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Chicago school board chief commits suicide
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff

Michael Scott

 

The area next to the Kinzie Street bridge is secured with yellow tape after the body of Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott was found along the banks of the Chicago River in the area.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

The area next to the Kinzie St. bridge is secured with yellow tape after the body of Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott was found along the banks of the Chicago River in the area.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

The area next to the Kinzie Street bridge is secured with yellow tape after the body of Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott was found along the banks of the Chicago River in the area.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/16/2009 8:42 AM | Updated: 11/16/2009 5:51 PM

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The body of Chicago Public Schools President Michael Scott was discovered on the banks of the Chicago River downtown before dawn Monday morning after he apparently died by his own hand.

Scott had been shot, and a gun was discovered with the body at a landing on the north branch of the river at the Apparel Center, 350 N. Orleans, Chicago. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office ruled it a suicide, "gunshot wound to the head." Police said they would continue to conduct a complete death investigation.

Scott is survived by his wife, Diana Palomar Scott, and two adult children. His family had filed a missing-persons report Sunday night, and police reportedly found the body and Scott's car by using his cell phone shortly after 3 a.m. Monday.

Scott, 60, had a long career in public service in Chicago. He was a three-time member of the Board of Education, going back to the days of Mayor Jane Byrne, and was twice appointed CPS president, most recently by Mayor Daley in February. He had been head of the Chicago Park District Board and president of the Chicago Urban League.

He was also a member of the Regional Transportation Authority's board of directors and of the 2016 Olympic committee trying to bring the Summer Games to Chicago.

Yet he had come under scrutiny recently in a grand-jury investigation of preferential admissions at the city's selective-enrollment and magnet schools, and for conflict of interest, as he had a deal to develop land near the West Side Douglas Park site being planned for use in the 2016 Olympics.

Even so, friends and colleagues rallied to the support of his family and lauded his career. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who worked alongside Scott for five years as CPS chief executive officer earlier in the decade, said he was "shocked and saddened by the sudden death," adding, "Michael cared passionately about public education and made many courageous decisions as president of the board. He gave his time, energy and talents to improving the life chances of children. Chicago has lost a great leader, and the city's schoolchildren have lost a devoted champion."

"He was dedicated to doing what was best for the children in Chicago's public schools," said Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart, "and his death leaves a huge void to fill at a time when the board definitely needs stability in its leadership."

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger praised Scott as "a strong advocate for education," and Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, who is running for Stroger's office, called Scott "a dedicated public servant ... a concerned administrator who used innovative programs to increase parental involvement, raise test scores and improve school attendance" and "a man of vision and compassion, and his presence will be missed immensely by our city." Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Terrence O'Brien, who is also running for county-board president, called Scott "a well-respected and hardworking public servant."

"He will be remembered as a phenomenal leader and passionate man who dedicated himself to bettering the lives of Chicagoans," said Jim Reilly, chairman of the RTA Board. "Director Scott was not only a valued member of the RTA Board, but was also a close colleague and friend. He will be sorely missed."

"I admired him greatly," said RTA Board Director Pat Durante of Addison. "In a short time, he really had started to make his mark and was quite the spokesman on various issues. He never took a back seat and he'll really be missed."

"As the president of the Chicago Urban League, he provided tremendous leadership and personal counsel to me as a member of the board of directors," said CUL President Cheryle Jackson, now a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. "As chairman of the Chicago Board of Education, he fought to provide the best possible education for our children and always had an ear for any parent who needed to be heard. We have lost a great and compassionate leader, a peacemaker and, for me, a friend."

The family issued a statement saying they "deeply appreciate the outpouring of support during this time of unimaginable grief. Our personal loss is also shared by many throughout Chicago, the home he loved so much. We will miss him greatly. Arrangements for a public memorial service will be announced shortly."