As the clock ticks down to a looming Chicago teachers strike, could the man in charge of the school district be on his way out?
CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard says he's not going anywhere, despite a report that his job may be in jeopardy. The Chicago Tribune reports Mayor Rahm Emanuel is very frustrated with Brizard and could let him go as soon as a new contract is reached. Emanuel's office and Brizard have denied the report.
"I spoke with the mayor last night," Brizard told NBC Chicago on Friday. "He's got complete confidence in my leadership, we're working hand-in-hand. In fact his message to me was, 'Focus, get this done, make sure our schools open on time.'"
Negotiations with teachers continue, but the union voted unanimously Thursday to hit the picket lines on Sept. 10, the earliest teachers can strike after filing a 10-day notice this week.
"We're tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed," CTU president Karen Lewis said at a news conference following the vote. "We have done everything asked of us, yet we continue to be vilified and treated with disrespect."
Supporters of Brizard say his management is handicapped by the mayor's micromanaging, but the schools chief denied that too.
"We have an amazing school board and an amazing negotiating team," he said. "We're doing everything possible to do wonderful things for our kids. We don't feel micromanagement from City Hall. We're doing our work and moving forward."
Brizard said he'll work with teachers through the weekend on the contract and also continue making preparations for students in the event of a strike.
The district plans to keep 145 schools open for half-days if teachers walk off the job. The schools would remain open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to provide activities to children and keep them engaged in independent reading, arts, sports and computer-based programming.
“These plans are simply a precaution," Brizard said Thursday, "but we have an obligation and responsibility to our children and their parents to make sure they are not left behind in the event of a strike.”