The leader of the Chicago Public Schools is stepping down at the end of this year and is saying it is time for the “next chapter”.
CHICAGO – The leader of the Chicago Public Schools announced on Monday that she is stepping down later this year because it is time to “pass the torch to new leadership” in the nation’s third largest school district.
The move follows a tumultuous tenure for longtime district educator Janice Jackson, who became CEO in 2018 after serving twice in the role temporarily after scandals involving two predecessors.
Among other things, Jackson supervised schools during an 11-day teacher strike in 2019, community turmoil over plans to rebuild high schools in a low-income pocket in the city and bitter struggles with the Chicago Teachers Union over the plans to reopen after the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic. The battles almost resulted in a strike this year, as students have been preparing to return to classrooms since they left in March 2020.
In a letter to CPS families, Jackson acknowledged the difficult parts of his mandate, but said it was an honor to serve the children of Chicago for more than two decades. Approximately 355,000 students attend public schools in the city.
“While I feel that there is still more work to be done at CPS, I also believe it is time to pass the torch on to new leadership for the next chapter,” Jackson wrote in a letter.
Jackson said he will not renew his contract, which expires on June 30.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters that the district will conduct a nationwide search for the next school head.
Jackson, who grew up in Chicago and attended city schools, started working as a teacher in the district in 1999. She then became a director and held various leadership positions, including education director.
She was chosen as interim CEO in 2015, when Barbara Byrd-Bennett came out in a bribery scandal that led to her arrest. Two years later, she was again named acting head of schools when then-CEO Forrest Claypool suddenly resigned in the midst of an ethics investigation. In 2018, she became a full-time CEO, what she called a dream job.
Jackson said one of his main achievements was the creation of a stock office. She said this has prompted the district to make more admission offers this year for black and disabled students who enroll in the most selective schools.
His administration also saw the results of the historic school financing reform, which was sanctioned in 2017. Jackson said he remains committed to ensuring that schools reopen full-time in the fall.
“Despite a disturbing year, CPS is emerging stronger than ever,” she said in the letter. “From a fiscal point of view, we have made major improvements, including an increase in school funding assets and significant investments in schools and students with a focus on underserved communities.”
Jackson told reporters that he was not interested in leading another school district or seeking an elective office. She said she accepted a scholarship at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education, but she had no plans beyond that and hoped to have a break.
“When I look back on what we did, I feel proud and humble, and also a little tired,” she joked at a news conference.
Her announcement came at the time when the second highest administrator in the district, LaTanya McDade, said she was leaving at the end of the school year to work as a superintendent for a school district in Virginia.