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Chicago Public Schools CFO leaving before predicted fiscal doomsday

Chicago Public Schools’ chief financial officer is stepping down to take a new job about a month before the district may have to lay off thousands of staffers for financial reasons.

Ginger Ostro, who came to CPS in 2011 as a budget officer and was elevated to CFO in June 2014, will lead the education policy group Advance Illinois as of Jan. 4. CEO Forrest Claypool has warned of deep cuts and up to 5,000 layoffs by Feb. 8 if Springfield fails to enact pension changes.

Ostro did not respond to requests seeking comment.

In a press release, she said that “the coming months and years will be critical for Illinois’ students, and Advance Illinois will play a key role in forging solutions and shaping policy to help all our students succeed. There’s never been a more exciting or challenging time to work in education in Illinois, and I’m looking forward to leading the effort for an organization that is a proven authority on education policy.”

Insiders say most of Ostro’s power had already been taken over by Ronald DeNard, Forrest Claypool’s handpicked senior vice president of finance. The district did not yet know who, if anyone, might take Ostro’s position.

Claypool would not address the timing of Ostro’s departure. He would only say in an email, “While we will deeply miss her incisive judgment and dedication at CPS, we’re encouraged to know that she will continue to be a leader in the fight for equitable funding for children not just in Chicago, but all over the state.”