Emanuel’s pick for Chicago schools CEO: Competition keeps our systems agile and responsive

When he led New York’s Rochester City School District, Jean-Claude Brizard received a vote of no-confidence from the teachers union. Not surprising: Brizard took an aggressive approach to reform that embraced the shakeup of failing schools, merit pay for teachers and the autonomy driving innovations at charter academies. Now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has installed Brizard as the chief executive for Chicago Public Schools. A lot has been made yesterday and today of Brizard’s support of charters, but the superintendent’s own words from more than three years ago suggest a philosophy of public education that would have been anathema to most Democratic administrations at the time.

In an op-ed published June 24, 2008, in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Brizard wrote:

We need innovation! As superintendent of a large public school system, I support the creation of great options for students. I support charter schools, charter management organizations, our Urban-Suburban program and others that provide or will provide options for our city and its residents. This will create competition and keep our system agile and responsive. One size does not fit all!

… Overall, the success of charter schools nationwide is as mixed as it is in regular district schools. However, where you have a great leader and team who understand how to leverage the flexibility and autonomy of charter schools, great things happen. It is this flexibility and autonomy that we, as school district leaders, need to learn from to inform our work and policies.

… The stakes are too high for anyone to have a monopoly on this work.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit