Teachers protest as Brizard contract gets approved

$250,000 annually for Brizard to improve test scores, grad rates.

June 22, 2011

(WBEZ/Bill Healy)
Teachers at Wednesday's board meeting said raises would not cost as much as the board is estimating.
Jean-Claude Brizard takes questions from board members. (Bill Healy/WBEZ)

Under a freshly inked contract, Chicago's new schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard will be expected to significantly boost graduation rates, increase test scores, and get more kindergartners and preschoolers to enroll in school. 

It's the first time a Chicago's schools CEO has been given a performance-based contract.

The Board of Education approved Brizard's contract late Wednesday, after two and a half hours behind closed doors. His base pay will be $250,000 annually. The district released a statement saying that given the current fiscal crisis facing CPS Brizard will "forgo" any performance bonuses during the first year of the contract. After that, he'll be eligible for bonuses of up to 15 percent of his annual salary. Brizard is getting $30,000 to cover his moving expenses from Rochester, New York, where he was schools superintendent before being plucked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head Chicago's schools.

Board president David Vitale called the goals in Brizard's contract "robust" and "aggressive." They include getting 60 percent of students to graduate by 2014 (up from 55.8 percent in 2010), moving third grade reading scores from 57.8 percent in 2010 to 70 percent in 2014. High school scores must go up by at least 4 percentage points in Brizard's first year on the job; those scores have been relatively stagnant. The contract allows Brizard to say by October 1 if he believes his initial goals should modified.  (Brizard's contract is posted below in EXTRAS.)

The board also approved six-figure salaries for top officials under Brizard. Chief operating officer Tim Cawley will make $215,000 annually, $35,000 more than his predecessor, who district officials say oversaw fewer departments. The board also granted Cawley a waiver from the district's residency requirement. He will be allowed to continue to live in Winnetka so as not to disrupt life for his recently adopted daughter. 

Meanwhile, Chicago teachers took to the streets Wednesday over their own pay and work issues and broader school funding concerns. The Board of Education voted last week that the district could not afford the 4 percent raises called for in their contract.

One police official estimated around 2,000 teachers showed up at the protest downtown. It was the first day of summer vacation for Chicago teachers.

"We’re mad about the whole thing--demonizing teachers,  blaming us for all the problems," said John Cusick, who teaches fifth grade at Ray Elementary in Hyde Park.

Cusick said he had the clerk at Ray calculate how many hours he's worked since January 2. It turns out he had clocked 186 hours above those he was required to put in.

"Thirty more days of school I was on the clock but I wasn’t getting paid for.  That’s only at school—it  doesn’t include Sunday afternoons grading papers, writing lesson plans, going to used book stores to buy books for my kids out of my own money, so that’s why we’re here." Cusick was surrounded by teachers from Ray, who all wore the same T-shirt for the event.

Hamline Elementary fourth-grade teacher Michelle Maldonado said she's "a little bit" upset about raises, but more concerned about job security. 

"You work for years and years to find out now--it doesn't matter. You could just say good-bye. There's no job security. So with that, what happens? People are not going to buy a house, they're not going to buy a car. Why? Because you don't know if you have a job next year. So it trickles down."

The Chicago Teachers Union led protesters to march outside Bank of America and the Chicago Board of Trade. Union official Jackson Potter said corporations and banks have benefited from publicly funded bailouts, TIFs, and high-interest loans with the school district.

Many teachers talked about being offended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s comment last week. He said the current teachers contract gave labor peace to politicians and raises to teachers, while kids got "the shaft."

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