February 24, 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,

Our goal as a District is clear — give all students the knowledge and tools they need to strive for and achieve their dreams. High-quality academics and extracurricular activities, yes, but also the feeling that they are safe and supported while at school.

The fact is, children cannot focus on their learning if they don’t feel safe. Our work to create a safe and nurturing environment takes many forms — investing in counselors, social workers, Behavioral Health Teams, and a universal Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, as well as staff and equipment to ensure students’ physical safety. As part of our comprehensive safety strategy, CPS is investing $76.3 million to add and upgrade security cameras in 331 schools over the next three years. 

These state-of-the-art camera systems will serve three critically-important purposes:
  • Provide our dedicated school security staff with added visibility into potential threats in and around their schools throughout the day;
  • Help school staff respond promptly in the event of an incident; and
  • Provide valuable footage to assist with investigations if incidents occur.

Camera installations and upgrades will be rolled out in three phases beginning in the summer of 2023. Schools will be prioritized based on number of students enrolled, condition of existing cameras, and the CPS Opportunity Index, which takes into account several factors, including the number of safety incidents taking place at the school and the number of criminal incidents happening in the vicinity of the school.

I look forward to the additional security and peace of mind that this camera investment will provide to our school communities. It’s important to remember, though, that technology like this is just ONE of the many tools we are using to keep students safe, nurtured, and engaged.
  • We partner with Safe Passage workers throughout the school year and summer to help guide our students safely to and from their classrooms and activities, and to steer them away from dangerous situations.
  • We continue to invest in programs like Back to Our Future and Choose to Change, which provide targeted supports to our District’s most at-risk and disengaged youth,
  • And we have restorative justice coordinators, climate coordinators, and other proactive resources to address students’ emotional safety and well-being.

Our strategy around safety aligns directly with two of the Recommitments outlined in the CPS 3-year Blueprint. The first is our focus on Safety, Wellness, and Supportive Learning Communities, wherein we are putting policies and resources in place to support the whole child and ensure that all students are healthy, safe, and engaged. This includes increased funding for school counselors and other social-emotional resources, and coaching for staff on restorative practices.

Our investment in security cameras reflects another one of our Recommitments, this one being Operational Excellence. This is about ensuring that all students feel supported inside and outside the classroom, which means investing in our buildings and giving all children access to high-quality learning environments.

As a CPS parent, I think about my children’s safety every day in school — a concern I know that parents across our city share. As CEO, I am committed to approaching this concern in a holistic way, investing in everything from the security cameras we announced this week to social and emotional supports that can prevent incidents before they even begin. This series of diverse investments is what will allow us to reach our ultimate goal, which is to ensure that every child from every neighborhood in Chicago feels safe and supported at school.


Pedro Martinez
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Public Schools

Around the District

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.

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 Norman Fleming
Take Five with Norman Fleming: Chief Information Officer
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.
This week, we are pleased to introduce Norman Fleming, our Chief Information Officer who joined the CPS family a few months ago. Norm grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and was a self-described “computer geek” in high school. After graduating from college and completing advanced training for the Illinois Army National Guard, Norm spent the first 30 years of his career in the private sector getting an up-close look at how companies — both Chicago-based and global — can adapt and use technology to advance their mission. 

Norm joined CPS because he wanted his work to focus less on profit and more on a mission. He will never forget his mother telling him that no matter what he goes through, no one can ever take away his education. Norm is excited to be using his skills and expertise to support the current generation of Chicago students as CPS Chief Information Officer.

How have your first few months as Chief Information Officer been?
I just hit my 90-day milestone. I have learned a lot so far and I’m feeling really connected and supported. I think CEO Martinez has done a fantastic job, and this is the friendliest organization I've ever been a part of. It’s also the most diverse leadership team I have ever experienced. My team actually decorated my office with balloons and ribbons to celebrate my 90-day milestone, and that really touched my heart. The people here at CPS are special, and I think that this kindness, along with the value we place on diversity, will extend to how we treat our K-12 students.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Working in technology means that there’s always something new to learn, which I find extremely exciting. Back in high school, I worked part-time at Payless Shoesource, and my job was to unbox shoes and put them on the shelves. I found that repetition extremely frustrating, and it made me realize that I wanted to have a job where I could do something new every single day.

What are your biggest goals and priorities as Chief Information Officer?
My goals and priorities are completely aligned with the Three-Year Blueprint. I think the area where the Department of Information and Technology Services (ITS) can have the greatest impact is academic progress and operational excellence. We want to help our school leaders, teachers, staff, and students have information at their fingertips. I would like to see CPS continue to make technological investments so that our students get the best digital experience that prepares them to graduate from high school with skills that will help them succeed in college and their career.

