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Chicago Public Schools boss tying his pay to ‘student achievement’

Jean-Claude Brizard | Sun-Times Library

Jean-Claude Brizard | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: July 8, 2011 2:54PM

Newly-appointed Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard disclosed Thursday that he is finalizing a “performance contract” that will tie his compensation to “student achievement.”

Brizard said his performance would be measured “the same way everyone’s gonna be measured. Fundamentally, it’s about student achievement.”

Sources said Brizard’s base salary is expected to remain at the $250,000 temporarily approved by the lame-duck school board.

But that salary could rise based on a host of factors ranging from test scores and parental participation to graduation and student drop-out rates.

Asked Thursday if he expects to be paid more if student test scores rise, Brizard said, “Not necessarily. … I can’t talk too much about it because it’s still being negotiated and finalized by the attorneys. That will be in the next few days. … You’ll get all the details. I promise you.”

Brizard refused to say whether the performance contract would include a housing allowance or expense account. Nor would he say whether he would be reimbursed for moving expenses.

Last month, the outgoing school board approved Brizard’s appointment for an initial base salary $20,000 higher than the annual salary paid to predecessor Ron Huberman.

The agreement expires June 30. By that time, a new board will be seated and the performance contract now being negotiated with the former Rochester, N.Y. schools chief will be ready for the new board’s approval.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned on a promise to create a local version of the federal “Race to the Top” fund to reward the best teachers and schools.

He has suggested five-year performance contracts for every Chicago Public School and cash incentives to reward the best-performing principals.

The decision to use the same standard for Brizard is not surprising, although it would mark the first time in recent memory that a Chicago schools chief has even had a contract.

Earlier this year, Emanuel explained his philosophy about tying pay to performance at all levels of public education.

“If all we do is say bonus pay or merit pay for teachers, we’re missing [a key element]. This is why teachers feel that they’re being selected out to bear the burden or the responsibility or the blame. Merit pay for teachers was based on a reward, but they’re hearing it as punishment,” he said then.

“My hope is that teachers will hear it and say, ‘He’s not trying to single us out. He’s holding everyone accountable.’ I want the notion of reward and accountability to be comprehensive.”

Brizard told the Chicago Sun-Times about the performance contract his attorney is negotiating after announcing $75 million in “non-classroom” budget cuts.

During the news conference at South Loop Elementary School, he was asked whether he expects to take a pay cut or order the same from school administrators to help erase a $720 million deficit.

“If you look at the last three years, central office administrators have taken furloughs. They’ve not seen a raise. So, lots have been done” already, he said.

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