In a letter to CPS families, Jackson detailed her "lifelong love for the district" and said in her final months at the helm she will focus on preparing schools for a full reopening in the fall.
"CPS has been an integral part of my life first as a student, most importantly as a parent, and most humbly as the CEO," Jackson wrote. "It is with that adoration that I have led this great school district as CEO for the past four years. 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."
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.
Jackson said she won’t renew her contract, which expires June 30.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters that the district will conduct a nationwide search for the next schools chief.
Jackson told reporters she wasn’t interest in leading another school district or seeking elected office. She said she has accepted a fellowship at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, but didn’t have plans beyond that and looked forward to having a break.
"As I look back on what we’ve done, I have felt proud and humbled, and also a little tired," she joked at a news conference.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson leaves the McCormick YMCA of Metro after checking on students affected by the CPS work stoppage on the first day of strike by the Chicago Teachers Union on October 17, 2019. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AF
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.
"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.
Read Jackson's full letter to CPS families below:
Dear CPS Family:
One of my earliest memories in life was arriving in a CPS Head Start classroom over 40 years ago. I recall this vividly because I was very saddened by the fact that I could not attend school that day due to registration. However, to my delight, I returned the following day and enjoyed a fun-filled day of learning. I remember the brightness and excitement in the room as we played and sat in reading circles, listening attentively to our teacher read a story. The fact that one of my earliest memories in life has CPS at the center foreshadowed a lifelong love for our district and undying passion for education. CPS has been an integral part of my life first as a student, most importantly as a parent, and most humbly as the CEO. It is with that adoration that I have led this great school district as CEO for the past four years. 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. Therefore, after careful deliberation, I have made the tough decision not to renew my contract as CEO, which expires on June 30, 2021.
For the past seven years, I’ve served in senior leadership roles in CPS and feel proud of the many accomplishments that have been achieved through the hard work of our students, teachers, counselors, administrators and staff and with the strong, ongoing support of Mayor Lightfoot and our Board. We have accomplished so much together including nationally recognized gains in student achievement, dramatic increases in graduation rates, college enrollment and completion rates, and the expansion of more academic programming across the city including the largest capital investment in CPS history that prioritized communities on the Southside and Westside of Chicago.
With equity at the core of our five-year vision, our incredible team has launched several initiatives that will help us achieve our goal of a high quality educational experience for all children. One of the most fulfilling accomplishments as CEO is creating high quality educational opportunities in communities that have experienced historic disinvestment. The development of an academic program expansion process led to the growth of rigorous programming throughout the city and the creation of Englewood STEM High School and Bronzeville Classical, two high-quality schools that are both on the Southside of Chicago. We did this in partnership with the Community Action Councils and other residents in the community. Those projects demonstrated the power of collaboration and investing in our neighborhoods, and it is my hope that it will continue with even more vigor in the coming years as many more communities in the city need and deserve more high quality educational options.
My tenure has not been without its adversity. However, from day one, I committed to own and face all of our district's challenges head on. I thank each of you who played a role in helping us navigate those challenges by showing up daily with unwavering commitment to Chicago’s children. Despite a disruptive year, CPS is emerging stronger than ever. 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.
As I close out the next few months in CPS, our collective focus will be on ensuring a successful and safe reopening of schools full time in the fall. This includes implementing our comprehensive plan to help our schools recover from the pandemic by addressing academic and social and emotional needs and investing in supports that bring transformative change. It will be a down payment on the bright future and big things to come for CPS.
When I began this journey, I made a commitment to lead with integrity, courage, and excellence while bringing much needed stability to the district. I have delivered on that promise and will continue to advocate for the children of Chicago. I want to express my sincerest gratitude to Mayor Lightfoot and the residents of Chicago for trusting and supporting my leadership throughout my tenure in CPS.
It has been an honor to serve Chicago’s children.
Janice K. Jackson, EdD
The Associated Press contributed to this report.