Million-dollar education grants just a beginning for Chicago trust

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Catherine Guiles/Medill

Mayor Richard M. Daley shakes hands with a student after receiving a gift Thursday at Rachel Carson Elementary School on the South Side.

by Catherine Guiles
Jan 17, 2008

After investing $55 million in Chicago education since 2002, the Chicago Community Trust said test scores in participating schools have improved, and it announced Thursday it will spend another $50 million by 2013.

But trust officials and others said those working to improve education can’t rest now.

“We’re at a turning point in public education in Chicago,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said Thursday at Rachel Carson Elementary School on the South Side. “I don’t want to lose the momentum students gave us.”

The trust is a philanthropic organization that funnels private donations to various local causes. The first five years of the trust’s education initiative involved literacy, development for teachers and administrators, and new types of schools.

In the next five years, the initiative plans to continue those programs and add improving arts, math, science, language and social studies instruction; getting schools to network; helping students move from preschool to elementary and middle to high school; and working in suburban districts and private schools that serve large numbers of minority or low-income students.

Chicago Public Schools have had only two CEOs since Daley became mayor, and Terry Mazany, the trust’s president and chief executive officer, said the continuity of leadership “makes it very easy for us to contribute.”

The trust makes sure its grants match the school system’s goals. “The key to educational improvement is working closely with school leadership,” Mazany said.

Although the bulk of the trust’s funds will go to public schools, representatives from private school organizations said they’re glad to be part of the effort.

“We’re all teaching kids,” said Robin Doeden, executive director of the Chicagoland Lutheran Educational Foundation. She and Joshua Hale, executive director of the Big Shoulders Fund for Catholic schools, said they didn’t see a threat from improved public schools.

“(Lutheran) schools are not new to Chicago,” Doeden said. “We’re just continuing to have it available.”

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