Noble schools navigate uncertainty amid CEO scandal, new political climate

The Noble Network of Charter Schools was working this week to put out fires threatening multiple fronts given the recent election of a governor who backs a moratorium on new charter schools, and ongoing fallout from the resignation of founder and CEO Michael Milkie. Milkie will step down next month because of “inappropriate behavior with alumni.” On Thursday, Noble’s new CEO said in a call to bondholders that Noble has weathered storms before and would persevere — but sidestepped giving specifics on the changing political climate and instituting whistleblower protections. Read about the call here.

Milkie’s departure has also sparked some Noble teachers to make the case for unionizing. Chalkbeat Chicago spoke with the teachers about how the Milkie ordeal affects their collective bargaining push.

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff, and we round up Chicago education news every week — just for you. Please send any tips or story ideas our way: And support local journalism! Sign up for our newsletter, here, and share it with a friend.

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The Week in Review

Abuse scandal update: Six months after the student sexual abuse scandal broke, the school district hasn’t hired anyone to head the office formed to protect students. Chalkbeat Chicago reports.

City-state thaw: Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson headlines an advisory group formed by governor-elect J.B. Pritzker to build and support his education agenda. Pritzker’s education transition team differs markedly from the one current Gov. Bruce Rauner picked for his transition. Chalkbeat Chicago explains.

The dual language push: Eight more elementary schools in Chicago will offer the popular dual language instruction program next school year, the school district announced Wednesday. Read about it at Chalkbeat Chicago.

Tardy measures: Chicago Public Schools had evidence that a former principal had falsified attendance records for months before his removal. But the school district sat on the evidence, according to the Chicago Reader.

Leading by example: The popular principal of Orozco Elementary talks honestly about his mental health struggles in hopes of inspiring more honest conversations in the Latino community and beyond. The Chicago Sun-Times visits his school.

Bad weather: The first large snowstorm of the school year caused power outages Monday at about 20 schools in Chicago, including one elementary school where students had to be moved to another building. Here’s what happened, from Chalkbeat Chicago.

Black ed reformers: In her new book, Elizabeth Todd-Breland maps former Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis’ political trajectory with the city’s contentious education history. Chalkbeat Chicago gives it a read.

Looking Ahead

Annual Regional Analysis: Chicago Public Schools will hold six more workshops offering the public a chance to comment on a controversial report about enrollment, academic options and quality at schools throughout Chicago. Here’s a list of presentations to come, and a preview of the issues facing communities where the meetings are scheduled.

Charter decisions: On Dec. 5, Chicago’s school board will decide whether to greenlight three new charter schools. Here’s a closer look at the proposals.

Applications are due: Families have until Dec. 14 to apply to schools outside their neighborhood via the district’s GoCPS application. Here’s how some schools are trying to woo families. 

Education for all? On Dec. 12, we’re hosting our biggest public forum to date on the topic of Chicago’s next mayor and the future of schools in the city. Only a few seats remain. RSVP here.


This week’s #HighFive goes to Brian Coleman, the kind of school counselor who will turn a one-handed cartwheel while being cheered on by his colleagues. That’s what happened Tuesday shortly after students and staff at Jones College Prep surprised the high-energy educator with the news he was the national school counselor of the year. Chalkbeat Chicago caught up with Coleman for a conversation about his work at Jones, “data-driven counseling,” mental health staffing at Chicago schools, and his “unicorn philosophy” for getting kids to open up.

“You create a space for them to be, like, OK, I can be odd or weird or different or confused and work through that in a way that’s going to help me improve and get closer to where I want to be,” Coleman said. “That’s the secret. Be authentic. Be real.”