News
News

Brizard out as CPS chief: 'We agreed it is best'

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked choice to head the Chicago public schools resigned Thursday, just three weeks after the end of the city's first teachers strike in a quarter century.

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.

“I approached him about a week and a half ago, and I think we agreed that it is best that we separated,’’ Brizard told the Tribune.

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.
 
Brizard's resignation was effective immediately, but he will remain on the board as an employee for a “few more weeks.’’

Brizard’s departure had been rumored for weeks, speculation that gained steam as he was virtually absent during much of the drama of a seven-day teachers strike and negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union.

In late August amid heated negotiations between the district and the teachers union, sources told the Tribune that education and business leaders told Brizard that the mayor would blame him for letting the labor situation with teachers get out of hand.

Emanuel flatly denied that report and expressed full confidence in his schools chief. “As soon as I heard about this, I called J.C. and said, 'You focus on the full school day, full school year. You're doing a great job.' “ Emanuel said.

But Brizard's management style was criticized by the Chicago Board of Education in his annual evaluation. The board gave Brizard low marks for the way he communicates and runs the district.

“The organizational effectiveness of CPS could be substantially improved with a more coherent and decisive management decision-making process,” board president David Vitale wrote in a June 11 letter to Brizard that accompanied the review.

Still, Vitale commended Brizard for a “challenging, but solid year” and wrote that he is “off to a good start in year one and there is significant potential to have year two and beyond be even better.”

Brizard also has drawn fire for high turnover in both cabinet-level positions and department heads. The chief education officer resigned in April on the heels of two other cabinet-level departures.

Emanuel named Brizard as the district’s CEO in April 2011, a month before Emanuel officially became mayor.

Brizard came to Chicago from Rochester, N.Y., where he spent about three years as schools superintendent.  He was also a teacher and administrator in New York City for 20 years.

Emanuel charged him with the task of instituting a longer school day and year, which turned out to be a lengthy and arduous protest that drew significant opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union as well as many parents.

nahmed@tribune.com

rsobol@tribune.com

jebyrne@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Barbara Byrd-Bennett

    Barbara Byrd-Bennett

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduces Barbara Byrd-Bennett as the new Chicago Public Schools CEO at South Loop Elementary School in October 2012.

  • Statement from Jean-Claude Brizard

    In my 26 year career in education, I have had many different roles with one commitment -- the success of students.

  • Photos: Chicago teachers strike

    Photos: Chicago teachers strike

  • 3 dead, 37 wounded in weekend shootings

    3 dead, 37 wounded in weekend shootings

    Shootings citywide left three dead and 37 wounded over the weekend, including a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy who were injured in separate shootings about five minutes apart Sunday evening.

  • Byrne Interchange work: Get ready for traffic heartburn

    Byrne Interchange work: Get ready for traffic heartburn

    The heavy lifting will begin this month on the overhaul of the Byrne Interchange near downtown Chicago, leading to anticipated expressway traffic tie-ups mostly over four weekends stretching into the fall, officials will announce Monday.

  • Lolla day 3: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 3: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Somehow, Lolla’s all over already. This is what we loved and didn’t enjoy quite as much from day 3. Best: I gotta give it to Florence and the Machine. Seems like an obvious choice, but she was just so fun and engaged with the crowd (and the storms). Even her songs I wasn’t familiar with were exciting...

  • Dance all week: Porn and Chicken Monday

    Monday: Porn and Chicken Evil Olive 1551 W. Division St. 773-396-4904 $10 cover after 11 p.m. We only have one pair of shoes—dancing shoes—which means they certainly aren’t reserved for weekends only. Said shoes sent us questing after places to boogie down every night of the work week (after all,...

  • Yep, I took my dad to Lollapalooza

    I suppose I should be old enough to know by now that something doesn't become un-cool just because your parent is there.

Comments
Loading
79°