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Former CPS CEO Brizard: Emanuel A 'Master At Managing Media'

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 23, 2013 4:40PM

Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was the subject of a softball interview with educational think tank The Thomas Fordham Institute that’s notable for his impressions of working with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Brizard told interviewer Andy Smarick he received plenty of advice on how to work with Emanuel before he became CPS CEO and that he never experienced the profane, cutthroat Beltway politician with a long memory and an even longer enemies list.

While I never experienced the man with the “reputation,” I certainly can see that possible side. I experienced a man who loves his family dearly and is frustrated by the challenges of a school system in crisis and a crime situation that is making international headlines.

Brizard did call Emanuel a “master at managing media,” something anyone who has had to deal with his press office can attest, and that the mayor’s tendency to micromanage sometimes get in the way of working smoothly with his chief lieutenants.

MRE and I disagreed on process at times, and it was unfortunate that he never really got to know me. I appreciated his leadership, but his one challenge is to learn to let go and allow his managers to lead.

Brizard described Emanuel as always being “on” in public but behind the scenes is “thoughtful, funny and caring” but is frustrated by his ongoing war on the public school system.

Brizard, who helped steer CPS into the first teachers strike in Chicago in a quarter century last year, tendered his resignation shortly after the school district and Chicago Teachers Union agreed to a new contract. He received a severance package of nearly $292,000 and a glowing letter of recommendation for 17 months of turbulent leadership and now works as a senior adviser with College Board.