A few days after mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle said she would retain Chicago’s schools chief if elected, opponent Lori Lightfoot said she prefers to keep her options open.
After securing the most votes out of 14 contenders in the Feb. 26 municipal elections, Preckwinkle and Lightfoot will face each other in a citywide runoff on April 2.
In a statement emailed to Chalkbeat, Lightfoot emphasized the importance of maintaining stability at the district and noted, “there have been five CEOs in the last seven years, which is a problem,” but stopping short of saying the solution was keeping Janice Jackson, who has led Chicago schools for a little over a year.
“If I am fortunate enough to become the next mayor, I will sit down with her and her team and in particular discuss some issues about which I have concerns,” Lightfoot said. “For now, we will continue to make the case to voters about the need for change.”
Jackson, 41, grew up in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side, and has two children at the school district. The Bronzeville resident is the first schools chief since 1995 to have been a teacher in the district, and enjoys broad support among principals and educators. She also has weathered significant criticism of the district’s handling of sexual abuse complaints and special education.
Lightfoot’s opponent Preckwinkle pledged Friday to retain Jackson, stressing the importance of stable leadership at the district and praising the schools chief. Earlier last week, a parade of South Side residents and community leaders took to the podium at the board of education’s monthly to demand that Jackson keep her job, whoever wins the mayor’s race.
Jackson backers also flocked to Twitter to declare support for the schools chief.
During the mayoral race, all of the 14 candidates declined to say whether they’d retain Jackson as schools chief, with the exception of Gery Chico, who said yes, and Amara Enyia, who said no.