October 18th, 2015

white and byrd-bennett

Cleveland is where Byrd Bennett learned how to screw the youngsters she was well paid to educate.

Education seemed far from her desire. I guess it caught up with her in Chicago.

“Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett faces up to about 7 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to steering multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts to an education consulting firm in exchange for the promise of lucrative kickbacks and other perks,” reports The Chicago Tribune. The contract was for $20 million plus.

“I plead guilty, your honor,” Byrd-Bennett said in a soft, calm voice, the article noted.

“Her apology to the court sounded hollow and false. What else did you expect?The contract is by far the largest no-bid contract that CPS has entered into in at least five years. And the contract has raised suspicion because CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had a previous relationship with SUPES. Catalyst detailed those ties in this story, not long after the contract was quietly approved by the School Board,” a December 2013 piece noted in a watchdog publication.

It’s impossible to believe that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was as dumb as Cleveland Mayor Michael White about their school choice of Barbara Byrd Bennett. They both seem quite capable.

They had to know what they were getting, buying.

In These Times, a Chicago publication assessed her Chicago tenure:

Little about that legacy can be seen as positive. Nearly every major decision that Barbara Byrd-Bennett made as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools benefited wealthy white power brokers at the expense of poor and working-class black students, parents and teachers.

Now Byrd Bennett faces seven plus years in the hoosegow because of her school mismanagement in Chicago. Sometimes overuse of privilege doesn’t work.

Her greed was nurtured by fealty shown for and by Corporate Cleveland and Mayor White. She was paid $278,000 (not counting bonuses) and though earning that in Cleveland she eventually lived in a $544,600 home in Solon. She earlier had had a $127,000 tax abated Cleveland home, with some 60 percent of the revenue taken from the city school system. The Free Times then noted then that as she enjoyed the tax abatement she was pushing a $380 million school bond vote.

White had little use for Cleveland teachers so Byrd Bennett seemed a good choice for him. White called Cleveland teachers “inmates running the asylum.” Trying to break the teacher’s union he brought thuggish guys, I think from Chicago, to counter an impending teachers strike. His move failed.

White brought Byrd Bennett from New York to kick ass. To accent what he was looking for she wasn’t called a school superintendent but CEO. Not an education person but a business chief. Such nonsense.

But she was the darling of the Cleveland business establishment. The Corporates loved her. And she took full advantage of their supine romance.

Our Corporate Mafia—Cleveland Foundation, the Gund Foundation and Cleveland Tomorrow (now the Greater Cleveland Partnership)—bestowed a kitty for Byrd Bennett so that she could throw fancy dinners, take trips to London and Hawaii. She learned to live big here.

I noted at that time, “I find it amusing that the Plain Dealer (which hasn’t gone after the story avidly so far)… goes to spinner David Abbott (or oily Sam Miller) for comment.”

Abbott defended the kitty set up by the Corporates as more “appropriate” than using public funds. How about no kitty fund at all?

Being treated royally here must have encouraged her to Go Bigger in free-flying Chicago.

I wrote at the time, “They give her dough to do this fancy stuff so that it wouldn’t come from public funds, thus likely not be revealed in a school system now run essentially as a private club for its hierarchy, including the mayoral-named school board.” (Byrd Bennett arrogantly warned she’d leave if Cleveland citizens didn’t give White the right to name the school board.)

White and the pushy business community got voters to give up their citizen voting rights and turn over naming of the school board members to him, rather than voters, who couldn’t be trusted with the responsibility.

Now I doubt if most citizens can name two or three school board members. We can call it the Silence Board.

Mayor Frank Jackson has been as bought-off by the Corporates as White clearly enjoyed being.

Our Corporate Mafia chronicler Brent Larkin made the trip to Chicago when Rahm was considering BBB. Larkin, who carries water for our thirsty elites, noted that “She didn’t exactly jump at the chance.”

He quotes Byrd Bennett saying, “The mayor and I had a direct and honest conversation about me needing to think on this.”

