2022 Golden Apple Award Finalist - Ms. Laurel Kulig!

As we near the end of Women's History Month, we want to shout out one of our own women leaders in our community! Congratulations to Laurel Kurig! Ms. Kulig is a CICS teacher at our Northtown Academy campus and was recently selected as a finalist for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence.

Chicago International Charter School selects seasoned education leader as next chief executive

Chicago International Charter School selects seasoned education leader as next chief executive

Kris Cheung selected for his collaborative leadership style and ability turn challenges into opportunities

October 18, 2021 

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (312) 343-2515

CHICAGO – Chicago International Charter School (CICS), a network of 13 public charter schools serving 7,400 students, is excited to announce that Kris Cheung will begin as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer, effective November 1, 2021. Following an extensive national search, Cheung was selected due to his deep experience as a leader in education, his relational leadership style and ability to drive student outcomes while maintaining a well-run organization. 

“Kris is a seasoned leader who we are confident has the experience and capabilities to lead CICS into our next phase,” said Evan Sharp, member of CICS’ Board of Directors and chair of the CEO Search Committee. “What stood out to us about Kris was his ability to ask thoughtful questions and listen intently, surround himself with experts, and galvanize people around a common goal. Our Board is deeply grateful to the entire CICS team for providing stability and continuity for our students, families and staff while we found the right person for the role.”

Cheung comes to CICS with more than a decade of leadership at two of the nation’s highly regarded charter networks: Success Academy in New York and KIPP Texas. As the Chief Operating Officer at Success Academy, he helped the organization grow from seven schools serving 2,400 students to 46 schools serving more than 16,000 students. At KIPP Texas, he led the consolidation of four KIPP regions across Texas, now serving 34,000 students at 59 schools statewide. In both roles, Kris brought stakeholders together across departments and regions, while navigating significant complexity, to create more high-quality opportunities for students. 

“CICS has been an education leader in Chicago for more than 24 years and I’m eager to build upon the amazing work of our students, families and staff in the years to come,” said Cheung. “I know the last 18 months have been challenging for everyone and I’m excited to lead a team that has demonstrated resilience, perseverance and a relentless focus on students in the face of significant obstacles. I look forward to building relationships with everyone who is committed to the success of Chicago’s children.” 

 About Chicago International Charter School

Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, put them on a path to success in college and life, and empower entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation. CICS is serving more than 7,400 students at 13 campuses across Chicago. To learn more, visit  www.chicagointl.org.

Press Release_Chicago International Charter School selects seasoned education leader as next chief executive

CICS Alum Gives Back In A Major Way

Rallying around an agenda that supports the advancement of Black and Brown children in his community is what Robert Alexander is all about. Now he’s giving back to the community where it all started for him, as a teacher, at his alma mater, CICS Loomis-Longwood. 

Robert attended CICS Loomis-Longwood starting in the 2nd through the 12th grade. When reflecting on his time as a student here, Robert shares that it was challenging growing up on the East and South sides of Chicago, especially when trying to get to school. Still, he looked forward to entering the doors of Loomis-Longwood and credits his time here for molding him into the person he is today. 

“Having the opportunity to attend this school taught me self-discipline. But they made it a point to show you love and respect - something I will never forget", stated Robert. These same traits that Robert remembers back then, are some of the exact reasons he jumped at the chance to come back to Loomis-Longwood.

While vacationing one summer, Robert was approached by an old friend who was employed with CICS and invited him to work in the security department as a school security guard. Robert eagerly accepted the opportunity and started his transition back to CICS. “My encounter with an old friend was meant to be. At the time I needed an income and this was my way of making that happen. It just made this opportunity even better knowing that I’d be coming back to where it all started for me.”  

Little did Robert know, his start as support staff would blossom into more than he bargained for. As a security guard, he was responsible for keeping students safe, but this position afforded him to connect with the students and build meaningful relationships. At the start of his employment at Longwood, Robert immediately gravitated toward the students and took a genuine interest in their well-being as well as their successes in and out of the classroom. 

