Time to Find a New Set of Suckers

Jean-Claude Brizard, who was the latest school savior hired in Chicago, has been canned. I wrote about J-C a few times in the past. If you see him coming to your town, watch out. Here’s local reporter Rachel Barnhart:

I covered Brizard’s tenure extensively. He engaged in gross misrepresentations of data and sometimes outright lied. He made promises he didn’t keep. He did one thing while saying another. But I was the only one holding him accountable. The business and political establishment loved the guy. The rest of the media in Rochester, particularly the Democrat and Chronicle, did not question the superintendent. (Around the country, the media has been slow to challenge the “reformers.”) It seemed everyone hated teachers and refused to believe their complaints about their boss.

I’d never gone up against such a machine. Brizard’s relentless spin and the fact I was reporting in a vacuum made even some of my colleagues question my work. His staff tried to get me removed from covering the school district. It was not an easy time.

He’s been run out of two towns now, but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him, because his blame the teachers act goes over well with the rubes.

(Thanks to JPM for sending in the news about Brizard.)

47 replies
  1. 1
    MaryRC says:

    OK, totally not on the topic, I know … but what a great job Burt Lancaster did in Elmer Gantry, and how nice to see his smiling mug at the top of the page. Thank you.

  2. 2
    Lyle Lanley says:


  3. 3
    Zifnab25 says:

    He’s been run out of two towns now, but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him, because blame the teachers unions act goes over well with the rubes.

    “Well, I’m not in a union. And sure, I work a 60 hour week for part-time pay. But by golly, I earned that check. The only reason I’m not richer is because the government keeps holding me back. As soon as we get rid of the minimum wage and the overtime law my prospects are going to really take off.”

    The Republicans of the 70s and 80s did an absolutely brilliant job of turning the working class against itself. Its worked so well that people can’t even conceive of the idea of collective bargaining in the modern white-collar job.

    So what do we do with one of the last major professions where laborers organize, remain politically active, and fight the good fight? We crucify them. *sigh*

  4. 4
    Bill E Pilgrim says:


  5. 5
    gelfling545 says:

    Oh, Christ. Buffalo will be begging him to come here. We’re all about taking on people/programs/etc. after they’ve been finally proved useless.

  6. 6
    BGinCHI says:

    Apparently Rahm was not happy with him. No public indication so far why that might be. If you like Rahm you’d say that it was because he saw through his hand-picked guy’s bullshit.

    But anyone with half a brain can see that Rahm fucked up, Brizard was a dud, and Rahm is pushing him out before the dude embarrasses him and Rahm has to go all “you’re going to wake up in a plastic bag in the Calumet River if you don’t get your shit together motherfucker.”

    I don’t know who Rahm is popular with in Chicago right now, but it’s not regular folks (ie, voters). Maybe developers and rich fucks but no one I know. Fucking with the teachers that aggressively was not smart.

  7. 7
    BGinCHI says:

    @gelfling545: I lived in Buffalo for 5 years in the 90s.

    Yes, he’d be perfect for the city. Unless Cleveland or Erie are hiring.

  8. 8
    Ben Franklin says:

    Brizard failed as a leader.

    Hatchet men make poor surgeons.

  9. 9
    KG says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: hahahaha, my first thought too

  10. 10
    dmsilev says:

    @BGinCHI: I think Brizard’s resignation letter was something along the lines of “I have become a distraction”, which translates to “the mayor thinks I’ve become a liability to him and he wants me gone”.

  11. 11
    BGinCHI says:

    @Ben Franklin: Maybe there was a typo for “flailed.”

  12. 12
    BB says:

    Brizard was a disaster. He changed nothing in Rochester, and is the latest awful Superintendent to parlay a firing here into a catastrophic big-city tenure (see Janey, Clifford in Washington, D.C.)

    Not long after he was hired, Brizard was the speaker at my college’s graduation. He stood up in front of thousands of graduates and recited verbatim the speech he had privately given one month prior to the school board. It was all technicalities about his position and statistics on the city. Not once did he refer to the graduates, college, or the concept of future.

    After it was over, my sweet late grandmother asked “what the fuck WAS that?”

    Go away, Jean-Claud. You’re done falling upward.

