Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard may have wanted to talk about the city's first strike in 25 years, but he had to first respond to rumors that he'd resigned or been fired. Christian Farr reports.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard hasn't resigned or been fired.
Talk of his ouster was rampant among the rank and file Wednesday, the third day of the city's first teacher strike in 25 years.
At Walter H. Dyett High School, on the city's South Side, people cheered when an NBC Chicago reporter mentioned what she'd heard and asked for comment.
While Brizard hadn't been seen publicly since Sunday, the mayor's office said talk of his departure was "not true."
Then came a Tweet from CPS via an email sent by Brizard: "The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." So widespread was the rumor that the Tweet carried a request for followers: "RT if someone told you this rumor today."
The Tweet carried the following message from Brizard:
"Today, at a CTU rally it was announced that I had resigned from my position as CEO. The fact that I am writing to you directly means that the report is a lie and is meant to distract you. I am deeply committed to the students of Chicago and to the work of ensuring that they get a world-class education. I have been in urban education for more than 26 years and I would never abandon my post, especially during a crisis. Please stay focused and keep the faith. See you soon."
How soon was soon? Soon.
Brizard appeared about 90 minutes later for a roundtable discussion at Roberto Clemente Academy Community High School, where teacher recalls and evaluations were the topics at-hand.
"It's about the right person who is going to fit in the community," he said of principal autonomy -- giving the principals the power to hire and fire teachers.
Several principals on hand said it's unfair to hold them accountable for teachers' performance when they don't get a role in the hiring process.
"Taking that away from me wouldn't be good for the students," said principal Cheryl Watkins.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis maintains that any new hires should come from the hundreds who have been laid off due to budget cuts. Hiring any other teachers, it's viewed, would be a form of union busting.
As teacher talks went down to the wire in advance of the strike, Brizard late last month found himself denying talk he was on the way out. A published report indicated that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was frustrated with his hand-picked chief. The mayor himself said the report was inaccurate, telling reporters that Brizard is "doing a great job."
NBC Chicago has an array of reporters and producers covering the Chicago teacher strike. Check our live blog for continuous coverage and updates throughout the strike.