“To see the turnaround in students is amazing and it makes me feel good to hear students tell me that I was the reason they came to school and why they wanted to do better. I would see those same students on the honor roll and involved in school activities the next year and was proud to know that I played a part in their success.” 

A New Beginning

After four years of being a security guard, Robert was approached by Chrystal Fields, Managing Director of Student and Family Supports at CICS Loomis-Longwood and Lloyd Bond, to be a paraprofessional.  When she learned of his qualifications and witnessed his ability to build meaningful relationships with the students, she encouraged him to apply for the role. 

Transitioning into the classroom was more than a promotion for Robert, it was also a chance for him to play his part in changing the narrative of what success looks like for Black and Brown students. As a paraprofessional, he loves being able to see the growth of his students. He also loves new challenges. Robert enrolled in the Relay graduate program and it was during this time that he knew he wanted to be more involved in his students' education and started to pursue being a Diverse Learning teacher. 

Robert has been with CICS for several years now and looks forward to continuing serving at Loomis-Longwood. 

“Being at CICS is like being with family. They have such a strong support system and culture. Whenever I need help with anything I know that I can call on anyone to help me and I want to create the same environment for my kids when they come into my classroom.”







CICS Celebrates Its Principals

National Principals Month honors principals for their significant impact on the success and well-being of our nation’s students.

Join us as we celebrate all CICS principals throughout October!

Check out several of the school principals from our Avalon, Basil, Bucktown, Irving Park, Loomis-Longwood, Lloyd Bond, Northtown Academy, Prairie, Ralph Ellison, Washington Park, West Belden and Wrightwood campuses. 

We plan to profile all our principals this week and their journeys to becoming great leaders!  We thank them for all they do!  


www.principalsmonth.org 
www.ChicagoIntl.Org

#ThankAPrincipal #CICSPrincipals #Leaders 

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CICS CEO: CRAIN’s On The Move

Kris Cheung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month, Kris Cheung joined CICS as our new Chief Executive Officer.

Kris is a student-centered leader and we are excited for him to be part of the CICS family serving our teachers, staff and familes in providing excellent, innovative and equitable educational experiences to Chicago’s communities.

Check him out at Crain's Chicago ‘On the Move.’

CICS Food Services Profile: Healthy Meals Healthy Students

It is important that CICS students maintain a healthy body and mind during the school year. CICS recognizes that meals contribute to our physical, social and mental well-being. 

Our Food Services team plays an essential role to all our CICS schools. They are an important part of improving the health and well-being of our students.  We would like to share the story of what our food service program does every school day in order to keep students healthy and fed. 

A Change in Meals 

CICS knows that what a child eats plays a role in their level of creativity, engagement and academic performance. Our food program ensures that students and families have nutritious meal options. Due to the pandemic, the last in-school meals were served to CICS students on Friday, March 13.

With only the weekend to plan, CICS began to offer meals for pickup to our students and their families on the following Monday, March 16.  While those first few meals consisted of sandwiches and wraps, CICS quickly realized that families needed items that could be heated at home.

All fourteen CICS school campuses have on-site prep kitchens where food can be prepared and served to students from steam table serving lines, as well as self-serve salad bars. The current curbside pick-up breakfast menu offers shelf stable items along with occasional fresh fruit or juice. Lunch and supper options include ready-to-heat items such as hamburgers, chicken and burritos and there are new items such as chicken legs and other plated entrees being added. Pizza and chicken tenders/nuggets are still a favorite, just as they were when meals were served on campuses. The menus also acknowledge that families may have dietary restrictions so there are always no-meat protein items available. Milk is included with every meal and healthy snacks such as granola bars and raisins are also provided.

