CHICAGO -- Chicago’s Public Schools CEO Barbra Byrd-Bennett is facing scrutiny over a no-bid contract awarded to her former employer. Turns out, she’s been in the hot seat before - the last time she ran a school district.
The last place Byrd-Bennett was a public schools CEO was in Cleveland. And she was praised for reforming the school district there. But she also faced a firestorm of criticism over spending and a state investigation ten years ago.
At the time, March 2005, Byrd Bennett defended her department from allegations it inflated the number of student bussed by the Cleveland municipal school district by nearly 30 percent. Her department was accused of adding over 3,000 “ghost riders’” to the books the January before allegedly to grab a bigger share of state transportation dollars.
“There was nothing deliberate. There was nothing fraudulent,” she said at the time.
And no deliberate wrongdoing was ever proven. Byrd-Bennett left the Cleveland district’s top job the following year.
While there, she was credited with straightening out the books and boosting test scores and the graduation rate. But her use of private donations also led to a state audit. Again, no deliberate wrongdoing was found.
But now in present day Chicago there is concern about the $20 million dollar no-bid contract awarded by CPS to the Wilmette-based, for-profit SUPES training academy, Byrd-Bennett’s employer after Cleveland.
The Chicago Teachers Union and education activists see it as evidence of deeper, systemic issues at city hall and city agencies.
Byrd-Bennett remains on the job. CPS is refusing to comment on her future. Her 3-year, $250,000 a year contract is up at the end of June.