Notes on Our Meeting with Jean-Claude Brizard

“We want to see you succeed."
That's how the Raise Your Hand steering committee closed our first meeting with Jean-Claude Brizard. Mr. Brizard was personable, welcomed being challenged and stated intentions to increase the state funding formula, improve neighborhood schools and offer schools more "bounded autonomy." Raise Your Hand urged the new CEO be inclusive and facilitative in CPS decision-making processes and flexible in implementation. Mr. Brizard himself noted that solutions are not "one size fits all."In 90 minutes we were not able to dive into all of the specifics of what's on the horizon at CPS and our policy platform and priorities. Notably, two RYH members were invited to be members of a task force looking at a longer school day. Patricia O’Keefe and Sonia Kwon of RYH volunteered to be on this task force. Below are what we think were the top points. We look forward to your input:
  • A shared RYH/CPS dissatisfaction with amount of funding provided by the state; RYH expressed disappointment that CPS did little to fight the funding cuts this year that led to $77 million in cuts to CPS. Mr. Brizard declined to comment on TIF without further study but promised to put RYH in touch with CPS' Intergovernmental Affairs team to coordinate advocacy efforts.
  • Extending the school day by potentially 90 minutes in the future.  Details on how and what the time will be used for is  unclear at this time.  Stressed the importance of a well-rounded school day including, recess, art, music, gym and technology in addition to the core curriculum. Brizard mentioned prioritizing integration of arts into the school and building key alliances with city arts groups. NOTE: The school day will not be extended for the 2011-12 school year.  The best way to increase the student day for 2011-12 remains adopting the Open Schedule by moving the teacher lunch back to the middle of the day -- as laid out in the RYH “Fit for Learning” initiative.
  • RYH disappointment with current tone of communications re: teachers. Also expectation for CPS and CTU to work together, but trust needs to be built.
  • CPS restructuring departments with clear chain up to CEO.  RYH recommended transparency, publicly sharing org chart, and helping parents understand where to go for help.  CPS is creating new cabinet-level position to lead Family and Community Support.
  • Possibility of "next generation" assessment tool, NWA from Achieve. RYH recommended bringing diverse teachers and principals to the table to discuss and stressed concerns over the amount and usefulness of testing.
  • Moving to common core standards adopted by Illinois in June 2010.
  • Building a great principal pipeline and proper support for LSCs.
  • Parent "contract" or "compact" previously announced by the mayor seems to have taken a back seat. RYH considered the concept of a contract patronizing and unenforceable.
  • A visual school performance report card was shared by Brizard. We are determining the audience and purpose before preparing feedback.
Overall, this meeting was a giant step in the right direction, but clearly more discussion is needed. School’s out, but RYH is in: we will be meeting with other leaders in CPS all summer, and will schedule a follow up with the CEO in late summer. We all have a stake in seeing the current CPS administration and the current CTU succeed. No matter what has happened in the past, we expect everyone to come together and bring their best efforts to improve public education for all Chicagochildren. Please let us know what you think. Survey