Jen Johnson, Chicago’s new deputy mayor for training, has a extensive to-do list. Initially up: Youth employment, migrant households

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s deputy for education, youth, and human providers Jennifer “Jen” Johnson has a packed agenda for the coming months. 

Her very first two orders of small business since stepping into her new job in May possibly: Boost the quantity of teenagers landing employment by means of the city’s summer season youth employment program. Support spearhead a far more collaborative city reaction to the arrivals of migrant households, connecting some kids to summer season school and other packages. 

But Jen Johnson, the former chief of staff for the Chicago Lecturers Union (no relation to the mayor), says she is also eager to considerably develop the district’s Sustainable Group Educational facilities plan, a partnership with the lecturers union in which substantial-poverty colleges group up with community-based companies to beef up products and services for learners and renovate campuses into neighborhood hubs.  

Expanding these forms of educational institutions was a marketing campaign assure of Mayor Johnson’s, himself a former teachers union chief. 

And as the district and union tackle negotiations in excess of a new labor agreement, Jen Johnson will find herself on the opposite aspect of the table from the place she sat through hugely contentious contract talks in 2019 and later on in excess of reopening faculty properties in the course of the pandemic. 

In an unique interview with Chalkbeat, Jen Johnson, a previous large school history trainer, spoke about the guarantee and strain of attacking that significant-stakes to-do checklist.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What excites you about your new function in the mayor’s office? 

I am incredibly honored to have been questioned to just take this on. My enthusiasm comes from performing with youthful people today. I’m most fired up about these added levers that I get to press — and the supplemental collaborators throughout departments and agencies — to effect the life of youthful folks. I’m a classroom educator at heart. I always understood I needed to be a teacher from when I was incredibly youthful. I appear from a spouse and children of educators. And I have a deep perception that younger individuals are incredible. Their management is one thing that I’m excited to carry on to cultivate.

What keeps you up at night time?

It’s just the stress of all of the challenges and troubles that the town is going through. My portfolio is really wide. I perform with eight departments or agencies. The complications that we’re making an attempt to handle are systemic. Just about every day, I’m hoping to move the chess parts in the right route for the reason that the difficulties are so deeply impacting families. We want an financial investment in our faculties and in our communities. I am trying to tactic the work with a lens of accessibility. The mayor’s Place of work for Men and women with Disabilities also falls in my business. Just about every community is touched by the organizations that I’m operating with, and each single a person has significant function to do. So the anxiety is, “Can we get it performed? How quickly? What assets do we want to recognize to do so?”

Throughout the election marketing campaign, Mayor Johnson talked about his interest in increasing Chicago’s Sustainable Neighborhood Schools design as a way to convey extra resources and help to college students in significant-will need universities. How numerous these types of universities do you envision, and how can the city scale up this design?

I imagine the eyesight and the desire is to function toward a Sustainable Local community Colleges district. That of course will just take monumental resources. So we are likely to have to be sober and genuine with our funds. We are likely to have to get the job done carefully with Chicago Community Faculties and assure Chicago Community Schools is doing work closely with the Chicago Academics Union. I’m hopeful that we can get to a phased technique the place we are ramping up, but it’s also before long for me to predict an specific number. But the vision is to keep on to expand that product wherever mothers and fathers, learners, community users, team, and administration are performing in partnership to make choices in a just way that brings resources to college students and family members and tends to make faculties a local community hub. We assume that that strategy builds self confidence, it builds believe in, and it will assist faculty communities with enrollment eventually.

Talking of Sustainable Neighborhood Universities, Miguel del Valle, who is stepping down as school board president, not too long ago referred to as for assessing and holding far more accountable the district’s neighborhood companions in the Sustainable Local community Educational facilities software. Do you see a require for that as well?

Look, we live in a planet where by persons expect and deserve data. They anticipate and ought to have transparency in what is taking place in their school communities. So I’m absolutely in favor of making certain that students, households, educators, and the neighborhood fully grasp what sources, programs, and supports are staying place into educational institutions, which include the Sustainable Community Educational institutions. I never think it’s fair to solitary out just Sustainable Local community Colleges. We have to be additional clear with how we’re speaking about what investments are likely into educational facilities wholesale mainly because that will assist us explain to the story of exactly where far more financial commitment is desired. What I’m not in favor of is continuing to have to justify offering applications, resources, staffing, and solutions that all of our students should have. Our younger men and women are entitled to a librarian. Our younger folks have earned an following-faculty plan. Our younger persons ought to have a wellness clinic in their school. I’m not interested in revisiting the 25-yr history of research on regardless of whether neighborhood schools do the job, but investigate is extremely obvious that this design is the way we need to do college.

Why ended up youth careers one of the initially orders of business enterprise when Mayor Johnson took workplace final thirty day period? How will this administration achieve his goal of doubling them?

The mayor is a mother or father. He has a few active youngsters, and he and his family members make sure that they are engaged in high-quality packages that keep them busy and delighted. The mayor understands that not all younger folks have entry to packages and positions that do the very same for them. He is aware that young folks who have chances to have compensated get the job done will be occupied and have fun they will discover skills that will transfer back again into the faculty and ideally will transfer into interest that drives them forward with their foreseeable future designs. He understands that it’s an significant lever on curbing younger people today from participating in behavior that is harmful. 

We have been functioning very rapidly and intently with the Department of Household & Assistance Providers, with our finances division, with our sister organizations and departments. One Summer Chicago is a significant software. We think that it can do more. So all of those companions are operating alongside one another proper now to maximize the variety of college students who are placed in slots. We also have company companions doing work with our departments to establish options for youthful folks to function. So this is truly an all-hands-on-deck minute. We do be expecting to see a bump this summer, and then we’re going to be functioning truly tricky to retain and continue that improve.

Chicago General public Educational facilities is likely into agreement negotiations with the Chicago Instructors Union. How will the Johnson administration guarantee the two sides arrive at a contract that satisfies the requirements of educators, learners — and taxpayers?

The mayor has been obvious that he is an educator, so he is aware how crucial investing in our Chicago Public Educational facilities is. He is also a guardian, and he is the mayor for the total city. So we’re going to stability all of the priorities we have to balance, in conditions of investment decision and fiscal accountability, but we’re heading to do it in a collaborative way. We will be ready to have extra honest, upfront conversations with the union and with the district about the requirements and about the boundaries. And with Mayor Johnson in office, he has great relations across all degrees of authorities. So I am hopeful that the approach will be significantly less unpleasant, much more inclusive, and pushed by a shared established of goals.

How will the university district and the metropolis move up products and services for recently arrived migrant college students?

The issue of supporting our asylum-seekers is 1 that cuts across several departments in this metropolis. I have ongoing to support producing confident that youthful people who are aspect of our migrant family members are linked to their college communities as shortly as feasible. There are young people who have been related with summertime programming this summer months. But the remedies really do not just dwell in a single office. There is greater, deeper collaboration throughout the educational institutions, the Section of Relatives & Aid Products and services, the mayor’s business, and myriad some others. There’s a great deal of evaluation going on of what’s operating suitable now. I also expect we are going to bring on a new deputy mayor who will be fully centered on this issue.

Ordinarily, newly elected mayors have changed appointed users of the Chicago Board of Instruction. Four of seven members’ conditions are expiring this thirty day period. Do you have any updates about Mayor Johnson’s school board appointments?

We’re operating on it, and you will know as quickly as we’re ready to share.

Mila Koumpilova is Chalkbeat Chicago’s senior reporter masking Chicago General public Educational institutions. Contact Mila at [email protected].

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