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Chicago Public Schools staffers canned for living outside the lines

  • File photo.
File photo. (Jos? M. Osorio/ Chicago…)
January 07, 2013|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

The Chicago Public Schools Inspector General’s Office is questioning whether it can justify investigating future residency violations.

Under CPS policy, employees hired after Nov. 20, 1996 are required to live in the city limits unless they teach in a “special needs” area.  A residency violation is the top compliant reported to the Office of the Inspector General and accounts for roughly 17 percent of all 1,651 complaints for fiscal year 2012.

In its annual report released Monday, Inspector General James Sullivan cites two investigations of residency waivers that the school board has failed to act on.

Despite his objections in June 2011, the board approved a residency waiver to a high-ranking CPS official and classified it as a “special needs position,” the report said. However, such waivers have been granted only for teaching positions and only when CPS has been unable to hire from a pool of city residents for those jobs.

The waiver was not a special needs waiver but instead was granted for personal circumstances and deemed “improper” by Sullivan in the report.

“First and foremost, the residency waiver granted to the high-ranking official set the wrong ‘tone-at-the-top’ by signaling that preferential treatment for insiders is acceptable,” Sullivan wrote. “The express purpose of the residency policy is to treat all employees equally.”

Also, a school social worker who lived in Evanston was “improperly” granted a residency waiver in 2010, the report said. A former administrator made an exception for the social worker and did not force him to comply with the residential requirement.

Granting such waivers will make it hard for the school board to reject future waivers based on personal circumstances, the report claimed.

“Unless the residency waivers to the high-ranking official and social worker are rescinded, the OIG must evaluate whether it can justify investigating allegations of residency violations in the future,” the report said. “Not only do those waivers send the wrong message, but (as it stands now) they have also muddied the question of legal enforceability of the residency requirement in at least some cases.”

According to its report, the Inspector General investigated the following 22 CPS employees for violating the residency policy:

>Two elementary school teachers who are married and lived in Tinley Park. They reached a settlement to comply.

>An elementary school assistant principal who lived in Merrillville, Ind. She was terminated.

>A central office employee who lived in Matteson and was laid off.

>A high school teacher who lived in Country Club Hills. Disciplinary action is pending.

>A central office manager who lived in Lynwood. He was terminated.

>An elementary school clerk married to a teacher assistant and lived in Midlothian. They resigned.

>A high school engineer who lived in Hometown. He also was found to regularly visit an Indiana casino and drink beer during his workday. He was terminated.

>A high school assistant principal who lived in Richton Park and allegedly falsified free and reduced-price meal applications for her daughter. She is currently suspended with pay pending disciplinary action.

>A high school clerk assistant who lived in South Holland. She was terminated.

>An elementary school teacher who lived in Calumet City. He was terminated.

>A school social worker married to a CPS senior professional who lived in Oak Park. Both resigned.

>An elementary school assistant principal who lived in Berwyn. She resigned.

>An elementary school teacher who lived in Markham and was found to be in possession of a stolen CPS laptop. He said he had bought the laptop at a flea market and denied knowing it was district property despite CPS logos and icons on the screen. Disciplinary action is pending.

>An elementary school porter who lived in Calumet City and admitting to stealing school supplies including toilet paper, milk and bread. Disciplinary charges are pending.

>A school nurse who lived in Elmhurst. She resigned.

>A central office manager who lived in Midlothian and enrolled his child in a CPS school using a fictitious city address for three years. In addition, he allegedly stole  $107,410 worth of 7-day CTA passes between December 2010 and October 2011. The employee was terminated. The theft matter was referred to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The  board is seeking to collect $32,228 in non-resident tuition.

>An elementary school assistant principal who lived in Dolton and falsified her residential address although she is exempt from the rule because she was hired in 1995. She allegedly falsified free and reduced-price meal applications for her three children who went to CPS and CPS charter schools since 2008. Disciplinary action is pending and CPS is seeking to recover $141,382 in non-resident tuition.

>An elementary school principal married to a high school assistant principal who lived in Lansing and allegedly falsified a free and reduced-price meal application for one child. Their children attended a CPS selective enrollment high school. Both principals have resigned. CPS is seeking to recover $81,298 in non-resident tuition.

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