Brizard purging certain principals from 'Children First' leadership team

Within hours after more than 700 members of the House of Delegates of the Chicago Teachers Union voted unanimously to strike on September 10, 2012, if an acceptable contract was not reached, Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard met with 145 to 150 of the school system's principals (and some other leaders) to outline what he called the plans for the "Children First" program to open schools during the strike. The union meeting took place on August 30, 2012. But before the evening was out, principals had learned that not all of them were fit to operate the "Children First" activities in the buildings where they were working and that the so-called "plan" was dangerously sketchy.

From the first meeting of Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education on June 15, 2011 (above), Jean-Claude Brizard and the members of the Board (above rear, two of the seven, Penny Pritzker and Rudolfo Sierra) have lied. At the June 15, 2011 meeting, Brizard told the Board that there was a "fiscal emergency" that justified the Board's reneging on the promised four percent raise due in the fifth year of the CTU contract. The Board's willingness to refuse to honor legal contracts has set one of the tones leading to the forthcoming September 10, 2012 strike, and may delay to resolution of any strike because teachers know that the Board's word of honor is not honorable. One of the features of the Emanuel administration is that it is churning personnel at the very top. Above, the seat for the "Chief Education Officer" Noemi Donoso is empty (she arrived later). Like others, Donoso did not last one year in CPS (she had come from Colorado). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Brizard continued to elaborate on the so-called plan as questions grew.

The message Brizard sent to principals (and others he calls "leaders") on August 31, 2012 read as follows:

Dear CPS Leader,

Following yesterday's webinar broadcast, the CTU House of Delegates set a strike date for Monday, September 10th. Despite this development we continue to negotiate in good faith and are working diligently to reach a fair agreement. While we hope that a strike does not occur, we must plan for the possibility. The setting of a strike date means that we have to continue to focus on our Children First Plan.

Yesterday afternoon, 145 of your colleagues received a call from their Chief of Schools informing them that they have been chosen as a Children First site leader. As such, the selected principals met at the district office to learn about the role of site leader and plan for implementation at their school site. The principals were positive about the task at hand and were confident that they would be able to effectively open the Children First sites, if necessary. Specifics of the plan include:

Opening 145 Children First sites from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Staffing open sites with Central Office staff and other non-CTU employees as well as organizations who will be invited to submit a RFP to help staff schools and provide programming. Student-to-staff ratio would be capped at 25 to 1.

Providing daily nutrition services to all students attending a site, including breakfast and lunch.

In addition, CPS will collaborate with community and faith organizations, as well as our partners, including the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Fire and Police Departments, the Office of Emergency Management and others in providing kids with the food, a safe environment and positive activities they need and deserve.

While this plan is merely a precaution, we must be prepared. Negotiations are continuing and we are hopeful that an agreement will be reached and a strike averted.

Regardless, we know that next Tuesday is the first week of school for Track R and the continuation of school for Track E.

As a principal leader, we know this is an extremely busy time for you, but it's also important for us to keep you informed. To that end, we will be scheduling a 2nd webinar next week to provide you an update on negotiations and the district's Children First Plan. Look for a note early next week giving the date and time of the webinar. In the meantime, if you have questions please reach out to your Chief of Schools.

In addition, many of you may have heard news this morning regarding my tenure as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. I want you to know that the Board of Education and the Mayor have expressed confidence in my leadership and I will not allow for any distractions at a time when our focus needs to be on our kids and reaching a fair contract for teachers.

Enjoy your holiday weekend, get some rest, and keep an eye out for e-mail updates.


September 1, 2012 at 11:43 AM

By: Lee Alexander

Tribune says give JC a chance???

Chicago Tribune says give him time to prove himself, then why are teachers held to the fix it now or get fired standard??? Children are only successful if they do well on the FIVE round-the-clock assessments they are told "its fun, really, just take it seriously" while they are tortured. Kids are not stupid, a test without time to learn is unreasonable and not accurate. And a test is not the only way to judge learning, just the easiest to put into a power-point.

And for those in the private sector who don't "get" how hard this job is: Does your job flip-flop constantly with new and unrelated over-hauls every few months? Think working on a computer design one day and expected to be an expert on carpentry the next and then engine repair the next. CPS never keeps the same process for more than 3 years, yet pays millions for more untested unreliable technology and materials taht never quite get delivered tot he schools appropriately

September 1, 2012 at 2:23 PM

By: George Schmidt

Rahm's lying (again). Trib J.C. story was accurate — and well sourced

Having gone over a lot of the background after that delightful front page Tribune story demonstrating how Rahm and his "team" stab their own people in the back, it's clear to me (as a reporter and an editor) that the Tribune reporters on that story did the job. Too bad they weren't able to quote on the record the former Pritzker family courtesan who helped move the story forward. In an age of autocracy and nouveau aristocracies, we should always be able to give credit to the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation's hard working myrmidons when they score one for the truth.

In Chicago journalism, the Tribune story (August 31, 2012) was much better reporting than that dismal Sun-Times piece about RAHM TO THE RESCUE one week earlier (THE CLOSER, Chicago Sun-Times, by Fran Spielman, August 24, 2012). But then the Tribune still has a few editors and reporters who know that the ruling class needs the facts to rule the world, no matter how unpleasant the facts may turn out to be. Reporting from Chicago's dailies from August, September and October 2012 — as the great collapse of all the lies of corporate "school reform" crashes across the nation's third largest city — should become a casebook for people studying reporting. And these two contrasting front page stories will serve as good example.

Instead of first throwing Jean-Claude under the proverbial bus, then throwing their own reporter in the same direction, the Trib's North Shore Club (their editorial board...) should have asked for a story about all of the messes caused by the incompetence of "J.C." and his team. They could start by asking principals how they are going to survive the liabilities of "Children First" when the strike starts September 10. Of how many weekends they lost doing, re-doing, and re-redoing their master programs as Brizard did backflips into greater and greater incoherence.

At some point, reality is a thousand kids heading in the door, like those scenes from the fourth season of "The Wire." Too bad the Trib's owners and board members are do out of it they think a Labor Day yard party should be at the home of a neighbor who has Lake Michigan in his back yard. Plutocrats all.

September 1, 2012 at 6:34 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Children First

If CPS were really putting children first they would not be asking teachers to accept changes that are not in the best interest of the children. It will be interesting to see how this proposal works. I doubt they will be able to get enough people to supervise the students if all of them show up much less teach them.

If the Board goes ahead with their plan does this mean students will be marked absent if they don't show up in these makeshift schools?

September 4, 2012 at 12:38 PM

By: Maureen Cullnan

Liabilities at the Children First sites?

Will the schools take every student who comes to the doors? Will they have a count they won't exceed? Will they give preference to their own students, or take children on a first come, first served basis? Will the police provide security?

I ask because it is possible that a few students might come to a new school looking to cause trouble.

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:

2 + 3 =