Cultures Academy. She started there in 2008. An interim principal has been overseeing the Programming & Software Development Academy since January 2013. Rhonda Saegert is the principal of the 9th Grade Academy located in Thomas Jefferson. She started as principal of the 9th Grade Academy in 2012. She replaced the previous principal. Lincoln West has concentrated on problem based learning and data team implementation..."

As reader of Education Week and The New York Times know, every week these newspapers contain many ads for education leaders. The ads range from jobs for principals and curriculum chiefs to many superintendents. But since 2011, Chicago hasn't bothered to advertise competitively for any of the top executive jobs it has been awarding. Since the Board of Education voted to hire Jean-Claude Brizard at an annual salary of $250,000 per year in June 2011 (the Board Report at that point made it official) and began hiring Brizard's choices for executive positions, the overwhelming majority of executive hires have been (a) from out of Chicago and (b) without any competitive hiring process.

The Chicago Board of Education hired Rhonda Corr Saegert in mid-2014 from her previous job, as a "turnaround" and "small schools" principal in Ohio. Prior to her appointment as the "Chief Officer" of Network 10 (at a salary of $151,000 per year), Saegert had been working in Ohio for less than $100,000 per year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Because the Board of Education can evade the requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act by classifying each of these actions as a "personnel" decision, the public doesn't even know that they are about to happen, and only those reporters and others who read the monthly "Action Agenda" following each Board meeting are informed of the actions -- after they have been taken. It's also not clear whether the Board has also been making mid-level executive appointments that aren't even reported on the Action Agenda each month, although the Board's "Position Roster" has shown that there are a number of these in the salary range that the Board apparently believes do not even require reporting.

The Sun-Times forgot to ask Jesse Ruiz about other "single source" contracts, of course, while the Tribune asked Ruiz about his vote in June 2013 in favor of the SUPES deal. Little by little, even the corporate media in Chicago is beginning to focus in on the corruption of those who run Chicago's Board of School Privatization. Of course, Rhonda Saegert isn't the only highest paid CPS official hired without any questions asked by the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education. Each of the Board members has his or her own lines to repeat once a month from the carefully prepared scripts. Mahalia Hines always has something to say about how rude at least one of the public speakers was. She also reminds the public -- for the public record -- about how once upon a time she was a principal, once upon a time. Urban League chief Andrea Zopp goes on and on, both on the school board and on the pension board, about how there should be more "minority contracts" and similar for women. Zopp, of course, didn't notice that Rhonda Saegert, Sherry Ulery, Bob Boik, Jack Elsey, and a dozen others were hired at six-figure salaries for top executive positions without anyone asking the "Zopp Questions."


April 22, 2015 at 10:28 AM

By: John Kugler

Broad Plan

They hire people associated with the Brad training program. It's to ensure privatization agenda.

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