Training academy cooperating in probe of Chicago schools

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2015 4:34 PM
Training academy cooperating in probe of Chicago schools

CHICAGO (AP) — A former employer of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked chief of Chicago schools — a company that was awarded a no-bid contract of up to $20.5 million with the nation's third-largest district — said it is cooperating with federal authorities investigating the district.

SUPES Academy in suburban Chicago, which trains principals, said it has handed over records and files to federal investigators.

Officials have said very little about the probe, with the Chicago Public Schools and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett declining to comment beyond a news release issued by the district and a statement by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale saying he was made aware of the investigation this week. Emanuel said he had little information and did not even know the "target" of the investigation. And on Thursday, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said he did not know any details about the investigation.

Byrd-Bennett, a longtime educator in New York, Detroit and Cleveland — where she was the school district's CEO for seven years — also worked as consultant for SUPES, according to published reports.

After coming to Chicago as a consultant for the CPS in April 2012, Byrd-Bennett was appointed CEO in October of that year by the mayor.

The CPS had entered an agreement with SUPES in 2012, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the two sides agreed to replace that contract with a new one. In 2013, the district approved a "leadership development services agreement" for up to $20.5 million. The agreement was approved by the Board of Education and signed by Vitale in June of that year.

More than a year ago, Catalyst Chicago, a news organization that focuses on education, said a probe was being conducted by the CPS inspector general. Inspector General James Sullivan, who resigned last year, confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that there was an investigation of the contract, but would not elaborate.

At a news briefing after Wednesday's City Council, Emanuel said he has talked only briefly to Byrd-Bennett when she told him earlier in the week that federal authorities were "looking at a matter at CPS" and said that he had not at that point talked to her further.

When he was pressed about whether he had confidence in Byrd-Bennett, whose contract expires at the end of June, Emanuel said, "I can't answer. I don't even know who they are looking at."