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Former Chicago Public School CEO Joins Board of Local Venture Philanthropy Supporting Chicago’s Youth

Written by A Better Chicago on Sep 19, 2021

CHICAGO – As Chicago students begin a second school year impacted by the ongoing pandemic, a local venture philanthropy fund focused on supporting Chicago youth from cradle to career today announced that Dr. Janice K. Jackson will be joining its board of directors. Dr. Jackson will bring to her new role on the board of A Better Chicago more than 16 years of executive experience as a leader in urban school systems including leading Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through the first year of the pandemic.

“A Better Chicago is focused on investing in innovative programs that support Chicago youth, especially our Black and Latinx youth, who have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” said Jackson. “Helping Chicago youth succeed has also been the focus of my career as an educator. Now, as we look at the impact of the pandemic on learning, A Better Chicago and the programs it funds have a unique opportunity to rethink how we can provide not only the educational supports, but also the social and emotional supports that our students need to thrive.”

The board of directors provides strategic guidance and oversight to A Better Chicago and is comprised of leaders from the public and private sectors. The board underwrites all A Better Chicago’s administrative costs, allowing 100 percent of donations to go directly to supporting grantees. In June, Jackson joined A Better Chicago CEO Beth Swanson for a public conversation covering a range of topics, including Jackson’s legacy as an education leader and advocate, the future of CPS, and the opportunity ahead for sectors to collaborate to serve youth in holistic, impactful ways. 

“Dr. Jackson brings a wealth of knowledge and experience about how to help youth succeed at all levels and set them up to thrive in school and life,” said Beth Swanson, CEO of A Better Chicago. “The current school year is going to be a critical time as students return to classrooms and we work to address the disruptions to learning and the emotional toll of the pandemic. We couldn’t ask for a more qualified and knowledgeable leader to help guide us through this process.”

As the Chief Executive Officer of CPS, Jackson led the nation’s third largest school district, with a budget of $7 billion serving more than 340,000 students. When she took the helm, Jackson became the first head of CPS in two decades with direct educator experience. During her tenure as CPS CEO, Jackson established a mentorship program for Black and Latinx men to pursue leadership careers within the district and created the Office of Equity, making the city the largest one in the nation with an equity office in its school district. An alumna of the district, she previously served as the school district’s chief education officer, having started her career as a social studies teacher at South Shore Community Academy High School. Jackson is also a 2007 Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago. She holds two degrees from Chicago State University and advanced degrees from University of Illinois at Chicago, including a Master’s in Leadership and Administration and a Doctorate in Education in Policy Studies in Urban School Leadership. Jackson resides on the South side of Chicago.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Jackson joining us at this crucial time for our city’s youth,” said A Better Chicago Board Member and Adtalem Global Education CEO Steve Beard. “I have had the pleasure of seeing A Better Chicago’s reach and impact grow exponentially over the past decade and I know that, with Dr. Jackson on board, this organization can do even more to holistically support students most affected by the pandemic.” 

Earlier this year, A Better Chicago launched the Chicago Design Challenge, a multi-year initiative that has raised more than $7 million to identify and invest in the city’s most promising innovations designed to accelerate learning recovery and well-being in communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The challenge is a powerful collaborative effort across sectors, with A Better Chicago spearheading the day-to-day work of sourcing, vetting, and funding grantee organizations. Investments are focused on high-impact innovations designed to accelerate learning recovery and holistically support students, particularly those from low-income, Black, and Latinx households. More information about the initiative is available at

About A Better Chicago

A Better Chicago is fighting poverty by leveraging the collective power of Chicagoans who want to make our city more equitable for everyone. We raise funds through public donations and direct those resources to support low-income, underserved communities. We find high-potential, high-impact programs and leaders that serve young people from cradle to career. Then, we invest both dollars and strategic support to empower organizations to grow and make an even greater impact. We know that giving our young people the tools they need to thrive—steady access to essential needs, holistic social-emotional supports, a world-class education, a family-sustaining wage—can lead to breaking the cycle of poverty for this generation and generations to come.

Since 2010, we have raised more than $40 million, invested in dozens of nonprofit organizations and supported over 100 capacity-building projects—ranging from strategic planning to leadership development—to strengthen the organizational capacity of our grantees. In total, our portfolio serves over 37,000 youth annually in the Chicago area. Learn more at

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