Curbside food pickup has been important while students are remote learning. CICS has accommodated most families who drive up to one the campuses; some families walk up to the table if they live close by. Every day, our families have been grateful for their childrens’ meals and for the opportunity to see the food staff, even if they are socially distanced or in their cars. Students are always excited to see  their “lunch lady” from the car.  

The CICS food service staff are rarely recognized for the important role they play in the lives of our students. At one campus, a mother occasionally cooks lunch for the food service staff and brings it to them on Fridays. This is just an example of how close this community is. They have served 500,000 meals since the middle of March. It is their mission, especially during remote learning, to create high quality meals that students want to eat and to get those meals to every family. Many parents realize that, without food service staff, their children would not have the meals they usually receive while in school. It shows how important they are! 

As a school community, our priority is to keep every student fed. Even when school schedules change or holidays come and go, distribution times are adjusted. CICS has also added an additional morning pick-up time to accommodate family schedules.      

CICS Irving Park Educator Awarded Elementary Teacher of the Year!

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) announced that Lindy Mandel, middle school teacher and instructional coach at Chicago International Charter School Irving Park, has been named Elementary Teacher of the Year! 

“Charter schools thrive on innovation and adaptability. With everything our community has gone through with the pandemic, we’ve still seen some of the most creative and thoughtful approaches to modern education in years,” explained Andrew Broy, president of INCS. “The 2022 winners of the Charter Excellence Awards embody everything that makes the charter public school community such a force for good. We are so proud of all they have done and will continue to do.”

Mandel has been part of the CICS Irving Park community since 2009 and has served in various roles from teaching assistant to the director of operations to middle school educator and instructional coach. As an innovative practice leader, Mandel led the implementation of the Summit Personalized Learning Platform for CICS Irving Park, and served as a Summit Learning Lead, developing training modules for and introducing the platform to new Distinctive Schools teachers.

“Lindy has been an incredible asset for CICS Irving Park, and Distinctive Schools,” shared Chief Talent Officer, Sami Baugh, “her leadership and passion for education is exactly what her students, families, and colleagues respond to – she makes a lasting impact on all she encounters, and we are incredibly grateful for her continued commitment to her students and Distinctive Schools.”

Mandel was nominated for the award by Peggy Diaz, CICS Irving Park Bilingual educator and parent, who has taught under Mandel’s mentorship with Distinctive Schools. On November 30, 2022, CICS Irving Park students and staff gathered in the school gymnasium for their weekly community meeting, the time the school takes to connect as a community, discuss school events, and recognize students of the week. At the top of the assembly, Diaz stepped up to the microphone and spoke about her nomination.

“It is the unquantifiable that sets her apart. It is the kind and patient words. It is the determined spirit to make sure everyone learns, and the wholehearted investment to understand the feelings and situations of others,” said Diaz. She continued, “How do you measure a year in a teacher’s life? How about love? Love is exactly what makes this teacher [Mandel] excellent.”

Mandel was presented with the award along with a check for $10,000, surrounded by her students, peers, and family members, and celebrated during the 2022 INCS Charter School Excellence Awards Reception on Monday, December 5, 2022 at the City View Lofts. CICS is incredibly proud of Mandel’s success as an educator, colleague, and leader. This year, INCS received over 120 nominations for leaders, teachers, parents and students from across Illinois’ charter sector, which spans 137 schools throughout the state. As with years past, 2022’s nominations were fiercely competitive.

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About Chicago International Charter School 

Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, put them on a path to success in college and life, and empower entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation. CICS is serving more than 7,400 students at 13 campuses across Chicago. To learn more, visit  www.chicagointl.org.

About INCS

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools advocates for the improvement of public education by leveraging the charter school model as a catalyst to transform lives and communities. As the voice of Illinois charter schools, INCS engages a diverse coalition of policymakers, school leaders, parents, and community members to create systemic change and secure high-quality schools for underserved communities.

