New CPS CEO listens to parents' concerns

June 1, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Jean-Claude Brizard met with parents from public schools throughout the city on Wednesday.

It was billed as stop one on Brizard's "listening tour," a label politicians have used on tours getting to know voters in districts where they're seen as outsiders seeking approval. Think back to Rahm Emanuel before he officially became a candidate for mayor.

This was the new CEO's attempt to reach out to key stakeholders in the system whose children are the clients he has been brought to Chicago to help.

For over an hour, the tall education specialist from New York, by way of Rochester, bent his frame to listen intently to parents who think previous CPS administrations have ignored them.

There were few interruptions from Brizard, who was on hand to show he cares about parents and the role they must play in their children's lives if their public school education is to have value.

Toylee Green-Harris has a daughter in Kenwood High School. Like many after the meeting she was surprised by how much what she thought might just be a photo op meant to her.

"We were actually able to come when he is fresh. So he is now in the system, he hasn't been around and he gets to hear from us," said Green-Harris.

While the gamut of education issues were discussed, passions turned on the question of parent-engagement contracts. They would stipulate how much a parent needs to participate in a child's education as a license for student participation in extra-curricular activities. Mayor Rahm Emanuel favors them. Brizard says designing them effectively is the challenge.

"There are many places around the country that have models of parent-teachers contracts, compacts, agreements, relationships, that whatever you want to call we are going to look at," Brizard said.

The new schools CEO is starting everyday with a school visit and promising similar meetings through the summer as he gets to know Chicago and the challenges he faces.

"What I heard in there was that a small group of parents can advocate for a lot more than their children," said Brizard.

Brizard said he is going to increase meetings with teachers too, and he acknowledged that for many what ails schools starts and ends with resources.

The Cps has a $720 million projected deficit, and he said that is going to tie his hands in giving everyone what they want out of the nation's third largest public school system.

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