SUBSTANCE NEWS ANALYSIS: Brizard out, another outsider, Barbara Byrd Bennett, is in... The final wasted Brizard costs will be in the tens of millions of dollars. 'Broadie' Byrd-Bennett to slavishly push Emanuel's corporate agenda with closings, charters, and privatization

The still unconfirmed (but likely) reports that former Rochester Schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard is out of his quarter million dollar a year job as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools are likely to be major news for at least one Chicago news cycle as Friday, October 12, 2012, begins. But two things are equally likely to be underplayed in the city's corporate media as Brizard exits the stage on which he "strutted and fretted his hour..." in Chicago to be heard from no more. When the Chicago Board of Education approved the above Board Report on June 22, 2011, there was no public discussion (or later "transparency") as to why Brizard needed $30,000 to move from Rochester to Chicago or why Brizard was worth a quarter of a million dollars a year ($50,000 a year more than CPS had paid Arne Duncan, Brizard's most famous predecessor, three years earlier). As of the morning of the official announcement of Brizard's ouster, the corporate media in Chicago is filled with the usual platitudes, the usual praises sung for Brizard's replacement (outsider Barbara Byrd Bennett), and no information about the total amount Brizard will have taken with him during his less than two years as head of Chicago's public schools.First, the actual cost of Brizard's nearly 18 months in Chicago office are much greater than the more than a half million dollars in pay and perks that he received (and the severance he is expected to receive), courtesy of the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. During his brief tenure in office, Brizard eliminated some of the most important people working within the CPS administration, creating an internal "brain drain" that has been felt for more than a year. His method was to "reclassify" experienced and veteran staff people, force many of them into retirement, and then replace them with Chicago novices or corporate hacks who were not ready or up to the jobs they got. He also privatized additional work that cannot be outsourced, and was the overseer of what Substance has called "management musical chairs." "Management Musical Chair's under Brizard was not limited to the most dramatic departures during his first year in office (his "Chief Education Officer" Noemi Donoso and his Chief Officer of Family And Community Engagement, FACE, Jamiko Rose). The most unusual (and many said crazy) example of the Brizard administration was the creation of sub-districts which are currently called "Networks," overseen mostly by outsiders with no Chicago teaching or administrative experience, and saddled with strange names that only someone with a poor sense of humor could have concocted.

In addition to purging Donoso and Rose, Brizard was the overseer of management shakeups at all levels, including the two "Chief Financial Officers" in one year and the implementation of a bizarre version of sub-districts, called "Networks", and the placement of a large number of out-of-town corporate bureaucrats in charge of the so-called "Networks." By the time a real accounting of the cost of the Brizard mess is compiled, it will run between $30 and $100 million, the smallest cost of which will be the severance to Brizard himself.

Second, Brizard's replacement by another out-of-town "Broadie" (a protege of the Broad Foundation's leadership training program), Barbara Byrd Bennett (who as of the morning of October 12 was still Chicago's "Chief Education Officer") will not lead to better management of the nation's third largest school system. What is ahead will be a more disruptive implementation of the next phase of Rahm Emanuel's attack on public education, the closing of dozens of real public schools behind the smokescreens of a "budget crisis" on the one hand and the false claim of "overcapacity" on the other.

Whether the mayor famous for his enthusiastic use of the word "Fuck" was always aware of it, when Substance took the above photograph of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (above left) doing one of dozens of cheap publicity stunts (the above, at Noble Street charter schools' "Pritzker Campus" on December 16, 2011) then Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard seemed momentarily aware of the fact that his master was giving him the finger. Less than ten months later, the relationship between Rahm and "J.C." was ended. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The Hollywood style Longer School Day push that began as soon as Brizard and the Emanuel Board took office was the first phase.

Emanuel's second phase plan is to turn as much public property over to charter schools and privatization as possible, hovering behind a smokescreen of lies and half truth similar to the ones he repeated endlessly when he was prattling on and on and on both locally and nationally about the need for a "longer school day." Emenual's agendas are always oversimplified, but sound bited for TV consumption. The longer school days assault on Chicago pushed a one-size-fits-all agenda for Chicago's schools without regard to any Chicago or CPS realities. With the elimination of Brizard, Emanuel will now move towards the next round of sound-bited oversimplifications. Emanuel's second major assault on the public schools will be the replacement of dozens of real public schools with charter and privatized entities, and the replacement of teachers with various "virtual" solutions, all of which will be announced and reported with mindless repetition and no scrutiny.

