Brizard ends month as he began it... Another attempt at 'Management by publicity stunt' in the great non-issue regarding the 'Longer School Day'

The controversial "Chief Executive Officer" of the third largest school system in the USA ended the first month of the regular school year as he had begun it: with a cheap shot at the Chicago Teachers Union and a silly publicity stunt. Precisely four weeks after he launched his massive attempt to bribe Chicago elementary school teachers into accepting his version of "Longer School Day" reality by voting to waive the Chicago Teachers Union contract in favor of creating a centrally prescribed "Longer School Day", Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard ended September with another major media attack on the Chicago Teachers Union, under the shrinking guise of what's best for the children of Chicago. On September 2, Brizard, without consulting the union, announced to the press that three Chicago public elementary schools had bucked the union and voted in favor of a waiver to the union contract. According to Brizard then, the teachers at those schools had agreed to work an additional 90 minutes a day for almost no additional pay.

The latest conflict, which began, again, late on a Friday, came about when the CPS Office of Communications sent a copy of a purported letter from Jean-Claude Brizard to CTU President Karen Lewis to all of the city's media (except Substance). The email, from Becky Carroll, the $165,000-per-year "Chief Communications Officer" for CPS, stated:

"JC sent this to Karen earlier today. We are asking Ms. Lewis and the CTU to work in partnership with us as the longer school day pioneer program expands. Other schools want to move forward with the longer day. We want to work in partnership with the CTU in doing so and give them the opportunity to work with their members to identify an additional 25 schools to start up in January that will offer 90 minutes of additional instructional time to boost student achievement. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!" Becky Carroll. Chief Communications Officer, Chicago Public Schools. 773-553-1558

Carroll claimed that Brizard had sent a letter to Karen Lewis. But CTU officials denied any letter had been received at the union, and were again faced with a Friday afternoon when, they stated, Brizard was trying to negotiate in the press. Since the question of the longer school day during the current school year revolves around a waiver of the current contract for elementary teachers, either Brizard can ask for interim negotiations (which he has not done) or groups of teachers at local schools can hold a formal waiver vote, according to union procedures.

BRIZARD'S DEAR KAREN LETTER. According to Becky Carroll, Brizard's "letter" to Lewis stated as follows:

Educate, Inspire, Transform CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

125 S. Clark Street, 5th Floor

Chicago, Illinois 60603

Jean-Claude Brizard

Chief Executive Officer

September 30, 2011

Dear Karen:

As I outlined in my voicemail earlier today, thirteen schools have so far elected to join the Longer School Day Pioneer Program, while the list of schools interested in exploring the longer day continues to grow. We are excited about the momentum and support from parents, teachers and students for more class time and enhanced learning. Therefore, I believe the time is right to turn the Pioneer Project into a collaboration between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union leadership, and begin a meaningful conversation about how best to use the additional time.

Rather than continue implementation of the longer school day school-by-school, case-by-case, and vote-by-vote, we would like to work with you and your members to choose the next 25 schools that will start a longer day in January. Together we can help design guidelines on structuring the longer day for schools that would start in January 2012 and be the model for preparing all schools for the longer day in the 2012-2013 academic year. In short, work with your members at schools that are interested in moving to the longer day to help select the next 25 pioneer schools and help create the guidelines that will structure how those additional 90 minutes of instructional time are used.

This core group of a total of 38 schools will receive a lump sum payment equal to a 2% increase of the average teacher salary for the teachers in these schools, as well as $75,000 in financial support (for those starting in January 2012) for each school to help transition to a longer day to cover extra teaching assistant positions, curriculum and intervention materials, and other needs.

The thirteen schools that have already voted for a longer school day are making critical decisions about how to use this extra time. At Disney II Magnet School, for example, the additional 90 minutes is being used to increase time spent on literacy, core curriculum, science and technology. These are important areas of learning, essential to closing the achievement gap, which will benefit the early adopters of the longer school day. We want to work with you, the teachers, to make sure that we are extracting all the value we can out of each additional minute of time in each additional school for the benefit of every CPS student.

Together we can begin answering the crucial question of how to best use the longer school day so that it will make a difference for the future of Chicago’s children.

Sincerely, Jean-Claude Brizard, CEO Chicago Public Schools

But at day's end on September 30, union officials again stated that neither Brizard's alleged "Voice Mail" nor his letter had been received. Union officials also noted that Brizard's penchant for negotiating in the media (and blindsiding the CTU) was adding to the materials that will be utilized in the union's current Unfair Labor Practice complaint against CPS. Additionally, since the current flap began with a similar stunt on September 2, a growing number of teachers view any promises or statements by the Chief Executive Officer as public relations expedients, made to be changed or broken. Under such circumstances, the chances of serious contract negotiations dim with each passing day.

Recent history puts the current situation in context (as of October 1, 2011).

