– From Troy LaRaviere’s blog. Troy is a principal at Blaine elementary school in Chicago.
In July of 2013–along with hundreds of principals across Chicago–I received an email with the subject, “Leadership Launch with Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett.” The email implored principals to join Byrd-Bennett “for the comprehensive launch of the Chicago Executive Leadership Academy (CELA).” CELA was the title given to the series of professional development workshops organized by SUPES Academy under their $20+ million no-bid contract with Chicago Public Schools (CPS); a contract that is now under federal investigation. The launch was a huge event, staged at the UIC Forum. It was advertised as an “invite only” affair for which we had to reserve a ticketed seat (see mine above).
The Boiling Point
As expected, the event did not open up with any discussion of the SUPES training. Instead we got what we had come to expect at the start of every principals meeting: talk of an impending budget apocalypse that can only be solved by CPS defaulting on its obligation to provide a secure retirement for its teachers.
The meeting opened up with CPS board member and former school principal, Dr. Mahalia Hines. I’d heard her twice before; her primary function seems to be to tell stories that convince her listeners that Rahm Emanuel actually cares about south and west side children from low-income households. However, during the CELA launch, her comments were aimed at preparing principals for budget austerity. During her talk, she mentioned a couple principals who had written grants and gotten external funding. She praised these principals efforts because, in her words, “You can’t rely on the board to get funding for your schools.” Yes. She actually said those exact words. Having succeeded in convincing many of the best principals in the room to consider looking for more secure employment in the suburbs, she then introduced Barbara Byrd-Bennett who continued the austerity theme with empty corporate speak about principals “leveraging partnerships” to get free or low-cost services for our students.
“Did she really just say that?” I thought.