March 17, 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,

At CPS, we are constantly working to improve classroom instruction to help our students thrive — a goal that has become even more important as we recover from the impact of the pandemic.

One of the best ways we can do that is by investing in the growth of our talented educators who guide our students each and every day.

As part of our Three-Year Blueprint released earlier this year, we committed to expanding teacher professional learning and collaboration opportunities. That means more funding — $45 million in this year’s budget — more programs, more time provided for teacher development, and an expanded pipeline for teacher leaders.

I want to spotlight our Lead Coaches — veteran educators who have stepped up to help their colleagues become the most effective, most impactful teachers possible for our students. There are now more than 250 Lead Coaches across our district providing support to nearly 2,200 teachers — ultimately benefiting tens of thousands of students. 

Our Lead Coaches spend their days helping teachers prepare lessons, observing those lessons in action, and often modeling best practices in the classroom. They then spend time reflecting with the teachers they support on what went well and what could be improved upon in the future.

“This kind of real-time coaching can be extremely effective for any profession, from education to professional sports,” said Maggie Gordon, Director of Distributed Leadership for the CPS Office of Teaching and Learning. “Consider Tom Brady, who many believe to be the best NFL quarterback of all time. He has a microphone in his ear during every play, with coaches providing the real-time information and encouragement he needs to do his best work. That’s what Lead Coaches are for the CPS teachers they support.”

Take Anna Ziemniak, a Lead Coach who is currently supporting five teachers at Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago’s West Town community. A former English teacher and reading specialist, the role of Lead Coach appealed to Anna’s desire to stay immersed in the classroom while helping improve student outcomes on a broader scale.
Anna Ziemniak
“There are three phases that teachers go through with every lesson,” said Anna. “Planning, teaching, and reflecting. As a Lead Coach, I’m able to support them with all three.”

One day, Anna might be working with a science teacher on how to make a lab assignment more engaging and hands-on. On another, she can be found working with a math teacher on how to redirect his students more effectively when they are off task.

“I tell them that this process is like lifting weights,” she said. “It’s hard at first, and can even be painful. But it will make them stronger in the long run.”

One of the greatest takeaways Anna has seen from her Lead Coach role is a growing confidence in the teachers she supports, and the increased ability they have to advocate for what they and their students need.

“Change is slow,” she said. “Some days I’m planting a seed, and other days I’m cultivating a flower. But at the end of the day, the learning process is what matters.”

For Mr. Paul Hartman, the Lead Coach at George Armstrong Elementary School in Rogers Park, that process is all about giving teachers the sounding board he wishes he’d had early in his career.

“There are a lot of demands on teachers, and that can make the job feel overwhelming,” said Paul. “They need and deserve someone with experience who can give them feedback, and who they can bounce ideas off of. I wish I’d had more of that kind of coaching when I was starting out as a teacher.”

While some of the teachers Paul supports are new, many are veteran educators who are motivated to continue growing in their roles. All of these teachers work with primary grade students, including Katherine O’Meara, a first grade teacher at Armstrong.

“Having Dr. Hartman as a Lead Coach has been immensely beneficial this year,” said Katherine. “He is always available to support us, whether that be answering questions about curriculum or discussing student assessments. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable about literacy, but he also has concrete ideas to use in the classroom. His help in designing and implementing new lessons has had a positive impact both on myself and on my students.”
Mahalia Jackson educators collaborating
Mr. Alexander Cabala, a teacher at Mahalia Jackson Elementary in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, feels much the same about his Lead Coach, Ms. Lynnycesa Palmer. 

“Just like my students are learning, I am learning ways to improve my practice every day,” he said. “Having a Lead Coach in your building creates that culture centered around learning and growth. Rather than saying that I should be doing this or doing that, or telling me what area of instruction I need to improve on, Ms. Palmer encourages me to reflect on my own pedagogy and determine an area of growth for myself. She is there to help me get better at what I want to improve on and help me become the teacher I aspire to be.”

A 17-year veteran of CPS, Lynnycesa took on her current role because in her words, she is “a natural coacher.” But she also wanted to replicate for other CPS teachers what she experienced years ago at Chicago’s Smyth Elementary. 

“A while back, I was a third grade teacher struggling to teach writing,” said Lynnycesa. “Another teacher named Ms. Donella came into my classroom and worked side-by-side with me on how to make my lessons more effective. I met with her after school so she could help me plan, and I observed her teaching methods. I grew so much as an educator during that time, and ever since, I’ve wanted to provide that kind of support to other teachers.”

In addition to supporting teachers one-on-one, most Lead Coaches play an active role within their school’s Instructional Leadership Team (ILT), serving as mentors to department chairs and other teacher leaders who in turn share that wisdom with the teachers they support. Our Lead Coaches, too, receive extensive training and coaching for themselves at the District level through CPS’ Distributed Leadership team.

“The professional development we receive as Lead Coaches is amazing,” said Lynnycesa. “It is always relevant and differentiated, and the instructors always consider our feedback and use it to make future trainings better. I’m able to shine in my role because of the quality of this coaching.”

I thank our District’s Lead Coaches for the work they are doing every day to support our teachers, and by extension, the students of Chicago. By sharing their expertise and empowering our educators, these leaders are moving us closer to our goal of providing every child from every community with the world-class education they deserve.


