Saturday, November 24, 2007

John-Claude Brizard in line to become Rochester Superintendent

We need your help if you have experience with Brizard - the good, the bad and the ugly.

A friend in the Rochester area sent this email today:

The shit has hit the fan in Rochester. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle quoted John Lawhead. He basically pegs Brizard as a Klein flunkie. What is the real story on Brizard? He gets appointed on Thursday and then there is no turning back.

Brizard is a long-time DOE official (and he's only 44), being shuffled around under BloomKlein. His was a principal, I think head of high schools, the Region 6 (Brooklyn) Superintendent - Tilden, South Shore closing and the removal of Canarsie principal David Harris at the very end of the school year a day or so before Region 6 closed down - but maybe that wasn't his decision. John Lawhead claims the closing of Tilden was not really his decision, which Brizard disputes.

Education Notes has had posts on these events, most notably by Tilden's John Lawhead who put Brizard on the spot when he came to talk about the closing. (Search this bog for related articles if you are interested in reading more.)

Rochester schools are a bit behind the times.

While at last week's ICE meeting, I received a call from a Gary McLendon, a reporter in Rochester asking if I could get him touch with John Lawhead, as he was doing a story on Brizard's possible appointment as the Rochester Superintendent of schools and came across John's story mentioning Brizard in relationship to the closing of Tilden HS on this blog. Magic - I handed the phone to John. McLendon's story (also at Norms Notes) is the result. A lesson to bureaucrats – control your arrogance towards teachers. You never know who may end up blogging. And kudos to John for a rare willingness among teachers to speak his mind publicly.

Good work in not jumping on the bandwagon by McLendon, who writes,
Among [Brizard's] strongest supporters is Tim Quinn, managing director for
The Broad Academy, a national superintendent training program. Quinn said Brizard was easily in the top 10 percent of the academy's hundreds of graduates.

Having Broad Academy support gives me confidence – that Brizard will move to turn over as much of the Rochester school system to private hands as possible - ASAP.

Our loser NY State Education Commissioner, Richard Mills, is also a strong Brizard supporter: STRIKE TWO.

Now here comes an interesting part of the story. The current interim acting Rochester superintendent is William Cala, whom John Lawhead and I met in Birmingham in 2003 at the ACT Now high stakes testing conference. The meetings were held at The WOO run by the late Steve Orel and attended by Susan Ohanian, Gloria Pipkin and so many other prominent educators from around the nation in addition to Bill, and his wife Joanne, also an educator. (One more tribute to the amazing Steve Orel and his ability to bring people together. I've written about Steve, but since he died this summer, I've had writer's block when trying to talk about him.)

Bill Cala and I hit it off immediately and I remember laughing a hell of a lot in the midst of some serious discussions on how to fight NCLB, though I had to keep reminding myself that a guy that I could see coming to ICE meetings actually runs an entire school district. We all had fun with the idea of creating a phony election to run someone against Richard Mills and figured John Lawhead would make a much better State Ed Commissioner.

I won't go into the details of Bill Cala's background, but it should be noted he was one of the few - if not THE ONLY - school superintendent to battle Richard Mills over his horrendous testing policies (and his entire stewardship of the NYS ed dept - remember, Mills gave Klein the waiver.) Comparing Bill Cala to Joel Klein would be paralleled by comparing FDR to George Bush.

It was Bill who took me to a meeting where I met both Urban Academy's Ann Cook and Time out for Testing's Jane Hirschman for the first time. Not bad company to hang out with.

Bill retired as the Fairport schools superintendent and was asked to temporarily take over the Rochester job (while continuing to do fabulous work in Kenya where he and his wife Joanne started an organization to help AIDS orphans ( (HINT: Donations are accepted.) If Bill hadn't gotten so involved with the Africa project it is hard to imagine him not being offered the Rochester job permanently, though I can't imagine the Broad people (looking to capture the public schools) and other interests (ie., Mills) would be happy.

So I shudder to think of the very idea that someone who worked for Joel Klein would be stepping into Bill Cala's shoes.

I would go back to teaching if Bill Cala ever became chancellor of the NYC schools system. But he is more likely to fix all the problems in Africa before that day comes.

In the meantime, is it possible Brizard is not a Klein Klone? Let us know what you think and we'll funnel the info to Rochester, where your voice can possibly help prevent the BloomKlein/Broad roller coaster from taking over yet another urban school system with Kleinites, as has been done in Washington and Baltimore.


  1. NORM U ROCK!!!!

    to be able to see and to show us the WHOLE picture of education in this country, not just our city or state...

    thank you :D

    a shout out HOLLA!!!

  2. JC is actually a very intelligent man - did a lot of seriously good work internally when in Tweed. Yes, he towed the line and did what was asked of him (both good and bad) inside NYC DOE, but he showed a level of professionalism in supporting his bosses. He saw the potential in the reform policies and tried to do what he could...

    I think Rochester will be lucky to have him, and I think it is worth giving him a chance to see what can be done. I definitely understand/agree with the hesitation, but I'd still say that system has a solid leader coming in it's doors...


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