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.

Alumni Spotlight: Crystal Stonewall

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.

Alumni Spotlight: Keven Stonewall

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.


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 Alum Gives Back In A Major Way

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.”







CICS Celebrates Its Principals

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!  


www.principalsmonth.org 
www.ChicagoIntl.Org

#ThankAPrincipal #CICSPrincipals #Leaders 

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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 Irving Park Educator Awarded Elementary Teacher of the Year!

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) announced that Lindy Mandel, middle school teacher and instructional coach at Chicago International Charter School Irving Park, has been named Elementary Teacher of the Year! 

“Charter schools thrive on innovation and adaptability. With everything our community has gone through with the pandemic, we’ve still seen some of the most creative and thoughtful approaches to modern education in years,” explained Andrew Broy, president of INCS. “The 2022 winners of the Charter Excellence Awards embody everything that makes the charter public school community such a force for good. We are so proud of all they have done and will continue to do.”

Mandel has been part of the CICS Irving Park community since 2009 and has served in various roles from teaching assistant to the director of operations to middle school educator and instructional coach. As an innovative practice leader, Mandel led the implementation of the Summit Personalized Learning Platform for CICS Irving Park, and served as a Summit Learning Lead, developing training modules for and introducing the platform to new Distinctive Schools teachers.

“Lindy has been an incredible asset for CICS Irving Park, and Distinctive Schools,” shared Chief Talent Officer, Sami Baugh, “her leadership and passion for education is exactly what her students, families, and colleagues respond to – she makes a lasting impact on all she encounters, and we are incredibly grateful for her continued commitment to her students and Distinctive Schools.”

Mandel was nominated for the award by Peggy Diaz, CICS Irving Park Bilingual educator and parent, who has taught under Mandel’s mentorship with Distinctive Schools. On November 30, 2022, CICS Irving Park students and staff gathered in the school gymnasium for their weekly community meeting, the time the school takes to connect as a community, discuss school events, and recognize students of the week. At the top of the assembly, Diaz stepped up to the microphone and spoke about her nomination.

“It is the unquantifiable that sets her apart. It is the kind and patient words. It is the determined spirit to make sure everyone learns, and the wholehearted investment to understand the feelings and situations of others,” said Diaz. She continued, “How do you measure a year in a teacher’s life? How about love? Love is exactly what makes this teacher [Mandel] excellent.”

Mandel was presented with the award along with a check for $10,000, surrounded by her students, peers, and family members, and celebrated during the 2022 INCS Charter School Excellence Awards Reception on Monday, December 5, 2022 at the City View Lofts. CICS is incredibly proud of Mandel’s success as an educator, colleague, and leader. This year, INCS received over 120 nominations for leaders, teachers, parents and students from across Illinois’ charter sector, which spans 137 schools throughout the state. As with years past, 2022’s nominations were fiercely competitive.

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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.

About INCS

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools advocates for the improvement of public education by leveraging the charter school model as a catalyst to transform lives and communities. As the voice of Illinois charter schools, INCS engages a diverse coalition of policymakers, school leaders, parents, and community members to create systemic change and secure high-quality schools for underserved communities.

CICS Wrightwood Educator and Students Making A Difference

CICS Wrightwood teacher Ms. Jazmine Cooper and her students are making strides during Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos once again! 
 
Ms. Cooper and her students recently performed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at the  Arts in the Dark Parade in downtown Chicago on State Street. She and her students were recently on Chicago's Very Own WGN TV performing the same dance. 
 
Her hard work and dedication to the arts have even received national attention from the Ellen show.  Ms. Cooper was also honored as 2022 The Chicago Defender Woman of Excellence.
 
Watch Ms. Cooper and her students dancing into the hearts of all by watching herehere and here!
 
 CICS is always proud of leader and educator, Ms. Jazmine Cooper! Congrats on making CICS proud once again! 
 
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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

Debunking Charter School Myths & Celebrating the Longest Standing Charter in Illinois - Chicago International Charter School

Nearly 40 years ago, the concept of charter schools was first introduced to encourage new and innovative ways of educating young people. Since then, charters have grown into a national movement serving 3.7 million students in nearly 8,000 schools in 46 states, plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. While public charter schools have seen tremendous growth, success, and public support since their founding, many misconceptions exist about charter schools.

