Twenty-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.