Some intital input from Brizard
I found this article on the NYTimes site, via the Chicago News Cooperative about Brizard’s initial thoughts/plan as CEO of our beloved school system. I have to say, I’m liking what he’s saying. For such a huge, unwieldy system with a million challenges, he seems to have distilled things pretty quickly and pretty well. At the very least, following a path towards some of his big goals seems like a step in the right direction. I know he’s been criticized for being so Pro-Charter, but the fact that he’s readily recognized what is largely a 2-tier system in CPS (neighborhood versus lottery) is pretty refreshing. I feel like it’s long been the unspoken, no? Or ignored? Not that he’s said how he’ll fix it (which is the million dollar question, given the lack of billion dollar funding.)
But for now, I like the idea of a focused leader with some inspiring big ideas taking the helm.
With three meetings already under his belt by 10 a.m. on the Monday of his second full week on the job, Jean-Claude Brizard, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, rode in his city-issued Ford Crown Victoria to visit Northside College Prep High School.
From the passenger seat, Mr. Brizard took a deep breath and spoke with a reporter who was spending the day with him. “In some ways, the system reminds me of Frankenstein’s monster,” he said of the nation’s third-largest school district. “In the sense that there’s lots of great reform done, but not to completion.”
Mr. Brizard’s tightly scheduled day embodied his challenges and priorities. From meeting with business leaders to calling the families of the four students fatally shot since he took office, he was beginning to grapple with a system with complex needs and little recent stability.
For now, Mr. Brizard is focused on restructuring C.P.S.’s administration, developing better principals and cleaning up what he calls the “collateral damage” of past reforms. He would like to complete an unfinished teacher-evaluation system and bring order to a disjointed expansion of charter schoolsunder Renaissance 2010, a reform program started in 2006 that aimed to open 100 new schools in four years.
Some of the city’s best schools rose out of that movement, now led largely by a successor group, New Schools for Chicago. But many neighborhood schools were left behind, Mr. Brizard said.
“I think the New Schools work so far has been good, but what it’s done, from what I’ve seen so far, is it’s created two different school systems,” he said. “That’s what I meant by collateral damage.”
Mr. Brizard has spent most of his time since he started the job getting acquainted: visiting schools, meeting with top officials, giving news-media interviews and reaching out to parents. Before coming to Chicago, Mr. Brizard led the school district in Rochester, N.Y., where he earned a reputation as a superintendent who alienated union members but pleased the city’s corporate community.
Mr. Brizard’s Monday started at 6 a.m. with staff meetings at C.P.S. headquarters in the Loop. By 9 a.m. he visited a top floor of Chase Tower to meet privately with John W. Rowe, the chief executive of Exelon and chairman of New Schools for Chicago.
Afterward, Mr. Brizard said New Schools had grown frustrated with the poor organization of the bureaucracy of C.P.S.
“There’s a lot of amazing talent within the district but no coherent strategy,” Mr. Brizard said. “I think it lacks discipline.”
As the fourth top C.P.S. executive in four years, Mr. Brizard sees a need to bring stability to the top job. “We don’t want people to develop sort of a mind-set that ‘this too shall pass,’ ” Mr. Brizard said. “You want them to believe that this is going to be for the long haul.”
Mr. Brizard, 47, intends to make that point by laying down roots. He will rent a Lincoln Park apartment for now and plans to move in, along with his wife, Brooke, and their 18-month-old son, this weekend. He said he planned to buy a home in the city within a year.
“I’m a Midwesterner now,” Mr. Brizard said, though there are certain accommodations he may never make. He is determined never to refer to a soft drink as pop. He still craves New York-style pizza. But in deference to his new North Side location, he says he will back the Cubs.
Back at central office for a noon meeting, Mr. Brizard and top C.P.S. officials faced a video projector displaying a chat-room-like window on a screen across the conference-room table. A Webcam broadcast Mr. Brizard and his team to the other side of cyberspace, where hundreds of C.P.S. principals waited, with hundreds of questions regarding their new budgets.
While Rahm Emanuel campaigned for mayor, his education platform focused heavily on holding principals more accountable and providing them more autonomy in exchange for good performance.
“People talk about teacher effectiveness, but it really is about the principal,” said Mr. Brizard, a former principal. “If you have an amazing leader and if you give them the tools, they will recruit the best, they’ll sustain, retain and push out people who shouldn’t be in front of kids.”
As Mr. Brizard left the conference room, an ABC camera crew met him for an interview and by 2 p.m., he was in Bronzeville, talking with the editorial board of The Chicago Defender. Back to his desk by 3:30, Mr. Brizard made a round of phone calls to members of the City Council’s Hispanic caucus, inviting them to a meet-and-greet.
Though now he finds himself in front of cameras, he said he was more comfortable behind one: He once dreamed of becoming a photojournalist. He helped pay his way through college by photographing bar mitzvahs and weddings.
“I wanted someone to give me a nice camera and drop me in a war zone somewhere,” he said. Given the challenges at C.P.S., he may be getting half of what he wanted.
Entry filed under: Uncategorized.