Despite words to the contrary, Brizard says the School Board knew he was exploring his options and denies notifying School Board President Malik Evans of his resignation via text message. He says, “There was a piece about me just texting him my resignation, that is not true. I did send him a formal letter and I did give him a heads up on my way to the announcement that he was going to get a letter from me.”
Brizard said the Chicago deal happened very quickly and he had been courted by four other school districts, he just could not tell anyone. Brizard explains, “I was not looking to be shady. I was not looking to be out of contact. I did reply whenever anyone text me”.
The School Board insisted at a press conference on April 15th that Brizard had been out of touch for more than a week. At that time they claimed to be under the impression that Brizard was staying here and they put their full support behind him. Days later, Brizard appeared on television in Chicago with Rahm Emanuel announcing his new position as CEO of Schools there.
He leaves the Rochester School district with a rocky record. A majority of the Teachers Union voted “No Confidence” in him earlier this year. Brizard said that vote stung, “That is perhaps what was most hurtful, is being painted as anti-teacher. That the opposite of who I am as an individual.”
He says it became a full-time job to squash that image but he knows he could have played things differently, “So if one lesson's learned for me it's that my first year I had a real connection to my teachers, talking to them regularly. I allowed that to go away because of push from the outside. That was a mistake.”
He hopes to avoid that disconnect in Chicago but he already has his critics there too. He says, “A few people have gone out of their way to paint me as the Anti-Christ”.
Brizard hopes to change that image when he gets there. He says, “I think once people in Chicago meet me and get to know who I am I think a lot of that will dissipate rather quickly.”
As Jean-Claude Brizard sits in his office on one of his last weeks here, he is thinking back through his time in Rochester.
He is proud of what he calls academic achievements—like working to close low performing schools and seeing that successful schools get the upgrades they deserve. He says, “We've done a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time. I don't think people have come to appreciate how much we've done.”
He says his biggest critics had unrealistic expectations for him to fix everything. “It is a generational fight. This will take a generation to fix. It will not take three to four years. Anyone who has any other expectation is being unrealistic.”
That is why he wants his successor to see his current projects through, like he did when he took over. Brizard explains, “When I got here I saw the groundwork that was done under Dr. Manual Rivera. We seized it and kept pushing the ball. The next person has to make sure it continues.”
He has made suggestions to the School Board about his replacement but he does not know if they will listen.
He would like to see either Deputy Superintendent John Scanlan or Beth Mascitti-Miller take the spot. He says, “Both my deputies John and Beth are people who can easily walk into the position.”
Ultimately though, the decision is up to the school board to find his replacement.
The School Board is meeting in a private executive session Wednesday night to discuss the budget and Brizard's contract. The Board must come to an agreement with Brizard and their lawyers in order for him to get out of his almost three year contract. Brizard wants May 13th to be his last day in Rochester so he can begin his new career in Chicago May 16th.