Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel named Jean-Claude Brizard the CEO of Chicago Public Schools this morning.
Brizard resigned as the superintendent of the Rochester, N.Y. schools this afternoon after nearly three years there. Before coming to Rochester, Brizard worked in the New York City public school system for 21 years, moving from a junior high science teacher to a regional superintendent in charge of over 100,000 students at more than 100 K-12 schools. He signed a new contract in Rochester at the end of 2010.
In his resignation letter, Brizard took credit for a five-year plan for improvement in Rochester schools, a dramatic decrease in suspensions, cutting spending and giving more control over school budgets to principals. The school board posted his letter of resignation online.
Brizard is recognized for improving the graduation rate in Rochester by 12 percent since his start there in 2008. He also implemented an in-school suspension program, which kept kids who were suspended in separate classes from their peers.
He is a major proponent of closing poorly performing schools, and recently butted heads with the Rochester School Board over the closing of two elementary schools. Hundreds of parents and teachers turned out to protest the decision, and the school board ultimately rejected it.
Despite the conflict, the majority of the board announced their support for Brizard in an April 15 press conference called to address rumors of his plans to leave. Rochester School Board President Malik Evans said it was important for Brizard to finish the reforms he began.
In an article printed while his contract was being negotiated, some in Rochester called Brizard pushy and incapable of making teachers feel like partners in the education system.
Brizard left a strained relationship with the Rochester teachers over his support for charter school expansion and merit pay. The Rochester Teachers Association gave a no-confidence vote in his ability to lead in February 2011.
Brizard is a graduate of the Superintendent’s Academy at the Broad Center for Management of Public School Systems, a training ground for superintendents in many of the country’s urban areas.
Chicago’s school system is roughly 10 times the size of Rochester’s. Brizard recently proposed cutting 900 jobs in Rochester schools in an effort to close an $80 million gap in the budget.
The superintendent faces a Chicago school budget shortfall of $720 million and a contract negotiation with the Chicago Teachers Union that is expected to be contentious.
Brizard will take office May 16, the same day as Emanuel.