Dr. Beth Purvis came to Chicago International Charter School in March 2003 with more than 15 years' experience working with children with disabilities and their families. After completing her doctoral degree in 1997, Dr. Purvis was a member of the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago where her work focused on research and personnel preparation in urban education.
Under the leadership of Dr. Purvis, CICS has added nine campuses and more than 5,000 students. In addition, the organization successfully designed and implemented a performance evaluation system that resulted in significantly improved student outcomes and continued financial efficiency. As of the 2011-2012 school year, the average student at a CICS elementary school open for three or more years are performing at or above the level of their more privileged peers. CICS high school campuses are among the top performing in the city in terms of student gains, graduation rate, and college placement.
Dr. Purvis currently serves on the boards of the Illinois Network of Charter School and the Illinois State Advisory Council to the Illinois State Board of Education. Previously she served on Charter Review and Evaluation committees for Chicago Public Schools; was President of the Illinois Division of Early Childhood, 2003-2004; and was an Executive Board Member of the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Purvis has served on the editorial review board of two peer-reviewed professional journals, has published and presented numerous papers, and been awarded various grants in her field.
Dr. Purvis earned her B.S. in educational research from Bucknell University, her M.A. in special education from Teachers College at Columbia University, and her EdD in special education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two children.
Erin Lanoue came to Chicago International Charter School in October 2002. She earned her Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in political science from Providence College. As Associate Director, Ms. Lanoue monitors compliance with local, state, and national statutes. She also manages parent, student and teacher satisfaction surveys; coordinates the lottery and campus enrollment, and she oversees CICS' 5-year charter renewal.
Tom McGrath has been with Chicago International Charter School since October 2007. Prior to joining CICS, Mr. McGrath earned more than eight years of experience in management consulting. In addition to serving traditional clients in the private sector, he spent a significant amount of time working in the regional education market, including engagements with the Renaissance Schools Fund, IL State Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools, and the Metropolitan Planning Council. Mr. McGrath is responsible for planning and managing CICS's financial performance, capital projects, facilities, and central office operations.
Mr. McGrath earned his M.B.A from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and his B.A. in economics from the University of Illinois.
Dr. Andrea Brown-Thirston earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University and her doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She joined CICS in September 2007 and brings experience most recently from higher education where she was an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois. Dr. Brown-Thirston was also the Project Coordinator of the Teacher Quality Enhancement (TQE) Grant Project, whose main goal was to prepare talented teachers to work in high-need schools.
Dr. Brown-Thirston's background also enables her to consult as a Supplemental Subject Matter Expert with Cardean Learning Group, LLC, a for-profit, educational company that develops online courses for several universities across the country. Additionally, Dr. Brown-Thirston has published several articles and presented at local and national conferences, and she recently co-authored book on mentoring African American and Latina girls. As the Chief Academic Officer at CICS, Dr. Brown-Thirston is responsible for collecting data related to student achievement, reviewing and monitoring the curriculum, instructional delivery models, and professional development plans utilized across the network, as well as maintaining and developing relationships with key personnel at the campuses and EMOs.
Christine Poindexter Harris is responsible for measuring student performance and achievement growth. She initially came to CICS in July 2005 as a doctoral intern working with the Chief Education Officer. Ms. Harris is currently a doctoral candidate at Loyola University Chicago in applied social psychology with an emphasis on academic achievement motivation among minority students. She also teaches statistics and social psychology courses at the Loyola University.
Previously, Ms. Harris was Director of Research for E.L.I.A.S., an educational services provider, evaluating how federal start-up dollars are used in Illinois charter schools. At CYCLE WIZ Factory of Learning, Ms. Harris was the Executive Director of Program Evaluation and Research. There she designed applied program evaluation strategies, including quantitatively analyzing academic achievement of students in the program.
Ms. Harris earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Loyola University New Orleans, and a Master of Arts degree in applied social psychology from Loyola University, Chicago.
Javania Cross Polenska is a Broad Resident and joined Chicago International Charter School in July 2011. In the role of Director of College Advancement, she is tasked with identifying and developing strategies and best practices to support CICS high school counselors in increasing the number of students who attend and succeed in college. She is also responsible for building relationships with college and universities across the country to promote the enrollment of CICS graduates on campuses where they can flourish personally and academically.
