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.

A Culture of Reading at CICS Northtown

On Monday, Nov 28, the CICS Northtown campus welcomed award-winning author Laura Ruby to its monthly student book club. Ms. Ruby's most recent novel, Bone Gap, won the 2016 Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, given annually by the American Library Association. The book was also a National Book Award finalist. "The Printz is the equivalent to the Newbery or Caldecott awards, but for older readers," explained CICS Northtown's librarian Jim Klise. "It's the most important award for young adult literature, so having her with us was a truly exciting opportunity for the students. The students were thrilled and honored to meet her."

Acclaimed Novelist and Poet Rachel DeWoskin Visits CICS Northtown Academy

Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Northtown Academy hosted acclaimed novelist and poet Rachel DeWoskin for a reading conversation with the school's Book and Literary Journal club. Ms. DeWoskin read her latest novel, "Someday We Will Fly", to Northtown Academy students.  Students had the opportunity to ask questions about writing, revision, book publications and received copies of Ms. DeWoskin's latest book. The event was part of Northtown's ongoing commitment to support the arts, cultivate the love of reading and empower young authors on our campus. Rachel's novel won the 2020 Sydney Taylor Book Award from the American Library Association.  #WeAreCICS #CICS Northtown Academy #Civitas Education Partners

 

Alumni: Yadira Alonzo

CICS Northtown Academy, Class of 2014
Northeastern Illinois University, Class of 2018

My name is Yadira Alonzo and I am 18 years old. I graduated from CICS Northtown Academy in 2014, and I am currently a full-time student at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). I grew up in Mexico, then moved to Albany Park in 2007.

Chicago International Charter School Celebrates School Quality Improvements

Last week, Chicago Public Schools released school performance results – School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) – from the 2015-2016 school year. CICS has a lot to celebrate and more work to do. We are proud to announce our third consecutive year of improvement across the network, with six of our campuses rated in the top two performance categories of SQRP. These achievements are the results of the talented and committed teachers, leaders, and operators working tirelessly for our students.

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 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 Northtown Academy Students Navigate the Future

CICS Northtown Academy partnered with Genesys Works last summer, an organization that provides pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities. The primary elements of their program model include skills training, meaningful internships, college and career coaching and alumni support.

Two CICS Northtown Academy students, Maria Tencio and Justine James Reyes, applied to the Genesys Quarter 1 Works training program. As part of this program, these NTA students were accepted to a summer internship program. We interviewed both students and they shared some of their experiences and lessons they learned over the course of their intership. 

Maria Tencio wanted to start her senior year the right way with an internship experience added to her name. She applied for a summer internship because she was motivated to step out of her comfort zone. She saw the Genesys Works program as an opportunity to gain skills she could use in the future and work in a professional setting. Originally, she requested an accounting internship, but landed an IT internship with the advertising firm Ten35. Without hesitation, she took it even though she knew nothing about IT. Beyond learning everything from how to build a computer from scratch to understanding network topologies, Maria’s confidence grew exponentially to also improve her confidence in public speaking and the ability to collaborate with others. “I feel more comfortable sharing my ideas with others and am able to communicate my ideas in a group setting.”

Justine James Reyes was determined to apply for a summer internship despite the current pandemic. He knew he wanted to do something over the course of the summer before he started his senior year. He applied for a Genesys Works internship because he was unsure whether he wanted a career in the medical or the computer field and saw this internship as an opportunity to help him figure that out. Justin was placed with TransUnion as a Web Development intern. He describes the internship experience as an ideal one because he learned valuable skills such as time management, writing work emails, how to successfully interview for a job and the importance of networking. Although he enjoyed working with computers, Justine realized it was not something he wanted to pursue as a career, so he has now decided to pursue a career in the medical field.

Both Maria and Justine believe that their internship opportunity is something worthwhile and should be offered to all students because of experiences one gains. They both made contacts while at their internships including mentors they will continuously seek advice from throughout their academic careers. Maria said that the internship was hard work but totally worth the effort. Justine felt the internship helped with him with his personal growth and said he knew it had a similar impact on other students he met with the program. 

