DOWNTOWN — Several coaches at Chicago Public Schools ran private coaching businesses out of CPS gyms and pools, as the schools let them use facilities for little or no rent, costing the district tens of thousands of dollars or more, a new report says.
The CPS Inspector General, Nicholas Schuler, in a report issued Thursday said one of the schools gave cushy deals to coaches in three sports. In one case, a coach rented the school's swimming pool for as little as $1.20 an hour.
The name of the school wasn't revealed in the IG's report, but CBS2 said the school was Whitney Young Magnet High School on the Near West Side, whose principal is Joyce Kenner.
CBS2 also reported earlier this year that a former volleyball coach at Walter Payton College Prep in Old Town had used "various Chicago high school gyms to run private sports camps but never paid rent."
In the case of Whitney Young, Schuler wrote in his report that the actions of school officials "should be a sobering wake-up call that a check is needed on school administrators’ discretion as to how much to charge when renting school facilities."
The report says that the school should have charged a private swimming club run by one of the school's coaches between $96,000 and $582,000 for two years of rent. Instead he paid just $1.20 an hour.
In another case, a youth basketball club operated with an "informal rental arrangement" and didn't even pay the rent it was charged — $250 a week. In an attempt to pay back the nearly $26,000 in back rent owed, the inspector general said, Kenner entered into a "bizarre arrangement" allowing the coach to donate $12,000 in basketball equipment to the school — but it was equipment the school actually owned.
Finally, a private volleyball club was allowed to use CPS gyms, including Whitney Young, to host a series of summer camps without paying rent.
"Considering the three cases together," Schuler wrote, Whitney Young's "administration gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in rental discounts to those private businesses, if not more, at the school’s and the tax payers’ expense."
But Kenner said in an email Friday that the school did not lose money in the deals and that there were no guidelines in place as to how much should be charged.
"There was never a loss to taxpayers," she said. " ... I also did not enter into any 'sweetheart' deals with any rental contracts."
On the pool rental, she said no one else asked to use the pool and pay the school such high rates.
"The financial numbers used in the OIG's report are misleading," Kenner wrote. "The $582,504 number detailed in the report assumes there is a renter that exists who can afford and is willing to pay this rate. No other group has reached out to us to rent our pool."
She said there was no pricing guidelines given to schools, and principals had been given autonomy to establish rates.
She acknowledged, though, that she was reprimanded for the situation.
CPS district officials said it had disciplined CPS personnel mentioned in the report and stopped doing business with the vendors running the clubs and camps.
“CPS takes the misconduct detailed in the report seriously and does not tolerate the exploitation of school resources for personal profit," spokeswoman Emily Bittner said Friday in a written statement. "CPS has taken action to address the situations outlined in the report and to prevent similar situations in the future.”
Officials said the district is "revising its Real Estate guidelines to clarify the Board’s policies and principals’ discretion around rental agreements."
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