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MARY MITCHELL: Goodbye, J.C.: Resignation not surprising

Jitu Brown spoke during chicago teachers rally outside Dyett High School 555 E. 51st Street . Wednesday Sept. 12 2012

Jitu Brown spoke during the chicago teachers rally outside of Dyett High School 555 E. 51st Street . Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun Times

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Updated: November 13, 2012 6:35AM



When Mayor Rahm Emanuel was before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board this week, he mentioned J.C.

“J.C” is Jean-Claude Brizard, the beleaguered CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

Had CPS been able to deal with the Chicago Teachers Union contract without making its leader, Karen Lewis, a cause celebre, Brizard might have been around to see the snow fall.

But nobody upstages the mayor. Nobody.

So Brizard’s resignation is not surprising. One thing that remains evident — no matter who sits on the Fifth Floor: Where clouds are darkening, a storm is gathering.

Rumors about Brizard’s departure from CPS were so thick during the teachers strike, he was forced to put out a tweet advising folks he was still on the job.

That was almost one month to the day of the mayor’s announcement that Brizard will move on.

Still, it is weird. As late as Wednesday, the mayor referred to his school chief by the name used by Brizard’s friends.

Brizard never got the love one would expect he would get as the superman who was supposed to rescue the city’s underperforming schools.

In fact, the very people I thought would be pleased, criticized Brizard despite his appearing to fit a job description often floated by education watchdogs.

They had advocated that the next CEO be an educator rather than a businessman. Some activists had also argued that the school’s chief be a black man because the school system was overwhelmingly black.

Brizard fit the bill.

And as a bonus for the mayor, Brizard had already done combat with a teachers union, and he agreed with the mayor on merit pay, firing ineffective teachers, closing underperforming schools and setting up charter schools.

But before too long, it wasn’t Brizard who was at the center of confrontations with the teachers union. It was Emanuel.

When the firestorms erupted, the 6-foot-5 Brizard was pushed in the background and practically disappeared.

His experience in Chicago reminds me of the quote credited to Friedrich Nietzsche and reintroduced into pop culture by singer Kelly Clarkson: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

As a Chicagoan, I regret some of the ugliness Brizard witnessed during the short time he presided over the city’s schools.

Apparently, at one point when he went to a school, he was greeted by protesters yelling, “Go back to effin’ New York.”

For someone born in Haiti and raised in a New York housing project by immigrant parents who managed to send him through high school and college, to have a civil rights icon like the Rev. Jesse Jackson accuse you of being at the helm of a school system that engages in “education apartheid” must have felt like a punch in the gut.

The loathsome remarks suggested that Brizard didn’t care about the thousands of children in the system. The unkind rhetoric also insinuated that for the love of a paycheck and a title, this black man supported policies that would be detrimental to children who are languishing on the bottom rungs of the academic ladder.

Ugliness takes its toll.

Whatever relationship Brizard had with the mayor, it certainly wasn’t as comfortable as the mayor referring to him as J.C. would suggest.

Now is as good a time as any for Brizard to leave. Teachers have settled down and the mayor is cruising into the next phase of his administration.

But it makes you wonder.

Is this one down and one to go?



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