Since this program can only be implemented by a hired gun from outside Chicago with corporate rather than community roots, Byrd-Bennett is the right person for the job Emanuel will now push. But it will be far from the best thing for Chicago's 400,000 public school students. The only thing that will remain is the deafening repetition of City Hall and corporate talking points as the Emanuel administration moves from the "Longer School Day" to the "efficient space" version of reality. Chicago's corporate media, including the reporters who are reporting the Brizard departure, can be counted on to transcribe and repeat the next round of corporate lies as Byrd-Bennett's agenda unfolds.

When Chicago hired Brizard following his spectacular and well documented failure as superintendent of the relatively tiny Rochester New York school district, the hype and hokum obscured the fact that Brizard was awarded the most lucrative contract in Chicago public schools history at a time when the school system was supposedly facing a financial "crisis."

As of the morning of October 12, 2012, one thing that is not being reported is that Emanuel is keeping the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education, all appointed by him in May 2011, who were supposedly responsible for Brizard and the oversight of the nation's third largest school system. To many, the appointment of Barbara Byrd Bennett is just another example of the racist reality currently behind the corporate attack on Chicago's real public schools. Another African-American bureaucrat from out of town takes over to later take the fall after more disruption and destruction. The bulk of the story was broken just before midnight on October 11, 2012, in an exclusive story reported on line in the Chicago Sun-Times and reported by City Hall reporter Fran Spielman and Education reporter Rosalind Rossi. One of the funniest things that comes out in the story is how Rahm Emanuel's people at City Hall, led by alderman Pat O'Conner, are trying to spin a story that is unspinnable. SUN-TIME FIRST REPORT BELOW HERE:

EXCLUSIVE: Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard out by ˜mutual agreement"

BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND ROSALIND ROSSI Staff Reporters October 11, 2012 8:58PM, Updated: October 11, 2012 11:48PM. [Editor's note, Substance: Sun-Times pundits are already praising Byrd Bennett, echoing the new Party Line from City Hall, and musing over what a great guy Brizard was...].

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel premier hires, is out by “mutual agreement with City Hall after just 17 months on the job, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's premier hires, is out by "mutual agreement" with City Hall after just 17 months on the job, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Brizard out as CPS CEO by Rosalind Rossi and Fran Spielman.

Brizard was Emanuel's pick to lead CPS and push through the mayor's aggressive education agenda. But with the city's first teachers strike in 25 years in the rear view mirror and a new contract to be implemented, Emanuel said it's "time for a clean break."

Brizard leaves his $250,000-a-year job to be permanently replaced with Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a former teacher, principal and Cleveland schools CEO who has been filling in as Chicago's interim chief education officer for the past six months.

At every meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Rahm Emanuel's disrespect for the city's real public schools is on display in the executive seats. Above, at the August 22, 2012, Board meeting, (then) Chief Financial Officer David Watkins and Chief Talent (formerly, "Human Capital") officer Alicia Winckler, as usual, work on Angry Birds while members of the public talk about the real problems in the city's real schools. On the right, Oliver Sicat, the "Chief Portfolio Officer" (department created and Officer appointed by Jean-Claude Brizard) looks at the TV screen above the row of six-figure administrators that flanks the CEO. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Byrd-Bennett, 62, played a pivotal role in negotiating an end to the strike ” and upstaged Brizard in the process. Terms of Brizard's exit were still being finalized, but are expected to include a full-year's salary.

Talk of Brizard's departure has swirled for weeks. On Sept. 19, the mayor told reporters: "J.C. has my confidence."

On Thursday, Emanuel said the decision for a change was made during “two to three separate conversations in recent days.

“The questions about J.C. became a distraction from what we had to do. We had a mutual agreement [that the distraction was] not helpful. I didn't have to come to that conclusion myself. We both agreed together. It kept on becoming about the static and noise about J.C. He said, "Look, getting the schools right is more important than me," the mayor told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“We have a break point here with a new contract that has to be implemented. This is a unique opportunity. Executing on it down to the classroom is key. I don't want anything distracting from it. It is time for a clean break. What he said to me is, Barbara is the right person to pick up the baton and take it to the next level.

