CICS Board of Directors

Laura Thonn

President and Treasurer

Laura Thonn is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in their business assurance practice. She is a licensed certified public accountant in the state of Illinois. Ms. Thonn has previously served on the board of directors for Onward Neighborhood House, as a social worker for high school students, and as a program assistant for Voices for Illinois Children, the leading advocacy organization serving children and families in Illinois. She earned her B.S. from Boston College and has a Master's degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

David Blinderman

David Blinderman is the CEO of Blinderman Construction, a general contracting firm based in Chicago. Mr. Blinderman previously worked as a portfolio manager for Aetna Real Estate Investors, and as a senior consultant for Ernst & Young specializing in real estate securitization and valuation. As a firm believer in access to quality public education, he is a strong promoter and supporter of STEM-centric career development and mentoring for underserved student populations. Mr. Blinderman earned a B.S in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

David Chizewer

David Chizewer, is one of the founding members of Chicago International Charter Schools. He is also a Partner in Goldberg Kohn, Ltd. Litigation Group serving as the Chairman of the firm's Education Industry Practice. In his civic work, Mr. Chizewer is a recognized expert on charter schools, having co-founded CICS as well as the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS). He was a member of the Education Policy Group for the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign. Mr. Chizewer received his law degree from the University of Chicago and his B.A. in Economics, magna cum laude, from Pomona College.

Violet M. Clark

Violet Clark is a Partner at Laner, Munchin, Dombrow, Becker, Levin and Tominberg where she specializes in labor and employment law. Prior to joining Laner, Ms. Clark served as a staff attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and as a Trial Attorney with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Clark is a member of the Black Women Lawyers Association and the Cook County Bar Association. She serves as the Vice President of the United States Tennis Association/Midwest Section. Additionally, Ms. Clark is a founding member of Friends of CICS Tennis. Ms. Clark received her law degree from Cornell University Law School and her B.A. from Brown University.

Catherine H. Gottfred PH.D.

Catherine Gottfred, a founding member of CICS, is the Founder and CEO of Leap Learning Systems, a non-profit organization dedicated to language and literacy development. She has teaching and clinical experience, and has held numerous positions in the field's state and national associations. Ms. Gottfred previously served as the President of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, President of the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Vice President of Governmental and Social Policies. She received her doctoral degree in speech pathology from Northwestern University.

Brian Novelline

Brian Noveille most recently served as Vice President for Mesirow Advanced Strategies, Inc. where he was responsible for manager selection across the capital structure and leading the firm’s co-investment efforts. Prior to joining Mesirow, Mr. Novelline co-managed a multi-strategy portfolio for DRW Holdings and was an equity analyst at Compass Asset Management. Mr. Novelline is a member of the Organizing Committee for Cycle for Survival, a national fundraising event for cancer research. He also serves as an advisory board member of Tree Global, an international sustainable agriculture and environmental restoration program. Mr. Novelline received his B.A. in Economics from Dartmouth College and his M.B.A. from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Aylon Samouha

Aylon is co-founder of Transcend, a new organization dedicated to the creation and proliferation of breakthrough school models. Since 2012, Aylon has been an independent designer providing strategy and design services to education organizations, schools, and foundations. Most recently, Aylon has been designing and building two new “Greenfield” school models for the Achievement First Network to be launched in 2015. In 2013, Aylon pioneered the Chicago Breakthrough Schools Fellowship in conjunction with New Schools for Chicago, NGLC, and the Broad Foundation. Prior to his independent work, Aylon served as Chief Schools Officer at Rocketship Education; leading the highest performing network of low-income schools in the state of California, designing the academic model and blended learning approach, and growing the network from 3 to 7 schools. Aylon also spent a few years as a Senior Vice President at Teach For America leading pre-service institutes and in-service support for corps members in their 2-year teaching commitments during a period of growth from 4,000 to 8,000 corps members.

Elizabeth Shaw

As CEO, Elizabeth Shaw is responsible for crafting and executing the CICS network strategy and managing the performance of the network and its portfolio of School Management Organizations. Elizabeth brings a wealth of experience to CICS including five years as the CEO of Education First, a national education policy, and strategy firm. She served as the Asst. Superintendent for the Recovery School District in New Orleans and was the Executive Director of Human Capital for the Louisiana Department of Education. She also worked as TFA’s regional Director of District Strategy and Professional Development. Elizabeth started as a public high school teacher and holds a B.A. in Political Science from Barnard College. Elizabeth is a proud CPS alumna, a CPS parent, and lives in Logan Square with her husband and two children.

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