Free LSC subscription ‘opened a world’

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gerstein-thumbTwenty-five years ago I was a former high school teacher who was firmly in charge of the family-run Hyde Park supermarket that I had tried to flee as a young man.  I was involved in community projects but there was nothing tugging at me more than our community’s public schools.  Local School Councils had just started, and then Catalyst, a small but interesting publication of the Community Renewal Society.

In my role as Mr. G., I felt I was in the center of all things public schools.  I employed local high school students, and had a large number of CPS employees as customers, including some future CPS and CTU leaders.  I got the bug and got myself elected to the Kenwood LSC — second largest vote tally in the city I might add — but I was out of touch with what was really going on in public education.

With my election as an LSC member, I got a free subscription to Catalyst and through their careful reporting I learned so much.  I loved reading about my favorite topics, high school reform and community/CPS relations.  Those pieces, combined with conversations with customers and teen employees and experiences as an LSC member, had a huge impact on the next part of my life.

In my attempt to expand my store to a new location I was forced to merge with a larger competition.  I couldn’t work for them so I decided to return to the world of public education and be part of an effort to reform high schools by working with communities.  All my Catalyst reading helped open a world of possibilities.

I returned to the system as a principal and became someone whom Catalyst interviewed for their stories, which allowed me to help inform others on the quest to improve Chicago schools.