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School Leadership

The University of Chicago Charter School is led by a team of dedicated, experienced educators—leaders who truly believe that all of our young people are capable of extraordinary things. Our school leaders relentlessly champion students' potential and possibilities at every grade, to help each student rise to excellence. Click below to learn more about our team.

Tanika Island Childress, Chief Executive Officer and Director (CEO)

Tanika Island Childress is the Chief Executive Officer and Director of the University of Chicago Charter School and its four campuses, as well as a managing director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI).

Prior to assuming her leadership role with UChicago Charter, Island Childress was the Director of the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) at UEI, where she oversaw program design, curriculum and program operations, as well as the recruitment of students, staff, faculty and clinical instructors. Before joining UTEP, Island was the UChicago Charter School's Chief Academic Officer and served for six years as the Director of the UChicago Charter North Kenwood/Oakland (NKO) Campus.

During her tenure as NKO Campus Director, Island Childress was recognized with a Community School Leadership Award in 2012 from the Federation of Community Schools and a Principal Achievement Award from the district in 2013. Island previously served as NKO's intermediate/upper grades literacy coordinator and as a 5th grade literacy instructor, providing professional development and creating literacy tools with researchers from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Before joining NKO, Island was an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University's Teaching Practicum and Field Experience Seminar and facilitated weekly discussions on educational practice and theory. From 1997 to 2001, Island was the 4th grade team leader for Martin L. King Experimental Laboratory School in Evanston, IL, where she took on the roles of Language Arts district representative, School Literacy Committee member, Teachers as Readers Committee member, a Sisterhood Project mentor and coordinator of Battle of the Books inter-school competition.

Island Childress received a BA in education with a concentration in psychology from National Louis University in Chicago. In May 2008, she received an MA in literacy education from Loyola University and received a leadership fellowship through the Urban Education Institute.

Jerrold Washington, Chief Academic Officer (CAO)

Jerrold Washington is the Chief Academic Officer for the University of Chicago Charter School's four campuses.

In this role, Washington will work directly with campus directors and their leadership teams in preparing 100% of our students for college acceptance and graduation through a pre-K to 12 Superhighway, which ultimately cultivates culturally aware critical thinkers and leaders.

Washington most recently worked as the Chief of Schools-Network 9, Chicago Public Schools. Washington holds a Master of Science Degree in School Leadership from Concordia University in River Forest, IL. Washington is from the South Side of Chicago, a product of Chicago Public Schools, a Golden Apple recipient and has been a teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal and principal in his 20 years at Chicago Public Schools.

Todd Barnett, Director of Partnerships

Todd Barnett is the Director of Partnerships at the University of Chicago Charter School. Barnett collaborates with the University of Chicago Laboratory School in particular, creating and managing special joint programming opportunities for students and families through the Lim Family partnership.

Prior to becoming the Director of Partnerships, Barnett served as Donoghue's Director of Family and Community Engagement.

Dr. Ramon Griffin, Chief Culture Officer

Dr. Ramon Griffin serves as Chief Culture Officer for the University of Chicago Charter School's four campuses.

Dr. Griffin recently graduated from Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in K-12 Educational Administration focusing on the ramifications of ‘No Excuses’ discipline in urban schools, the hazardous effects of complex trauma and the school to prison pipeline for adolescent black males. Professionally, Griffin has worked as a teacher, a dean of students and as a director of school culture in Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) in Houston, New Orleans and Detroit. Griffin was also a visiting researcher and facilitator with the Trauma Responsive Educational Practices (TREP) project at the University of Chicago and has also served as a juvenile detention officer in Harris County, TX. Dr. Griffin is a proud Ford Heights, IL native and he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice from the historically black college, Dillard University in New Orleans, LA.

Carla Scott, Director of Admissions, (FOIA Officer)

Carla Scott serves as the director of admissions for the University of Chicago Charter School. In partnership with the admissions team and campus operations managers, Scott oversees the application, registration and enrollment process for school's four campuses. Scott also collaborates with the communications team to develop recruitment materials and coordinate and execute recruitment strategies for UChicago Charter.

Prior to working as director of admissions, Scott worked for all four campuses as project manager for the University of Chicago Charter School and supported office staff at Woodlawn Campus. Scott's two children currently attend the UChicago Charter School. | 773-834-2865

LaTonya Hill, Director of Family and Community Engagement

LaTonya Hill has been appointed Director of Family and Community Engagement for the University of Chicago Charter School.

She will work closely with Todd Barnett to support the Family Teacher Community Organization (FTCO) and engage families across all four UChicago Charter campuses. Hill will also support the coordination of parent volunteers at the campuses, lead new efforts to enhance student retention and establish new partnerships with community-based organizations to expand resources for parents.

Hill has been a UChicago Charter Donoghue parent since 2005 and was named Family Support Counselor at Donoghue in 2009. As Family Support Counselor, Hill served as a liaison between the school and the most at risk students and their families. She facilitated academic and social support meetings, in which parents collectively brainstormed ways to support students who were struggling academically. She also worked on the Birth-to-College Initiative, communicating with families whose children were transitioning from childhood support centers into UChicago Charter.

“As a parent and having been a UChicago Charter parent before, I’m just excited to teach parents how to navigate school for their kids in a way that supports the family, the student and the community,” said Hill. “More and more, school has a role to play in the footprint for African American kids in Chicago. We have to do more, and at UChicago Charter we have the capacity to do it. I’m excited to take on the challenge.”

