Beverly/Morgan Park Area Schools:  Quality Education Wherever You Go 

By Tina Jenkins Bell 
BAPA School Liaison 

Do you see it? The light at the end of the tunnel. As I write this column,  Americans were notified that we have an authorized, recommended vaccine to prevent COVID-19. For Beverly/Morgan Park schools and families, the news of the vaccine is music for the soul. As we see more schools welcome students back for in class learning, we must be vigilant and patient. The schools your children left last spring will not be the exact settings to which they return. Classrooms may look different. Daily routines will include mandatory health screenings and other processes. The transformation from remote learning to in class may occur in stages.  

CPS Schools Open as Early as January 

Chicago Public Schools announced most of their students, primarily kindergarten through 8th grade, would have the option of returning to in class learning as early as January. There will be changes and additional steps school families will need to take to ensure the overall safety of their children and everyone with whom they interact. The number of hours CPS students spend in the class as well as the number of students in their immediate learning communities may change as well. Initially, instruction may be a combination of in class and remote learning. Therefore, parents can expect to continue their roles as instructional aides and should keep their home classrooms intact. For more information, review the CPS reopening Parent Guide at  

Christ the King Willing Worker Named School Hero  

Bob Berk was recently named a school hero (#schoolhero) by the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools. COVID-19 has impacted all schools adversely. Knowing his parish school, Christ the King, could use his help, Berk, a retired forensic scientist, inquired about ways he could assist, and became the school’s lead custodian. He has received numerous accolades since becoming a part of the staff. “There is nothing like hearing the preschoolers and kindergartners yelling out ‘Hi Mr. Bob’ whenever they see him and calling him over to chat with them,” a CK teacher offered.  A parent added, “Bob has God at his side in all that he does. He is patient, kind, giving, and selfless. His calm disposition and kind smile bring peace to teachers and students alike.” 

St. Barnabas School Tours 

St. Barnabas School is offering tours for families interested in the 2020-2021 school year, Jan. 5 to 7 and Jan.12 to 14.  Learn more about all St. Barnabas has to offer, including the new Education Center, opening in fall. Email to schedule a time.  

Sutherland Art Featured on Office of Equity and Racial Justice Website 

Sutherland School has long been admired for its sidewalk art and murals. One of the murals, created by Damon Reed and friends and presented to Sutherland as a gift from the class of 2020, is featured on the City of Chicago Office of Equity and Racial Justice website as part of their “Together We Heal” initiative. To see Sutherland’s mural, go to and click on Together We Heal.   

MPA 6th Graders Share Pandemic Stories  

Five Morgan Park Academy (MPA) students gathered online with children from dozens of schools in the United States, India, England, and Mexico to share and discuss their pandemic experiences. Emily Fitch, MPA’s 6th grade humanities teacher, said she was proud to hear students display an awareness of and empathy for “the economic ramifications of COVID-19 and the impact it had on families and communities.” Fitch added, she was “hopeful for our future because these will be our leaders moving forward.”. 

Kellogg Newly Elected Student Council  

The Kellogg school community recently elected a new Student Council. Each candidate created a Google website during electioneering week to share their reasons for wanting to become part of the student council and their plans for helping the school and student body. Elected to the student council were Morgan Puchalski, President; Rani Barnes, Vice President; Ajani Liddell, Secretary; Lucy Doherty, Co-Treasurer; Aislinn Taylor, Co-Treasurer; and Zuri Norman, Parliamentarian. One of the Council’s first goals was to create a Spirit Week leading into the Winter Break and coming up with fun activities to build community. 

School Update: Education, Community and Grit 

By Tina Jenkins Bell 
BAPA School Liaison 

In February 2020, the corona virus pandemic hit hard and held a harsh grip on Beverly/Morgan Park and other communities around the country, making 2020 a year that will go down in infamy. The repercussions of the virus on schools were many, from a sudden change of face-to-face to remote instruction, to parents having to balance their children’s learning goals with work and other responsibilities, to school principals and faculty seeing their school day stretch from eight hours and five days to 24 hours and seven days 

The list of ways we were challenged as a community is long. Yet we worked together to ensure our children received quality educations, whether learning in the class or remotely.   

