Jean-Claude Brizard said he and the mayor agreed he should step down after serving in the post about 17 months. He will be replaced by the school system's chief education officer, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a former CEO in the Cleveland school system.
He said he approached the mayor after he heard “rumors’’ that the mayor wasn’t happy with him. “I’m the one who started the conversation," Brizard said. "I think perhaps there were issues. I call it a marriage that was perhaps imperfect. My style and personality is maybe not what the mayor wants.
"I have felt he is not comfortable with me,’’ Brizard said. “And he deserves that right.’’
The mayor was “very cordial’’ during their discussion, Brizard said. “He had been a gentleman throughout all of this and very honest.’’
Mayor spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton also said the decision for Brizard to leave was mutual.
"J.C. spoke with (School Board President) David Vitale and the mayor and said 'I'm becoming a distraction. This is becoming more about me than it is about our mission to help the kids,' " Hamilton said.
Brizard said he was sad to leave the job but would continue to work in education.
“I have to tell you it’s a little bit of melancholy and mixed emotions because I’ve come to love the people who work in CPS,’’ Brizard said. “I love to work with kids. . .That’s more important to me that keeping a job. This is stressful but at the same time it’s about the city.
“One thing I can promise you is, that I’m not going to walk away from working with young people,’’ he said.
Brizard said he and his wife have come to love Chicago.
“ I love the city. I love the kids. I think you have amazing teachers here and amazing principals, and I would have loved to stay and work with them for many many years,” Brizard said. “At the same time the mayor has to have the person he is comfortable with.’’
Brizard said he was proud of the work he has done in the last 16 months.
“We have made tremendous gains and I don’t want to be a barrier to that type of work,’’ he said. "The graduation rates are up and the dropout rates are the lowest in CPS history.
“I know what I am doing," he continued. "I have worked in New York City for 22 years. It is the largest school district in the nation," he added.
Brizard said he’s not sure what's next for him. “I have a number of options,’’ he said, and may even stay here in Chicago.