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: Rachael Beucher

CICS Prairieis a K-8 public charter school nestled in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Their school boasts a dedicated staff that prides itself on forming close relationships with parents and the surrounding community. This is why their Principal, Rachael Beucher, has a strong focus on empowering her students academically and socially. 

Rachael has a real passion for growing and learning. Her journey with CICS started in the classroom where she honed in on strong instructional practices while fostering relationships with her students and their families. 

Rachael's journey as an educator is one of hope and aspiration.  To learn more about CICS’ Prairie campus, please visit their Facebook page or website!

 1. Why did you decide to become a principal?

Teaching has always been a passion of mine since I was a young child because I come from a family of educators. I have a passion for learning - especially in the reading and writing disciplines!  After being a teacher, I was able to grow into my own practices and eventually be a mentor and instructional coach.  It was in that latter role that I wanted to grow even more and help teachers become better leaders for greater student achievement-which is why went back to school for my administration and supervision degree. 

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

Working with our community partners to provide more opportunities for our students and families. 

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

I am ALL in! I am hands-on! I frequently jump into the classroom to support, teach, or sub. 

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

The lengths educators will go to support kids no matter what. 

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

By building relationships with them. By getting to know who they are and talking to them to see what they need and also by recognizing them for celebrations!

6. How are you making those connections now?

Being present in the classroom, knowing what students are working on, visiting them during recess, having lunch with them and hosting feedback groups. 

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

For students to grow not only academically but socially and emotionally – they have a lot of experiences and with COVID-19, they need more learning and love in these areas. These learning experiences will help them grow,  help their achievement/success. 

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

Construct a new building with a gym that would allow students to get proper fitness and more learning experiences such as having a larger STEAM and Music lab as well as a greenhouse.  Also, having a cafeteria.  We need more space for small groups (CLD & DL students, RSPs, etc. ). So overall a new building with more room or an addition to the building we have to accommodate more learning!
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My name is Rachael Beucher. I am the Principal of CICS Prairie, a K-8th school in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago. Within my career with Distinctive Schools, I have been a Middle School English & History Teacher, Mentor Teacher, Instructional Coach, Curriculum Lead, Assistant Principal and most recently Principal. I love continuing to grow and learn and challenge myself to know more and do better for my staff and students as well as myself. My ultimate goal as a school leader is to help teachers grow and personalize learning for all students so they can get what they need to succeed.  For self-care, I love to take my 2 labs for walks to clear my mind, read, and travel when possible! 

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

This software company has donated millions to local schools for tech equipment

According to a 2015 report from the tech nonprofit CompTIA, students and educators alike believe access to technology in classrooms is beneficial to getting ahead in the increasingly digital workforce.

To help schools ensure access to learning technologies, Relativity, a provider of cloud-based data management and analytics tools for companies in the legal industry, has established a Wired to Learn technology grant for local schools.

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.

Voices: Jennifer (Jenn) Harth - CICS Prairie

Every morning as I drive to Chicago’s south side to passionately carry out my heartwork in the Roseland community, deeply rooted in my spirit is a small part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.  The part of Dr. King’s dream where he hopes that his four children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  On that warm, August day in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., there was a call to action for justice and equity.  This call to action is what inspires me and what drives me as an educational leader in the city of Chicago.

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