During her tenure as CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Janice Jackson has shown the nation and the city she loves what is possible when a fiercely committed leader is singularly focused on serving students. A product of CPS, Janice has persevered in the face of tremendous challenges. Everything she has done throughout her career has been to support Chicago’s children and give them opportunities to achieve their dreams.
Under her leadership, the district has increased graduation rates, dramatically expanded access to dual language classes, and launched a comprehensive effort to ensure every child, in every Chicago neighborhood, can benefit from high-quality curriculum. Janice rose through the ranks at CPS, but her heart has always been in the classroom. She created the Teach Chicago Tomorrow initiative to provide CPS students who want to become teachers the support they need and to give children in the district, which is predominantly comprised of Black and brown students, more adults in the classroom who look like them.
Janice also started the Learn.Plan.Succeed. initiative so every CPS student leaves high school with a concrete postsecondary plan—whether that’s going to college; enrolling in a trade or apprenticeship program; joining the military; or working full time. CPS has become a national model for robust and equitable programs—such as dual credit and dual enrollment, Early College STEM Schools, and career and technical education—that allow students to earn college credits while they are still in high school.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Janice has risen to every challenge—working to see that children do not go hungry by providing school meals even when buildings were closed, and creating a first-of-its-kind initiative to connect students who do not have home internet so learning could continue and families could get critical information. All of her decisions have been guided by the science and what matters most for the health and wellbeing of students and staff. Recently, Janice has been in the news for establishing a major effort to support the mental health needs of the CPS community following a year marked by trauma, loss, and civil unrest.
Through my work with Janice on our board of directors at Chiefs for Change, I have seen her unparalleled energy, can-do attitude, and eternal optimism. Janice has changed the lives of countless students, strengthened Chicago’s schools, and leaves the community well positioned to build on her transformational work.