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."
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. #WeAreCICSCICS Northtown AcademyCivitas Education Partners
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.
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.
October 18, 2021
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.
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.”
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!
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.’
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.
Learn more about CICS Northtown Academy.
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.
“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.
Thursday, October 11, 2018; 6:30pm-8pm
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.
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.
Chicago International Charter School
Congratulations CICS Loomis-Longwood High School Basketball Coach Keyon Smothers!