MEDIA WATCH: Fairy tales can come true, if they're in the Sun-Times... Brizard's latest media fraud gets a big lift from the owners, editors and reporters of the Chicago Sun-Times

The photograph of course didn't tell any of the story. It showed Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard at a carefully orchestrated visit to Harper High School to open schools earlier this month. And the photograph, at Harper, carefully avoid mentioning the shameless publicity stunt that Brizard helped orchestrate for Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Opening Day (September 6, 2011) at the so-called STEM magnet elementary school on Chicago's Near West Side. That one wasn't going to hold up to scrutiny any longer (although the photo ops from September 6 captured part of the evening TV news cycle), since the STEM principal have gotten her school's contract "waiver" by a combination of lies and half-truths, as Substance has reported and as the Chicago Teachers Union has documented in its legal complaints against the waiver onslaught.

Alderman Danny Solis, who once served former Mayor Richard M. Daley slavishly, salutes Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the publicity stunt on the opening day of school, September 6, 2011, at the STEM magnet school on Chicago's Near West Side. Every event the mayor hosts is scripted as carefully as a Hollywood movie, to feature the narrative script line that Emanuel wants. The STEM event could go through only one "take" because many of its pieces broke down upon closer examination (including the fact that the school's principal decided who was a member of the Chicago Teachers Union before the "waiver" vote and bragged that by voting for the waiver teachers would help make STEM the "Mayor's Pet School"), even with the fawning reporters who cover CPS for the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.So on September 25, the Sun-Times, with a straight face, headed from Harper (that's where the picture is from, and which is already experiencing staffing and security problems) and STEM (where the publicity stunt can't any longer be sustained and someone might ask the principal some factual questions instead of all that cute little kid puffery) to William H. Brown Elementary School, where the Rahm Emanuel education leadership team gets another chance, thanks to the Sun-Times, to spin a fraud its way.

According to Brizard's latest version of reality, on September 19, he has an inspiring meeting with teachers at Brown, which had just voted to waive the Chicago Teachers Union contract and "embrace" the longer school day. Left out, among many facts, is that the September 19 meeting with the Brown teachers was a carefully staged and scripted media event limited to TV crews to film Brizard talking with teachers, smiling at the teachers, and doing a brief walkabout with teachers.

In the Sun-Times version of the Brown meeting, Brizard shares his scripted reality with the rest of the world, but the Sun-Times doesn't bother to note any of the facts (even including the fact that as of the day the Sun-Times ran the fairy tale, Brown was one of only 13 CPS elementary schools to have voted to "break with the union" and waive the contract for the longer school day). The Sun-Times's own editors and reporters, of course, by giving Brizard the half-page forum in their newspaper, couldn't even fact check some of the more outrageous statements by Brizard, like his claim that the Brown teachers had voted to join what Brizard calls his "pioneers" in order to push forward towards the so-called "Common Core Standards."

Three aldermen posed for photographs on September 6 at the STEM school, Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward), Danny Solis (25th Ward), and Latsaha Thomas (chairman of the City Council Education Committee). Two days later, Thomas would dutifully introduce the City Council resolution proclaiming City Council support for Emanuel's "Longer School Day" while a group of hired pickets protested in support of Emanuel's plan on the sidewalk outside. Thomas's resolution wasn't even on the public agenda of the September 8, 2011, meeting of the Chicago City Council, but threat to a number of aldermen by Rahm's agents procured the necessary unanimous vote. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In a way, the Sun-Times has been slavishly reporting corporate Chicago's party line on corporate "School Reform" since the day Mayor Richard M. Daley took over the schools in July 1995. The clip files are filled with adulatory profiles of the school system's various "Chief Executive Officers." In two cases, the Sun-Times profiles of the CEOs (Paul Vallas and Ron Huberman), the newspaper even quoted their mothers about how nice they were (and hard working and courageous, etc., etc., etc.). The Sun-Times didn't quote Arne Duncan's mother directly (she was the basis for all his "experience" "teaching") but provided the same kind of nonsense to laud Duncan as it had for Vallas before him and would for Huberman later.

