Dear Commons Community,
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard in an interview published by the Thomas Fordham Institute Thursday, reflected on his experiences working for Mayor Rahm Emanuel while leading CPS during the historic teacher strike in 2012. In the interview, he made it pretty clear there wasn’t too much love lost between him and Emanuel. The former CPS head said he and the Emanuel administration “severely underestimated” the Chicago Teachers Union’s ability to mobilize for the strike.
Brizard called Emanuel an “interesting man” who was “always ‘on’ and a master at managing media.” He added that the mayor is “frustrated by the challenges of a school system in crisis and a crime situation that is making international headlines” and described Emanuel’s biggest challenge as “to learn to let go and allow his managers to lead.”
To improve education in this country, Brizard comments:
“…the current structure is not working and is unsustainable. Let’s start by believing that the school is the unit of change. Therefore our reform efforts must pivot on the school-building leader who must understand that s/he is the primary human capital manager.
In the absence of a compelling reason to retain control centrally, school leaders, as the primary agents of change, should have freedom and flexibility over how best to use their resources (time, people, and money) to create meaningful changes that directly impact students. Let’s start by believing that operating within a clear framework of standards for student success, highly effective school leaders must use their resources to develop effective practices and innovative school designs, to best meet the needs of their students. Let’s start by believing that highly effective teachers must reinforce high expectations for all students and that they are responsible for (and should be supported to) provide instruction that is standards-aligned, student-centered, engaging, and data-informed.”
Brizard, who was handpicked by Emanuel in 2011 and then replaced following the teacher strike by Barbara Byrd-Bennett in 2012, now works as a senior advisor at the College Board in Washington, D.C. NBC Chicago notes, he is considered by many to be a possible future contender for New York City Public Schools chancellor.