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Mayor Brandon Johnson picks new Chicago Board of Education president, 5 other new members

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson is replacing all but one member of the Chicago Board of Education, his first major step at bringing in his own allies to oversee the city's public schools.

Johnson, a former CPS teacher and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, is appointing Jianan Shi, executive director of parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, as the new board president, replacing Miguel del Valle, who stepped down last week when his term expired.

Shi has headed up Raise Your Hand since 2019, and will step down from the prominent advocacy group to become the school board president.

He previously worked as a high school science teacher at Eric Solorio Academy, and taught for three y ears at a school in Boston.

Johnson also announced five other new appointments to the board:

  • Mariela Estrada, director of community engagement at the United Way of Metro Chicago, who also previously worked as a community engagement coordinator for the Chicago inspector general's office, and director of organizing for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.
  • Mary Fahey Hughes, a special education advocate and special education parent liaison at Raise Your Hand, who also has served as a parent advocate for the Parent Educator Partnership Program at CPS. She also previously has served as a local school council member at Cassell Elementary School and at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and as director of the 19th Ward Parents for Special Education.
  • Rudy Lozano, executive director with global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, and head of The Fellowship Initiative, a no-profit that wors with low-income Black and Latino students to help them overcome obstacles to succeed in school. He also is a CPS graduate, and has experience in youth mentoring programs and teaching at alternative high schools.
  • Michelle Morales, president of the Woods Fund Chicago, an organization that provides grants for efforts to fight poverty and structural racism. She also previously headed up the Illinois chapter of the Mikva Challenge, which helps students with civic engagement and leadership skills.
  • Tanya D. Woods, executive director of the Westside Justice Center, a non-profit legal aid clinic in East Garfield Park. She's also an attorney in private practice and certified mediator and trainer at the Center for Conflict Resolution, and an adjunct faculty member at the Loyola University School of Law.

The only holdover from the board appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be the board's vice president, Elizabeth Todd-Breland, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Johnson's hand-picked board is dominated by parent advocates and grassroots organizers, a major change from prior boards, which tended to have many members who were bankers, attorneys, or former city officials.

According to Johnson's office, Todd-Breland, Estrada, Hughes, Lozano, Morales, and Woods all are current or former CPS parents.

With his hand-picked board now in place, it's yet to be seen if Johnson will keep Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez in place on a long-term basis.

Meantime, CPS will soon begin transitioning to an elected school board. Legislation passed by he Illinois General Assembly and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in 2021, over Lightfoot's objections, calls for the creation of a 21-member school board starting in 2025 – starting with a hybrid board of 10 members who will be elected in November 2024, and 11 members appointed by the member.

The board will then become fully elected in 2027, with voters electing 11 members to replace the mayor's appointments, including the board president, in 2026.

The Chicago Teachers Union, for which Johnson served as an organizer before his election as mayor, supported the switch to an elected school board.

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