CICS Launches Open Call for Next Cohort of Education Entrepreneur Fellows

Chicago, Illinois (September 11, 2018) - Chicago International Charter School (CICS) has launched an Open Call for applications for the next cohort of its Education Entrepreneur Fellowship program. CICS’ flagship innovation and incubation program, the Fellowship, supports education innovators by providing them with the tools, networks, and resources necessary to bring their innovative classroom and school model concepts from ideation to transformational impact. Launched in January 2018, the Fellowship has resulted in the successful launches of the school transformation ventures, ChicagoRise and Empowered Community Schools, and the micro-lab ventures, Boy’s Lab and the Civitas Community Impact Experience.

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 

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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

Press Release_Chicago International Charter School selects seasoned education leader as next chief executive

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! 

#ThankAPrincipal #CICSPrincipals #Leaders 

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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 Loomis-Longwood Profiled on WTTW's Chicago Tonight - In Your Neighborhood

WTTW Chicago Tonightrecently profiled CICS Loomis-Longwood on their "In Your Neighborhood" segment. 

The segment profiled the Washington Heights neighborhood which is surrounded by the Roseland, Auburn Gresham, Beverly and Morgan Park communities.

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The feature showcased CICS Loomis-Longwood and the importance our school serving its student population in the South Side neighborhood. K-5 School Director Lindsey Girard was featured speaking on the reopening of the campus this Fall.  For more on this feature and to view one of our campuses, click here.  

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:

CICS-ChicagoQuest, Civitas Community Impact Experience Innovation Spotlight Video

Our students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, designers and civic leaders, and they need opportunities to develop and exercise their skills and knowledge through problems in real-world situations and circumstances.

At CICS ChicagoQuest, seniors are in a 6-10 week long project, the Civitas Community Impact Experience (CCIE), that addresses authentic issues, tasks, and topics proposed by sponsors and community partners. Students earn high school credit and may also have opportunities to pursue professional certifications.

Educator Spotlight: Casie Walls

No one said teaching would be easy, but Casie Walls could never have imagined that most of her first two years as a teacher at CICS Loomis-Longwood would be remote. She is a big believer that professional development and mentoring support helped her with teaching her first-grade students. As an educator, Ms. Walls uses every resource possible including the No Nonsense Nurturing toolkit, teacher collaboration and even her own model of joy to make students part of a successful learning environment. This is why Casie was named a LIT teacher! LIT stands for Live Innovative Teaching and Ms. Walls exemplifies those words.

Casie is very familiar with the Loomis-Longwood campus. She attended and graduated from Longwood high school. Her passion for teaching came while a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned her Master’s in Instructional Leadership. When she was a student teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park, her mentor urged her to apply for multiple teaching positions. Casie’s first choice was Loomis Primary because she longed to give back to the community that gave so much to her. When Casie received the call that she had a position at Loomis, she recalled, “It’s a small world and it was a blessing!” 

Her first year at Loomis started in the classroom and transitioned to remote learning in March 2020. Even during remote learning, Ms. Walls has been able to build nurturing relationships with her students. “I try to model my own joy with my voice and my body in the virtual classroom which is easy when you see twentyone faces smiling at you! I start the day with an attention getter and when everybody is looking straight ahead into the screen, at that moment I have them.”

Ms. Walls understands the power of the No Nonsense Nurturing (NNN) Model. She uses positive narration to ensure that her students know she has high expectations for their learning. “My students know what I expect, and they know what they should be doing because I make sure to lead with precise directions and check for their understanding. I then use three praises such as Lisa has turned to page 4, Danielle has also turned to page 4 and Michael is looking at page 4. This positive narration lets them know what they are supposed to be doing such as being on page 4.” Her students learn from watching their classmates and the peers, as well as observing what she is doing online. “I will ask them to show me that they have paper and pencils. I will check for understanding. I will ask, “Who can tell me what I should have now? When I say go, hold up your paper and pencil.”

The NNN process strives to engage scholars by continually learning about them and relating their cultural backgrounds and experiences to classroom learning. In order to make the learning culturally relevant, Ms. Walls will add an example from her own life. “This is especially true when we are doing math. I engage with them and tell them how the problem relates to me. I try to find connections to their family life.”  She recognizes that her students are young and so many things charge them emotionally, so she always stays grounded and connected when working with them. “I remind them that I was once in first grade. I reassure them with positive affirmations about how amazing they are and how smart they are. I try to create a safe space and assure them that they belong here. I may ask a question or have them write how they feel today, or if you were a teacher, what subject would you teach? They get so excited when they answer those questions.”

Even though the majority of her kids want to be back in the classroom, the health of her students and families comes first. Remote learning has helped her become much more tech savvy and organized. She has seen the power that using visuals to illustrate a problem has had for many of her students. She will take these new skills back when teachers and students return to the classroom. For Casie, she will always bring the joy of learning to all of her students, whether in person or remote.

Casie Walls is a second year 1st grade teacher at CICS Loomis Primary. Casie earned her Master’s in Journalism from Roosevelt University and a second Master’s in Instructional Leadership Masters in Instructional Leadership from University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to working at CICS Loomis, Ms. Walls worked for 8 years at Chicago Public Schools as a paraprofessional/Special Education Classroom Assistant. Casie Wells aspires to grow into a leadership role in the education sector.

Educator Spotlight: Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week

Teachers change lives and inspire thousands every day even while facing all of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to thank them! We want to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, which runs from May 3 through May 7 in 2021, by spotlighting teachers this week who have made a difference at CICS. One educator, Brandi Pearman, embodies that.  Ms. Pearman was awarded the Essential Educator of the Year in April 2020. She was celebrated for her teaching during remote learning and her continued dedication to educating her students about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Read her inspiring story.

Brandi Pearman is a first grade STEM teacher at CICS Lloyd Bond. She is also a member of the Phi Kappa Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She joined the sorority on May 5, 2002 while she was a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University; it is a family legacy as her grandmother joined in 1945 and her mother was also a member. The Phi Kappa Omega Chapter’s motto is “Service to All Mankind” and for Ms. Pearman, “That mindset doesn’t stop at age 22 when you get your degree.” This motto is something that she embodies while a teacher at Bond and in life. 

Alpha Kappa Alpha is one of the sororities and fraternities that comprise the National Pan-Hellenic Black Greek letter organizations that are often referred to as the Divine Nine. The history of these service organizations date back to the early 1900’s. The organizations were founded at five universities including Morgan State and Howard University, both HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). 

Ms. Pearman is currently focused on two of the organizations’ program targets, those of the Arts and Global Impact. She has been involved in projects such as Soles4Souls, an organization that turns unwanted shoes and clothing into opportunity and has collected dresses for little girls and in a Vision Fair eyeglass drive for children. This year, Ms. Pearman is a part of the Chapter’s annual book drive with Lloyd Bond designated as one of the schools that will receive books. 

As a first grade STEM teacher, Ms. Pearman isn’t in a position to talk to her students about the sorority but it does influence the perspectives she brings to her students. Her class has more young girls than boys and she makes sure that the girls are participating in everything to do with math and science. “I don’t ever bring up the idea that math is stereotypically a boy’s subject. I push a narrative of inclusion and I make it relevant to their lives. I want them to understand that telling time, counting money, buying things and baking cookies are all math-based.” The tight community of teachers at Lloyd Bond also ensures that her themes and messaging are carried into the next grade level.

Ms. Pearman is also a part of the schools’ Parent Involvement team. She worked on the Parent Playbook and Parent University, a way to learn new skills that will help them support their children in remote learning. Last fall, Ms. Pearman participated in a live Facebook Panel with and for parents. The Pink Table Talk, sponsored by the sorority, offered tricks and treats for  managing in a virtual learning environment and addressed some of the challenges that mothers in particular were facing in remote learning. Ms. Pearman was able to bring her perspectives both as a teacher and as a parent of a second-grade boy. “Now, more than ever, we have put more effort into investing in building strong relationships with our parents.” Ms. Pearman believes that these relationships are an integral piece of why her young students have thrived and will continue to do so when students are able to return to in-person learning. Brandi's passion for service and education is what she believes makes students and families a cohesive unit 

Educator Spotlight: JoeAnn Nash

JoeAnn Nash’s career as an educator started at Loomis-Longwood and she has not looked back since.  She started teaching second grade students at Loomis-Longwood in 2010 and then returned in 2018 as an instructional coach for second and third grade teachers. Just before the pandemic hit,  JoeAnn returned to her current role as the Loomis K-5 Director of Instruction in July of 2020. “In my new role, I was worried that I would be a distraction when I popped into a room because many of the kids remembered me, but it was wonderful to be greeted by them.” Her return during remote learning reinforced a sense of normalcy and continuity for students and teachers. JoeAnn's educational. journey is one of hope and inspiration during this pandemic. 

From the community: Chicago International Charter School Launches Open Call for Education Entrepreneur Fellowship Program

Chicago International Charter School (CICS) has launched an Open Call for applications for the next cohort of its Education Entrepreneur Fellowship program. CICS' flagship innovation and incubation program, the Fellowship, supports education innovators by providing them with the tools, networks, and resources necessary to bring their innovative classroom and school model concepts from ideation to transformational impact.

Parent & Student Spotlight: Rita and Mateo Ponce - CICS West Belden

Rita Ponce’s son, Mateo, (virtually) graduated from kindergarten this year at CICS’ West Belden campus. Mateo is a bright, energetic and curious young boy who always wants to learn and is ahead of the curve for someone his age. She offered some insight into Mateo’s first year at West Belden–one filled with growth, opportunity, challenges and unchartered territory. 

Student Spotlight: Walisha Brown

CICS ChicagoQuest student Walisha Brown is on her way to greatness. She was honored as the Outstanding High School Senior of the Year by INCS in December 2020 and received a $1,000 scholarship for college, but that is only a part of her story. She will graduate from CICS ChicagoQuest (CQ) in June of this year. CQ is home to the Warriors, both the name of the sports team and the spirit of every student who attends. The students embody the mission of the school which is to engage, challenge and prepare students to impact the world as problem-solvers, designers, critical thinkers and innovators.

Walisha believes in the core values of equity, social connection and full participation. “When I first came into ChicagoQuest, everyone around me was a stranger, the people, teachers, staff and students. I was really shy, and everyone encouraged me to speak-up and to embrace my singing and my love for writing poetry. Even though we are remote learnign now, the staff and students at CQ are still my family. Even now, every day is a new memory.”

While she waits to hear from her college selections, she is grateful for the teachers that have played a role in her academic and emotional life. ‘There are so many teachers I could shout-out. One is Catherine Thornhill, my second-year history teacher and my One Goal teacher during my junior and senior year. She is very uplifting and supportive of me and all students. She wants the best  for all of us.” And teachers have also pushed her to reach beyond her comfort zone. “I have always been into ELA and reading but have taken Algebra 2 and Trigonometry. My math  teacher, Mr. Latimore, has really helped me in my Trig class, working with me one on one and taking time to teach me eacg problem step by step.”

Even her current thoughts about her major and career goals were influenced by her teachers. In one of her elective classes, Ms. Thornhill talked about the brain, how it works, what triggers it and so on. That elective really got her interested in pursuing medicine as a career though she is still considering three careers, either an OB/GYN, psychologist or lawyer.

Her high school experience has not just been academic. She has made lifelong friends. “I met my best friend Ailaja during my freshman year. I was shy and she got me to open up. She pushed me to persevere through everything and to give it my all. And I thank her for supporting a lot of what I have done and how we have sustained our friendship throughout our years here. I have so many Warrior sisters who have advised me every single moment.” Walisha has also found the time to pursue her creative side. She writes and performs poetry. “I remember the first time I performed at a poetry slam in middle school, then my  first Talent Show at CQ; I read a poem and there was so much cheering and energy from the audience, and I loved all of the support from my peers.”

This is a poem Walisha wrote about herself, titled “Components of I.”

I am wings that fly without knowing my destination, without explanation I roam free as the wind applies pressure to push me places I can’t see. Thinking clean, and seeing clear like clean and clear can help clear a face, I’ll push and pass to clear a path not so clean just for me to get through. Soiling underneath and soaking in the liquid I desire, glazed by the sunshine I acquire, and admire because it brings out the bright side of my delicate petals. And my resilience is so brilliant, take a look at my skin from within leaves you clueless to the vernacular I speak on and speak in to begin with. so butterfly me my freedom, because I have the wings to fly away, far away from where I stand today. so stretch my stem from the base of where I was planted. Looked up for hope, having no rope to climb but still given a blessing to receive my sunshine. And as I recover from broken silence, I spring back into action , extracting you from my beautiful peace of mind, because I am my own guidance.

Walisha also participates in the Civitas Community Impact Experience program (CCIE). The program offers students the opportunity to work collaboratively and use their own interests and passions to solve community challenges and earn high school credits as part of the program through their project-based learning. Her project is L.O.V.E., Ladies Of Virtuous Essence. The project commits to entering and exiting each day on a positive note so Black teen girls feel free to express our ideas while exploring talents such as poetry and art to develop our interests and bonds! 

She has been able to recruit a team to work with her on this project but also intends on keeping this project going no matter where she goes after graduation. “It has a life of its own. There is so much trauma, harassment and stereotypes of black women and this is to help them put themselves out there. The project is intended to uplift them and shine a light on them.” 

Schools are more than locations for learning. The best schools offer a sense of community. “I will always carry Quest with me, and I will forever be a Warrior as I have mighty blood. Quest will always be my second family. My time being at ChicagoQuest has been amazing, and I have built so many bonds that are now unbreakable ”

She leaves these thoughts for the younger classes of students. “Keep persevering. Don’t ever stop, when things get difficult, fight your way through. You’re stronger than you think you are. You’re capable of any and everything despite the challenges that come your way. If you have it set in your mind that you're going to achieve something, then go at it with full force and give it everything you got. Stay focused, believe in yourself, and never say you can’t, because you can excel at anything if you are willing to give it a try, and put the work in. ”

Voices Blog Pt. II: What I Learned from CICS Wrightwood Still Applies to Me Today

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. 

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 Blog: Shartia Jones - CICS Loomis-Longwood

Being authentic, motivating, caring and honest are important qualities to have and they are what makes me passionate about what I do. My journey at CICS Loomis-Longwood started in 2000 when I was invited by a friend to be a substitute teacher. I returned to Longwood-Loomis in 2019 after working for ten years at a state university grant-funded program that offered non-traditional teachers the opportunity to become teachers for ten years. I accepted a position as a Middle School 8th Grade ELA Teaching Apprentice, and the 8th Grade Events Planner and Parent Liaison and Coordinator. 

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