New Schools Chief Schedules Meeting With Teachers’ Union

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.

  • tom sharp

    For those who know a little math, Brizard’s sincerity in dealing fairly with the Teachers Union will be inversely proportionate to the number of clout laden consultants and administrators he brings in from City Hall and points East.

  • Bud Ehrhardt

    Hi Mr. Brizard,If you can change this school system back to the 1960’s and have teachers with an I.Q. similiar to yours or have an I.Q. that is worthy to be a teacher,maybe you will find a teacher who is worthy of teaching Chicago’s children no matter what the creed or color! Their union is completely corrupt as I am sure you have been told! I,retired as a high ranking union official in a trade union and dealing with their officers made me ashamed to have to be seen with them or having to introduce them at a all city trade function! Sorry,but you don’t have the years left in your life to turn the school system,teachers or the nion around!!! You need immense luck and I hope you find it,maybe they will hire a “GENIE” to hilp you

  • Greg Kon

    Hey Bud, how can you throw all the teachers under the bus like that. Yes I must admit, there was the level of intelligence of the previous administration was weak, but that is changed now. And to smear 30,000 fellow union members who sacrifice on a daily basis in a system that is corrupt and really was never concerned about students, but just politics . So you want to see a Union destroyed or weakened by the political powers that be and used as a scape goat for the way this system is run from downtown incompetence. You are no friend of the worker sir, and you are ignorant of the facts. Painting the whole membership of the Chicago Teachers Union as unqualified, unintelligent, corrupt is ignorant. Teaching in the inner city s one of the most stressful jobs a person can have. If you look at the statistics, inner city teaching is ranked in health magazines above that of firefighter and police officer. When you work in a system that does not protect you, keep kids safe, makes school environments more dangerous with their policies and decisions it increases the stress. I would like to see you handle a classroom under the conditions we have to deal with. The types of behavior we see every day and is directed at us om a regular basis. These people are another set of heroes who work in these conditions to try and make differences in the lives of the children of this city and get no respect for it. Being a trade person you know about quality of the materials you use has a direct effect on the outcome of the level of the job done. Society, poverty, lack of parenting puts many of Chicago children deep in a moral, and academic hole that is difficult to raise to the expectations of false standards. You would be incompetent in your trade too, if you could not use the proper tools needed, were given inferior grade materials or damaged materials and told to make the top A grade product from that. That is what we are asked to do as educators across this country. We are not the parents, We are not the societal pressures that dump on these children. We have to deal with the wreckage of our societal ills on a daily basis and with what we have to work with we actually do a great job. We don’t see blood and guts usually but we see a lot of things and have to deal with a lot of issues that are destructive to a child’s education. I am very sorry what you experienced was the way it was but we are changing and there is a new dynamic and highly intelligent leadership at the Teachers Union now. You cant judge everyone by a few individuals and I thought a man of your position would be much more intelligent than that. Your I.Q. might not be what you think it is.

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