SCHOOLS | May 11, 2018
After 50-60 student letters were sent to CPS CEO Janice Jackson, she made a special visit to Gallistel Language Academy on Thursday to personally answer their questions.
The East Side neighborhood school’s writing teacher asked fifth and sixth-graders to write Dr. Jackson a letter, first, congratulating her on her CPS position, and then asking her questions. Students asked about improving cafeteria lunches, how Chicago Public Schools decides on a budget, her work-life balance and more.
“I receive a lot of letters, emails, but when I received yours, you got my attention,” Jackson told students. “It was so wonderful to see the heartfelt letters.”
Sitting on the stage, she participated on a small panel with fifth-grader Victor Pasada and sixth-graders Gregory Miller and Natalia Noriega. Each student had the opportunity to ask her two questions from their letter.
Victor shared that some students throw away their lunches because they don’t like them. He asked if something could be done to improve the taste of the food.
“I would like us to have better school lunches,” Jackson said, “but there are some parameters you should be aware of. The federal government has requirements for the school lunches. What we have done as a district is try to improve the quality of the food within those constraints. I want the food to be healthy, but I also want it to be enjoyable.”
Natalia brought up a question about the NWEA Map test, asking how important are those results.
“I have to tell you, as people of color, African-Americans, Latinos, we don’t have a choice,” Jackson said. “You have to show up and people want to see what’s on paper. You’re going to be judged based on a number of things and part of it is proving that you are academically prepared for the next step.”
Gregory asked her about the district’s plans to reduce high school dropout rates.
“I remember when I graduated in 1995, about half of the students graduated that started in ninth grade with us,” she shared. “We have improved that number dramatically in the past by 20 or so years. Now we’re at 77 percent.”
Jackson also explained to students that CPS’ On-Track indicator and alternative schools have helped increase graduation rates.
Gregory said he was satisfied with her responses and grateful that she chose to personally visit their school.
“She did an excellent job,” he said. “It seems like she really cares.”
Jackson also took questions from the audience to wrap up the Q&A. She explained that as a mother she does her best to balance work and personal life, and that in life there are always “sacrifices.”
One student asked why she wanted to become a CEO.
“I always had this burning desire that I could impact more people [because] the higher up you go, you have more influence,” she said. “I wanted the ability to impact more students. This is a dream job for me.”
Principal Kimberly Nelson said that student voice is important at the school.
“We believe in supporting our students with student voice,” she said. “I thought it was so special that Dr. Jackson wanted to come here and give them more voice by letting them speak to her.”