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Mayor Lori Lightfoot Names José Torres As Interim Chicago Public Schools CEO

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson stepping down at the end of the month, and a search still underway for her permanent successor, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday named former Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy president Dr. José Torres as the district's new interim chief.

"Serving the incredible students, staff, and families of Chicago Public Schools at this critical time is an immense privilege, and I am grateful to be returning to the CPS family," Torres said in a statement issued by the mayor's office. "I'm honored that Mayor Lightfoot and the Board of Education have put their faith in me, and I'm eager to begin helping our schools recover from this incredibly challenging year."

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.

Lightfoot said Torres also has served as an assistant superintendent for Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Annapolis, Maryland; as well as in top administrative roles at the Baltimore CIty Public Schools, National Association of State Boards of Education, the San Ysidro School District in southern California, and the San Jose Unified School District. He's also a former teacher and human relations specialist at Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland.

"We are grateful and lucky to have someone of his depth and experience to be serving as interim CEO," Lightfoot said. "From the East Coast to the West Coast, to right here in the Midwest, Dr. Torres has a proven track record of improving the lives of public school students and staff."

Pending approval from the Chicago Board of Education next week, Torres will begin as interim CEO on July 1. He will stay on until a permanent successor is named, but won't be seeking the job on a permanent basis himself.

Lightfoot noted she reached out to Torres about the job only two days after he retired from IMSA.

Torres said he took the job out of a sense of duty to serve CPS while the mayor searches for a permanent CEO, not to build his resume.

"I actually was sitting on a palm tree yesterday in front of the ocean, thinking that I should get my head examined, but then colleagues at CPS have said all of us should be getting our heads examined, because we're doing this for the mission and for the work," Torres said.

Lightfoot said the search process for a permanent CEO is underway, with the help of a "top notch search firm," and she expects to have a list of finalists to choose from by the end of July.

"It's an aggressive timeline, but obviously we want to have someone announced and be in a position to start as soon as the school doors open," Lightfoot said.

Jackson is stepping down from CPS after her contract expires on June 30. Lightfoot thanked her for her three years of service as the CEO, especially for her work over the past year during the pandemic, when students were learning remotely most of the school year.

"Overseeing a school system as large, complex, and diverse as CPS requires an immense amount of skill and expertise under normal circumstances, but nothing about this pandemic time that we are in has been normal, and we still have hard work to do," Lightfoot said.

Jackson said Torres was the first person she reached out to to take over as CPS chief executive officer after she decided to step down.

"Dr. Torres, I wish you all the joy and fulfillment that I've personally experienced in this role, and while I know that you've said your time here will be limited, I can guarantee you it will be unforgettable," Jackson said.

Lightfoot also announced CPS chief equity officer Maurice Swinney would be the district's interim chief education officer, replacing LaTanya McDade, who resigned at the end of the school year to become superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia.

CPS senior adviser Lindy McGuire will serve as the district's interim chief operating officer, replacing Arnie Rivera, who also is leaving the district.

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