Chicago’s school board on Wednesday officially named Janice Jackson, a longtime educator in the city who has been serving as interim district leader for the last month, as its permanent CEO.
Jackson, 40, replaces Forrest Claypool, who stepped down in December after the district’s inspector general released a report accusing him of repeatedly lying during an ethic probe. The IG recommended Claypool’s termination.
Jackson is the third permanent CEO—Chicago uses the term CEO, not superintendent, for its K-12 top official—to lead the nation’s third-largest school district in the last three years and the fourth to do so since 2009 when Arne Duncan left the position to become the U.S. secretary of education. The last three schools’ chiefs—Jean Claude Brizard, Barbara Byrd Bennett, and Claypool—were appointed by current Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Claypool succeeded Byrd-Bennett in 2015 after she resigned in connection to a kickback scheme. The government accused her of conspiring with the owners of a leadership development company to receive financial kickbacks in return for steering district contracts their way. Byrd-Bennett is now serving a four and a half-year prison sentence in connection to the bribery scheme.
Jackson rose up through the ranks, starting as a history teacher at South Shore High school, and later becoming a principal, principal supervisor, and chief education officer.
In a video message to the district earlier this month, Jackson said she wanted to ensure that CPS students have the quality schools that they deserve, that they will thrive in their schools and that teachers and principals will have the resources they need to educate students.
Jackson said she was speaking to the community, not as the interim school leader, but as a parent whose child attends district schools. The role of a parent, she said, has better informed her view of the district. She promised to focus on parental engagement, which she said would be a top priority for her. And she committed to a series of community meetings in the spring to discuss the district’s needs.
“I want to know what’s working and what isn’t,” she said. “I want to understand how we’re helping your kids thrive, but also where we need to do better.”
Jackson said that the recent change in leadership has not altered the district’s core mission to continue its academic progress—including improving its high school graduation rates and college readiness rates—and ensure financial stability and integrity districtwide.
Emanuel made note of Jackson’s long connection to CPS in a statement on her appointment.
“Janice brings a lifetime of experience, knowledge and leadership to Chicago Public Schools,” Emanuel said. “As a CPS alumni, parent, teacher, principal, network chief, and Chief Education Officer, Janice’s passion for public education, commitment to Chicago’s students and strong leadership skills have earned her the respect and admiration of the entire CPS community. As Chicago’s students continue to shatter national academic records and make unprecedented progress in and out of the classroom, nobody is more qualified or capable to continue to support their success and lead the district into the future than Janice.”
Image caption: Janice Jackson, was named the permanent CEO of the Chicago school system, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Photo courtesy Chicago Public School. (File photo)
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.