Fired From Central Office

An email from someone named Hari Chengalath came in earlier today:

"Yesterday, I got a call from the person who handles hiring/firing at ITS who directed me to a meeting in a conference room with Arshele Stevens, who is chief information officer at CPS and heads our team...I was surprised and had to laugh when I found myself sitting across from me at a conference table reading from a pro forma script that she had to request from an HR person who was also in attendance. She barely made eye contact..."

I have not yet verified the authenticity of the email or its author, but with that in mind I would still encourage you to read the full email below. 

If you have similar stories or insights, please comment. Dear Alexander and Steve:

I chose both of you as recipients of
this missive because you are proprietors of two compelling
Chicagocentric blogs that I'm linking to here for the benefit of cc and
bcc recipients who may not know of you, District 299 blog (http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/RUSSO/) and The Beachwood Reporter (http://www.beachwoodreporter.com/).

You need to know the classless, low-rent way in which layoffs are
being handled at Central Office, in general, and specifically at
Information & Technology Services (ITS) where I worked until being
given my walking papers yesterday.

At the outset, I must make mention of some particulars:

  • My name may be used with redaction of my e-mail account information;
  • Please disregard/redact anybody else's e-mail account information;

  • Anybody being criticized here is in the cc box;
  • Interested other parties are in the bcc box;

  • I am not bitter about being let go; I'm definitely taking the summer off to write, and just be; and
  • Fortuitously, I hit a major slot machine jackpot this past weekend in Indiana this past weekend.

Yesterday, I got a call from the person who handles
hiring/firing at ITS who directed me to a meeting in a conference room
with Arshele Stevens, who is chief information officer at CPS and heads
our team. I have copied her e-mail of June 10 to prove my point that
she lied in that communication (I have redacted her direct line and
related information). I was surprised and had to laugh when I found
myself sitting across from me at a conference table reading from a pro formascript that she had to request from an HR person who was also in
attendance. She barely made eye contact as she read from said script;
you've failed as an organizational leader if you can't/don't/won't take
interpersonal communication seriously. This was also the same
individual who danced with me at a Christmas party in December. I had
high hopes for her when she was named CIO but I'm afraid that she's in
over her head.

I was laid off along with Stephanie Book yesterday. In the
proverbial single fell swoop, they let go the most experienced, skilled
and versatile writer and the only phot[o]grapher and graphic designer on
the ITS communication team (Stephanie Book is one skilled
photographer!).

As I said, I'm set financially and my beef now is with how this
clusterfuck is being handled. For instance, the woman who legitimately
should head the ITS customer relations team has been shunted off to be
a technology coordinator in the schools (good for whatever school gains
from Stacy Butler-Cross and her skills & experience but bad for
Central Office customer relations efforts). I know that this move
resulted from the relationship between Arshele Stevens and Veletta Bell
(the current customer relations honcho at ITS).

Further, my immediate supervisor knew this past weekend that I
would be gone Monday. Thom Goodwin and I worked on the communications
team at ITS. He could have called me over the weekend to let me know,
even taken me into confidence if necessary to save his job (a move I
would have understood and even hailed). But his inaction (furthered by
how he was prepared to return a book unread that I had loaned him)
tells me that he can no longer lay claim to being a "professional
communicator." How he slept over the weekend is between him and a god
if he has one.

Finally, I must address the idea of Ron Huberman as CEO of CPS (I
would have included him in the cc box but, unfortunately, he has
despotic tendencies such as not listing himself in the CPS e-mail
client Outlook address book). I am entering my twenty-second year as a
corporate communications professional. I have seen organizations
communicate poorly in a crisis or do so in mediocre fashion; however, I
have never, ever, known an organization that DID NOT COMMUNICATE AT ALL
during full-blown tumult (Arshele Stevens lied when she said "However, as soon as there is any information, it will be
shared with you..."
in
the e-mail below because there was NO communication whatsover; in fact,
CO employees heard about layoffs on June 10 from media reports and the
next thing people being let go knew was the "meeting" such as I had
yesterday with Arshele). Either Huberman's internal communications shop
is filled with worthless people (I know this to be untrue given that
I've worked with the gifted Anitra Schulte) but, more likely, nobody in
power there has the testicular fortitude (please pardon use of the
Blago coinage) to call Huberman on this communications fiasco.

As an inveterate copyeditor, I must also state that Thom Goodwin
(who was involved in the drafting of Arshele's e-mail below) and others
on my team had to be told by me that "prideful" in the e-mail below was
a singularly unfortunate word choice. They will miss that expertise
that I brought to the table, regardless of whether they admit it.

This exercise has been delightfully cathartic. I will continue to follow both your blogs with considerable interest.

Best regards,

Hari Chengalath



From: Information & Technology Services

Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2009
6:55 PM

To: 12510 ESP - TechnologySvcs;
12510 TEACHER - TechnologySvcs

Subject: CPS Budget Update 

 

ITS
Team,
 

 

I
know that many of you have concerns about the recent media coverage on the
state of the CPS budget. 

 

At
this time, the details of how ITS will be affected by our budget are not
available.   However, as soon as there is any information, it will be
shared with you.

 

Until
that time, I ask that you continue to be diligent and prideful in your work.

 

Thank
you,

 

Arshele Stevens

Information and Technology Services

Chicago Public
Schools|www.cps.edu

 

125 S. Clark 3rd Floor|Chicago, IL 60603

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