Churches and schools showed up to make sure students had access to meals. Community volunteers showed up to tutor and share resources. Even, teens showed up to help in whatever ways they could contribute, including weeding public gardens, distributing food, donating toiletries and personal items, and cleaning up fall leaves and detritus for senior citizens 

This entire community showed up, but more importantly, our principals and educators showed up to demonstrate leadership and grit, responding to each pandemic punch with perseverance, commitment, and dedication to quality education and care for our childrenRead on for recent examples of that grit. 

Public School Principal Pod Collaborate to Ongoing Professional Development 

Our schools began the academic year with a commitment to provide highly engaging, interactive remote learning and to ensure that faculty remain on that course throughout the year. To that end, the public-school principal pod, comprised of principals from Barnard, Clissold, Esmond, Kellogg, Sutherland and Vanderpoel  elementary schools, collaborated to offer cross-community professional development and sharing of ideas. Last month, gym teachers from the various schools shared ideas for keeping their course content fresh and engaging. A similar session is planned for language arts teachers.  

MPHS Breakfast with Counselors  

In late October, Morgan Park High School (MPHS) held a Zoom breakfast with their counselors. Principals from across the 19th Ward were able to find out more about various offerings at MPHSThe event was spearheaded by MPHS Vice Principal Daniel Buys in response to a request from area public elementary schools. Some participants included principals Cory Overstreet (Kellogg) and Kate Valente (Barnard).  

Hats Off to . . . 

Hats off to parents, community members, school faculty and staff, and high school students who voted in the Local School Council elections in November 

Hats off to BAPA’s Public School Committee, led by Heather Wills,  for taking the time to support the efforts of public school principals to ensure quality choices in education across the neighborhood.  

Hats off to St. Rita High School, a BAPA Teen Corps partner, and Andrew McCullough for helping BAPA match young willing workers to senior citizens who needed help raking and cleaning their yards.  

Hats off to the private and Catholic School principals who opened their school doors while remaining committed to students’ safety and offering both in class and remote learning options. 

Teen Corps and Teen Corps Partners Rise to the Community’s Call  

BAPA’s Teen Corps is an initiative to alert teens to various needs for volunteers and calls for community service, and to empower teens to create their own projects. In November, Teen Corps members Jaylon Cox and Zadie, Zhien, and Zora Beaty participated in a drive to contribute toiletries and personal items to the Free Store organized by Turpin Cares. Other Teen Corps members plan to donate items or funds to help families whose stretched budgets leave few resources for acquiring toiletries and personal items. 

Chat2Learn Program Helps Parents Motivate Preschool-Aged Children 

State Sen. Emil Jones is encouraging parents who may need assistance to sign up for a new Illinois State Board of Education program, Chat2Learn. Through this program, parents receive conversation prompts to connect with their preschoolers and increase their literacy, math, and social emotional skills for kindergarten readiness. The program runs from Dec. 6 through June 30. For more information, visit 

St. Walter School Eat and Earn  

Got a taste for pizza? Place your order at Beggars on Dec. 16 and 20% of pizza order revenues for that day will go to St. Walter School. Eat & Earn locations are: 12700 S. Kedzie12660 S. Western3277 W. 115th Stor online at  

MPA Virtual Open House  

Morgan Park Academy will host a virtual open house Thurs., Dec. 17 for families interested in learning more about this topquality private school. For details, visit 






School Update: Catholic School Strong 

By Tina Jenkins Bell 
BAPA School Liaison 

In Augustthe five neighborhood Catholic elementary schools opened their doors for a return to face-to-face instruction after last spring’s quarantine and extended remote learning 

“We have worked hard to provide a reopening plan that recognizes the great benefits of in-school instruction and still expresses our commitment to the preservation of human life,” said Cardinal Blasé Cupich. “Even in the best of times, our schools help ensure children have good nutrition and a safe place to learn. It is even more important that families have access to these benefits during the pandemic.”   

With safety in mind, principals Dr. Ann Riordan (Christ the King), Michelle Nitsche (St. Cajetan), Maura Nash (St. John Fisher), Veronica Cash (St. Walter) and Elaine Gaffney (St. Barnabas) moved forward and into uncharted territories where staggered school schedules, learning cohorts, full time nurses, plexi-glass dining pods, masks, hand washing, temperature checks, and social distancing became standard procedures.  

