Post strike post script: Brizard gets the axe.

14 Oct

I said I wouldn’t write about politics for a while, but this is a juicy postscript to the strike. Jean Claude Brizard—oh, he of such profound professional failure—“resigned” this past week. You can read some of his carefully considered response here.

I’ll summarize for you. He takes no responsibility and lays no blame: the perfect political speech.

He came in with a parade of red flags. In Rochester, NY, a whopping 82 percent of the teachers’ voted no confidence in his abilities. They ran him out of town. There were two federal lawsuits. There were rumors of bullying, discrimination and bull-headed stubbornness. Sounds familiar.

Rahmbo liked this so much he brought Brizard aboard. (Who doesn’t admire autocratic arrogance and public failure?) Rahmbo wanted a yes man, a personal hatchet man, to cut and chop and rip and wrench and mangle and slice and dismember the teachers’ union. By all accounts Brizard has two modes. As a yes man for the mayor, and as an overconfident autocrat who fixates on a handful of tiny “reforms,” but can’t communicate effectively, resulting in mutual frustration all around.

Brizard was Rahmbo’s smiling assassin. He publicly said how much he cared for the teachers, and in an almost weekly email sent to Chicago’s teachers, he continued to express his concern for us. He even offered little nuggets of praise. But he worked against us from the start. He was the point man on the longer school day, refusing to slow the process down so that the extra time could be planned for and used wisely. He tried to bribe schools—illegally—to enter the longer school day voluntarily. He tried to circumvent the teachers’ union in a variety of sneaky ways. Like so many other political appointees, he expected the rank and file to take a pay cut while he made no sacrifice at all. He was opaque, often missing in action, deliberately misleading the public about basic facts. He was aloof from the contract proceedings and a champion of charter schools.

Karen Lewis says that he was brought in “to blow up the union.” Fortunately for teachers, he was ineffective at his work.

His exit an expected move; politicians (and kings) always pick an underling to take the blame for a mistake. Brizard, by all accounts, was a good soldier and did what he was told. He was a hired gun, a henchman. His mistake, it seems, was giving Rahmbo bad advice early in his job.

“He promised Rahm,” Daryl, my friend and colleague, said, “that the teachers would never strike. And Rahm believed him.”

Don’t shed any tears. His tenure as the head honcho at CPS lasted less than two years. He takes with him a year’s worth of severance pay. That’s some $250,000. In a cash-strapped public school system in an underfunded city in a struggling state. To add a little extra spice to the whole thing, Rahmbo lied about Brizard being on his way out, while already having Byrd picked as Brizard’s successor.

(For a full accounting of Rahmbo’s bungling of the whole mess, read here.)

Goodbye, Jean Claude, our sweet, toothy failure. We shall not miss you.


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