CPS suspends SUPES Academy contract

Sarah Schulte Image
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
CPS suspends SUPES Academy contract
In his new role as Chicago Public Schools interim CEO, Jesse Ruiz informed SUPES Academy its principal coaching services are no longer needed, at least for now.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Board of Education is suspending its leadership training contract with SUPES Academy amid a federal investigation.

In his new role as Chicago Public Schools' interim CEO, Ruiz informed SUPES its principal coaching services are no longer needed, at least for now.

However, suspending the controversial $20.5 million no-bid contract is partly symbolic, since CPS has already paid the Evanston-based for-profit company close to $13 million.

"Given all the questions being raised, I think it's in the best interest of our district, our principals, our teachers, our students and all the families of CPS to simply suspend it at this time until the answers to those questions are provided," Ruiz said.

Those answers could come from either a federal investigation, the CPS inspector general or an outside firm CPS plans to hire to audit the contracting process.

Two years ago, Ruiz voted for the SUPES contract. Given the size of the contract and Barbara Byrd-Bennett's connection with SUPES prior to becoming CEO, red flags were raised immediately. Yet, Ruiz says he has no regrets voting for it.

"Given the information I had at the time, I was comfortable making that vote," Ruiz said.

SUPES Academy says it's disappointed with the suspension. A written statement reads in part: "We stand behind the training we provide, bolstered by the positive feedback we have received from these same principals."

The CPS/SUPES federal investigation comes at the same time CPS is facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit. While the board is looking for relief from Springfield, the Chicago Teachers Union and parent groups have other ideas.

"I got a list right here in my hand of unnecessary contracts that could be cut and save the district $165 million," said Michael Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union.

"Continuing to rapidly expand charters at a time of fiscal crisis and declining enrollment starves existing schools of needed resources," said Jennie Biggs, Raise Your Hand.

Ruiz says he hopes his connections in Springfield will help CPS with its massive budget problem.

The interim CEO did not say how long he plans to stay on the job, however, he has a lot on his plate. Besides the budget and a review of the contracting process, Ruiz hopes to sign a new contract with the teachers union, which expires in June.