Updated 04/25/2011 06:14 PM
Brizard Looks Back on Tenure in Rochester
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Jean-Claude Brizard, or J.C. as old college friends in New York and new colleagues in Chicago call him, has committed to being in the Windy City to begin work leading the nation's third largest school district on May 16th.
With the Rochester City School District’s
budget vote scheduled for later this week, Brizard is confident the quick transition is doable.
"All of the comments and negativity around the disengagement or perhaps leaving I think are beginning to wane,” said Brizard. “The idea of a lawsuit is misplaced. I think that was anger you were hearing from some of those voices. You know, you never leave with all of your relationships intact when you leave a district. What's most interesting to me is that the people who wanted me gone are the ones who seem most angry about me leaving."
Looking back on his three year tenure with the RCSD, Jean-Claude Brizard said he is most proud of the talent pool he was been able to bring in; the team of leaders he has built to steer the district and the concept of earned principal autonomy. A best practice out of Chicago, Brizard instituted that and says it has restored ownership to each school.
"As long as the foundations are maintained, the work will continue. And that's the critical part of this work. One of the things I worked really hard to do was to make my work person neutral, because if it is about the guy on the horse coming in guns a blazing and fixing, it will die as soon as you leave. We've been very careful not to do that," Brizard said.
Brizard said it hurts to leave under the cloud of a 95 percent vote of “no confidence” from the teachers' union. He says to be called anti-teacher is the exact opposite of who he is.
Brizard said while he's had differences with union leaders in the past, they've never been anything like what he experienced with long-time Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) President Adam Urbanski.
"I think of myself as someone that can work with anybody. So, that for me, was new, that kind of personal animosity, that kind of name calling and then the attack, is new to me," Brizard said.
Brizard believes the district must continue to collaborate with city hall.
He said what happens on the streets spills into the schools and vice versa.
He called Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard an asset.
Before returning to the police department as chief, Sheppard served as the district’s director of security operations.
"We've got to create that kind of synergy where the school board, city hall and the superintendent are working together," said Brizard.
Despite criticism over his aggressive school closure program, reforms that keep suspended students in schools, proposed cuts to the arts, and efforts to introduce performance pay, Brizard said the bottom line is that graduation rates, the number of advanced placement courses being offered and students going directly to college are all up.
And the culture within the district he said, has changed dramatically, for the better.
"This is a fight that will take a generation,” adds Brizard, “but it's got to sustain. It's got to keep pushing and it has to be person neutral. It has to be about a team of people who are pushing for it.”
The Rochester school board is still working on the details of releasing Brizard from his contract.
School board President Malik Evans says they have a list of names of potential interim candidates and will begin making phone calls and reaching out to them to gauge interest in the next couple days.