March 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 Colleagues, Families, and Supporters,

As part of our continuing series on our academic recovery, I want to highlight the work of some dedicated individuals who are helping our students close the learning gaps that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet the CPS Tutor Corps
Tutor Corps
Research shows that high-dosage tutoring is one of the best strategies for accelerating student achievement. So last school year, to help address the unfinished learning created by the pandemic, our District launched the CPS Tutor Corps. This is a group of more than 700 tutors who are now working with students daily at schools around the District. 

Schools like Mozart Elementary, where Principal Rachel Mota says that Tutor Corps members have become a welcome addition to the community.    

“Our students look forward to seeing their tutors,” says Principal Mota. “This is a way for them to have a one-on-one check point in their day, and to build relationships with not only their teachers, but with another caring adult.”

Our Tutor Corps members, many of whom are college students or recent college graduates, focus on helping students build not only foundational skills in literacy and math, but their overall confidence and excitement about learning.

“I feel I’m providing my students with consistent, supportive instruction and expectations, and I hope I'm helping them feel like learning is fun and worthwhile,” says Calvin Armstrong, one of the tutors at Mozart Elementary. “Their grades are improving, they have more interest in reading and learning new things, and they're building up their own self-esteem, which is wonderful to see.”
CPS Tutor Corps
Evidence shows that students perform better when they work with instructors who look like them and who share some of their lived experiences. For this reason, CPS works hard to recruit a diverse pool of qualified tutors who are representative of the communities they serve.

“As a member of the community where my students live, I feel like I’ve been able to earn their trust,” says Javier Dimas, another Mozart Elementary tutor. “Being able to build trust in the classroom and students knowing they have teachers and tutors who actually care will hopefully reflect positively in their academic progress.”

Mozart is just one of 232 schools being served by the CPS Tutor Corps this year. Click here for a look at the larger impact this program is having District-wide.

More Students Reaching Academic Intervention Goals
Our Interventionists are another group of professionals who deserve to be highlighted for the work they’re doing to help students recover academically from the pandemic.
Interventionist working with students
Interventionists support schools in providing targeted support outside the classroom to reinforce foundational math and literacy skills. Some interventionists work to support students’ social-emotional learning needs as well.  

Last year’s CPS budget included funding for an Interventionist position at every District-run school, and we are beginning to see the results of that investment. When looking at interventions logged in our central platform, we are seeing some exciting results:

  • At the start of the year, one in eight students receiving academic interventions were on track to meet their goals.
  • In Quarter 2, that number was closer to one in every four students.
  • And just this week, we learned that for Quarter 3, more than one out of every three students are now meeting their intervention goals.

“Being an Interventionist is about repairing the relationship that a struggling student has with a certain subject,” says Flora Monacelli, the Interventionist at Steinmetz High School. “Students might lack some foundational reading skills, or struggle with fluency or comprehension, which makes them reluctant readers. But when we give them small, secure environments where they can practice reading aloud, they find their confidence.”
Interventionist working with students
Interventionists begin the school year by working with classroom teachers to identify those students who need additional support to succeed at grade level.

“I meet with teachers after students take their assessments early in the school year,” says Angela Papa, the Interventionist at New Field Elementary. “We talk about every student individually discuss their needs, and set their goals. Then, if students are not on track to meet those goals, we continue meeting to reevaluate our support plan.”
Interventionist working with students
A strong partnership with families is also key to our Interventionists’ success. 

For Anita Unzuetta, the Interventionist at Little Village Academy, this means meeting with parents to discuss the goals that have been set for their children and providing them with strategies and resources that they can use to support their kids at home. 

“We definitely lost some parent engagement during the pandemic, so it’s important that we work hard to get that back,” says Anita. “The families I talk to say that they feel good about this extra support, because it feels like school is focused on what their kids do well, not just on their challenges.”

I am grateful to all of the Interventionists like Anita who are supporting our students every day, along with the parents, classroom teachers, and school leaders who are partnering with them to guide our students along this ongoing road to academic recovery.

The investment we’ve made in our tutors and Interventionists is clearly producing results at a time when our students need this help the most. I’m looking forward to continuing to fund these positions and other key academic programs in our budget for next school year.


Pedro Martinez
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Public Schools

Around the District

Golden Apple Finalists
Highlighting Four of Our Golden Apple Award Finalists
This month, we are highlighting each of our Golden Apple Award finalists by showcasing the amazing work they are leading in their schools. 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.  Read our first feature
here, and read more about our next four finalists here — Mrs. Anquineice Brown, Mr. Miguel Melchor, Mrs. Donna Puccini, and Mr. Piotr Wojciaczyk.
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.

Some ideas to consider:
  • The month of April includes both Assistant Principal Appreciation Week and School Clerk Appreciation Day. Tell us about an AP or clerk who is making a difference in your school community!
  • Earth Day is coming up on April 22. Is your school doing anything special, or is there an environmental or sustainability program underway that deserves a spotlight?

