CHICAGO (CBS) — J.C. Brizard, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s choice to run Chicago Public Schools, is not yet officially in the job, but is already at-work, reaching out to the teachers union.
Brizard was house-hunting Thursday and laying out his vision for CPS to CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine.
He says he’ll meet Monday with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. It could be a tense get-together, given his thoughts about teacher tenure and the length of the school day.
“I believe in deliberate speed. You move as quickly as you can, at the same time engaging community, the rank and file, about the work,” he told Levine.
Brizard arrived on time for his interview, with a tall, commanding presence, an easy manner and a thoughtful approach. He made no excuses for some rough sledding in the past.
“Of course you make some enemies in the process. This work does not come without a kind of pushback,” he said.
He’s never had it easy. His family fled the political oppression of his native Haiti. He was brought to the U.S. as a child, not speaking a word of English.
“When you come to this country as an immigrant, the opportunities here are way-high,” Brizard said.
He’s made the most of them, starting as a teacher, a principal, an administrator and now the point man for reforming one of the largest school systems in the country. If he has to take on the union to do it, so be it.
“Tenure shouldn’t be automatic. I think it’s a slap in the face of great teachers and the work that they do every single day,” he said.
On the length of Chicago’s short school day, does he expect teachers to stay longer for no additional pay?
“I’m a believer in differentiated pay, so restructuring the how we compensate teachers and principals is what we have to take a look at,” Brizard said.
Asked how he can get organized labor on board, he says: “The way you change feelings is you talk about it. I have to believe, and I do, that the leadership of the union really believes in kids and the welfare of kids.”
Still, the teachers union is as tough as they get. Getting them to agree to major changes in tenure and restructuring pay scales could make his problems in Rochester seem like child’s play.