Bye, Brizard: Chicago Schools Bid Farewell to Another CEO

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — October 12, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki @jzubrzycki

Jean-Claude Brizard is no longer the CEO of Chicago’s public school district. Seventeen months into the former Rochester superintendent’s tenure, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Brizard will be replaced by Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who has served as the district’s chief education officer since last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times broke the news last night (my Twitter feed was a mash-up of Brizard-related exclamations and analyses of the VP debate). Brizard, who was hand-picked by the mayor, expressed sadness at his departure. But the party line from Emanuel and Brizard was that they jointly agreed that it was best for the district to have a fresh start. The mayor’s team said that Brizard’s departure was not an embarrassment or a sign of failure, and that bringing Brizard to the district was not a mistake. Brizard can claim to have presided over the district’s first year with an extended school day and over a decline in drop-out rates. Here’s Brizard’s full statement to the press from CBS, released late last night.

Emanuel said the ouster was partly due to the fact that both he and Brizard felt that speculation about a potential departure was becoming a “distraction” from the district’s core mission. The CEO’s position has seemed tenuous at least since this summer, when the Chicago Tribune reported that Brizard, and especially his management style, had received shaky reviews. We considered the possibility on the second day of the strike on this blog. By the middle of the strike, Brizard had to squelch rumors that he’d been laid off in an email to the district.

We wondered last month whether Emanuel would replace Brizard with someone who was more collaborative. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, like Brizard, spent time in the New York City public schools, and spent seven years as the CEO in Cleveland as that district transitioned to mayoral control. Here’s Catalyst Chicago’s reporting on Byrd-Bennett’s arrival in Chicago earlier this year. Byrd-Bennett was closely involved in negotiations during the recent teachers’ strike in Chicago, and apparently had a reputation in Cleveland for working well with the union there. However, the CTU’s representatives last night said that the transition of power was yet another sign of “chaos” at the top of the 404,000-student district, the AP reported.

The Sun-Times reported that Brizard would likely receive his $250,000-a-year salary this year—but also that Byrd-Bennett will likely not fill her own former position, marking a return to a management structure not seen in the district since Mayor Richard Daley’s state-mandated takeover of the district in 1995. We’ll see how that pans out in the next few weeks.

It will also be interesting to see where Brizard ends up next. Will his departure be taken as a second vote of no confidence—or will the Broad Academy-trained educator find himself in a new district eager for a reformer?

Want to keep up with school district and leadership news? Follow @district_doss on Twitter.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP