March 10, 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 Colleagues, Families, and Supporters,

March is Women’s History Month — a perfect opportunity to celebrate the thousands of women whose talents and work ethic are contributing to the success of our students. I feel privileged to work directly with many of these women, including Bogdana Chkoumbova, our District’s Chief Education Officer.
Chief Chkoumbova raising the Bulgarian flag
Bogdana came to the U.S. from Bulgaria more than 25 years ago, and her pride in her native country remains strong. That connection was on display just last week, when she was honored with an invitation by the Bulgarian General Consul to raise her home country’s flag at Chicago’s Daley Plaza. This flag raising was part of a ceremony celebrating Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman Dominion on March 3, 1878.

Bogdana has been serving the CPS community for more than 20 years, first as a special education teacher, then as a principal, network chief, Chief of Schools, and now as our District’s Chief Education Officer. She is a fierce advocate of our teachers and school leaders, and she approaches every situation with a focus on equity, and on what is in the best interest of the whole child.
Mrs. Tammie Durr and Mrs. Anabel Rivera
Bogdana is one of tens of thousands of women in Chicago who are dedicating their careers to helping our students reach their full potential. Women like Mrs. Tammie Durr and Mrs. Anabel Rivera, whose work at Melody Elementary School is ensuring that the 2nd-grade students in Room #205 are part of a welcoming learning environment that builds their confidence and empowers them to pursue their passions. Both women credit the strong women in their lives, especially their mothers, with bolstering their success and instilling in them the drive and determination that now informs their approach to educating children.
Ms. Nancy Barajas and Amorosa
Ms. Nancy Barajas, a pre-k teacher at Perez Elementary, makes it a point to stay invested in the lives of her students long after they’ve exited her classroom. Take Amorosa — a Perez eighth-grader who was a student of Ms. Barajas at just three years old, and who still considers her pre-k teacher to be one of her idols all these years later. Read their story here.

Women like these are at the heart of our school communities, making up more than 70 percent of our teachers, school leaders, and school support staff. I feel fortunate to work alongside them, and to have them serve as such excellent role models for our female students. They deserve our praise and recognition year-round, but especially during Women’s History Month.

Road to Recovery: Providing Enrichment and Supports Beyond the School Day
You’ve heard me describe this school year as a year of recovery. A year to accelerate student learning, and to help our children heal socially and emotionally from the trauma of the pandemic. CPS has made significant investments in these recovery efforts, and we’re beginning to see this work translate into positive student outcomes.
Students in OST programs
In last year’s budget, we placed a high priority on increasing funding for our Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs — recognizing the need for more enrichment and opportunities for our students outside of normal school hours. This year, we have seen an enrollment increase of 12,000 students since this time last year, with more opportunities now available for our early childhood students, and more programs being offered in areas like STEM and school-based mentoring.

In addition to helping bolster their academic performance, participation in OST programs improves connectedness, and strengthens the sense of belonging that students feel with their schools.
Students in OST programs
Multicultural Arts High School in Little Village, for example, has seen a significant jump in OST participation thanks to programs that allow students to bond over common interests. These include the Karaoke Club, the Guitar Club, and the Anime Club, as well as the school’s newest offering — a fitness opportunity called the Walk a Mile in Your Own Shoes Club. These OST opportunities empower students to come out of their shells and build teamwork and leadership skills that carry over into the classroom and beyond.
Students on stage in an OST program
Wells Elementary in Bronzeville is another school that has seen a significant rise in OST participation thanks to new programs like African Dance, Drumline, accelerated Reading and Math, and the increasingly popular martial arts club. 

“Social-emotional learning is a big part of our school’s Continuous Improvement Work Plan (CIWP) priorities, which goes hand in hand with the teaching of martial arts,” said Wells principal Vincent Izuegbu. “This skillset teaches our students the value of focus, discipline, and self-control, and helps them learn to cope with and regulate their emotions.”

Inspired by the passion of their teachers, Wells also has many students signed up for OST programs in Math to help them prepare for their Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) testing later this school year. And thanks to a partnership with the University of Chicago, even the youngest members of the Wells community have access to STEM-focused OST programs designed specifically for pre-k and kindergarten students.
Students dancing in an OST program
OST programs at Albany Park’s Volta Elementary were extremely limited in the past. This year, though, the school is offering more than 35 programs to its students and has one of the highest OST attendance rates in the city.

“Student voice is an integral component of the reason for our OST popularity,” said Volta principal Eduardo Yáñez. “Students are surveyed and data categorized to meet their talents, and staff bring forth their hobbies to pique students’ interests. I like to say that it’s a team approach to providing opportunities for our students.”

