Rochester parent responds to Brizard apologist



Rochester parents protest proposal for mayoral control of schools (Photo from RochesterIndyMedia.org)

I received this e-mail from Parents Across America affiliate member Howard Eagle, a former Rochester teacher and active member of the Rochester Community Education Task Force.

His description of CPS CEO-in-waiting Jean-Claude Brizard’s action to dismantle a representative parent and community group sounds a whole lot like what CPS under Vallas did with the Multi-Lingual Parent Council and the LSC Advisory Board (which we call L-SCAB) as well as Arne Duncan’s various efforts to get rid of local school councils. Brizard’s comments that Eagle’s group “does not represent parents” and “only wants to maintain the status quo” also sound quite familiar…

I am a retired, 23-year veteran Social Studies teacher in the Rochester City School District, parent of two, current RCSD students, and member of Rochester’s Community Education Task Force.

With regard to the Fox News report below, “Former Rochester Mayor Defends New CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard”, and especially the allegations that Brizard is “pro-parent” — made by smooth-talking, former Rochester Police Chief and former Rochester Mayor, now Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy… I must express in the strongest of terms that the former, ruffian, top cop, Robert Duffy is a damn liar.

I would never make such a statement without backing it up. What is the evidence that Brizard is in fact anti-parent, especially as it relates to parents who would challenge his education deform agenda and direction?:

1) Several months after Brizard arrived in Rochester we began a community wide, months-long process, which Brizard participated in, and which led to (for the first time in the history of the Rochester City School District) a city-wide elected (by RCSD parents) parent and community organization called the District Wide Parent Council, DPC.

The elected Parent Council had it’s first formal meeting, which Brizard addressed on March 19, 2009. Less than one year later Brizard unilaterally dismantled the elected body (as it was constituted), and set up an undemocratic process by which building-principals were given authority to choose parent representatives to the reconstituted, hand-picked, so-called “new” District Wide Parent Council. Many of us who had been originally elected, were banned from serving on the “new” Council.

2) When a broad-based group of parents, educators and other community members held a press conference on Feb. 1, 2011 to declare our lack of confidence in Brizard— his response (less than an hour after the Feb 1 press conference) is below’

3) Recently, including during a WXXI television interview, Brizard has started referring to those of us who are most vocal in our opposition to his dictatorial mode of operating as C.A.V.E. (citizens against virtually everything). So, in turn, we developed an acronym, which really does describe him quite accurately, i.e. S.L.A.V.E. (superintendents lying about virtually everything).

In any case, we hope that before people accept the lying Lt. Governors’ grossly fallacious claims — that you will do a little investigating.

Sincerely, Howard J. Eagle

(Howard included links to several local news stories; here is an example.)

***

Feb. 1, 2011 Statement from Rochester Superintendent of Schools Jean-Claude Brizard re: Parent and Community Coalition for Educational Change:

I am committed to the children of this city and to working with those who genuinely want to improve the education of our students.

The group protesting today does not represent parents nor does it represent the Rochester community. It is interested only in maintaining the status quo and returning us to a system in which no one was accountable to the families we serve.

I have confidence that we have meaningfully increased literacy and math performance and graduation rates. I have confidence that we are putting children first and not tossing them out to the streets and increasing the incarceration rate. I have confidence that our reform effort, modeled after the best practices in our nation, is bearing fruit.

I have no confidence in former employees who did little for children and enjoyed a system that put adults first.

***

FOX CHICAGO NEWS Former Rochester Mayor Defends New CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard

Published : Thursday, 21 Apr 2011, 8:42 PM CD
By Political Editor Mike Flannery, FOX Chicago News

Chicago – Jean-Claude Brizard’s political foes in Rochester, N.Y., have painted a false picture of him.

That’s the claim of the man who was mayor when Jean-Claude Brizard was hired to run Rochester’s public schools.

“Jean-Claude is not anti-teacher,” declared Robert Duffy, “He’s pro-child, pro-student, pro-parent.”

Democrat Duffy has been lieutenant governor of New York State since January, serving under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Prior to that, Duffy was twice elected mayor of Rochester. He spoke to FOX Chicago News during a visit to Chicago.

Duffy recalled the day that Brizard came to the mayor’s office to explain his plans for Rochester’s schools.

“At the end of the meeting, everyone in the room suddenly began applauding. He was that impressive,” Duffy said.

“He is such a good person. I think the world of the man. This characterization of him as this blustering leader who steps over teachers is absolutely, unequivocally wrong,” Duffy said. “And I’m embarrassed that his associates in Rochester would do that.”

That perception stems, in part, from a vote of “no confidence” taken by the Rochester Teachers Association union.

Longtime union President Adam Urbanski fought Brizard’s efforts to offer merit pay for teachers.

Brizard said it was one way to “change the culture” of a school system that now ranks at or near the bottom in almost every category among urban systems in New York State.

For all of his visionary plans, though, Brizard’s critics note that statistics show little, if any improvement, during Brizard’s 3.5 year tenure in Rochester. Duffy said he and others are disappointed that Brizard will not be staying longer to carry out his plans.

Reflecting on Brizard’s stormy tenure, Duffy said there was one thing Brizard could have done to strengthen his standing politically. Duffy said Brizard should have spent more time visiting local schools, talking to teachers, parents and principals in their own neighborhoods….

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.