Institute of Politics

Janice Jackson

Former Chief Executive Officer for Chicago Public Schools, the Third-Largest School District in the U.S.

  • Fall 2021 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: The Chicago Story: Lessons from the Field”


As the Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Dr. Janice K. Jackson leads the nation’s third-largest school district with a budget of $7B serving over 340,000 students. With over 16 years of executive experience, Dr. Jackson is a transformational and strategic leader with a track record of improving academic outcomes in urban school systems, new school design, operational execution and leadership and organizational change. Dr. Jackson has extensive skills and expertise in change management, communications, crisis management, labor management and negotiations and risk management and mitigation. Adept in leading and managing through crisis and dynamic change, in 2018 Dr. Jackson led the first of its kind Enterprise Risk Management assessment for CPS leading to dramatic improvements in daily operations, audit reviews, public relations and overall performance. In addition, Dr. Jackson has expertise in talent acquisition, development, and retention and is recognized as a local and national policy influencer.

Dr. Jackson is a 2007 Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago. She serves on multiple non-profit boards, including the Council of Great City Schools, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Junior Achievement and Thrive Chicago. In these roles, Dr. Jackson has served on numerous Audit, Recruitment and Selection Committees, and a Volunteer Committee.

Dr. Jackson directly oversees a $7 billion budget and manages the entire operations for an organization with over 45,000 employees. Jackson has negotiated several contracts with multi-labor unions totaling ~$2B during her tenure. Dr. Jackson is a leader in innovation and possesses a gift for vision and strategy. She created a progressive five-year strategic plan with ambitious organizational goals. As CEO, she has led several major enterprise information system overhauls to ensure efficiency, increase productivity and accountability while also protecting the organization by implementing the leading best practices in cybersecurity.

Most recently, Dr. Jackson worked in partnership with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union, local elected officials, Chicago Department of Public Health and a host of city agencies in response to the global pandemic. Dr. Jackson launched a comprehensive reopening framework that included health and safety protocols, remote learning guidelines, and support resources. Her collaborative efforts and forward-thinking has positioned the school district to navigate smartly through the human and educational challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Jackson is a highly regarded public speaker and thought leader in the field of education policy and leadership. In addition to a wide array of authentic and long-term relationships with local and national lawmakers, she has delivered passionate testimony regarding the negative impact of gun violence and poverty on children’s ability to learn on Capitol Hill. She has delivered testimony at the local and federal level to influence policy on a variety of educational policy issues. As district leader she has been hugely instrumental in advocating for evidence-based funding for CPS and worked closely with elected officials to sign into law the landmark Evidence-Based Funding for the Student Success Act. Dr. Jackson’s leadership and track record have been leveraged in building a national multi-media marketing strategy.

Although Dr. Jackson has spent her entire professional career in CPS, she has been able to be entrepreneurial and bring about drastic change in a complex system. Prior to her recent executive roles, she founded and led two successful Chicago public high schools. Both institutions exceeded district averages across multiple performance indicators.

She holds two degrees from Chicago State University and advanced degrees from University of Illinois Chicago which include a Master's in Leadership and Administration and a Doctorate in Education in Policy Studies in Urban School Leadership. Dr. Jackson resides on the south side of Chicago with her husband, Torrence and two children.


“The Chicago Story: Lessons from the Field”

In these seminars, we will examine the most topical and sometimes controversial policy and operational issues facing urban public education systems today. In addition to examining trends and policies nationally, we will focus on Chicago Public Schools as an exemplar and case study as we examine the intersection of race and class within the context of policy formulation and implementation, reform and advocacy.

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