Tag Archives: CPS

Bill Cameron: “I put it at 3% that [Rahm Emanuel] won’t run again”


In for Big John and Ramblin’ Ray is Lauren Kohn and John Kass, they talk with Bill Cameron, from Connected to Chicago, about Mayor Emanuel and the chances of running for office again, plus Chicago’s pensions and taxes. As well as talking about his guest this weekend where they’ll be talking about CPS Schools.

Listen to Bill Cameron on Connected to Chicago, Sunday nights at 7 pm.


Thomas Vranas wants probation for role in CPS bribery scandal

(CHICAGO) Thomas Vranas asked a judge Thursday to sentence him to probation for his role in a bribery scandal that enmeshed the Chicago Public Schools and cost former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett her job and led to her corruption conviction, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Even though his former business partner, Gary Solomon, has already been hit with a seven-year prison sentence — and Byrd-Bennett faces her own lengthy stay behind bars — Vranas’ attorney claims he was basically taken along for a ride.

In a 73-page sentencing memo filed in federal court Thursday, Vranas lawyer Jacqueline Jacobson said three years of probation would be a sufficient punishment for “the least culpable of the three.” She also predicted federal prosecutors would suggest he get 39 months.

Jacobson said Vranas, 36, wasn’t immediately told about the corrupt kickback deal struck by Byrd-Bennett and Solomon, his former “dean and a mentor” at Niles West High School. And when ultimately confronted by the feds about the $23 million in no-bid deals CPS gave the SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates, he was the only one of the three who “came completely clean” from the start.

“Tom was not the ‘driver’ of the scheme,” Jacobson wrote. “… Ultimately, Gary ‘corrupted’ Tom and Tom willingly participated in the offense instead of confronting Gary or leaving the SUPES Entities.”

And that “decision to participate in the scheme hatched by Gary and Barbara is a decision that will haunt him forever,” she wrote.

The feds have said Byrd-Bennett, 67, initially “lied about just about everything” before cooperating. They also said Solomon, 49, was less than honest. Solomon didn’t plead guilty until a year after their October 2015 indictment.

Vranas pleaded guilty a year ago to a single count of federal program bribery and is set to be sentenced on April 28 — the same day as Byrd-Bennett. Federal prosecutors are expected to recommend her sentence Friday, though they’ve previously said they would suggest roughly seven and a half years for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former schools chief. They said Byrd-Bennett, despite initially lying, cooperated fully in the end, and never actually saw any kickback money promised to her in a series of detailed emails exchanged among the three.

She planned to use those kickbacks — up to 10 percent of the principal-training business and school improvement contracts she could steer their way in 2012 and 2013 — to help pay for college for her young twin grandsons.

“Everyone sucks and is greedy,” read one of Vranas’ messages to Solomon in response to Byrd-Bennett’s demands.

Once confronted by CPS’ inspector general who initiated the investigation in 2013, Vranas tried — with Solomon’s blessing — to delete “bad emails” to conceal their pact with the schools chief.

In his bid for mercy, Vranas, the son of a CPS special education teacher, also said he put aside his profits from owning a third of the companies so he’d be able to pay CPS back more than his share of $254,000 in restitution. He wrangled 131 letters written to the judge on his behalf from relatives and colleagues, many of which argued that he never dodged responsibility for his role in the scheme. And while the charges against him cost him a “beloved volunteer position performing magic tricks for hospitalized children,” Vranas also secured part-time volunteer work helping at-risk youth at St. Sabina Church that he says probation would allow him to continue.

— Chicago Sun-Times

CPS seeking order to stop 1-day teachers strike

(CHICAGO) Chicago Public Schools is seeking a legal order to stop a potential one-day Chicago Teachers Union strike, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Attorneys for CPS filed a motion with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, seeking an injunction that would block any potential strike, saying the union’s previous one-day strike in 2016 was “illegal.”

“CTU is poised to engage in another unlawful strike,” attorneys for CPS wrote.

