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Rochester, N.Y., Superintendent Moves to Chicago

Jean-Claude Brizard, who spent most of his career in New York City schools before taking over the superintendency in the 32,000-student Rochester district in 2007, is leaving Rochester for the Windy City.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced today that Brizard is his pick as the chief executive officer of the 409,000-student Chicago schools, a position once held by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. For the past five months, the district has been led by Terry Mazany, the leader of a city community foundation, who was serving in a caretaker role.

In November, Brizard signed a three-year contract extension in Rochester that would have netted him $235,000 a year. But he was also facing increasing hostility from teachers in the district, who voted overwhelmingly in February that they did not support his ability to lead. About 80 percent of the city's teachers participated in the vote, and 95 percent of them gave Brizard a vote of no confidence.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle wrote that Brizard has been a lightning rod for some educators because of his support of education reform efforts like charter schools and merit pay.

But in his letter of resignation, Brizard focused on the accomplishments of his tenure, among them being an increase in the graduation rate, a decreased suspension rate, and a school modernization plan.

Brizard was at the mayor's side when Emanuel made the announcement, but he didn't take questions. "I am honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to serve Chicago," Brizard said in a statement that he read. "There is no greater calling than to the field of education. We have the power to change the lives and trajectories of children."

Brizard spent 21 years as a science teacher and administrator with the New York schools. Before he left New York City for Rochester, he was a regional superintendent, supervising more than 100 schools serving over 100,000 students in three New York City geographic districts. Brizard is also a 2007 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains leaders to work in urban school districts.

The Rochester district has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, when it will likely announce plans for a superintendent search. Brizard plans to leave Rochester by the end of the school year.

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