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A New Leader for Embattled Chicago Public Schools?

UPDATED

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to appoint Forrest Claypool, his chief of staff and a former Cook County Commissioner, to lead the city's school system, local media are reporting.

Claypool was president of the Chicago Transit Authority, before taking a job at City Hall. In April, he was appointed as the mayor's chief of staff, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The outlets did not have confirmation from City Hall on the appointment and cited their sources. The mayor's schedule, however, shows that he is expected to make an announcement about leadership changes at the school district on Thursday morning.

The school system, the nation's third-largest, had been run by interim CEO Jesse Ruiz since its former chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, resigned in May amid a federal probe.

Federal authorities are investigating a $20.5 million contract the district awarded to SUPES Academy, a suburban Chicago leadership-training firm that once employed Byrd-Bennett.

The school system also faces a host of financial challenges: Its budget shortfall is $1.1 billion for the upcoming year. Recent internal reviews showed that it could run out of cash this summer.  It made a last-minute payment on its teachers pension obligation of $634 million and immediately declared that 1,400 jobs will be affected. That announcement was followed by $200 million in cuts.

New budgets for individual schools announced this week included $500 million the district doesn't yet have on hand. (It is hoping that the state would help with the $500 million or allow it to defer $500 million of its approximately $700 million pension payment due next year.)

Claypool is not the only one with a business background who might be heading to CPS. The Tribune reports that Frank Clark, a retired executive with Commonwealth Edison (or Com Ed, the utility company), will be appointed as the school board's new chairman.

If that happens, Clark, who led the advisory panel in the lead-up to the closing of nearly 50 schools in 2013, will replace current chairman David Vitale, sources told the paper.

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