Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

Byrd-Bennett is the CEO of the Cleveland Public School district. That school district is responsible for educating 70,000 students, and is currently running a reported 68 million dollar defecit this year. Let's look at some of Barbara Byrd-Bennett's expenses that have run her school into the red:

First of all, Byrd-Bennett's yearly salary is over $250,000. With that in mind, ask yourself why she needs the school systems and private donations to fund the rest of this stuff.

May, 2002 - Byrd-Bennett went on a trip to England and stayed at Herrod's. I didn't know what Herrod's was, so I checked it out. Herrod's website claims that it "promises one of the most extravagant and luxurious shopping experiences in the world." Oh. Okay. Glad that money was spent wisely. Keep in mind that many toilets don't work at East Tech.

July, 2002 - Byrd-Bennett takes a trip to Maui and stays at the Kapula Ritz Carlton. Average room at the Kapula Ritz Carlton? $495 per night. During those five days, she spent $1,082.18 on meals. That's $216 spent on food each day. Or over 70 bucks per meal.

Later that year, Byrd-Bennett buys a business class ticket from Cleveland to Washington D.C. for $1,300. When asked why she had to get such expensive seats, Byrd-Bennett explained that she had a medical condition that made it necessary for her to fly first-class and showed a doctor's note to prove it. When she was asked what a normal person with the same condition should do if they couldn't afford the first class tickets, she replied "I don't know, I guess I don't think I'm your normal person."

Later, she went to dinner in Cleveland Heights. She ate steaks, lobster and beer, and only spent $428.38 on dinner. There is no documentation of the attendants of this dinner, but we were assured that this was a business meeting. I wish they served beer at my meetings.

$256,000 is held in the annual budget for the "Support and Development Fund" which is at the exclusive disposal of Byrd-Bennett.

How about this from the Chess for Success Organization? "The Cleveland schools have supported us financially by providing the chess sets and paying for the expenses involved in our year-end Chess Challenge, a tournament and exhibition at the downtown public library. These expenses include transportation, lunches, table rental, trophies and medals for every student involved in our program." Sounds nice, but why didn't we use that money to buy text books? Did someone forget that students have to share
text books?

Byrd-Bennett called the District auditor's office to complain about her property taxes, demanding that they be cut. She spoke with a woman named Kathy Guy. After the phone calls, her property taxes were cut, and the estimated value of her parcel of land fell more than $15,000 overnight. Today, her property taxes are $200 a month cheaper than her next door neighbor who has a smaller parcel of land. When reporters asked Byrd-Bennett about the issue, she replied, "I have never talked to anyone at the county auditor's office. I have never challenged the assessments or taxes." Kathy Guy's response to this was: "I'm hoping she just forgot. I don't want to say she's a liar, but you know, I spoke to her. I swear I spoke to her."

Oh, did I mention that Byrd-Bennett gets a company car and two escorts to drive her wherever she goes, and the top brass at the school board get up to $500 a month toward car payments? Meanwhile, the Cleveland public school system has been forced to cut back on bussing students because it's too expensive.

Gerry Stueber is a teacher at East Tech. What did he say about conditions in the Cleveland Public School? "We have big fights, lots of fights in the school, and end up with kids macing each other and getting mace on staff members.” Where is the money going that could staff more security?

Recently the ACLU began an investigation into Barbara Byrd-Bennett's method of forming "work groups" through which the School's budget is developed. The ACLU says, "“It appears that the purpose of these so-called ‘work groups’ is to circumvent Ohio’s Sunshine Laws & secretly conduct official business away from public view. The district is engaged in an open meetings ‘shell game’ purposely designed to minimize public input."

So, that's the way Cleveland tax dollars are being raised and spent. I'm not saying that running an inner-city school district is an easy job. I am saying that a school running at a 28 million dollar defecit should cut company cars, and expensive Maui vacations before they start cutting bussing and teachers.

In 2003, Barbara Byrd Bennett fired 52 assistant principles and 172 school teachers because of the budget crises. Only days later she was given a $54,000 bonus for her work. The average teacher's salary in the Cleveland Public School system is less than $30,000/year. Something has to change.

Hundreds of teachers were cut from the payroll last year because the Cleveland public school system could not afford them. This school year, books are being used for the twelfth consecutive year. Two schools have been shut down for over five days this year because they can't keep the heat on. Paint crumbles off the walls in the hallways, locker doors have been ripped off in some schools, toilets are broken, and in many schools, the janitorial staff is too small to clean the entire school every night.

What does Barbara Byrd-Bennett have to say for all of this? Let me quote a letter she sent to the parents of students enrolled in the Cleveland Public Schools.

"Dear Parent/Guardian:

The 2004-2005 school year opens with unprecendented challenges and demands on District resources. We must do more with less. While many of our existing initiatives will continue, many more will be drastically curtailed or eliminated.

This year, the District must severely curtail the number of District-wide communications we have used in the past to keep you informed and involved. Therefore, I am asking you to become an even stronger advocate for your child. Make it your business to contact your child's school if you have any questions about anything affecting his or her education..."

For the amount of money she spent to go to Maui, the School District could have purchased 115 new $35 text books.

She told you to call if you were worried about anything getting in the way of your child's education.

Here's her number: (216) 574-8500


dolores said...

I have a research project regarding ceo of public school system and I have chosen Byrd-Bennett for my project. I just wanted to know when did she start being called as Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Also, which school did she get her doctoral degree. Which school did she get her Master's Degree?
Thank you.
My email is doloresstaana@yahoo.com
Hope to hear from you soon.

Anonymous said...

Please see if she plagiarized he'd doctoral thesis

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