This potentially big scandal in Chicago was kept under wraps until right after Mayor Rahm Emanuel safely-won re-election to a second term. The woman he appointed to run the Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, has been forced to step down while federal prosecutors determine whether something nefarious occurred in the awarding of a $20.5 million no-bid contract to her former employer, SUPES Academy, to train principals. Federal investigators are seeking information about "financial benefits, gifts, honoraria, meals and reimbursements" received by Byrd-Bennett and her top advisers from the co-founders of SUPES Academy, Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas.
The scandal comes as the state's biggest school district faces a $1.1 billion shortfall and a $9.5 billion unfunded pension crisis. “In a school district that seems to be all about privatization, private entities continue to play a major role in its operations,” Chicago Teachers Union official Jesse Sharkey told the Chicago Sun Times. “[A]nd if Barbara is the first to fall, then perhaps there are many others who should follow.” I believe SUPES Academy has been contracted by schools in Indiana, including IPS. Wouldn't it be nice if we had federal prosecutors here in Indiana who probed all of the corrupt insider deals that are happening in plain sight and that are raping and pillaging our state and local government?
UPDATE: This is even more intriguing when you see who the big wheels behind SUPES Academy have been. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner formerly chaired the nonprofit's board and Mayor Emanuel served on its board of directors according to the Chicago Tribune. Other board members include the most powerful and wealthy of Chicago, including Ken Griffin (Citadel CEO), Helen Zell (wife of real estate magnate Sam Zell and Susan Crown (Crown family heiress), among others. Former Chicago Tribune publisher Scott Smith once ran the organization. Our public school systems have been taken over lock, stock and barrel by the most wealthy people in the country to use as their personal cash cow under the guise of improving the quality of schools.
UPDATE II: The Chicago Sun-Times has another story in the Sunday edition this weekend in which they shed led on SUPES Academy's Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas. He was forced out of his job as dean of students at Niles West High School under the least favorable of circumstances:
It was “Ditch Day” at Niles West High School, and a group of seniors played hooky in classic Chicago style — skipping classes to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
You might have expected the school’s dean, Gary R. Solomon, to be angry. But Solomon, then 29, wasn’t at all upset, according to school officials and students who remember that day in May 1997. That’s because he was in the Wrigley stands with the teenagers, according to court records.
Later, in 2001, Solomon was forced out of Niles Township School District 219 under a cloud after he was accused by his bosses of “immoral and unprofessional” conduct, including allegations he kissed a female student, covered up students’ drug and alcohol use and sent “sexually suggestive, predatory” emails to students, court records show.
For many teachers, it would have been a career-ending scandal. But Solomon, who has denied any wrongdoing, rebounded to build a highly profitable career in education. He went into business with a former Niles West student and started a trio of education firms that have gotten government contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.After Solomons was forced out of his job at Niles, he and one of his former students. Tom Vranas, went to work for Princeton Review, the test prep firm for college admissions. In 2008, both left their jobs at Princeton Review to start the first of several education profiteer-related firms, the first of which was PROACT, an executive search firm for school districts. That's the firm Byrd-Bennett was employed as a senior associate before later going on to become CEO of Chicago Public Schools.