Emanuel credited Brizard with engineering a “breathtaking amount of change" before concluding it was time to step aside.

“In all my experience working for two presidents, when you get to a certain point, you've got to have a fresh start," said Emanuel, who served under presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. “Usually, you've got to tell the person that.

“J.C. came to that understanding. "He didn"t have to be persuaded of that. He appreciated that. He didn't want to become a distraction from the mission. I can't underscore how different that is.

Brizard did not respond to requests for comment.

A City Hall source, who asked to remain anonymous, said of the resignation, “It just didn't work out. Both felt it was not the right fit. It needed to end. The hope wasn't for this to only be 18 months. Everyone wanted it to work out. But there needed to be a change. If it''s not working, you address it and you move on.

Pressed to pinpoint a reason for Brizard downfall and departure, the City Hall source said, “A lot of the challenges ended up on the management side of the house and being able to execute all the various initiatives we've undertaken this year. CPS is a huge bureaucracy. The hope was he would rise to the challenge and take it on, but it didn't happen.

Another source pointed to the turnover in the “second-and-third-layers" of leadership handpicked by Brizard.

Brizard's original pick for an office of community engagement that he elevated to a cabinet level position came on board last fall and left in the spring. That led to a “very contentious engagement process preceding the school board's decision to close or turn around 17 underperforming schools.

It's really good on the education side and understanding policy. It's more about management and leadership and hiring people who weren't the right fit for the right positions," the source said.

Despite an increase in high school test scores and graduation rates, speculation about Brizard's impending departure has been rampant.

He infuriated the mayor by going on a family vacation in the run-up to the strike and was mortally wounded by a Chicago Tribune story that claimed he was on his way out.

City Hall believes that story, which included a mixed review of Brizard's performance, may have been leaked by the CEO himself in an attempt to shore up his position with the mayor.

Emanuel gave Brizard a lip-service vote of confidence, but it was only a matter of time before his exit.

Brizard's absence during contract negotiations kept the rumor mill churning. At one point during the strike, he was placed in the humiliating position of having to send an e-mail to CPS employees denying that he had resigned. It happened after a union member announced Brizard's resignation at a school rally.

“The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," Brizard wrote on that day.

City Hall insisted after the strike ended that CPS would be his show once again. But it wasn't to be.

Emanuel denied that Brizard's departure was a political embarrassment for a mayor who has made education and lengthening the school day and year his signature push.

“This is not embarrassing. What would be embarrassing to me is not succeeding in school reform. What would be harmful is allowing a problem to fester when I needed to show leadership to do something," the mayor said.

“What would be worse is spending two years to get a longer day and giving parents more [school] options and principals more autonomy [and wasting it because] I couldn't do my part because it was embarrassing or harmful. Do you let a problem fester because it was too difficult?”

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said late Thursday that the revolving door of appointments to lead the nation's third-largest school system is disconcerting.

Å“I just think this bodes poorly for any kind of stability in the system," Lewis said. "I've been president of the CTU for two years and this will be my fourth CEO. That's really not good."

Added CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin: “This is indicative of the chaos on Clark Street, [where CPS is headquartered]. We don't know who on first. It doesn't matter who is in the chair of the CEO if the CEO is not in charge of the Chicago Public Schools. This is another example of the mayor's failed leadership in trying to strengthen our school district."

However, Lewis said, she is encouraged that Byrd-Bennett said at the negotiating table that “she thinks it's important to change the nature of the relationship between CPS and the CTU."

Byrd-Bennett seemed eager to work with the CTU on areas of common interest, Lewis said. “If she wants to work on stuff that we think is good for kids, I'm there for that," Lewis said. “I don't know what her marching orders or relationship will be with the mayor. But I can't believe the mayor wants to have day-to-day oversight of CPS. It seems to me he has other stuff to do."

Brizard, a former New York City physics teacher and the son of Haitian immigrants, is not the first outsider to crash and burn in a high-profile Chicago job. And, his three-year Chicago Public Schools contract is not the first contract he failed to fulfill.

