April 14, 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,

During my visits to CPS elementary schools, I always enjoy poking my head into our pre-k classrooms. Because whatever the time of day, I know there will be a buzz of excited activity amongst our youngest learners. It’s inspiring to watch our talented pre-k educators help our students build a solid foundation in literacy, math, science, social skills, and much more.
A photo from a pre-k classroom at Mireles Academy
Study after study shows that children who attend robust, high-quality early childhood education programs are better prepared to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. That’s why CPS is continuing our expansion of free, full-day pre-k for all four-year-olds in Chicago, adding an additional 400 seats this year. This investment has grown over the past several years, with these programs now available in virtually every neighborhood in the city. 

Applications are now open for early childhood education programs for the 2023–24 school year. Families can visit chicagoearlylearning.org to explore CPS-run programs for three and four-year-olds, as well as a variety of community-based options for children from birth to five-years-old. The application period runs through May 2, 2023.

Application assistance is also available through our Family Support Hotline at (312) 229-1690, or by making an in-person appointment at one of our Family Resource Centers, which are conveniently located inside eight Chicago Public Library branches around the city and at one of our District’s administrative buildings.

The District is hosting several application fairs to assist families with the application process. These events will include giveaways and fun activities for both children and adults. Advance registration is recommended using the links in the bulleted list below. Upcoming fairs are taking place in: 

Families can also get a pre-k preview during the week of April 24, when many CPS schools will host open houses and pre-k registration events to showcase their early childhood education programs. These will be key opportunities for families to see what various early childhood opportunities have to offer.
We kicked off this year’s pre-k application period earlier this week at Mireles Academy, whose pre-k program is serving 40 active four-year-olds on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

“I am very proud of our pre-k program, and of the excellent teachers and teacher assistants who are helping our children discover a love of learning from a very early age,” said Evelyn Randle-Robbins, principal of Mireles Academy Elementary School.

Principal Randle-Robbins has seen the students in her pre-k program enter kindergarten with a strong academic foundation, as well as a critical understanding of the structure and routines that are essential for success at school. But she has also seen a larger ripple effect within her school community. 

“I believe that pre-k is as important for our Mireles families as it is for our students,” she said. “Our teachers make it a point to build relationships with our pre-k parents from the very first day. And just like the skills our students are learning, those relationships grow as children move ahead in school.”

Please watch this video for a deeper look into our District’s early childhood education offerings:
Building on Mid-Year Momentum
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the last few school years a challenge. But we are now seeing many CPS students moving in the right direction, especially our younger learners. 

According to promising mid-year assessment data, the number of students testing “early on grade level” or “mid or above grade level” rose by 29 percent among kindergartners, 19 percent among first-graders, and 16 percent among second-graders. And the number of students testing two years below grade level in reading dropped by 11 percent among first-graders and 14 percent among second-graders.

These gains have our young learners outperforming other urban school districts around the country, and we want to keep that momentum going. The best way to do this is to get our students into the classroom early and provide them with the curriculum, instruction, and support they need to reach their full potential.

I urge all families with three and four-year-olds to visit chicagoearlylearning.org between now and May 11 to explore your options and apply to the early childhood programs that will best meet the needs of your family.

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 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 Michael Velasquez
Take Five with Michael Velasquez: Music Teacher at Tilden High School
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 Mr. Michael Velasquez (or Mr. V, as he’s known to his students), who has been a music teacher at Tilden High School since 2018. Mr. V was raised in Oak Park by parents who were social workers, and he knew very early on that he wanted to give back to his community. Mr. V has also had a lifelong passion for music, and he moved to New Orleans to study jazz during a time when the community was recovering from Hurricane Katrina. This setting helped Mr. V explore how to merge his passions of music and working in the community, and he realized becoming a music teacher was the perfect fit.

Why is it so important for students to have access to music programming?
I was a quiet kid in high school — music has always been a way for me to express myself, and I want my students to be able to express themselves. A lot of students come to school with many different challenges, and there’s something therapeutic about playing music. I have tried to create an environment in my classroom that is calming and designed to help students work through whatever they’re dealing with and get in touch with their creativity that they might not use in other parts of their day.

