Principal Spotlight: Tyrrell Jeffries

CICS Washington Park creates a structured learning environment where students and families feel safe, valued and welcome. 

These same aims are what connect Tyrell Jeffries, Principal of CICS Washington Park, to his everyday work with students and staff members.

Check out more sentiments from Tyrell’s work below. To learn more about CICS Washington Park you can visit their website or Facebook page. Happy reading!  

1. Why did you decide to become a principal?

I wanted to increase the impact I was making in my school community. I found success in the classroom and enjoyed creating a utopia within those 4 walls. I realized, however, I could impact more students and teachers by stepping out of the classroom. 

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

I am looking forward to tremendous growth. There have been many setbacks and obstacles that have drastically altered education. Learning loss is real. However this year I am excited for all the growth that is to come. 

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

One skill that I possess that makes me a great leader is empathy. In this work, you need high emotional intelligence. Working with students, teachers and parents is delicate work. 

4. Name something you are proud of about your campus.

I am extremely proud of the fact that all elementary schools in our network were ranked in the top 10 of Illinois charter schools. Our families deserve options and I am grateful that they chose us because they are receiving one of the best options in our state. 



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

As a school leader, I am fully present in classrooms and whole school moments. I let my students know I see them and call them by name. As the principal, I am not some mystical figure. When my students don’t see me on the ground they question my whereabouts the first chance they get. 

6. How are you making those connections now?

Every morning I start with a school walk-through. I am greeting students at the door and welcome them into the building. During my time in the classroom, I take time to check in with the students. I teach model lessons in all classrooms. This allows me to get to know my students in their most natural environment, their classroom. 

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

That EVERY student within our community feels empowered to take ownership of their learning. This means increasing their confidence in the ability to read, write and comprehend math. In all their interactions within the classroom, I want them to produce positive academic emotions. 

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

I would create meaningful experiences and moments that are not limited by finances. Our students live in one of the largest cities in our country, however, their experience and perspective of the city are limited to their neighborhood. I want them to explore, learn and grow from real-life experiences. 


Tyrrell Jeffries is the K-8 Principal at CICS Washington Park. Tyrrell was born and graduated high school in Aurora, IL. Immediately after, he began a life-changing college experience at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. During his undergraduate career, Mr. Jeffries served as the Director of Student Leadership Development and gained a fond appreciation for what life could offer. Upon graduating, Tyrrell moved to Chicago and began his teaching career at CICS Washington Park. As a third grade teacher Mr. Jeffries helped his scholars grow over 2 years on the NWEA in ELA and Math and outscored the state in both areas on the PARCC exam. During his time at Washington Park, Mr. Jeffries served as a teacher, Instructional Lead, Dean of Students, Director of Curriculum and Instruction,and Elementary Principal. Mr. Jeffries is an alumnus of the TFA Chicago Corps and the Relay Graduate School of Education National Principal Academy. He is thrilled to be the K-8 Principal of CICS Washington Park so that he can prepare scholars for the rich educational experience that he had.

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


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, 



[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.



Voices Blog: CICS Talent Visionary

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

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

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

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