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CPS watchdog admits he drove employees ‘excessively hard,’ urges mayor to appoint another ‘outspoken IG’

Nicholas Schuler said, “I can’t discount the possibility that some within CPS seized upon the complaints against me in a calculated way with hopes of getting an IG more to their liking.”

Nicholas Schuler, CPS inspector general
Nicholas Schuler, CPS inspector general
Sun-Times Media

The inspector general of the Chicago Public Schools admitted Wednesday he was a “demanding and frequently impatient boss” who sometimes drove his employees “excessively hard” — leading the mayor to ask him to step down.

Nicholas Schuler, who announced his decision to quit his post on Monday, also said he was suspicious that when complaints surfaced against him that he might have been targeted for removal by people hoping to get a more friendly watchdog — which is why he urged Lori Lightfoot to choose “a completely independent and outspoken IG” to replace him when he leaves office at the end of the month.

Schuler, 52, the schools watchdog since 2014, resigned with two years remaining in his mayoral appointment. In a single-sentence email, he initially said he was proud of what he had accomplished in the office, which included investigations that shamed two former CPS CEOs, landing one in prison.

In Wednesday’s statement, Schuler denied allegations he led a “toxic workplace” in a complaint submitted anonymously to CPS in April, saying they were “exaggerated.” But he also admitted: “I was a demanding and frequently impatient boss, and drove my employees hard, sometimes excessively hard, to achieve what they achieved. My tough management style led to complaints by employees, some of which I think were justified.”

He said Lightfoot asked for his resignation after the Board of Education received a report in December containing findings from an outside law firm the former board president hired to investigate him.

Schuler did not return messages Wednesday seeking comment. A CPS spokesman could not be reached.

2nd complaint surfaces

The second of two complaints against Schuler, which CPS released late Wednesday in response to a public records request, described “bullying, intimidation, violent threats, narcissism, unstable behavior, verbal abuse,” and accused Schuler of “threatening to kill” someone whose name was redacted from the document. The complaint was undated, but was likely submitted sometime after late 2018 when Schuler took over investigations of CPS employees accused of sexual abuse or harassment. “This is the person you want running child assault investigations?” the letter asks.

State law isn’t clear about who investigates the office of the schools watchdog, and unlike the city, CPS has no policy laying out a process for handling complaints.

Schuler said the city needs to lay out the process for investigating complaints against his office. He said he could have contested a firing in court but stepped aside “so that the morale of the entire office could improve as quickly as possible and everyone could fully concentrate on the oversight and student-protection missions of the office.”

But he didn’t rule out that someone at CPS, disgruntled about “my willingness to speak frankly and publicly about our work” took advantage of the complaints against him.

“Accordingly, I can’t discount the possibility that some within CPS seized upon the complaints against me in a calculated way with hopes of getting an IG more to their liking,” he said.