Brizard bailed out of a contract as superintendent of schools in Rochester, N.Y.,  a system of only 32,000 to serve as Emanuel's education point man in a district of more than 400,000 students.

Antennas were raised right from the start when Emanuel introduced Brizard to reporters and then stopped him from answering any questions.

However, Brizard proceeded to push through Emanuel's campaign promise of a longer school day by offering schools and teachers extra money to waive the teachers contract and sign up for a longer-day pilot. He led the implementation of a tougher “common core" curriculum and a new teacher evaluation system, all dramatic changes to the local education landscape.

Sources said Byrd-Bennett has decided not to fill the chief education officer’s job she is vacating.

That will return the system to the management structure it had for decades until former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 1995 school takeover. That is, a superintendent who serves as both CEO and chief education officer, similar to the head coach and general manager of a professional sports franchise.

“Barbara is in it for the long haul. She wants to get CPS to the next level. The hope is, this is it. We get to buckle in for a while. The system needs stability,” the City Hall source said.

The source noted that Byrd-Bennett forged an “authentic connection" with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis during contract negotiations.

“The debate has become so polarized between reformers and union folks, but Barbara transcends both and that's a tremendous strength. She's a unique character who plays in both ponds," the City Hall source said.

“She approachable, open and a straight-shooter. People respond well to her communication style. She's incredibly smart and hard-driving, but there's a warmth to her. She's been here on the ground for a year, learning the system, meeting with aldermen and ministers. She's got about a dozen more years of experience [than Brizard did]. She's gonna be great. She can do this. She's the right fit."

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), longtime chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee now serving as the mayor’s floor leader, said of Brizard’s departure, “I don’t see it as a blow or an embarrassment. Finding somebody to run that system, given the challenges and the financial problems that it’s in, is not an easy thing. It just didn’t work out. Not all choices do.”

O’Connor said going on vacation in the run-up to the strike showed a “real lack of judgment” on Brizard’s part. But that’s not what sealed the schools CEO’s fate.

“He had some issues in terms of implementing things the board wanted to see done and this building wanted to see done over there,” the alderman said.

"In part, it is the fact that the bureaucracy is considerably bigger than the one he was previously in charge of. And it is very difficult for somebody to come in from the outside and hit the ground running. If they want to hurt you over there, that bureaucracy can hurt you — either by intentionally not helping you or just not being willing to make a change and hunkering down until the change passes over."


Brizard out as CPS CEO, By John Byrne, Noreen Ahmed-Ullah and Rosemary R. Sobol Tribune reporters 10:15 p.m. CDT, October 11, 2012

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard is out, to be replaced permanently by the school system's chief education officer, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday.

Brizard, who has been the CEO for about 17 months, made a mutual decision with the mayor that it was best he leave the top school post, mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said.

"J.C. spoke with (School Board President) David Vitale and the mayor, and said 'I'm becoming a distraction. This is becoming more about me than it is about our mission to help the kids,'" Hamilton said.

Brizard confirmed it was a “mutual agreement’’ between himself and the mayor about leaving.

Brizard said he was the one who came to the mayor and the board, after he heard “rumors’’ in Tribune reports that the mayor wasn’t happy. “I approached him about a week and a half ago, and I think we agreed that it is best that we separated,’’ Brizard said tonight in a telephone interview. “I’m the one who started the conversation.’’

“I think perhaps there were issues; I call it a marriage that was perhaps imperfect,’’ said Brizard. “My style and personality is maybe not what the mayor wants.’’

Brizard said he did not specifically know exactly what issues the mayor might have had with him.

“I have to tell you it’s a little bit of melancholy and mixed emotions because I’ve come to love the people who work in CPS,’’ Brizard said. “I love to work with kids ... that’s more important to me that keeping a job. This is stressful but at the same time It’s about the city.’’

The mayor, he said, was “very cordial’’ during their discussion. “He had been a gentleman throughout all of this and very honest.’’

“One thing I can promise you is that I’m not going to walk away from working with young people,’’ said Brizard. Brizard said he has mixed emotions about leaving, saying he and his wife have come to love the city.

