By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The Ancona School celebrated its 50-year anniversary in 2013 with special events throughout the school year including a photo exhibit, education symposium and a 50th Anniversary Gala.
The celebration began with the opening of its historical photo exhibit, which included a timeline of the history of Ancona, 4770 S. Dorchester Ave. Photos in the exhibit included the five Hyde Park families that founded Ancona, including that of Hyde Park Herald Publisher Bruce Sagan, the school’s opening on 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue in 1962, its move to 48th Street and Dorchester Avenue and its expansion from a one-room preschool that strictly followed Montessori teaching methods to a preschool through 8th grade Montessori-inspired program.
On March 2 the school hosted a symposium for educators, school leaders, parents and the community to discuss the importance and challenge of authentic diversity in schools.
During the symposium Bonnie Wishe, head of Ancona, and several guest panelists discussed how the school created and cultivated a diverse school environment for the past 50 years.
Panelists who spoke at the symposium included Diana Slaughter-Defoe, the Constance E. Clayton Professor Emerita in Urban Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania; Enora Brown, associate professor of Educational Policy and Research at DePaul University; Gene Batiste, vice president for School Field Services and Equity and Justice Initiatives at the National Association of Independent Schools and Barbara Schneider, John A. Hannah Chair and University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at Michigan State University.
In a previous interview Wishne, who joined Ancona as a teacher in 1977 before becoming head of the school, said one of the things that inspires her most about Ancona is its diversity.
“Ancona had diversity from the very beginning,” said Wishne. “The school has an array of students from different ethnic and economic backgrounds and well as students with a wide range of skills and talents.”
50th Anniversary Gala
On May 4 Ancona held its 50th Anniversary Gala downtown at the Chicago Marriott.
At the gala Wishne presented the Spirit of Ancona Award to Ancona alumni and parents Joshua Schwartz and Janet Geovanis. She also gave special recognition to Ancona educator Zeus Preckwinkle, who retired in June. Ancona teachers Wayne Baldwin and Marsha Stewart were given the Teaching Excellence Award.
Other highlights of the event included a cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner, dessert, dancing and a video presentation featuring Ancona founders, staff members, alumni and current students. There was also a heads-or-tails raffle where 2009 Ancona graduate Andrew Williams won $1,000.
Preparing for the next 50
In the midst of The Ancona School’s 50th-year celebration, Wishne announced that she would be retiring in 2015.
Wishne, who has been at Ancona for more than 35 years, made the announcement two years in advance because she will be leading a strategic planning process to clarify Ancona’s vision for the next era and help Ancona find its next leader.
Ancona’s search committee is working with a professional search firm and will begin its search for a new head in winter 2014. The school hopes to have its new school head by winter of 2015.