  13. 13
    BGinCHI says:

    @dmsilev: Yep. That was pretty clear in what I read. He heard “rumors” Rahm wasn’t happy with him. Good to know Rahm’s managerial style is taken from the Sicilians.

    Rahm is probably just doing damage control: scapegoat for the aftermath of the strike. “Hey, it was that other guy!”

    Maybe he thought we were too busy cooking the BLS numbers to notice.

    /with apologies to actual Sicilians

  14. 14
    BGinCHI says:

    @BB: He did a weekly radio call-in show on WBEZ which I thought was brave. Whenever I caught it I was amazed that he never seemed to answer anyone’s questions. It was one platitude after another. He sounded like a politician in a very safe seat.

  15. 15
    chopper says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    the ring came off my pudding can!

    use my penknife, my good man.

  16. 16
    trollhattan says:

    Michelle Rhee’s available. Just sayin’.

  17. 17
    Ding dong says:

    I was listening to a show with a discussion about ed. One of the callers made a pretty astute comment – he said that the school reform movement had been in control of schools for fifteen years. Where’s the improvement?

  18. 18
    Keith says:

    Watch the guy end up in Houston running HISD. They LOVE non-white supers (they alternate AA-Hispanic-AA-White, man-woman-man), are perpetually running a debt, wasting money, and the board is constantly fighting/blaming the teachers’ union. Plus with him coming from a big city, it’s a perfect match (well, not perfect…they’d prefer a woman now, since they’ve got the rare white male running things currently)

  19. 19
    Suffern ACE says:

    @trollhattan: Bah. She’s making a fortune raising money for her school reform non-profit. It apparently needs hundreds of millions of dollars or something like that. I believe she’ll be able to publish a pamphlet with that kind of money. I heard it’s made up of nothing but mangers who spend their days wishing they had employees to measure. They’d measure themselves, but they agree that when it comes to management, measurement is too subjective and its their intangibles that really make them effective leaders.

  20. 20
    BGinCHI says:

    WTF is up with the site? Comments are not appearing.

  21. 21
    👽 Martin says:

    @Ding dong:

    I was listening to a show with a discussion about ed. One of the callers made a pretty astute comment – he said that the school reform movement had been in control of schools for fifteen years. Where’s the improvement?

    The free market has been in control of healthcare for a century. Where’s the cost reductions?

    The Bush tax cuts for the job creators has been in effect for a decade. Where’s the jobs?

    There’s endless variations on it.

  22. 22

    Oh he will probably come to Nashville soon, then. Although that Frenchy first name is problematic.

  23. 23
    raven says:

    @BGinCHI: A malfunction at the junction.

  24. 24
    Napoleon says:

    OT but my ballot has arrived here in Ohio!!!!

  25. 25
    Lojasmo says:

    @Lyle Lanley:

    Beat on the second post.

  26. 26
    lahru says:

    America does have an education problem and it starts with our socio-economic problem. We have seena decline in our incomes at the middle class level and below and people who are not economically secure will always have parenting issues. The stress of providing for family will always trump other items involved in raising children. When we solve the slide in income we will be on an upward path to better educated children.

  27. 27
    Roger Moore says:

    He’s been run out of two towns now, but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him, because his blame the teachers act goes over well with the rubes.

    I don’t think it’s the rubes who are buying the “blame the teachers” bit; it’s the establishment, who don’t want to admit that there are deeper problems there to solve, who really go for it. Telling TPTB what they want to hear is the biggest, most successful grift of all.

  28. 28
    ET says:

    Considering DC love of departed Michelle Rhee – I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in DC.

  29. 29
    Maude says:

    Keep him out of NJ.

  30. 30
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I had a great uncle that was an Elmer Gantry type. He made out well. Pulled in a steady flow of cash and I suspect left more than a few babies behind.

    Somewhere along the way, while he was pretending to be a preacher, he actually got religion. And he was very faithful to a very restrictive Christian sect until he died. Funny that.

  31. 31
    gelfling545 says:

    @Southern Beale: Whereas we love French names here in Buffalo because HOCKEY!

  32. 32
    MomSense says:

    Our tea party governor in Maine wants to set up private charter schools–this after changing the school funding formula which is another way of cutting school budgets. Our poor town has lost so many teachers, staff, and counselors. Towns all across the state are slashing funding for arts, music, sports, gifted and talented, etc.