“I love the city. I love the kids. I think you have amazing teachers here and amazing principals, and I would have loved to stay and work with them for many many years,” Brizard said. “At the same time the mayor has to have the person he is comfortable with.’’

“But at the same time I have felt he is not comfortable with me,’’ he said. “And he (mayor) deserves that right.’’

Brizard is proud of the work he has done in the last 16 months.

“We have made tremendous gains and I don’t want to be a barrier to that type of work,’’ he said. “The graduation rates are up and the dropout rates are the lowest in CPS history.’’

“I know what I am doing. I have worked in New York City for 22 years,’’Brizard said. “It is the largest school district in the nation."

Brizard said he’s not sure what's next for him.

“I have a number of options,’’ he said. He may stay in Chicago, but is taking some time off before deciding his future.

His leaving as CEO was effective immediately, as of Wednesday, he said. But he will remain on the board as an employee for a “few more weeks.’’

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a former CEO in the Cleveland school system who has been serving as the interim chief education officer for CPS, will take over Brizard's post, effective immediately, Hamilton said.

Brizard's decision to step down "was fairly recent," Hamilton said.

Brizard’s departure had been rumored for weeks, speculation that gained steam as he was virtually absent during much of the drama of a seven-day teachers strike and negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union.

In late August amid heated negotiations between the district and the teachers union, sources told the Tribune that education and business leaders told Brizard that the mayor would blame him for letting the labor situation with teachers get out of hand.

Emanuel flatly denied that report and expressed full confidence in his schools chief. “As soon as I heard about this, I called J.C. and said, 'You focus on the full school day, full school year. You're doing a great job.' “ Emanuel said.

But Brizard's management style was criticized by the Chicago Board of Education in his annual evaluation. The board gave Brizard low marks for the way he communicates and runs the district.

“The organizational effectiveness of CPS could be substantially improved with a more coherent and decisive management decision-making process,” board President David Vitale wrote in a June 11 letter to Brizard that accompanied the review.

Still, Vitale commended Brizard for a “challenging, but solid year” and wrote that he is “off to a good start in year one and there is significant potential to have year two and beyond be even better.”

Brizard also has drawn fire for high turnover in both cabinet-level positions and department heads. The chief education officer resigned in April on the heels of two other cabinet-level departures.

Emanuel named Brizard as the district’s CEO in April 2011, a month before Emanuel officially became mayor.

Brizard came to Chicago from Rochester, N.Y., where he spent about three years as schools superintendent. He was also a teacher and administrator in New York City for 20 years.

Emanuel charged him with the task of instituting a longer school day and year, which turned out to be a lengthy and arduous protest that drew significant opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union as well as many parents.


In my 26 year career in education, I have had many different roles with one commitment -- the success of students.

As an educator, I knew for students to be successful here in Chicago we needed to refocus the District to work on the fundamentals of teaching and learning, developing a new framework for teaching. Some have called it a masterpiece. The credit belongs to my hard-working team including many teachers and principals who contributed to the work. As the district leader, I am proud of the results we achieved in such a short time: graduation rates are up, test scores are improving, a higher percentage of freshman are on track for graduation, we achieved the lowest one-year drop-out rate in the city’s history and we have seen tremendous growth on the ACT – an important college readiness benchmark.

As I move on to the next chapter of my career, my commitment to the success of students and the elimination of inequities within our educational system remains the same.

I have three young children. It is time to focus on their development. We all know the best gift that you can give to a child is time.

I leave this role with great sadness, but with the knowledge that the seeds for true innovation and transformation have been planted. They only need to be cultivated."


October 12, 2012 at 7:13 AM

By: John Kierig

Headline in the scum-times...

...this morning: "WHY BRIZARD HAD TO GO"

Why? because otherwise, this mess would be Rahm's fault. And, as we all know, it's NEVER NEVER EVER Rahm's fault.

October 13, 2012 at 12:24 AM

By: David R. Stone

Bye-Bye Brizzard, soundbite version

Great analysis by Substance, but too wordy for the mainstream media. Here's the soundbite version.

1. The mayor brought Brizard to Chicago to bust the union.

2. He failed, so he's gone.

3. The mayor is still in charge, so it doesn't really matter who takes over as CEO of Chicago's schools.

-David R. Stone

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