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Brizard Reflects On First Year Of Running Chicago Schools

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard (Credit: CBS)

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard (Credit: CBS)

Dana Kozlov Dana Kozlov
Dana Kozlov is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. She...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s been a bit more than a year on the job for Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. Some critics have said it’s been a bumpy, road with many obstacles ahead for Brizard – including a potential teachers’ strike.

CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov sat down with Brizard on Monday to talk about what he’s done, and what happens next.

It was all smiles for Brizard at a Monday morning meeting, but after 13 months on the job, he acknowledged that isn’t always the case.

“Change never comes without some pushback, and some – perhaps – discomfort amongst people in the city,” Brizard said

There’s been a lot of change in Brizard’s first year running the schools. Under mayor Rahm Emanuel’s direction, Brizard has moved to implement new common core curriculum standards, lengthen the school day, and face a possible teachers strike – fueled by the Chicago Teachers Union’s frustrated members.

CTU President Karen Lewis has been a frequent critic of Brizard in recent months, accusing him of demonizing teachers, failing to work with the union on reform efforts, and pushing for more charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools.

“We are tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed by the district and by the city of Chicago. Enough is enough,” Lewis said earlier this month before teachers voted to authorize a strike, should contract talks with the city break down.

But Brizard said he is confident the teachers’ anger can be resolved without a strike.

“I know it can be resolved without a strike, and I think it’s conversation. Clearly, we have to do a better job of internal messaging,” he said. “We’ve got to do much more in terms of making sure they understand that they have a voice.”

Brizard said he’s talked to former Chicago Public Schools chiefs Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, and Ron Huberman about what has worked and what hasn’t.

As for the administration’s top priority of instituting a longer school day and longer school year – even when the district is already facing a $600 million to $700 million budget shortage – Brizard said “how can we not afford to give the kids that we have in front of us the best possible chance of success?”

His short answer for paying teachers for the extra class time was to reprioritize existing funds.

“Ultimately, what I want to do is give the money to the people who are closest to kids – our principals and our teachers – and let them decide; with some standards and controls from downtown,” he said.

But the verdict’s still out on whether Brizard’s changes will vastly improve the schools.

While graduation rates were up this year, so was skepticism from some critics, who have claimed Brizard is trying to undermine the union’s collective bargaining power – something he denies.

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