The Budget Software Debacle at CPS: Lead By Example

Last Thursday, principals received several sheets of paper from members of CPS’s central office staff; the first step in piecing together each of their individual school budgets.  Once they get those sheets their next step is to actually open up the budgeting software application known as Hyperion in order to build their real budgets. This was a rather straightforward process with relatively few surprises–and more reliable budgeting software–before the Emanuel administration took control of CPS.

Once they took the reins they instituted an austere system of sabotage based budgeting that they euphemistically refer to as student based budgeting (SBB) and then instituted internal budgeting tricks such as last year’s budget freezes that served as backdoor budget cuts. In many cases, principals might receive a budget sheet from central office that appears not to contain cuts, only to realize their schools have suffered staff cuts when they piece together a budget in Hyperion. We have already identified at least one such scheme used in the current budget cycle involving federal Title II funds. We’ll have more on that later as we collect additional data.

These staffing cuts are taking place in a district that ranks 849th out of 854 Illinois school districts in the ratio of students-to-certified staff. This mean CPS is virtually the most understaffed school district in our state.  Our schools cannot endure additional cuts. The children they serve deserve better.

We thought that by today, most principals would have been able to give us a greater sense of what their real budgets are like. Unfortunately however, they were frustrated Thursday, Friday, and Saturday by the systemic failures of CPS’s Hyperion rollout. This failure–and CPS’s inadequate response to it–is the subject of an email sent to Forrest Claypool this morning from the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The email reads as follows:

 

Mr. Claypool,
The following are comments we received from CPS principals as a result of Central Office’s latest self-induced logistical school budgeting crisis.

“This has been incredibly frustrating.”

“Although there are adequate personnel to support principals at Coleman, Hyperion has not updated since 10:30 am [Saturday]; which prevents accurate funding monitoring for balancing budget.  Another day has been lost ….”

“I was at my school until 8pm and still made little progress. Eventually I had to leave to get home to my family.”

“The part that bugs me is that there’s no communication from CPS about the state of Hyperion. We just get up on a Saturday to go to the Coleman building or to work on it at our schools, and the software’s not working.”

“Hyperion has been down for 2 days with no word on when it will be restored. For principals who scheduled vacations, some chiefs suggested they bring laptops on vacation and be available for conference calls to finish budgets!!!”

“It is 11:57 a.m. [Monday] and the system went offline because they are doing maintenance for an hour from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m..  Again, this is extremely frustrating because I had to email to find out what was going on.  Absolutely, no effective communication about this.”

As President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, I offer the following to all CPS Central Office leadership: Leaders who reject the responsibility of thoughtful planning and preparation often exist as parasites on the time and labor of the people they lead.  The job of our principals is overwhelming enough, without having to be on call to compensate for yet another manufactured crisis at Central Office.

Does the mayor plan on cutting his current vacation short to deal with the mess his appointees at CPS have created? Despite the avoidable nature of scenarios such as the current budget software debacle, this district is consistently dropping balls and then demanding that principals go scattering to pick them up. Lead by example. Take responsibility for your self-inflicted managerial blunders and mis-steps, and respect the people who lead your schools by (1) planning and preparing adequately, and (2) when you fail to plan, allotting an adequate amount of time for principals to compensate for your managerial shortcomings.

If officials in CPS cared about getting budgets done in a timely manner, you would not have waited until mid-July to release those budgets when most school districts released them in the spring. I respectfully reassert my call for you to stop your attempts to recast your mismanagement as a principal-owned emergency, and introduce a significant extension to the budget timeline.

Respectfully,
Troy LaRaviere, President
Chicago Principals and Administrators Association
20 North Wacker Drive, Suite 1545
Chicago, IL 60606


troylaraviere@gmail.com
@troylaraviere

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