I am Brandi Whitfield-Lewis, a dedicated life-long learner, leader and award-winning educator. I have proudly committed my entire professional career to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). I am a Chicago native, a former CPS student, mother and wife. I have been a CPS parent which has given me unique perspectives of strategies to improve this district. I have diverse leadership experiences with students and staff across the city and am committed to ensuring equity in learning for all students.

The proverbial flame which originally ignited my passion to become a leader in Chicago Public Schools was lit when I was a student in this very district. I was a bright student who attended Shakespeare Elementary, a CPS neighborhood school, located in an impoverished community in the Kenwood Oakland Community. In sixth grade, I was selected to participate in the gifted program at Ray Elementary, a school located in the affluent Hyde Park community approximately two miles away from our apartment.

Attending Ray was a new world for me. The level of academic exposure and rigor created a passion for learning I had never experienced before. Although I was excited for this chance to experience a thought provoking curriculum, this experience opened my eyes to the real inequities in education Black and Brown students face at neighborhood schools. It made me wonder why I had to be bussed to receive a rigorous education? Why were these academic opportunities not available for all students? I realized I had these opportunities for a reason. I could change the landscape of education for students who looked like me by leading a school!

I knew I wanted to teach in communities that resembled where I grew up. My first eight years of teaching was in the Englewood community, at a school with 98% Black Students and 95% of the students living at or below the national poverty level. The neighborhood was infested with guns, drugs and gangs. We lost several students due to gun violence, three deaths in one year. My two daughters also attended school with me. The crime was so intense, I had to transfer my daughters to our neighborhood school because they were fearful they would die too. I wondered how the rest of the students and staff could cope with the anxiety we were all facing. So, I began writing grants to help assist the staff and students get additional programs to rebuild the school community. I also created a Mentoring Program for “At-Risk” girls. This program mentored approximately 60 girls with wrap-around academic and SEL support services to help them matriculate through high school and enter college and the workforce. As a result of my passion for our school community, I received various awards including the D.R.I.V.E. Teacher of the Year in 2007. I continued to serve in Black and Brown communities with a clear purpose of exposing my students to life outside of their neighborhoods as they prepared to become college and career ready.

I loved the classroom and originally believed I would spend my entire career as a teacher but recognized the impact I could make as a leader by building teacher instructional capacity. So I began my life long learning journey and in 2007 I completed my first Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Organizational Change. In 2013 completed my second Master’s degree as a Literacy Educator and in 2020 completed my Education as a Second Language and Bilingual Education Certification. After the onset of the pandemic, I recognized that I needed more skills to help teachers and students with the academic gaps I saw and in 2022 completed my LBS1 certification.

As a teacher leader, I led professional development workshops to build teacher capacity on high impact instruction strategies, Data Driven Instruction and Corrective Instruction Action Plans. I also conducted teacher observation cycles, led teams to analyze student data and facilitated coaching conversations with teachers. These leadership opportunities allowed me to recognize the impact I could make as a principal and district leader as I continued to work to improve teacher instructional practices. In 2020 I left the classroom to become a Network Administrator so I could help teachers manage remote learning.

During the height of the pandemic and George Floyd murder, I co-facilitating a yearlong Race and Equity PLC for administrators in Network 8. As the only person of color, I created a safe space for leaders and facilitators to discuss and expose biases and racial inequalities to assist them with creating similar learning for their teachers at their schools. Leading the work within the PLC was pivotal for me as it solidified my purpose for moving into leadership. I still see an ever growing disconnect many leaders have in CPS with the students and staff they lead. The same inequalities I experienced as a student were even more evident during the pandemic, which also gave me clarity for the importance of my story, background and experiences as a leader in CPS. My experiences of being a student, mother and teacher in this district is why I am driven to lead and serve as a CPS principal. My passion and servant leadership is what allowed me to take the role as the first Black Administrator at Calmeca Academy of Dual Language and Fine Arts, a school which is 98% Latinex and be recognized as one of two Assistant Principals in the CPS in Spring of 2023 as the recipient of the Honoring Excellence Award by the Chief Education Officer of CPS.


Brandi Whitfield-Lewis | Assistant Principal at Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language, Chicago, IL