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Illinois Superintendent Carmen Ayala is retiring in February


Friday, November 18, 2022  |  Article  |  Associated Press

Illinois Superintendent Carmen Ayala announced Thursday that she is retiring in February.


Governor J. B. Pritzker appointed Ayala to serve as the state’s top education official in 2019, making her the first woman and person of color hold office.


“For the past nearly 40 years, I have been blessed to serve the students of Illinois,” Ayala told board members at Thursday’s state board of education meeting. “If anyone knows me, they know that equity is my passion. They call me a warrior of justice.”


As state superintendent, Ayala oversaw more than 850 school districts serving more than 2 million children. She helped to navigate early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when Pritzker ordered to close all schools in the background of the flash. She worked with the administration on the state’s guidelines for reopening schools and chaired the state board as the districts navigated two difficult years of recovery.


Before the pandemic began, Ayala set about what still needed to be done major reform of state standardized testing. Earlier this year, the State Council decided not to make changes how he evaluates student learning. As with the rest of the country, Illinois students’ results in math and reading decreased during the pandemic and not yet recoveredaccording to the latest data.


Pritzker must appoint a replacement. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Ayala previously served as superintendent of Berwyn North School District in west suburban 98 and was assistant superintendent of Plainfield District 202 in the far west suburbs. She led diversity and inclusion of work while in Plainfield at a time when the area was becoming increasingly racialized.


Stephen Isoe, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, applauded Ayala’s work on equity and urged her to “hang up” if the board did not continue to focus on it.


“You sent a strong signal to all state leaders that we really need to embrace the work of equity for all students, and it was loud and clear,” Isoe said. “And it takes a toll and will take a toll, even after you retire.”


Ayala began her career in Chicago Public Schools, where she was a teacher for five years, and served as both a teacher and administrator in Algonquin Unified School District 300 and Aurora East School District 131.