Earlier this month, the CTU’s House of Delegates agreed to discuss the possibility of a one-day strike on May 1. The proposed strike would be in response to the prospect of losing 13 school days at the end of the year as well as CPS’ lack of a long-term funding plan.

It would be the second one-day strike by the CTU in 13 months.

Last year, the Labor Relations Board found that the April 1, 2016, teacher’s strike was likely illegal because the union had not completed a fact-finding process.

CPS is asking the board to issue a new injunction that would prohibit any future strikes that did not abide by state law.

“Because this threatened strike, as was the April 1st strike, is unlawful and is exactly the sort of continued unlawful action contemplated by the IELRB’s prior Order, the CBE respectfully requests that the IELRB immediately reiterate and reauthorize its direction that its General Counsel seek injunctive relief,” CPS lawyers wrote.

The union plans to vote on the May 1 one-day strike on April 5. The proposed strike would coincide with International Labor Day.

At a CTU delegates meeting earlier this month, the agenda item read “Resolved that the CTU delegates will conduct discussions and hold meetings in their workplaces about a May 1st strike for revenue in solidarity with labor and immigrants, with the aim of taking a vote in the regular April 5th House of Delegates meeting on whether or not to recommend a one-day strike to the CTU membership.”

— Chicago Sun-Times

© Copyright 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

Feds: Solomon helped ‘lay the foundation’ for BBB to head CPS

(CHICAGO) Federal prosecutors say that the mastermind of the contracting scandal that ousted Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett helped “lay the foundation” for her to take power so she’d be positioned to steer them lucrative contracts, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Gary Solomon, co-owner of The SUPES Academy, has pleaded guilty in the scheme and in a 65-page memo asked his sentencing judge for a maximum 18 months in prison, punting the blame to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s second schools chief.

In a blistering response released Monday night, Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Church accused Solomon of “glossing over the significance of his corruption” on the cash-strapped school system as she held firm on the government’s recommendation of nine years behind bars when he is sentenced on March 24.

She called the lengthy claims his lawyers made, including that Byrd-Bennett proposed a bribe arrangement and repeatedly lied to the feds, “proof of his failure to fully accept responsibility for his conduct.”

“These claims are diversions, efforts to deflect the court’s attention from the breadth of his corruption and the extent to which he was the direct beneficiary,” Church said. “His was a calculated corruption that lasted for years and earned him millions of dollars. Solomon must be held accountable.”

Unlike Byrd-Bennett, who didn’t see a dime from promised kickbacks, Solomon, 48, pocketed more than $5 million from the principal training firm behind the scandal.

Church laid out in a detailed 14-page narrative submitted on U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon’s last day in office how Solomon set actions in motion that led to the awarding of about $23 million in no-bid deals from CPS to his education consulting companies.

“Without anyone else at CPS or in the City of Chicago knowing of his agreement to pay Byrd-Bennett kickbacks from the contracts awarded to SUPES,” Church wrote, “Solomon was working behind the scenes to help steer her into a more powerful position with CPS. It was to his benefit and his bottom line that Byrd-Bennett seized the helm from (her predecessor Jean-Claude) Brizard, and he worked to make it happen.”

“Solomon saw an opportunity” in July 2012 after he learned that Brizard wanted to leave CPS, Church wrote. He shared that tidbit with Beth Swanson, then Emanuel’s education deputy, emailing that “JC knows he is a dead man walking.”

“Will go without an issue?” Swanson asked of Brizard in June. Solomon assured her, “We discussed safe landing options for JC’s fam.”

In mid-July, he pushed Byrd-Bennett, who’d been CPS’ chief education officer for about two months: “She is all in with you, she said. Will do whatever you need her to do.”

“She just sees that the ship is sinking fast and she wants to help. She actually brought up an increased role,” he wrote.

By July 24, months before the mayor announced her promotion, Solomon applauded Byrd-Bennett: “Congrats Madam CEO!!!”