A growing number of Chicago teachers, parents, and Chicago Teachers Union members are viewing Rahm Emanuel's push for his version of the "Longer [Elementary] School Day" as an attempt to use the city's media to create what is called a "wedge issue" between CPS and CTU in the public eye, very much as politicians try to "Swift Boat" opponents in an election. But Rahm Emanuel is not running for office against Karen Lewis, and the procedures that govern collective bargaining and the reasonable implementation of a contract require the opposite from what Emanuel, Brizard, and Brizard's "team" have been doing.

RAHM'S RENT A PROTEST. CITY HALL, SEPTEMBER 8, 2011. One of the more dramatic moments in the month-long campaign against the Chicago Teachers Union by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel came on September 8, 2011, when the Chicago City Council voted in favor of a motion on the "Longer School Day" while protesters marched outside. Few of the protesters who picketed in support of the mayor's move could tell Substance what public school they were from, and one of the most interesting groups arrived on "Protest Bus #9" — a group of African American children wearing red blazers. As they got off the bus each was given the sign "Reading 90 more minutes now!" But none of the children was a public school student. After some effort, Substance was told by Rev. Marvin Wynne, who was with the group, that the children came from the "Promise Christian Academy" on Chicago's far south side. The school, with fewer than 100 students, let its children out that day to join the protest in favor of the mayor's attack on the Chicago Teachers Union, even though the children were not public school students. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Following the September 2, 2011, announcement that three schools had voted to waive the contract, Brizard and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel went into a full media offensive against the union. The offensive was coupled with bribes and threats to principals and teachers demanding that they support the controversial "Longer School Day." Emanuel's allies rented protesters to picket Chicago Board of Education and Chicago City Council meetings (see photographs with this Substance article) and paid for meetings with Christian preachers who were then asked to sign pledges in support of the longer school day and preach in favor of the longer school day from their pulpits.

The media din of the mayor's claims was almost able, for a few days in the hubbub at the beginning of the regular school year, to drown out concerns about the dozens of real problems emerging as schools began across the city. Teachers were arriving at schools without enough textbooks, more than 160 elementary schools across the city were still without libraries, and everywhere massive class size overages were the direct result of the way Brizard's administration had staffed the schools. In a few dramatic cases, gang violence had also begun to erupt in the schools earlier than usual, as Brizard's cutbacks in school security staff resulted in fewer people in the most vulnerable schools and communities with knowledgeable people who knew the local problems and might have been able to face them pro-actively.

Throughout the first month of school, thousands of teachers, principals and parents were under pressure to face the "Longer School Day" question as it was being "framed" by the massive publicity arms of the mayor's office and CPS. At this point in history, Rahm Emanuel and CPS are able to deploy a half dozen public relations people for every one real reporter assigned to cover a major story, so many media outlets, especially the city's TV stations, simply repeat the talking points developed by those in power.

Despite dozens of other serious issues emerging as Chicago began the 2011 - 2012 school year. Were the mayor's version of reality reality, the screeching of media events would have won the day. But when the month ended, Brizard and Emanuel had added only ten other schools to what they were calling their "Pioneers", and the whole expensive effort, which was run complete with "Rent A Protestors" at City Hall and a cast of hundreds of hired hands turning out to support the mayor, had failed. By September 30, a total of 13 Chicago public elementary schools, out of approximately 500, had voted to waive their union contract.

So at month's end, Brizard tried another publicity stunt.

RAHM'S PURCHASE A PREACHER. SOX PARK, AUGUST 25, 2011. On August 25, 2011, the Chicago Public Schools "Office of Faith-Based Initiatives" fed more than 200 preachers at the United Airlines Scout Lounge at U.S. Cellular Field. The event, which was organized to get the preachers to sign a petition in support of the longer school day by CPS officials, included Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and both CPS and police leaders. Above, at the mayor's table at the breakfast, left to right, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, CPS CEO Noemi Donoso, CPS official Andrea Seanz, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. At the event, Jean-Claude Brizard asked the preachers to sign a petition in support of the mayor's version of the "Longer School Day" and to preach on behalf of the proposal in their churches that Sunday. The event, which included the mayor, several CPS officials, and Chief of Police Garry MaCarthy, featured an expensive breakfast in a prime location on the city's South Side. CPS has refused to tell Substance how much money the breakfast cost and has forced Substance to appeal a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the information to the Illinois Attorney General's office. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The difference between September 2, when Brizard's expensive Communications Department sent out an afternoon press release touting the first three elementary schools that had ostensibly voted in favor of the proposed longer school day, and September 30, when Brizard unleashed another press release late on a Friday, was that between the two days a massive and expensive PR campaign had failed. On September 2, 2011, Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel had three schools that had voted in favor of the Longer School Day. On September 30, a total of 13 schools had so voted.

Brizard and Emanuel had lost to the organized and intelligent opposition of the city's school teachers to an attack on their professionalism and their union.

