Why did you choose CICS Wrightwood?
School choice is important for my parents, so they chose for me to attend CICS Wrightwood because of its location, family-oriented culture, and intentional educational curriculum. My sibling and I were some of the first students at CICS Wrightwood when it first opened.
My parents chose CICS Wrightwood for me because it was a neighborhood school where they had the opportunity to choose what was best for me-a school where its curriculum is tailored to the community and student's needs. They also chose Wrightwood because there was a sense of community from teachers and staff and more importantly, the academic support available to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.
My favorite class at Wrightwood was 5th-grade science. I can remember the first day of class-just like it was yesterday. My teacher taught me all about the microscope and how to use it-that’s when I fell in love with science! I remember asking my teacher so many questions about the microscope and the amazing things you can do with it. This ultimately led me to enter into the science and medical field as a college student and now as a medical school student at Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine.
At CICS-Wrightwood, the campus culture was clearly making sure every student felt valued and appreciated. This is what stood out for me and my family-the sense of community and feeling valued!
I participated in flag football and band. My involvement in these activities were so important to me because I enjoyed the competition of football, and I was excited to accept the challenges associated with learning to read musical notes and play an instrument;especially in front of an audience. These extracurricular activities have taught me the importance of competition, but also to be disciplined.
Yes. Mr. David Lewis who was the School Director/Principal, played an instrumental role in my childhood experiences at Wrightwood. He always made sure the students realize their true potential; he personally encouraged me to go beyond the norm. Every day, he reminded us that we were truly valued and appreciated. These are words that still echo in my head today.
CICS Wrightwood instilled the importance of self-discipline in me at an early stage of my education. This is a great skill to have and I learned how to apply it throughout my undergraduate college career, and even now in medical school.
One of my most memorable moments at Wrightwood was my 8th-grade graduation where I was the school’s first valedictorian. That moment was truly a special one because our graduating class was the first from CICS-Wrightwood (Class of 2009). We started our journey at CICS-Wrightwood when we were in the 5th grade back in 2005. I am proud to say that my class paved the way and established a culture of family focus and excellence at CICS-Wrightwood. I will always consider Wrightwood a critical part of my childhood memories.
Meals Fuel Students’ Bodies and Minds
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.
What’s for Lunch?
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.
Changes to Food Service Distribution
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.
Recognizing CICS Food Service Staff
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.
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
Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30_pdf
Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30_Spanish_pdf
Great Leaders at Great Schools
This month, in honor of National Principals Month, we will be highlighting a few of the incredible men and women who are leading our schools.
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.
CICS Ralph Ellison Campus
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.
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.
Dear CICS families,
Our meal pick-up is available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday twice a day from 7:30am-8:30am and 11:00am-1:00pm at allCICS elementary schools!
If your child attends a CICS high school, you can pick up the meals at one of our CICS elementary schools. A list of our campuses can be found below.
Our food service program will continue to introduce exciting new menu items including additional warm-at-home hot options, and multiple days of meals will be provided during each pickup for each CICS student in the household!
You can visit the site cics.schooldish.com to see your individual school's menu items and schedules.
Estimados Familias de CICS,
Nuestro servicio de recoger comidas para su hijo/a están disponibles todos los lunes, miércoles y viernes, dos veces al día de 7: 30am-8: 30am y de 11:00am a 1:00pm en todas las escuelas primarias de CICS.
Si su hijo/a asiste a una escuela secundaria de CICS, puede recoger las comidas en una de nuestras escuelas primarias de CICS. Puede encontrar una lista de nuestros escuelas a continuación.
Nuestro programa de servicio de alimentos continuará presentando nuevas comidas incluyendo opciones calientes para calentar en casa, y se proporcionarán varios días de comidas cuando recoge las comidas para su hogar.
Puede visitar el sitio cics.schooldish.com para ver los elementos del menú y los horarios de su escuela individual.
The Covid Monitor: A Young Author Responds to the Pandemic
More than 1,000,000 books are published in the US each year. In January of 2021, a paperback book, The Covid Monitor, was published. The audience is elementary age children, and the narrator is a young girl explaining her plans to keep everyone safe at her school when school opens back up. What makes this book unique among the millions of books is that it was written by CICS Wrightwood 4th grader London Warren with her mother, April Warren, as her co-author.
London’s inspiration for her book was Sunshine Day, the book her mother wrote and published in 2015. She said, “It seemed fun, so I decided to write a book too.” London regularly writes fiction, and loves creating characters and making up stories. Surprisingly, it only took her two days to write the story to the illustrated 30-page book. Their collaborative process was simple with London writing out her part of the story on paper and her mother April adding to the story and then typing up the manuscript.
April recalled that, “When London came to me about her book idea, I jumped right on it after I heard how knowledgeable she was regarding Covid safety.” Having worked as a special education classroom assistant at CPS and as a part-time drama teacher at CICS ChicagoQuest, April was keenly aware that kids are more likely to listen to their peers about issues because they can relate to them. She wanted to ensure that young people took Covid-19 seriously and thought what better way to enlighten them than to have the message come from a young author.
One of the interesting elements in the book is an embedded vocabulary lesson. April explained the inspiration for it. “Asymptomatic is a hard word to pronounce. Londwon had struggled with pronouncing it correctly, so I felt it was necessary for the child in the book to mispronounce the word to allow room for a fun spin on the word and to provide a vocabulary lesson.”
Both authors love to read. Some of London’s favorite books include Charlotte's Web, Dog Man and All Summer in a Day. April’s favorite author is Robert Kiyosaki and his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, as well as her love of classic books including A Raisin in the Sun and To Kill a Mockingbird.
This is their first collaboration but not their last. London is writing her own movie script, again inspired by her mother. April already sees the success of the book. “It is educational and speaks directly to a huge issue that is plaguing the entire world and, most importantly, one of the authors is a young child.”
London’s advice to other aspiring young authors is simple. “I would tell them to write their book because, if I can do it, they can do it.” She hopes that kids pay attention to what her book says because it can help them stay safe from Covid or other health crises in the future. We look forward to continuing to follow London’s career as an author, playwright and 5th grader.
Mrs. April Warren is an award winning screenwriter and film producer. She runs her own real estate company and has a not-for-profit organization called Art Is Life. Their goal is to help young children become published authors. She is also an author, having written and published Sunshine Day in 2015. London Warren is a 4th Grader at CICS Wrightwood.
When I think about how and why I became the person I am today, it really centers on three things: Access, Community, and Voice.
What I Learned from CICS Wrightwood Still Applies to Me Today
I have now been at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School for over two years! As a native south side Chicago African-American woman, and CICS Wrightwood graduate, I have come a long way from home.
Since I started law school in the fall of 2019, I’ve learned about myself and the legal profession. Although law school is unlike any other schooling I have experienced, my ease at transitioning to law school can be attributed to my experiences as a student at CICS Wrightwood.
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.
Value-based 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.
A Strong Schoool Community
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.
The First Day
On my first day as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a professor told me, “teachers impact your life forever; no one can tell where their influence stops.” We engaged in a discussion about our past educational experiences, particularly those where teachers influenced our decisions to pursue a bachelor’s degree and I reflected on my CICS Wrightwood elementary school experiences when he was talking to me.