Jennifer Rakstad

My name is Jennifer Rakstad, and I hope to represent you as a parent representative on the South Loop Elementary School LSC.  I have 2 children at South Loop who have both been at our school since they attended preschool, and I have been an actively engaged parent and volunteer since 2007.  My daughter, Eleanore, is in the 5th grade and is part of the neighborhood program, and my son, Henry, was in the neighborhood program through 1st grade and then transitioned to the regional gifted center.  He will be graduating this year and hopefully attending a CPS high school.  My family moved to the South Loop neighborhood in large part because of our school.  We wanted to live in a strong community that supported a diverse, inclusive and academically challenging school.  We found this and much more at South Loop Elementary, and we consider our school community a part of our extended family. 

Although I have never been on the LSC, I’ve been involved in many ways at the school and have had children in every program (preschool, neighborhood and gifted programs), which has allowed me to get to know a wide variety of people and understand the issues facing our school community from multiple perspectives.  My volunteer roles have included hands on volunteering as well as leadership roles representing the school and interacting with school administration, CPS leadership and others:

Hands On Volunteer Roles
Working Directly with our School Community to improve the lives of students and families
Leadership Roles
Representing SLS and interfacing with school administration, CPS leadership, and other stakeholders
  • Girl Scout Troop leader for 5th Grade Troop – Troop leader since Kindergarten.  Troop has maintained enrollment of approximately 20 girls  
  • Space Planning Committee – met with CPS representatives and city leaders to secure new elementary school building for SLS at State/16th
  • Room Parent for several classrooms and at different grade levels
  • SLS Representative on the CPS Transition Committee – advocate on behalf of SLS as part of the official CPS Steering Committee tasked with the integration of NTA and SLS
  • Spring Benefit Volunteer – worked on several spring benefit committees to procure items and run the silent auction, including at the 10th anniversary spring benefit
  • SLS Representative on the Chicagoans United Equity Racial Equity Committee– Represented SLS in discussions on alternatives for  high school option in south loop neighborhood.
  • Head of Uniform Resale – led the popular uniform resale opportunity and worked with committee of parent volunteers
  • Volunteer Task Force – was member of inaugural group tasked with maximizing parent volunteer engagement (2011-13)
  • Led new family tours at branch building  (2013–2016)
  • SLS Future Planning Committee – Worked with group of SLS parents and CPS to address issues of overcrowding (2009-2011)


In all of these volunteer activities and positions, I strive to best represent the whole of our school community and to consider both our present situation as well as our vision for the future of our school.  I do this by soliciting the input of our community, working to build consensus, and raising the level of inclusion in our community.  I am running now for a spot on our LSC for these same reasons.  We are at a critical time in the life of our school – we will be transitioning to a new building and likely merging with NTA.  If I am elected as your LSC representative, I would work to preserve the important aspects of our unique culture and “South Loop Way” while being open to the changes – and compromises – that will come with these upcoming transitions.  I believe the breath and depth of my involvement in and experience with our school community will be invaluable in these transitions.  But my value is not solely in my experience.  I also am excited to help take our school into this next phase of our growth and development, and would do that by working in partnership with our families, neighborhood, and school administration to build a vision for our future.  

I am a certified career and executive coach at a global law firm where I help lawyers achieve the careers they want.  I run group coaching and training programs on professional and business development topics. I am passionate about diversity and inclusion, and am an active member of my firm’s Diversity and Women’s Leadership Committees.  I work closely with these committees on the overall strategy for increasing diversity and inclusion in my firm as well as improving the daily lives of our diverse and women lawyers. I am a former practicing lawyer (litigator) and federal judicial clerk (U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico).