- Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson announced her resignation Monday, effective June 30, stating in a letter to staff, "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," WGN reports.
- In a Monday news conference with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Jackson said of her time running the nation's third-largest school district that she is "proud and humbled and also a little bit tired, if I’m being honest." Since her appointment to the position in 2018, Jackson has led the district through the COVID-19 pandemic, an 11-day teacher strike in 2019, and scandals around student sexual abuse and special education. The Chicago Sun-Times also reports her tenure saw increases in graduation rates and math and reading scores.
- In addition to Jackson, CPS Chief Operating Officer Arne Rivera and Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade are also set to step down, leaving the district's top three leadership positions vacant.
Jackson's resignation marks a trifecta of sorts among the nation's three largest school districts in recent months, following the departures of New York City Public Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner. The trio of high-profile exits highlights the toll the COVID-19 pandemic have had on those in school districts' central offices as well as in classrooms.
As Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, recently told The New York Times, superintendents are “in communities where half the parents want the schools open, half the parents want the schools shut. Whatever you decide, it’s a no-win situation, because you’re going to have people mad at you.” He also said many have faced personal threats over pandemic decisions.
These factors on their own are enough to result in burnout, but pressures from city hall have also reportedly played a role in some cases, as well.
In Chicago, for instance, sources close to Jackson told the Sun-Times that growing strain in the relationship between the Chicago Teachers Union and City Hall, including Lightfoot stepping into both reopening disputes this year and the 2019 contract negotiations, played a role. Additionally, this is also cited as a contributing factor in McDade's decision to leave CPS' No. 2 spot to become the first female and first person of color to lead Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia.
Likewise, in New York City, the pandemic strained the relationship between Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio, capping mounting pressures brought on by the already intense challenge of navigating the city's politics under normal circumstances.
Beyond the recent impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, district and school board politics have long been touted as primary factors in superintendent churn alongside the allure of new opportunities in higher-profile districts. While average tenures have been estimated at around three to four years, 2018 research from The Broad Center found that the average tenure is closer to six years.