3 Noble Charter Staffers OK’d Using CPS Student Data To Recruit

CHICAGO (CBS) — Three officials with the Noble Network of Charter Schools signed off on using an improperly obtained list of Chicago Public School students’ names, addresses, current schools and grade levels to send recruitment postcards to the homes of at least 28,000 CPS kids, records show.

The list, leaked by a CPS employee, was passed along to Noble officials by Delia Arreola, an executive assistant for the privately run, publicly funded charter operator, according to records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

Arreola, who forwarded it within Noble, has received a “formal letter of reprimand,” according to Noble.

Eric Thomas, the president of the charter network, said three other Noble employees who approved using the CPS list to recruit students also were reprimanded: Simone Santiago, a $105,000-a-year director of student matriculation, Jonathan Chaparro, who makes $70,000 a year as its student recruitment officer, and Bradley Johnson, a $62,500-a-year dean of operations.

No one was suspended or lost any pay, Thomas said.

“The discipline meetings were conducted by me personally with each employee,” Thomas said. “They included formal letters of reprimand, which are a serious action in our organization, and we do not take them lightly.”

None of the disciplined Noble employees returned messages seeking comment.

According to Noble, Santiago signed off on paying for the postcards that, based on the list, went out in September to children enrolled in CPS. Johnson got a copy, and so did Chaparro, who requested it while overseeing production of the full-color mailers, which cost Noble at least $13,000.

Noble emails show the charter network staffers were in a hurry to get the mailers out to at least 28,500 students enrolled in CPS schools using the list slipped to them by a CPS staffer who was later fired for doing that.

“Timing is critical given the start of the school year so if there’s a way to rush this, that’d be great,” Chaparro wrote in August to a sales representative at Staples handling the printing order, offering to pay more for a quick turnaround.

He wrote again in September, during CPS’ first week of classes, saying he wanted to send the mailer out again, “as it has been pretty successful.”

The list had been passed along through Arreola, an assistant at Gary Comer College Prep High School on the South Side, who forwarded it in July from her personal email account to her Noble email and then to several superiors. She had apparently been sent the list by a CPS employee Chicago school officials have said was fired on Nov. 23 but have refused to identify.

“Hello!! Happy early xmas!!!” Arreola wrote to the principal and vice principal of her school. “I have the list of rising 8th graders for the fall and wanted to send it your way so we can hit the ground running on recruitment for next year’s freshman class. Enjoy!!”

She also wrote to the principals of Comer’s high school and middle school grades: “Hey guys!! I have the rising 6th graders for trent (best of luck) and our list of rising 8th graders. The list has to be sorted by grade level. :) enjoy!!”

In September, CPS parents complained to the Sun-Times that their children had received postcards at home inviting them to consider enrolling at Noble’s 18 schools.

The postcards arrived ahead of the October date when CPS does a student count that determines each school’s already-tight funding and around the time the Chicago Teachers Union announced a possible strike date that would have affected CPS but not charter schools.

The inclusion of each child’s current CPS school made parents suspicious that the school system had released their kids’ information.

Spokesman Michael Passman said CPS didn’t approve of the release of student data — which CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler is investigating.

Noble initially said it never saw students’ names but hired a bulk-mailing service to send the mailers to homes in certain areas with kids of a certain age. But its own review revealed the student data was improperly passed along.

“The involved Noble employees viewed the source file as containing publicly available directory information,” Thomas wrote to CPS on Oct. 28 — the day the staffers were disciplined.

On Nov. 17, after CPS mailed a letter to approximately 30,000 addresses informing parents of the data breach, Thomas wrote to Noble’s “Pals and Chiefs” that “it was wrong for CPS to give us the list but also for Noble to receive it and to use it to mail informational postcards.”

Noble agreed to pay $18,634 in mailing costs for the CPS apology letters.

Jeff Jenkins, a CPS parent who contacted the inspector general, said he’s disappointed Noble employees weren’t punished more harshly.

“They get a serious letter of reprimand?” Jenkins said. “That’s not going to discourage anybody.”

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2016. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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