BRIZARDWATCH: Channel 7 News Chicago does its job exposing first wave of Jean Claude Brizard's lies

Rarely in Chicago politics and never in Chicago schools politics has a piece of news taken on a life of its own so quickly as Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel's controversial choice of Rochester Schools Superintendent Jean Claude Brizard to become the next "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools. Consequently, Substance is beginning a new section here on line, and in May in print, which we will call 'BRIZARDWATCH". By the evening of Wednesday, April 20, 2011, the in-box at Substance was filled with stories reported (and as yet unreported except here) regarding Brizard's trail of lies, bullying, deceptions, cronyism, and greed since his days as a principal and regional superintendent in New York City.

Since Mayor-Elect Emanuel refused to allow reporters to question Brizard during the April 18 press conference at Kelly High School, Brizard's own answers to these questions are still unknown. Substance today will begin trying to get a question and answer interview with three people: Mayor Elect Emanuel; Jean Claude Brizard; and Rahm's pick for Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale (another banker and financier who have been active in promoting corporate school reform in Chicago).

Meanwhile, we are going to publish as many iterations of the stories pouring in about Jean Claude Brizard as we can keep up with here. The first of these was run on ABC Chicago News, linking what's taking place today in Rochester with the Chicago story.

[The URL for the ABC News story, for those who cannot access the hotlink above, is:]

Here is what ABC News reported on April 20, two days after the mayor-elect's press conference:

New Chicago Public Schools CEO named, reported by Ben Bradley, April 20, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS)

-- There's little doubt Rahm Emanuel's choice to lead the Chicago Public Schools is leaving some burnt bridges in his wake.

"I think we should sue his a--," Rochester, N.Y., school board member Cynthia Elliott told ABC affiliate WHAM-TV.

Another school board member suggested Jean-Claude Brizard should be forced to pay the estimated $100,000 cost of the search for his replacement. The bad feelings come after Brizard announced he was breaking his recently signed multi-year contract with the 32,000-student Rochester schools to accept an offer from Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to run the 410,000-student Chicago school system.

Brizard's contract with Rochester calls for any early separation to be mutually agreed upon. The Rochester school board president said he was informed of Brizard's decision to leave via text message followed later in the day by a formal resignation letter and press conference in Chicago.

"He has to buy us out," Rochester school board member Van White said. "It can be fairly argued that by sending us that letter, he breached the terms of our agreement."

Emanuel refused to allow Brizard to answer reporters' questions about his contact status or other issues Monday.


April 20, 2011 at 7:44 PM

By: John Kugler

Rochester says

WLS Radio’s Bill Cameron Reports

CHICAGO (WLS) - Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's choice for Chicago school CEO Jean-Claude Brizard is taking some heat, but WLS Radio’s Bill Cameron says Emanuel is not taking the bait.

At his farewell news conference in Rochester, New York Wednesday, Brizard denied he’s leaving because the teachers union gave him a vote of no-confidence. But even a school board member said “good riddance.”

Here in Chicago, Emanuel brushed off the heat his new school CEO is taking.

“I understand politics. I understand some people who he was tough on with change have a political opportunity to settle a score,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel defended Brizard at a news conference in which he announced his new financial team. It’s led by a dollar-a-year man with a new economic council that will recommend ways to make city government much more efficient.

April 20, 2011 at 7:51 PM

By: John Kugler

two-tiered education system has emerged

An April 20 Sun-Times editorial, somewhat surprising, brings out some of the real problems in CPS and Daley reforms.

The editorial, about "getting on the same page," needs to be quoted in full:

"No one in this city should be confused about where Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel wants to take the Chicago Public Schools.

"It’s written in the reform-minded backgrounds of the schools team Emanuel announced Monday, led by CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, superintendent for the Rochester City School District, and Board of Education President David Vitale, former CEO of the Board of Trade, former chief administrative officer for CPS and chairman of a non-profit that trains teachers and turns around low-performing schools.

"Emanuel’s team undoubtedly will push hard for a longer school day and year, for more charter schools and teacher training academies, more principal freedom in exchange for greater accountability, and to link teacher pay in part to performance and also pay top teachers more to work in the toughest schools.

"It’s an agenda this newspaper supports, and we applaud Emanuel for hitting the ground running.

"In one fell swoop, he appointed the top eight leaders for the school system, including the critical job of chief education officer, and replaced all seven members of the school board. Talk about stacking the odds in your favor.

"For the first time in many years, the door to significant school reform is open, and Emanuel and his aggressive and experienced team are well-suited to make the most of it. The state is on the cusp of passing a reform package that will make it easier to lengthen Chicago’s inexcusably short school day, to fire incompetent teachers and to make teacher tenure harder to get.

"But in the rush to seize the moment, there also are tremendous risks — of overshooting, of alienating the teachers, parents and principals needed to make these reforms last and of hurting the very kids Emanuel says he wants to help.

"We’re most concerned about improving Chicago’s struggling neighborhood schools.

"As CPS has opened more and more charters, magnets and selective enrollment schools over the years, a two-tiered education system has emerged where neighborhood schools are left to educate an increasingly challenging student population. The new schools team must devote as much attention — more, in fact — to improving and supporting those schools and students. Simply adding more charter schools is not the answer.

"We’re hopeful Emanuel’s CEO pick, Jean-Claude Brizard, will make this a top priority. For the first time in many years, Chicago will be headed by a former teacher, principal and administrator. Brizard spent most of his career in New York City, knows urban education issues in his soul and is well-regarded by many.

"But Brizard struggled in his three years in Rochester. He pushed a strong reformist agenda of merit pay, charter schools, closing schools and reducing school suspensions but walked away with few firm accomplishments, in part, it appears, because he clashed with the school board and Rochester teachers.

"In an unprecedented move earlier this year, 95 percent of the teachers (84 percent of whom voted) voted no confidence in Brizard. The Rochester teachers union president tells us that Brizard shut teachers out of crucial school closing decisions and that they felt demonized by the superintendent. Brizard hasn’t offered his side of events in Rochester, and the dynamics in Chicago are quite different. But we hope he has learned useful lessons he can apply here.

"Aggressive reform is what we want in Chicago. But producing results — lasting results — requires some buy-in from teachers, parents and administrators. Any other way may sound good, but will unravel just as quickly."

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