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Chicago Public Schools CFO Diana Ferguson plans to resign

Updated: May 18, 2011 5:03AM

Just as a new Chicago schools leadership team stares down a $720 million deficit, the district’s chief financial officer — and one of the few executives Mayor Rahm Emanuel kept on — is resigning.

Diana Ferguson shared her resignation plans on Monday — the day of Emanuel’s inauguration, but will continue in her role pro bono temporarily, officials revealed Tuesday.

Ferguson is getting married and moving with her fiance to the suburbs shortly, said Chicago Public Schools communications chief Becky Carroll. Since city employees must reside in the city, Ferguson had to resign her $205,000-a-year post.

“They are making their move sooner than planned,” Carroll said of the couple.

Ferguson’s last paid day will be next Wednesday, but she will continue working “pro bono during the upcoming budget process to ensure that all CFO duties continue as is during this critical time,” Carroll said. A search for her replacement will begin immediately, she said.

Also missing from the usual financial lineup is the system’s budget director, Christina Herzog, who has been on maternity leave.

Both Ferguson and Herzog played critical roles in crafting last year’s CPS budget, which had to breach an even bigger deficit and was finally balanced in August, two months later than usual.

Ferguson previously served as CFO of Folgers Coffee Company and joined the school system as CFO under former Schools CEO Ron Huberman.

When Emanuel announced his 16-person CPS leadership team on April 18, Ferguson was among only three top CPS executives to retain their previous titles.

Revelation of her departure emerged Tuesday, just as Emanuel’s choice for Schools CEO — Jean-Claude Brizard — began working pro bono at CPS, getting “the lay of the land” until the school board confirms his appointment, Carroll said. Carroll was not certain Tuesday whether Brizard’s appointment would be approved next Wednesday at the school board’s monthly meeting.

Officials are still working out the details of Brizard’s contract, Carroll said. In the meantime, she said, Terry Mazany will continue as interim schools CEO and Brizard, former superintendent in Rochester, N.Y., “will start getting paid on his first formal day as CEO,” Carroll said. “He is working now for free.”

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