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Chicago public schools chief out in wake of teachers strike

Sitthixay Ditthavong / AP file

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard delivers a presentation at a Chicago Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 in Chicago.

Jean-Claude Brizard, plucked last year from Rochester, N.Y., to lead Chicago Public Schools, is out.

"I leave this role with great sadness, but with the knowledge that the seeds for true innovation and transformation have been planted," Brizard said in a statement sent out shortly after midnight Friday morning.

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Spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton classified the move as a "mutual agreement" between Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Office of the Mayor issued a statement Friday morning stating Emanuel would be making an "announcement about education" at 10:30 a.m.

The announcement will name CPS Chief Education Advisor Barbara Byrd Bennett as Brizard's replacement, Hamilton said.

Sources said Brizard gave his resignation to Emanuel on Monday, but the mayor opted this week to focus on his budget proposal to the Chicago City Council. A source added that Brizard personally informed Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

"You cannot fire your way to a new school district," Lewis said through her spokesman. "There is chaos at the top that trickles down to the bottom."

The development is a dramatic turnaround from late August, when Emanuel expressed confidence in his school leader and shot down a published report that Brizard was on his way out.

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"Its just that, rumor," Emanuel told reporters on Aug. 31. "He's (Brizard's) doing a great job."

It didn't go unnoticed, however, that Brizard was absent from many of the public statements made by officials during the recent teacher strike that kept students out of class for seven days.

His lack of visibility fueled speculation that he'd resigned or been fired.

"The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," Brizard said in a public email in mid-September.

Brizard came to Chicago in April 2011 after a three-year stint as the superintendent of schools in Rochester, N.Y. He replaced interim chief Terry Mazany.

As for Bennett, she came to Chicago earlier this year after helping to lead reform efforts in Detroit, Cleveland and New York City.

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