The Villager was able to contact three of these principals to discuss their students return, their concerns, their victories and remaining Catholic school strong. 

Is there a motto that has lifted you and your school families over the last few months? 

Dr. Ann Riordan:  Our motto is simply, “One day at a time,” for truly that is all we can sometimes handle with things changing so rapidly. 

Michelle NitscheWhen the going gets tough in Warrior nation, we always remember we have to dig deep and stay “Warrior Strong” 

Maura Nash: Together, we’ve got this!  

What have been your challenges?  

Riordan:  Our biggest challenges are having everyone understand that their behavior outside of school directly impacts our ability to remain open to in-person learning and supporting the teachers as they continue to offer so many different modes of instruction to meet the needs of all their students. We literally have students learning from home, students learning in school, teachers instructing from home and teachers instructing in school! Teachers have a rotating roster of kids in and out of school and keeping track of who needs what makes their job more complicated. 

Nash: The day to day demands of running a school well are challenging regardless of the year. However, doing so during a pandemic is like nothing else. Our days are filled with unpredictable and unplanned issues, illnesses, student and staff absences, etc. Things are happening and coming up this year which no one could have planned for. Keeping morale high for both our students and staff takes calculated communication, commitment, dedication and consistency. Every single day is important, and we treat every single day like this could be our last day in-person. Therefore we waste no time and do our absolute best to smile and laugh through it all.  

What accomplishments, emanating from safely educating students during a pandemic, make you smile? 

Riordan:  What makes me smile each day is the true happiness students and staff experience with being together. It makes all the hard work worth it! I also am so very proud of our teachers for how adaptable they have been through all of this. They have been asked to do more than they ever bargained for, and they have done so with love, compassion and professionalism that truly makes me proud to be their colleague! 

Nitsche: What makes me smile most is that we accomplished what so many people told us we couldn’t! I often tell my staff that they should be proud of their accomplishments as they are part of an educational model that will be remembered throughout history. Another one of our greatest victories is that we are giving our students the personal, face to face instruction that we know they are most responsive to. Even with the bumps in the road, we sometimes experience, our children are not missing any instructional minutes!  

Nash:  I am beyond proud of our professional, loving and adaptable faculty and staff and our wonderfully smart, resilient and fun students. Both groups alike come to school every single day with a grateful heart and a smile on their face – eager to learn together. We are so fortunate to be in-person together and not a day goes by that we don’t remind one another of that.  

As a proactive safety measure, following the Christmas holiday all Catholic school students will learn remotely and self-quarantine for two weeks before the planned school reopening on Jan. 19. 



Running to Raise Awareness for Technology Curriculum at Disadvantaged CPS Schools

By Tina Jenkins Bell 
BAPA School Liaison 

In his inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961President John F. Kennedy called Americans to action for their own and others’ greater good with these words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  

Michael Mancini, an English teacher, reading specialist, and football coach at Chicago Public School (CPS) Wendell Phillips Academy in Bronzevillerecently asked himself a similar question. How could he best help his students by reversing a deficit that could limit their college and career choices and possibly impact their abilities to support themselves and their families in the future? 

“I’d read a quote by an artificial intelligence expert Kai-Fu Lee who stated 40% of jobs will be lost to automation in 15 years. I worried that people like my students would be chewed up and left in the dust, particularly because Phillips currently has no computer science curriculum,” Mancini said.  

With this deficit spurring him to action, Mancini talked to Phillips Academy Principal Matthew G. Sullivan and staff to figure out how the school might best integrate a computer science department that offers instruction in various facets of technology, including coding, robotics, and artificial intelligence.  

Mancini, a former Boston resident, decided to run in the Boston Marathon to raise awareness for the need for technology instruction at Phillips. He also started a GoFundMe page to raise $250,000 to cover the salary and benefits for a technology instructor for two years as well as the costs for building a robotics lab. Since Oct. 1, $4800 has been raised. The minimum donation is $5. 

Mancini, who lives in Beverly/Morgan Park with his wife and two young daughters, hopes his ongoing efforts to train for the Boston Marathon, set for Apr. 19, 2021, will keep the need for technology instruction at Phillips in the forefront. 

