HISTORY LESSON III: Chicago Teachers Union leaders not only supported Barbara Byrd Bennett, but also praised the patronage imports from out of town who became the cabinet and enablers of 'BBB'...

One of the many cronies brought to Chicago by Barbara Byrd Bennett as soon as Byrd Bennett got the top job was Tracy Martin Thompson, above right. Martin Thompson, who had no Chicago experience nor Illinois teacher certification, was touted as a "turnaround specialist" and appointed head of the newly created Office of Strategic School Support Services under Byrd Bennett. Within a few months, CTU President Karen Lewis was publicly praising Martin Thompson and the OSSSS at Board of Education meetings, while many union members were asking how Chicago could justify paying six figure salaries to more than a dozen people from out of town who were put in charge of major functions in the CPS administration under Byrd Bennett. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.As of May 8, 2017, the president and other officers of the Chicago Teachers Union still have not explained what CTU president Karen Lewis and two others were doing in federal court in support of disgraced former Chicago schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett. But as the story continues to unfold, an many take a clear eyed look at recent CTU history, more questions than answers arise.

One of the main questions is why Karen Lewis and other union leaders praised Tracy Martin Thompson, who was brought to Chicago by Byrd Bennett almost as soon as 'BBB' was named CEO of CPS in late 2012 and early 2013. Mrtin Thompson, also known in court records as "Tracy Thompson", was named as one of those who was assisted in the no-bid contract scams that cost CPS more than $23 million during the years Byrd Bennett ran the nation's third largest school system.

First, a review of recent history.

On April 26, 2017, former Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett appears in federal court to be sentenced in the "SUPES Scandal." She had already pleaded guilty to lying about the fact that she had steered more than $23 million in Chicago schools business to a private suburban Chicago firm that claimed to have a superior way to do principal and other "leadership training." Previously, Byrd Bennett had worked for the company that got the privatized leadership training contract, and the deal was that she would go back to working for the outfit after she left Chicago, receiving ten percent of the total number of dollars she had provided to the companies when she returned to the Synesi Associates / SUPES fold. Byrd Bennett had worked for the corporations while serving in Detroit's public schools before she was named by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head Chicago's schools, first as "Chief Education Officer," and finally (in December 2012) as "Chief Executive Officer."

The total amount paid by CPS to the Synesi - SUPES group was more than $23 million, which meant that Byrd Bennett would be getting at least $2.3 million when she returned to the private sector after her time as Chicago's schools chief.

As reported first in the Chicago Sun-Times, one of those who appeared in federal court in support of Byrd Bennett at the sentencing was CTU President Karen Lewis. Also with Lewis were Lynn Cherkasky-Davis, who heads the union's QUEST training center, and Robin Potter, an attorney who has received a great deal of CTU business since Lewis and the CORE leadership caucus were first elected to run the union in June 2010.

Lewis told the Sun-Times that she was in court in support of Byrd Bennett. When critics within the union began demanding to know why Lewis could show public support for someone who had basically stolen from the schools in an expensive privatization scheme, she evaded the question. As more details of the Byrd Bennett scandals came out in public, the silence became even more difficult for union members to accept. Lewis's public support for Byrd Bennett came during the same week when Lewis and other union officers refused to appear at a rally in support of the latest union rank-and-file leader, Sarah Chambers, who has been suspended by CPS officials because Chambers provided students and families with information about how they could opt out of the expensive and meaningless PARCC testing program this school year. Although Chambers is not the first rank and file leader to be abandoned by Lewis and the union's leadership clique, she is by far the most famous.


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