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New state superintendent is first woman, person of color to hold the job

Carmen Ayala | Illinois State Board of Education

Carmen Ayala | Illinois State Board of Education

The Illinois State Board of Education on Tuesday swore in its first-ever woman and person of color to hold the position of superintendent

Carmen Ayala, the former superintendent of North Berwyn School District 98 and a 30-year education veteran, officially takes over Friday as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top education official.

“There is nothing more important to the future of our state and our economy than providing a quality public education, and I know that Dr. Ayala will be a strong partner in ensuring students in all of our communities receive the education they deserve,” Pritzker said in a statement.

A Mundelein College grad with an MBA from Dominican University and a Ph.D. from Loyola, Ayala started as an English teacher in Chicago Public Schools and the Aurora East school district.

She rose to the administration there, eventually moving to Consolidated School District 300 in Carpentersville and then becoming assistant superintendent in Plainfield District 202 before landing in Berywn.

“Together, I know we can break down barriers to opportunity and ensure that students of all races, backgrounds, income levels and zip codes receive a strong education in Illinois,” Ayala said in a statement.

Ayala replaces former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s state superintendent Tony Smith, whose contract expired last month.

Smith had held the job since 2015 and oversaw the implementation of a revised school funding formula that increased CPS revenue.

Pritzker has also appointed seven new members to the state board of education, which now consists of seven women and two men.