You don’t see this often: A Chicago public school graduate running the Chicago Public Schools.
And you almost never see this: A CPS top boss (or a mayor or governor, for that matter) who sends his or her own kids to the public schools.
It’s a welcome change.
We have never believed it is essential that the CEO of the public schools be homegrown, and where public officials send their own children to school is entirely their business. Local politics should end when it comes to the school choices parents make.
But, that said, the fact that Janice Jackson, who was named acting schools CEO last month, attended Chicago Public Schools from Head Start through high school is no small matter. It is a bonus. It could be inspirational.
Jackson, whose appointment as CEO is expected to be made permanent by the school board later this month, brings deep professional experience to the job. But we can’t help but think that because she came up through CPS in such a personal and immersive way — as a student, parent, teacher and principal — she also brings to the job an intimate perspective that has been sorely missing.
Jackson replaces Forrest Claypool, who resigned as CEO last month after getting caught up in a minor ethics scandal. We respect Claypool, who has always been unafraid to make tough financial decisions to shape up public agencies, and we thought he was a good choice three years ago to run the schools.
But Claypool was helicoptered in, while Jackson climbed her way up, and in that lies all the difference. Claypool was a technician, a hired gun. Jackson is an educator, with a doctorate from the University of Illinois, and completely homegrown.
When Jackson visits children in a school, you can bet she sees her younger self. She attended Cook Elementary School and Hyde Park High School.
When she talks to CPS parents, she’s a CPS parent, too. When she talks to teachers, they know she once taught at South Shore Community Academy School. When she talks to principals, they know she was a principal at two other high schools.
CPS continues to face enormous financial and educational challenges, even as enrollment declines. We’ll just have to see how well Jackson, who previously was chief education officer, handles it all.
But she’s got the chops, and we wish her well.
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