Maria and Justine agree that students need to be open minded and take advantage of opportunities that could help them think critically about work and realize the limitless career choices. They encourage other students to do internships while in high school. Real life work experiences gave both of these students a better perspective of the skills needed in a career but also helped them find what they are passionate about doing. Both Maria and Justine represent CICS Northtown Academy’s goal of providing an environment in which students’ creativity, intellectual prowess and problem-solving capabilities are nurtured and thrive to promote remarkable growth.


If students are interested in learning more about Genesys Works internships, please go to their FAQ page for more information about their program and internship opportunities.  

CICS Northtown Community Donates Supplies to Fellow CICS Schools

“We started this about four years ago to start off the school year,” explains Kevin Ryan, CICS Northtown Dean of Students. The CICS Northtown high schoolers are invited to bring extra school supplies to the Dean’s office, and have the chance to enter a raffle sponsored by the school.

CICS Northtown Student Announcer Gains Experience, Networks for Future Career

At CICS Northtown Academy, all students have an advisory period to catch up on homework and listen to school announcements. Jeremiah P., now a senior, started reading the announcements his sophomore year—and people took notice. In this article, Jeremiah shares his experience building confidence, discusses the power of networking, and gives a few examples of his work!

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...

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

Family Update: CICS Response to COVID-19

March 13, 2020

Dear CICS Families: 

I want to thank each of you for your attention to the developing situation regarding COVID-19, or coronavirus, in Chicago and nationally. As of now, we are not aware of any confirmed cases of or concerning exposure to COVID-19 at any of our campuses. I want to assure you that CICS is closely monitoring the situation and working with CPS and local public health officials to offer guidance to our staff, students and families. As always, the health and safety of our students and teammates are our highest priorities.  

Over the last week, CICS has put together a COVID-19 Response Team to stay up-to-date on the latest local developments and recommendations from CPS, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as to field questions from our staff and families and develop and communicate guidance as CICS responds to the evolving COVID-19 situation. While it is our hope that our schools will remain open and operating on their regular schedules in the weeks and months ahead, we are also working on contingency plans for remote learning and for access to the school food program in the event of a prolonged closure. Please complete this two-minute survey so that we can properly prepare for support should we need to close one or more campuses. 

We’re also taking reasonable precautions to limit the exposure to and prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our schools and the surrounding communities. While we are still permitting local travel within the Chicago city limits, we have made the difficult decision to cancel or postpone all staff and student non-local domestic and international travel on behalf of CICS from now through April 10, 2020, the last day of Spring Break. This includes CICS-sponsored and coordinated student spring break trips and college tours. We recognize how disappointing this decision may be, especially for trips that our students have been anticipating for some time, but this month-long pause will allow us to focus on limiting potential exposure and managing risks, while we monitor the latest developments. 

We will also be canceling or postponing student gatherings and events outside of the regular school day. After-school programs will continue at our campuses as scheduled. Cancelled or postponed events may include concerts, parent events and dances, and your school director will follow up with more details about plans for scheduled events. 

Please remember to continue practicing reasonable precautionary measuresto keep yourself healthy and prevent the spread of the virus, which include regularly disinfecting frequently touched objects, frequently washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and staying home if you are feeling ill or exhibiting symptoms such as fever, coughing and/or shortness of breath. If you are known to have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, or if you have any other concerns of exposure in general or at the campus, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and your school director immediately. 

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 line 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.  

While the current situation is concerning, there is quite a bit that we can do to limit exposure to and prevent the spread of the virus. I assure you that our team is continuing to follow the latest developments and we will continue to update our families as the situation evolves. Thank you for your continued trust in CICS and for allowing us to continue to be a resource for you and your family. 

 

Warmly, 

Elizabeth Shaw

CEO 

Chicago International Charter Schools

 

FAMILY UPDATE: CICS RESPONSE TO COVID-19

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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