The Sun-Times didn't even wait for the ownership of the union-busting (attempted: during the strike by the Cook County College Teachers Union) late James Tyree to attack the unions and ignore the real problems in the schools, either. It was well on script for the corporate "school reform" agenda long before Tyree's group bought the Sun-Times (and wiped out its previous shareholders, including this reporter) a bargain basement prices. No, the Sun-Times provided the cheerleading for every iteration of corporate school reform in Chicago since Paul Vallas began haunting the stages of various cities (and now countries) brought to the world courtesy of Chicago's versions of reality. At one point or another, just about every reporter or pundit at the Sun-Times has told someone at Substance that they can't run true and accurate stories about Chicago's public schools because of, well, you know....

The biases against the schools and in favor of the lurid "Worst School System in America" version of history didn't begin with the current editors, even though they are at least as rude and arrogant as their predecessors. It was in place back in the day when pundit Raymond Coffey was taking his "facts" directly from Paul Vallas and spinning them against anyone who got on Vallas's crazy guy enemies list. Now Coffey's long gone, and has a Gold Coast park named after him (a fitting place for it, now that you think of it) and the tradition of slanting the news and every other aspect of CPS coverage continues unabated.

For the next month, Substance is going to be reporting on every teacher, principal, parent, and student who tries to bring the truth to some Sun-Times reporter or pundit. Whether it's the already dangerous security problems stemming from Brizard's reorganizations or the fact that in this glorious year of "School Reform version 16.0" Chicago has 160 elementary schools without libraries for the children Brizard loves so much, we'll report it here. Thanks to our readers for keeping us up to date on each of the latest hypocrisies coming out of the newspaper that once dubbed itself "The Bright One."


Brizard: A community of teachers shows me the way, BY JEAN-CLAUDE BRIZARD September 23, 2011 7:36PM. Updated: September 25, 2011 2:33AM

Every once in a while you meet a group of people who not only renew our faith in the most noble of professions — teaching — but also affirm your belief in the goodness of humanity. I say this because of my recent visit to William H. Brown Elementary school on the Near West Side, where teachers have formed a community that should be a model for others in Chicago.

On Sept. 19, I had the pleasure of meeting with teachers, parents and the principal of Brown to discuss their recent decision to lengthen the school day by adding 90 minutes of instructional time and become one of our longer school day “pioneers.”

I was eager to learn of the process they used to decide how the time would be spent to support children. What I found was a tight-knit community that was deliberately created by a skilled principal and a great core of teachers. They were genuinely excited about teaching at Brown.

They work together and collaborate in all of their efforts, even using Skype to communicate with each other outside of school. They said, simply stated, “We are a family.” All of the teachers noted that, when they make decisions, the kids are placed first. “We are here for the students,” they said repeatedly.

When asked, “Why not wait until September” for a longer school day, they told me that they need more time in the classroom with students to close a major achievement gap. They referenced recent Illinois Standards Achievement Test reading results and the new, college-ready Common Core State Standards, which are providing much greater urgency to their work.

Teachers at Brown said adding 90 minutes of instructional time to the school day was an easy decision because “it is about what is best for the kids.” Teachers felt that, since they are at the school late as it is, this opportunity to spend that time with the students was extremely valuable. One teacher said, “Students are excited and keep asking when the new schedule is coming out.”

The teachers were clear that they wanted some say in determining the use of that extra time. So every teacher at Brown sat on one of three committees deciding how to use the additional time and financial support provided by the district — giving everyone a voice and leaving no one out of the decision-making process. As a group, they decided to expand their math, reading and writing blocks and use iPad technology to enrich the experience for students. They also will offer 18 different programs and allow students to pick three, ranging from art and broadcasting to drama and journalism. They pushed for the school district to allow principals and teachers to decide how best to use the time and to also allow schools to focus on subject matter or areas that need improvement.

As a former teacher, I fully embrace this process. Teachers are on our front lines in classrooms and should be empowered to help decide what is best for their students.

I felt privileged to be in the company of the wonderful teaching community at Brown Elementary. I am looking forward to having them serve as pioneers for schools throughout the district when a longer school day becomes the norm in the 2012-2013 school year. They are among the courageous Chicago schools that will show us the way to academic success.

Jean-Claude Brizard is chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools.


September 25, 2011 at 6:12 PM

By: Jay Rehak

True Courage is standing up to bullies.

True courage is standing up to bullies. Period. All else is noise and public relations spin. Those teachers who have the courage to speak truth to power are truly courageous and should be lauded.

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