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New interim head placed over CPS

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has selected Dr. José M. Torres to serve as interim Chief Executive Officer at Chicago Public Schools, she and Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle announced on Monday, June 14.

Outgoing CEO Dr. Janice Jackson joined them as they identified her successor following the announcement that she would be stepping away from the role at the end of the month.

“From the East Coast to the West Coast, to right here in the Midwest, Dr. Torres has a proven track record of improving the lives of public school students and staff,” said Lightfoot in a statement.

“His decades of experience, as well as his past leadership roles, make him a great candidate for the role of interim CPS CEO, and I am confident that he will lead us well through this critically important transition.”

“Serving the incredible students, staff, and families of Chicago Public Schools at this critical time is an immense privilege, and I am grateful to be returning to the CPS family,” said Torres. “I’m honored that Mayor Lightfoot and the Board of Education have put their faith in me, and I’m eager to begin helping our schools recover from this incredibly challenging year.”

Torres most recently served as president of Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy following a stint as superintendent of schools at Elgin School District, U-46, regional superintendent (area instruction officer) at Chicago Public Schools and assistant superintendent for student services at Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

During his tenure as President of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Torres was seen to be anti-union, and sent many messages against unionization efforts by faculty.

“The choice that the IMSA faculty made is their right and prerogative. However, I am disappointed in some of the actions some faculty took to unionize, which excluded certain faculty members, pressured others, intimidated office staff as they delivered their letter, etc.,” Torres said in an email message during his tenure as president and shared to social media following the announcement of his hiring.

“Our institutional belief statements include that ‘honesty, trust and respect are vital for any relationship to thrive.’ I encourage all of us to recommit to those ideals and all of our belief statements as we work together as colleagues.”

The announcement comes after Jackson revealed last month that she would be leaving her position at the end of her contract. Jackson announced the news in a letter to her “CPS family” posted on social media on May 3.

“It is with 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,” Jackson’s letter reads. “Therefore, after careful deliberation, I have made the tough decision not to renew my contract as CEO, which expires on June 30, 2021.”

Jackson is a CPS graduate and a current CPS parent, both of which she referenced in her letter, writing that she has served in senior leadership roles with CPS for seven years. She highlighted the district’s accomplishments in that time as “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.”

Jackson noted that her “tenure has not been without its adversity,” highlighting a “disruptive year” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” Jackson said.

“When I began this journey, I made a commitment to lead with integrity, courage, and excellence while bringing much needed stability to the district,” she wrote. “I have delivered on that promise and will continue to advocate for the children of Chicago.”

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