WBEZ's morning program, 848, has a long interview with Dr. Susan Kurland who virtually remade Nettelhorst School from one of the weakest in the Chicago Public School system into one of the best. Nettelhorst is our neighborhood school, so one of our kids finished there and went on to the IB program at Lincoln Park High, another started kindergarten there last year, and yet another will start kindergarten there next year. Obviously, since we're vested, we're pleased to see the radical improvements. Public schools are one of a society's most important institutions and having a strong public school (within the CPS system, no less) in the neighborhood allows a community to develop into something very different than an enclave of wealthy urbanites where all the kids get shipped off to private schools.
Having a viable public school has utterly transformed this neighborhood - when I lived here twenty years ago there were no kids. Parents fled for the suburbs, unless they were wealthy enough for Parker or Latin. And in that case they had no ties to the community or real interest. Now it's possible to live here on a normal economic footing without having to revert to private schools.
For anyone thinking and talking about sustainable communities the first and most basic challenge is to develop excellent, or maybe just really solid public schools.
Link to the interview here