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Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charges

Today former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett apologized to the students she was supposed to be serving after pleading guilty to charges of corruption; she has pled guilty to steering $2.3 million of worth of bribes and kickbacks.

Appointed by Chicago's mayor in 2012, Byrd-Bennett has been the suspect of a federal investigation since April 2015 in relation to a lucrative contract made with SUPES Academy to provide Chicago Public Schools with a principal training program. SUPES Academy was Byrd-Bennett's former employer, and according to The Chicago Tribune:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's " hand-picked school board voted unanimously to award the lucrative contract to SUPES Academy — former employer of schools' CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett — without even exploring whether another company could do the work better or for less money."

According to The Tribune, Byrd-Bennett was appointed CEO after being second-in-command to then-CEO Jean-Claude Brizard during the 2012 Chicago teachers strike and therefore had a considerably close relationship with Emanuel.

"The relationships she forged with parents and with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis helped the city weather the closing of 50 underenrolled schools, most of them in black neighborhoods. She supported Emanuel's push to open new charter schools," the article said.

But her close relationships, The Tribune says, made it possible for her to steer the squandering of millions of dollars from Chicago's public schoolchildren.

While Byrd-Bennett originally faced 20 counts of fraud charges, part of her deal was that she need only plead guilty to one.

"According to her 22-page plea agreement, prosecutors have agreed to seek a sentence of about 7 1/2 years in prison — below the 11 to 14 years in prison called for under federal sentencing guidelines — in exchange for her cooperation," The Tribune said.

To read more about the scheme and Byrd-Bennett's charges, read here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

10/13/2015

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