The State We're In: The Impact of COVID-19 on Education
Moderated by Robin Steans
Dr. Carmen Ayala, Dr. Janice Jackson, Rep. Michelle Mussman
Thursday, Aug 4, 2022
Robin Steans is President of Advance Illinois, an independent policy and advocacy organization working toward a healthy public education system that enables all students to achieve success in college, career and civic life. She is also Board Chair of the Steans Family Foundation, where she helps guide education and community development grant making in the North Lawndale community. A longtime public school parent, Robin Steans has spent over twenty years working on public school reform. She served as Issues Director of the Small Schools Coalition, as Associate Director of Leadership for Quality Education, and taught at public high schools in Boston, San Francisco and Chicago before going on to earn her law degree.
Ms. Steans serves as a Trustee of the University of Chicago Medical Center, and is co-founder and past Board Chair of the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago. She helped found and currently serves as a Director of North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School, and has served on two Local School Councils.
Robin graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Brown University, received her master’s degree in Education from Stanford University, and attended law school at the University of Chicago, where she graduated cum laude and Order of the Coif. She is married and has three children, all of whom attended and graduated from Chicago Public Schools.
Dr. Carmen Ayala
The Illinois State Board of Education named Dr. Carmen Ayala as the 30th State Superintendent of Education, making her the first woman and first person of color to serve as the permanent superintendent. Prior to her arrival at the Illinois State Board of Education, Dr. Ayala had served since 2012 as the superintendent of Berwyn North School District 98, where she steadily turned around lower-performing schools.
Dr. Ayala has held a wide variety of roles in her 36-year education career. She was the assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Plainfield District 202 prior to her service in Berwyn. Additionally, Ayala served as the director of School Improvement and Programs at Community Consolidated School District 300. She also served as an assistant superintendent, director of Bilingual Services, and teacher in Aurora East School District 131. She began her career in education as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools.
She previously served as an executive board member on the Latino Policy Forum, where she championed equitable funding and increased resources for English Learners. Dr. Ayala has held positions on numerous boards and committees, including the Illinois State Board of Education Bilingual Advisory Council, Illinois Women in Educational Leadership, Illinois Resource Center, and the Illinois Professional Review Panel for Evidence-Based Funding.
Throughout her career, Dr. Ayala has received multiple honors, including the 2018 Leadership Award and the Excellence in Education Award from the League of Latin American Citizens, as well as the Kane County Distinguished Educator award.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Mundelein College with a focus on bilingual-bicultural education and Spanish literature. She went on to earn her master’s degree in business administration from Dominican University and her doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University of Chicago.
Dr. Janice Jackson
Dr. Janice Jackson is a lifelong resident of Chicago. With over 22 years of experience working inChicago Public Schools (CPS), she is a nationally-known and respected educator and leader in the field of public education. Her life’s work and commitment to public education and student outcomes began at a young age. After graduating from CPS and receiving her B.A. and M.A. from Chicago State University, she began her teaching career as a social studies teacher and debate team coach at South Shore High School. From there she went on to serve as a high school principal, District Network Chief, and Chief Education Officer all while completing an M.A. and Ed.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2017, she was appointed CEO of CPS by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. She was the first CPS alumna to serve in the position.
Jackson’s tenure at CPS—the nation’s 3rd largest school district with more than 355,000 students, 38,000 employees, and an annual budget of $7 billion—is most notable for the results the district attained in advancing equitable outcomes for its students. In fact, Bill Gates noted the data-driven approach to student success developed under Jackson’s leadership was “a model for the nation.” Jackson’s efforts, along with those of Chicago’s dedicated teachers and principals, propelled CPS students to record-breaking improvements in academic achievement, high school graduation, and post-secondary completion. Education experts across the country regard Chicago as a national leader in improving results for young people at scale.
Upon leaving CPS after 22 years, Jackson joined the Carnegie Foundation as a Senior Fellow where she is focusing on equity issues, such as improving high school and college attainment nationwide and ensuring that African American, Latinx, and Indigenous students receive exemplary education and social and emotional support. She was also selected as a 2021 Resident Fellow for the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.
In September 2021, Jackson became CEO of Hope Chicago, a new two-generation scholarship organization that will eliminate barriers to educational and economic equity by guaranteeing debt-free college and wraparound support services to Hope Scholars and their parents. Jackson brings dynamic leadership, deep knowledge of student need and circumstance, and a personal passion for transforming lives through education to this work. She is also a board member of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (CCAC) and A Better Chicago (ABC). Dr. Jackson is married with two children and resides on the southside of Chicago, in the Bronzeville community.
Rep. Michelle Mussman
Michelle Mussman is the Illinois State Representative from the 56th district, a position she has held since 2011. The 56th district includes all or parts of Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Roselle and Schaumburg.
Prior to being elected as State Representative, Mussman served as president and treasurer of her local Parent Teacher Association and as a member of the Schaumburg Township Council of Parent Teacher Associations.
Mussman serves on several committees, including Approp-Elementary & Secondary Education and Appropriations- Human Services.
Mussman graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Science in Design. Her husband, George, is a high school teacher at Fenton High School in Bensenville, where he teaches US History and is a theater director. Michelle and George have three young adult children: Matt, Justin, and Nicholas.
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