A top aide to Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool who previously said he would resign effective March 31 rather than face firing for providing a sham South Side address and failing to move to the city will be kept on at CPS for another three months, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler said Monday that allowing Matthew Walter, 37, to stay on the job amounts to “having two sets of standards — one for senior leadership and one for everyone else.”
Schuler had recommended to Claypool in December that Walter be fired immediately from his $140,000-a-year post and put on a “do not hire” list after finding that he lives in Evergreen Park, and not in the city of Chicago as he claimed — a violation of the school system’s residency rule.
But Claypool initially allowed Walter, a top budget aide, to remain on the job for three months longer, citing CPS’ budget problems and the need to retain his expertise, even though his replacement already is on the job.
Now, Walter will stay on through June, according to Schuler.
He said that’s with the approval of Frank Clark, the Chicago Board of Education president. And he called it a double standard “that severely undermines the residency rule and sends a bad message from the top about how seriously anyone should take it.
“In early 2017, Board President Frank Clark informed me that, because of the looming budget crisis and because of Matthew Walter’s role in addressing that crisis as the budget director, the administration would like him to stay longer, possibly until the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2017), in order to transition his work to a replacement,” Schuler said. “I told President Clark that a further six months of employment was simply out of the question. President Clark said he agreed, saying that he would follow up with the administration about a significantly shorter period. In a follow-up conversation, President Clark told me that Walter would be leaving in March. With proper consideration to the district’s finances and the promised termination of Walter’s employment, I reluctantly agreed to a March termination date.
“In March, the administration raised the issue again, asking me to give all possible consideration to the District’s finances and Walter’s role at CPS. And last week President Clark informed me that he has decided to let Walter stay through the end of the fiscal year.
“Giving all due consideration to the current financial situation, the OIG cannot condone any further extension of Walter’s employment. There has already been a most irregular three-month extension on those very grounds. Any further extension is simply unfair to the other 36,000-plus CPS employees who must follow the rule or face immediate termination.”
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said Claypool decided to keep Walter on the job through June 30 “given the significant challenges facing the district’s budget and the school budgeting process.”
Neither Clark nor Walter responded to messages seeking comment Monday.
CPS already has Walter’s replacement, Brian Hamer — a former City Hall and state of Illinois revenue director — on the job at a salary of nearly $30,000 more a year that Walter is being paid, the Sun-Times previously reported.
Walter, who rose through the ranks after starting at CPS in 2009, is Claypool’s second high-ranking CPS figure to resign in 2017 over residency problems. Claypool’s handpicked facilities director, Jason Kierna, who followed the schools chief to CPS from the CTA, stepped down after he was found to live in LaGrange Park.