Pedro Martinez
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Public Schools

Around the District

Golden Apple finalists
Featuring Our Golden Apple Award Finalists
Over the next several weeks, we will be highlighting each of our Golden Apple Award finalists by showcasing the amazing work they are leading in their schools. This week, we’re thrilled to share insights from our first four finalists: Ms. Mandy Guzman, Mr. Rick Coppola, Ms. Latavia Hinton, and Ms. Jeanette Rocuant.

These educators represent schools from all over Chicago, and each of them shares a commitment to helping their students grow both inside and outside of the classroom. Check out our feature to learn more about their goals for the school year, advice they would give to new teachers, and their reactions to being named Golden Apple finalists.
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 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.
This week, we are excited to spotlight Emmanuel O., current junior at Jones College Prep and the 2022–23 Honorary Student Board Member. Even though he is still a junior, Emmanuel has already adapted to and embraced a lot of new experiences throughout his high school career. Some of these experiences were unexpected, like starting his freshman year learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others were rewarding, like getting involved with a student voice committee or participating in the Civil Rights Scholars Program with the CPS Office of Student Protections and Title IX. When Emmanuel found out about the Honorary Student Board Member position, he decided to apply because he was excited about the possibility of having another new experience and the opportunity to serve his peers.

As the Honorary Student Board Member, Emmanuel has represented the CPS student body by attending the monthly Chicago Board of Education meetings and advocating for student voice on behalf of himself and his peers. He also serves as an appointed member of a District-level student voice committee.

“Emmanuel has been invaluable as our Honorary Student Board Member,” said Miguel del Valle, President of the Chicago Board of Education. “His curiosity and passion will take him far with whatever he chooses to do next, and I have no doubt that he will continue to make our world a better place.”

The application to become the 2023–24 Honorary Student Board Member is open now through April 28, 2023. All rising juniors and seniors at CPS who are interested in gaining leadership experience, shaping the future of the District, and receiving a $1,000 scholarship toward their college education are encouraged to apply. For additional information on the application and eligibility requirements, please visit or email

What have you learned in your time as the Honorary Student Board Member?
I've learned a lot about the inner workings of Chicago Public Schools. Just from being a student, I had already experienced amazing CPS teachers and administrators firsthand, but before I was the Honorary Student Board Member I knew very little about how the District operates on a higher level. I’ve learned so much about the Chicago Board of Education and how it works, as well as all of the different CPS departments, and it’s been interesting to learn how all of these different pieces work together, from the school-level to the District-level.

Which issues that impact CPS students are you most passionate about?
I care a lot about student wellness, especially thinking about how CPS can make sure students’ identities are supported and our needs are being met. Student wellness includes topics like safety and daily experiences with things like school lunch, but it also means making sure students have access to mental health care and resources if we’re feeling burned out or experiencing trauma.

Do you have any advice for other CPS students who are thinking about applying to this opportunity?
Be curious! I think one of CPS’ biggest overall goals should be helping students stay curious about the world, and I’ve learned a lot because I am always seeking out more knowledge and I try to keep my mind and heart open. I also hope the next Honorary Student Board Member remembers to enjoy the experience. You will get a lot of support from the Board Office and the Department of Student Voice and Engagement. So even though this position is serious, and representing over 300,000 students isn’t the easiest thing, you will never be alone!

What are your interests outside of school?
I am really interested in public policy and learning about the government and how it works. I also love television, film, and architecture. Chicago has iconic architecture!

Where do you see yourself in the future?
I have an open mind. I definitely want to learn more about public policy, and I might consider going into government. But I primarily see myself continuing to think outside of the box, collaborate with other people, and figure out how we can turn ideas into things that can actually help people. I also know in the future I will continue watching the Board of Education meetings — It’s so important to engage with them, it’s like democracy!
Calendar for 2023–24 School Year Now Available Online
CPS families and staff can now access the academic calendar for the 2023-24 school year online at This calendar is very similar to what has proven successful for CPS this school year, and contains all of the information that stakeholders need to plan, including school start and end dates, the schedule for holidays and breaks, School Improvement Days for staff, and non-attendance days for students.
Celebrating Tie Tuesday at Dixon Elementary
Mr. Daniel Jackson, a second-grade teacher at Dixon Elementary School, encourages his students to dress for success by wearing ties to school every Tuesday. This weekly tradition started out as a way to empower students, and has now continued beyond Mr. Jackson’s classroom. Learn more about “Tie Tuesday” here.
Ty’Riah and Ms. Simpson
Student and Staff Spotlight
We’re continuing to highlight the amazing relationships being built between students and staff members in celebration of Women’s History Month. This week, we’re taking you to Johnson School of Excellence in North Lawndale to meet Ms. Simpson, a clerk, and Ty’Riah, a fourth-grade student. The two of them have become extremely close. Ms. Simpson relies on daily check-ins to make sure that Ty’Riah is continuing to grow academically and that her social-emotional needs are met. These efforts have paid off as Ty’Riah is excelling academically and plans to continue working hard toward her goal of becoming a doctor or nurse.
International Nights at Lane Tech High School
A Look Around the District