July 9, 2008

Library at 21st Century Prep renamed to honor Jack Keating

After 51 years as an educator, Jack Keating finally has a library named after him.

Not at UW-Parkside, where he retires as chancellor in a month, but rather at the 21st Century Preparatory School in Racine, a charter school he helped create and nurture.

Greg Anderegg, president of 21st Century Prep's board, said the school has had "no better friend" than Keating, "who urged us to achieve greatness, opened up the doors of Parkside to us and has been our champion."

Keating's involvement with the school began seven years ago, as the state legislature was debating whether a charter school could come to Racine. When the dust settled, Parkside was "allowed" to create one. Anderegg recalled that UW-Parkside wasn't seeking this permission, "it was thrust upon them by the legislature" after a grass-roots charter school movement arose in the community.

Other colleges have been given similar permission to create charter schools and have done nothing. But within months, Keating "put out a call to the community," Anderegg said, "and a few months later he went before the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to get 21st Century approved," to serve as "a catalyst" for better schools here.

Dedication of 21st Century Prep School's library in Keating's name is an effort to thank him "for his belief in us, for his unwavering support" since then. Anderegg told Keating, "you will forever be our hero."

The ceremony this morning in the school's library, attended by a group of kindergartners and third graders on-their-best-behavior, as well as by school administrators and board members, included the unveiling of a portrait of Keating and a plaque in his honor.

The kids were told by Dr. Robert Morelan, school superintendent, that they were attending "something very special." Dr. Kelly McFatter, assistant dean at Parkside, who works closely with the school's teachers, taught them a word "for special occasions" from her Louisiana heritage: lagniappe, which she taught them to pronounce lawn yup, and said means "something extra."

Dr. Keating, she told the kids, wanted to leave something extra in Racine when he helped start the school. "Now we want to do something extra for him."

Dr. Carole Johnson, vice president of the 21st Century Prep board, recalled that even before the charter school came about, Keating had talked about bringing Parkside closer to Kenosha and Racine. "Only later we talked about how Racine needed a very special school with a strong relationship to Parkside, teaching students how to be teachers, giving back to the community." She told Keating, "I don't know how we can thank you enough."

Dr. Keating told the kids that when Rod Paige, President Bush's first Secretary of Education, visited 21st Century Prep a few years ago, he said it was "the best charter school in the country." Keating also recalled that when the school was first discussed, he wanted to locate it on the Parkside campus, and offered land for that purpose -- but Sam Johnson, whose SC Johnson Foundation put up $10 million to start the school, said it had to be in the city.

Keating said he was proud to have the library named after him, because "libraries are the center of all learning."

The plaque reads: "This library is dedicated to Chancellor John P. Keating for his outstanding support and commitment to 21st Century Preparatory School. Dr. Keating was instrumental in the creation of this school and his untiring efforts have been sincerely appreciated by the students, staff, administration and board of directors. In appreciation of his service to education and devotion to this school, we dedicate this library in his honor on July 9, 2008."

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