CICS Loomis-Longwood Profiled on WTTW's Chicago Tonight - In Your Neighborhood

WTTW Chicago Tonightrecently profiled CICS Loomis-Longwood on their "In Your Neighborhood" segment. 

The segment profiled the Washington Heights neighborhood which is surrounded by the Roseland, Auburn Gresham, Beverly and Morgan Park communities.

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The feature showcased CICS Loomis-Longwood and the importance our school serving its student population in the South Side neighborhood. K-5 School Director Lindsey Girard was featured speaking on the reopening of the campus this Fall.  For more on this feature and to view one of our campuses, click here.  

CICS Wrightwood Educator and Students Making A Difference

CICS Wrightwood teacher Ms. Jazmine Cooper and her students are making strides during Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos once again! 
 
Ms. Cooper and her students recently performed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at the  Arts in the Dark Parade in downtown Chicago on State Street. She and her students were recently on Chicago's Very Own WGN TV performing the same dance. 
 
Her hard work and dedication to the arts have even received national attention from the Ellen show.  Ms. Cooper was also honored as 2022 The Chicago Defender Woman of Excellence.
 
Watch Ms. Cooper and her students dancing into the hearts of all by watching herehere and here!
 
 CICS is always proud of leader and educator, Ms. Jazmine Cooper! Congrats on making CICS proud once again! 
 
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CICS Wrightwood Teacher Shines on the Ellen DeGeneres Show

CICS wants to congratulate Wrightwood Fitness teacher, Ms. Jazmine Cooper, for bringing her love of dance to our students! 
 
Ms. Cooper was on the Ellen show where she spoke about impacting the lives of elementary school kids through dance. She talked about how powerful her classes have become and the positive impact dance has had on the students.
 
CICS Wrightwood Teacher
 
We want to thank Ms. Cooper and CICS Wrightwood for all their hard work and dedication! A big thanks to the Ellen DeGeneres Show for recognizing Ms. Cooper's passion for dance and education!
 
Check out her interview on the Ellen show: https://www.ellentube.com/.../phenomenal-teacher...

CICS’ Direct Operated Campuses To Be Managed by Distinctive Schools

For 25 years, CICS has always been committed to launching and operating schools with diverse academic models throughout the different neighborhoods we serve, while providing support and resources to help our students achieve strong academic outcomes. 

In 2019, CICS made the decision to directly operate CICS Loomis-Longwood and CICS Lloyd Bond and is extremely proud of the progress made during that time in improving staff culture, increasing academic outcomes and addressing campus safety, especially during a pandemic.  

As CICS looks into the future, the focus has been on continuing to provide sustainable growth and improvement for the CICS Loomis-Longwood and CICS Lloyd Bond communities. Our focus has been on continuing to ensure sustainable improvement and support for the CICS Loomis-Longwood and CICS Lloyd Bond communities. We believe that this next phase for the CICS Loomis-Longwood and CICS Lloyd Bond communities is best led by an operator other than CICS.

 We released a Request For Proposal (RFP) publicly on December 23, 2022 for School Management Organizations (SMO) to submit their proposal to directly operate CICS Loomis-Longwood and CICS Lloyd Bond, beginning July 1, 2023. Our selection team, which consisted of members of the network and your school leadership, carefully reviewed operator applications and made a selection using a robust and transparent rubric. 

 The goal was to select an SMO that will collaborate with CICS to ensure a smooth transition for its school communities and one that gives its staff and students the support and resources required to exceed academic outcomes. CICS believes that through a partnership with the right SMO, it can accomplish these goals for its staff, students and their families. 

CICS leadership presented its recommendations to the CICS Board of Directors on February 16, 2023, and the Board selected Distinctive Schools as the next School Management Organization to directly-operate CICS Loomis-Longwood and CICS Lloyd Bond beginning school year 2023-2024 (July 1, 2023). This change will ensure that as these schools head into a new chapter, their students and families have comprehensive support that aligns with CICS’ organizational values of transformational academic outcomes for our students and strong support for all staff. CICS is confident that partnering with Distinctive Schools will build on the momentum we’ve established while setting up CICS Loomis-Longwood and CICS Lloyd Bond to thrive into the future. 