It is currently Black History Month. What does our ITS Department do to uplift our Black students, and how do you think we can support students from marginalized groups who want to explore careers in technology?
I want our students to be able to envision themselves and explore the possible careers they could pursue in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. I volunteer as a mentor for 100 Black Men of Chicago, and one of the mantras we use is, “what they see is what they’ll be.” A lot of students may have heard the title of Chief Information Officer, but they don’t actually know what that means in a real day-to-day sense. The ITS Department would love to build out that educational pathway within the District and visit schools to help students understand the resources we have available for them and what working in technology could really look like. 

What do you like to do outside of work?
I am a very social person and a huge Chicago sports fan, so I love hanging out with friends and family at sports bars. I also love to travel — you can always count on me to find a beach with 80 degree weather. One of my favorite destinations is South Beach in Miami, as well as my home country of San Pedro, Belize. And I love to cook; in the summertime I’m a grill master. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s going on the grill. I even know how to put ice cream on a grill.
A photo of Ms. Nicole LaMaka
Student and Staff Spotlights
CPS is made up of phenomenal individuals at all levels of our District. A great example is Ms. Nicole LaMaka, a counselor at Mozart Elementary School, who has gone above and beyond to meet her students’ social-emotional needs. She uses her own background as the first person in her family to pursue higher education to inspire her students to dream big and ensure they have the supports to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.

Our students are also continuing to make our District proud. Keirra, a senior at Roosevelt High School, has been reflecting on how she has grown since freshman year. She’s become more confident in her ability to build relationships with others and has learned numerous study skills that have helped her succeed academically. This has led her to receive the Posse Scholarship to attend Oberlin College next year, where she plans to grow her passions for computer science and music. Fun fact: she knows how to play six instruments!

And we couldn’t let the week pass without recognizing Crossing Guard Appreciation Month! We’re celebrating our wonderful crossing guards like Miss Reshon Terry who serves Chicago’s Back of the Yards community. Her focus has been on having a positive attitude and being very observant to ensure the safety of her students and families. She’s even gone above and beyond by petitioning for a stop sign to be added at the corner where she serves.
Dawes Elementary School students participating in the school-wide Soul Train event
A Look Around the District
Here’s a look at some of our District’s most recent Black History Month events and celebrations! 

At McClellan Elementary School, students in Grades 1 - 3 were visited by Decoteau Irby, author of Magical Black Tears. These students enjoyed a live reading of his book, which celebrates the resilience of Black communities and families.

Sadlowski Elementary School hosted an assembly for an African Explosion Dance performance provided by Gymnasium Matters, which was followed by the school’s music teacher leading the audience in traditional song and dance. 

And at Dawes Elementary School, students and staff participated in a school-wide Soul Train event. Across grade levels, students learned about Soul Train, worked to create crafts, and participated in a dance line down the school hallways!

Below are some additional events and celebrations from around the District:

At Northside Learning Center, students celebrated Mardi Gras through their annual parade that ended inside the gym, where students and staff danced and listened to live music. 

And in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Day, Nobel Elementary School united its students through No One Eats Alone Day, an initiative created by the Beyond Differences Organization

Finally, the Williams High School Career Fair hosted 27 entrepreneurs, business representatives, and skilled professionals who provided insight to students on career opportunities.
Board of Education Approves 2023–24 Academic Calendar
This week, the Chicago Board of Education approved the proposed calendar for the 2023–24 school year. Similar to this school year, this calendar includes 176 days of instruction for students and 12 professional learning days for teachers and school-based staff. It also includes a school start date before Labor Day. Click here to see more details on the 2023-24 calendar.
CPS Names New General Counsel for the District
The Chicago Board of Education has named Ruchi Verma, a 14-year veteran of the CPS Law Department, as the District’s new general counsel. Ms. Verma is an expert in school law issues, including issues related to student rights and responsibilities, school improvement, local school council relations, charter school oversight, and student privacy. She joined the CPS Law Department in 2008, serving most recently as the District’s first deputy to the general counsel. Ms. Verma will begin serving as the District’s top lawyer in early March, succeeding Mr. Joe Moriarty, who is retiring from CPS after 19 years of service.
Timuel D. Black Essay Contest for High School Students
CPS high school students have the opportunity to earn up to a $1,250 prize through the Timuel D. Black Essay Contest, which is co-sponsored by the CPS Department of Social Science and several partner organizations. Students have until Monday, March 13 to respond to one of three essay prompts related to Black’s legacy. To submit an essay, or for more information,