CHICAGO — The leader of Chicago Public Schools announced Monday that she’s leaving the post later this year because it’s time to “pass the torch” to new leadership of the nation’s third-largest school district.
The move follows a tumultuous tenure for longtime educator Janice Jackson, who became CEO in 2018 after twice serving in the post temporarily following scandals involving both of her predecessors.
Among other things, Jackson oversaw schools during an 11-day teachers strike in 2019, community uproar over proposed high school closures and numerous fights with the Chicago Teachers Union this year over reopening plans following coronavirus pandemic restrictions. The battles nearly resulted in a strike this year as students prepared to return to classrooms since going remote in March 2020.
In a letter to CPS families, Jackson acknowledged the difficult parts of her term but said it was an honor to serve Chicago’s children. Roughly 355,000 students attend the city’s public schools.
“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,” Jackson wrote in a letter. She was expected to address reporters later Monday.
Jackson said she won’t renew her contract, which expires June 30.
Jackson, who grew up in Chicago and attended city schools, has worked as a teacher and principal, and has held several leadership roles in the district.
She was chosen as interim CEO in 2015 when Barbara Byrd-Bennett left in a kickbacks scandal that led to prison time. Two years later, she was again named interim schools chief when then-CEO Forrest Claypool suddenly resigned amid an ethics probe. She assumed the job full time in 2018.
Her tenure also saw the results of historic school funding reform, which was signed into law in 2017. Jackson said she remains committed to making sure schools reopen full time in the fall.
“Despite a disruptive year, CPS is emerging stronger than ever,” she said. “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.”
Her announcement comes as the district’s second-highest ranking administrator, LaTanya McDade, has said she is leaving at the end of the school year for a job as superintendent of a Virginia School District.
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