How One CICS Trailblazer Shares Her Passion & Lineage With Staff, Students & Families

Coming from a strong lineage of educators, Allison Hansen, CICS’ Chief Schools Officer, knows all too well what it means to be a trailblazer in the field of education. Inspired by her grandmother, who once taught in a one-room schoolhouse full of K-12 students, Allison has learned that the sky's the limit when the right supports are in place to ensure staff and students thrive. 

Growing up in a tight-knit family in Des Moines, Iowa, Allison strives to bring her love and belief in the strength of the community into the work she leads. Allison began her journey in education when she became a 2009 Baton Rouge, Louisiana Corps Member with Teach For America. Allison has served in several leadership roles throughout her past endeavors. Still, it wasn’t until her first leadership role as a teacher leading 32 2nd graders that she uncovered a passion for education. Education was not originally in Allison’s plans, but now supporting schools is her life’s mission.

She is grateful to be a part of a movement fighting educational inequities here at CICS. Allison has seen inequities in education across the country through her work in post-Hurricane Katrina Southern Louisiana, Philadelphia, Camden, and Washington, D.C. but through that work, she has also seen the transformational and sustaining impact great leaders can have in the communities they serve. Allison knew she wanted to play her part and that there was a lot of work to do.

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Her time with CICS has allowed her to implement her core values, shaped by her career as a teacher, teacher coach, principal, and education researcher, into the decisions that are made impacting students and families. Allison’s mission is to ensure CICS responds to the challenges that face students, families, educators and school leaders with a sense of urgency and a “students first” mindset. In her role, she is able to advocate and support principals and in turn, help make decisions for our most important key stakeholders - students, families and educators. 

Allison dreams big and she has many hopes for CICS. Her motivation for continuing the work she does comes from her desire to make sure students feel a sense of belonging while showing families and students that they are in the best schools in the city of Chicago. Helping make CICS schools an exceptional place is not enough for Allison. She strives to ensure that students are nurtured and feel empowered knowing that they can accomplish anything they want to when they leave their respective campuses. 

Something she’s been excited about this school year is the continued partnership with The New Teacher Project (TNTP), to help build a transformational coaching approach for teachers, leading to a whole-child approach for students. This innovative partnership has led to significant growth proving that when we invest in our leaders and teachers, great things happen for our students.

Allison knows that families trust our CICS campuses with their most valuable and prized possessions, their students. Her mission is to ensure that this most sacred responsibility of educating students is at the center of all decisions so our students, families and educators can thrive. 

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Click here to learn more about Allison!

 

ISBE Results for Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Shows Growth Outpacing Illinois Schools

This week, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unveiled its latest Illinois School Report Card summative designations, which are designed to help school communities better understand how well a school is serving its students. The designations are a key component of Illinois’ school accountability system and they allow networks, like CICS, to understand better our strengths, areas for growth, and performance of all public schools across Illinois.  

Principal Spotlight: De'Jenne Grant

Principal De’Jenne Grant currently leads our CICS Avalon campus. She works alongside other talented leaders and we are proud to have her as a leader for our staff and students. 

This is De’Jenne’s first year with CICS Avalon and in her short time with the network she has already made strides in fostering meaningful relationships with her students. There is nothing that she wouldn’t do for her campus and she makes sure to show that day in and day out. 

To learn more about De’Jenne and her role as principal, please read below. Also, if you would like to learn more about CICS Avalon please feel free to visit their website and Facebook page. 

1. Why did you decide to become a principal?

I chose to become a principal because of the larger impact I knew I could make on a school community. As I grew from math teacher to Assistant Principal to now Principal, I am able to reach more and more scholars and families. The efforts that I continue to make to better my community are constantly expanded every time I grow and becoming Principal has allowed me to directly impact over 200 scholars, their families and teachers. 

2. What is one thing you are looking forward to in the new school year?

One thing I am looking forward to in the new school year is the amount of growth that will occur for scholars and staff. With the pandemic, there was a huge loss of learning and teacher growth, and my hope this year is to continue to close those gaps by coaching teachers to grow, which will directly impact scholars to grow as well. 

3. What is one skill that you have that makes you a great principal?

One skill that makes me a great principal is my ability to connect to scholars because of my experience growing up as a Black girl in a low-income community in the South Bronx with my mother. 

4. Name something that you are proud of on or about your campus.

I am proud of how hungry and eager my staff is to grow and be better each day. My entire staff has a growth mindset and constantly puts scholars first. Every day, they make me proud to be their principal.

5. How do you make positive connections with your students?

I make positive connections through my interactions during hallway transitions and classroom observations. Also, during breakfast, lunch and 'Fun Friday' when scholars are engaging in thought-provoking questions. 

6. How are you making those connections now?

I am currently making connections with scholars now by teaching a 7th grade math block. During this time, it allows scholars to know me as their teacher and it also allows them time to ask questions about content while also getting to know my personality. This makes it easier to have accountability conversations because of the relationships I am building with them. 

7.  What is your vision for student success this year?

My vision for student success this year is that every single scholar grows academically in both ELA and Math. For my 5th and 6th graders, my goal is that they are successful in their end of year state exams. For my 7th graders, it is preparing them to be successful in their academics and ensuring they are ready for their high school admission exams at the beginning of next year. For my 8th graders, it is ensuring they each get accepted into a high school of their choice and feel successful after graduation.

8. Education is ever-evolving. If money / resources / time were not an issue, what would you do to improve your school?

I would ensure that we have more teachers in school to close the content gaps. I would also see to it that every scholar could participate in content tutoring with resources to take home every day. I would make sure every scholar had an activity that they could participate in after school! 

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De’Jenne attended Adelphi University for her undergraduate degree in New York and then went on to attend Mercy College where she earned her Master’s degree.