 CICS’ partnership and history with Distinctive Schools started in 2011. Distinctive Schools currently manages four CICS campuses, CICS Bucktown, CICS Irving Park, CICS Prairie and CICS West Belden. Their mission is to create diverse, joyful, welcoming communities rooted in social justice and rigorous learning. They support all learners to be engaged, curious and to achieve their full potential. Their academic outcomes are for students to become confident advocates, creative problem-solvers and collaborative leaders. Distinctive Schools leads a collaborative and innovative public education transformation that elevates access, achievement, and belonging for every student so they may thrive throughout their education, career and life.

 CICS looks forward to its continued partnership with Distinctive Schools and is energized about what’s to come. 

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About Chicago International Charter School 

Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, put them on a path to success in college and life, and empower entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation. CICS is serving more than 7,400 students at 13 campuses across Chicago. To learn more, visit  www.chicagointl.org.

About Distinctive Schools 

Distinctive Schools is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and accelerating the work of charter schools serving kids from traditionally underserved backgrounds. The team includes passionate educators and determined leaders who innovate, trailblaze, and collaboratively lead a public education transformation, as well as ensure that each and every one of Distinctive Schools students thrive in college, career, and life.

Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30

March 13, 2020

Dear CICS Families, 

We have appreciated your support, feedback and patience over the last two weeks as we have worked together to navigate the uncertainty and disruption caused by COVID-19. In alignment with Governor Pritzker’s mandate to close all Illinois schools and under the guidance of public health officials, CICS will close all of our schools beginning on March 16 through at least March 30, with the possibility of a longer closure, depending on the circumstances at the end of the month. 

Please know that this is not a decision that we have taken lightly, but one that we have made to put the health and well-being of our students, families, staff and communities at the forefront. We understand that the next two weeks, and possibly longer, will be difficult and, in partnership with Distinctive Schools, Civitas Education Partners and ReGeneration Schools, CICS plans to support our students and families in every way that we can. We recognize the incredible burden this puts on our families, and that, while it helps us mitigate the spread of the virus, it creates other significant challenges. Thank you for understanding that this decision was made to support the well-being of our community. 

CICS and our SMO partners are committed to supporting our students’ continued learning throughout the closure. On Monday, school leadership teams and office staff will be at each CICS campus to distribute virtual learning materials to families that did not receive them on Friday. Individual campuses will communicate instructions for the distribution of these materials to their families no later than Sunday at noon. We are actively working with CPS and our food service provider to determine the method for the distribution of meals for our students throughout the closure. Where possible, we sent students home today with breakfast items for Monday morning in case of a potential closure. We are also working with CPS to create a list of community supports for child care, as we know this closure creates a burden on our families. We will follow up no later than the end of day on Monday with more information about these resources. 

Throughout the closure, we will communicate with our parents and guardians via email on a weekly basis, or more frequently as needed and we will share updates via the CICS website, www.chicagointl.org

For the most reliable and up-to-date information, please visit www.chicago.gov/coronavirus or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the CDPH Coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You may also reach out to the CICS COVID-19 Response Team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or CICS Main Office by phone at 312-651-5000.  

Please know that our CICS team is here to provide resources and support to you and your child throughout this challenging situation. During times like these, we commit to coming together to take care of every member of the CICS community.

Warmly, 

Elizabeth

 

Elizabeth Shaw

CEO 

Chicago International Charter School

 

Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30_pdf

Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30_Spanish_pdf

Educator Spotlight: Casie Walls

No one said teaching would be easy, but Casie Walls could never have imagined that most of her first two years as a teacher at CICS Loomis-Longwood would be remote. She is a big believer that professional development and mentoring support helped her with teaching her first-grade students. As an educator, Ms. Walls uses every resource possible including the No Nonsense Nurturing toolkit, teacher collaboration and even her own model of joy to make students part of a successful learning environment. This is why Casie was named a LIT teacher! LIT stands for Live Innovative Teaching and Ms. Walls exemplifies those words.

