"No" On Firing Brizard

There are lots of rumors about Brizard's job being on the chopping block, and I have no reason to assume there's not some truth in them.  (John Kass calls Brizard Emanuel's "human shield.") There's no shortage of folks who would welcome the possibility of his departure, including angry teachers and frustrated insiders and anyone who doesn't like the Mayor. But here's the thing:  there's no good argument for letting Brizard go (beyond Mayoral convenience), and there are many for having him stay on. So be careful what you wish for. 

With some relatively minor exceptions, Brizard isn't to blame for most of what's gone wrong at CPS in the last year -- that's on Emanuel.   The premature declaration of the longer year?  Emanuel.  The embarrassing "Pioneers" program?  Emanuel. The senior staff that was hired along with Brizard?  Emanuel.  The antagonistic relationship with the teachers?  Emanuel.  Brizard might not have shown himself to be a brilliant leader but the main mistakes of 2011-2012 weren't his.

Brizard's departure wouldn't change much - in fact it might make things quite a bit worse.  Changing agency heads in short order, during the middle of a school year, is a recipe for inertia, if not disaster.  Firing Brizard would in some eyes take Emanuel off the hook, which I don't think does anyone any good. There's no obvious candidate to replace him who would do any better.



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  • In general I agree with Alexander's statement. But all of this is not taking place in a rational way. As I was quoted in the Tribune on Saturday the rummors were so wide spread and coming from so many people with links to City Hall that as Alexander says there is "no reason to assume there's not some truth in them."

    So why was this Mayoral unhappiness with CEO Brizard being leaked? What was the messaging being put out? Kass had one take on it which is very possible. Another take that I have heard is that Mayor Emanuel when he gets upset has limited control over his mouth and he very well may have trash talked about JC Brizard to multiple people over things that particulary upset the Mayor.

    If the last theory is correct and given JC is Ramh's leader in his current struggle with the CTU it wasn't a good move. If the Mayor was actually sending out a message about how CEO Brizard is functioning and seeking correction it is even more mysterious to me.

    Rod Estvan

  • Dear CEO JC Brizard, you will be fired by Mayor Rahm Emanual on his time table. JC, do you really trust Rahm?

  • Dr. Jennifer Cheatham would be a good replacement. She was a proven CAO. Area 9 had some of the highest gains in the District when she was leading those schools. She created structures for schools to follow and those that did continued to make gains after she left. She helped train principals to improve instruction in their buildings. She is one of the hardest working people at the Board. She has taught and has her Doctorate from Harvard in a Urban Superintendency program. What other CPS CEO can match that? Who cares if she has never been a principal before. That doesn't mean she isn't capable of the job. We have current Chiefs of Schools who were previous principals and they are failing in their positions now. She is far and above qualified. Those people that don't like her and criticize her probably do so because they simply just can't keep up with her. She is what CPS needs, and those that can't keep up with her shouldn't be in the system anyways because they probably aren't the best people to be working in CPS.

  • In reply to district299reader:


  • In reply to anonymous:


  • In reply to anonymous:

    ^^^^^That one symbol made me laugh so hard....

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Wait a sec, when I saw Dr. Cheatham at Morgan Park she was completely flustered by parent questions. Unable to answer, clueless, and completely tone deaf. What good is a doctorate from Harvard if you can't handle questions from a bunch of parents from Mt. Plywood? Sad but true, she couldn't keep up.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Jen? Is that you?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    You must be on LSD!-(not longer school day either!) Cheatham is part of this mess--a major player in this horrible game. She has wanted this job and on this blog, were issues about her and Denoso's fall. She needs to move on. Do you not know of all the testing she has punished students and teachers with? Look at the CPS published student testing schdule; you cannot deny, where being a principal would have made a rational difference here. REACH--Common Core--a whole list of this. Other than any money issue for CTU--the rest of this detestible and unprofessional utterances and acronyms are out of her shop.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I can see the new evaluation system now. It's called "Can You Keep Up With Cheatham". The CYKUWC system identifies and eliminates terrible teachers by the "Keep Up With Cheatham" metric. It's a highly refined tool that measures a teacher's ability to keep up with Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, the idol of high quality teachers nation-wide. This innovative system will address the district's teacher accountability mandate and improve teacher quality over night. Not all districts can be so lucky. Thank god we've got the CYKUWC here in Chicago. I know I'd be lost without it.

