Emanuel backs CPS CEO as possible teachers strike looms

August 31, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Jean-Claude Brizard is under fire as he tries to prevent a teachers strike.

"He's doing a great job and has my backing. And anybody else who thinks they speak for me hasn't talked to me," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel's statement comes after the Chicago Tribune cited unnamed sources as saying the mayor is upset with his hand-picked schools chief. The paper says Brizard received in his annual review low marks for his management style and ability to communicate, something Brizard disputed Friday.

"I have actually a good performance review from my board of education. If you read the entire document you'll see that," he said.

The Tribune report comes a day after the Chicago Teachers Union set a September 10th strike date.

Alderman Latasha Thomas of the 17th Ward chairs the city's education committee.

"I've said this directly to both sides: you need to stay at the table, and sometimes you need to just think about the children and nothing else," she said.

"We are tired of being bullied, belittled, and betrayed," said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, on Thursday. "We've done everything asked of us, and we continue to be vilified and treated with disrespect."

It's not the first time those words have been aimed at Brizard.

"Unfortunately, I've seen this movie before," said Adam Urbanski, Rochester Teachers Association.

As head of the Rochester, New York, school system, Brizard and the teachers union wrangled over similar issues now on the table in Chicago including seniority raises and merit pay.

The issues are tough, but Rochester teachers say Brizard's personal style didn't help.

"Whenever teachers would raise concerns he would be dismissive of it by calling it noise," said Urbanski.

With all the uncertainty surrounding a possible strike, the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic schools says it's prepared to enroll more students.

The mayor said Friday both sides continue talking.

"They're there today. They're there tomorrow and through the weekend," said Emanuel.

As part of the strike contingency plan, C.P.S. has asked the Illinois High School Association to waive its rules barring sports practices during a strike. On Friday the association said they would take up that request at their regularly scheduled meeting on September 10th, the same day that teachers could strike.

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