University of Illinois President Bob Easter and Dr. James Oliver, a senior visiting advisor to President Easter, spent two hours one recent Friday morning at John M. Smyth Elementary School engaged in a discussion with a very small group from Smyth, Connecting4Communities and Related Midwest. C4C believes that engagement of the University of Illinois and other institutions of higher education in Chicago can play an important role in determining a bright future for our community.
Our discussion with President Easter and Dr. Oliver centered on education and housing. We reviewed the history of poor public education planning in our community during the concurrent planning of the UIC South Campus and the Chicago Housing Authority’s ABLA Revitalization which both formally began in 1996. Dr. Ron Whitmore, Smyth’s Principal, then reviewed the history of Smyth and how the school has aligned instruction to Common Core. After a tour of the school, led by a team of some very bright 7th and 8th grade Smyth students who are engaged in research projects with graduate students in the UIC College of Education, which is now under the leadership of a dynamic new dean, Dr. Alfred Tatum, we discussed the future of public education and Roosevelt Square. That future will be determined by the new Roosevelt Square master planning phase that C4C successfully advocated for with the Chicago Housing Authority and Mayor Emanuel’s office which will begin in June when CHA selects the master planning team.
The idea of a UIC John M. Smyth IB World Laboratory School was a primary topic of discussion with President Easter as was university-employer-assisted housing. We are encouraged by his visit and follow up correspondence and hopeful about UIC community engagement. C4C would also like to thank community resident Jackie Marolda. Jackie is a STEM Magnet Academy parent and a member of C4C’s Public Education Task Force. Thanks to Jackie we now have three very bright, experienced University of Chicago Booth School of Business graduate students assisting us to identify funding for our Central City High School proposal.