Occupation: CEO of Chicago Public Schools
During the mayoral race, Lori Lightfoot hinted she’d fire Jackson, who’d presided over the 355,000-student district during a massive sexual abuse scandal the year before. Just before the election, the two women met one on one, sans aides, at Jackson’s request. Lightfoot emerged proclaiming confidence in the schools chief. “I explained my decision-making to her,” said Jackson afterward. “She listened to me and I listened to her.” Chalk it up to Jackson’s considerable knack, earned through dustups with aggrieved teachers and parents in the struggling district, for winning people over. During her two-year tenure, Jackson has championed the opening of an $85 million school in Englewood, created CPS’s Office of Equity, and launched a mentoring program encouraging black men and Hispanic men and women to pursue enhanced leadership roles at CPS. And now Jackson can point to powerful numbers, too: The dropout rate for black male students has declined 12 percent, and graduation rates across the district are up 15 percent.