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Chicago Schools CFO Set To Resign

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Chicago Public Schools

(Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The chief financial officer of the Chicago Public Schools is resigning, just as a new school leadership team stares down a $720 million deficit.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported CFO Diana Ferguson announced her resignation on Monday, the same day Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office. She will continue to work pro bono temporarily, officials said Tuesday.

Ferguson is getting married and moving with her fiance to the suburbs shortly, said Chicago Public Schools communications chief Becky Carroll. Since city employees must reside in the city, Ferguson had to resign her $205,000-a-year post.

“They are making their move sooner than planned,” Carroll said of the couple.

Ferguson’s last paid day will be next Wednesday, but she will continue working “pro bono during the upcoming budget process to ensure that all CFO duties continue as is during this critical time,” Carroll said. A search for her replacement will begin immediately, she said.

Also missing from the usual financial lineup is the system’s budget director, Christina Herzog, who has been on maternity leave.

Both Ferguson and Herzog played critical roles in crafting last year’s CPS budget, which had to breach an even bigger deficit and was finally balanced in August, two months later than usual.

Ferguson previously served as CFO of Folgers Coffee Company and joined the school system as CFO under former Schools CEO Ron Huberman.

When Emanuel announced his 16-person CPS leadership team on April 18, Ferguson was among only three top CPS executives to retain their previous titles.

Revelation of her departure emerged Tuesday, just as Emanuel’s choice for Schools CEO — Jean-Claude Brizard — began working pro bono at CPS, getting “the lay of the land” until the school board confirms his appointment, Carroll said. Carroll was not certain Tuesday whether Brizard’s appointment would be approved next Wednesday at the school board’s monthly meeting.

Officials are still working out the details of Brizard’s contract, Carroll said. In the meantime, she said, Terry Mazany will continue as interim schools CEO and Brizard, former superintendent in Rochester, N.Y., “will start getting paid on his first formal day as CEO,” Carroll said. “He is working now for free.”

From the moment his appointment was announced, Brizard faced criticism and controversy, particularly because of lawsuits filed against him, and a vote of no confidence from the teachers’ union in Rochester.

“One, you know, the reform was pretty aggressive. We expected some folks to fall off along the way,” Brizard said earlier this month. “Second, we allowed our internal communication to not be as robust as could possibly be in terms of the work that we had to do.” Brizard says he will not repeat that mistake in Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

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