Tony Pajakowski, Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Tony Pajakowski is the chief technology officer at the University of Chicago Charter School. Pajakowski works with leaders across the school to strengthen the vision for technology implementation in grades Pre-K to 12. He serves as the principal advisor on all technology systems and initiatives and helps design, develop, implement and maintain a data platform to enable continuous academic and operational improvement across the University of Chicago Charter School.

Prior to joining UEI, Pajakowski worked for eight years with Perspectives Charter School, serving in roles including the director of data and accountability at Perspectives Charter School and as the principal of Calumet High School of Technology. Pajakowski is a New Leaders for New Schools Alumni and has previously served as the director of Chicago Public Schools' Technology Services eLearning Office. He started his career as a teacher at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, located on Chicago's West Side.

Pajakowski attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, the University of Notre Dame and holds his undergraduate degree from Northeastern Illinois University. He earned an MEd in curriculum and technology from the University of Phoenix and an MEd in administration and supervision from National Louis University.

Will Torres, Chief College Officer

Will Torres serves as Chief College Officer of the University of Chicago Charter School. Torres is responsible for promoting a college going culture that ensures UChicago Charter graduates receive the support that they need to meet the school's goal for 100% college acceptance and graduation.

Prior to joining UEI, Torres most recently worked as the Assistant Dean of Admissions at Pomona College in California. Torres holds a B.A. in Black Studies and English from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.

Tonya Howell, Campus Director, North Kenwood/Oakland

Tonya Howell is the director of the University of Chicago Charter School North Kenwood / Oakland (NKO) Campus.

Howell has worked with the UChicago Charter School since 2009, beginning as a fourth grade instructor before becoming a literacy coach, instructional coach and assistant director. Prior to joining UChicago Charter, Howell served as a teacher in Chicago Public schools. She received Type 75 administrative certification in 2007 and joined the Chicago New Teacher Center in 2008.

Howell holds a BA in elementary education and teaching from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MEd in education administration and leadership from Grand Canyon University.

Erin Gilmore Slack, Campus Director, Donoghue

Erin Gilmore Slack is the Director of the Donoghue (DON) Campus.

Prior to assuming the role of Campus Director at Donoghue, Erin served as the Resident Principal at Belding Elementary through a partnership between Dominican University and the Chicago Leadership Collaborative. Through her residency experience, Erin was able to focus on providing instructional coaching to teachers, leading professional development and data analysis sessions and facilitating parent engagement workshops. Erin started her teaching career in the West Englewood neighborhood as a 4th grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools. She then served the Donoghue campus for 5 years as both a 3rd grade teacher and instructional coach. Erin is passionate about building partnerships that will accelerate the development of young scholars into leaders who will have a positive impact on the community.

As a career changer, Erin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from DePaul University and started her professional career in pharmaceutical sales. She then attended Northwestern University, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Dominican University.

Jarred Brown, Campus Director, Carter G. Woodson

Jarred B. Brown is the Director of the University of Chicago Carter G. Woodson (CGW) Campus Middle School.

Brown has seventeen years of experience in the field of education. He started teaching in 1998 in district #129 where he taught for two years after receiving his Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Illinois State University. He then was given the opportunity to be a part of the teaching staff to open New Dawes Elementary School, a Chicago Public School in 2000. New Dawes later became Lionel Hampton fine and performing arts elementary school where Brown continued his teaching career for the next five years. During this time, he earned his masters degree in education supervision and leadership from St. Xavier University. In 2005 he was asked to be the curriculum coordinator/ parent facilitator, and then became the Assistant Principal for the next three years. In May of 2009 Brown became the Assistant Director for UChicago Charter Carter G. Woodson Campus. He worked to improve the quality of instruction and student performance in this role for 7 years, until June of 2016, then he transitioned to his current role.

Kieran Palmer-Klein, Campus Director, Woodlawn High School

Kieran Palmer-Klein is the Campus Director at the University of Chicago School Woodlawn (UCW) Campus.

Prior to joining UEI, Palmer-Klein served as a leader of the University YES Academy in Detroit, MI, supervising 14 teachers, designing and leading professional development, facilitating the student discipline system and managing all interim assessment implementation, data collection and analysis. While in Boston earning his MEd at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he also served as a resident principal of the award-winning City On A Hill High School. Palmer-Klein began his teaching career as a Teach For America Corps Member at Gage Park High School on Chicago's Southwest Side. During his six-year tenure at Gage Park, 55% of his Advanced Placement biology students passed the end-of-year exam, exceeding the national average for all students, not just students of color. While at Gage Park he also served as the One Goal Graduation Program Director, helping to launch the program and directly mentoring 36 alumni (24 juniors, 12 sophomores) all of whom are currently enrolled in college.

Palmer-Klein earned his BA in biology and psychology from Macalester College, an MEd from Concordia University in literacy, and an MEd in school leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds a certification from the KIPP School Leadership Program.

Sonia Wang, Campus Director, Woodlawn Middle School

Sonia Wang is the Middle School Director at the University of Chicago Charter School - Woodlawn (UCWMS)Campus.

Wang, endorsed in Middle School Social Sciences, Language Arts and Math, strives to find meaningful and relevant ways to challenge adolescents in the classroom. She spent five years teaching middle school English/Language Arts and Social Justice after graduating from the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program (Chicago UTEP) with her MAT. Wang then stepped into a leadership position, serving as the Middle School Instructional Coach and Literacy Specialist for two years. Wang served as the Assistant Director for two years, working to maintain a safe, collaborative and rigorous culture and context for learning and growth for students and staff.

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