CPS Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services Parent Involvement Specialist Team
Parent Involvement Specialists work towards improving the collaborative relationships between families of diverse learners, advocacy agencies, educators, and administrative personnel. They support families across the district by:
- Increasing family involvement initiatives for parents/guardians with diverse learners
- Supporting parent participation in IEP/504 meetings
- Providing trainings to district personnel about strategies for engaging families of diverse learners
- Establishing relationships with existing parent involvement departments, initiatives, and local community agencies
- Creating and guiding the development and distribution of information and training to parents
Partnering with FACE to offer monthly Parent University workshops about special education to help parents and guardians better advocate for their child with disabilities. The workshops are open to the public. See the Parent University calendar for the schedule.
If you or your diverse learner needs assistance, please connect directly with any of the four Parent Involvement Specialists listed below. You can also email ODLSSparentsupport@cps.edu or call the ODLSS Helpline at 773-553-1840.
Janice Gutierrez is a proud mom to two young adults with disabilities. She is a bilingual public interest attorney and civil rights advocate who, until recently, was involved in special education advocacy in her home district of Puerto Rico. Previously, she worked as a child support prosecutor at the Puerto Rico Child Support Administration, as Directing Attorney at Puerto Rico Legal Services, Inc., the ACLU of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Civil Rights Commission, and as a staff attorney at the Community Law Office and the Puerto Rico Civil Rights Institute. In addition to a juris doctor, she holds a bachelor’s degree in education.
Kimberly Johnson is the proud mother of a young adult who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at age six. Through advocacy, she has gained knowledge and skill sets as an advocate, due process and IEP liaison for families, and is well versed in the Department of Human Services Waiver program, as it relates to options and consent decrees. For the past four years, she was a Ligas Family Advocate with The Arc of Illinois, a nonprofit organization supporting all persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities. She has been involved in the Chicagoland Autism Connection Parent Support Group for over 18 years and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors. Chicagoland Autism Connection Family and Professional Support Group is one of the largest family support groups in the state of Illinois. Kimberly received her formal education at Indiana Wesleyan University. Prior to her advocacy outreach, Kimberly worked for two large nonprofits as the membership marketing manager for a combined 20 years of service.
Michelle Burgess is the proud mother of three children, two of which are diverse learners. All three children are currently being educated within CPS. Michelle understands advocacy for children. Michelle’s knowledge and skills gained while seeking supports and services for her children have allowed her to successfully walk within the role as parent and community liaison for over 10 years. She also has hands-on classroom experience, having worked as a substitute teacher. Michelle holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism/broadcasting and a master’s in theology.
Lynn Olavarria is the proud mother of two young adult diverse learners now attending college. While her children were young, she was very active in their education, advocating for learning supports, collaborating with teachers, and serving on the Local School Council (LSC). That experience inspired her to help fellow parents of diverse learners looking for guidance about available supports and services. Lynn volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, CASA of Cook County. As a CASA volunteer, she successfully advocated on behalf of her assigned foster child to receive specialized supports and services through the child’s IEP. Recently, she also volunteered for the Education Pro Bono Clinic at the Legal Assistance Foundation.