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Emanuel Not Bothered By Lawsuits Against Brizard

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Jean-Claude Brizard

Jean-Claude Brizard is set to take over as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel says he’s not troubled by criticisms of incoming Public Schools chief executive officer Jean-Claude Brizard, or even federal lawsuits filed against him.

As WBBM Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, Emanuel is quick to acknowledge that Brizard ruffled feathers as school superintendent in Rochester, N.Y.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

But given the problems in that system, Emanuel said he would hope Brizard would have ruffled feathers, and says he might also have to do so in Chicago.

“Where we’re not succeeding, I want to measure how they turned that around, which is why I called for a five-year performance contract for every school,” Emanuel said. “I do expect a system that has those results to be turned around, and to turn it around, you’ll have to shake it up, and that’s OK.”

Last year, Brizard was subjected to a federal discrimination lawsuit by Rochester deputy school superintendent Marilyn Patterson-Grant, whom he was accused of firing “without cause” and later claiming that he had “concerns with her performance.”

In the lawsuit, Brizard is also accused of calling Patterson-Grant “old” and making remarks about “strong black women.”

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission found probable cause last year that Patterson-Grant had been fired because of her age, race and gender, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Brizard was also accused in another lawsuit of sending teachers under investigation to an alternative do-nothing worksite called the “rubber room,” the Sun-Times reported. The practice, which also gained notoriety in New York City, was the subject of a “This American Life” radio documentary in 2008.

But Emanuel told reporters that lawsuits like the one Brizard faced in Rochester are part of the territory when a school district leader is trying to make major changes. He says U.S. Secretary of Education and former Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan faced similar accusations.

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