Prior to joining the team, Mrs. Polenska was a senior associate marketing manager at General Mills, where she acted as the general manager and brand steward for brands such as Green Giant, Yoplait, and Big G cereals. She has led numerous cross-functional teams in the development of new products, television advertising, and business strategy. She also spent four years working in the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Office of Admissions in a number of capacities. There, Mrs. Polenska gained invaluable experience coaching parents and students through the admissions process, developing programs and processes designed to improve customer service and staff performance, and creating strategies and recruiting messages to increase college enrollment.
Mrs. Polenska has a Bachelor of Art degree in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and a Masters of Business Administration degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Maggie Morrison joined Chicago International Charter School in March 2012. Ms. Morrison is responsible for designing and managing the organization’s fundraising plan to raise the funds necessary to ensure that CICS schools are building the academic and emotional skills necessary for their students’ success in college and beyond.
Prior to joining the CICS team, Ms. Morrison served as the Director of Individual Giving at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, where she was responsible for leading their $4MM annual fund effort and contributing to the successful conclusion of a $205MM campaign. At Northwestern University Law School, Ms. Morrison held the position of Interim Director of Alumni Relations and Development; prior to that she was the Associate Director of Major Gifts. Ms. Morrison also served in a fundraising and stewardship capacity at the University of Missouri – Rolla, where she was promoted from Development Officer to Assistant Director, Development Services.
Ms. Morrison has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies with a minor in Chemistry from Wellesley College, where she graduated cum laude.
Michael Cotter came to Chicago International Charter School in October 2008. As the Development Manager, Mr. Cotter serves as the senior point person at on matters concerning Development within the largest charter school network in Illinois. Mr. Cotter seeks to manage and expand a network of relationships with both individuals as well as charitable organizations to support the fundraising efforts of CICS. Through grant writing and the stewarding of relationships, Mr. Cotter works to promote CICS as a preferred charitable giving entity. As a member of the External Relations team at CICS, he is also works to leverage networking and ensure that CICS maintains and grows its brand as a successful, responsibly-run organization. He earned his B.A. in political science from Loyola University Chicago.
Daniel Anello came to CICS as a Broad Resident, where he was challenged with designing and implementing an internal and external communications plan and creating a holistic marketing and advertising strategy for the CICS network. In addition, Mr. Anello is responsible for evaluating long-term strategic planning, identifying new school management partners (SMOs) and for identifying organizational growth opportunities.
Prior to joining CICS and The Broad Residency, Daniel Anello was an associate brand manager for Unilever, where he was responsible for the long-term innovation and strategic planning for the organization’s leading growth brand. Mr. Anello led the development of a $30MM innovation, from initial concept through final production, including the development of all key communication assets. Previously, Mr. Anello was an associate director of marketing for a medical start-up company.
Mr. Anello received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Williams College, and a Masters in Business Administration degree from Chicago Booth.
Kate Proto came to CICS in 2009. She is the editor and production manager of CICS's FocalPoint publication, and is responsible for various internal and external communications initiatives, including press relations, social media, and marketing collateral. Ms. Proto also oversees governmental affairs and advocacy for CICS, acting as a lead facilitator in the Illinois charter school campaign for equitable funding.
Ms. Proto has worked in the education sector for more than seven years, developing communications and marketing strategy and working in operations roles. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and political science from The University of Vermont in 2003 and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) at Northwestern University in 2009.
Meghan Schmidt joined CICS in 2004. Ms. Schmidt has more than 10 years of experience as an educator in both public and private school settings. Most recently, her responsibilities were focused on middle-school curriculum and assessment. Ms. Schmidt works with the Education Management Organizations (EMO) and CICS campus personnel to coordinate special school programs and monitor needs as they relate to student performance. Currently, she facilitates community and family engagement at all 16 of Chicago International's campuses, coordinates more than 150 after-school and community-based programs across the network and facilitates the CICS Advisory Board. Ms. Schmidt is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
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