Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool should start thinking about updating his resume. If Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s past actions are any guide, Claypool will soon be out of a job.
The choice of Claypool as CPS CEO was controversial from the outset. Now, however, Claypool’s actions have landed him in hot water in recent weeks, and it is likely the mayor now sees him as a distraction and a liability.
Last month it was reported that Claypool stonewalled a group of aldermen during a private briefing about CPS finances and then proceeded to called Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th Ward) a liar when she raised concerns about funding cuts to her local schools, causing some class sizes to balloon to more than 40 students.
“That’s when Claypool said, ‘That’s not true, I don’t believe you,’ ” says Garza, whose account was backed by Waguespack. Everyone in the room was shocked to hear a mayoral appointee essentially call an alderman a liar.
Then a week later came a report that the CPS Inspector General found that Claypool had engaged in a “whitewash” of an ethics violation by his longtime friend and hand-picked top lawyer. It was previously reported that Claypool allowed CPS General Counsel Ronald Marmer to supervise work done for CPS by his former law firm, an apparent violation of CPS ethics policies. IG Nicholas Schuler has now found that six lawyers consulted by Claypool told him Marmer’s actions were indeed ethics violations. Claypool kept opinion shopping until, on the seventh try, he finally found a lawyer who would agree with his claim that Marmer had not committed any violations.
Emanuel has a clear pattern when dealing with high profile appointees who are under fire or rumored to be departing. When it first comes up in public he makes a clear statement of support. As more time goes by and he is asked about it repeatedly, Emanuel curtly expresses his support, and then shortly after he fires the appointee.
Back in May, amidst strong rumors of discord between Emanuel and Claypool, Emanuel went out of his way to make a joint public appearance with Claypool and “had strong praise for his schools chief.”
“Nothing makes me prouder than to introduce my good friend, Forrest Claypool, who at every level has always left an incredible, indelible mark on the departments he has run,” Emanuel said while introducing Claypool during a City Club of Chicago luncheon.
Most recently, on September 22, the mayor was asked “if he still had full confidence in Claypool.”
“Yeah. Yeah. 100 percent,” the mayor said as he walked out of the event.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Leading up to, and throughout, the 2012 teachers’ strike, stories circulated that then CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was on the outs with Emanuel.
On August 31, 2012: “As soon as I heard about this, I called J.C. and said, ‘you focus on the full school day, full school year. You’re doing a great job.’ ” The mayor went on to say “He’s doing a great job and has my backing … And anybody else that says they speak for me hasn’t talked to me.”
On September 19, 2012: “JC has my confidence,” [Emanuel] said.
Three weeks later, Brizard was out by “mutual agreement.”
A similar dynamic played out between Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy following the release of the LaQuan McDonald video.
Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in a statement that the mayor full[y] supports Superintendent McCarthy. “This incident is a tragedy and it’s absolutely unacceptable, but Jason Van Dyke’s actions are not representative of the Superintendent McCarthy’s values, or of the hard-working men and women of the Chicago Police Department,” Quinn said.
On November 30, 2012: “The mayor has been clear that Superintendent McCarthy has his support.”
Less than 24 hours later Emanuel fired McCarthy.
It’s time to start the Claypool countdown.