Lightfoot leaves Board of Education seat empty after arguing against elected council

Nine months have passed since one of seven members of the Chicago Board of Education resigned her seat, and there has been little to no public indication that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has decided to appoint a replacement. .

Amy Rome, former teacher and director of the National Teachers Academy, attended her last board meeting in July 2021.

But after unsuccessfully lobbying against a bill last year that will create an elected school board for Chicago in two years, the mayor has failed to take advantage of his opportunity to have a say in who will sit on the board. education.

When Lightfoot fought the elected school board, she argued that it was imperative for her to appoint the entire board since the mayor is widely seen as responsible for the success — or failure — of the school system.

Lightfoot has less than a year until the spring 2023 mayoral election, followed by the first school board elections in late 2024 and the takeover of the new board in early 2025. If Lightfoot is re-elected, she will be able to appoint 11 members. of the new 21-seat council to serve the first two years of his term. When the council is fully elected two years later, the mayor will have no say in its composition.

During her three years in office, Lightfoot has been known to move slowly to fill vacancies, often leaving positions open in her administration for months. More recently, she waited eight months after ousting Inspector General Joe Ferguson before replacing him this month with Deborah Witzburg.

Asked if a selection process for Rome’s replacement has begun, city hall spokesman César Rodriguez said: “We have nothing to share at the moment. At the moment nothing has changed.”

CPS spokeswoman Mary Fergus said the district is “confident that the vacancy on the Chicago Board of Education will be filled, but in the meantime, the vacancy has not impacted the ability of our administration to work with the board or on the work of the board to meet the needs of the district and its students.”

If the vacancy drags on into the summer, however, the board will be in a difficult position. Two more members are expected to leave in the coming months when their terms expire, leaving just four committed members on the board ahead of what district officials are calling a crucial pandemic “recovery” school year beginning in autumn.

State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, who supported the elected school board bill, said “the fact that you’re going through nine months with a vacancy in one of the most important roles in the city ​​government is problematic”.

“It should be a priority for any administration to at least make sure those roles are fulfilled so the board can do its job properly,” he said. “I wonder who they ask. I talk to people all over town every day. … I know people who would clamor, jump at the chance to serve in one of these roles.

“I find it hard to understand why it would be so difficult to fill a role like this with someone who is committed to representing young people.

Buckner said he would like to see a public and transparent nomination process similar to that of the 11th Ward City Council headquarters that allowed candidates to submit their names before the mayor ultimately chooses Nicole Lee, the first Chinese-American councilwoman. from Chicago.

“A lot of times when you’re making these decisions in a back room, there are only a few people in the pool, politically connected people who are engaged in politics,” he said. “And the truth is that the best candidates may not be those of us who are in the political sphere or field.

“I think it would be good practice to let it be known publicly that we have an open school board position and see what interest comes from all over town, and I bet you that would be plenty.”

Aldus. Michael Scott (24th), chairman of the council’s education and child development committee, said he had spoken to Lightfoot about the vacancy and knew his office was looking for a replacement.

“The mayor, the administration know the urgency of filling this vacancy and those to come,” Scott said. “You need to find someone who understands that they could be moving very soon because of the elected school board. But also someone who wants to take up the challenge. The CPS is really a big monster. … It’s hard work, and you need to find the right person who can do the job and is willing to do it.

Contributor: Francois Spielman

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