“Distance running is not my strong suit. Prior to this, I was a power lifter and a sprinter at best, never a long-distance runner,” Mancini said. Mancini, who currently weighs about 260 pounds, once weighed 474 pounds. He said despite the challenges of his size and his body being more that of a “lifter” than a runner, he is committed to seeing this goal become a reality. 

“It’s been a challenge to create a buzz about this,” he said, “but hopefully people will see me doing this crazy thing for a good cause.”  

To train, Mancini has reached out Running Excels,10328 S. Western, for guidance. 

“I stopped by Running Excels to get my gait tested and get guidance on nutrition, running, and equipment,” Mancini said. 

Wendell Phillips Academy High School was the alma mater for Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke and Gwendolyn Brooks. For more information, contact Mancini, To make a donation, visit 



Quality and Caring Wherever You Look  Schools in Beverly/Morgan Park


Local School Council Elections 

In November, Chicago Public School parents will have one more very important election in which to participate. Local School Council (LSC) elections will be held during report card pick-up days at elementary schoolon Wed., Nov. 18, and Morgan Park High School (or the high school your child attends) on Thurs., Nov. 19. For CPS school families, LSC elections are as important as the national election because LSC members make decisions that impact your child’s school, from administration to education. LSC members monitor the school improvement plan, monitor the school’s budget and expenditures, and evaluate the school principal annually. They are responsible for hiring or renewing principal contracts. The council consists of parents, community members, and educators. To identify who sits on your school’s LSC, visit 

Service to Others at MPA 

Morgan Park Academy (MPA) students are keeping alive the school’s 150-year tradition of service despite a COVID-related absence of large service projects off campus this semester. One recent example came from Delia and Cormac Bergin, Beverly/Morgan Park residents who are in 6th and 3rd grades, respectively. The siblings gathered donations from their MPA friends and classmates to help our neighbors at the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry. Way to go, Delia and Cormac! 

Pandemic, What? MPHS School Spirit, Yes! 

Morgan Park High School celebrated Mustang Pride with a virtual Spirit Week in October. Students participated in  Black Out DayPajama Day, Class Color Day, Hat Day MPHS Gear Day. Students and staff showed pride each day of the week with Google Meet screenshots. Student-submitted photos were collected and published on Twitter (@empehi4ever). Many of the memories from this week will be included in the school’s 2021 yearbook.  

St. Cajetan Proud! 

St. Cajetan School principal Michelle Nitsche recently received the St. Thomas Aquinas Award. This award is given to principals who are called to provide the very best academic education and evokes the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of Catholic schools, for relentlessly fostering excellence in education through a commitment to rigorcontinuous improvement, and best 21st. Century instructional practices. Congratulations, Principal Nitsche! 

Eat and Earn for St. Walter Elementary School 

Grab a good solid meal at Chipotle, 2302 W. 95th St., Mon., Nov. 16, 4 to 8 p.m., and they will make a donation to St. Walter Elementary School. All you need do is print and bring the fundraising flyer on Facebook at StWalterChicago.  

Excellent School Gardens  

Congratulations to the Kellogg School Garden Club (1st place) and Sutherland School Outdoor Classroom (3rd place) on receiving Chicago Excellence in Gardening video challenge awards. In addition to modest cash prizes, the winners will receive gift certificates from City Grange.    

Email school news to Tina Jenkins Bell, 



St. Walter School Welcomes New Principal 

By Kristin Boza 

Over the summer, St. Walter Catholic School, 11741 S. Western, welcomed its new principal, Veronica CashEducation is Cash’s second career. After earning a BA in Graphic Arts from Eastern Illinois University she felt called to the field of teaching. As principal of St. Walter, Cash is looking forward to ensuring the students stay strong academically in addition to keeping them safe during the pandemic.  

Cash earned a MA in Teaching from Concordia University Chicago and an additional MA in Administration from Loyola University Chicago. She taught 3rd grade at her childhood Catholic elementary school, St. Edmund in Oak Park, before pursuing education leadership opportunities. Her previous positions at Catholic schools throughout Chicagoland ultimately led her to St. Walter. 

“I felt like I had a new calling to grow some more professionally and interviewed at a few south side Catholic schools,” Cash said. “I am really excited to be here at St. Walter; the student community is amazing and I’m excited to learn more about the neighborhoods around our school.” 

