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CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler quits abruptly

Schuler, who oversees investigations into wrongdoing in CPS, was under investigation himself. One complaint alleged the IG’s office was a “toxic workplace.”

Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler
Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler quit his post Monday, city officials confirmed.

In a statement Monday morning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she accepted the resignation of the schools watchdog. His last day will be Feb. 29.

“The mayor thanks Mr. Schuler for his years of dedicated service to Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago. The Chicago Public Schools inspector general performs the critical role of ensuring the integrity of important functions within Chicago Public Schools, particularly regarding allegations of sexual assault or abuse. As a result, the mayor’s office will immediately begin the search for a replacement to ensure the rights of all students, teachers and staff remain protected.”

Schuler told his staff of his decision to resign from the position that he held since 2014 at a meeting Monday morning.

Schuler still had more than two years left in his current term.

In a brief statement, he said, “I have no comment other than that I’m proud of the work we have accomplished here over the past 5 years.”

The Sun-Times reported Friday that anonymous complaints about Schuler, 52, prompted the city’s school board to hire an outside law firm to conduct a probe into the head of the office of almost 50 employees and at least $3.64 million budget.

One of the complaints, purporting to be from “employees in the office of Inspector General for Chicago Public Schools” and obtained by the Sun-Times, said that “the IG has created a toxic workplace for everyone.”

The complaint, which was not dated, continues: “He is verbally abusive to employees and yells at people so loud that the entire office can hear him. He made people cry when yelling at them. He also throws ‘temper tantrums’ and becomes physically threatening by slamming doors and other things.”

In December, the law firm, which had been hired in May by CPS’ top attorney “to conduct investigations into allegations of employee misconduct and such other matters as determined by the general counsel,” gave the Board of Education a report with its findings, a source told the Sun-Times. CPS would not release that report.

Who polices the schools watchdog isn’t clear. State law establishing the CPS IG’s office doesn’t address who would handle complaints about anyone in the the inspector general’s office. Nor does CPS have any protocol — as the City of Chicago’s inspector general’s office has had since 2009 — spelling out a process for handling such grievances.

Schuler was promoted by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to inspector general in 2014. His investigations led to the resignation of two CPS CEOs. His office took over investigations into CPS’ handling of a widespread sex abuse scandal in 2018, more than doubling the size of his staff from 19 to 49.

Emanuel renewed the IG’s appointment in 2018, granting him a second four-year term.

The Board of Education, in a resolution, “acknowledged” the appointment, made in June of that year.

The mayor alone is responsible for appointing the inspector general, whose office operates separately from district administration or the Board of Education.

CPS officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.