Reaction rolling in on new CPS CEO Brizard
Posted by Noreen Ahmed-Ullah at 1:55 p.m.
City education reform groups are praising Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's selection today of Jean-Claude Brizard as the new Chicago Public Schools CEO while community groups are raising concerns.
Phyllis Lockett, who heads up the Renaissance Schools Fund, which raises money for charter schools in Chicago, gave Emanuel high marks for the team he put together.
“I think the mayor elect did a phenomenal job in welding a team with a good balance of business experience and education experience,” Lockett said. “That’s what you need to run a $6 billion system with the complexity of what strong education reform requires.”
But Julie Woestehoff, the executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, says she’s been getting “condolences” from community groups in Rochester, where Brizard spent a controversial three years.
The good news, Woestehoff said, is that Brizard brings an education background to the CPS CEO post, a change from outgoing Mayor Richard Daley's approach to filling that job.
“The downside is (Brizard) has a track record of top-down management, a track record of not listening to parents, but instead making fun of them. (The Rochester parents community) calls his leadership toxic and that’s not good news for Chicago.”
Woestehoff said what she’s heard from Rochester makes her feel Chicago is getting another Paul Vallas, who led CPS in the mid-1990s after Daley took control of the district following a law passed in Springfield. Woestehoff said she remembers Vallas coming in to his first board meeting and sitting down next to her, but once people complained about Vallas’ policies, they found themselves on the outside, she said.
“You can’t run a school system with that kind of attitude,” Woestehoff said.
Howard Eagle, who's part of a coalition of Rochester community groups called Parent and Community Coalition for Educational Change, clashed with Brizard on school closures and teacher pay for performance.
“We’re glad to see him go, but we wouldn’t wish him on anyone. We just hope he doesn’t (go there) and cause the same kind of upheaval he’s caused here," Eagle said.
Janet Knupp, CEO of the reform group the Chicago Public Education Fund, said Brizard has two things going for him as he starts here: Legislation working its way through the General Assembly to make major changes on teacher strikes and length of the school day, and the changing climate among teachers who Knupp says are “craving” a different type of profession.
Knupp, who founded that Chicago Public Education Fund, a venture philanthropy which has raised $50 million for CPS programs to improve city schools, said in recent focus groups she’s heard from teachers that they want to be evaluated, and that they want to figure out how to become better teachers.
“(Brizard) has a different tool kit to work from now. He needs to take advantage of the new legislation, and use it as leverage along with the willingness on the part of teachers to rethink the profession and rethink their commitment to grow and get results," she said.
Knupp said Rochester has faced some of the same issues as CPS, including a budget shortfall.
“The difficult choices that he’s making there, he’ll have to make it here,” Knupp said. “His challenges are exactly the same, but on a different scale.”