---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Chicago Public Schools <info@cps.edu>
Date: Fri, Feb 3, 2023, 3:27 PM
Subject: Celebrating Black History Month / Celebrando el Mes de la Historia Negra
To: <mkcardenas@cps.edu>

February 3, 2023

A Note From CPS Leadership

Click here to view this letter in Spanish, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Filipino, Polish, Ukrainian, Urdu, or Vietnamese.
Dear CPS Families, Colleagues, and Supporters, 

This week begins Black History Month — an opportunity for our schools to celebrate the contributions and achievements of black artists, scholars, and leaders while celebrating black culture and the incredible diversity in our District.
CEO Martinez visiting with Al Raby students
I was proud to kick off Black History Month with a visit to Al Raby High School in Chicago’s East Garfield Park community. Like several of our CPS campuses, this school is named for a prominent leader in the black community. In addition to serving as an environmentalist and CPS educator, Al Raby was a civil rights advocate who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on social justice issues, including the desegregation of Chicago schools. Raby later served as head of the Chicago Human Relations Commission — a watchdog group that works to eliminate discrimination in public life. I can think of no better way to begin Black History Month than by connecting with students and staff in a school named for such an iconic African-American leader.

Throughout February, CPS schools around Chicago will host African art exhibitions and music and spoken word performances. Students will be engaged in research projects and other academic lessons meant to help them explore black history and culture. This month’s activities are only part of our District’s year-long black history curriculum that spans all subject areas, from STEM and literature to history, social science, and the arts.

Celebrating and promoting black achievement isn’t just about our students — it’s about our staff too. This year, CPS Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova began working with a group called United Black Male Educators of CPS to further develop a leadership pipeline for Black men in the District and ultimately help our Black male students achieve and succeed both in and outside the classroom. This is a part of our larger strategy to recognize and respond to the unique lived experiences of our diverse population, especially our black male students. 

I urge everyone to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram throughout February to see the many ways that CPS students will be celebrating Black History Month. 


Pedro Martinez
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Public Schools

Help Us Highlight Your School
One of our goals for 2023 is to highlight more of the amazing things that are happening day-to-day in our schools, along with the people who are making them happen. There is no better source for this good news than you — the members of our school communities — so we hope you will consider sharing your stories by completing this brief form.

Here are some topics to consider:
  • What events are being planned by your school to celebrate Black History Month?
  • National School Counseling Week begins February 6. Do you know a counselor who is worthy of recognition?
  • Help us acknowledge a school crossing guard who goes above and beyond for students during Crossing Guard Appreciation Month (February 15–March 15)
  • February 14–17 is Random Acts of Kindness Week. Tell us about someone in your CPS community whose kind actions have made a difference for their school community.
Help us celebrate your school in 2023 and show the world that the best are with CPS! Fill out this form so that we can share your stories in this newsletter, on our District’s blog, and across our CPS social media channels.
Headshot of Stefani Hicks
Take Five with Stefani Hicks: Middle School Writing Teacher at Harte Elementary
Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many CPS staff members who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here.
Meet Mrs. Stefani Hicks, a middle school writing teacher at Bret Harte Elementary School who is known for being a solution-oriented team player. A Bowen High School graduate, Mrs. Hicks started as a CPS teacher fresh out of college and spent 18 years at Horace Mann Elementary before moving to Harte almost seven years ago. Throughout the course of her career, Mrs. Hicks has taught English language arts, civics, and social studies to her students; she has also taught nearly every elementary grade level. Mrs. Hicks has spent the most time teaching eighth grade specifically, and Mrs. Hicks says she loves teaching middle schoolers because of their energy, thoughtfulness, and insight. 

Mrs. Hicks’ work with her middle school students does not end when the school day is over; she also serves as the student council leader and is in charge of organizing and facilitating her school’s student council activities and elections. In this role, Mrs. Hicks has a special hand in making sure Harte students feel empowered in their school community, as well as a front-row seat to her students’ creativity and engagement. 

It’s currently Black History Month — What is your approach to incorporating Black history in your work?
One of the biggest ways we recognize Black History Month at Harte is through our spirit week. Under my supervision, our Student Leadership Council champions a week of activities that promote Black excellence, achievements, and innovations in everything from the arts to STEM. We want all students, pre-k to eighth grade, to be able to participate in this celebration, express themselves, and feel a sense of pride and ownership in their learning community. It is so important that our students see their reflection in the world around them. 

What made you want to become a teacher? 
I come from a line of educators — both my mother and older sister are also teachers. From an early age, I’ve loved working with children and have just always wanted to pursue teaching. I really, truly enjoy being a teacher, and I’m so glad that I’ve spent the last 25 years in the classroom. I see myself in the classroom for the rest of my career. I don’t need to be anywhere else.

What is most rewarding about your work?
The real rewards come when these kids come back years later, or find me online and email me or send me a message about how they’re doing. Their success is my success. It means so much to me to get a notification from a student who remembers me from years ago telling me I taught them something or inspired them in some way. Hearing I was instrumental in a student’s life in some way is the best reward — better than any paycheck I could have ever received. 

