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Center for Effective Government, Chicago Public Schools Announce Second Cohort of Executive Leadership Seminar Series Staff Participants 


Multi-year Partnership, Supported by Crown Family Philanthropies, Brings World-Class Executive Education from University of Chicago to Senior CPS Staff 

April 23, 2024

The University of Chicago Center for Effective Government (CEG) recently welcomed a cohort of 25 senior leaders from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to the University’s Harris School of Public Policy for the second year of its Executive Leadership Seminar Series — an innovative partnership between CEG and CPS that provides immersive, multi-disciplinary leadership training to senior-level staff at CPS.

The Seminar Series, which is comprised of four day-long sessions held over six weeks, seeks to develop skills for CPS staff to lead their departments, other leaders, and the organization as a whole. Participants will engage in sessions on topics of leadership capacity, negotiation, persuasion, resilience, communication, and more, taught by leading University of Chicago faculty and experienced practitioners from the field. 

“In order to advance reform and pursue more effective governance, we need thoughtful, capable leaders who are well-prepared to pave the way forward,” said Sadia Sindhu, Executive Director of the Center for Effective Government. “Through this partnership with CPS, we’re able to engage with leaders in education doing important work to maintain and evolve an essential public institution. By bringing these leaders in contact with a rich curriculum and world-class faculty, we’re investing in the future of CPS and its role in Chicago.” 

The Seminar Series was designed by CEG specifically for Chicago Public Schools, and builds on the success of the Civic Leadership Academy, CEG’s flagship leadership development and training program for local government and non-profit leaders. The Academy, now in its 10th year, boasts 300 fellows and alumni who hold key leadership positions across Chicago and Cook County’s civic sector. 

Through this partnership, both CEG and CPS hope to emphasize the importance of investing in a diverse group of high-quality leaders, and the potential for such an investment to make a direct impact on students and families in Chicago.

“We’re excited to continue our partnership with the Center for Effective Government to invest in the development of our senior leadership team,” said CPS Chief Talent Officer Ben Felton (CLA’18). “In order to create the best outcomes for our schools and students, it’s important for those in leadership positions to continue evolving their skills and perspectives. As an alumnus of the Center for Effective Government’s Civic Leadership Academy, which provides similar education and development to the CPS Executive Leadership Seminar Series, I know how professionally transformative these experiences can be. This opportunity for the CPS senior leadership team will enable our systems to continue growing and improving, allowing us to accomplish our mission to provide a high-quality education to every student in every neighborhood.”

Members of the second cohort were selected by Chicago Public Schools for the Seminar Series from a wide range of eligible employees across CPS departments and functions who applied to participate. This years’ Seminar Series had a competitive selection process, with more than double the number of applicants as the inaugural year of the program. Thanks to a grant from Crown Family Philanthropies to Children First Fund, the Chicago Public Schools Foundation, the three-year program is fully funded at no cost to CPS, CEG, or individual participants.

“I’m honored to be selected as a participant for the second Executive Leadership Seminar Series alongside so many incredible colleagues and collaborators at CPS,” said Series cohort member Ricardo Trujillo, Deputy Chief at the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services. “As leaders and educators ourselves, we know how important continued investment in learning and development are for the long-term achievement of Chicago Public Schools’ mission. I’m looking forward to engaging with fellow leaders as part of this innovative program.” 

The 2024 staff cohort of the CPS Executive Leadership Seminar Series includes:

  • Zaneta Abdul-Ahad; Deputy Chief, Network 12; Office of Network Support
  • Gabriela Arismendi (MA/MSW’10, MBA’21); Director of Strategy and Policy; Board of Trustees
  • Errika Baker; Executive Director, Advanced Learning & Specialty Programs; Office of Teaching & Learning
  • Tamika Ball; Deputy Chief, Network 17; Office of Network Support
  • Elizabeth Barton; Managing Deputy General Counsel; Law Department
  • Robert Christlieb; Executive Director, Facility Operations; Facilities Department
  • Sarah Dickson (MPP’14); Director of External Research; School Quality Measurement and Research
  • Mary Fergus; Executive Director, Media Relations; Office of Communications
  • Jasmine Illa; Director, Communication Operations; Office of Communications
  • Andrew Mason; Managing Freedom of Information Act Officer; Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office
  • Letitia McGee; Director of Business Operations; Office of College and Career Success
  • Sydney Morris; Chief of Staff to the Chief Education Officer; Chief Education Office
  • Maggie Morrow; Director of Strategic Planning; Chief Executive Office
  • Ali Muhammad; Deputy Chief, Student Readiness; Office of College and Career Success
  • Tawanna Patton; Director of Teacher Leadership; Talent Office
  • Jennifer Reger; Executive Director, Administrative Hearings; Law Department
  • Devin Swartley; Director, School Leadership Pipeline; Department of Principal Talent
  • Chad Thomas; Director of School Leader Engagement; Department of Principal Quality
  • Cynthia Treadwell; Executive Director; Office of Social and Emotional Learning
  • Ricardo Trujillo; Deputy Chief; Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services
  • Iliana Vargas; Director; Department of Planning and Data Management
  • Rochelle Washington; Director of Performance and Accountability; Office of Innovation and Incubation
  • Kimberly Watson; Chief of Staff to the Chief Operating Officer; Chief Operating Office
  • Tamara West; Director, Data Management; Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services
  • Chinuotu Wonuigwe; Director, Student Transportation; Office of Student Transportation Services


About the Center for Effective Government

The University of Chicago Center for Effective Government (CEG) is a nonpartisan academic initiative that aims to strengthen democratic institutions and improve the capacity of government to solve public problems. Founded in 2019 at the Harris School of Public Policy, CEG works to solve the problems of government ineffectiveness with a multi-faceted theory of action. The Center builds bridges between its stakeholders—scholars, students, practitioners, leaders, journalists, and advocates—and organizes its work and activities around the key areas of ideas, education, and engagement.

About Chicago Public Schools (CPS)

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is dedicated to providing a high-quality education to all students, beginning with the District’s free full-day preschool programming for four-year-old scholars and continuing through neighborhood, magnet and selective-enrollment elementary schools that provide a rigorous K-8 education with schools that specialize in the fine arts, world language and culture, dual language, STEM, International Baccalaureate (IB), classical programs, and more. The rising District-wide freshmen-on-track and high school graduation rates reflect the hard work of the CPS community, including families, staff, and students across 635 schools. CPS celebrates the diversity of its more than 322,000 students who cite 182 home languages. Learn more about CPS at and connect with CPS on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.