Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for November 15, 2004

An article in Sunday's The Southern Illinoisan touts new developments in Cairo...


Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2004 7:12 AM CST

CAIRO -- There's something new coming to Cairo -- cooperation.

The building that used to house the Cairo junior high school has sat empty for nearly a year. On Saturday, as it has for several Saturdays running, students were there once again.

Sure, they were learning. But mostly they were serving and making the school a place where learning can happen again.

John Davis, Saluki Kids Academy Director in the Southern Illinois University Carbondale College of Education, said SIUC students have been coming to Cairo to help turn the old junior high into the Cairo Community Education Center.

His former business affiliation with Region 2 School Superintendent Dan Anderson, has gotten SIUC students involved with making a building where some of them will serve internships into a better place to work.

Anderson said one of the biggest problems plaguing Cairo is dwindling population. The school district has gone from a total of 1,200 students to a total of about 700 students in just a few years. Losing population also means losing funding tax base. The school district is on the state's financial watch list.

Anderson said the school district moved the junior high within the high school and closed the building to save money.

"The building was still sound," he said. "Historically it's been important to this community. It's within walking distance for most of the town."

He didn't want to see the building rot away as so many empty buildings have in Cairo. He and Davis and other like-minded individuals dreamed of turning the building into the Cairo Community Education Center -- a place within the community to house services for the community.

He called the project a "win-win situation." Tenants, some of whom were already in Cairo but scattered across town, will be able to hold office space at low cost. People using those services will find the CCEC more of a one-stop shop. And the building is in use again.

The CCEC will house adult education, alternative education, some special education programs, the Cairo School District School Board offices, Saluki Kids Academy tutors, a University of Illinois-Extension Food and Nutrition Center, an outpost office from Child Care Resources and Referral, the Academic Development Institute, and a Boeing/SIUC Aviation Technology office that will feature a flight simulator.

Anderson said he hopes people using services from one office will learn to take advantage of services offered in another office. He said he hopes to see a health clinic move in, and mental health services.

"I think we'll get that done," he said. "Another possibility is a small business moving in -- a coffee shop where people who work here and people from the community could just drop in for lunch or some coffee."

Anderson said the key is that the community realizes that the building and what it contains is theirs.

The ulterior motive he, as regional superintendent has in mind, is to improve academic achievement. He said the services present a holistic approach to achieving that. Improved parenting skills, more adult education and better nutrition at home can all contribute to better attendance at school, he said.

"Everyone is glad to see this building open again," he said. "Response has been very positive."

Davis said SIUC students are already involved in outreaches in Cairo. Helping prep the new center is a logical extension of that outreach.

He said the three founding legs of SIUC are teaching, research and service. He said participating in this project give the university the opportunity to satisfy all three. The educational aspect of the building provides both teaching and learning experiences for student interns, the opportunity to research intervention methods, and to serve a community.

"The biggest problem in Cairo now is the lack of hope," he said. "If we start early, the 2012 class of the Cairo high school will have (proportionately) more students who are ready to go to a four-year institution. And we'll already have a relationship with them. The university can even use this project for recruiting."

SIUC volunteers have been coming to the fledgling community center and restoring the damage that has accrued from a year of sitting idle. As they paint and scrape and sweep out the old, the future may seem a little brighter in Cairo.

Anderson said he hopes to hold a grand opening in early December.

Davis said potential volunteers should contact Mythili Rundblad at the SIUC Student Development office at (618) 453-5714.