Reached by telephone Tuesday, Brizard confirmed he knew that summer he wouldn’t last long at CPS but said he never used the words “dead man walking.” He said the emails confirmed his suspicions.

“She and Gary were actively looking to undermine,” he said. “Now I know why, they wanted that contract. I was not biting.”

Asked whether Solomon’s lobbying affected the decision to elevate Byrd-Bennett, mayoral spokesman Adam Collins said, “of course not, as we said almost two years ago.”

Swanson did not respond to messages seeking an interview. She told the Sun-Times in 2015 that Solomon was a “serial networker who emailed constantly.”

Attorneys for Solomon and for Byrd-Bennett did not comment.

Solomon is the last of three convicted in the plot to steer no-bid deals from CPS to himself and business partner Thomas Vranas, with help from their former employee, Byrd-Bennett. After setting a trial date, Solomon pleaded guilty last October to one count of honest services wire fraud and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Byrd-Bennett, 67, faces closer to seven years in prison when she and Vranas are sentenced next month.

— Chicago Sun-Times

CPS Threatens to End Year Early

By Jennifer Keiper, WLS-AM 890 News

(CHICAGO) Chicago Public Schools, which is already suing Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education over school funding, is now threatening to end the school year three weeks early.
CPS is faced with a huge deficit and an upcoming teacher pension payment.  CEO Forrest Claypool says drastic measures will have to be taken if they don’t get money from Springfield.   One of those measures would be pushing up the June 20 school year end date to June 1st.
“The next round of cuts will almost certainly require more pain and more days cut from the school year.  There’s no question that ending school early is our worst case scenario.  I want to be crystal clear:  We believe that it is possible to avoid ending the school year early, but only if Springfield acts or if Judge Valderama enjoins the state from distributing funding in a racially discriminatory manner,” Claypool said.

CPS has asked a Cook County judge to fast-track it’s civil right suits, which it filed earlier this month. It alleges that the state’s school funding formula discriminates against CPS students who are predominantly black and Latino.  They’re seeking a preliminary injunction barring the state from disbursing education funding until it adequately funds the state’s largest school district.
Illinois Education Secretary, Beth Purvis, says now is the time for CEO Claypool to engage in a constructive process to that would help schools across the state.

CPS to ICE: Keep Out

By Jennifer Keiper, WLS-AM 890 News
(CHICAGO) Chicago Public Schools principals have been told, if immigration agents show up and they don’t have a criminal warrant, don’t let them in.
As the Trump Administration announced a rewrite of immigration enforcement policies, CPS Education Officer Janice Jackson told principals to alert CPS lawyers, immediately, if immigration agents show up at district buildings.  The district says the agents should wait outside while the law department is reviewing the matter.
Principals are also being urged to update student emergency contact forms.
Rather than just focusing on violent crimes,  those in the country illegally could be subjected to rapid deportation if they are charged or convicted of any offense or even suspected of a crime. That’s according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly.
© WLS-AM 890

Chicago Police officer charged with criminal sexual assault

Eugene Ciardullo | Chicago Police


(CHICAGO) A Chicago Police officer who was employed as a security guard at a Chicago Public School has been charged with having a sexual relationship with an underage girl who attended the high school where he worked.

Eugene Ciardullo, 51, was charged with one felony count of criminal sexual assault of a victim between 13 and 17 years old.

The student, who is now 18, admitted to authorities that she had a sexual relationship with Ciardullo when she was 17.

Ciardullo befriended her during the 2014-2015 school year, when she was a 16-year-old sophomore, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Ed Murillo said in bond court on Sunday.

Michael Passman, a spokesman for CPS, said Ciardullo immediately resigned after he was removed from his position at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences on Dec. 15.

“A part-time security officer . . . was removed from his position in December in response to the serious allegations, and the individual is no longer an employee of Chicago Public Schools,” Passman said in an emailed statement. “The school responded promptly and followed proper protocols after it became aware of the allegations, and CPS is cooperating with the law enforcement as it investigates the matter.”

