Mary Fahey Hughes
Mary Fahey Hughes was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education by Mayor Brandon Johnson and began serving on July 18, 2023.
Mary is a special education advocate and grassroots community organizer who has been an outspoken supporter of students with disabilities in Chicago Public Schools. As the parent of two CPS graduates and two current CPS students, three of whom have disabilities, she has the lived experience of navigating special education on behalf of her children and, as a special education advocate, she has a deep knowledge of ongoing areas of weakness and the need for systemic improvements to special education procedures and services.
Mary began her special ed advocacy work in 2007 as the Founder and Director of 19th Ward Parents for Special Education, a parent support and advocacy group on the far southwest side. She also served on the Office of Special Education and Supports Parent Advisory Committee and was a Parent Advocate for the Illinois Parent Educator Partnership (PEP) Program, where she provided direct support to parents navigating CPS Special Education. Mary was one of the founding members of The Special Education Advocacy Coalition of Chicago (SPEACC), the group of advocates that requested the ISBE investigation into the systemic delays and denials of special education services in CPS. In addition, as Special Education Parent Liaison for Raise Your Hand, she led parent and academic research volunteers to investigate, report on, and make recommendations to address inequities against students with disabilities in the CPS High School Application and Placement process and to help improve nursing services at the school level. During much of the Covid shut down, Mary led weekly Zoom meetings for families of students with disabilities to assist with getting meaningful and mandated special education services for their children.
As one of eight children born to two CPS teachers, Mary was taught to value education, be kind, cooperate, consider other people’s perspectives, speak out against injustice, and be of service to others. She served as a Local School Council representative at Southside Occupational Academy, Sutherland Elementary, The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Cassell Elementary, Keller Regional Gifted Center, and Barbara Vick Early Childhood and Family Center. In addition to her advocacy work, Mary is an actor who believes in the transformative and motivating power of arts education. She was a Company and Ensemble Member of The Noble Fool and The Free Associates theater companies and has taught children’s theater at The Art Institute of Chicago’s Young Artists Studio and improvisation at The Second City. Mary lives in Beverly with her husband and four children.