- Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is taking a paid leave of absence as federal investigators dig into a 2013 $20.5 million no-bid contract the district entered with her former employer, SUPES Academy.
- SUPES is a provider of "leadership development services" for school leaders, principals, and administrators, and Byrd-Bennett's former job as a consultant for the company raised flags about its hefty contract.
- Byrd-Bennett has not yet been accused of any wrongdoing.
According to the Associated Press, the FBI is also looking into three other CPS employees, as well as any other people or programs associated with SUPES.
If anything, this case indicates the need for better oversight of administrators or school leaders. Teachers currently have extensive paper trails — every student's score is attached to them — while there isn't as much that follows a school leader. Since it's all sort of word-of-mouth and recommendations, important information can get lost.
Take for example the fact that when Byrd-Bennett ran Cleveland public schools from 1998 to 2006, a state audit was commissioned because there was speculation that she was spending private donations on restaurants and hotels. The Chicago Tribune later reported that while the audit found nothing necessarily illegal, the auditors did suggest the district pay more attention to its budget. In 2010, when Byrd-Bennett was chief academic and accountability officer of Detroit Public Schools, she made news by signing a multi-year, $40 million partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt known as "Destination: Detroit." What wasn't disclosed at the time of purchase was that Byrd-Bennett had been the “superintendent-in-residence” at the publisher prior to joining DPS.