Rahm Emanuel said that Jean-Claude Brizard was an "experienced educator and proven manager," while Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, pointed out that the Rochester Teachers Association had an entirely different opinion of the man named to head the Chicago Public School System. Apparently Rochester Teachers gave Brizard a 95% vote of no-confidence just two months ago. Chicago's Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) also pointed to data that the four-year graduation rate in Rochester dropped at point in his tenure. PURE's Julie Woestehoff asked "So why are we bring him here?"
I guess that is a good question. Then again, we have to ask why Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel not only hired a guy that just signed a three year contract in February to head the 32,000 student Rochester City School District, but why he named Penny Pritzker to the board. Pritzker may be an education advocate, but I suspect that appointment had more to do with family campaign contributions. Others named to the school board are Jesse Ruiz, the current chair of the Illinois State Board of Education, who will serve as vice president and former Northwestern University President Henry Bienen.
As for Brizard, many in Rochester can't wait to see him leave, although that characterization should worry Chicago residents as they send their kids to a school system that has long been viewed as mismanaged and dysfunctional. Howard Eagle, a member of Rochester's Community Education Taskforce, has called Brizard's management style as "dictatorial and very top down." He also said that " We are glad to see him go" but that "We wouldn't wish him on anyone."
Adam Urbanski, head of the Rochester Teachers Association said he questions the veracity of an $80 million Rochester public school deficit Brizard announced about a month ago, along with plans to lay off 770 teachers -- about 20 percent of the workforce.
And, Urbanski said, Brizard tried to jam through school closings without community hearings -- something school board members later ordered him to provide. Brizard later became the subject of the union's first no-confidence vote in at least 30 years.
"We had a difficult three years because Jean Claude Brizard's definition of shared decision making was to make a decision and then share it with others,'' Urbanski said.
Well, if all these comments about Jean-Claude Brizard are correct, then it would appear that Rahm Emanuel has done Chicago a great disservice and added more fuel to the fire in Karen Lewis' argument that his choices are "focused on failed quick fix public relations and privatizing schools.'' Then too, isn't that the same thing that Arne Duncan tried to do as well? Personally, I am still amazed that Duncan was tapped for the U.S. Secretary of Education where he continues to politicize education instead of fixing the problems.
The irony, of course, is that President Obama has said he was committed to reforming education while appointing someone who makes a better basketball opponent than an advocate for getting back to the basic foundations of education.
If Arne Duncan was a picture of success as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, then I don't like the direction that we are going in when it comes to education.
Sadly, education has become a convenient target of politicians, right and left. However, what is being missed is that the rest of the world is quickly passing us by while our children are given less resources to succeed in a global economy. Parents and teachers alike should be concerned that there has been a serious disconnect, not only in Washington, but in our own state. Quite frankly, politics needs to be taken out of education.
And I don't think hiring Brizard will accomplish that.
Rahm Emanuel will see to that.
Tags: Education: Jean-Claude Brizard: Rahm Emanuel: Chicago: Chicago Public Schools: Chicago Teachers Union: Rochester School District: Rochester Teachers Association: Arne Duncan: Penny Pritzker: Jessie Ru