The school district has also offered support services for member’s of the school community, Passman said.

Ciardullo and the girl exchanged phone numbers and chatted on social media websites during the summer after her sophomore year.

In September 2015 — during her junior year — Ciardullo told her through the social media site Snapchat that he had feelings for her. Less than a month later, he told her he loved her, Murillo said.

The relationship soon became physical and carried on from February through December 2016, with Ciardullo meeting the girl — then 17 — for sex in an empty parking lot and motel rooms, Murillo said.

During July and August, Ciardullo — a Marine Corps veteran — began personally training the girl in preparation for a physical fitness test to enter the Marines, Murillo said.

The two discussed their age difference, and Ciardullo told the girl he “could lose his job and go to jail if they were caught,” Murillo said.

Ciardullo told the girl to “tell people who asked about their relationship that they were just good friends,” Murillo said.

One of the girl’s relatives confronted Ciardullo in late November after learning of a text exchange between the two, and Ciardullo admitted they were having an affair, Murillo said.

In mid-December, CPS investigators met with the girl and — after being confronted with photos of the two kissing — admitted they had been in a sexual relationship.

On Friday, police arrested Ciardullo at his home in the 8300 block of South Keeler in the Ashburn neighborhood. Ciardullo also admitted the two were in a sexual relationship and that he knew she was a minor at the time, Murillo said.

On Sunday, Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil set bail at $75,000 for Ciardullo and ordered him, should he be released on bond, not to have contact with the victim or anyone under the age of 18; to surrender his passport and his Firearm Owners Identification card; and not use the internet.

Ciardullo, who has been with the department for 21 years, was assigned in the Deering District, according to police.

“The Chicago Police Department is currently also investigating this incident internally and administratively. We remain committed to the highest levels of accountability for our officers and members and will not tolerate any activity or actions that undermine the integrity of the hard working men and women of our Department,” according to a statement from police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

$400M property tax increase could save CPS finances: Moody’s

(CHICAGO) The credit rating agency Moody’s says a $400 million property tax increase is the most likely way for Chicago Public Schools to shore up its finances, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

“If CPS fiscal pressures continue, the district may pursue additional revenue by levying for debt service, which could raise Chicago taxpayers’ property taxes by more than $400 million annually,” according to two reports released Thursday by Moody’s.

A property tax increase of that size, through, would weaken the city’s “political and practical ability” to increase taxes to fund pensions and other city services, Moody’s said.

“CPS’ deteriorating credit profile reflects years of budget imbalance which have completely drained operating reserves, leaving the district with minimal protection against further budget pressures,” Naomi Richman, managing director of Moody’s, said in a statement.

Last December, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have given the Chicago Public Schools $215 million it’s counting on to help pay for teacher pensions.

“CPS continues to make substantial progress, eliminating a billion dollar budget deficit in the past 18 months through management efficiencies and new revenue,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in an emailed statement Thursday night. “Despite Gov. Rauner’s veto of pension dollars for Chicago that every other school district receives, CPS will maintain a balanced budget this year, even as we continue to fight for Gov. Rauner to fix the nation’s most discriminatory school funding system.”

Bittner added that some of Moody’s suggestions would harm CPS’ financial position and, in some cases, are not legally possible.

Moody’s said other, “more painful” options include forgoing or deferring employer pension contributions or seeking state authorization to file for bankruptcy, though the latter is unlikely “given the current mayoral administration’s opposition to a CPS bankruptcy.”

— Chicago Sun-Times

CPS classes in session Thursday despite frigid temperatures

(CHICAGO) Chicago Public Schools students will have to brave Thursday’s bitterly cold temperatures.

Classes will be in session with a wind chill advisory in effect until 10 a.m. Thursday as temperatures barely get out of the single digits, and plunge as low as minus 30 degrees with the wind chill factor, according to the school district and the National Weather Service.

