Questions over $20M no-bid CPS principal training contract

August 1, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has ties to the company that received the no-bid contract. This comes as the community is invited to attend budget hearings getting underway Thursday night.

Principals are the key to a school's success -- that is what Chicago public school officials strongly believe -- so much so, the school board approved a 3-year, $20 million no-bid contract with a for-profit company that will provide training for every CPS principal.

"Why we're spending this much money on principal support -- it is questionable," said Sarah Karp of education magazine Catalyst Chicago. Karp calls it the largest CPS no-bid contract in the past few years. She and others question how CPS can spend that kind of money while school budgets are being slashed.

"We are spending $20 million to a leadership academy, when once again we're not seeing that in the schools," said Andee Harris of Raise Your Hand.

"I understand why they don't think it sits well. It sits well with us," said school board president David Vitale.

Vitale says the Wilmette-based Supes Academy provides training that no other company, non-profit or university can provide. Vitale says each principal is provided with a superintendent who serves as a coach.

"I don't think you can find that in any other organization around the country and that coaching is really a critical element in professional development from my standpoint," said Vitale.

It is the coaching that has also raised eye brows with critics. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett once worked as a Supes Academy coach.

"The fact that she was with this one or some other ones that we might do business with doesn't disqualify them from doing business with CPS in my judgment," said Vitale.

Vitale says the contract is actually a good deal because it does train close to 600 principals over a three-year period.

There is a budget hearing Thursday night at Truman College at 6 p.m., and there is another hearing on the South Side at Kennedy-King College, which will start at the same time.

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