Rochester City School District
Jean-Claude Brizard, former Superintendent of Rochester, New York's schools, has been named chief of Chicago Public Schools by Rahm Emanuel. Brizard will head a board that includes Henry Bienen, former president of Northwestern University; Andrea Zopp, President of the Urban League; and Penny Pritzker.
Who is He: Brizard, the son of Haitian immigrants, comes from education stock. His father worked as a school principal and his mother as a teacher. Brizard received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Queens College in New York City and received an additional master’s degree in school administration and supervision from the City College of New York. He worked in the New York City school system for 21 years, achieving the post of regional superintendent. Before being appointed CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Brizard served as the superintendent of the Rochester City School District beginning in 2008. During his tenure in upstate New York, the Rochester school system saw an increase in graduation rates as well as improved scores in language arts and mathematics. Attempts to close schools without community hearings made him unpopular with some in Rochester and were seen as typical of his top-down management style. He also ran into problems with the teacher’s union in Rochester.
City Salary: Brizard's salary is temporarily at $250,000 with a contract to tie his compensation with performance.
Goals: Brizard shares Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of creating more options for parents, increasing high school graduation rates, and making schools a safe haven for students. He will begin his work in Chicago with a “Listening Tour” aimed at understanding the needs of Chicago public schools. He wants to see figures on college enrollment and college persistence used as a measure for success for high schools.
Challenges: Brizard must tangle with a $700 million deficit and will need to make difficult decisions to cut back spending in Chicago public schools. With $300 million owed from the state, he will need to show that the schools are tightening their own belt, but they expect to be repaid. A key moment for Brizard will be his interaction with the teacher’s union. With fears increased by the no confidence vote he received in Rochester from the teachers, he will need to be sensitive to the needs of teachers instead of attempting to work independently of them.