Dwayne Truss, a longtime Austin resident and newly appointed Chicago Board of Education member, personally addressed speakers and observers on Wednesday, moments before his first board meeting.
Before taking his seat, Truss stepped into the overflow room to introduce himself and thank everyone in attendance. He was the only member from the appointed board to greet attendees this way.
In response to an observer who shouted “we are counting on you,” Truss said he will do everything he can to work hard for the children and schools.
“I am excited to serve on the board … it is a partnership, and we need your help, too,” Truss said.
After a brief interaction with the audience, Truss joked he would get in trouble for being late to his first board meeting and took his seat among the other six members.
As one of seven members appointed earlier this month by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Truss was given a moment to introduce himself at the start of Wednesday’s meeting. He thanked his mother and his wife for helping him get to the position he is in today.
He said his mother, who was in the audience, worked hard to give him and his six siblings a high-quality education and taught him the importance of helping his community.
“She taught us to uplift our community. This is a moment that is totally hers,” said, Truss, who also thanked the mayor for appointing him and Jesus, whom he called his favorite socialist.
Truss said when his son died several years ago, the West Side community stood with his family and helped them get through their sorrow.
“It is a blessing to be able to serve these children, community and city,” Truss said. “We have a great school system … we are just here to serve you.”
CPS has always had great people, he added. “Sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we never stop talking to one another.
“Let’s get to work.”
Newly appointed board President Miguel del Valle said it’s necessary for the board to hear diverse voices and gain the trust of students, teachers and parents. He said each new board member, including Truss, is a leader in their community, and they will all work together to ensure equity within CPS, though he said debate and discussion would be encouraged. This will not be a rubber-stamp board, he said.
The board announced Wednesday several changes that the public will see at its July 24th meeting, including live streaming of meetings, new committees chaired by board members, and some meetings held out in the community and later in the day to encourage more public engagement.
At least some of the appointed board members support an elected school board, including President del Valle, who said, “There will be an elected school board in the future. In the meantime, this group before you is totally committed to spending the countless number of hours that is needed to improve our system.”
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said every neighborhood deserves a high-quality school, and she promised that more programs would be put in place for students who need them the most – on the South and West sides.
In addition to serving on the school board, Truss also was appointed to the board of trustees of the Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of the city of Chicago.