The main priority right now, as St. Walter is offering in-person instruction, is to keep the students safe and healthy. Cash and her team scoured the reopening framework from the Archdiocese of Chicago to assemble their own comprehensive health and safety plan and team.  

“We went through each step set up by the Archdiocese and made sure we communicated that with our school community,” she said. “Now that we’re open, we are making sure we adhere to the rules in the framework. Our children have been great about wearing masks and following the protocol, and we’re continuing to ensure we keep ourselves as safe as we can.” 

Some students declined to return to in-person learning, so the teachers are balancing their remote students with their in-person class. This is achieved through livestreaming the instruction during the day.  

“Our teachers are getting really comfortable with this form of teaching and finding new ways to implement Google Classroom with both in-person and remote learners,” Cash said. “In a way, this opportunity is exciting because we’re all thinking a little differently to make things happen and trying new things that we may not have considered before the pandemic.” 

Growing up in Oak Park, Cash feels a similar vibe in Beverly/Morgan Park as in her hometown. “I’ve been very happy here, and I think it says a lot about St. Walter that three of our teachers are alumni of the school! That’s definitely a testament to the school and community,” she said.  

St. Walter Catholic School still has openings for in-person learning in preschool through 8th grade. Call 773-445-8850 to learn more. 

Eat and Earn for St. Walter Elementary School 


Grab a good solid meal at Chipotle’s (Beverly), 2302 W. 95th Street, on November 16, 2020, from 4:00p-8:00p, and they will make a donation to St. Walter Elementary School. All you need do is print and bring the fundraising flyer from Facebook 


Congratulations to the Kellogg School Garden Club (1st place) and Sutherland School Outdoor Classroom (3rd place) on receiving Chicago Excellence in Gardening video challenge awardsIn addition to modest cash prizes, the winners will receive gift certificates from City Grange.    

One School’s Pandemic Response:  Back to School at All Day Montessori 


In September, All Day Montessori students returned to school after longest break in the school’s 25-year history.  Staff planned and discussed pandemic response policies, but it was all theory until it was put into action.   

Everything was sparkling clean, the tables spread apart, and the drive up/drop off signs ready for the parents.  There were new contactless thermometers, contactless sign in with the new app Transparent Classroom, and lots of PPE.  No one knew what to expect. The children were so happy to return to school. The parents were a little nervous, but thankful to bring their children back. The faculty was a little overwhelmed, but excited to do the work they love, caring for and teaching young children. 

All teachers and students age three and up wear masks except when they are eating, drinking or sleeping.  Each classroom is considered a contained unit. In their classroomsstudents work at designated tables and each has a little basket for when they remove their masks to eat or drink. The children adapting to these different expectations has been effortless. They just seem happy to be back with their teachers and friends. 

ADM parents have read and agreed to the Pandemic Policies which include daily screening; a 72-hour fever, symptom and medicine-free policy; and expectations of clear and honest communication about COVID exposure and travel.  We held town hall meetings to discuss our policies and answered questions regarding a variety of scenarios.  The goal is to keep students, family and faculty as protected from exposure to COVID-19 as possible.  Everyone has a shared responsibility to one other. 

Faculty memberdecided whether they felt comfortable coming back to work.  Discussions covered Pandemic policies and changes to school systems to support social distancing.  Parents have a scheduled arrival time. They drive up, show their child’s card, and a teacher meets them at the car wearing PPE to ask the screening questions, take the child’s temperature, and check them in.  

The children enter the building, change their shoes, wash hands for the first of many times, and begin their school day.  All the preparation and planning has paid off. The pure joy on the children’s faces has reinforced that it was all worth it.  When the parents come to pick up their children, their relief from accomplishing some of their work is evident.  The children are tired and happy from a fulfilling day at school.  The faculty has shared their full heart and peaceful contentment to return to the work they love.   

All Day Montessori, founded for working parents, provides a nurturing, educationally rich and developmentally appropriate environment, 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. each school day.  There are a few spots available. Parents interested in learning more can contact Rebecca Bellonci, or 773-239-8330. 