    This troll just seriously made my day.

  • In reply to Evan Velleman:

    Cheatam should be videoed in a 3rd grade class of 33 Chicago poverty students as a model for distinguished teacher.
    btw--what is Danielsons take on all this? How her 'system' is being used as punishemnt by REACH down and pull you to the ground.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    My colleague pointed out that Danielson is getting huge amounts of money to use this system. Not that I think she is corrupt, I just think it turned into a beast that she does not control anymore. If I were her I wouldn't say a whole lot about it. I would just cash my checks and write my books.

  • In reply to Evan Velleman:

    That would be nice. Then I'm sure your position would come open soon enough

  • In reply to district299reader:

    How hard is it to keep up with someone who can't answer a direct question?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It's weird to see these posts again praising Cheatham. It reminds me of a waiter I worked with in college who wrote fake, very complimentary graffitti about himself in the women's bathroom.

    The thing about Cheatham is that principals are the ones who really hate her. So what would be the point of installing her as CEO? I can see Rahm wanting someone like JCB, who--while generally resented by principals for his insincerity, his habit of not following up on requests and promises, and especially his failure to advocate for the resources schools need to implement new mandates--is understood to have been hired to antagonize teachers. But Cheatham is regarded as insecure and unrealistic and impossible to work with. Not that she is likely to be elevated to CEO; but to put such a person in place would be like what was done to Social Justice (and so many other schools)--installing an incompetent and vicious leader to kill the organization. Come to think of it, I can see how that might be Rahm's post-strike gift to the people of CPS.

  • Alexander and Rod,

    I respectfully disagree with you both. I think if you look at this through the lens of a classroom teacher (which I am), it would give you clarity as to the abysmal failure that JCB's first year has been. The system lacks a clear vision for the future, testing has increased in the last year (the average CPS student will take >60 standardized assessments through K-8), more than 150 schools still without a library, the rushed implementation o the REACH evaluation method, failing to present yourself to at least one negotiation session on behalf of the system you lead, hiring network chiefs (some, not all) who have come in and disrupted student learning and school cultures (SoJo) and who can forget the biggest failure of them all the "pioneer" program, when only 11 schools out of over 400 chose to adopt the longer day. The man has clearly shown that he lacks leadership and the ability to share the vision for the system and have others buy in. Alex, he will get fired. That's how Emmanuel rolls, he is ruthless and cutthroat as they come. If any political fallback were to be directed at Emmanuel, he will fire Brizard. I do agree with you though when you say, careful what you wish for. There were many of is who were happy when Daley announced he wouldn't run again. Need I go on?

  • In reply to Maestro:

    I am not going to provide a militant defense of CEO Brizard, for that matter Alexander didn't do that either. I don't agree with Mr. Birzard's acceptance of what could be called the NCLB, or his overall acceptance of the idea that schools have to be viewed effectively as production units with the principal as the key to fulfilling the target which is quantified as test data. But Mayor Emanuel would not have appointed him if he did not accept what can only be called the predominate educational narrative of America which includes also attempting to create educational competition in the public sector.
    But overall it is very difficult to determine on an individual level JC Brizard's managerial competence which Maestro seems to feel is lacking. Part of the problem I think is that the perspective of classroom teachers is to see the CEO as the full leader of CPS and that in my opinion has not been true since 1995 with the advent of Mayoral control. For example even Paul Vallas did not have full control over the CPS budget because Mayor Daley's office actually controlled the CFO, especially once he became fearful that Mr. Vallas had political ambitions beyond being an educational functionary. CPS is not a unified organization under the leadership of a CEO, it is a highly politicized organization with players who are only in some cases marginally under the control of the CEO. This didn't start with Mayor Emanuel, it started with Mayor Daley. The reason for this in my opinion lies in a fear located at City Hall of empowering a rival bureaucracy which to a large degree may be controlled by African Americans and Hispanics due to the student composition of the school district. In the Vallas case he actually attempted to mobilize minority subcontractors from CPS to help him run for office and tried hard to get a base in the minority community using his leverage at CPS.
    I would argue City Hall has an obsession with controlling the resources of CPS in order that rival power bases are not created. I do not think this is based in racism, but rather it is based on the very nature of the politics of big city governments. Even Mayor Washington had concerns about this. Now having said all of this and having met with CEO Brizard its clear to me he is clearly a very intelligent man who knew what he was getting into when he took this job. Is the job mission impossible? Maybe it is, even if part of the job was to strategically shrink the size of the traditional sector and expand the non-traditional charter and contract sector. Because its relatively easy to close down schools, turn them over to private providers, or funnel kids into charter schools. But it's not so easy to make this approach any more fiscally viable than traditional schools because educational management organizations or charter networks always will want more money because they like traditional schools are faced with a very daunting task of educating more and more poor children as they expand.

