Chicago Investigated Its Public School System And Found A Lot Of Misconduct

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter
  • The Chicago Public Schools inspector general found a lot of misconduct in a “Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report.”
  • Misconduct ranged from students receiving mostly A’s just for showing up to a dance class without an instructor to an unjustifiable pre-K program that cost taxpayers $700,000.
  • Inspector General Nicholas Schuler said the cases reported marked a significant year as two former district CEOs were involved with misconduct.

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) inspector general found a lot of misconduct in an annual report released Thursday, ranging from an elementary school hiring a teacher despite a previous guilty plea for sexual misconduct to an unjustifiable pre-kindergarten program costing taxpayers $700,000 to misconduct of two former district CEOs.

The findings are part of the “Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report” released by CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office (OIG) Thursday.

Schuler told The Daily Caller News Foundation over email the cases reported marked a “very significant year.”

“Our investigations uncovered serious misconduct by two then-CEOs — the highest-paid positions at CPS,” Schuler said to TheDCNF. “This is extraordinarily rare.”

One instance of misconduct involved former CEO Forrest Claypool who covered up an ethics violation by another CPS official, according to the report.

The second misconduct involved ex-CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who helped a technology company gain tens of millions of dollars from CPS, the Chicago Tribune reported. Byrd-Bennett was convicted.

Pictured is a representation of complaints. SHUTTERSTOCK/Piyapong Wongkam

Pictured is a representation of complaints. SHUTTERSTOCK/Piyapong Wongkam

The OIG received 1,520 complaints for alleged fraud, waste, mismanagement and other ethical violations between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. Less than 20 percent of the cases were investigated, however, due to small staff size and other pressing matters.

Other findings included:

  • A high school principal hired a dance teacher who did not go through a background check and was unlicensed. Students were still given grades — mostly A’s — just for showing up, even when the teacher had left the position and there was no instruction in place. Chicago’s Board of Education is looking to let the principal go and finding ways for students to make up the credit who took the class in fall 2017.
  • Residents in an affluent area were given special priority to send their kids to a full-day pre-K Montessori school for free over a period of two years. The OIG reported the perk was costing taxpayers $700,000 a year in salaries and benefits. A third of the students who had access to the pre-K perk since the 2014-2015 academic year, funded by taxpayers, left the school district and opted for suburban or private schools after two years.
  • Two CPS employees used fake addresses to help their children gain spots in selective-enrollment high schools. The children have been prohibited access to the special schools and programs in CPS.
  • An elementary school teacher was hired in 2003 despite previous criminal sexual abuse prosecution and an arrest for indecent solicitation of a child. The criminal background check did not reveal his prior convictions or a conviction he disclosed regarding misdemeanor battery.

The teacher with the sexual misconduct history was removed from the classroom in December 2017 and was suspended without pay in April 2018 prior to resigning and giving up his teaching license, the Tribune reported. (RELATED: Chicago Public Schools Receives More Than 600 Sexual Assault Complaints In One Semester)

“CPS takes seriously its duty to address misconduct, and as noted in the report, the district has held accountable all individuals who committed serious breaches of CPS policy and public trust,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said to TheDCNF over email.

The report comes as CPS faced scrutiny for the way it handled hiring employees and sexual misconduct. The school district did not address complaints efficiently, the Tribune alleged in a summer 2018 report. CPS announced the creation of the Office of Student Protections and Title IX to handle student-on-student sexual assault complaints in June 2018. Nearly 500 student-on-student sexual violence allegations were filed in one semester since the office’s establishment.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education also withheld grants worth $4 million from CPS in September 2018 over alleged mishandling of sexual abuse complaints. CPS sued DeVos and the Education Department in November 2018.

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