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.
By reading Catalyst, I get to hear the diverse viewpoints of parents, teachers, principals and other Chicagoans who are engaged in and care about our public schools. This helps me understand multiple views, even those on opposing sides of controversial topics such as our new Common Core tests. Catalyst has given me a wide lens through which to view education and this city. Knowing what people know and understand about education allows me to be sensitive to the needs of my school community and also helps me plan how to more effectively engage with and inform people. One article that sticks out in my memory is an op-ed from last year about having alderman involved in solving the truancy problem by bringing together an array of resources.
I’ve just put down my copy of the very first issue of Catalyst Chicago, from February 1990. It’s filled with news of Chicago schools, our local school councils, and how the United Neighborhood Organization even back then managed to get enough corporate money for the 1989 LSC elections to end up controlling about two dozen councils.
I started reading Catalyst 10 years ago. I was new to Chicago Public Schools and the education policy landscape; Catalyst helped me understand the broader system supporting and impacting my school and students, and the impetus for the policy decisions playing out for students in productive, or counterproductive, ways.
The thoughtful coverage that Catalyst brings to important issues of the day has helped everyone I work with get a clearer understanding of what’s going on around us. Two examples that come immediately to mind are Catalyst’s June 2009 investigation of “lopsided discipline” that was taking a toll on black male students, and recent coverage of CPS policy changes that remind us how important it is to make discipline as much about learning as it is about punishment. In my current work at UIC, we know that mentoring and coaching our people through principal residencies and school leadership positions is a key lever for school. Timely Catalyst reportage is an important contributor to that work. This is why I give gift subscriptions to all of my UIC mentees each and every year.