CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools’ watchdog issued a report revealing employees stole or misused gift cards meant for students to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on everything from casino trips to booze for staffers.
According to the annual report from the Inspector General for the Chicago Board of Education, even some principals took part in lavish buying sprees.
The 2017 report revealed a handful of CPS employees allegedly used gift cards meant as incentives for students and families to make personal purchases; in one case to help pay for a wedding.
CPS allows principals and teachers to buy gift cards to reward students and families for good performance or attendance, but the inspector general found dozens of principals and staffers might have had ulterior motives.
The report was released on the same day Janice Jackson took over as the school system’s interim CEO. Jackson replaces Forrest Claypool, who resigned last month amid ethics concerns.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov sat down with Jackson Wednesday afternoon.
CBS 2: I do have to ask you about the inspector general report and how you — your office — is handling that in general?
Jackson: Some of the things that came out with regard to the gift cards is pretty egregious and unacceptable. And I think it’s important to note that those people are no longer with the district, which is the right move.
CBS 2: What would you say to parents, in this regard, in terms of trust and making sure ethics and money are handled correctly moving forward?
Jackson: I think what I want people to say when my time comes to an end at CPS is two things: One, the academics continue to improve, and, two, that the district acted with integrity.
CBS 2: Can there ever be a harmonious relationship between CPS and the CTU? And, if so, what will that take?
Jackson: I think we can always strive for that. I would expect there are going to be times where there’s a meeting of the minds around certain things. But there’s also going to be times where we disagree. But what I commit to is keeping the lines of communication open with CTU, so that we can make the best decisions for our students.
Jackson: I think that people want a sense of calm. They want to understand that education is a priority. And the district will be ran in a way where people can anticipate what’s going to happen.
Jackson takes over after serving as chief education officer for two years and a network chief and CPS principal prior to that. There is an official search underway, but she says she’d like the job permanently.