Prepared for Emanuel's and Brizard's antics by the experience of the previous month, CTU officials were ready to respond quickly. By 3:00 p.m. on September 30, the CTU issued the following statement:


CEO Jean Claude Brizard uses media to pressure President Karen Lewis into breaking current labor contract

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin, September 30, 2011 312/329-6250 (office)

312/550-4143 (cell)

CHICAGO – Here we go again.

Rather than communicate directly with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) continues to negotiate through press release in turn using local journalists as their quasi-publicists and pseudo-negotiators over the debate about a longer vs. better school day. This is evidenced by today’s action of CPS releasing an alleged letter to the media before the Union has received it or had a chance to review and respond.

“To date, CTU President Karen GJ Lewis has not received a letter, voice mail or text message from CEO Jean Claude Brizard requesting the Union’s help in getting more educators to break their current labor contracts and agree to a longer school day this year. We learned of this letter through media inquiries. The open letter insinuates that CPS is willing to stop its illegal practice of going “school-by-school, case-by-case, and, vote-by-vote” if only the Union will help them find another 25 schools to switch to a longer schedule in January.

“The current CTU labor agreement expires June 30, 2012. CTU filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board and is expects a hearing in October.

“Despite CPS’ aggressive efforts to rush the longer school day to happen this year rather than take the time to plan for a longer, better school day next year, the Union continues its work of educating the public on the pros and cons of this political ideology. Effective teaching requires a tremendous amount of time for planning and preparing to stand in front of students. CPS wants to increase the time teachers stand in front of kids to 415 minutes per day and this amounts to educational malpractice. Just like television journalists whose work day does not begin the moment they stand before a camera, teaching does not begin when the child is seated in a class. Educators must learn the curriculum; write assessments; align education plans to learning standards; write the plan; make quarterly maps; prepare materials; prepare the classroom; teach the class; grade the assignments; enter grades; call parents; meet with parents; meet with the school team; check data; modify plans; and tutor students according to need.

“Further Brizard has never answered a series of questions about its plan or lack thereof for a longer school day including:

1. How will CPS afford additional art, music and physical education instructors given its projected budget deficits; and, where will it find the additional $100 million –plus dollar a year to staff its longer school day?

2. Do the buildings have the appropriate facilities, such as libraries, computer learning labs, gymnasiums, air-conditioning, heating and technology support?

3. What is the plan to alleviate transportation concerns?

4. What effect will the longer school day have on after school programs?

5. What is the public safety plan for our students, given winter sports programs will now conclude later in the evening?

6. What is the current plan to compensate all school support personnel who must also work longer hours but have not been offered financial incentives? Do you want them to work longer for no pay?”


CPS’s Brizard to teachers union: You pick next 25 schools for longer day, By ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter/ September 30, 2011 8:38PM

Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard Friday offered to let the Chicago Teachers Union select the next 25 schools to join a longer-school-day pilot — an idea union officials immediately rejected as “totally absurd.’’

“We’re not convinced the first 13 schools [in the Longer School Day Pioneer pilot] make any sense,’’ said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

“This offer is totally absurd. ... We’ve tried to raise substantive and serious questions, and instead of answering those questions, we’ve been invited to pick the next 25 schools.’’

Brizard e-mailed CTU President Karen Lewis a letter Friday inviting her to pick 25 more schools to join his “Pioneer Pilot” and work on guidelines on how they would add 90 minutes to the school day.

This additional batch of 25 schools would start the longer day in January, with teachers receiving a lump sum payment equal to a 2-percent raise and each school receiving $75,000 in discretionary funds.

“We want to work with you, the teachers, to make sure that we are extracting all the value we can out of each additional minute,” Brizard wrote.

Sharkey questioned why Chicago Public School officials were insisting this year’s “Pioneer Pilot’’ schools provide a 7 1/2 hour day for kids when a recent survey by the parent group Raise Your Hand showed more than 83 percent of 1,222 respondents do not favor that length — although more than two-thirds want more than the current 5 hours and 45 minutes featured in most CPS elementary schools.

CTU officials have proposed a seven-hour day, modeled on the elite University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s kids attend classes, that would probably require more teachers per school but not add any extra work time for existing teachers. They want to negotiate such a day for next school year, after the current contract expires June 30.

Sharkey said CPS has been unable to explain how it would fund a longer school day packed with longer core subjects, more enrichment like art and music, and a mandatory recess next school year, when it will face a projected deficit of $241 million.

“They are setting up a plan they can’t fund unless the real plan is to put this in place and ask teachers to work the time for free or make it up with bigger classes — unless they have no intention of adding art or music,’’ Sharkey said.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said Lewis could “work with us hand in hand on answering these very questions’’ if she would just join a Longer School Day Advisory Committee that is making recommendations on what a longer school day could look like next school year.

The 90 extra minutes of instructional time provided in the pilot program, Carroll said, would put CPS “on par with the rest of the country,’’ although CTU officials dispute the CPS calculations.


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