HITTING LEFT #21 with Pidgeon Pagonis

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A fine mess you've got us into, Rahm

Taking it to the suites

“I wanted an entire new board, an entire new corporate suite because what’s happening today both on the finances and the educational scores — needs to be shaken up. And what I know in my heart [is that] the people of the city do not think we’re doing what we need to do for our children.” -- Sun-Times

Emanuel isn't even officially mayor yet and he's already got the city and its schools in a fine mess. His appointment of the embattled J.C. Brizard as our new schools CEO rivals only Bloomberg's pick of Cathie Black in N.Y. as most embarrassing. Anyone paying attention should have seen this coming.

Back in 2008, Gary Stager, a senior editor at District Administration Magazine described Brizard as being reality-impaired and driven by ideology. His condemnation, by 95% of Rochester teachers should have been a clue, even to the most clueless. His inability to find any common ground with Adam Urbanski, probably the most reform-minded union leader in the country, not only is a tip-off to Brizard's style of work, it also tips the new mayor's hand, showing that with union negotiations on the near horizon, he too has little or no interest in bargaining in good faith.

By picking Brizard, without any consultation or input from the school community, Rahm has somehow managed to mire himself, his new school board, and the city in a major scandal. Brizard's violation of his three-year contract in Rochester, which began Jan. 1, reveals not only a lack of commitment or integrity, but also has that district's board president threatening litigation.

It's only taken the Chicago media (with some help from local bloggers and Rochester journalists like Rachel Barnhart) about a week to expose Brizard's phony test-score and graduation-rate gains. A Rochester "miracle"? The honeymoon is therefore declared over before it's even begun.

Here's the Rahm-friendly Sun-Times backtracking on its support for the Brizard appointment:. 
During a news conference to announce his financial team, Emanuel flatly denied that his vetting process was flawed and that he was misled on Rochester graduation rates before choosing Brizard. Data provided by the New York State Department of Education and the Rochester School District Wednesday indicate that some discrepancies critics have pounced on were due to one agency reporting a four-year graduation rate as of June and the other reporting it as of August, as well as an increase in the passing bar for state tests.
As I have maintained from the beginning, this is more about Rahm Emanuel than it is about Brizard. While Brizard showed himself to be an opportunist bureaucrat, ready and willing to come into the city to serve as Rahm's hatchet man, to close and charterize schools, fire hundreds of good, experienced teachers, it's Emanuel and his autocratic control of the schools that's the real problem here.

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn writing the same day the corporate-loving Trib declared Brizard to be  "our kind of guy to lead Chicago schools."
Can Rochester, N.Y., superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard (left) pad a payroll? Skirt the rules? Spend frivolously? Distort statistics to make himself look good? Infuriate his constituents with a high-handed style? Check, check, check, check and check.
Rahm rushed into this mess because of his imperial style of work, learned first in his days as a local machine politician and then honed as Obama's bullying chief of staff. Like any good politician, he ran his campaign with the promise of radical change.

But one larger question remains unanswered. Why is Rahm talking radical change in the city's school reform agenda, sweeping out the entire reform board, and  even buying a "new corporate suite" when we've always  been told of the great progress the schools were making under the previous corporate reform plan, Renaissance 2010. You all remember Ren10, right?

Stager sums it all up in a fine post on his Stager-to-Go blog: "In education, nothing succeeds quite like failure."

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