Schuler calls tim­ing ‘ pe­cu­liar’

Chicago Sun-Times - - CITY BEAT POLITICS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT Staff Re­porter Email: mar­men­trout@sun­times.com Twit­ter: @ mitchtrout

Chicago Pub­lic Schools of­fi­cials have re­in­stated the prin­ci­pal ac­cused by the dis­trict’s top watch­dog of fal­si­fy­ing stu­dent data at the al­ter­na­tive high school she runs in­side Cook County Jail.

In the lat­est butting of heads be­tween CPS CEO Forrest Clay­pool and In­spec­tor Gen­eral Ni­cholas Schuler, the dis­trict an­nounced Shar­nette Sims will re­turn to the helm of York Al­ter­na­tive High School at 2700 S. Cal­i­for­nia on Thurs­day — less than two months after she was banned from the jail amid Schuler’s find­ings that the prin­ci­pal faked stu­dent at­ten­dance and cred­its to boost the school’s rep­u­ta­tion.

The dis­trict also re­leased its own re­port lam­bast­ing the scathing au­dit that Schuler submitted to the Chicago Board of Ed­u­ca­tion in June and made pub­lic in Septem­ber, with CPS lawyers dis­miss­ing the in­spec­tor’s re­port as “un­sub­stan­ti­ated and un­founded.”

“Prin­ci­pal Sims is owed our thanks for her ef­forts at York, as well as a sin­cere apol­ogy for the blight on her rep­u­ta­tion,” Clay­pool said in a state­ment.

Schuler, who said he was pro­vided with CPS’ re­port late in the day on Wed­nes­day and had not had time to fully re­view it, stood by the find­ings of his of­fice’s year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said it was “un­prece­dented” for CPS of­fi­cials to counter an in­spec­tor gen­eral’s in­vesti- gation with their own probe.

“In the past, the Law Depart­ment sim­ply con­tacted the [ in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice] with mi­nor ques­tions that might need clar­i­fi­ca­tion,” Schuler said in an email. “They have never re­leased a pub­lic re­port at­tack­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by my of­fice or, to my knowl­edge, any other CPS in­spec­tor gen­eral.”

CPS re­leased its lawyers’ find­ings in the form of a memo to CPS gen­eral coun­sel Ron­ald Marmer — lit­tle more than a week after Schuler ques­tioned Clay­pool about a con­tract be­tween the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion and a law firm pay­ing Marmer a seven- fig­ure sev­er­ance pack­age.

Schuler called the tim­ing of CPS’ an­nounce­ment “pe­cu­liar.”

While ac­knowl­edg­ing the school’s jail­house en­vi­ron­ment does “not al­low it to neatly in­put” stu­dent data, the re­port re­leased by CPS claims Schuler’s team didn’t in­ter­view key ad­min­is­tra­tors and fo­cused on “anec­do­tal hearsay state­ments” from former teach­ers and tes­ti­mony from teach­ers who had been dis­ci­plined by Sims.

The CPS re­port also claims there was a “racial el­e­ment” to Schuler’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing most of the teach­ers in­ter­viewed were white, while the fac­ulty is 70 per­cent black.

“We fol­lowed the ev­i­dence where it led. Race played no part in our in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Schuler said. “Based on my quick re­view of the CPS mem­o­ran­dum, it ap­pears that it is fraught with mis­state­ments and prob­lems.”

Schuler’s most ex­plo­sive al­le­ga­tion cited the case of a stu­dent who, de­spite his re­lease from jail and sub­se­quent shoot­ing death a week later, was still listed as at­tend­ing class. The re­port re­leased by CPS con­tends that the in­spec­tor’s re­port “sen­sa­tion­al­izes” that case, dis­miss­ing the sit­u­a­tion as a cler­i­cal er­ror.

Cook County Sher­iff Tom Dart, who banned Sims from the jail after Schuler’s au­dit went pub­lic, met with Clay­pool last week and was sat­is­fied with CPS’ find­ings, ac­cord­ing to Cara Smith, Dart’s chief pol­icy of­fi­cer.

“We are glad to have [ Sims] back with us, to be­gin put­ting this mat­ter be­hind us and to work with CPS to pro­vide the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble,” Smith said.

Schuler launched his in­ves­ti­ga­tion after a Fe­bru­ary 2016 Sun- Times col­umn in which former teach­ers told colum­nist Neil Steinberg that they were pres­sured to give in­mates credit for classes they didn’t at­tend.

A stu­dent pre­pares ma­te­ri­als in the art class­room at Con­suella B. York Al­ter­na­tive High School within the Cook County Jail in Jan­uary 2016. SUN- TIMES FILE PHOTO

Shar­nette Sims

Ni­cholas Schuler

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