Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Appoints New School Board Members

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the new members of the Chicago Board of Education on June 3. The school board, which will be in place until an elected board is chosen, plans to be more transparent about its actions.

“The strength of our schools lies in their diversity, which is why we’ve announced a new board with strong representation to reflect the diverse voices of the students, families, teachers and staff of who they serve,” Lightfoot said in a statement. The mayor, who was sworn into office in May, chose mayoral challenger and former City Clerk Miguel del Valle as the school board president. Del Valle told reporters he wanted to strengthen neighborhood schools, expand vocational and early childhood education, and work on reducing the “chronic truancy rate.”

The six other board seats include three parents of Chicago Public Schools students. The board consists of board vice president Sendhil Revuluri, local school council member Dwayne Truss, former National Teachers Academy principal Amy Rome, Chicago Public Schools parent Lucino Sotelo, Erikson Institute Professor Luisiana Meléndez, and University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Elizabeth Todd-Breland. The new board members will be sworn in on June 26.

Todd-Breland, whose daughter is a Chicago Public School student, told The North Star that she supported having an elected school board “for the sake of democracy.” The history professor said she knew her position on the appointed board was temporary until an elected board was put in place.

Dr. Janice Jackson will remain as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools “for the long term,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Lightfoot said that the new school board will challenge Jackson and her team “to really improve the quality of the classroom experience for our children all over the city with a lens of equity and inclusion and making sure particularly neighborhood schools like this one get the kind of resources they need.”

Todd-Breland expressed excitement about working within the school board to focus on racial and socioeconomic equity. “I think there’s increasing energy, both with the new administration and with folks at Chicago Public Schools who have talked about this as well in their recent five year plan… on a real emphasis on equity,” the former local school council member said. “Racial equity in particular but also around socioeconomic issues.”

She said that some schools in Chicago are “doing amazing things, there are lots of places where teachers are working really hard, parents are working really hard to make their schools the best that they can be but we know that the different places and the different school buildings in the district are not serving our students equally, or equitably I’d say.”

The days of the school board conducting business in executive sessions was over, Lightfoot said at anews conference held at Lionel Hampton Fine & Performing Arts School. “The majority of the work the school board does is gonna have to be in public,” the mayor said. “Every single one of the members we’re proposing understands that transparency is the cornerstone of legitimacy. You can’t have legitimacy when you do everything in secret.”

Despite praise for the new school board, Lightfoot was also criticized for naming a board at all. Lightfoot pledged to have an elected school board during her campaign. Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey released a statement calling mayoral control of the schools “a failure.” Sharkey criticized Lightfoot for not passing a bill for an elected school board and then calling on Senate President John Cullerton to put a stop to a bill that created a 21-member elected board.

“CPS continues to be plagued by the chronic lack of transparency, accountability and democracy that underpins mayoral control — and it’s time for the mayor to keep her campaign promise for an elected, representative school board,” Sharkey said. The union president said that in the meantime, the new school board should be truly independent and should rescind “the unnecessary layoffs that [Rahm] Emanuel’s board imposed last Friday.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.