Brizard's CPS Listening Tour with NPN

Written by: Lee Haas

Last week, eleven NPN volunteers, partners and staff members had the amazing opportunity to meet with the new CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, as part of his Listening Tour initiative. These small forums with Mr. Brizard give key education stakeholders (including teachers, principals, students, parents, community and faith leaders) a chance to share their thoughts on what is and is not working in CPS.  NPN’s meeting with Mr. Brizard brought together parents representing a diverse array of CPS schools including Coonley, Chicago Academy, Blaine, Murray Language Academy, Franklin Fine Arts, Agassiz, Prescott, Burr, Drummond, Audubon, LaSalle Language Academy and the new STEM Magnet Academy opening this fall.

Mr. Brizard gave a brief statement about the new Schools Progress Reports and then opened the floor for attendees to share viewpoints and ask questions. Topics discussed include:

  • School acceptance policies, including the practice of students being admitted at the “principal’s discretion.” Concerns were raised over the sibling policy (or the lack of a clearly stated or defined policy) and the disappointment of those enrolled in tuition-based preschool programs who were led to believe they would be admitted into the Kindergarten program.
  • Disparity between Kindergarten programs (full-day v. half-day) across the district. Mr. Brizard seemed to agree that full-day Kindergarten was a necessity. However, as expected, funding would be the major hurdle.
  • Lengthening the school day. Mr. Brizard also strongly supports a longer school day and is working on plans that can increase time on task. He also brought up the idea of year-round school – moving away from the agrarian calendar.
  • Breakfast in the classrooms. Mr. Brizard indicated that there may be more flexibility given to individual schools to decide how to best implement a breakfast program. Mr. Brizard also supports a healthier food selection and will look at both the vendors and CPS factors that affect the food selection.
  • Improving neighborhood schools. Mr. Brizard understood the concerns of parents who felt that their neighborhood school simply was not an option. There is a task force already investigating various options and plans to improve disparity in neighborhood schools.
  • Funding. There are state-wide funding problems when it comes to education -- inadequate funding is not unique to CPS. Mr. Brizard encourages formation of a state-wide coalition of partners advocating for funding reforms.

While Mr. Brizard did not announce any approved initiatives on these topics, he was well aware of the issues and seemed to be in the process of investigating and addressing many of them. Many in our group left feeling very optimistic and hopeful that he will provide the necessary leadership to effect positive changes.

We invite other Listening Tour attendees to share their personal observations in reply to this post. NPN was grateful for the opportunity for this one-on-one conversation and hopes that it is the beginning of an open dialog between NPN membership and CPS!

Many of the topics discussed in the NPN session were similar to those discussed with Raise Your Hand Coalition, summarized here.

Posted on July 24, 2011 at 8:41 PM