Carol Felsenthal
On politics

What’s Next for Jean-Claude Brizard?

The outgoing CPS CEO once described the negative effect of “revolving door superintendencies” on school districts. The average, Brizard said, was 18 months. He lasted only 17. What’s next for him?

When I interviewed Jean-Claude Brizard in September 2011, then on the job as Rahm’s pick for schools chief for just five months (read part 1 and 2), he described the negative effect of “revolving door superintendencies” on school districts. The average, Brizard said, was 18 months. He lasted only 17. (His superintendency in Rochester, the post he abruptly left to come to Chicago, lasted about three years.)

Thursday night, after hearing news of his resignation—by “mutual agreement,” according to news reports—I remembered how, in our September 2011 conversation, I was especially struck by Brizard’s sense of wistfulness—just the slightest disengagement that made me think he would not last long. “I’m not doing another superintendency,” he told me back then. “This is it for me. However long this lasts…. I intend to be here as long as they let me stay.”

So I wondered, what’s next for the 49-year-old?

Even then, Brizard easily imagined a life after CPS, volunteering that he might be interested in working on charter schools with his second wife, Katherine Brooke Stafford Brizard, who holds a doctorate from Columbia in cognitive studies in education, perhaps in “fulfilling one dream I’ve always had…. building a set of schools in the city somewhere.” (Could anything be more distasteful to union teachers, symbolized by Karen Lewis who believes that charters cannibalize the public system? Brooke Brizard was also a Teach for America corps member; TFA is another Karen Lewis bogeyman.)

Brizard also told me that when his family was still in Rochester, they talked about moving to the suburb of Boston after his time as superintendent was up. He mentioned that his wife had attended high school at the private and exclusive Concord Academy, that she loved the area and would relish returning.

He added that his wife loves Chicago and was enthusiastic about the opportunity to move here. “She has always wanted to live in Chicago. One of her best friends was a professor at the University of Chicago.” So, perhaps they will stay put. He mentioned that he could also see himself teaching principals or working for a foundation. 

At the time, I was struck by Brizard’s honesty—some would call it naiveté—his easily admitting to me that he never dreamed of being a teacher; he wanted to be a cop, specifically a crime scene investigator who worked in the isolation of a laboratory. “I was always the kind of person who loved behind-the-scenes work…. I loved being number two…. I loved being the person, if you have a vision I’ll be happy to implement it for you.” He never “relished,” he added, “being this public face” confronting the firing line (that would be Rahm). He also told me of a dashed career plan to be a DEA agent and his continuing love for the Coast Guard. (He remains a member of the Guard Auxillary and served as part of a flotilla on Long Island.)

Brizard also mentioned in 2011 that, at the time Rahm came calling, he was also considering going to Newark to run the schools there. He spoke of the discomfort he felt in having to call Newark Mayor Cory Booker to tell him he was heading to Chicago instead. (Wondering if Brizard might be looking to go to Newark now, I called Booker’s press office. A spokesman there told me that Newark has a superintendent, Cami Anderson, and that the mayor does not control the schools. He suggested I call the communications department of the Office of the Superintendent. Attempts to call or leave a message with the Office of the Superintendent were unsuccessful.)

A phone call and email to Brizard were not answered by post time.


2 years ago
Posted by FredSox49

Who cares? He is a perfect example of the Dilbert Principle: A person who isn't even very good at one job gets promoted to a better job for which he/she is not suited. The guy then walks away with $250,000 but I can't blame him. Rahm hired him first and foremost because of his ability to piss of teachers and their union. Both of these bullies had their lunches handed to them by Karen Lewis and the CTU.

2 years ago
Posted by Apres Ski

Amen & well said

2 years ago
Posted by Apres Ski

Brizard was never interested in being in education or a teacher. He wanted to work for DEA, police dept or work in the CSI (crime scene investigation) area.

Which goes to show you, you need to work in the area you love and want to work in. Otherwise you'll end of like Brizard. Wandering from pillar to post, never finding satisfaction in any job or one thing, and not even in life.

He was the best mediocre person at the top of the job heap & he was just horrible. He's the perfect example of someone who was in the right place at the wrong time. He got the best job and was the worst at it ever.

Wonder what his wife & children think now that they'll move from Chicago and wander into another brick wall. What does his wife say when he comes home with all that wreckage around his professional ankles and says, "You lost another job? Why are you so crappy at not being able to keep a job?"

I secretly think this guy is dyslexic and he's hiding it under this totally ineptness of pretending to be a human being. He was just the worst. Sure, he has $250,000 but he's not a person. You know his wife has to work because that amount of money won't last long. I wouldn't have his kids over for parties at my house . . . EVER!!

2 years ago
Posted by Strobes

That guy was brought in to do the mayors bidding, union busting.
Well while unions are not looked upon favorably, when it comes to those that teach children, thats a different matter.
City hall needs to work with people, not bark orders

9 months ago
Posted by jmb058

He is a great guy

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