CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time since the teachers’ strike began, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard spoke out this afternoon, first denying a widespread rumor that he had resigned. He also discussed why he hasn’t been attending negotiations personally.
After rumors spread Wednesday afternoon that Brizard had stepped down, his office announced he would be attending a roundtable discussion at Roberto Clemente Academy Community High School.
“The fact is, I’m not sure where that originated. I heard this come from the CTU, at one of the rallies,” Brizard said at Clemente on Wednesday afternoon. “My assumption was that it was meant to distract a lot of people. So we made sure we put that to bed quite quickly.”
The rumor apparently started at a rally outside Dyett High School on Wednesday, when a speaker told the crowd of striking teachers and their supporters that he’d heard Brizard had resigned. The rumor quickly spread on Twitter and CPS tweeted a copy of an email Brizard sent to CPS staff, stating “the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
“The fact that I am writing to you directly means that the report is a lie and is meant to distract you. I am deeply committed to the students of Chicago, and to the work of ensuring that they get a world-class education,” he wrote. “I have been in urban education for more than 26 years and I would never abandon my post, especially during a crisis. Please stay focused and keep the faith. See you soon.”
Although Brizard had not had any public appearances since Sunday–when he was at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s side after the Chicago Teachers Union announced it was going forward with a strike–Brizard said he’s been busy visiting various school principals.
“I spent the last few days, actually, in schools, with my principals and staff and kids of those schools. In fact, the first day I actually stopped and talked to a number of the protesters and the picketers in front of schools,” Brizard said.
He said, on the first day of the strike, he visited Walt Disney Magnet Elementary School.
On Wednesday, Brizard attended a principal roundtable at Clemente, where school leaders gave their opinions about two sticking points within teacher contract negotiations: teacher evaluations and guidelines for recalling laid off teachers.
He also addressed the rumors about why he’s been absent from the negotiating table, saying he has left contract talks up to Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale and the district’s negotiating team.
He said that has allowed him to focus on developing school curriculum, and preparing for kids to return to classes when the strike ends, “because again, this too will pass, and we have to make sure that we come back as a community.”
Brizard said, although he has not been sitting at the negotiation table, he receives updates every hour, and has been weighing in on the decisions.