“Our highest priority is the safety of students and staff, and we are closely monitoring the weather to help ensure that holding class is in the best interest of students,” CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in an email Wednesday night, adding that “multiple CPS departments are working to ensure schools are prepared for a safe and successful school day.”

Buses will be started early to warm them up for students, and school engineers will arrive “first thing” to make sure heating systems are running properly, officials said.

Forecasters urge people to dress in layers, cover exposed skin and limit time outdoors. Frostbite can take effect in less than half an hour.

Chicago students, teachers back to class after strike threat

(CHICAGO) Students and teachers in Chicago are heading back to the classroom after the Chicago Teachers Union and the nation’s third-largest school district averted a strike with a late-night tentative contract agreement.

The union had been prepared to hit the picket lines Tuesday morning for what would have been the second major Chicago Public Schools strike since 2012.

But just before a midnight deadline, the union and CPS said Monday it had reached a deal. It still must be approved by the union’s House of Delegates and its full membership, a process that could take weeks.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and union President Karen Lewis both said they were relieved that the district’s nearly 400,000 students will be in class Tuesday.

The four-year proposal includes cost-of-living increases in the third and fourth year.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Chicago teachers, school district continues contract talks

(CHICAGO) Negotiators for the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools continue to meet in an effort to reach a contract and avert a threatened teacher strike.

The two sides were quiet Sunday, a day after the union’s 40-member big bargaining unit met to review its position on a potential contract. The bargaining unit — representing about 28,000 members — rejected the district’s last offer in February. The teachers union has set a Tuesday strike date.

Union leaders have outlined a $200 million wish list to offset cuts to pay and benefits.

CPS has said it continues to work within the framework of the offer it made in January, which included pay increases and other items such as a cap on the number of privately operated charter schools in Chicago.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

CPS Preps For Possible Strike

By Nick Gale, WLS-AM News

(CHICAGO) Chicago Public Schools are preparing ahead of a possible teachers strike.

The school board has given the go ahead to to administrators to start making contingency plans. CPS will work with the Chicago Park District and other agencies to provide places for students to go during the school day. CPS says it is prepared to spend some $15 million to keep kids occupied.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said today that they will continue to listen and negotiate with the Chicago Teachers Union.

The Chicago Teachers Union said Monday that the majority of their members have given the green light to strike. The union’s House of Delegates could decide Wednesday to give the mandatory 10 day notice needed before teachers strike. That earliest that could be is October 11.


@ 2016 WLS-AM News


Moody’s pushes CPS credit rating deeper into junk status

(CHICAGO) Moody’s Investors Service pushed the debt of the Chicago Public Schools further into junk territory on the same day the district’s teachers threatened to strike.

In downgrading its debt Monday from B2 to B3, Moody’s called CPS’ financial condition “precarious” and “acute.” The new rating is one notch above the C level Moody’s describes as “speculative (and) of poor standing, and are subject to very high credit risk.”

Moody’s said its revised rating “reflects the expectation that the district’s credit pressures will intensify in the current fiscal year.”

In announcing its rating move, Moody’s referenced “strong employee bargaining groups that impede cost-cutting efforts.” The Chicago Teachers Union announced Monday its members voted 95 percent in favor to authorize a strike if necessary to obtain a new contract.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Spotlight on Chicago teacher contracts on first day of class

(CHICAGO) The spotlight is on contract talks between teachers and officials with the nation’s third-largest school district as Chicago students attend the first day of school.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis both held public appearances Tuesday. The question of whether there could be a strike this fall lingers.

The contract for about 27,000 union members expired in June 2015.

The two sides have been negotiating on issues including cost-of-living raises, pensions and other benefits. Earlier this year, the union’s bargaining team rejected a district proposal.

Lewis declined Tuesday to discuss the latest status. She says union members are meeting this week and could consider a strike authorization vote.

School district officials say the earlier agreement rejected by the union is a “fair foundation.”


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Graduation rate in Chicago Public Schools now at 73 percent

(CHICAGO) Figures released by Chicago Public Schools show continued improvement in the district’s graduation rate.

