Board of Directors

LAURA THONN, President 

Laura Thonn is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in their business assurance practice. She is a licensed certified public accountant in the state of Illinois. Ms. Thonn has previously served on the board of directors for Onward Neighborhood House, as a social worker for high school students, and as a program assistant for Voices for Illinois Children, the leading advocacy organization serving children and families in Illinois. She earned her B.S. from Boston College and has a Master's degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. 


Daniel Anello is the CEO of New Schools for Chicago. He previously served as the Chief of Strategy and External Relations for Chicago International Charter School. Mr. Anello came to CICS through the Broad Residency. Mr. Anello is a member of the inaugural class of Presidential Leadership Scholars, an initiative that draws upon the resources of the U.S. presidential centers of Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush. He received a B.A. in mathematics from Williams College and a M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.


David Blinderman is the CEO of Blinderman Construction, a general contracting firm based in Chicago. Mr. Blinderman previously worked as a portfolio manager for Aetna Real Estate Investors, and as a senior consultant for Ernst & Young specializing in real estate securitization and valuation. As a firm believer in access to quality public education, he is a strong promoter and supporter of STEM-centric career development and mentoring for underserved student populations. Mr. Blinderman earned a B.S in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.


David Chizewer, is one of the founding members of Chicago International Charter Schools. He is also a Partner in Goldberg Kohn, Ltd. Litigation Group serving as the Chairman of the firm's Education Industry Practice. In his civic work, Mr. Chizewer is a recognized expert on charter schools, having co-founded CICS as well as the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS). He was a member of the Education Policy Group for the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign. Mr. Chizewer received his law degree from the University of Chicago and his B.A. in Economics, magna cum laude, from Pomona College.


Violet Clark is a Partner at Laner, Munchin, Dombrow, Becker, Levin and Tominberg where she specializes in labor and employment law. Prior to joining Laner, Ms. Clark served as a staff attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and as a Trial Attorney with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Ms. Clark is a member of the Black Women Lawyers Association and the Cook County Bar Association. She serves as the Vice President of the United States Tennis Association/Midwest Section. Additionally, Ms. Clark is a founding member of Friends of CICS Tennis. Ms. Clark received her law degree from Cornell University Law School and her B.A. from Brown University.


Catherine Gottfred, a founding member of CICS, is the Founder and CEO of Leap Learning Systems, a non-profit organization dedicated to language and literacy development. She has teaching and clinical experience, and has held numerous positions in the field's state and national associations. Ms. Gottfred previously served as the President of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, President of the Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Vice President of Governmental and Social Policies. She received her doctoral degree in speech pathology from Northwestern University.


Thomas Nieman is the owner and President of Nieman Inc., a privately held company that specializes in developing curriculum materials for educational publishers. He is a former elementary school teacher and was previously the vice-president of Reading, Language Arts, and Literature at Scott Foresman and Company. Mr. Nieman has co-authored a number of textbook series including ACCESS, a middle school series for English language learners, the American Documents series and the World Histories series for National Geographic. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Brian Novelline

Brian Novelline is Vice President for Mesirow Advanced Strategies, Inc. He is responsible for manager selection across the capital structure and is leading the firm’s co-investment efforts. Prior to joining Mesirow, Mr. Novelline co-managed a multi-strategy portfolio for DRW Holdings and was an equity analyst at Compass Asset Management. Mr. Novelline is a member of the Organizing Committee for Cycle for Survival, a national fundraising event for cancer research.  He also serves as an advisory board member of Tree Global, an international sustainable agriculture and environmental restoration program.  Mr. Novelline received his B.A. in Economics from Dartmouth College and his M.B.A. from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.


*denotes founding Board Member

Board Meeting Schedule

CICS Board Meetings are open to the public. 


CICS Network Office

11 E. Adams Street, Suite 600

Chicago, IL 60603


4pm – 6pm


August 22, 2017

November 14, 2017

January 16, 2018

June 19, 2018

More information can be found on the CICS Calendar