Whether you are curious about public charters or a member of the CICS family, we have put this page to share the facts behind some of the common misconceptions.

 

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One thing is abundantly clear: public charter schools have revolutionized education by providing equitable opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds. Through innovative educational models and personalized approaches, public charter schools break down barriers to learning, ensuring that every child, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status, has access to a quality education. By tailoring instruction to individual needs and fostering a culture of inclusivity, charter schools create environments where students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

In addition to promoting academic success, public charter schools empower families to actively engage in their children's education by offering them the freedom to choose the educational environment that best suits their needs and aspirations. This freedom of choice not only enhances the educational experience, but also strengthens the bond between families, schools, and communities. As families become active partners in the educational process, they play a crucial role in shaping their children's educational journey and advocating for their success. Therefore, advocating for policies that support educational diversity and innovation is essential to ensure that charter schools continue to thrive and provide transformative educational experiences for all students.

 

About Chicago Charter International Charter School (CICS)

Founded in 1997, Chicago International Charter School (CICS) is the longest-standing charter school in Chicago, pioneering innovative education since its inception. Today, CICS operates a diverse portfolio of 13 tuition-free charter schools in partnership with Civitas Education Partners, Distinctive Schools, and ReGeneration Schools. This collaborative model ensures tailored, high-quality education for students. A recent study from Stanford University found CICS Avalon, CICS Basil, and CICS Washington Park - all managed by ReGeneration Schools - to be the #1 gap-busting schools in Illinois given their elimination of learning disparities. In 2023, CICS boasted graduation rates surpassing CPS averages, with graduates receiving $94 million in scholarships. Nearly 80% of CICS campuses outpaced Illinois' growth averages, while 60% of its principals identify as Black, reflecting a commitment to diversity and excellence.

Educator Spotlight: Derrick Orr

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.

Embracing Diversity: Pioneering Change at CICS Wrightwood and Beyond

Step into a world where diversity isn't just a statistic but a lived reality, where inclusion isn't just a buzzword but a guiding principle. Within the vibrant tapestry of the CICS charter network, 94% of our students are young people of color, with 63% identifying as Black. These numbers aren't just figures on a page; they're a testament to our commitment to reflect and empower the communities we serve.

Dr. Lewis, a beacon of change within our network and the visionary principal at CICS Wrightwood, has recently received his Ph.D. for his groundbreaking dissertation, "Understanding Preparation Programs For Black Male School Leaders and Their Effectiveness." This pursuit isn't just a scholarly accolade; it has provided a roadmap to empowerment. Undertaking this exploration has been a profound journey for Dr. Lewis, driven by personal conviction and a deep commitment to fostering positive change within our educational systems. With a tenure at CICS Wrightwood spanning from 2013 to his recent return, Dr. Lewis is not only breaking barriers but also reshaping the education landscape.

"The genesis of this work emanated from a convergence of factors that compelled me to delve into the realm of male school leaders of color and their experiences," shares Dr. Lewis. "The lamentable underrepresentation of these leaders within our educational leadership landscape and the glaring inequities in our schools spurred my determination to comprehend the dynamics at play."

Dr. Lewis’s research has led him to uncover many truths about adequate classroom representation, especially from Black male educators.The presence of Black and Brown educators in the U.S. public school system is crucial for student success. Research from Johns Hopkins University and American University reveals that Black students who have at least one Black teacher by the 3rd grade are 13% more likely to enroll in college. Additionally, Black men are 39% less likely to drop out of high school if they had at least one Black teacher in elementary school. However, despite these benefits, Black and Brown educators are sorely underrepresented in today's public school system. Positive representation and inclusivity bolster the learning environment, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment. Conversely, the absence or negative portrayal of African American males may fuel feelings of isolation and stereotype threat, impeding academic progress. For these very reasons, Dr. Lewis is on a mission to make meaningful transformations in the context of educational leadership for Black males and illuminate the intricacies of authentic leadership so that cultural competence is prioritized in educational settings. One might wonder, though: how does that happen? 

