Chicago Public Education Fund honors three local CPS principals
March 8, 2018

Dana Andre Butler of Irma C. Ruiz Elementary School.

By Lisa R. Jenkins

The City’s Principal Appreciation Campaign honored three local Chicago Public School principals through the Chicago Public Education Fund (CPEF, also known as “the Fund.”). Thanks to CPEF, all three will participate in prestigious development programs this school year.

Konstantinos Patsiopoulos of the Charles N. Holden Elementary School in Bridgeport earned a Chicago Principals Fellowship.

Dana Andre Butler of the Irma C. Ruiz Elementary School in Pilsen and Octavio Casas of the Chicago Military Academy High School in Bronzeville were named to the CPEF Educator Advisory Committee (EAC).

According to CPEF, schools that have strong leaders are seven times more likely to improve in reading and four times more likely to improve in math. Successful principal leadership is credited with providing 25% of a school’s overall influence on a child’s academic performance.   

In 2000, Chicago civic and corporate leaders created CPEF to achieve the goal of a world-class education for all of Chicago’s children. These leaders saw an opportunity to revitalize the nation’s third largest school district through strategic investments in education innovators and cutting-edge initiatives that would accelerate student achievement across Chicago.

Photo by Carmen Valentino
Octavio Casas of the Chicago Military Academy High School.

The Chicago Principals Fellowship resulted from a partnership between CPS and Northwestern University, with support from CPEF. The annual program includes up to 30 of Chicago’s top public school principals and offers executive leadership development designed by and for Chicago’s most talented principals.

The fellowship seeks to retain the best principals by creating the best training, recruitment, and in-role development opportunities in the nation. The program affects not only Chicago’s school leaders but its students, teachers, families,
and communities for years to come. Thanks to $1.25 million invested in retaining great principals, 107 principal fellows have received support and CPS has retained 86% of participating fellows.

Participants undergo extensive and challenging executive leadership training, created and facilitated by the Northwestern Center for Nonprofit Management at the Kellogg School of Management and the School for Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. To qualify, all principal fellows must commit to continuing to lead within CPS for at least three years.

CPEF created the EAC in 2013 to give educators opportunities to work together on complex challenges facing schools in Chicago. It aims to increase the number of top principals in Chicago from 150 to 350 by 2018.

The three local principals chosen for the program were nominated based on their exceptional leadership capabilities and novel approaches to solving unique challenges facing Chicago educators.

Patsiopoulos has led Holden, located at 1104 W 31st St., for six years and has taken the school from Level 3 ranking (probationary status) to Level 1 (excellent standing) by transforming school culture, applying instructional rigor, and improving academic achievement.   

Konstantinos Patsiopoulos of the Charles N. Holden School.

Just as educators push students to value and take advantage of learning opportunities offered to them for personal growth, he views the fellowship as bringing that same push to principals.

“Having been selected to participate in the Chicago Principals Fellowship, although a humbling form of recognition, I see all of these experiences as opportunities that will mold and reshape my leadership identity and philosophy throughout the next eight months,” Patsiopoulos said.

Principal Dana Andre Butler has been with CPS for 29 years, with 28 at Ruiz, 2410 S. Leavitt St. He spent ten years as a teacher and coach and five years as an assistant principal; he also was a resident principal with the Launch program and has been principal for 14 years. In addition, Butler served as a professor in educational leadership and supervision for the American College of Education and mentor principal for the New Leaders for New Schools program.

“I dream of a school where the students and staff love to come and hate to leave,” Butler said. “I dream of a school that is a nurturing place which personifies caring, trust, and honesty. I dream of a school that does all it can and then more for our children.”

Principal Octavio Casas is in his second year as principal of Chicago Military, a Level 1 School at 3519 S. Giles Avenue. Before becoming principal, Casas was assistant principal at Chicago Military for three years.

Under his leadership, Chicago Military has earned a variety of grants to support the arts and secured several CPS and outside certifications including Healthy School, Supportive School, and Creative School.

“As first-generation college graduate, I was able to attend a state university and later graduate school thanks to the education I received from CPS,” Casas said. “I applied to the EAC because I wanted to collaborate with others who are just as passionate about serving the students of Chicago. I understand both the celebrations and challenges CPS students face after working in CPS over 11 years and being a former CPS student myself (Kindergarten through 12th grade). I hope to take on those challenges using a student-centered and solutions-oriented approach.”

“The Fund believes that great principals and teachers are the key to creating classrooms and schools that help all children succeed,” said Heather Y. Anichini, president and CEO of CPEF. “Fund programs like the Chicago Principals Fellowship and the Educator Advisory Committee are designed to attract, support, and keep the City’s top public school principals.”

To learn more about the Chicago Principals Fellow program, log on to

For more about the Educator Advisory Committee, go to