IPS to hire top aide of embattled former Chicago schools chief

Indianapolis Public Schools is hiring a top aide of ousted Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to help its struggling schools improve.

The school board Thursday will vote to approve paying Rhonda Corr-Saegert $130,000 a year as an academic improvement officer to oversee principals and support school operations.

Corr-Saegert, a former schools chief in Chicago, was laid off this summer along with other top Chicago schools officials in the wake of a federal investigation into Byrd-Bennett’s controversial decision to offer a $20.5 million, no-bid contract for principal training to a company she used to work for. Byrd-Bennett resigned from CPS in June.

Corr-Saegert, who previously worked as a principal in Cleveland, was almost unavailable to take the IPS job. A Cleveland-area school district offered her a one-year contract as its superintendent but in early August rescinded its offer to her to lead Parma City Schools. Byrd-Bennett wrote one of her recommendation letters to the Parma school board.

IPS board member Kelly Bentley said there was no reason to be concerned about Corr-Saegert’s connection to the embattled former CPS official or the rescinded Ohio superintendent contract.

“Everybody’s got something,” Bentley said. “Based on her credentials, she’s more than qualified for the job. Clearly, (Superintendent Lewis Ferebee) knows what her past is, but her attributes far outweigh whatever it is.”

IPS said in a written statement that it had fully vetted Corr-Saegert, who could not be reached by IBJ for comment.

“IPS conducts a thorough investigation of each recommended hire, and would not propose a candidate if any concerns had been discovered in the process,” spokeswoman Kristin Cutler said in a written statement.

But another school board member, Gayle Cosby, said she was concerned about the hire, which the board will vote on Thursday along with nearly 350 more new administrators and teachers to fill vacancies in the district.

“I certainly hope that the administration is selective and applying a certain level of scrutiny to new hires,” Cosby said. “IPS administration doing the hiring will ultimately be held responsible if there is a lack of attention to detail when vetting candidates.”

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