Comings and goings on the education beat in 2013

Staff Writer

Robin Appleby appointed to succeeded David Magill
In January 2013, University of Chicago Laboratory School Director David Magill announced that he plans to retire in June 2014.

Magill, who has been the director of the schools for about 11 years, said he announced his retirement early so the Lab Schools would have time to conduct a thorough, national search for a successor, and have a smooth leadership transition.

The university appointed a task force to find his replacement, and in September, the school announced that Robin Appleby would be its new director.

Before coming to Lab, 1362 E. 59th St., Appleby will have lived in Dubai, where she ran four campuses of the Global Education Management Systems American Academies consisting of 5,000 students. There she serves as superintendent and CEO of GEMS Dubai American Academy, an American and international baccalaureate school comprising 2,300 students, representing 100 countries.

“Her global outlook and her focus on teaching excellence and an outstanding student experience make her a wonderful choice to lead the Lab Schools,” David Greene, executive vice president of the University of Chicago, and John Rogers Jr., chairman of the Laboratory Schools Board of Directors, said in a written statement.

As director at Lab, Appleby will oversee the nursery school, kindergarten, primary school, lower school, middle school and high school. She will also develop the school’s human and financial resources.

Antonia “Toni” Hill succeeded Tatia Beckwith … sort of
Ray Elementary School’s Interim Principal Antonia “Toni” Hill resigned from her position as principal of Pershing East Elementary School on July 1. This leaves Hill’s school leadership fate in limbo as Chicago Public Schools continues to investigate the school’s principal of record, Tatia Beckwith, and assistant principal, Jeffrey Alstadt.

In April, former Burnham Elementary School Network Chief John Price held a meeting at Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., where he announced to parents and community members that Beckwith and Alstadt had been temporarily reassigned until further notice. Price would not explain why the two were removed, but he said Beckwith and Alstadt did not resign, get fired or accept new jobs, so technically the position of principal of Ray was not vacant. The pending investigation prevents the local school council (LSC) from selecting a new principal for the school.

At the meeting in April, Price said he appointed Hill to be more than just a placeholder.

“Toni has a bright presence about her,” Price said. “Her positive attitude is infectious, and I think the community is ready for a leader like her … to help Ray thrive.”

Hill worked as a scientist at Abbott Laboratories before starting her second career as an educator and then an administrator at Chicago Public Schools. Before coming to Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., Hill was the principal at Pershing East Elementary School for eight years. She completed her New Leaders for New Schools principal residency at Spry Community School; she was the Area Instructional Technology Coordinator for CPS and a career specialist for Jobs for Illinois graduates at Julian High School.

“I’m taking a big risk,” Hill said about leaving Pershing East, 3113 S. Rhodes Ave. “I wanted to be fair and give [Pershing] their opportunity to find a principal.”

Hill said should the principal’s position at Ray become officially open, she would apply. The Ray LSC seems to be amenable to the idea of having Hill and her assistant principal Toni Campbell as permanent replacements.

“We feel like the school is in better shape than before,” said Gordon Mayer, chairman of the Ray LSC.

During the meeting in April, many of the parents seemed unaffected and almost relieved by the removal of Beckwith and Alstadt from the school, and at its June meeting the LSC sent a vote of confidence letter to Price stating that Hill was doing a great job at Ray.

Neither Price nor other CPS officials will comment on the ongoing investigation of Beckwith and Alstadt, stating that they cannot speak about personnel issues.

Zeus Preckwinkle retired
Zeus Preckwinkle, 7th and 8th grade math and science teacher at the Ancona School, retired in June 2013.

“I bumped into one of my former students I taught when I worked at Harvard [Elementary School], who is now 47,” Preckwinkle said. “After I talked to her I thought ‘Wow, it’s time to retire.’”

Preckwinkle, who said he has taught for 38 years without a break, has been a teacher at Ancona, 4770 S. Dorchester Ave., for 21 years and before that he taught at Harvard Elementary School, 7525 S. Harvard Ave., for 17 years. He said he even used his summer breaks to teach in the Philippines.

Preckwinkle, who is well known in Hyde Park as an avid runner, said he ran with the University of Chicago Track Club for about 16 years and trained under Olympic Coach Ted Haydon. He said he plans to help coach others and motivate them to join him for runs in Washington Park.

His other retirement plans include more music performances (he plays the flute) and becoming a math and science coach.

Beatrice Harris retired
Beatrice Harris, home economics teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Middle School, announced her retirement after 40 years as an educator. She said her goodbyes to the school during her keynote address at the middle school graduation in June.

Harris taught home economics at the Lab School, 1362 E. 59th St., for 28 years. She said it is because of Lab that she was able to teach a subject she was passionate about for so many years.

“In public school you must teach to the curriculum,” Harris said. “At Lab, you have freedom in teaching.”

Harris said both boys and girls took the course, which included cooking, cleaning, sewing and other life skills. She said the course helped students develop self-respect, responsibility and a better quality of life.

“These skills are still important,” Harris said. “Even if they have people to do this for them they will know if that person is doing it right.”

Harris said now that she’s retired she hopes to spend more time tending to her garden, to visit her children more often and figure out how to operate, the website they created for her.

She also plans to give back to her community through teaching a summer program at her church in the Chatham neighborhood.

Harris said the program would include cooking, sewing, nutrition and job readiness classes. She also wants to work with the church to lead a class in diabetic cooking.

Leslie Travis retired
Leslie Travis, the librarian at Ray Elementary School, retired in June after 35 years as an educator.

Travis was the librarian at Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., for 21 years. She began her career as a classroom teacher and taught pre-kindergarten through 8th grade at several schools, including the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, 1362 E. 59th St., before teaching in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system.

Being a librarian in CPS is fantastic,” Travis said. “I never had to do the same thing two years in a row and I am constantly learning new things.”

During her time at Ray, Travis tried to integrate literature into students’ daily activities at school and at home by implementing programs such as the traveling library where she purchased a bag of books at her own expense for each student and encouraged them to read the books on their own or with their parents. She also led annual school-wide, in-depth studies of literature such as “The Wizard of OZ,” “Don Quixote” and several titles by William Shakespeare.

In addition to her duties as the librarian, Travis led, assisted and advised several after-school clubs at Ray. She’s sewn costumes for the drama club and started a sewing club. She also worked with the school’s robotics and athletics teams to build bicycles and make sure they run properly. The electric energy created from the bikes has been used to power the scoreboard in the gym during games and sewing machines for the sewing club.

Travis said her retirement plans include volunteering as a baby cuddler in the neonatal unit of a hospital, taking some dressmaking or fashion design classes and yacht racing.

Harrison Peters succeeded John Price
Harrison Peters is the new chief of CPS Area Network 9, which includes Hyde Park, Bronzeville and Woodlawn. Peters succeeded John Price, who as the area chief of what was once known as the Burnham Park Network once governed several elementary schools in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Price is now the chief of Network 4 and governs schools in the Logan Square and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.

Area networks have been pared down from 19 offices to 13 offices. Each network chief will govern all elementary schools and high schools in their designated neighborhoods. Charters, turnarounds and military schools will not have area chiefs. Selected reinvestment schools such as Reavis, 834 E. 50th St., have been placed under a different governing system called the Office of Strategic School Support Services, or the OS4 Network.

According to CPS, this change has been made to foster more comprehensive and streamlined delivery of instruction for students. The changes will also save money for the cash-strapped school district.