The nation’s third-largest school district announced Monday just over 73 percent of students who entered Chicago high schools as freshmen in 2011 graduated by summer of 2016. The first day of the school year is Tuesday.

The five-year graduation rate has improved steadily during recent years. More than 20,400 students graduated in 2016.

A year ago, the district readjusted its graduation statistics and no longer counts students who leave for job training or GED programs as transfer students. They are now counted as dropouts.

That change is reflected in the numbers released Monday. It followed a CPS inspector general report and an investigation by Chicago’s WBEZ and the Better Government Association, which reported that dropouts were being misclassified.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Father, son, who scammed schools out of millions, plead guilty

(CHICAGO) A suburban father and son accused in 2014 of scamming public school district out of millions — only to post diamonds and rubies to get out of jail — pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud.

Jowhar Soultanali, 61, of Morton Grove, and his son, Kabir Kassam, 37, of Wheeling, each face a maximum of 20 years in prison after admitting to U.S. District Judge James Zagel they broke the law. An attorney also entered guilty pleas for the pair’s Niles-based tutoring businesses, Brilliance Academy Inc. and Babbage Net School Inc., the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Soultanali and Kassam offered plea declarations to the judge, still quibbling with some of the accusations against them. Those disagreements will likely be sorted out at their sentencing hearings, which have not been scheduled.

The feds accused Soultanali and Kassam in 2014 of bribing education officials across the nation with cash, Caribbean cruises and strip club visits. They also used their tutoring businesses to scam $33 million in tutoring money out of more than 200 public school districts, the feds say. They did so by submitting false attendance records to the schools, according to their indictment.

Their companies were paid at least $23 million by Chicago Public Schools, and the two, for a time, lived the high life, at least until they had to post their riches to maintain their freedom.

In May 2014, they agreed to hand over diamond and ruby rings and earrings — along with other property worth a total of $500,000 each — to the U.S. federal court to stay free on bond.

They also turned over deeds to five homes in Morton Grove, Wheeling and Skokie, life insurance policies and three of their five pricey automobiles.

© Copyright 2016 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

Chicago Board of Education to vote on $5.4 billion budget

(CHICAGO) The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on a $5.4 billion budget that will include increased property taxes.

However, advocacy groups are expressing opposition to the spending plan scheduled to be approved Wednesday.

A business-backed watchdog group called The Civic Federation says it can’t back the budget because it relies on money from the state that may not materialize and a large amount of borrowing.

The assumed windfall in state funds totals $215 million to help cover teacher pensions. The business group says the school board must account for how it would close a funding gap if that money gets caught up in the state Capitol.

Chicago Public School CEO Forrest Claypool says if the state doesn’t come through, the district will have to cut money from classrooms.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Chicago Teachers Threaten Strike

By Nick Gale, WLS-AM 890

(CHICAGO) In an effort at shared sacrifice, Chicago Public Schools is asking teachers to pay more for their pensions. It’s a teachers contract similar to one that Chicago Teachers Union members rejected in 2016, and it’s leaving a bad taste in CTU president Karen Lewis’ mouth.

“If the Board of Education imposes a 7-percent slash in our salaries, we will move to strike,” Lewis said Monday afternoon.

But CPS CEO Forrest Claypool says everyone has to help in solving a $1 billion budget deficit.

“The state stepped up. Our local taxpayers stepped up. CPS has stepped up. We need teachers to be part of the solution to protect their own jobs and pensions but also to protect our kids and to show good faith to those hard working taxpayers who are sacrificing for them and our schools,” Claypool said.

The proposed budget is set for a vote on August 24. Negotiations between CPS and the CTU continue.

CPS proposes budget is called balanced, teachers doubtful

(CHICAGO) Chicago Public Schools officials say they have a proposed budget for fiscal 2017 that is balanced.

However, the proposed $5.4 billion budget released Monday is based on the Chicago Teachers Union accepting a contract similar to one the union rejected earlier this year.

