Last Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Janice Jackson, 40, would become acting CEO of Chicago Public Schools. A group of West Side clergy and community leaders, however, want Jackson to take the reins permanently.
“Dr. Jackson’s support in our communities is deep and wide,” said Rev. Cy Fields, pastor of New Landmark Church and the president of the Leaders Network, a faith-based social activism organization, during a Dec. 12 press conference held at Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.
“She is the product of the system and a professional educator,” Fields added. “We have an opportunity to have grassroots support for a system with a grassroots leader.”
Jackson served as chief education officer of CPS under former CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, who was forced to resign after the CPS inspector general published a report claiming that Claypool lied to investigators during an investigation into a possible violation of the district’s ethics code.
With her appointment as acting CEO, Jackson became the embattled school district’s seventh “interim or full-time CEO since Arne Duncan left for Washington D.C., in 2009,” according to a Chicago Tonight report. “That includes five during the mayor’s tenure and four since the middle of 2015.”
“But unlike some of her predecessors who came from politics (Claypool), other cities (Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Jean-Claude Brizard) or state government (Paul Vallas), Jackson is a Chicago lifer with a strong background in education,” according to Chicago Tonight.
Jackson went to CPS schools from her pre-kindergarten years through high school, graduating from Hyde Park High School. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Chicago State University, and a second master’s and a doctorate in education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“Her dissertation focused on the many ways principals can help teachers improve their instructional capacity,” according to Chicago Tonight.
“Chicago’s schools have an opportunity to move forward with Dr. Jackson,” said Rev. Lindsey Joyce, a member of the Leaders Network who pastors a church in Rogers Park. “My. Mayor, don’t miss this moment.”
Some clergy members who spoke during the Dec. 12 press conference referenced the mass closings of many schools on the West and South Sides that happened under the leadership of Jackson’s predecessors.
Rev. Ira Acree, the co-chair of the Leaders Network and the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, said that, while he understands that Emanuel is the “real decision maker,” Jackson is “our choice for the permanent CEO appointment, but we will fight whoever tries to close schools and disinvest in our communities.”
“We will not tolerate any additional closed schools in our community,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch, a Leaders Network co-chair and the pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in West Garfield Park.
“We expect Dr. Jackson to put our children and neighborhood schools first.”