Blasting from Chicago's past... Vote 'most earliest and vote most oftenist'? Barbara Byrd Bennett and at least some of her Ohio (and other out-of-town) cronies may have also engaged in voter fraud... Registered to vote in Illinois, Ohio (and elsewhere?)...

It's enough to make Richard M. Nixon spin in his grave (as anyone who remembers the movie "Nixon" or the history will attest), as Chicago moves into a new phase of the old game of "Vote early and vote often." This time, though, it's not Richard J. Daley and the notorious "River Wards" (that supposedly put JFK into the White House in 1960), but another bunch of "voters" who live luxuriously along the river -- Barbara Byrd Bennet and her Ohio buddies. Despite the ever-growing evidence of massive corruption under the administration of Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett (above, during a presentation at the April 24, 2013 meeting of the Board), Chicago taxpayers continue to pay Byrd Bennett her quarter million dollar annual salary while she is on "leave." Among other contributions Byrd Bennett made to the detriment of Chicago's public schools was the expansion of the offices of "Chief of Staff" to bring in her out of town cronies, including "Chief of Staff" Bob Boik (from Michigan) and "Chief of Staff, to the Chief Executive Officer Sherry Ulery (Ohio). Currently, Boik's annual salary is $165,000, while Ulery's is $175,000. The Chicago Board of Education also has its "Chief of Staff," Abigryil Joseph, who is paid $145,000. Substance has also been locating chiefs of staff at the "Network" level, where the chiefs include Ohio resident Rhonda Corr Saegert (Network 10 Chief of Schools) who was imported to Chicago by Byrd Bennett at an annual salary of $151,000. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.A close check of voter registration records shows that Chicago's currently "on leave with pay" ($250,000 per year) public schools "Chief Executive Officer," Barbara Byrd Bennett, is not only living in Ohio and Chicago (and probably getting her weekend travel expenses to her Solon Ohio home paid by the taxpayers), but also voting in Chicago and Ohio. And she's not the only one. At least one of Byrd Bennett's Ohio cronies (the administrators imported to Chicago by Byrd Bennett because there are no qualified administrators in Chicago or Illinois), Rhonda Saegert is also double dipping (although we don't know if she's also weekend tripping).

For more than a year, thanks to Byrd Bennett, former Cleveland-area principal Rhonda Saegert has been a "Network Chief" on Chicago's South Side, having been imported into Chicago as one of the many many outsiders brought on the "team" of Byrd Bennett. Saegert is here supposedly because she is a "turnaround" expert (at least that's what the touting was back in Ohio before she suddenly got hired here in the summer of 2013). Now she's also a networking specialist. (Chicago's "Network Chiefs", like most other top executives at CPS, no longer have to be credentialed Illinois teachers or administrators).

According to Ohio voter registration records, Saegert remains a registered voter in Ohio even though she supposedly moved to Chicago two years ago to take one of the highest paying jobs in the nation's third largest school system.

Saegert isn't the only out of towner who is still holding property and registering to vote out of town and here. Substance is checking on others, including Tracy Martin Thompson and Sherry Ulery, who also joined Byrd Bennett in Chicago after serving her out of Ohio (and in other locations where Byrd Bennett had a kind of anti-public education Travel Team, as reported on May 21, 2015 in the Chicago Tribune). Others from the Byrd Bennett executive group are also of dubious Chicago roots.

Bob Boik and Abigayil Joseph (both seen at the April 24, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education) are both "Chief of Staff" at Chicago Public Schools. Boik in 2015 is being paid $165,000 per year; Joseph $145,000 per year. Boik was imported by Barbara Byrd Bennett from Michigan; Joseph is from Chicago. Another "Chief of Staff" (see photo below) Sherry Ulery (currently on CPS payroll at $175,000 per year) was imported from Ohio. Ulery is one of at least three CPS officials who was subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury investigating the corruption of the current Chicago Public Schools administration. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The appointments and activities of all of these individuals, beginning with Byrd Bennett, have been approved by the members of the Board of Education by public votes. Despite the fact that one Board member, Andrea Zopp, recently told the Tribune that this stuff is on the "public record," Zopp is once again obfuscating (probably, lying). What Zopp didn't tell the Tribune is that every month she votes to keep the public record from the public on a motion to keep the minutes of the Board's Closed Sessions eternally closed (see illustration). The Board of Education members appointed by Emanuel beginning in May 2011 have been rubber stamping the massive privatization of CPS services since then, while adding some novel quirkiness to the CPS ranks. For example, the expansion of the job of "Chief of Staff", which has no qualifications required. The Board has several "chiefs of staff" at the very top (at least three of them usually at Board meetings) and more than dozen out in the "networks." There has been no public discussion of the need for these hires, despite the fact that their cost to taxpayers is well over $2 million per year (the downtown "chiefs" and the "chiefs of staff" in the "Network Offices").

One of the many 'chiefs of staff" during the Barbara Byrd Bennett era was Sherry Ulery (above left). Ulery was brought to Chicago, like several other cronies of Byrd Bennett, from Ohio. Ulery is currently being paid $175,000 as "Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer." The "Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive Officer" (Ulery) is not to be confused with "Chief of Staff to the Board of Education" (Abigayil Joseph, $145,000 per year). Neither Joseph nor Ulery should be confused with the current "Chief of Staff", who Robert Boik ($165,000 per year). Salaries are according to the most recent CPS Position File. To Ulery's left in the photo above is the CPS "Chief Administrative Officer" ($215,000 per year) Tim Cawley. None of them -- Ulery, Joseph, Cawley or Boik -- has ever taught in Chicago's public schools or been a public school principal. Yet they have more power than all of the city's teachers and principals combined. Substance photo from the tumultuous May 22, 2013 Board of Education meeting by George N. Schmidt. With Zopp now an announced candidate for the U.S. Senate (with the support of, among others, millionaire banker Bill Daley), public questions will be growing. And Zopp, who is a lawyer (she was once a federal prosecutor) and advocate for black people (she currently serves as "Chief Executive Officer" of the Chicago Urban League) now has a four-year-long record since she was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education by Rahm Emanuel. Zopps record is a perfect one of privatization votes, union busting programs, racist school closings, and a see-no-evil approach to the corruption of Byrd Bennett and that group.

Once upon a time, Zopp knew that federal law makes it illegal to engage in voter fraud.

Apparently since her appointment as one of Rahm Emanuel's rubber stamps at CPS, she's forgotten a lot of the law she once knew and practiced. Like her Board colleague Jesse Ruiz, Zopp voted on every bit of cronyism and corruption brought before the Board since it brought in Barbara Byrd Bennett, first as the most expensive consultant in CPS history (March 2012) and then as "CEO" replacing Jean-Claude Brizard (October 2012).

As of this report, Substance has not found any record of whether any of these individuals voted in Illinois or Ohio, but the investigation continues.


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

3 + 2 =