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Byrd-Bennett approved as CPS CEO

At Chicago Public School monthly board meeting   new CEO BarbarByrd-Bennett made her first appearance.  Council members 

At the Chicago Public School monthly board meeting, the new CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett made her first appearance. Council members looked at budget matters and more. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 26, 2012 6:52AM

The Chicago school board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the hiring of Barbara Byrd-Bennett as new Chicago Public Schools chief at $250,000 annually for three years.

Byrd-Bennett, the fifth CPS chief since 2008, will earn the same base pay as her predecessor, Jean-Claude Brizard, who departed recently after only 17 months on the job.

She’ll also be paid $30,000 in “relocation and transition expenses,” and her contract will contain “terms for compensation and benefits,” according to the resolution passed unanimously by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked school board.

Byrd-Bennett’s contract is still being finalized and won’t be available for weeks, CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said.

Byrd-Bennett was welcomed by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale, who invited her to say a few words at the meeting’s start. She jumped right into her presentation honoring two schools that won a national Blue Ribbon.

Vitale cut her off: “That’s what I like about Barbara. We always get immediately down to work,” he said.

She took the hint to tell the room: “I am a teacher who happens to be the CEO.” She promised to restore trust in the wake of the district’s first strike in 25 years and to work transparently with staff and the community.

CPS expects a $1 billion deficit by summer; the nation’s third-largest district will announce which schools it seeks to close by Dec. 1.

The board also approved the new three-year Chicago Teachers Union contract.

The atmosphere overall at the new CEO’s first board meeting was markedly more conciliatory than it had been in the months before Chicago’s teachers went out on strike. Byrd-Bennett committed to setting meetings with several of the community groups that brought gripes to the floor to figure out solutions. Union and community leaders pleaded with her to seek public input before announcing which schools could close.

“I’m hoping that as we move forward on something like this it’s going to be done in a participatory and transparent manner with not only the [Chicago Teachers Union] but the public involved in what’s going on here,” CTU recording secretary Michael Brunson said.

For the first time, anyone who wants to register for two minutes’ floor time before the board can do so online at starting Nov. 5 instead of lining up outside CPS headquarters early in the morning before each monthly board meeting.

More public input on the district’s amended budget also is coming, and a vote is set for the next meeting on Nov. 14. Hearings are scheduled for Nov. 5, though locations have not yet been announced.

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