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Rahm Emanuel Appoints New Members to Chicago School Board

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has named four new members to the seven-member city school board. 

The appointments came days after schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigned amid a federal probe into a $20.5 million no-bid contract the district awarded to a firm that once employed her.

With Byrd-Bennett gone, the system is now looking at possibly hiring its third full-time schools chief in four years, The Chicago Tribune noted.

The board also faces a host of challenges, among them a $1 billion deficit and negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union on a new labor agreement. Additionally, Moody's Investors Service downgraded the district's debt to junk status last month, increasing the chances that the district would face higher borrowing costs in the future.

The new board members, according to the Tribune, are:  

Mark Furlong, a retired bank CEO;

Rev. Michael Garanzini, the retiring president of Loyola University Chicago;

Dominique Jordan Turner, the president and CEO of the Chicago Scholars Foundation; and

Gail Ward, a 35-year veteran of the school system and a former principal. 

They will serve four-year terms and replace sitting board members, three of whom voted for the now infamous contract with the SUPES Academy to run a professional-development program for principals.

Andrea Zopp, Deborah Quazzo and Henry Bienen, who all voted for the SUPES Academy contract, will not return to the board. Carlos Azcoitia, who was absent on the day of the vote, would also not return, according to the Tribune.

Quazzo, a venture capitalist, has been dogged by criticisms during her tenure on the board. She has investments in companies that have received contracts from the school board, and the Chicago Teachers' Union had previously called for her resignation.

The new appointments are hardly expected to placate critics of the appointed school board.

Critics, including the teachers' union, have called for the board to be elected by residents. In February, primary election voters overwhelmingly approved a non-binding question calling for an elected school board. Only the governor and legislature can make that happen.

The new board members are expected to be sworn-in next month.

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