Afternoon Edition: Jan. 24, 2022

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Chicago Public Schools interim chief education officer Maurice Swinney listens during a press conference at a Chicago Public Schools headquarters in the Loop.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition


Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a high near 26 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low around 4 and sub-zero wind chills. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 11 and wind chill values as low as minus 10.

Top story

CPS’ top education, health officials leaving as CEO announces major shakeup in leadership team

The two top education and health officials at Chicago Public Schools are leaving the district and are among several major leadership changes coming in CEO Pedro Martinez’s first few months on the job.

The departures, largely by choice, mean much of former schools chief Janice Jackson’s cabinet has left in the past year, including almost all of the school system’s top Black leaders.

Interim chief education officer Maurice Swinney is resigning and chief health officer Ken Fox is retiring, both effective in February. After Clarence Carson’s ousting as facilities chief this past fall over dirty schools complaints, the district’s three highest-ranking Black men are gone in the span of three months.

Alexandra Sontag, a nurse practitioner who has been a key member of the district’s pandemic response, has also left for a role with the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Martinez is appointing Bogdana Chkoumbova, who oversees the team of administrators that manages the district’s 500-plus principals, to fill the chief education officer role in place of Swinney. That position is essentially the district’s second-in-charge.

District officials confirmed the moves will be up for Board of Education approval at Wednesday’s monthly meeting after the Sun-Times learned of the changes from sources close to CPS’ central office late last week.

In an interview today, Martinez said he’s sensitive to the unexpected departure of Black leaders.

Read Nader Issa’s full story for more on Martinez’s comments about the leadership changes at CPS.

More news you need

  1. Two days after the tragic murder of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Little Village, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago police have “some promising leads” in the shooting, which CPD leader David Brown said resulted from gang conflicts. Fran Spielman has more on the case and the search for Ortega’s killer.
  2. The CTA is preparing to demolish and rebuild a section of 100-year-old train tracks on the North Side as part of a $2.1 billion modernization project that began several years ago. The work, which is set to begin in February, will replace the aging tracks and remove a curve that forces trains to slow down.
  3. The transit agency also announced today that it has reached a tentative four-year labor deal with the union representing its bus and rail workers. David Roeder has more on the tentative labor agreement.
  4. A new exhibition at Northwestern’s Block Museum aims to shine a light on more than a century of art depicting and condemning racial violence. Titled “A Site of Struggle,” the exhibition assembles works ranging from the time of 1890s anti-lynching campaigns through the 2013 founding of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  5. The “rails to trails” movement that led to the creation of The 606 on the Northwest Side has now turned its sights to a section of unused tracks on the West Side that would be transformed into another scenic trail. Roeder has more on the proposed “Altenheim Line,” including gentrification concerns by local residents.
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A bright one

Take a look at Schurz High School’s historic murals, restored after leaks, damage

The domed library inside Schurz High School on North Milwaukee Avenue has been described as the “Sistine Chapel” of the Northwest Side campus because of the historic murals painted there more than 80 years ago.

They’re still there, now restored.

What’s considered the masterpiece of the space, titled “The Spirit of Chicago,” illustrates some of Chicago’s history.

Other murals on the arched walls celebrate the history of the written word.

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The centerpiece mural of the Schurz High School library, titled “The Spirit of Chicago,” was completed more than 80 years ago by artist Gustave Brand, who oversaw a number of paintings in the building that were touched up in 2020.

Robert Herguth/Sun-Times

Portraits of important figures — from Homer in ancient Greece to Ludwig Van Beethoven to Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling of the actual Sistine Chapel in the 1500s — dot the walls.

In 2020, the artwork underwent a “touch-up,” school officials say, to restore parts damaged by moisture or age — helping to ensure that the paintings remain in good shape for future generations of students.

“It does give a context to learning,” Lori Kunc, the school’s library and instructional technology coordinator, says of the art. “In this technological world — with the history of the written word — it reminds you how far we’ve come.”

If you enjoy stories like this one about Schurz’s historic murals, make sure to sign up for our new Murals & Mosaics newsletter to learn even more about Chicago’s public works of art and the stories behind them.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What was your first reaction to the Packers’ postseason elimination yesterday?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.gcom and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

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On Friday, we asked you: What’s your best tip for Chicago transplants weathering their first winter here?

“Cover your ears in the chilly wind! I used to get the worst headaches when I first moved here.” — Christine Reese Luri

“If you see a janky-looking chair in an open parking space on the street, don’t move it.” — Susan Erica

“When the cold weather hits, fashion goes out of the window.” — Julie Sahlin

“Warmth over fashion. Invest in a full-length down coat, warm and water resistant gloves and a hat lined with fleece. No one cares what you look like, so you might as well be warm.” — Lainey Elaine

“Invest in a snowblower, you won’t regret it.” — Tracy Campbell

“Great city. Soon you won’t notice the cold. Learn to drive in it. Dress in layers.” — Marion McLaughlin

“Long underwear and Jim Beam.” — Alan Ross

“Sorry for your bad decision … reverse it if possible.” — Jill Renee

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