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'I Leave Feeling Proud Of All We Accomplished Together:' Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson Issues Farewell Statement As She Steps Down

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson issued a farewell message Wednesday as she steps down from her role at the end of the day.

Jackson announced on May 3 is stepping down from CPS after her contract expires Wednesday. Her farewell message was as follows:

"After 22 incredible years, today I end my journey as a leader and educator with Chicago Public Schools. Of course as many of you know, my time at CPS stretches back even further, to the day I first entered Cook Elementary as a student in Head Start.

"Each time I visit one of our schools, I see my former self reflected there. I am there in the faces of our students, who come to school eager to learn and ready for someone to see and unlock their potential. I am there in the eyes of our parents, whose dedication and passion make our schools true pillars of community. And I am there in our teachers and school leaders, who devote so much of their time, talent, and treasure to uplifting the students of Chicago and helping them chart their own unique path to success.

"While it is time for me to move on from our CPS family, a piece of my story, and of my heart, will always remain with you, the people who make our district such an extraordinary place. I leave feeling proud of all we accomplished together, especially our focus on equity as the single greatest path to ensuring every child from every community in Chicago has a fair chance to succeed. My greatest hope is that all of you will continue building on this foundation so that CPS can be a place where every student feels valued and supported, and where a child's race, zip code, or country of origin will never determine how high they can soar.

"I thank the extraordinary team of educators and staff who have implemented my vision, and the CPS families who entrusted your children to our care. And to the amazing students of Chicago - I want you to know that it is you who have inspired me to push forward with this work, and you who have filled even the most challenging days with fulfillment, blessings, and joy.

"I leave fully confident that our district is prepared to move past the pandemic and continue climbing to new heights. And no matter where I go from here, I will continue advocating for the students of Chicago and singing the praises of this place that is, was, and always will be my one true home.


"Janice K. Jackson, EdD."

Jackson, the first CPS graduate to be appointed the CEO, has worked in various capacities at CPS for 22 years, including as a teacher, principal, administrator, and chief education officer.

She taught history at South Shore High School, and was principal of both Al Raby High School and Westinghouse College Prep, before becoming a CPS network chief and later chief education officer – essentially the district's second-in-command – starting in 2015.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel tapped Jackson as 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, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot kept her on when she took office in 2019.

Jackson also has two children who are CPS students.

During her nearly 3 1/2 years leading the district, Jackson has overseen record graduation rates, improvements in math and reading scores, and the rollout of a universal preschool system. But she also has seen her share of scandals, including a federal investigation that found systemic failures in handling hundreds of reports of sexual abuse and assault, and a state investigation into systemic problems that delayed or denied special education services to students who needed them.

Jackson also 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 of that year 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 in April of this year.

In first announcing her choice to step down, Jackson admitted all of those things factored into her decision not to extend her contract beyond the end of June, acknowledging her time as CEO has left her "a little tired, if I'm being honest."

"I've worked my entire life while going to school, being a mom, leading, etc. I do need a break, and so I'm going to take that break," Jackson said on May 3.

Earlier this month, Mayor Lightfoot named former Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy president Dr. José Torres as the district's new interim chief.

Torres recently retired as head of the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, after six years. Before that, he served for six years as the superintendent at Elgin School District U-46, the second largest school district in Illinois. He also was once a regional superintendent for CPS from 2006 to 2008.

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