Former Rochester City School District superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard is facing a huge test in Chicago, one that could cost him his job.
Brizard left Rochester at the end of the 2011 school year to lead the 400,000-student Chicago district. Chicago is under a mayoral control system.
Teachers plan to strike on Monday. The Chicago Tribune reports
Mayor Rahm Emanuel may let Brizard take the fall:
Brizard's management style was criticized by the Chicago Board of Education in his annual evaluation, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune. The board gave Brizard low marks for the way he communicates and runs the district.
"The organizational effectiveness of CPS could be substantially improved with a more coherent and decisive management decision-making process," board President David Vitale wrote in a June 11 letter to Brizard that accompanied the review.
Still, Vitale commended Brizard for a "challenging, but solid year" and wrote that he is "off to a good start in year one and there is significant potential to have year two and beyond be even better."
During Brizard's first year, the district saw graduation rates go up and high school test scores increase.
But two high-ranking education sources said Emanuel is unhappy with how Brizard executed the mayor's signature education proposal for a longer school day and year. In addition, the Emanuel administration bristled at Brizard's decision to take two weeks off in July before an arbitrator largely sided with the union on several key issues, including compensating teachers for the longer school day.
Teachers are angry over a raise that had been rescinded, longer school days, merit pay proposals and what they see as a general lack of respect for their profession. The city’s current raise offer stands at 2 percent and the city withdrew its merit pay proposal.
In Rochester, teachers overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Brizard’s leadership.A Tribune columnist wrote about the controversy
surrounding Brizard and called him the mayor’s “human shield.” John Kass speculated if teachers strike, Emanuel will fire Brizard and step in and make a deal:
School chiefs, like police chiefs, are not mere administrators. In political terms they are human shields, buffers of skin and bone standing between the mayor and bad news. They're grown-ups, so they know they are hired to be fired.
Brizard knew what a frontman was when he took the job. He didn't pick his own team. It was handed to him, like his $250,000-a-year contract, which he must have known was payment for what was to come.
Still, Brizard could have led. But by most accounts, he hasn't. And it's an open secret in Chicago, among aldermen and on the fifth floor of City Hall, that Emanuel has profound regrets.
Brizard’s two-year contract runs through May and he would get paid his full second-year salary if he’s let go.