BRIZARDWATCH: Why is Chicago's best education news reporter working in a city 500 miles east of here? Stunning news reporting on Brizard in Rochester, as Chicago reporting remains as lame as ever in the face of Emanuel's depraved choice for CPS CEO

Teachers, students, parents, and Chicago citizens who have been trying to figure out how and why Chicago's mayor-elect Rahm Emaneul picked controversial Rochester (New York) Schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard to be the next "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's huge public school system are getting an earful and eyeful if they have Internet access and the time to follow both the history of Brizard's career (which should have been vetted by Emanuel) and the current controversy over his "resignation" only five months after he negotiated a contract renewal with the Rochester school board.

Although Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel would not allow his choice for Chicago schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard to talk to Chicago reporters at the Chicago press conference on April 18, 2011, Brizard talked to reporters back in Rochester as protesters noisily denounced him a few feet away. (Photo above accompanied a Chicago magazine blog story on Brizard). One of the major differences between Chicago and Rochester at this point in history is that Chicago's corporate news reporters and editorial writers have long been "in the tank" with the official version of Chicago's "school reform." Even 16 years after Mayor Richard M. Daley first got complete control of the city's massive (410,000 students this year) school system, the editorialist who write news stories, op eds, and editorials for Chicago's major newspapers and TV and radio stations generally act as if this whole thing just began yesterday, as if the Daley (corporate) approach to "school reform" has not been a devastating failure.

Critical news reporting may have died a decade ago in Chicago (and that's a longer story for another time, part of which is a story of what happens when reporters lose union protection and job protections following a union busting attack such as the one carried out at both the Tribune and Sun-Times), but for some reason it is still alive in Rochester New York (a city whose school system has only 30,000 students, according to recent reports). Who knew?

But the most fascinating way to learn what Chicago is lacking is to look at the TV news story that Rahm Emanuel refused to allow Chicago to see on April 18 at Kelly High School. At a well attended news conference, Emanuel announced the Brizard appointment (and a host of equally droll and controversial picks to lead the city's schools) then told both Jean Claude Brizard and the reporters in the room to, basically, "Sit down and shut up!" the way an inexperienced TFA kid would try to calm a robust classroom on a hot Chicago day. Emanuel got away with it in Chicago on April 18, but a day later Rochester got to hear from Brizard and evaluate his latest versions of reality. thanks to a TV news reporter who is fast becoming the best Chicago education reporter even though she is 500 miles east of the Windy City.

The URL for the above story is:

The story text follows:

Brizard: "I was becoming a lightning rod." Board May Force Cash Settlement, Search Begins for New Leader Posted by: Rachel Barnhart Email:, Print Story Published: 4/20 6:44 am Share Updated: 4/20 6:45 pm

Rochester, N.Y. – Surrounded by his cabinet – but no school board members, Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard explained his reasons for leaving Rochester in his first public statements since Monday’s announcement by Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel that he would head up Chicago Public Schools.

“I came here to do a job but always understood it would not be forever,” he said.

Brizard said he didn’t go looking for the opportunity.

“I'm not going to say I'm not ambitious. Everyone wants to be ambitious. I work hard. For me, it is about the work, not about money and certainly not about seeing what is next. I am not a serial superintendent,” Brizard said.

But Brizard did feel the heat during his nearly 3 ½ years with the Rochester City School District. Teachers overwhelmingly voted no confidence in his leadership. A Center for Governmental Research survey showed only 9 percent of teachers and 43 percent of administrators think the district is in a better place because of Brizard.

Downstairs from the press conference, community activists gathered to demand a different style of management going forward.

“I don't think the district is in a better place. To use the cliché, I guess I would say we've been on the wrong train, the wrong track in the wrong direction,” said retired principal Dan Drmacich.

“I'm not going to say he's a bad person, but I don't think he did much for our district since he's been here,” said parent Carmella Terry.

Brizard’s efforts to close troubled schools, end teacher seniority, enact merit pay and his support for charter schools caused controversy. More recently, he announced massive budget cuts, including more than 900 layoffs.

“It's not about bailing whatsoever,” Brizard said. “In fact, if I was I would be looking for a more difficult assignment.”

Brizard said the teachers’ no-confidence vote stung. “I am not anti-teacher…That label has probably been the most hurtful for me as an educator.”

Resignation by Text Message?

On Friday, four of the seven members of the school board held a news conference to say they supported Brizard and he had not informed them of any plans to leave the district. But board president Malik Evans and board member Van White admitted they had not been able to contact the superintendent for a week.

Then on Monday, Evans said Brizard sent him a text message informing him of his resignation. Evans called the text “unprofessional.”

Brizard said he did not inform Evans via text that he was leaving.

“I talked to Malik three times before that message. It wasn't just a text message. We actually spoke in person and last over the phone on Saturday,” Brizard said. He added that he did not get any texts from White, saying White perhaps had the wrong number.

Meta data from documents released by the district indicate that the press release announcing Brizard’s departure was created on Friday at 9:52 p.m. It was sent to the press on Monday afternoon. Brizard’s letter of resignation to Evans was created on Saturday at 10:27 p.m. Evans said he received by courier Monday afternoon.

“I'm not going to go back and forth on how we got notified and not notified,” Evans said. “I made it very clear on Monday how I was notified. I think it's time to move forward. It's time for us to move past Jean-Claude Brizard. He's made his decision. He's going to Chicago. We wish him well.”


April 21, 2011 at 5:45 PM

By: Lynn Ellingwood

Jean Claude Brizzard or JC to Chicago Folks

I am hoping Jean Claude will leave Rochester soon and JC will reappear in Chicago. I'm terrified that Rahm will rescind his offer and Rochester won't end his contract soon enough. That would mean that horror of horrors, Brizzard will stay and that would be a nightmare!

April 22, 2011 at 9:48 AM

By: Grant

News item

Had to wade through this story to find his priorities. The resignation process, that's news?

Troubled schools - Yes, agree

Teacher Senoirity - ON the fence

Merit Pay - Big time support, agree

Charter schools - yes, agree

....Brizard’s efforts to close troubled schools, end teacher seniority, enact merit pay and his support for charter schools caused controversy.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 1 =