The pivotal insights from his research underscore the imperative to elevate the significance of higher education within communities of color, particularly through targeted mentorship and training initiatives. These programs serve as vital bridges, propelling us from current "As-Is" conditions towards more empowered and effective "To-Be" scenarios. By implementing comprehensive training and mentorship schemes, we can cultivate coursework that specifically targets urban education challenges and enhances cultural competence. Moreover, addressing resource constraints is paramount, necessitating advocacy for equitable funding and resource allocation for schools helmed by Black male administrators.

A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion at Civitas Education Partners & CICS

At CICS, we understand the importance of having teachers, leaders, and staff who reflect the diversity of our students. That's why we're proud to share that 59% of our school principals across the network identify as Black, aligning with our student population. Allison Sussna, Chief Schools Officer for CICS, shares that “While representation alone cannot address these systemic challenges, research clearly shows us that diversity in instructional leadership and teaching roles correlates with improved student outcomes for students of color.”

At CICS Wrightwood, this commitment is even more pronounced, with an astounding 98% of staff identifying as Black, mirroring the demographics of our student community. This commitment isn't just about hiring practices; it's about creating an inclusive environment where every student feels seen, heard, and valued while empowering Black male educators to lead their educational communities.  

Building upon the momentum generated by Dr. Lewis's pioneering work, Civitas Education Partners, a proud member of the CICS portfolio, stands firmly behind his efforts and the transformative impact they are engendering within the narrative of Black men spearheading educational advancement. Dr. Joanne Tanner, CEO of Civitas Education Partners, attests to the profound influence of leadership that mirrors the communities it serves. "I've had the privilege of witnessing the power of community-driven leadership firsthand, particularly at events like 'Tied to Greatness' held at Wrightwood," shares Dr. Tanner. "It was truly remarkable to see such a gathering of men committed to their community's empowerment. Dr. Lewis's presence underscores why representation matters." 

Dr. Lewis's approach underscores the significance of intentional engagement with all members of the community. He acknowledges the nuanced dynamics of his interactions with both mothers and fathers, yet emphasizes his deliberate efforts to cultivate connections with fathers, recognizing their pivotal role in reflecting community demographics. Dr. Tanner further emphasizes the importance of diversity in leadership, stating, "Dr. Lewis embodies the ethos of inclusive leadership, understanding the imperative of diversity to authentically mirror the demographics of our schools. His dedication serves as a beacon, illuminating the path towards a more equitable and inclusive educational landscape."

Expanding upon the theme of collaboration and the significance of diversity, Civitas' partnership with CICS serves as a beacon illuminating the path toward inclusive excellence. This partnership not only underscores the importance of diversity within our educational networks but also underscores the critical need for collaborative efforts to bring the vision of representation to life for the families and students we serve.

 In the spirit of effective collaboration, CICS's new board member and CICS Wrightwood alumna, Crystal Stonewall, Esq., offer a testament to the transformative impact of Dr. Lewis's leadership. Having been a student under Dr. Lewis's guidance at CICS Wrightwood, Attorney Stonewall now stands at the forefront of change within our CICS network. Reflecting on her experience, Attorney Stonewall not only praises Dr. Lewis's leadership style but also champions the ongoing collaboration between Civitas and CICS to embrace and champion diversity.

 "As a student at CICS Wrightwood, we all felt that we were part of something meaningful under Dr. Lewis's leadership," shares Attorney Stonewall. "His intentional efforts to ensure adequate representation in leadership for our school community left a lasting impact on us. Our partnership with SMOs (School Management Organizations) will play a pivotal role in making schools more diverse and inclusive. Ultimately, this inclusivity translates into environments where students feel valued, heard, and seen, enhancing their learning experiences." 

 Through strategic partnerships and collective efforts, Civitas and CICS are reshaping the educational landscape, fostering environments where diversity thrives, and every student has the opportunity to excel.

