2006-09-14 / Top Stories

New Region Six Superintendent Outlines Plans For Local Schools

By Dara Mormile

Jean-Claude Brizard may have officially only assumed his duties as superintendent less than two weeks ago, but his strategy for Region 6's public schools is very clear.

"Regionwide improvement has to be our vision as community, not just mine," said Brizard, who was named to replace Gloria Buckery in July. He was at recent Community Education Council meetings for districts 18 and 22, which are part of Region 6.

He pointed to the gaps between the students in all Region 6 schools as "one of the most important steps educators and parents must take."

"I looked at the statistics," said Brizard. "and started to wonder why we have one middle school in District 22 doing so much better than one in District 18. I also began looking at students' records and it struck me - there are students who are doing extremely well in one subject, but fail in others. I want to understand if and how our teachers, principals and parents are working together to help close that gap."

Brizard has already visited some of what has been labeled the "best" and "worst" schools in the region to observe the interaction between students and teachers and said one problem students face is the language barrier.

"There are students coming from the Caribbean who have some of the basic educational knowledge, such as in math, that is close to that of New York City public schools," he said. "But I think the language and terminology within other subjects isn't clear to them and we need to address that type of problem."

Born in Haiti, Brizard came to America in 1976 and attended Lefferts Junior High School (IS 61) in Queens. He graduated from Erasmus High School then earned a degree in chemistry at Queens College.

His primary interest was to become a scientist, but he chose to teach the subject instead. Brizard had one life- turning experience when he was assigned to teach jailed teenage boys for one semester at Riker's Island.

"A lot of the students there couldn't read or add," he said. "But there was so much more to the job than teaching because you have children whose needs went beyond education. I tried to see where they went wrong in life and what their needs were. It was an intense teaching experience that prepared me for a lot of situations within public schools."

Brizard spent the next several years teaching in various Brooklyn schools and served as principal at George Westinghouse High School before becoming the instructional superintendent for Region 8. He is also the Department of Education's Executive Director for Secondary Schools in the Division of Teaching and Learning.

Goals for Brizard's first year include helping students in middle schools achieve a six-year plan.

"I think every student needs to know what's available to them in terms of their future, not just what they're doing right now," he said. "There are advanced placement courses that have been phased out of some schools and I think students need to have a higher goal to work towards."

In order to address regionwide concerns, he plans to frequently have breakfast with principals, keeping the lines of communication open and identifying what needs are.

Brizard favors empowerment for principals, which gives them more responsibility and accountability within their school.

"It gives the principals a plan of action and I support them all the way," he said.

Brizard looks forward to working with principals, teachers and parents and said, "We need to treat every child as a piece of art and make sure teachers are doing enough to make sure they are awarded."

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