| CHICAGO, April 28
CHICAGO, April 28 A federal judge on Friday
sentenced the former chief executive of the Chicago Public
Schools to 4-1/2 years in prison for her role in a scheme to
steer lucrative contracts to one of her previous employers in
exchange for kickbacks and bribes, the Department of Justice
Barbara Byrd-Bennett was sentenced by U.S. District Judge
Edmond Chang at a Chicago courthouse, according to Joe
Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the
Northern District of Illinois.
An attorney for Byrd-Bennett did not immediately respond to
request for comment.
"I'm ashamed and I'm sorry. I let down the students and
their families. They deserved better," Byrd-Bennett said in
court, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012 appointed Byrd-Bennett, a veteran
education reformer, to head the district, after the first
teachers' strike in Chicago in 25 years. The district serves
around 400,000 students in more than 600 schools.
"Barbara betrayed the public trust. She broke the
law. She turned her back on the very children she was entrusted
to serve, and the children of Chicago are owed much better than
that," Emanuel said in a statement on Friday.
Byrd-Bennett resigned in June 2015 amid a federal probe into
a $20.5 million no-bid contract for a principal training program
the cash-strapped district had awarded to her previous employer,
educational consulting firm SUPES Academy.
She pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in October
2015 as part of a plea agreement and agreed to cooperate against
two co-defendants in the case: the heads of SUPES and related
firm Synesi Associates.
Byrd-Bennett maintained an interest in the companies through
a secret consulting agreement, according to court documents. The
agreement promised to pay her a percentage of the proceeds from
the contracts she helped procure.
Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, who ran SUPES and Synesi,
have both been sentenced for their roles in the scheme. Solomon
was sentenced to seven years in prison by a federal judge in
March and Vranas to 18 months on Friday, Fitzpatrick said.
The CPS system continues to face financial woes due to the
state's broader fiscal problems.
A recent report by the Illinois State Board of Education
indicated the nation's third-largest public school system had
enough cash on hand on average this year to cover only 12 days
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)