    My son was accepted into the gifted and talented program which now consists of being given access to three different blogs and going to two different after-school clubs that meet for 30 minutes once a month.

    To be accepted into this special program he had to take a bunch of tests in English, Math, and Science. When he saw what the program was he reacted just like the kid who got the decoder ring in the movie A Christmas Story.

  33. 33
    HRA says:


    “WTF is up with the site? Comments are not appearing.”

    The great Buffalo takes no prisoners :))

    Yes, the French Connection was awesome.

  34. 34
    Or something like that.Suffern Ace says:

    @MomSense: I get the sense that we are going to test that notion that the 21st Century worker needs an education. We are looking to become India – either you’re an engineer or a doctor, or the education you’ve received was such a waste of time.

  35. 35
    blingee says:

    Is this another Rahm hit piece by proxy or something? I just never know with these so called ‘progressives’ mistermix and DougJ.

  36. 36
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    Is the guy in the picture actually Brizard? He sure looks smug enough (and a holy roller, to boot).

  37. 37
    Hawes says:

    Compulsive liar?

    Meet Romney’s Secretary of Education.

  38. 38
    Peregrinus says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I’m not so sure about that. Might depend on the kind of “rube.” Rochesterians – Brizard’s old beat – seem fairly down on public education in general; one of my coworkersreferred to public education as an “entitlement program” the other day.

  39. 39
    AHH onna Droid says:

    @Roger Moore: You just dont know the right rubes. One of them started a tedious screaming match about teachers right when the veep debate started and the (female) supervisor and I were forced to retreat to another room. :(

  40. 40
    lacp says:

    I hope nobody here is SHOCKED, when it’s broadcast tomorrow that he’s working with Michelle Rhee.

  41. 41
    Lolly says:

    @West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.):

    It’s Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry–so he’s acting the part, and doing it well!

  42. 42
    smith says:

    Brizard was a disaster here in Rochester. He fired/eliminated support staff (security guards, secretaries, sentries, truancy officers) and padded his cabinet staff with highly paid Brizard lackeys. He even hired his wife and gave her a six-figure job with full benefits when she only worked a handful of hours per week. His wife was also behind a push to open more charter schools in Rochester.

    He is a grifter and a con artist and I’m sure some desperate city will fall for his spiel and hire him where he’ll ruin yet another school district.

  43. 43
    Peregrinus says:


    I teach at the all-boys Catholic school in Rochester, and all I hear day in and day out is how the big problem with the local district is entirely the teachers’ union’s fault. At least we got rid of that fucker. I hope he doesn’t get hired, and then I hope he loses his testicles in a violent incident with a raccoon.

    But mostly I just hope he doesn’t get hired ever again. Then again, this is the country where Alberto Gonzales bitched about not finding a job for a few months and suddenly one popped up for him.

  44. 44
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    @Lolly: Thanks for the info. I’ve certainly heard of the film, but it came out a bit before I was born. (Fewer and fewer films I can say that about these days!)

  45. 45
    MaryinChicago says:

    Having spent a bit of time last month providing “community support” for the Chicago Teachers Union strike (actually it was also ex-member support, since I belonged to CTU for a couple of years back in the ’70s!), I will shed no tears over the departure of Jean Claud Brizard.

    I had hopes for his successor, who was actually involved in the negotiations that resolved the strike, and whose background includes time as a teacher and a principal, as well as superintendent in Cleveland and auditor in Detroit; then I learned that she’d also been employed by the Broad Foundation as a “coach.” That’s not enough to convince me to write her off, but it certainly raises serious questions.

    Whyizzit that the billionaires funding the “education reform” movement find it so difficult to understand that our current level of inequality makes it REALLY HARD to educate the kids who suffer most from that inequality? And that THEY are going to have to pay more taxes to change it? I’ll take their commitment to “education reform” seriously on the day that they begin to campaign for a serious effort to reverse the increase in inequality that’s been the underreported story of the last three decades!

  46. 46
    excruman says:

    @👽 Martin: You nailed it!

  47. 47
    mellowjohn says:

    as a chicago public school teacher, i think i can safely say that blizzard’s “mutually agreed to” resignation was about as mutually agreed to as Henry VIII’s divorces.

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