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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday used his trademark sarcasm to slough off the advice of his ousted Chicago Public Schools chief.
Nearly one year after being sent packing with a $291,662 severance package, Jean-Claude Brizard told an education think- tank that Emanuel is a “master” media manipulator, but he’s also a control freak who needs to “let go” and “allow his managers to lead.”
Emanuel is a former White House chief-of-staff with a cartoon-like reputation for brute-force politics, micro-management and brow-beating underlings.
Asked to respond to Brizard’s assessment, the mayor wasn’t about to give the schools CEO he fired after just 17 months on the job the satisfaction of saying he was right.
“Well, I don’t know. I kind of appreciated his appreciation of my sense of humor,” the mayor said, pointing to one of Brizard’s more flattering comments.
Turning serious, he said, “I appreciate J.C. I appreciate what he did and I appreciate his commitment. I do think we should take stock that this is the second year in which we have a full school day and a full school year… I appreciate his time here. I appreciate his leadership. But, I’m looking forward to the rest of this school year and the future.”
In an interview with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Brizard opened up about Emanuel’s management style and about bullying missteps the mayor made that set the stage for Chicago’s first teachers strike in 25 years.
“I spoke to no less than 20,000 teachers in the year leading up to the strike. It was still not enough. We severely underestimated the ability of the Chicago Teachers Union to lead a massive grass-roots campaign against our administration,” Brizard was quoted as saying.
“It’s a lesson for all of us in the reform community. The `how’ is, at times, more important than the `what.’ We need to get closer to the people we are serving and create the demand for change in our communities.”
Brizard said the strike was “made more difficult by a growing rift between City Hall and me” that forced the mayor to replace Brizard at the negotiating table with School Board President David Vitale. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Brizard’s successor, also played a pivotal role.
“It takes a ton of inner strength to watch 4,000-plus people in red shirts outside of your window protesting while a very heavy police presence looked on,” he said.
Less than a month after teachers returned to their classrooms, Brizard became the strike’s first casualty.
One of Emanuel’s showcase hires, he resigned by “mutual agreement” with the mayor after just 17 months on the job. Brizard had angered the mayor by going on vacation in the run-up to the strike and, more importantly, by falling short as a manager.
Both sides declared it was “time for a change” and that constant speculation about Brizard’s status had become a distraction.