Stephen Jackson, a popular youth mentor who was terminated from his position as a youth advocate with Oak Park Township last October, was recently hired as a community resource specialist at the Oak Park Public Library.
Jackson’s hiring comes in the wake of the library terminating its contract with outside security firm Allied Barton Security Services and the hiring of its first social worker, Robert Simmons, in February.
Library Executive Director David Seleb told Wednesday Journal that, while the transition from an outside firm to library personnel to provide security services has been long in the making, the April 11 discovery of a dead body in the library’s third-floor bathroom prompted the library to make the change earlier than planned.
In his new position, Jackson also engages patrons who need other services as well. He declined to comment on the record about the new position.
Many community members and Oak Park and River Forest High School officials were hopeful that Jackson could reprise his role as a youth advocate at the high school — a position made possible by his job with the township.
In that role, Jackson facilitated a program called Motivational Mentoring, designed to provide “safe, group mentoring during lunch periods weekly at District 200 for 60-plus students,” according to a description of the program by John Williams, the township’s youth services director.
When Jackson was terminated from the township for violating its personnel policy — a move that many of his supporters criticized as unjustified — he was no longer able to work in the school.
After his firing, numerous community leaders like former District 200 board president John Phelan and current board member Sara Dixon Spivy started the Stephen Jackson Clemency Project to help persuade Gov. Bruce Rauner to give Jackson a pardon so OPRF could hire him to work in the school full-time — a process that is still ongoing.