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.
Gaby Brizuela
Take Five with Gabriela Brizuela: Deputy General Counsel
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 Gabriela (Gaby) Brizuela, the District’s Deputy General Counsel of School Law. A member of Jones College Prep’s second graduating class, Gaby began her journey with CPS as law clerk while in law school and has worked her way up to now leading the District’s School Law Unit in the Board of Education’s Law Department. 

Gaby has always known she wanted to be an attorney and saw it as an avenue to making meaningful change in her community. In her current role, she provides valuable insight and counsel to administrators and central office departments on a number of education law issues, including student rights and privacy, student discipline, enrollment and transfer, Title IX, constitutional issues, Local School Council matters, and school culture and climate matters, just to name a few.

What are your biggest priorities in your work?
My number one goal is always to make sure that CPS is promoting supports, equity, and opportunity for all students within our District.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Our administrators have very difficult and important jobs, and I love supporting them and working together to achieve the best possible outcome for our students and schools. It’s very rewarding to be able to help our administrators navigate difficult and complex legal issues and take that stress away from them so that they can continue to do the hard and important work they do.

How would your team describe you?
I think my team would describe me as a thoughtful, empathetic, and dedicated individual who leads with integrity and strives to uphold our District’s values.

What do you like to do outside of work?
In my spare time I enjoy reading, playing volleyball, but most of all, spending time with  my husband and our beautiful daughter. 

Is there a physical object that has a special significance to you?
After I graduated from law school, my mother gifted me a fairly large Lady Justice statue for me to put in my office. Since it’s so tall and difficult to carry, it never actually made it to my office. Instead, my husband built a special place for it in our home. Eventually my mother gave me a miniature version of that same statute that I now keep in my office as a reminder of her, my values, and the reason I do this incredible work.
Dr. Lynda Simmons
Staff Spotlights
March is Social Work Month, and we’re thrilled to be able to highlight some of our amazing school social workers who are making a difference for students across Chicago. Dr. Lynda Simmons has served CPS for more than 20 years after transitioning into school social work from a career in business. She currently works at Ronald Brown Academy on Chicago’s Far South Side, where she focuses on creating supportive spaces that meet her students’ social-emotional needs.

And, at Foreman College and Career Academy, Ms. Marah Langellier is committed to partnering with community-based organizations to provide trauma-informed and restorative services. She also honors her students’ autonomy and encourages them to build their self-advocacy skills. By building trust with each student, she works not only to meet their needs but also create larger-scale positive change within her school.
Burr red carpet premiere
A Look Around the District
Burr Elementary was recently featured in a documentary by WTTW- Chicago Public Broadcasting Station and the Institute of Education Sciences that highlights the school’s innovative math practices. The school community at Burr kicked off the streaming of this documentary with a Red Carpet Premiere event.

At Burnham Elementary, over 400 students were taken on school-wide field trips to the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the MLK Skating Rink.

And students and staff at Hale Elementary marched in a St. Patrick’s Day parade, followed by a food drive sponsored by the school's Student Leadership Team.

Palmer Elementary hosted its annual Career Day, bringing together community members to share their career experience and encourage students to consider their future goals and aspirations.