Why is it important to amplify student voice?
Students need to be true, active members of their school community. If we don't listen to our students and what they’re saying, I think we're doing an injustice to them and their education. Students are on the receiving end of feedback all the time, and we need to ask ourselves if we give students that same opportunity to voice their opinion. I think a focus on amplifying student voice should be a priority in every school. 

What do you like to do outside of work? 
I am very involved with my spiritual community — I sing in the choir and do a lot of work with the youth and young adults in my church. I’m also a Zumba instructor by night, which is just a total party. Traveling and seeing more of the world is definitely high on my list of things I want to do outside of work. I’m an island girl, so Aruba is definitely one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. But in the future, I would love to travel to Africa, specifically Ghana, as well as Spain!
Teacher Anne Gray playing music for her students
CPS Educator Named Cook County Co-Regional Teacher of the Year
We are excited to announce that Anne Gray, the longtime music teacher at Franklin Fine Arts Center, has been named Cook County Co-Regional Teacher of the Year and is a finalist for Teacher of the Year from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). In addition to providing high-quality music education, Ms. Gray directs a 50-student choir that has performed alongside high school ensembles. She is widely respected for her commitment to equity and for her focus on educating the whole child. We congratulate Ms. Gray on this prestigious honor!
Mays students participating in a STEM workshop
A Look Around the District
Over the past several weeks, schools across Chicago have participated in various events and activities! At Mays Academy, students participated in a STEM workshop through the school’s partnership with Children First Fund (CFF). This month’s workshop focused on structural engineering and included interactive activities, such as building bridges with marshmallows and spaghetti. Haugan Elementary School partnered with Direct Effect Charities and the local Tabor Church to sponsor a school-wide charity drive to distribute gifts to students for the holidays!

This past week, Lunar New Year celebrations were also held across the District. Healy Elementary School welcomed the new year through a community luncheon where guests enjoyed student performances. McCutcheon Elementary School participated in the Uptown Lunar New Year parade, alongside their STEAM partner school, Uplift High School. Members of the McCutcheon and Uplift school communities participated in day-long activities, like parade float decorating and live drum performances.

Finally, we would like to highlight a few of our District’s schools that recently participated in several athletic sports competitions. Kelvyn Park High School’s Panther Battalion Drill team and color guard took 1st place overall in the Division 2 City-Wide Drill Competition. Graham Training Center’s three basketball teams placed first at the Special Olympics of Illinois (SOILL) High School Basketball Teams Competition, alongside their satellite campus that placed second. Congratulations to both schools!
14 Students Advance to FBLA State Competition
Congratulations to Sullivan and South Shore High School students for their wins at the 2023 Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Competition. FBLA is an organization that helps high school students prepare for careers in business through leadership development, educational programs, and academic competitions. Both CPS schools competed at the FBLA’s Regional Competition, where 14 Sullivan and South Shore students placed in the top five in categories such as Business Communications, Journalism, and Entrepreneurship. These students will now advance to the state Competition in April.
Release Dates Announced for GoCPS Offers 
GoCPS is now in the final stages of preparing offers for the 2023–24 school year. High school offers will be released on Friday, March 24, 2023 after 5 p.m., and elementary school offers will be released on Friday, April 21, 2023 after 5 p.m. Families who have completed an application should log into their GoCPS accounts to make sure that all information is correct. For questions, please call (773) 553-2060 or email gocps@cps.edu.
CPS Basketball Championships to be Held February 7–11
The CPS Office of Sports Administration (OSA) is excited to once again host this year's high school basketball championships! The 2023 Chicago Public League Basketball Championship will run from February 7–11, giving our student-athletes the chance to play these high stakes games at college venues such as Credit Union 1 Arena and McGrath Arena! Please visit our 2023 basketball headquarters page to learn more about tickets and event information.
Back to our Future program flyer
Help Our District Re-Engage Disconnected Youth
CPS has an important new initiative, Back to Our Future (B2OF), that focuses on getting students who have been disengaged from CPS or have a history of frequent absenteeism back into the classroom and back on track academically. Through resources such as workforce development training, mentorship, and mental health and trauma support, B2OF meets students where they are and empowers them to return to and succeed in an educational setting. For more information, please visit the B2OF web page here.

Do you know any youth who could benefit from this program? If so, please refer them by either filling out this form or by calling 773-553-2225 for more information.
Update on the District’s Accountability Redesign Initiative 
The CPS Accountability Redesign Initiative is our District’s effort to develop a new approach to school quality that promotes equity and academic excellence in our schools. It is entering its final phase of stakeholder engagement to garner feedback ahead of a planned April 2023 Board vote on this new approach. We encourage you to review an overview of the initiative (English | Spanish) and register here to receive updates on how you can share your thoughts on the proposed approach and review the stakeholder engagement that has occurred so far.
Spring Visual Art Opportunities for CPS Students  
The CPS Department of Arts Education is excited to announce three unique visual arts opportunities for the spring of 2023! Please click the links below for submission guidelines for each opportunity and links to each of the submission portals.