Casie is very familiar with the Loomis-Longwood campus. She attended and graduated from Longwood high school. Her passion for teaching came while a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned her Master’s in Instructional Leadership. When she was a student teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park, her mentor urged her to apply for multiple teaching positions. Casie’s first choice was Loomis Primary because she longed to give back to the community that gave so much to her. When Casie received the call that she had a position at Loomis, she recalled, “It’s a small world and it was a blessing!” 

Her first year at Loomis started in the classroom and transitioned to remote learning in March 2020. Even during remote learning, Ms. Walls has been able to build nurturing relationships with her students. “I try to model my own joy with my voice and my body in the virtual classroom which is easy when you see twentyone faces smiling at you! I start the day with an attention getter and when everybody is looking straight ahead into the screen, at that moment I have them.”

Ms. Walls understands the power of the No Nonsense Nurturing (NNN) Model. She uses positive narration to ensure that her students know she has high expectations for their learning. “My students know what I expect, and they know what they should be doing because I make sure to lead with precise directions and check for their understanding. I then use three praises such as Lisa has turned to page 4, Danielle has also turned to page 4 and Michael is looking at page 4. This positive narration lets them know what they are supposed to be doing such as being on page 4.” Her students learn from watching their classmates and the peers, as well as observing what she is doing online. “I will ask them to show me that they have paper and pencils. I will check for understanding. I will ask, “Who can tell me what I should have now? When I say go, hold up your paper and pencil.”

The NNN process strives to engage scholars by continually learning about them and relating their cultural backgrounds and experiences to classroom learning. In order to make the learning culturally relevant, Ms. Walls will add an example from her own life. “This is especially true when we are doing math. I engage with them and tell them how the problem relates to me. I try to find connections to their family life.”  She recognizes that her students are young and so many things charge them emotionally, so she always stays grounded and connected when working with them. “I remind them that I was once in first grade. I reassure them with positive affirmations about how amazing they are and how smart they are. I try to create a safe space and assure them that they belong here. I may ask a question or have them write how they feel today, or if you were a teacher, what subject would you teach? They get so excited when they answer those questions.”

Even though the majority of her kids want to be back in the classroom, the health of her students and families comes first. Remote learning has helped her become much more tech savvy and organized. She has seen the power that using visuals to illustrate a problem has had for many of her students. She will take these new skills back when teachers and students return to the classroom. For Casie, she will always bring the joy of learning to all of her students, whether in person or remote.


Casie Walls is a second year 1st grade teacher at CICS Loomis Primary. Casie earned her Master’s in Journalism from Roosevelt University and a second Master’s in Instructional Leadership Masters in Instructional Leadership from University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to working at CICS Loomis, Ms. Walls worked for 8 years at Chicago Public Schools as a paraprofessional/Special Education Classroom Assistant. Casie Wells aspires to grow into a leadership role in the education sector.

Educator Spotlight: JoeAnn Nash

JoeAnn Nash’s career as an educator started at Loomis-Longwood and she has not looked back since.  She started teaching second grade students at Loomis-Longwood in 2010 and then returned in 2018 as an instructional coach for second and third grade teachers. Just before the pandemic hit,  JoeAnn returned to her current role as the Loomis K-5 Director of Instruction in July of 2020. “In my new role, I was worried that I would be a distraction when I popped into a room because many of the kids remembered me, but it was wonderful to be greeted by them.” Her return during remote learning reinforced a sense of normalcy and continuity for students and teachers. JoeAnn's educational. journey is one of hope and inspiration during this pandemic. 

