Speaker Series

Speaker Series: Education in America

From 2012 through 2013, the Gorter Family Foundation, Advance Illinois and North Chicago Community Partners, in collaboration with Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Trinity International University, College of Lake County and  Wintrust Financial Corporation presented a series of lectures on the discussion of education in America.

There is probably no more compelling topic of discussion than that of education in America.  Debates rage on about its effectiveness, its quality, and its competitiveness (to site just 3 major concerns). It’s a hard problem to get one’s arms around because it is complex in nature and in each community the issues can be very different: what might be important to one school district might not be relevant in another.  However, on one thing everyone can agree – education in America needs to be improved if we are to remain competitive in the world and if we are to ensure our country’s citizens have a chance to reach their full potential.




First in the series of speakers, on May 30, 2012, was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Thomas Friedman. He spoke to an audience of more than 700 people, sharing his thought that employers are looking for team members who possess critical thinking and problem-solving skills, “people who can invent, re-invent, and re-energize” their jobs while they’re performing them. View Mr. Friedman’s Entire Presentation

Second in the series, on October 18, 2012, was celebrated school leader and reformer, Paul G. Vallas.  Mr. Vallas shared thoughts about education on both a state and national level through the lens of his experiences working in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport, Conneticut.

Sharing his journey regarding the complete transformation of a failing school district, the third speaker in the series on May 30, 2013 was Dr. Jerry Weast, former Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. Dr. Weast discussed how communities can improve their local school districts and build a system of schools aligned to prepare students for success in college and careers.

Finally, on October 29, 2013, Gery Chico, Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, and Robin Steans, Executive Director of Advance Illinois, appeared to share their perspectives on the current state of the public school system in Illinois as well as speak to some key activities intended to improve the Illinois school system. View Part One: Gery Chico Discusses Education in Illinois ; View Part Two: Gery Chico Discusses Education

A final program in this series will be scheduled in the fall of 2015 to specifically discuss the progress that has been made by collaborating with the North Chicago School District.