Former Chicago schools CEO Byrd-Bennett pleads guilty, faces prison sentence
- On Tuesday, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks on multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts.
- Through tears, she also apologized to Chicago students, saying, "They deserve much more, much more than I gave to them."
- As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will aim for a prison sentence of 7 1/2 years instead of 11 to 14, though the Chicago Tribune reports that her sentencing won't occur until co-defendants and SUPES Academy operators Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas have been arraigned. That hearing is set for Wednesday.
The bribery charges against Byrd-Bennett were revealed in an indictment issued Thursday. A former SUPES employee, she made a series of massive deals — the most controversial of which included a $20.5 million principal training contract — with the company. The deal was questioned in particular, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, because SUPES wasn't known for training principals.
A statement issued by Byrd-Bennett on Tuesday read as follows:
Today I pled guilty to federal crimes I committed while CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. The people of Chicago as well as CPS, its teachers, staff, and—most especially, its students—deserved more and better from me.
There is nobody to blame but me, and my failings could not have come at a time of greater challenges for CPS. The issues CPS faces are significant, and the City needs—and the children deserve—leaders who are working without conflicts of interest.
I have devoted my entire professional life to public education and, while there is no excusing or downplaying my misconduct, I believe I have done a lot of good, including in Chicago. Today, though, all I can say is that I am truly sorry and that it is time for the District and City to move forward.
The scandal has notably left some egg on the face of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who reportedly handpicked Byrd-Bennett to lead the city's schools and has been in damage control mode since the charges were revealed.
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