It's been about a year and a half since Jean-Claude Brizard resigned at superintendent of the Rochester City School District to become CEO of Chicago Public Schools. He was handpicked by then mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.
Brizard has been in a contract dispute with Chicago teachers since November, with the teachers’ union there threatening to strike next Monday.
Rochester Teachers Association president Adam Urbanski says it appears Brizard is doing the same things in Chicago that made him unpopular with teachers here.
"It seems to be a pattern discouraging teachers, first in Rochester and now in Chicago. We feel very fortunate that we now have a superintendent who values teachers, who supports them and appreciates the work that they do,” said Urbanski.
In downtown Rochester Tuesday, parents of City School District children we spoke with say they aren't surprised Brizard is having trouble with the Chicago Teachers Union, just as he did here with the Rochester Teachers Association.
"He did it to himself. He just up and left us like floating in the water. He didn't care about us so he gets what he gets,” said Roxanne Anderson.
The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that Brizard's job may be on the line in Chicago, even though Mayor Emanuel gave his school chief a vote of confidence. Jaunca McGehee is a graduate of Chicago Public Schools who has two young children attending Rochester City Schools.
"I felt like his job was on the line here when he was our superintendent here. His values and his views on how he should change the educational system is kind of funny to me, because you can't enforce certain things and think something's going to change if you're not putting in the time to change it,” said McGehee.
Urbanski says going on strike is an act of desperation. He's hopeful Chicago teachers won't walk off the job, because he says it's the students that will end up suffering the most.
Urbanski said when Rochester teachers were in a contract dispute with Brizard, there was no talk of a strike, but teachers did send the superintendent a stern message.
"We instead expressed ourselves through the vote of no confidence. And fortunately he heard it, Superintendent Brizard heard it, and this community heard it and the Board of Education heard it and we averted disaster which probably would have been the outcome here if Superintendent Brizard remained and if he continued to devalue and disrespect teachers,” Urbanski said.
Chicago’s teachers’ union leader is singing the same tune. Karen Lewis claims Brizard is also disrespecting teachers in the Windy City.
Brizard told a Chicago television station that he is close to an agreement with the teachers union and has a week to get it done.