Mayor Lori Lightfoot is promising an “unprecedented” amount of public participation in the selection process for Chicago Public Schools next CEO, saying she’s heard “loud and clear” that parents and stakeholders want a “seat at the table.”
During a parent town hall meeting Thursday evening, the mayor said a nationwide search to replace outgoing CPS CEO Janice Jackson is already underway. And as candidates are interviewed, members of the public will have multiple opportunities to share what they want in the next district leader.
While the final decision is ultimately up to Lightfoot, she said she doesn’t want to make that decision behind closed doors.
“One of the things I think we have all come to recognize is that more engagement with the CPS stakeholders and communities, particularly our parents, is absolutely essential,” the mayor said. “You are why we are here.”
Jackson on Monday announced that she will be walking away from CPS after more than three years as CEO when her contract expires at the end of June.
The city has already retained a search firm to find her replacement, and Lightfoot on Thursday explained how that process will play out.
The search firm will source candidates for the city to consider, both from within CPS and across the country. An initial flight of candidates will be chosen, and those will be evaluated by each of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education.
That list will eventually be whittled down to a group of finalists, and Lightfoot will ultimately make a decision. Jackson’s contract is up in less than two months, but it’s unclear how quickly this process will play out.
“We hope to expedite this,” Lightfoot said, “but we want to make sure we take the right amount of time to answer questions, to really also talk about the incredible assets that CPS offers for those candidates who may not be intimately familiar with CPS.”
It’s also not yet clear how public participation will play out. Board President Miguel del Valle said Thursday that they are still “fine tuning” exactly how the public will be included in this process, but he expects an announcement on that to be made soon.
Lightfoot mentioned the possibility of surveys and focus groups. But she pledged that this selection process would be unlike any other in recent memory.
“The process we’re about to embark on, at least in my knowledge of CPS going back many years, is really unprecedented,” she said. “There hasn’t been another mayor in recent memory who’s invited members of the CPS community into this process, or had board participation in the way that we are going to.”
Jackson, who also participated in the town hall Thursday, said she will not be involved in the selection of her replacement. Beyond Jackson, two other top district leaders, Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade and Chief Operating Officer Arnie Rivera, are also leaving CPS at the end of this school year.
On Wednesday, the parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand published an open letter of recommendations for the next CPS CEO that included listening to student voices, engaging with stakeholders and better supporting Black and brown communities.
del Valle said he hopes to see a “coming together” to ensure CPS brings in a new leader who continues educational gains and addresses “many of the areas the public … want us to emphasize more.”