 Championing Diversity, Inspiring Change

The partnership between CICS and Civitas Education Partners not only underscores the transformative power of collaboration and diversity but also exemplifies the profound impact of strategic partnerships with school management organizations (SMOs). Dr. Lewis's steadfast commitment to fostering inclusion and creating opportunities for Black male educators serves as a beacon of hope, igniting change not only within our network but also reverberating across the broader educational landscape. In conjunction with the influential contributions of other Black male principals like Marcell Kirk at CICS Lloyd Bond, managed by Distinctive Schools, our collaborative efforts highlight the significance of representation and community empowerment.

 The example set by CICS Wrightwood and CICS Lloyd Bond is a compelling testament to the value of our partnerships in creating enriching experiences through collaboration. Together, our partnership with SMOs enables us to leverage diverse expertise and resources, thereby amplifying our collective impact on student success and community engagement. Through strategic collaboration, we continue to champion diversity, inspire change, and foster environments where every student thrives.

As Valencia Bush, Assistant Principal at CICS Wrightwood, aptly puts it, "Students see college-educated men and women that look like them. They also see educators who went above and beyond to obtain their terminal degree. One of the most glaring illustrations is Dr. David A. Lewis."

In Dr. Lewis's vision, we find a promise of a future where every student feels valued, heard, and empowered to achieve their fullest potential. It is a vision that transcends boundaries and inspires us to continue championing diversity and embracing change. Together, we are forging ahead with determination, guided by the belief that we can create a brighter tomorrow for generations to come through unity and inclusivity.

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CICS extends our heartfelt gratitude to all who have contributed to this important dialogue on diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. Your dedication and insights are invaluable as we continue to strive for a brighter, more inclusive future for every student. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to this critical cause.

 CICS proudly partners withCivitas Education Partners,Distinctive Schools, andReGeneration Schools to operate 13 tuition-free public charter schools across Chicago.

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.

How One CICS Trailblazer Shares Her Passion & Lineage With Staff, Students & Families

Coming from a strong lineage of educators, Allison Hansen, CICS’ Chief Schools Officer, knows all too well what it means to be a trailblazer in the field of education. Inspired by her grandmother, who once taught in a one-room schoolhouse full of K-12 students, Allison has learned that the sky's the limit when the right supports are in place to ensure staff and students thrive. 

Growing up in a tight-knit family in Des Moines, Iowa, Allison strives to bring her love and belief in the strength of the community into the work she leads. Allison began her journey in education when she became a 2009 Baton Rouge, Louisiana Corps Member with Teach For America. Allison has served in several leadership roles throughout her past endeavors. Still, it wasn’t until her first leadership role as a teacher leading 32 2nd graders that she uncovered a passion for education. Education was not originally in Allison’s plans, but now supporting schools is her life’s mission.

She is grateful to be a part of a movement fighting educational inequities here at CICS. Allison has seen inequities in education across the country through her work in post-Hurricane Katrina Southern Louisiana, Philadelphia, Camden, and Washington, D.C. but through that work, she has also seen the transformational and sustaining impact great leaders can have in the communities they serve. Allison knew she wanted to play her part and that there was a lot of work to do.

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Her time with CICS has allowed her to implement her core values, shaped by her career as a teacher, teacher coach, principal, and education researcher, into the decisions that are made impacting students and families. Allison’s mission is to ensure CICS responds to the challenges that face students, families, educators and school leaders with a sense of urgency and a “students first” mindset. In her role, she is able to advocate and support principals and in turn, help make decisions for our most important key stakeholders - students, families and educators. 

Allison dreams big and she has many hopes for CICS. Her motivation for continuing the work she does comes from her desire to make sure students feel a sense of belonging while showing families and students that they are in the best schools in the city of Chicago. Helping make CICS schools an exceptional place is not enough for Allison. She strives to ensure that students are nurtured and feel empowered knowing that they can accomplish anything they want to when they leave their respective campuses. 

Something she’s been excited about this school year is the continued partnership with The New Teacher Project (TNTP), to help build a transformational coaching approach for teachers, leading to a whole-child approach for students. This innovative partnership has led to significant growth proving that when we invest in our leaders and teachers, great things happen for our students.

Allison knows that families trust our CICS campuses with their most valuable and prized possessions, their students. Her mission is to ensure that this most sacred responsibility of educating students is at the center of all decisions so our students, families and educators can thrive. 

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Click here to learn more about Allison!

 

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