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Ex-CPS Boss Brizard Speaks: Emanuel Needs To Let Go

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard talks with public school principals at a roundtable discussion about issues critical to contract talks in the ongoing Chicago teachers' strike on Sept. 12, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard talks with public school principals at a roundtable discussion about issues critical to contract talks in the ongoing Chicago teachers’ strike on Sept. 12, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

CHICAGO (CBS) — The former head of the Chicago Public Schools, ousted after a politically disastrous teachers’ strike last fall, is opening up about his experience in Chicago and with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Jean-Claude Brizard, in an interview published on an education policy website, said Emanuel is a “master” at managing the media, but said the mayor’s “one challenge is to learn to let go and allow his managers to lead.”

Brizard acknowledged that he and Emanuel “disagreed on process at times,” according to the interview with Andy Smarick of the Thomas Fordham Institute.

He also said he never saw the political-bare-knuckles/take-no-prisoners reputation of the mayor, but said he could “certainly see that possible side.”

“I experienced a man who loves his family dearly and is frustrated by the challenges of a school system in crisis and a crime situation that is making international headlines,” Brizard said.

Brizard became a casualty of the week-long Chicago Public Schools teachers strike last fall.

He stepped down shortly after the strike was settled and played little or no role in those negotiations.

“We severely underestimated the ability of the Chicago Teachers’ Union to lead a massive grassroots campaign against our administration,” he said.

“It takes a ton of inner strength to watch 4,000 people in red shirts outside of your window protesting while a very heavy police presence looked on.”

Brizard was replaced by current Supt. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who oversaw the closing of nearly 50 elementary schools–the largest consolidation of schools in U.S. history.

Byrd-Bennett and the mayor are now focused on getting those students, teachers and parents affected by the closings accustomed to their new schools next week.