Mrs. Jill Castro named Catalyst Maria K-8 Principal!

Dear Catalyst families,

I hope you are having a wonderful summer and you are ready for another great school year! We are very excited to see you.

I want you to know about an important enhancement in our Catalyst Maria K-12 leadership: Our K-8 Assistant Principal, Mrs. Jill Castro, will now serve as Principal of the K-8 elementary school, while Mrs. Dawn Donati will focus her efforts as Principal of the high school (9-12) and as Executive Director of the overall K-12 program. Mrs. Castro will continue to report directly to Mrs. Donati.

This initiative comes from Mrs. Donati's leadership and reflection on how to best serve our families, and probably comes as no surprise. Mrs. Castro is beginning her sixth year at Catalyst Maria, 22nd year in education, and is completing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction. Mrs. Castro helped start a network of charter schools in Florida, where she taught advanced middle school math, served as Director of Specialized Services, and as Assistant Principal. Her degrees are in elementary education, Special Education, and she has a Masters degree in Teaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This enhancement will provide greater clarity and distinction of  the elementary program and greater efficiency in decision making. We are extraordinarily lucky to have her at Catalyst Maria.

I also want you to know that the Safe Passage program will continue to provide before school and after school adult presence on streets bordering the school, and several parents have been hired as crossing guards. We can’t wait to see your children this Monday! May you have a blessed weekend and we look forward to our best year yet.

Mr. Gordon Hannon,


Catalyst Schools


¡Espero que estés teniendo un verano maravilloso y estés listo para otro gran año escolar! Estamos muy emocionados de verte.

Quiero que sepan acerca de una mejora importante en nuestro liderazgo de Catalyst Maria K-12: Nuestra subdirectora K-8, la Sra. Jill Castro, ahora servirá como Directora de la escuela primaria K-8, mientras que la Sra. Dawn Donati enfocará sus esfuerzos como Directora de la escuela secundaria 9-12 y como Directora Ejecutiva del programa general K-12. a Sra.  Castro continuará reportando directamente a la Sra. Donati.

Esta iniciativa viene del liderazgo y reflexión de la Sra. Donati en cómo servir mejor a nuestras familias, y probablemente esta decisión no sea una sorpresa. Castro está comenzando su sexto año en Catalyst Maria, y 22 años de carrera educativa, y está completando su Doctorado en Liderazgo Educativo con un enfoque en Currículo e Instrucción. Castro ayudó a iniciar una red de escuelas charter en Florida, donde enseñó matemáticas avanzadas de secundaria, se desempeñó como directora de Servicios Especializados y como subdirectora. Sus títulos son en educación primaria, educación especial, y tiene una maestría en enseñanza de sordos y personas con dificultades auditivas. Esta mejora proporcionará una mayor claridad y distinción del programa primaria y una mayor eficiencia en la toma de decisiones. Somos extraordinariamente afortunados de tenerla en Catalyst Maria.

También quiero que sepan que el programa Safe Passage continuará proporcionando presencia de adultos antes de la escuela y después de la escuela en las calles que bordean la escuela, y varios padres han sido contratados como guardias de cruce. ¡No podemos esperar a ver a sus hijos este lunes! Que tengan un fin de semana bendecido y esperamos nuestro mejor año hasta ahora.

Sr. Gordon Hannon,


Escuelas Catalyst

Castro 2023

Catalyst Maria receives Cognia School of Distinction Award!

We are thrilled to announce that Catalyst Maria is one 59 schools worldwide to receive the Cognia School of Distinction award! 

The Schools of Distinction were awarded to schools that demonstrated excellence in meeting the Cognia Performance Standards during their 2020–2021 accreditation reviews. Schools or systems that achieve this award "effectively implement high-quality instruction, show consistent organizational effectiveness, and maintain a commitment to continuous improvement. These institutions demonstrate energetic and sustained commitment to learners."

Education institutions worldwide look to Cognia for proven practices, insightful research, and strategies for the future- Cognia's global network is comprised of 36,000 institutions in 85 countries. Their holistic approach to continuous improvement encompasses accreditation and certification, assessment, and professional learning. To learn more about the organization and this award, please visit

Cognia RGB Logotype FullColor

Mr. Sean Hamilton named INCS Teacher of the Year!!!!

Catalyst Maria 10th-12th Grade Visual Art Teacher Sean Hamilton was named the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) Teacher of the Year!!! The INCS Teacher of the Year awards began in 2011, and they received a record number of nominations (100+!) this year! Mr. Hamilton, a member of the Catalyst Maria team since 2014, has made a profound impact on innumerable lives at Catalyst Maria through his daily instruction as well as leading INCREDIBLE events like the annual STEAM EXPO!  The school community celebrated Mr. Hamilton with an assembly on Tuesday that was attended by scholars, staff, and members of the INCS team (Mr. Hamilton’s family also joined virtually!).  Mr. Hamilton will be honored on December 6, 2021 at the 2021 INCS Charter Excellence Awards at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. CONGRATULATIONS Mr. Hamilton- we are INSPIRED by you and GRATEFUL to have you on the Catalyst team!