Finally, we are excited to highlight Hancock College Prep’s debate team for being awarded “Team of the Year” for the Blue/Silver Conference by Chicago Debates. This year's team developed a case about TikTok regulation and AI discrimination against Black, Indigenous, and people of color. The team's success qualified eight of its students to compete at the City Championship in April. Congratulations, Eagles!
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.
Update on Ticket Offer from the Chicago White Sox
Earlier this week, we shared an offer from the Chicago White Sox for free tickets to two games during spring break for CPS students and staff. This offer was very popular, and all available tickets were claimed within one hour. We thank the White Sox for their generosity and look forward to future ticket opportunities for our CPS community.
Observing the Month of Ramadan in CPS Schools
Ramadan Mubarak! The month of Ramadan, one of the most sacred times of the year for Muslims, began earlier this week on Wednesday, March 22. Ramadan involves a strict daily fast from sunrise to sundown. CPS will support our Muslim students who observe fasting by directing them to libraries, computer labs, or other rooms without food during their lunch period. Teachers will also accommodate fasting students by recognizing that they may be tired and limiting physical activity during the school day. Students who will be fasting during Ramadan should not hesitate to reach out to their teachers or school leaders for any additional support they may need.
Spring Break COVID-19 Safety
Spring break (April 3–7) is coming up quickly for CPS families and staff! To protect yourself and your community from COVID-19 over break, we highly encourage you to follow these tips:
  • Get tested: Take a COVID-19 test before and after large gatherings, and before returning to school on Monday, April 10. We have many free COVID-19 tests available at every school. Request a test from your school and pick it up during report card pick-up!
  • Get vaccinated: Make sure you and your family are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Please visit to get more information and make an appointment. 
Stay home if you’re sick, even if your symptoms are mild or you don’t think you have COVID-19.
Recreational Opportunities for Students Over Spring Break
There are many fun and engaging programs available for CPS students over Spring Break. These opportunities include: 
  • Safe Haven Sites: The CPS Safe Haven Program has sites open from Monday, April 3 to Friday, April 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Meals and snacks will be provided, as well as social-emotional learning, academic assistance, and fun. A list of Safe Haven Sites open over Spring Break can be found here.
  • Chicago Park District Spring Break Camps: These camps will allow students to participate in recreational activities, arts and crafts, and sports. Some specialty camps are also available. A full list of camps can be found here. 
  • Spring Break at Navy Pier: Navy Pier will have interactive events, performances, family-friendly activities, and artisan markets between Saturday, April 1 and Saturday, April 8. Admission is free. More information can be found here. 
  • My CHI. My Future: The city is offering a variety of opportunities for youth during spring break through My CHI. My Future., including applying for summer jobs through One Summer Chicago. A full list can be found here.
Lifeguard Certification: Students age 16 and older who are interested in working as a Chicago Park District lifeguard this summer must have their American Red Cross Waterfront Lifeguarding Certification. These certification classes are being offered for free during spring break. Information about registration can be found here.
District Fills Key Network Leadership Roles
Three dedicated professionals with six decades of experience among them have been appointed to provide guidance and support to school leaders through key leadership positions in the Office of Network Support:
  • Estuardo Mazin, who has been named Chief of Schools for Network 2, has been a part of the CPS family for more than 20 years. He has worked as a teacher, case manager, and school counselor at various CPS schools on the city’s south side, and has also served as assistant principal at Ravenswood Elementary and principal of Barry Elementary School, where he implemented a dual-language program and brought Barry from a level 3 school to a Level 1 in just four years. Estuardo’s most recent role was as Deputy Chief of Schools for Network 1.
  • Gilberto Piedrahita is the District’s new Deputy Chief of Schools for Network 8. His time with CPS has included 11 years as a bilingual education teacher, 4 years as the assistant principal of Saucedo Scholastic Academy, and 7 years as the principal of Jordan Community School. Originally from Colombia, Gilberto spent a decade working as a dentist before he found his true passion for educating children.
    Tamika Ball, the new Deputy Chief of Schools for Network 17, most recently served as principal of Gage Park High School, where she helped to bolster Freshmen OnTrack, scholarships, and college enrollment among her students. She also significantly expanded advanced course offerings, paving the way for Gage Park to be designated as an AP Capstone School.
Early College Students Celebrated by Kennedy-King College 
Kennedy-King College recently celebrated seven Englewood STEM High School seniors, all young women, who are among the first Early College students to complete credentials for associate degrees or certificates at this school. These students were recognized at a Luncheon that brought together women in education from CPS, the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), and Englewood STEM High School where they are preparing to complete twelfth grade.
Cyber Security Career Day for High School Students 
In collaboration with the Security Advisor Alliance, the CPS Department of Computer Science recently hosted a Cyber Security Career Day. At the event, 100 high school students from Brooks College Prep, Social Justice High School, Chicago AG, Hancock College Prep, Lindblom High School, Jones College Prep, and North-Grand High School spoke to industry professionals, learned about career pathways to cybersecurity, and ended the day with a friendly competition.
Mark Your Calendars for the Spring Forward Teen Bash on April 8
My Chi. My Future. and the Chicago Park District are hosting a spring break party for Chicago residents ages 13-24. This event will take place from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, at the Aon Ballroom in Navy Pier and will include musical guests, food, raffles, and information about summer job opportunities. Advance registration is required to take part in this bash. Click here to register and view this flyer for more details.
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.
Join Us at RE*VER*BER*ATE, a Multidisciplinary Arts Festival: April 27–30, 2023 
The CPS Department of Arts Education invites you to attend RE·VER·BER·ATE, our free, four-day, multidisciplinary arts festival on April 27–30. Produced by CPS students and teachers, this celebratory festival represents the diverse voices and identities of the District’s young artists, which will be on display in gallery exhibitions and live performances.

Additionally, students in grades K–12 can participate in free, 30–60 minute workshops led by industry professionals. Each workshop has limited seating and requires advance registration. Join us for Activist Button Making, Songwriting 101, Afro-Brazilian Martial Arts, Hip-Hop Dance, Improv, an Open-Mic, and much more! Learn more on our website.
Important Dates
For more upcoming events around the District, visit
  • Wednesday, March 29: Parent-Teacher Conference Day. No classes for CPS students.
  • Thursday, March 30: Parent Cafe at Parker Community Academy from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Use computers and check out the resource table.
  • English as a Second Language Class, every Monday and Wednesday at 8 a.m.–12 p.m at John Otis Elementary School. Taught through Malcolm X Community College. Sign in at the main office.
  • Computer Basics Class on Wednesdays at Bogan High School. Register with Lourdes Sanchez at
  • Spanish-Only Digital Literacy Class on Wednesdays at Logandale Parent University. RSVP here.