CHICAGO (CBS) — A major player in Chicago school reform was expressing serious concerns about the uncertainty swirling around the Chicago Public Schools, as chief executive officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett faces a federal probe into a controversial no-bid contract.

Terry Mazany was interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools before Byrd-Bennett was hired for the full-time job; he’s now president of the non-profit Chicago Community Trust.

Mazany would not discuss the federal probe of Byrd-Bennett, and the district’s decision to award a $20.5 million no-bid contract to her former employer, Wilmette-based SUPES Academy, to provide leadership training to principals. Byrd-Bennett reportedly is taking a leave of absence, pending the outcome of the probe. Meantime, the district and the Chicago Teachers Union have begun negotiations on a new teachers’ contract.

Given the turmoil surrounding CPS, Mazany said he’s worried about the school system right now.

“My concern is stability of leadership is so important. The district is facing very turbulent times ahead; and just calm, stable leadership is vital to be able to protect the interests of the children – ensure that they get a high quality education,” he said.

CPS is facing a budget deficit of more than $1.1 billion, and a pension shortfall of more than $9 billion.