CHICAGO (CBS) — After more than three years at the helm of the nation’s third-largest school district, Dr. Janice Jackson is leaving as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools.
In a letter to CPS staff, Jackson said she will not be renewing her contract as CEO when it expires on June 30.
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Dear CPS Family:
One of my earliest memories in life was arriving in a CPS Head Start classroom over 40 years ago. I recall this vividly because I was very saddened by the fact that I could not attend school that day due to registration. However, to my delight, I returned the following day and enjoyed a fun-filled day of learning. I remember the brightness and excitement in the room as we played and sat in reading circles, listening attentively to our teacher read a story. The fact that one of my earliest memories in life has CPS at the center foreshadowed a lifelong love for our district and undying passion for education. CPS has been an integral part of my life first as a student, most importantly as a parent, and most humbly as the CEO. It is with that adoration that I have led this great school district as CEO for the past four years. While I feel there is still more work to be done in CPS, I also believe it is time to pass the torch to new leadership for the next chapter. Therefore, after careful deliberation, I have made the tough decision not to renew my contract as CEO, which expires on June 30, 2021.
For the past seven years, I’ve served in senior leadership roles in CPS and feel proud of the many accomplishments that have been achieved through the hard work of our students, teachers, counselors, administrators and staff and with the strong, ongoing support of Mayor Lightfoot and our Board. We have accomplished so much together including nationally recognized gains in student achievement, dramatic increases in graduation rates, college enrollment and completion rates, and the expansion of more academic programming across the city including the largest capital investment in CPS history that prioritized communities on the Southside and Westside of Chicago.
With equity at the core of our five-year vision, our incredible team has launched several initiatives that will help us achieve our goal of a high quality educational experience for all children. One of the most fulfilling accomplishments as CEO is creating high quality educational opportunities in communities that have experienced historic disinvestment. The development of an academic program expansion process led to the growth of rigorous programming throughout the city and the creation of Englewood STEM High School and Bronzeville Classical, two high-quality schools that are both on the Southside of Chicago. We did this in partnership with the Community Action Councils and other residents in the community. Those projects demonstrated the power of collaboration and investing in our neighborhoods, and it is my hope that it will continue with even more vigor in the coming years as many more communities in the city need and deserve more high quality educational options.
My tenure has not been without its adversity. However, from day one, I committed to own and face all of our district’s challenges head on. I thank each of you who played a role in helping us navigate those challenges by showing up daily with unwavering commitment to Chicago’s children. Despite a disruptive year, CPS is emerging stronger than ever. Fiscally we have made great improvements including increasing school funding equity and making significant investments in schools and students with a focus on underserved communities.
As I close out the next few months in CPS, our collective focus will be on ensuring a successful and safe reopening of schools full time in the fall. This includes implementing our comprehensive plan to help our schools recover from the pandemic by addressing academic and social and emotional needs and investing in supports that bring transformative change. It will be a down payment on the bright future and big things to come for CPS.
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When I began this journey, I made a commitment to lead with integrity, courage, and excellence while bringing much needed stability to the district. I have delivered on that promise and will continue to advocate for the children of Chicago. I want to express my sincerest gratitude to Mayor Lightfoot and the residents of Chicago for trusting and supporting my leadership throughout my tenure in CPS.
It has been an honor to serve Chicago’s children.
Jackson is expected to formally announce her plans to resign Monday afternoon alongside Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who kept Jackson as head of the school district when Lightfoot took office in 2019. Jackson was originally appointed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
It was an especially rocky tenure for Jackson, who led the district during its first teachers’ strike in seven years in 2019, followed by the total shutdown of the district due to the pandemic in 2020. CPS shut down its schools last March amid the first surge in COVID-19 cases, and students were forced to learn remotely until the district gradually started bringing students back in January. High school students were the last to return to classrooms last month.
Jackson has led CPS since she was tapped as the interim CEO in December 2017, after then-chief Forrest Claypool resigned in the wake of a report that concluded he lied to ethics investigators during a probe involving the school district’s top attorney, a close friend of Claypool’s. The Chicago Board of Education confirmed her as full-time CEO in January 2018.
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Before she was tapped as head of the district, Jackson served as chief education officer starting in 2015. She was also a former CPS teacher and principal before that.