Federal Relief Update: What impact have we seen from how CICS prioritized the COVID-19 relief dollars?

Previous Piece (June 2021)

In June, I wrote a Voices Blog piece to share more with our community about how we make our budgetary decisions at CICS and what the incoming federal relief dollars might mean for how we support our schools, teachers, and students this school year. 

Now, a few months into this school year, I have the pleasure of being able to follow up on my piece and share more about our priorities, our spending, and most importantly, the impact we hope to see from this landmark investment in our schools. 

Overall, CICS received funds from three federal relief bills passed in 2020 and 2021: the CARES Act in April 2020; the Coronavirus Relief Bill in December 2020; and the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. The most recent of these relief packages, the American Rescue Plan Act, resulted in an influx of approximately $7.7 million to invest across all 13 CICS campuses. While each SMO and schools had the autonomy to spend their dollars as they deemed necessary, I know we were all united around the common priorities and values that drive decision-making across our network. 

To ensure every student in the CICS community can flourish, we had to ask ourselves some important questions before allocating these dollars. How do we get our kids back into schools safely on a full-time basis? Once they’re there, how do we keep kids and teammates safe in our schools without taking away dollars from instruction? And, perhaps most importantly, how do we use funds to equally prioritize both social-emotional health and academic recovery?

The answers to these questions are what ultimately drove our spending decisions. I am eager to share some of the big ways we invested our dollars:

  • New Personnel: An immediate and concrete way to better support our teachers and students was to hire additional personnel who are aligned to the priorities we set. We wanted to make it easier to keep students safe and healthy, so we created new or additional positions like in-house substitutes, additional school nurses, and temporary support staff to help with arrivals, contact tracing, and managing our care rooms. We also added staff to better support learning, especially in this new context, such as technology leads and Virtual Academy instructors. More hands on deck, especially when they are the right hands, can make immeasurable differences in student learning and teacher sustainability.
  • Technology & Innovation: As COVID-19 continues to influence the way we teach and the way students learn, it’s important that we continue investing dollars to help us adjust to this evolving reality. This means investments in maintaining our one-to-one student laptop ratio, investing in software and platforms to improve parent communication, and putting dedicated resources behind our Virtual Academies to support remote and quarantined learners. At CICS, we pride ourselves on our ability to innovate in the name of supporting excellent instruction and equitable learning. Leveraging dollars to support this aim is a natural use of these increased funds.
  • Staff Development & Resources: Meeting students’ academic and social-emotional needs, even in the midst of continued change, will always be a top priority across CICS. Allocating dollars towards this aim was a critical way we invested in our students’ futures. Whether that investment was in continued support and resources for trusted programs like Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) or in introducing new concepts and tools to educators through additional professional development, we know that schools made decisions to put dollars towards ensuring staff can holistically support and nurture all students to learn and grow.

The above priorities certainly don’t fully encompass all the ways that we have leveraged this $7.7 million in additional dollars for our students. However, I hope they have given you a window into how we translate these priorities into concrete expenditures. And, perhaps more importantly, I hope they give you insight into the kinds of impact we hope to see in the months and years ahead.

If we invest in the tools and resources to keep our communities safe, we can mitigate dangerous exposures before they start and instead focus on rebuilding our communities and supporting learning. If every student has a laptop and access to both in-person and virtual instruction, we know learning can continue despite any obstacles. If we acknowledge the challenges facing our schools in terms of staffing and capacity, and innovate around personnel accordingly, we can help provide some much needed relief. And if we are constantly learning about and investing in our students’ needs – both academic and social-emotional – then we know we can set them on a path towards seizing the kinds of successful futures they each deserve.

As I mentioned in June, an organization’s budget and spending tells the story of what matters to them. I hope in communicating a little more about how CICS has spent these precious federal relief dollars, you now have better insight into the concrete ways we are prioritizing our schools, teachers, and students during this landmark school year.

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