De’Jenne is big on family and believes her school and home family are one and the same. While at school, she enjoys watching math lessons and seeing both students and staff flourish in their element. Outside of school, she tends to enjoy cooking, traveling and spending time with her dog, family and friends.

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and His Legacy

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the United States honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  life and legacy as a civil rights leader. More than ever, we need a moment to reflect on what still needs to be done to honor him from both a human and civil rights perspective. To celebrate this day, Taquia Hylton, CICS Ralph Ellison School Director, offers her reflection on the importance of this holiday, and discusses the need to continue Dr. King’s work of justice and equality for all. 

On the morning of January 7,  a day after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I woke up with the words from "The U.S Pledge of Allegiance'' on my mind. I remember thinking over and over the words, "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". I thought to myself, Francis Bellamy probably didn’t write this with black and brown children in mind. This anthem still does not ring true. It doesn’t feel like the citizens in this nation have been indivisible at all. Our country seems to be more divided than ever before. Why? Because, what we have seen in the last few weeks (and over four years) is the result of divisive rhetoric from the country's 45th Commander In Chief. His words drove hundreds of "U.S. citizens'' to storm a building that should have been impenetrable, the symbol and meeting place of our democracy.  

As an educator, when I think about liberty and justice I am drawn to each term's formal definitions. What is justice? Merriam Webster defines it as "the quality of being just, impartial, or fair." Liberty is defined as "the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges." Then, I reflected on the positives that came out of the day instead of the disheartening images that flooded every imaginable news media outlet.  I chuckled as "liberty" and "justice" presented themselves in the state of Georgia via the results of the Senate election.  

Just a day before the insurrection, the people of Georgia exercised their liberties at their polling places. As a result, Reverend Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the same church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, was elected the first African American Senator from the State of Georgia. We have come a long way! It brought me a sense of joy knowing Dr. King’s hard fought journey for the equal rights of African Americans became a reality with the election of Reverend Warnock. But more needs to be done. 

As we celebrate Dr. King's life and legacy, I am grateful for the contributions that he and so many others have made for black people to be able to experience liberty and justice. Though African Americans have made incremental steps in society, we have a long way to go. In the words of Dr. King, "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." Justice is NOT for "just us" nor is it exclusive of the black and brown community.  It is for ALL of us! Like Dr. King, I have that dream too.  

Taquia Hylton

Principal 

School closure extended through April 20

Dear CICS families, 

 Minutes ago, Mayor Lightfoot announced that all CPS schools will remain closed through April 20. Given the necessity of this action to protect the health and well-being of our students, families and communities, CICS will follow suit. Please note that our previously scheduled Spring Break from April 6 through April 10 will continue as planned and we will not provide teacher-directed instruction during that week. We will follow up with more details and guidance as we learn more, but please know that we are committed to supporting our students throughout this extended closure.

These are unprecedented times and I urge you to please stay informed and take care of yourselves, as we will all be in this for what feels like a very long haul. 

Take care, 

Elizabeth

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[Spanish Translation]

Asunto:  Cierre de la escuela extendido hasta el 20 de abril.

Estimadas familias de CICS:

Hace solo unos minutos, el alcalde Lightfoot anuncio que todas las escuelas de CPS permanecerán cerradas hasta el 20 de abril. Dada la necesidad de esta acción para proteger la salud y el bienestar de nuestros estudiantes, familias y comunidades, CICS hará lo mismo. Tenga en cuenta que nuestras vacaciones de primavera programadas previamente del 6 al 10 de abril continuarán según lo planeado y no proporcionaremos instrucción durante esa semana. Seguiremos con más detalles y orientación a medida que aprendamos más, pero tenga en cuenta que estamos comprometidos a apoyar a nuestros estudiantes durante este cierre prolongado.

Estos son tiempos sin precedentes y les insto a que se mantengan informados y se cuiden, ya que todos estaremos en esto por lo que parece ser un viaje muy largo.

Cuídanse, 

Elizabeth

Voices Blog: CICS Talent Visionary

Eddie Johnson, Managing Director of Talent for CICS, defines diversity beyond the common terms of race and gender. When there is an open role on our campuses, she also looks for a diversity of experiences in candidates for each position. During interviews she often asks potential employees to talk about their own cultural competencies, focusing on how the CICS value of equity resonates with each person. Mrs. Johnson believes that the lived experiences and cultural awareness of CICS teachers can provide our students with a wider view of the world. A diverse workforce also can have a deep and lasting influence on school culture.

Positive school culture is one of the cornerstones that Eddie Johnson identifies as one of the reasons that people choose to work on our campuses. Research from several recent studies have indicated that a value-based school culture (pro-active disciplinary practices, professional development, opportunities for growth and recognition) is as important as compensation. CICS has been collecting data to guide the talent team in understanding why educators choose CICS and how to ensure that our schools retain the best and most talented teachers. Mrs. Johnson was instrumental in creating and implementing a data-driven equity-based compensation model earlier this year. Prior to the pandemic shutdown, Mrs. Johnson had attended a number of recruitment fairs on college campuses and saw other school districts advertising their starting salaries. When she talked with students, she walked them through the CICS model which not only has compensation lanes but also offers a range of benefits that few charter schools can match. 

While professional development opportunities and parental leave benefits are important factors that influence teacher recruitment and retention, Mrs. Johnson believes that a positive school culture is still one of the strongest attractions of the CICS schools. The opportunity to share in the values of equity, diversity, innovation and positive change for students to what she believes brings talented professionals into our classrooms. She is confident that CICS’ continued investment in creating a culture where everyone can engage and learn will sustain its student-focused environment and continue to build a strong community that works together to help all students succeed.

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