    Any person heading a big city school district is faced with a very fundamental problem which is poor families look to public k-12 education as one of their only viable pathway out of poverty for their children. They have relatively high expectations or hopes relating to the education of their children, especially in the primary grades. The leader of a big city school district is forced to assure these families that if their kids work hard, no matter how desperately poor they are, they too can make it. Yet they are also faced with the reality of limited public funding to make this happen. The statistics are clear that given the resources available a percentage of schools and children in them will on a national comparative basis academically fail, but as a leader they can never ever admit that. That's the paradigm big city superintendents are in across our nation.

    Rod Estvan

  • I think Anna Alvarado, the former principal of Hawthorne and current O'Hare network chief would be a terrific replacement for Brizard. She is well spoken, intelligent, advocates for teachers and students and families, has teaching experience and all her kids have gone through the CPS system. We'd be incredibly lucky to have someone like her lead our district. However, I would not be surprised if in a few years, she goes on to lead some really great suburban district because CPS just can't seem to attract or keep any decent leadership.

  • In reply to teacherparent:

    CPS rarely hires educators for these positions and certainly not someone from within the system. Why change a tried and true failure.

  • Alvarado needs more network expereince. She just got there. If she is that good, the suburbs wil call her first before CPS will. (She will be too old and costly by then.)

  • Wait-wait, who turned Rahm on to Brizard in the first place? It's not like Brizard appeared to Rahm in a dream...

  • Dear Union Members affiliated with CPS:
    Please do not report to a Contingency site if there is a strike by CTU this Monday. (I am not a CTU member.) Those union members who are already working at Contingency schools—yes, you must report, but your brothers and sisters can report to their everyday NON-contingency regular school and still be paid. Stay put there.
    Do not volunteer to go elsewhere, even if CPS says it will pay you 5 hours for 4—you know they will make you work 5 hours! (And probably make you grieve for it.)
    This is you chance and way to support solidarity and show your own union officers that you mean business with them too!
    Be a part of history. Stay put Monday.

  • In reply to district299reader:


  • In reply to district299reader:

    Thank you for asking teachers to become scabs.Despite this
    I think everything except the scab centers will be locked down.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    I was wrong for Monday pickets will be at their schools.

  • I think the point about JCB is that Rahm can use him to blame for any problems arrising this year. JCB will like be the scapegoat and yet another regime will come in and stir everything up again. In the 12 years I have been at CPS titles of administrators have changed every year or 2. Cluster manager became area manager and there were Leads and now network manager. I feel like it doesn't matter what change you make in naming it, leaving it the same is better. Stop changing everything so drastically it disrupts everything!!! My department wants to streamline and improve communication between departments and various schools in our "network." The first thing they have instituted is that you may no longer email principals directly. I understand that principals get things from every angle but how does stopping communication make communication better. Admin will advise principals with a streamlined, newsletter or email blast. We have things that need immediate attention from and for principals. The only way now to address this is to leave voicemail. That doesn't help. Everything is bogged down further and further in an attempt to make things easier they are regularly making everything more complex and convoluded. I am going to go back to my corner and focus on what I can get done with the students I work with. Our world works for us for now. Rest assurred my 35 students are progressing well.

  • Oh please no. Alvarado drives me crazy.

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