Michael N., South Chicago


Michael N., a native Chicagoan and former CPS student, is the proud father of Carson a 4th grade student at CICS-Avalon, a charter public school on the south side of Chicago. Before discovering CICS-Avalon, at the New Schools Expo at Soldier Field, Michael and his family looked at the neighborhood traditional school when their son was about to start kindergarten, but didn’t feel that the environment was right for their son. 


“I wasn’t very knowledgeable about charters, because they didn’t exist when I was in elementary and high school. We looked at 5-6 charter schools, before choosing Avalon…which I thought had the organizational structure and environment that would support academic growth,” says Michael.

Michael was happy to discover that teachers and school staff were very receptive to his involvement in the classroom. As an active parent, open lines of communication with the school is very important to Michael and CICS-Avalon is a partner to him in his son’s education.

“The best analogy I can think of is that if you have a loved one in the hospital…although the doctors and nurses take an oath to provide everyone medical care, there is a really good chance that if they know someone is going to be coming in to check on the patient—that sister, that mother, that wife, that dad—whatever the case may be—they are probably going to go above and beyond to take care of that patient because they know somebody cares about them. It’s the same way when it comes to schools.  I introduce myself to the teachers and school staff on the first day, and let them know that I am there to be a partner to them, to ensure that my child gets the best education possible,” says Michael.

Michael’s engagement in the school, and the school’s ability to support Carson both academically and socially has fostered great outcomes. As a 3rd grader Michael’s son outscored not only his 3rd grade peers, but also the 4th graders in his school on his NWEA exam. Michael is happy that Carson’s teachers aren’t afraid that he’s ahead of the curriculum and are glad to keep him engaged and interested in learning.

The school maintains a high level of discipline, which Michael appreciates because he attended a school in Englewood where fighting was a regular occurrence. Now, Michael looks for a school where his son will not only be safe, but can focus on learning because the environment is disciplined but also encouraging. 

Michael says that if he could change one thing about the Chicago education system it would be how the schools are funded. “Poorer neighborhoods provide a lower amount of tax revenue…and the only way to even that out is if some of the ‘haves’ start sharing a bit with some of the ‘have nots’—or it’s always going to be the way that it is. There will always be students who can make it out of an under resourced school and defy the odds, but the majority will not because the resources aren’t there and the system is not there.”