Kids across Chicago pepper schools chief with questions | WBEZ
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Schools on the Line

Kids across the city pepper CPS CEO Brizard with questions

(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)

Kids from across Chicago had the chance to speak directly with Jean-Claude Brizard, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, during a special edition of WBEZ's monthly call-in program Schools on the Line thursday night.

The students questions touched on a broad range of topics, including plans for a longer school day, overcrowding, bilingual education, and uncooked pizza in the lunchroom. 

Concerns also included school safety, classroom behavior standards, and outreach and training for teachers and administrators on LGBT issues. You can listen to the entire show by clicking "Listen to this Story" above, or scroll down to hear specific questions.

Students from several Chicago Public School classrooms prepared questions for Mr. Brizard as part of their coursework, including Irma C. Ruiz Elementary School in Pilsen, Edgar Allen Poe Classical School in Pullman, and Curie Metro High School on the Southwest side.

Questions from Marilou Reynolds’s 6th grade class at Irma Ruiz Elementary School in Pilsen.


In addition, nearly a hundred students participated in listening parties at eight different locations across the city, organized by such groups as Little Black Pearl and Mikva Challenge.

Callers ranged in age from 8 to 18 - and those who didn't get a chance to ask questions on-air are encourged to post them in the comment section below.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard appeared as part of WBEZ's monthly every month in a live call-in program, Schools on the Line. It airs the first Thursday of each month.

The next program is scheduled for Tuesday, November 3rd at 7pm.

To participate:

-Join the live broadcast at 7p.m. Thursday, November 3, by calling 312-923-9239
-Leave a question or comment for Mr. Brizard ahead of time by calling 312-948-4886.

Following are audio excerpts from the all-youth show.

On what Jean-Claude Brizard was like as a kid:

“I wanted to be a doctor because my parents wanted me to be a doctor.”

brizard as kid111006.mp3

Steve Edwards: What were you like as a kid?
Brizard: I was a nerd—total, complete nerd. For those of you nerds out there, nerds rule the world, just remember that. I was the kind of kid most parents didn’t worry about. I didn’t go out late until I was 22 years old.

On whether high-performing schools can keep a shorter school day:

“We want to make sure that, as you go on to college,  that you’re prepared for competition from  kids coming to you from India, from China, from different countries—and from across the country.”

Brizard on what the longer school day will include: “We want it to grow organically at schools….We’re not looking to dictate….”

On CTA fares and schedule problems making kids late to school:

"I'll talk to the CTA head and make sure we talk about the number of buses available."

What can CPS do to address Latinos dropping out of school:

"The dropout process is not an event, it’s a process. When you look at a child’s disengagement from high school, it starts early, as early as fifth or sixth grade at times."

On expanding restorative justice programs:


On school overcrowding and potential school closures:

”You can follow quality by following the masses—wherever people go. So we’re building right now a plan to look at how we’re going to add more seats in some parts of the city where we know there’s great demand…. At the same time in some parts of the city we’ll need to consolidate because schools are severely underenrolled.”

On violence:


Why can't students learn more subjects in school?


On training principals and administrative staff on sexual orientation and gender identity issues:

On heating and cooling problems in school:

“Our president is trying to get a bill passed in Washington that would bring about $600 million in facilities repairs to Chicago….If we can get that passed and this money would come to Chicago it would help a lot in retrofitting buildings with air conditioning and making sure that we have an environment conducive to learning.”

On bilingual education and when students learn English:

“I was a bilingual student—I was one of those kids in school who didn’t speak English….I came here when I was about 11½, 12.  And I was in a bilingual program until I was about 15 years of age.”

Brizard: The Harvard School of Education as well as experts from Illinois and Arizona are reviewing CPS’ bilingual program and will issue recommendations. “Stay tuned: lots more to come on that.” 

On what an ideal teacher is:

“Highly skilled, loves subject and loves children. And someone who really understands how to teach young people—not just subjects, but young people. “


Why does where we live affect our chances of getting into selective enrollment schools?

Steve Edwards: Do you think we’ll see more selective enrollment schools during your tenure?
Brizard: We need better neighborhood schools….Our primary focus is going to be on creating great neighborhood schools.

On uncooked pizza:

Student: The pizza is never cooked!
Brizard: “I can’t tell about your specific pizza…. I’ll visit and I’ll talk to the folks in the kitchen.”

Do you want a longer day for high schools too?

“The answer is yes in a very short answer, but it may not look the same in elementary and high schools….This  longer school day really is a regular school day. What we’ve had in Chicago is a short school day. Let’s be real. Let’s be clear about that.”

Are selective enrollment schools better than neighborhood schools?


What happens to teachers who are unfair to their students?


Why aren't LGBTQ people included in our history books or classes?

“Very often people will focus on the textbook as being the curriculum. I’m one who pushes that the textbook is one part of the material…. It’s not just the textbook but the instructional materials, how [teachers]  bring that into the fray, how they bring that into the classroom, to make sure that we talk about the contributions of everyone—to this wonderful mosaic we call the American culture.”

What is the best way to help students learn and understand material?

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