A much-loved teacher is leaving Central School in Riverside to teach at the University of Chicago Laboratory School.

Fifth-grade teacher Erin McCarthy, a resident of Riverside, has taught at Central School for the last 14 years, but next year she will be teaching at the prestigious Lab School, which was founded by educational theorist John Dewey in 1896 and is located in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood. 

Four members of the District 96 school board are Central School parents, and they all praised McCarthy before formally accepting her resignation at the June 21 school board meeting. 

“It sounds like a great opportunity for her,” said school board President Jeff Miller, whose son was in McCarthy’s fifth-grade class a couple of years ago. “It’s a loss to the district and we’re sorry to lose her, she’s a great teacher.”

Board members Shari Klyber, Lynda Murphy and Rich Regan, all Central School parents like Miller, also publicly praised McCarthy. 

“She is really the model for what we want our teachers to be,” Regan said. “She was just professional in every way and I’m disappointed to see her leave, but at the same time I’m thankful that she’s moving on because this is how she wants her career to progress.”

As a private school, the Lab School is exempt from state-mandated testing requirements and curriculum requirements that many public school teachers dislike. 

Many teachers feel that the amount of standardized testing required in public schools today is excessive and that the testing burden and test preparation diminishes teacher and student creativity and individualism and results in a less-than-optimal learning environment. 

The two daughters of President Barack Obama attended the Lab School when they lived in Chicago, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s three children also attend or have attended the Lab School. 

Job switch for Hauser assistant

L.J. Hauser Junior High School Assistant Principal Jason Smit is also taking a new job, but he’s staying in Riverside District 96. 

Smit, who just completed his first year as assistant principal at Hauser, is replacing Bob Petitto as the district’s instructional technology coordinator. Petitto is moving out of state.

Smit, another highly regarded administrator, earned a master’s degree in instructional technology from Purdue University and was a technology teacher at Hickory Middle School in Frankfort, where he worked with Hauser Principal April Mahy, before they both came to Hauser one year ago.

“This is the job he wanted,” said Miller. “This is something he’s passionate about.”

Smit, who made $75,000 as assistant principal, will make $79,000 in his new position next year. Petitto had been making $87,550.

The district will look to fill the Hauser assistant principal job, which is a 10-month position, sometime this summer.

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