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CICS ChicagoQuest and CICS Ellison are small schools with tight-knit communities of students and staff. ChicagoQuest offers one-to-one technology and strives to have an interdisciplinary curriculum that meets students’ needs. CICS Ellison is a well-established school that provides a nurturing environment and is family oriented as parents often send all of their children to the school. Quest and Ellison also offer AP and dual enrollment classes and partnerships with organizations and companies in the community through a program called CCIE. While the schools have struggled some in years past, staff have worked hard to make Quest and Ellison a place where both students and staff want to be.

Due to enrollment being down (like at many schools in Chicago), CICS is using this moment as an opportunity to cut a significant number of staff members at ChicagoQuest and Ellison for the coming year, in addition to a few staff members at Wrightwood. CICS Wrightwood is known for being a school that serves students with special needs well, and yet paraprofessionals and support staff are being cut, which will affect the school’s ability to serve all students well.

Divestment During a Crisis

CICS’s actions are unfortunately part of a larger pattern of disinvestment in schools that serve Black and Brown students across the city, and we are concerned about the consequences of these cuts at the school. More than 90% of the students that attend ChicagoQuest, Ellison, and Wrightwood identify as Black and 80% of the staff being laid off are also Black.

In a moment when the world is declaring that Black Lives Matter, we should not be cutting Black educators. CICS CEO Elizabeth Shaw has said that we all have to be committed to challenging systemic racism. And yet she and her organization are defunding a school that serves primarily Black students. Now is the time to really invest in our schools that serve Black students, not make cuts to them.

Fight Back

It is crucial that we push back and tell CICS that cutting 20 staff members for the coming year is unacceptable. It is not acceptable for CICS to lay off so many people in the midst of a pandemic when it will be challenging to find other jobs and when it will be crucial to be able to provide smaller class sizes in order to return safely to school buildings in the fall. We should be retaining as many educators as possible right now, not cutting them!

We also know that CICS has the money to do better by our students and staff. CICS currently has $35 million dollars in reserves. That $35 million is made up of public tax dollars that have not been spent in the classroom and that have been saved for a rainy day. Now is the time to use those dollars! We also believe that if cuts are going to be made, they should be made at the CICS management level and not at our schools. For the coming year, CICS should be investing extra money in ChicagoQuest, Ellison, and Wrightwood in order to ensure the best education possible for our students.

Send a message

We are calling on CICS CEO Elizabeth Shaw, the President of the CICS Board of Directors Brian Novelline, and Lahari Goud, the interim CEO of Civitas Education Partners (which helps CICS run ChicagoQuest, Ellison and Wrightwood) to use their resources to recall all of the laid off teachers and staff and to fund CICS ChicagoQuest, Ellison, and Wrightwood at a level that will allow it to thrive. We are also calling on these leaders to meet with parents, students, and staff to hear why we think CICS should change course and discuss the impact of these cuts on Quest, Ellison, and Wrightwood.

Sign on to this letter to Shaw, Novelline, and Goud and let them know what you think about their cuts!