Meet MPHS New Boys’ Basketball Coach, Chris Gardner 

By: Tina Jenkins Bell 

Morgan Park High School’s new boys’ basketball coach Chris Gardner has a plan. A family man who is married to wife Tia and father to one-year old daughter Dylan, Coach Gardner says he has a commitment to rear teams of responsible young men who understand their greatness does not start nor end on a basketball court. He said, “I want people to know our guys have potential academically and as contributors to the community. I want my players to know that too; their value surpasses their skills in basketball.”  

Coach Gardner is also committed to winning games and, having played semi-professionally in Iran and here in the United States, he obviously loves the basketball. But, he’s a balanced blend of an educator, coach, and family man, and so he is serious about transforming boys to men who know their worth on and off the court. 

Are you Christopher, Christian or just Chris?  

Legally I’m Christopher. Mostly, I’m just Chris. The kids call me Coach CG, nickname that kind of stuck from my playing days.  At home, I’m Chris, and I’m Christopher when I’m in trouble. 

Are you a resident of the Beverly/Morgan Park community? 

Actually, my wife and I are in the process of closing on a home in Beverly, so I will be in the area. I grew up in Washington Heights.  

Tell me about your new position. 

Morgan Park High School is such a high-profile program with so many state championships and a national name. I don’t take that lightly. I humbly accept the challenge of maintaining that name and having a standard of my own and raising it to a new level. As for responsibilities, I’ll oversee the boys basketball program, going from seventh to twelfth grade. Obviously, you know we want to win ball games and compete at the highest level and aspire to win state championships. But, more importantly, I want these kids to be champions of the classroom and champions of the community to go along with that. It will be my job to oversee that. More importantly, it will be my job to teach the guys life lessons through the game of basketball in a team and family atmosphere, and to raise these young boys into young men and help them through that process.  

Those attributes and responsibilities have traditionally been the job a coach, right? 

A coach wears a lot of hats. Sometimes, indirectly you can be mentors, big brothers, father figures, mediators, counselors, disciplinarians… sometimes we’re the only male figure in the lives of these players from teenagers until they become grown.  With that, you want to make sureon a daily basisyou’re a positive influence in their lives. Once you have that, things get a little easier from a basketball standpoint because they trust you. The trust factor is a big thing these days. When I was growing up, it was always a “respect your elders” or a run to the wall and ask questions later. But now, kids have to be able to trust you before they run to that wall. I understand that. I take on that challenge for every kid. 

When does the season begin? 

Games will start in November. It will be a condensed season this year, from November to February. A full season is from November to March. 

What are some of your goals for this school year? 

The number one goal this year, when school starts virtually and still having to figure out how to conduct workouts, is to maintain safety during COVID. I’ve already gotten thermometers. Masks are on the way. I even got them spray bottles to keep in their pockets to have hand sanitizer on hand. I’m working on buying a machine to spray down equipment in the gym and creating “walk-through” zones so that athletes can work out in their own safety bubbles. So, when we start our open gyms, practices, try-outs and things of that nature, I want to do everything within my power to make sure these kids operate in a COVID-free environment.  

The second part to that is I want to make sure all of our athletes have a laptop and access to the Internet. I want to know they’re online getting their classes and instruction and submitting their work. I think right now the academics are more important than anything because the truth of the matter is that if this COVID-thing gets worse it’s possible the season could be cancelled. So, at the very least, at the forefront should be their academics and safety before we can remotely talk about a game.  

What precautions do you plan to take during games? 

I’m not sure if there will be spectators, but I have a plan (if there are no spectators) to socially distance athletes, either by having them sit six feet apart in the bleachers on spacing the chairs that way. I will be working with our athletic director and Dr. Skanes to ensure that everything is safe for us and other teams.  


Have any of your goals changed in light of COVID? 

No. The goals have not changed. The priorities might have changed a bit because safety, security, and their academics are going to come first. Let’s say the season is cancelled, I still have to help kids get into college, and to ensure that they are extrarecruitable from the academic side of things. Across the country, we’re asking these kids to learn remotely. Their parents may not be home as they work, so we’ve got to make sure they are retaining and learning in their online sessions. I’ve proposed to have an athletic study table. Once their log in requirement hours are over, they must conduct that (the study table) before we do workouts every day. This would be for all players, from 7th through 12. 

With ten years-experience, what are some of your greatest achievements?  

