Year of major staff changes at local private schools

Daria Amerik, artists and teacher at Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, 1060 E. 47th St., introduced the student artists whose work was part of an exhibit during an opening recetion at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson. - Spencer Bibbs
Daria Amerik, artists and teacher at Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, 1060 E. 47th St., introduced the student artists whose work was part of an exhibit during an opening recetion at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson.

-Spencer Bibbs

Staff Writer

The Ancona School
The third phase of the project that began last year was finally completed for the start of this school year when The Ancona School, 4770 S. Dorchester Ave., added a garden to its Outdoor Learning Space.

The space includes an expansive playground, a nature area with a structured dome, an athletic field with a natural grass turf and gravel track, and now, a garden that will coincide with students’ curriculum.

“More broadly, we want kids thinking about food and thinking about all the issues that are tied in with food and we want that hands-on space for the school and the community,” said Chris Weber, the outdoor learning specialist at Ancona, in an earlier article.
The garden was officially planted on Aug. 27.

Other change came to Ancona in the form of staff members. In April, longtime custodian and beloved member of the Ancona School Family, Larry Ware, passed away.

Ware worked at Ancona for 17 years and the school celebrated his life with an assembly, where students signed a memory book full of their favorite stories of Ware that they gave to his family.

“I haven’t seen a personality before that tied a school together like he did,” said Ari Frede, the Head of School at Ancona. “He was more than just a custodian and it was more than a job to him. He was the first face anyone saw coming into the school.”

After six years as the marketing director at Ancona, Fiona Farrahi stepped down in July to pursue further career opportunities in California.

Farrahi was part of Ancona’s rebranding, including the butterfly logo and watercolors that are trademarks of the school today.

Chicago Free School
The Chicago Free School, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd., announced the search for a middle school teacher for the 2016-17 school year and hired Joe Ochiltree to take on the new role.
The decision to expand reflects the school’s need for different programming options for different grades.

“We’re never going to be a huge school because we want to maintain that family atmosphere,” said school founder, Lauren Beitler, in an earlier article. “But we will keep growing a little bit every year.”

City Elementary
In its second year sharing a space with the Chicago Free School at KAM Isaish Israel, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd., City Elementary named Christopher Flint as the new Head of School in August.
Flint’s background includes being the founder and chief creative officer of Infiniteteach, a social enterprise which develops educational and accessibility apps for the autism community.
City Elementary also launched a parent teacher organization in October.

Hales Franciscan
After a decline in student enrollment over the past few years and a budget struggle due to low funding, it was announced in July that Hales Franciscan, 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave., would suspend the upcoming school year.

“We want to sit down and engage different community groups and educational stakeholders in what an urban curriculum looks like for young African American men,” said Melody Spann Cooper, the chairwoman of the Hales Franciscan Board.

Spann Cooper assured that closing the school permanently would not happen, but the Hales Franciscan Alumni Association became worried that closing was a very real possibility after difficulties between the Association and the Board, resulting in the association calling for the resignation of Spann Cooper.

According to former Alumni Association President, Brandon Davis, there was a meeting between the board and parents in June where Spann Cooper assured parents that the school would be open for this year.

After the July 27 announcement, students only had less than 30 days to find an alternative school.

The Alumni Association is continuing to raise money for the school through fundraising events and is looking to have a greater say in the curriculum for the 2017-18 school year.

St. Thomas the Apostle
This year at St. Thomas the Apostle School, 5467 S. Woodlawn Ave., the school principal of five years, Candace Scheidt, retired in June.

Her predecessor, former assistant principal Tim Gallo, took the job as principal and with it, took on the challenges of modernizing technology.

In November, the school raised funds to incorporate technology into students’ curriculum through the “Reach for the STArs” fundraising campaign.

“We want to make sure that the technology we get is used to enhance, improve and transform what’s happening in the classroom…not just supplementing the things that were done previously in a workbook,” Gallo said in an earlier interview.

The school ended up raising $30,868. An anonymous donor pledged to match up to $30,000, so the total amount raised for new technology was $60,868.

U. of C. Laboratory Schools
A big shock for the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, 1362 E. 59th St., came when former director, Robin Appleby, announced her resignation in a letter to the lab community on May 25.

Appleby, who had only served as the director for two years, said in the letter that she needed to focus on family and pursuing other professional opportunities.

Beth Harris was named as interim director as the search for a new permanent director began this school year.

While the search is on for a new director, the search for a new high school principal ended in April, with the appointment of Stephanie Weber.

Weber’s background includes being the assistant head of school and head of upper school at the Hewitt School in New York City.