Mayor Lightfoot Names New Chicago Board of Education | WBEZ
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Mayor Lightfoot Names New Chicago Board of Education

Updated 6 p.m.

The new Chicago Board of Education features a politician with a background in education, a community activist who fought against school closings and two professors, one of history and the other in early childhood.

The majority are parents or grandparents, several of whom have served on local school councils.

Unlike the boards appointed by former mayor Rahm Emanuel, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s first school board doesn’t include a known supporter of charter schools. However, like Emanuel, it does have two businessmen, one of whom is a former math teacher and the other who has a master’s degree in business administration.

Lightfoot said she looked for people who had experience with Chicago Public Schools, either with children attending or who worked for the district, or who had an academic background in education.

At a press conference Monday, she invited the board members to use their expertise to challenge her and the administration in public meetings. She said she no longer wanted business done behind closed doors.

“I don’t want a rubber stamp,” Lightfoot said. “No one wants a rubber stamp.”

Miguel del Valle, who will be the board president, said he sent the same message to his new colleagues. Del Valle, a former city clerk and state senator, said he wants to work on a long list of issues, including reducing chronic truancy, improving bilingual education and creating more opportunities for career and vocational training.

“I want vocal, active board members,” he said.

If the board does publically stand up to Lightfoot or the administration, it would be historic. The Chicago Board of Education has been appointed by the mayor for almost 25 years. In that time, the board almost never voted down a measure supported by the mayor, or even had individual members vote “no” on items.

As she announced her appointed board, Lightfoot affirmed her commitment to an elected school board. Lightfoot has faced criticism for not supporting a bill that was approved by the Illinois House in the legislative session that just ended. Her opposition resulted in it stalling in the Senate.

Lightfoot said on Monday her biggest priority is making sure that parents and local school council members are part of an elected board. She said she is not yet sure how that will work and that she has no timeline for when a bill will be ready.

In addition to announcing board of education members Monday, Lightfoot also tapped Sybil Madison, a research associate and lecturer at Northwestern University, for the newly-created position deputy mayor for education and human services. Emanuel had deputy chief of staffs for education.

Lightfoot did not specify what exactly Madison’s role and responsibility will be, but she noted Madison has worked on creating learning opportunities for young people 24 hours a day.

Lightfoot also reaffirmed her commitment to keep on Schools CEO Janice Jackson.

Lightfoot’s picks for the Chicago Board of Education:

Miguel del Valle, president

Del Valle, a CPS grad, has a long track record working with public education in the Illinois state Senate and as vice chairman of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. That group works to make college accessible for Illinois students through scholarships and grants. He was also city clerk of Chicago.

Sendhil Revuluri, vice president

A former math teacher who helped start a public high school in the South Bronx, Revuluri is now a managing director at PEAK6 Capital Management, which leverages technology to manage risk in the options market. He worked for CPS and the Suburban Cook County Mathematics Initiative. He’s on the local school council of Suder Elementary School.

Dwayne Truss

A CPS graduate and long-time advocate for improving schools on the West Side, Truss has been a local school council member at several schools, including Byford (now Brunson), Hitch and Ella Flagg Young elementary schools. Truss ran unsuccessfully for 29th ward alderman.

Elizabeth Todd-Breland

Todd-Breland is an assistant professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she focuses on the history of education, U.S. urban history and African American history. She is a CPS parent and served on the local school council at Reavis Elementary School.

Lucino Sotelo

Sotelo works as chief marketing officer for KemperSports Management. He is a CPS grad and parent of two current CPS students.

Luisiana Meléndez

Melendez is an associate clinical professor at Erikson Institute and director of the Institute’s Bilingual/ESL certificate program. Dr. Meléndez also worked for nearly two decades as an early childhood and elementary teacher in the Dominican Republic and in the U.S.

Amy Rome

Rome was principal of National Teachers Academy. She has worked for more than 20 years with and in CPS as a teacher, school leader and principal supervisor.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.

WBEZ news producer Alyssa Edes produced this story for broadcast.

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