Seeing Adam Miller named player of the year and Mr. Basketball.” I am very excited for him and what he will accomplish at the University of Illinois. Prior to that, at Kankakee Community College, I was there for four years. Each of those years a Junior College All American was produced. More importantly, more than 90% of those kids received scholarships to attend four-year colleges, where they would not have to pay to attend school. At Morgan Park High School, we want our kids to go to college — through scholarships based on academics, athletics, or their operational knowledge of basketball.  

What was your greatest challenge? My last year at one community college where I had twelve good guys but not all were committed to the classroom. Due to academic issues, we finished the year with only seven guys. Our team played in a national tournament despite that.  

Part of the issue was the minimal support from that particular college, but this time around I’ll have full support from MPHS administration, athletic director, and other staff. That relationship is very important, and I will do my best to do my part every single day.  

But challenges are a fact of life. Every kid is going to have a difficult situation to navigate through those tough times. Helping them grow up especially in this time of COVID and social justice…how to do things, what to say, what not to say. Guiding them through all of this is just part of the territory of being a coach.  






Area Principals Develop Parent-Centered Online Training and Leadership Alliance to Promote Quality, Equitable Education Across the 19th Ward 

By Tina Jenkins Bell 
BAPA School Liaison 

Six principals representing elementary schools across the Beverly/Morgan Park community recently forged an alliance to share resources, schedules, and ideas to assure equitable, quality educations for studentsno matter their school 

“We heard from parents via surveys and emails. Their chief concerns were that they wanted to help their students but didn’t know the platforms or technology. We began to talk with each other about the best ways to support our students, parents, and teachers,” Vanderpoel Humanities Academy Principal Kia Banks said. “Instead of repeating last spring’s situation of rushing to come up with remote learning solutions as schools closed due to the quarantine, we wanted to begin the school year with answers, guidance, and support. 

Banks is one of the participating principals collaborating in the leadership pod; other principals include Kathleen Valente, Barnard; JaMonica Marion, Clissold; Dr. Angela Tucker, Esmond; Dr. Cory Overstreet, Kellogg; and Margaret Burns, Sutherland. 

The entire team credited Clissold Principal Marion for sparking their alliance after discussing her efforts to create training to assist parents in keeping their students on trackan effort she began earlier this summer.  

To pave the way for accountability and student excellence, one of the initiatives to emerge from this proactive “think tank” is a series of well-designed and presented parent-focused technology training and guides. Last August, the first line of workshops covered Google and Aspen training, a centralized platform for hosting and managing student data, such as class schedules, school events, student performance, athletic eligibility, and individual health records. Workshops were offered at multiple times and divided by PreKindergarten through 4th and 5th through 8th grades.  

The workshops were recorded for easy retrieval and reference and can be accessed at (link). 

“With patience and grace, we want to support our parents by showing them proven, best practices they can use to facilitate their children’s progress,” Dr. Tucker said. 

The principal pod’s overall focus is strong, positive and progressive student performance. Accordingly, their collaborations exceed their leadership concerns and needs to also include support, trainings, and guidance for teachers and staff.  

“We’re sharing all kinds of resources with the common goal of student success,” Dr. Overstreet said. “We heard about Sutherland’s use of an equity consultant to guide staff and teaching personnel in diversity and inclusivity. Now, we’re working with the same consultant to work with us at Kellogg. We’re all connected here, working together and bringing our teachers, like our IB instructors, to collaborate across schools.” 

The team also work with other groups that support similar priorities. Collectively, they promoted the Remote Learning Symposium Developed by mothers and educators comprising the Beverly Area Mom’s Facebook group. Presented from July through the beginning of September, the symposium consisted of a series of workshops covering a variety of topics, including getting ready for remote learning, understanding new math, reading, balancing parental instructional obligations with self-care, and motivating youth to learn and other subjects. To access these presentations, materials, and additional resources, visit  

“We are not operating in a vortex. Instead, we’re sharing our ideas while also utilizing strengths and resources in the community,” Burns said. 

Foreseeing challenges and understanding the stakes, these principals are developing support networks, workshops, and resources within and beyond CPS — all to ensure their students have every opportunity to soar — whether learning remotely or in the classroom. They are also committed to giving school parents and guardians every chance to support them. 

Each of the principals agreed there is no competition between the schools. They said, any parent looking for a schoowill receive high quality, equitable education at any one of the six schools.