Schools CEO Forrest Claypool says that without certainty on the district’s labor costs, “we have to make, and do make rational assumptions.”

The rejected four-year contract would have required teachers to contribute the full nine percent of each paycheck to their pensions. It also would have curbed some automatic pay rises.

Union president Karen Lewis says teachers will not accept lowered benefits and lower pay, noting the rejected contract transferred pension contributions to teachers that would result in a 7 percent cut in pay.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

CPS teacher killed in Tri-State crash in Des Plaines

Jeffery Komada | Provided photo

(DES PLAINES) A Northwest Side high school teacher was killed in a four-vehicle crash Saturday morning on the Tri-State Tollway in northwest suburban Des Plaines.

Jeffery R. Komada, 54, was the director of the technology department at Taft High School, 6350 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Principal Mark Grishaber said.

Shortly after 10 a.m., a Ford minivan stalled out in the middle lane of traffic on southbound I-294 at mile post 41-1/2 between Touhy and Devon Avenues, according to Illinois State Police.

Komada was at the wheel of a Honda SUV that then rear-ended the Ford, before a Volkswagen slammed into the back of his vehicle, state police said.

Komada, a Des Plaines resident, helped a 38-year-old woman and a 4-year-old girl from the Volkswagen get into the back of his vehicle to move them over to the shoulder, authorities said.

He was standing outside when a Peterbuilt semi hit him, the Honda and Volkswagen, authorities said. He was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where he later died.

“[He] was an esteemed colleague and he was a friend to everyone in the building,” Grishaber said of Komada, who was named an “Educator of the Year” at Taft in 2015. “He was one of the kindest people I have ever met. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

South Side pastors push for school funding reform

By Adam Chappelle, WLS-AM 890 News
(CHICAGO) A group of South Side pastors plan to address churchgoers this Sunday to ask them to write, email, and call their state reps and senators over what they call an unequal school funding package. They say the one proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner sends more state money to wealthier, suburban districts, despite a smaller student-age population.

The Reverend Walter Turner told reporters on Thursday the pastors aren’t placing blame on anyone, but simply want to find an equitable solution.

Earlier this month, Democratic State Senator Andy Manar of Decatur said he planned to file legislation that would change the state’s funding system to send more resources to high-need, high-poverty districts.

As Little As Eight Months for Byrd-Bennett

Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Connected to Chicago w/Bill Cameron, Photo by Bill Cameron
Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Connected to Chicago w/Bill Cameron, Photo by Bill Cameron

By Bill Cameron, WLS News

(CHICAGO)  The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty today to steering CPS contracts to a former employer in anticipation of kickbacks and promises of a job after her time with CPS was up.

Byrd-Bennett was all business in federal court, respectfully telling the judge, “I plead Guilty.” All she asked for and got was a cup of water.

In her plea agreement, she agrees to cooperate with the government for other trials. In exchange, the government agrees to drop all but one wire fraud count and recommends a 66 percent reduction to the low end of the sentencing guidelines. That means her sentencing could be as low at eight months in prison.

Byrd-Bennett could testify against two co-defendants. She is scheduled to be sentenced next year.

@ 2015 WLS News

Former CPS CEO Expected In Federal Court

Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Connected to Chicago w/Bill Cameron, Photo by Bill Cameron
Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Connected to Chicago w/Bill Cameron, Photo by Bill Cameron


By Jennifer Keiper, WLS News


Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been indicted on corruption charges and her lawyer says she will plead guilty. She is expected in Federal Court today.

Byrd-Bennett is accused of steering a more than $20 million no bid contract to her former employer, SUPES Academy, in exchange for potential bribes and kickbacks. She had been hand picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lead CPS.

“When all of us are entrusted by the public to pursue the public good, when you violate that, you violate our trust and you have let us down,” Emanuel said after the indictment was announced last week.

Byrd-Bennett faces 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud.

Listen to Jennifer Keiper’s WLS report here:


@ 2015 WLS News