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Chicago Public Schools to hire education advisor at $21,500 a month

BarbarByrd-Bennett is interim chief educatiofficer for Chicago Public Schools.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett is interim chief education officer for the Chicago Public Schools.

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Updated: May 24, 2012 3:39AM

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former Cleveland public schools CEO, was hired Wednesday to advise Chicago school officials while they do a national search for a chief education officer.

Byrd-Bennett will act as “chief education advisor” to Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to temporarily fill the gap left by the April 27 resignation of Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso.

She’ll be paid $21,500 a month. If she works the entire 13 months allowed under a School Board report, Byrd-Bennett would earn $281,000 as an “advisor.” That’s more than the $195,000 annual salary Donoso received as chief education officer — and more than Brizard’s $250,000 annual salary.

However, a district spokeswoman noted that Byrd-Bennett’s deal does not include benefits that ultimately raise Brizard’s and Donoso’s total compensation.

Asked if Byrd-Bennett herself would be considered for the system’s top education spot, a CPS spokeswoman said, “we are not in a position to discuss any potential candidates at this time.”

Most recently, Bennett served as a national education consultant. Since last fall, she had been overseeing the training of CPS middle-level managers, called network “chiefs,” as part of a $380,000 leadership initiative funded by The Chicago Public Education Fund, said Tracy Dell’Angela, the Fund’s director of program investments.

“She did a phenomenal job building trust and diving deeply into Chicago’s education system,” Dell’Angela said. “Barbara already knows many of the people who have been making decisions for the district and understands the context in a way very few people coming in from the outside would.”

Bennett also served as a top education leader in two of the country’s lowest-scoring school districts. She was “chief academic and accountability auditor” in Detroit from 2009 to 2011, and schools CEO in Cleveland from 1998 to 2006.

Her Cleveland work landed her a 2001 award from the Council for Great City Schools. The group’s executive director, Mike Casserly, said Bennett was honored for her “organizational work”’ in “salvaging a dysfunctional and somewhat corrupt school district that had disintegrated badly over the years and was just coming out of state receivership.”

Under the terms of a School board report expected to be approved Wednesday, Bennett will be paid $152,000 for work that started May 1 and will go through Nov. 30. She can be hired for two additional three-month increments, at the rate of $21,500 a month.

Donoso resigned to pursue national projects less than a year after she was hand-picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to join his new schools team. Chicago Teachers Union Chief Karen Lewis immediately seized on her departure as proof of the “chaos on Clark Street,” where CPS is headquartered.

Also Wednesday, Chicago school board members voted to:

— Remove poor attendance as a trigger for mandatory summer school.

— Phase out “academic achievement centers” in seven high schools. Instead, overage eighth-graders who can’t meet promotion standards would attend an intensive summer program before transitioning into regular high schools.

­— Convert South Shore International High into the system’s 10th college prep. Half of the school’s fall freshmen — about 100 students — would be picked under college prep requirements and the remainder would need to meet admission guidelines for either an International Baccalaureate or a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program.

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