New CPS CEO sending letter to parents

June 6, 2011 (CHICAGO)

In it, he outlines the financial problems facing the school system. He also reaches out to parents, promising to communicate with them about the challenges ahead.

Monday afternoon, Chicago parents may be discovering letters directly from the district's CEO.

A week into his new position, Jean-Claude Brizard wants parents to understand firsthand the reasons for some upcoming changes.

The staff at South Loop Elementary School had an extra assignment Monday. They had to get a letter home to parents from Chicago Public Schools's new CEO.

"They give us their most precious resource - we exist because they are here - so, we owe them, first and foremost, all explanations," said Brizard.

The letters handed out to students are meant for all Chicago Public Schools parents. They inform parents of the school district's deficit and cuts that will undoubtedly be difficult.

"As we advocate of course for more money from everyone else to support the work that we have to do in the education of our children that we are being responsible with tax payer dollars and that are being responsible with the way that we do business with our district," said Brizard.

Last week, Brizard stood with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce $75 million in cuts to the central office.

Monday's letter lays out a $720 million deficit and plans to minimize impact on classrooms like no reductions to early childhood education and maintaining core class size.

"We've been focusing heavily on programs we know will benefit kids and making sacrifices elsewhere," said Brizard.

Brizard officially began his second week at the helm of Chicago Public Schools. He enters a school system struggling with not only a deficit, but also struggling to find ways to improve the quality of education.

Brizard and the mayor hope one answer may be to give students more time in the classroom.

"This agrarian calendar that we've had for what, a one hundred plus years, needs to go away," said Brizard. "The fact that we have the shortest school day across the country, I think, is criminal."

Brizard will turn in a balanced budget proposal in August. Afterward, there will be public hearings.

Before students left for summer break, Brizard wanted parents to know the fall will hold challenges.

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