|Barbara Byrd-Bennett was CEO of Chicago Public Schools and did all the dirty work when it cane to |
implementing Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to shut 50 of those schools.
By Lauren Fitzpatrick, Jon Seidel and Dan Mihalopoulos
The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, has been criminally charged with allegedly steering more than $23 million in no-bid contracts from CPS to her former employer, authorities said Thursday.
Byrd-Bennett — Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked choice — becomes CPS’ first chief executive officer to face criminal charges in connection with her job. Federal authorities have been investigating the most controversial of those contracts — a $20.5 million no-bid CPS deal for principal training, the largest in recent memory — for more than a year.
RELATED STORY: Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Hand Picked School Chief Who Shut 50 Chicago Schools Quits Amid Federal Corruption InvestigationReceiving that contract in 2013 to train principals was The SUPES Academy, owned by former Niles West High School dean Gary Solomon and his former student Thomas Vranas. It generated controversy at the time because SUPES was not known for training principals while many other, respected organizations did that very job. The deal continued to draw criticism as some educators questioned the quality of SUPES’ training.
Solomon, 47, of Wilmette, and Vranas, 34, of Glenview, also were charged, as were SUPES and another company they owned that was given CPS contracts, Synesi Associates LLC.
The feds allege that Byrd-Bennett, 66, and Solomon set up a kickback scheme, detailed in emails, in which Byrd-Bennett would get money in exchange for steering the CPS contracts to SUPES and Synesi.
The scheme started right around the time Byrd-Bennett started her job as chief education officer at CPS, the post she held before becoming CEO, the feds allege.