Larkin noted: “After all, taking on what is right now probably the most daunting public education job in the country hardly adds up to a cushy pre-retirement gig for a 62-year old who has trouble going 10 minutes without mentioning her grandchildren.” Touching. He’s so kind to elites.

According to the Chicago Tribune one of the moves made by BBB was to direct ill-gotten gains to two grandchildren here.

It’s not tough to see why her daughter Nailah Byrd Bennett also quickly won high private and public jobs here, including a stint at Squires-Sanders (now Squire Boggs) and high-paying jobs with our “REFORMED” Cuyahoga County where she now serves as clerk of courts. She had been the County’s ethics boss. Isn’t this all just too amusing.

I called Squires boss Fred Nance to ask about Byrd Bennett and her daughter. He didn’t call back. What was she doing for Squires? I noticed Nance did appear after the BBB news applauding Byrd Bennett on WKYC-TV. The lack of memory of the Cleveland media is astounding. Or maybe not.

It’s almost laughable what has been reformed at the County since they put away Frank Russo and Jimmy Dimora.

I seem to get the same odor, only more costly.

Eventually, Rahm Emanuel saw in Byrd-Bennett the same qualities former Chancellor Rudy Crew saw in her in New York and Mike White in Cleveland.

Could all three have misjudged her? Highly unlikely. I believe they knew what they were renting.

So Byrd-Bennett took that job she needed but didn’t want. And Chicagoans are witnessing her final act, the last appearance on a public stage. Though not as she’d like it.

Then she said: “Trust me: This is it. I think running the [nation’s] third-largest school system should be one’s final job.”

One of the revelations revealed, in the charges, that Byrd Bennett noted that she needed the ill-gotten gain because she had “tuition to pay and casinos to visit.” She should have stayed in Cleveland where the Corporates would have found a way to fund such desires.

“After this, I will go live happily ever after in Solon, Ohio,” said BBB had said.

I guess that may be a final destination but it may take some time for her to get there now.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. And you expect anyone to take you seriously, making these kind of juvenile mistakes? You must be a grad of the Cleveland Public School System.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good morning Mansfield,

      Thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to enter the discussion with your comment. We build our communities with our conversations.

      You are the first person ever to write to say that they didn’t get the Roldo Rights pun.

      As to my own education, I’m a Cleveland transplant, having studied in Southeastern Ohio, Colorado and California.

      I have taken a few classes in the Master’s programs at Cleveland State and the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies, however.


      Do all you can to make today a better day,


  2. Jeff,

    I studied in the mean streets of America, which I think is a much better school. You could have put “Rights” in quotation marks for dense individuals like myself.

    Oh, I also “write” regularity for, occasionally for the Daily Beast, host a Sunday talk radio show on WTAM, formerly hosted a cable TV show, appeared on major national TV networks on numerous times, and had a book published by Paragon House.

    In my “spare” time I build an award-winning vineyard, and the world’s first BioCellar, which has created transitional employment for 50 individuals over the last five years.

    Imagine that, all without benefit of college!

    You have a great day also.

    And oh, you don’t really know if others didn’t “get” the pun, all you know is that I was the only person who responded. Again, have a nice day.

    • Jeff Hess says:


      That’s true, you’re absolutely correct, which is why I took the care to write: You are the first person ever to WRITE to say that they didn’t get the Roldo Rights pun.


  3. ryan says:

    Once an African-American woman can matriculate through the Ph.D. in Education system, it is a sinch for them to snap up high-level administrative jobs in local and state government. Because of affirmative action. Ph.Ds in education don’t really signify any level of administrative competency, or even competency in teaching: even Bill Cosby had one.

    • Jeff Hess says:


      While I don’t hold advanced degrees in education, I do know and work with a number of fine men and women who do and they are all quite competent.

      I’ll give you Crosby and Byrd-Bennett, but we can’t tar all such PhD’s with that one brush.


  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. HA! You’re brighter than I gave you credit for.:-)

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