Read more of our Q&A with Mr. V here.
AP Daisy Hernandez smiles in front of a bulletin board reading
Celebrating Assistant Principal Appreciation Week
Our District has phenomenal assistant principals. Throughout Assistant Principal Appreciation Week, we have been featuring their stories.

At Durkin Park Elementary School, AP Daisy Hernandez draws upon her 14 years of teaching experience to support her teachers as they positively impact student learning. She focuses on being extremely approachable so her students know she is there for them. The strong relationships she has built have been key in her efforts to incentivize students to come to school ready to learn.

Ms. Meesha Townsen is excelling in her role as assistant principal of Esmond Elementary School, just as she has in her previous roles in CPS. Her passions are rooted in special education, and she has helped her school take big strides forward in meeting the needs of its diverse learners. She believes that a school leader should embody three qualities: the ability to build effective relationships, the desire to solve problems, and the drive to build up other leaders.

And, at Haines Elementary School, AP Connie Lee loves being able to give back to the same community that she grew up in. This school year, her goals center on providing students with enriching academic experiences while also ensuring their social-emotional needs are met. Equity is also one of her top priorities. To meet these goals, she focuses on getting to know her students to ensure they have opportunities to discover their passions.
Photos from the Curie High School marching band's visit to Jackson State University
A Look Around the District
Over spring break, Curie High School’s marching band visited Jackson State University (JSU) along with 791 other high school students. During their visit, students were given the opportunity to learn from JSU students and directors, as well as perform with the university’s own marching band.

At Tonti Elementary, U.S. veterans from the Mission Continues, and other community members, came together for a school beautification event. Volunteers from all over the country spent their day painting, cleaning, and organizing the school in preparation for the Spring and Summer seasons.

Lane Tech High School hosted its second annual United Lane Buddies Talent Show, where students from cluster programs and adaptive electives performed various acts for classes. And at Clemente High School, students visited the Fourth Circuit Courthouse in Maywood to learn about the intersections of racial injustice and civil rights.

Finally, we would like to highlight the Lindblom Robotics team, who traveled to Pennsylvania to compete in the Greater Pittsburgh Regional Competition. The team placed 2nd in the Finals and qualified to compete at the World Competition in Houston. Congratulations Lindblom Eagles!
Important Information for Families Receiving Medicaid Benefits
We want to let families know that the federal government will be ending the COVID-19 public health emergency this spring. During the public health emergency, families receiving Medicaid were automatically re-enrolled in the program. But now that the public health emergency is ending, families will again need to renew their Medicaid benefits starting this year.

The State of Illinois will begin mailing out renewal forms starting in May 2023. If your family currently receives Medicaid benefits, we strongly encourage you to make sure your contact information in the state’s database is up-to-date so you can receive your renewal form.

Here are the steps you need to take now:
  • Click “Manage My Case” to log in to your account.
  • Verify and update your mailing address under “Contact Us.”

OR, you can use the Report Medicaid Change of Address Form to quickly update your address.

Updating your address will ensure that you receive your renewal information on time. After that, watch your mail for your renewal form and complete the form within 30 days. If you don’t remember your login and password, or if you are currently not receiving Medicaid benefits and think you are eligible, call the Healthy CPS Hotline at 773-553-KIDS (5437) or fill out an assistance request form and a coordinator from the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness will be happy to assist you.
Upcoming Opportunities to Share Feedback on the District’s FY24 Capital Budget
Next week, CPS will be hosting five virtual meetings to engage communities on capital priorities as the District works to develop its Fiscal Year 2024 Capital Plan. Participants for any of the meetings listed below should register online or tune in to the live-stream on CPS’ YouTube channel

  • Tuesday, April 18: 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. (English, Spanish)
  • Wednesday, April 19: 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. (English, Spanish) 
  • Wednesday, April 19: 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. (English, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Polish, Chinese)
  • Friday, April 21: 12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. (English, Spanish) 
  • Friday, April 21: 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Spanish)
New Book Highlights CPS Progress over Past Several Decades
The District is excited to share How a City Learned to Improve its Schools, a new book that outlines how CPS has become one of the most improved school districts in the nation. Graduation rates, learning rates, and ACT scores all significantly improved, with Black and Latinx males often driving this progress.

