A Conversation With Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard

Lorraine Forte, Catalyst Chicago

From a journalist's standpoint, the most refreshing news to emerge from Catalyst Chicago's recent interview with incoming Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was his promise to be transparent. The in-depth, shoe-leather reporting and analysis that is our hallmark can only be accomplished when administrators have a green light to talk freely about their work, and when principals feel free to give writers access to schools, classrooms and teachers.

If Brizard makes good on his pledge, it would contrast sharply with the administration of former CEO Ron Huberman. Brizard's commitment should be heartening to the public, too, since an administration that is transparent with the press is likely to be the same way with parents and others invested in understanding and supporting school improvement.

The incoming CEO's comments about transparency came at the tail end of our interview. At the outset, he spoke about his plans for a "listening tour," a series of meetings with small groups of parents, community activists and others to get their input before drafting a long-term plan for the district.

"Schools belong to the community," Brizard said. "It's important to talk to the people who live there."

Grassroots and community activists have heard that sentiment before. Many of them have no trust whatsoever in the central office and firmly believe that politics and expediency will trump what's best for kids every time, regardless of who's in charge at Chicago Public Schools.

Transparency and "listening tours" would be a start at mending fences and building bridges between the various groups -- parents, activists, educators, the business community, politicians and the general public -- that care about education and must play a role in school improvement.

Read more at Catalyst Chicago

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