Published Online: April 26, 2011
Published in Print: April 27, 2011, as Brizard Tapped to Lead Chicago Schools

News in Brief

Brizard Tapped to Lead Chicago Schools

Jean-Claude Brizard, the Rochester, N.Y., superintendent who faced a symbolic no-confidence vote by teachers earlier this year, is now preparing to take over as the chief executive officer of the Chicago public schools.

Mr. Brizard, who was named to the Chicago post last week by Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, spent most of his career as a teacher and administrator in the New York City schools before becoming superintendent of the 32,000-student Rochester district in 2007. He has been a lightning rod there, in part because of his support for charter schools and merit pay.

Last fall, Mr. Brizard signed a three-year contract extension in Rochester. But he also faced increasing hostility from teachers, who voted overwhelmingly in February that they did not support his ability to lead. About 80 percent of the teachers participated in the vote, organized by the Rochester Teachers Association, and 95 percent of them gave him a vote of no confidence, according to the union.

Jean-Claude Brizard speaks to reporters after Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel introduced him as the next chief executive of the Chicago public schools.
—Jean Lachat/AP

In his letter of resignation, he focused on accomplishments, such as an increase in the graduation rate, a decrease in the suspension rate, and a school modernization plan.

Mr. Brizard, who describes himself as a reformer, is a 2007 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains leaders to work in urban districts. He spent 21 years as a science teacher and administrator in New York City, and served as a regional superintendent, supervising more than 100 schools with 100,000-plus students, before moving to Rochester.

Mr. Emanuel, a former congressman who served as President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff, takes the reins of the city on May 16 from retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has had mayoral control of the 409,000-student school system since 1995.

The district’s previous chief executive officers have included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Paul Vallas, now superintendent in New Orleans’ Recovery School District. For the past five months, Chicago’s schools have been overseen by Terry Mazany, the chief executive officer of the Chicago Community Trust, a community foundation.

Vol. 30, Issue 29, Page 5

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