CHICAGO -- When teachers on strike took to the Chicago streets for nine days this month, news cameras followed the union president, the head of the school board and the mayor. The Chicago Teachers Union and city representatives would meet for hours, negotiating technical contract details. A throng of reporters was always waiting outside for the latest update.

But the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, was nearly invisible.

As the strike began, Brizard had just come off a shaky performance review that so reverberated around Chicago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had felt compelled to publicly voice confidence in his first schools chief. Aside from a brief appearance at Emanuel's press conference the night the strike news broke, Brizard has defined low-profile over the last two weeks.

So what was Brizard up to?

"I got in a car and drove from school to school," he told The Huffington Post in his first lengthy interview since the strike ended on Sept. 18. From the beginning of the strike, Brizard said he engaged with teachers on the picket lines from 6 a.m. until lunch. "Things were raw," he said. He specifically sought places where reporters would be scarce.

On Sept. 10, the first day of the strike, at the first school where he stopped, Brizard recalled, "They told me, 'Try and fix this quickly,'" and they said, "We just want to go back to our schools."

Next, Brizard visited Disney Magnet School. "I was surrounded by teachers," he said. He remembers they were shouting, "Brizard, Emanuel, give us our money back." Brizard said, "And I thought really, what money did I take from you?" (They were likely referring to the contractual 4 percent raise Emanuel denied the teachers last year.) Then, the school's union leader came out and "we talked for really good minutes" as the others listened.

"I spent a week doing that," said the schools chief.

For the most part, Brizard said, teachers were happy to have his ear -- until he reached a school on Chicago's South Side where he said he was told to "go effing back to New York." So he said thank you, waved and drove away, he recalled.

"My goal was to try and build community so when this was over, it wouldn't be horrible," he said.

At lunch time, Brizard would go back to the school district's central office to monitor how Chicago's strike contingency plan was serving students. Sometimes, when the union's rallies filled the surrounding streets, he couldn't get into the building. When he did, he would stand in an area with wall-to-wall windows, listening to what Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten told the throngs of teachers outside. But he made sure to stand where he was invisible to the crowds. "As much as I engage teachers on the picket line, I was not going to engage 4-5,000 teachers on the street," he said.

His absence from the public stage during the strike stoked a rumor that he had resigned. A union member said as much at a rally, and it lit up Twitter, forcing Brizard to respond with a Mark Twain-esque email to school staff that declared, "The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."

"I don't expect to be fired, but if the mayor decides I'm not the right person for him, that's OK," Brizard said.

According to Brizard, he communicates regularly with Emanuel, although he has not observed the mayor's notorious use of colorful language. "I have not experienced that side," said Brizard. "What I experience from him is someone who ... listens," he added. "I have to be honest about that. This is where people may or may not agree. I find that if I push certain ideas, he listens."

"I've never been a yes person in my life and will not be," Brizard said. "Whenever I push back, I've gotten to know him in the sense that, if you push with data, ... he listens." As an example, Brizard said that Emanuel wanted to dramatically increase the number of selective magnet schools, but when Brizard showed him the effects that move would have on other schools, Emanuel changed his mind.

Before he arrived in Chicago in 2011, Brizard, who was born in Haiti, led Rochester's schools in upstate New York, a messy situation that included fights with the school board and the teachers union.

"I don't understand why that's allowed anywhere in the country," he said, referring to the union's right to strike. "Everyone should have a right to bargain, and I strongly believe in that," he added, but he suggested the issues in Chicago could have been resolved without a strike. (In a panel at NBC's Education Nation conference on Monday, Weingarten said the Chicago Teachers Union wanted a no-strike solution, too. "We asked for the same thing," she said.)

Though Brizard said the reason why the teachers felt a strike was necessary remains unclear to him, he conceded that "there were some mistakes made" in his administration's early days. One of those mistakes, he said, may have been to oversell charter schools as a solution to systemic stagnation. "What you hear is the rhetoric and pushback to 'this is the answer,'" he said. "At the same time, what's been missing is that there's not been a robust conversation about neighborhood schools."

He said he also could have been more vocal about the "effort to shut down lousy charter schools."

Another mistake, Brizard noted, was that "we didn't understand the relationship that existed" between the teachers and the administration. The distrust among teachers, he said, goes back several school chiefs.

"Teachers in some ways feel marginalized by the system," Brizard said. "They hadn't been nurtured, they felt. There's not been an education conversation, a pedagogical system."