Sean Hamilton INCS

Important safety information for SY21-22

Hello Catalyst families!

We hope that you are safe, healthy and are doing well! We are incredibly excited to welcome scholars back to school for the 2021-2022 school year on Monday August 30, 2021! The safety of our school communities is Catalyst’s highest priority and of the greatest importance to our mission of teaching minds and touching hearts.  

With the start of the school year for scholars on August 30, 2021, we want to provide our Catalyst famolies with some of the safety procedures we are implementing in our school communities. The procedures below have been developed following public health guidance and guidelines established by the Illinois State Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Some of these protocols include:

  • Weekly screening testing with SHIELD Illinois: All unvaccinated students will undergo weekly COVID-19 screening testing.  Screening testing will identify infected individuals without symptoms or known exposure and take measures such as timely isolation and quarantine to prevent further transmission. Screening testing will be implemented by Catalyst, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), and SHIELD Illinois. More information on the testing is linked here and all students will participate in testing unless their parent completes an opt-out form, linked here.
  • Rigorous air quality and ventilation standards: To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, every classroom and office space has BlueAir air purifier(s) that circulates air 5X per hour and assists in reducing the risk of indoor transmission of viruses and bacteria. In January 2021, Environmental Group Services, Limited (EGSL) personnel performed airborne particulate matter (PM10) surveys at Catalyst Circle Rock and Catalyst Maria. The investigation included the visual inspection of all classrooms, offices and common areas within the school buildings, and temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide/dioxide and airborne particulate matter (PM10) values were measured, providing an overall assessment of the IAQ in the buildings. All values were within acceptable parameters and reports to this effect are available on our website linked here.
  • Universal Masking: Per the mandate from Governor Pritzker and IDPH, cloth face coverings must be worn by all staff and students while indoors regardless of a person’s vaccination status. Catalyst will provide a mask to any student or staff member that does not have their own face mask at any time.
  • Social Distancing: Catalyst will strive to provide three feet of social distancing wherever possible.
  • Contact Tracing: Catalyst will work in coordination with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to ensure that those identified as close contacts of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 have rapid contact tracing and are connected to resources such as monitoring and testing.
  • Good Hand Hygiene: We have hand sanitizer dispensers in every hallway, entry point and main office and will have gallon hand sanitizers and spray disinfectant bottles in every classroom.
  • Enhanced Cleaning Procedures: Catalyst will deploy additional custodians on each floor to help carry out stringent cleaning and sanitizing protocols every day in each school, in addition to enhanced cleaning protocols before, during, and after each day.
  • Health Messaging: Catalyst will post signage and regularly remind students of key health messaging, such as covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and staying home if sick. 
  • All Catalyst students, staff, and approved visitors will be asked each day they enter Catalyst building to consider the following questions and not enter the school until they are able to answer “no” to all questions below. UPDATE in SY21-22- If a student is unable to answer “No” to all of the questions below, they should inform their school team immediately. The automated digital screener will not need to be completed daily, but families should communicate this information when applicable.
  • Please consider the following questions and do send your child to school until you are able to answer “no” to all questions for them.

    • Are you feeling ill?
    • Are you experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, or severe headache) that you cannot attribute to a known cause?
    • Have you been in close contact with anyone in the last 14 days who has COVID-19?
    • Are you quarantining because of possible exposure to a person with COVID-19?
    • Are you waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test or have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days?
    • Have you traveled to a location in the last ten days that would make you out of compliance with Chicago’s Travel Order?
    • Por favor, considera las preguntas siguientes y no entres en la escuela hasta que puedas responder con ‘no’ a todas las preguntas.
    • ¿Te sientes enfermo?

    • ¿Tienes algún síntoma de COVID-19 (por ejempló fiebre, garganta reseca, tos, dificultad para respirar, diarrea, vomito o dolor de cabeza severo) que no pueda atributar a una causa conocida?

    • ¿Has tenido contacto con alguien que tiene diagnóstico de COVID-19 en los 14 días pasados?

    • ¿Estás en cuarentena porque es posible que estuvieras expuesto a una persona con COVID-19?

    • ¿Estás esperando los resultados de una prueba de COVID-19 o as recibido un resultado positive de COVID-19 en los últimos diez días?

    • En los últimos diez días as viajado a una locación que te pondría fuera del cumplimiento de la orden de viaje de Chicago?


Please do not hesitate to contact our team with questions:

Catalyst Circle Rock- 773-945-5025

Catalyst Maria- 773-993-1770

We understand the gravity and significance of educating 1,600 scholars at any time, and this is only heightened during the continued global pandemic.  We are honored to partner with our Catalyst families as we collectively move forward and are here to support in any way that we can.  We look forward to a great first day on August 30, 2021 and a terrific 2021-2022 school year!


SY 2021-2022 Calendar for Families

Hello Catalyst families!

We hope that you are safe, healthy and doing well! Please find a printable 2021-2022 calendar linked here.  We look forward to an INCREDIBLE year!!

Support Catalyst    

Please join our efforts as a champion for changing lives at The Catalyst Schools. If you would like to speak with a Catalyst staff member about your donation, please call us at 773-295-7001.