One of the key factors behind this success was collaboration between the District and its partners to transfer significant resources directly to schools. This approach is also key to helping the District ensure this school year is a strong year of recovery for students across Chicago.
CPS Teachers Selected for the Yale National Initiative 
Six CPS teachers have recently been selected to participate in the Yale National Initiative, a program dedicated to strengthening teaching in public schools. These CPS educators are among a select group of 44 school teachers from 14 school Districts across the nation who will be participating in a series of seminars to develop their leadership and curriculum development skills in Connecticut this summer. Congratulations to the following! 
  • Kathie Ang, Walter Payton College Preparatory High School
  • Brandon Barr, Mark Twain Elementary
  • Nancy Ibarra, Seward Communication Arts Academy 
  • Adriana Lopez, Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School
  • Jessica Mason, Anna R. Langford Academy 
  • Ricardo Moreno, Richards Edwards Dual Language Fine and Performing Arts IB School
Summer Job Opportunities through One Summer Chicago 
Chicago youth can apply for summer job opportunities through One Summer Chicago now through Friday, June 2.
  • The Summer Youth Employment Program provides employment and internship opportunities for 16 to 24 year-olds, earning $15.40 an hour.
  • The Chicagobility program helps 14 and 15 year-olds explore career pathways, participate in project-based learning and field trips, and earn a $450 stipend for the summer.
To apply for these opportunities, please visit onesummerchicago.org.
Complete the District’s Parent Survey
Each year, CPS administers the My Voice, My School Parent Survey to garner feedback from parents about the schools where their children attend as well as the District as a whole. This year’s survey is now open through Sunday, April 30, and takes about five minutes to complete. It is anonymous and available in several languages. To access the survey, please click here.
Chicago Cubs Class of 2023 Ticket Offers
The Chicago Cubs are celebrating all 2023 graduates and their families with a Special Ticket Offer. The ticket offer includes a Cubs Class of 2023 jersey with your ticket to the June 15th game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. This offer is first-come, first-served. Claim your tickets and special merchandise here.
Attention CPS 12th-Graders: Apply Now for Teach Chicago Tomorrow!
Teach Chicago Tomorrow (TCT) is a District-run program that supports CPS graduates in earning their Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 4 - 5 years. Students start by enrolling in the City Colleges of Chicago’s SEED Scholarship program, then complete their degree at one of our partner universities (Illinois State University, Roosevelt University, or Northeastern Illinois University), or at a four-year college or university of their choice. TCT offers generous financial aid, academic and career support.

CLICK HERE to submit an interest form. Applying takes less than five minutes. For questions, email Art Dennis, Recruitment Specialist for Teach Chicago Tomorrow, at ajdennis2@cps.edu.
Chicago Park District summer job opportunities flyer
Summer Jobs Available Through the Chicago Park District
A variety of employment opportunities are available in the parks this summer to suit all interests, schedules and experience levels. These positions offer competitive wages, opportunities to build life-skills, flexible work schedules, and pathways to careers and full-time employment. Make friends, stay active, have fun, and make a difference by working in the parks!

Positions available for ages 16+ include Lifeguard, Recreation Leader (for Day Camp), and Junior Laborer (park maintenance). Additional positions are available for ages 18+. Click here to learn more and apply today.
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. At RE·VER·BER·ATE, K–12 students can participate in free, 30–60 minute workshops led by industry professionals, including the Blue Man Group, Spotify, The Design Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, Pogi Studios, and more. Join us for workshops including Activist Button Making, Songwriting, Afro-Brazilian Martial Arts, Hip-Hop Dance, and Improv. There will also be an Open Mic hosted by Social Works Chicago. Each workshop has limited seating and requires advance registration. Learn more on our website!
Important Dates
For more upcoming events around the District, visit cps.edu/calendar.