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    Leslie Sabbs-Kizer, right, walks her children Nkai Melton, 8, Akaira Melton, 7, and Khaymya Smith, 3 to Bond Elementary school in Chicago, for the first day of classes Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Students gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy , Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012 in Chicago, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Two students hug, right, as they gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Students walk through the gates outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy, Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Students gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Rahm Emanuel, Jean-Claud Brizard, David Vitale

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, is flanked by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claud Brizard, left, and school board president David Vitale during a news conference after the teachers union House of Delegates voted to suspend their strike Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union smiles as she talks with reporters after the union's House of Delegates voted to suspend the strike Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates celebrate after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Tennille Evans

    Tennille Evans, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates, celebrates after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Mary Edmonds

    Mary Edmonds, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates, celebrates after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Teachers picket outside Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, as a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union continues into its second week. CTU members in the nation's third-largest city will pore over the details of a contract settlement Tuesday as the clock ticks down to an afternoon meeting in which they are expected to vote on ending a seven-day strike that has kept 350,000 students out of class. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Patty Westcott

    Teacher Patty Westcott pickets outside Clissold Elementary School in Chicago, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, as a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union continues into its second week. CTU members in the nation's third-largest city will pore over the details of a contract settlement Tuesday as the clock ticks down to an afternoon meeting in which they are expected to vote on ending a seven-day strike that has kept 350,000 students out of class. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2012, file photo Madison teachers hold a unity rally for striking Chicago teachers at the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin's attorney general planned to ask a judge Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, to put on hold his decision issued last week repealing major parts of Gov. Scott Walker's law effectively ending collective bargaining for most state workers. The request comes as school districts and local governments attempt to understand the ramifications of the decision and whether it opens the door to new negotiations previously barred with unions. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, M.P. King, File)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Tyler Whitaker watches from a distance as teachers from the Jose De Diego Community Academy, where he is a third grade student, walk the picket line on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Smaller, more subdued groups of teachers picket outside Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, as a strike by Chicago Teachers Union members heads into its second week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will seek a court order to force the city's teachers back into the classroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers attend a press conference by The Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in City Hall on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers attend a press conference by The Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in City Hall on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • A handful of teachers picket outside Shoop Elementary School in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, as a strike by Chicago Teachers Union members heads into its second week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will seek a court order to force the city's teachers back into the classroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers picket outside of George Westinghouse College Prep high school on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Karen Lewis, Jesse Sharkey

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, left, listens to CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey speak at a press conference following a meeting of delegates Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 in Chicago. The Chicago teachers union decided Sunday to continue its weeklong strike, extending an acrimonious standoff with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over teacher evaluations and job security provisions central to the debate over the future of public education across the United States. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A young boy holds a placard in support of striking Chicago school teachers as they march after a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in west Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Striking Chicago school teachers march after a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in Chicago. Thousands of striking Chicago public school teachers and their allies packed a city park Saturday in a boisterous show of force as union leaders and the district tried to work out the details of an agreement that could end a week-long walkout.(AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A young girl plays a toy horn as striking Chicago teachers rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Union president Karen Lewis reminded that although there is a "framework" for an end to their strike, they still are on strike. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union addresses the crowd during a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Lewis reminded that although there is a "framework" for an end to their strike, they are still on strike. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union addresses union menbers during a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Lewis reminded that although there is a "framework" for an end to their strike, they still are on strike. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago teachers union , left, and vice president Jesse Sharkey stand before a meeting of the union's House of Delegates Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis arrives for a meeting of the union's delegates Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Chicago. The city's nearly weeklong teachers strike appeared headed toward a resolution Friday after negotiators emerged from marathon talks to say they had achieved a "framework" that could end the walkout in time for students to return to class Monday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • David Vitale

    Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale speaks to reporters following negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 in Chicago. After a week of public school teachers striking over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations, Vitale said the district and teachers union have agreed on a

  • Public school teachers rally at Chicago's Congress Plaza to protest against billionaire Hyatt Hotel mogul Penny Pritzker, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Protesters said that $5.2 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds being used to build a new Hyatt hotel in Hyde Park would be better spent on meeting basic student needs. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A large crowd of public school teachers rally at Chicago's Congress Plaza to protest against billionaire Hyatt Hotel mogul Penny Pritzker, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Protesters said that $5.2 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds being used to build a new Hyatt hotel in Hyde Park would be better spent on meeting basic student needs. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters rally following a march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Teachers picket outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters rally before a march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Thousands of public school teachers and their supporters rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from being a board member of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Children in strollers join thousands of public school teachers rallying outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel, protesting against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Two-year-old identical twins Colton and Lucas Jordan join thousands of public school teachers and their supporters as they march along Chicago's Michigan Avenue, protesting against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Thousands of public school teachers and their supporters rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • A large group of public school teachers marches past John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A large group of public school teachers rally at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A family waves at a large group of public school teachers as they march on streets surrounding John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Chicago public school student Natalia Segal joins the picket line outside of Marshall High School on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on Monday after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • A large group of public school teachers marches past John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A young boy in a cart is pulled along by his mother at the tail of a group of public school teachers marching on streets surrounding John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Thousands of public school teachers rally for the second consecutive day outside the Chicago Board of Education district headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)