Volta’s OST programs, which range from soccer, to drama, to academic intervention, help students build teamwork and social skills while teaching them to develop a growth mindset. Since drastically expanding these programs this school year, Volta has seen improvements in Reading and Math among many students, as well as an increase in overall student attendance.

OST expansions like we are seeing at Volta align directly with the CPS Three-Year Blueprint, specifically our recommitment to academic progress. The Blueprint establishes several goals in this area, including that every school is organized and resourced to offer small class sizes, arts instruction, robust academic and social-emotional learning intervention systems, and comprehensive Out-of-School Time and summer programming.

We will continue sharing examples of our recovery work in the coming weeks, and look forward to featuring more schools from around the District that are seeing encouraging growth as a result of these investments.


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.

  • March is Women’s History Month. Does your school have an event planned, or is there a woman in your school community who is helping empower female students?
  • March is also National Social Work Month. Maybe there is a social worker in your school community who deserves special recognition?
  • We are also celebrating Music in our Schools Month. Tell us about a music teacher who has made an impact on your school community!  

Help us 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.
Payton HS chess team
A Look Around the District
Sumner Elementary’s 8th-grade students participated in a roundtable discussion with former Chicago Bears player Chris Draft and current player Tevin Jenkins. In partnership with the United Way of Metro Chicago and Everfi, the discussion focused on telling untold stories, inspiring students to be drivers of inclusivity and change, and teaching them how to create shared values for a better community.

Westinghouse High School hosted a Blood Drive to raise awareness about Sickle Cell Disease as a part of the school’s celebration of Black history. And Pre-K students at Marsh Elementary were surprised with bikes courtesy of the “Making a Difference On and Off the Field” campaign. Also, at Haugan Elementary, students strengthened their communication and leadership skills through an initiative to raise funds for the school’s graduating class.

Several CPS schools have also been organizing cultural celebrations, including Bond Elementary’s Fat Tuesday event with Creole cuisine and a Mardi Gras parade. And in honor of the Lunar New Year, Sawyer Elementary invited acclaimed artist Ms. Huang to teach students about paper-cutting.

Finally, we are thrilled to highlight the Walter Payton High School Chess Team for their successful season. The team won 1st place at five different tournaments, including the Chicago City Championships, and ended their season by placing 3rd at a state tournament. Congratulations to the Walter Payton Grizzlies!
Kenwood Academy Principal Named Golden Apple Finalist
In addition to the 12 CPS teachers who have been named finalists for the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Golden Apple Foundation has now announced that Ms. Karen Calloway, the principal of Kenwood Academy High School, is one of just six Illinois finalists for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Leadership.

This award honors exemplary performance in school leadership by a principal or head of school who has had a significant and sustained positive impact on the school, created a culture of inclusivity, and delivered dramatic student growth. Principal Calloway believes that a strong leader must begin with the end in mind, and her end vision is for all her students to succeed in the college and/or careers of their choice, and to be prepared both socially and emotionally for what comes after graduation.

Golden Apple winners will be announced later this spring.
Whitney Young High School Wins State Decathlon Championship
Congratulations to Whitney Young High School on its 20th consecutive win at the 2023 Illinois Academic Decathlon State Competition. At the decathlon, schools across the state competed in events focused on the following 10 subjects: Art, Economics, Essay, Interview, Literature, Math, Music, Science, Social Science, and Speech.

Eight CPS high schools competed at the event, with Lane Tech College Prep placing 2nd, qualifying the team for this year’s online national competition, and Amundsen High School taking 3rd. The Whitney Young decathletes will now move on to represent Illinois at the United States Academic Decathlon National Competition in Frisco, Texas later this spring.
Nominations Now Open for Crossing Guard of the Year Award 
As part of Crossing Guard Appreciation Month (February 14–March 14), CPS is urging students, staff, parents, and community members to nominate their favorite crossing guards for the District’s Crossing Guard of the Year Award. Submit your nomination by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 10 using this form. Winners will be determined and acknowledged on Monday, May 15.
Review and Provide Feedback on New Draft Accountability Policy
CPS is pleased to announce that we have now posted our District’s new draft accountability policy for review and feedback. This policy provides guidelines for measuring school and District performance that promote equity and academic excellence. From now through April 3, 2023, stakeholders can review the policy and provide feedback here (under the April 2023 tab). Your feedback will be considered when the Chicago Board of Education votes on this policy at its April 2023 meeting. An FAQ on the policy is also available in English and Spanish. Please email if you have any questions.