Roseland Heights Community Association

A swindler, Barbara Byrd-Bennett

Posted in: Roseland Heights
  • Stock
  • ctucke20
  • Respected Neighbor
  • USA
  • 417 Posts
  • Respect-O-Meter: Respected Neighbor

I'DiGO Post:

A swindler, Barbara Byrd-Bennett – Triple B – has shamed the profession of education.

The former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme in which she awarded a no-bid contract to her former employer, SUPES Academy, to the tune of $23 million, and made a sweet deal for herself, like a salesperson, to collect a 10 percent commission, which would be $2.3 million.

Her kickback would have been tucked away until after her time had been served as CEO of CPS, in accounts for her grandson’s college tuition. And then she would return to her old consulting job with SUPES, with a signup bonus given the first day no less. How sweet it is, or was supposed to be, until she got caught.

Earlier this year, news broke that she was under federal investigation and Triple B took a leave with a few months left on her term as CEO. When her contract was finished, so was she.

On October 8, Bennett was indicted, and almost immediately her lawyers said she’d plead guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors to get the lightest punishment possible. She was never arrested.

The 66-year-old Triple B faced 20 fraud counts, each with a maximum 20-year prison term. But under the agreement, she pleaded guilty to one fraud count and is looking at 7 and a half years jailed. What a deal for a top notch educator. All other charges were dismissed, and it’s unclear how much time she’ll end up doing. But most likely, she’ll be doing significant time behind bars.

Bennett’s nefarious deal making comes at a critical time when the public schools are suffering tremendously from under-funding and as teachers wonder what happened to their pension fund.

Red Flags

While she was taking her slice of the taxpayers’ pie, this  greedy lady, who said in emails that she had tuitions to pay and casinos to visit, presided over the closing of 50 schools in Chicago – schools closed supposedly for financial reasons. This was the first time that that many public schools had been closed at the same time in Chicago.

But it was not the first time for Triple B. Before Chicago, she previously worked as the Detroit Schools’ Chief Academic and Accountability Officer while that city closed 59 schools and laid off hundreds of teachers.

Before Detroit, Bennett was the CEO of the Cleveland Public Schools System, a position she resigned from in 2006 amid allegations of corruption.

According to investigator Chuck Goudie at ABC7, during her time in Cleveland, “there was a report that the Cleveland Public Schools had inflated attendance figures; Byrd-Bennett fired 800 teachers but was found in a TV investigation to have kept on 206 spare bus drivers at a cost of $3.5 million a year.

“She enjoyed first class travel and an expensive on-the-road lifestyle paid by private donors, a practice that resulted in a State of Ohio audit, no charges of misconduct, but a recommendation of tighter district financial controls. It was a pair of needed tax levies that failed and a $30 million deficit that sunk her time in Cleveland.”

As I read about this chaos, I wondered how did she do this scam in Chicago and how was it able to happen. The public officials failed the citizens of Chicago on this one, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who handpicked B3, as he liked to call her, to be our schools CEO in 2012.

But so did the Mayor’s appointed board. How did all of these smart people miss all the red flags? How could they all not see that the fiscal controls in their system were being circumvented – and then just blindly sign off when Triple B’s deed was done?

It’s just a matter of any of them following their common sense, which is what Sarah Karp did. The unsung hero in this scenario is Karp, who broke the story in 2013 when she was a reporter for the education publication Catalyst Chicago and is now an investigator for the Better Government Association.

In a recent interview, Karp explained that she was looking through CPS board reports and saw this contract to this organization – SUPES – that she was unfamiliar with after a decade or so of working the education beat in Chicago.

She simply googled it and Triple B’s name popped up as a connection. Karp wrote about a $20 million-plus no-bid contract from Bennett to SUPES, and ironically the story didn’t get much traction in Chicago.

But it did with the FBI, which launched an investigation based on Karp’s story, and the rest as they say, is history.

Karp’s involvement in the story was just Journalism 101. Less than that even; it was just curiosity that, hmmm, this doesn’t look right. Could no one on the entire school board not have had their curiosities piqued in similar fashion?







Advertise Here!

Promote Your Business or Product for $10/mo


For just $10/mo you can promote your business or product directly to nearby residents. Buy 12 months and save 50%!