Brizard Out as CEO of Chicago Public Schools

Merely 17 months after his appointment, Jean-Claude Brizard, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, has resigned.

Brizard, who announced his resignation this Thursday, said that the decision to leave his post was made mutually between him and Mayor Rahm Emanuel after it became clear that his performance was proving a distraction in Emanuel’s efforts to reform the city’s schools.

Questions about who will fill in for Brizard have already been answered by Emanuel, who said that the new CEO will be Barbara Byrd-Bennet. Formerly of Cleveland, Byrd-Bennet began her education career as a teacher and has been serving as the interim chief education officer in Chicago for the past several years. Her elevation to CEO is credited to the role she played in the recent contract negotiations between the city and Chicago Teachers Union.

Sarah Hamilton, the spokeswoman for Emanuel, said that she expected an easy transition. She also praised Brizard’s accomplishments, including the introduction of a longer school day in city’s schools, but added that with Byrd-Bennet at the helm the Mayor’s reform agenda will remain on track.

Stephanie Gadlin, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Teachers Union, described Brizard’s departure as “shocking.”

“The children deserve stability at the top. This is more chaos,” Gadlin said. “Either the mayor is going to be the CEO or he has to put educators in charge of the school district.”

Questions about Brizard’s performance have dogged his tenure. For the past several weeks rumors that he would be asked to step down reached a fever pitch. But as the teachers’ strike — the first in nearly a quarter of a century in Chicago — was getting close to a resolution, Emanuel reaffirmed his support for Brizard, saying that “J.C. has my confidence.” The Mayor’s office was also clear in its message that it didn’t lay the problems in the negotiations that led to the strike at Brizard’s door.

Brizard said he approached Emanuel and the school board after hearing rumors that the mayor was unhappy. Hamilton said Brizard told Emanuel he didn’t want to be a distraction from the mission of serving the children.

“I have to tell you it’s a little bit of melancholy and mixed emotions because I’ve come to love the people who work in CPS,” Brizard told the Chicago Tribune. “I love to work with kids. … That’s more important to me than keeping a job. This is stressful, but at the same time it’s about the city.”

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