SE High School Principals under fire for discretion choices

January 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm 92 comments

Thanks to a couple readers who pointed out this article in the Sun Times. (reprint below.)  Thank god someone reads the news around here!  Anyhow, 2 principals at SE High Schools are being called out for using their discretion “inappropriately.”

One reader has suggested that parents voice their opinion to CPS over the bad-use-of-clout issue.  I’m still forming my thoughts on it.   My initial reaction is that it’s yet another reason Chicago is messed up.  All the political back-scratching and favor-doing.  It’s embarrassing to live here sometimes.  But then, like I think about Blago, I’m sure these principals were doing what many have done before them.  As the W.Young principal points out, she wasn’t hiding anything and nobody stopped her or told her it was wrong, so it must have been OK.  Well, that thinking got us into the financial crisis, lady.  But I get her point.

And to some extent I support the idea of principal discretion.   Times are tough.  If a family makes it clear they will support a school with money or time or creativity or ideas or something else good, might a principal be crazy to turn that down?  Is it fair to people who have no favors to offer.  Probably.  Maybe.  Perhaps fewer than 5% of the seats might make me feel better about it.  Why not let some rich families buy their way, but funnel the money to a low income school?  Just thinking out of the box here.

I know, I know.  I’m the one who is usually all about fairness.  I just think it helps schools when the principal can get some extra resources that are hard to come by.  Will I be singing a different tune when my son is in 7th grade?  Undoubtedly.

Oh, but I DO like the idea of a school inspector.  Sounds like a reality TV show I’d actually watch!


The Chicago Schools Inspector General has recommended that Principal Joyce Kenner be banned for life from hand-picking kids for admission to Whitney Young Magnet High — a punishment Kenner calls “ridiculous” and one officials have ignored for seven months, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

At the same time last May, Schools Inspector General James Sullivan also recommended that Lane Tech Principal Antoinette Lobosco be banned for a year from making so-called “principal picks’’ at her school — another suggestion yet to be followed by Chicago Public School officials.

Both recommended punishments are mentioned in the IG’s annual report released Monday that blasts controversial “principal picks’’ at the city’s elite selective-enrollment high schools as being riddled with clout. Young, Lane and their principals are not mentioned by name, but a source identified them to the Sun-Times.

For her part, Kenner said she has used her picks over the last 16 years to build Young into a powerhouse of talented kids and wants to be considered by the next mayor for the top spot of CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

“I want to be the CEO,’’ Kenner told the Sun-Times. “I’m throwing my name out. I have the background and experience to take us to another level.”

As for her recommended punishment? “That’s absolutely unfair and ridiculous,’’ Kenner said. “It is January and I have not heard anything like that. . . . Nobody is going to make me a scapegoat. I did nothing wrong. I followed the procedure for the years it was in place.’’

Both Kenner and Lobosco say CPS officials approved the 5 percent of students they were allowed to pick outside a strict formula based mostly on grades and test scores during the two main years in question — 2008 and 2009 —when new rules were established for such picks. More controls were added in March following an audit.

“We had oversight,’’ Lobosco said. “Why wouldn’t they have rejected my picks if I did something improper?’’

However, Sullivan said, CPS officials did not always know the “underlying facts’’ behind the principal picks they reviewed. And, Sullivan said, “The problem is, when you select somebody based on clout, you’re passing over any number of kids who don’t have clout.’’

The IG investigation questioned several Lane students recommended by Ald. Gene Schulter (47th), who could not be reached for comment. Kenner was criticized for picks backed by current mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), the late Board President Michael Scott, Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), and other politicians. She also was accused of admitting basketball and soccer players whose academic records were lower than most Young students, a source said.

Kenner said she also took calls from people without clout and spread her picks among her coaches and even the Young violin teacher to build a wide range of talent at Young. Kenner said only one pick in 16 years failed to graduate from Young.

Although the IG recommended principal-pick bans back in May, sources said the possibility was discussed but not acted upon by CPS officials — at least not yet. Although the lifetime ban was recommended for what the IG called “egregious’’ abuse, punishment was problematic, sources said, as certain actions gave the appearance that the very highest levels of CPS condoned such inquiries.

Under then-Schools CEO Arne Duncan, who now serves as U.S. Education Secretary, the CEO’s office kept a clout-heavy log of callers about elite school admissions and a top aide vetted such calls.  According to the IG report, of 69 students who were being tracked by the CEO’s office, 20 were ultimately enrolled, including six the IG “directly attributed to influence exerted by the CEO’s office.’’

The IG also found that politicians, CPS administrators and others contacted elite schools directly, bypassing the CEO’s log. Even the “Office of the Board improperly influenced’’ elite high school admissions and the principal-pick process “to give preferential treatment to politicians, public figure friends and others,’’ the IG found.

Duncan’s successor, Schools CEO Ron Huberman, commissioned an audit after federal officials issued subpoenas about possible clout admissions in July 2009. Afterwards, Huberman cracked down on the process last March but kept principal picks in elite high schools — even though the auditor recommended they be scrapped because they created “the opportunity for fraud or undue influence.’’

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Filling Selective Enrollment seats mid-year PART 2 School Board – Elected or Appointed?

92 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jennifer  |  January 5, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Only one failure to graduate should have been only one failure to secure a college place. These schools are supposed to be elite, nobody should be even close to failing.

    Saying it’s been done for years doesn’t excuse it, it’s like saying it’s OK to speed because everyone does it.

    Of course my opinion is biased because I don’t have anything to offer a school other than my time.

  • 2. Mayfair Dad  |  January 5, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    WY principal Joyce Kenner used her discretionary 5% admissions to beef up sports teams and the music program. She claims this added to the vitality and diversity of the school. (You had to know something was up when a supposedly brainiac school won the state basketball championship).

    I find this to be an egregious misuse of the privilege, but do others feel differently? Is this any better/worse than Northwestern University pursuing top athletes by offering tutoring and remedial classes? Let’s assume the WY jocks were above-average students.

  • 3. par for the course  |  January 5, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    A “friend of a friend” got her child into Whitney through connections (and the fact th echild had an IEP- another tool used to gain admission). The kid had a tough time; said that he felt like he wasn’t given the same services as the ‘smart kids’ and is now hopping around from community college to community college.

  • 4. mom2  |  January 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    This just continues to confirm the urgent need for change somewhere. It is so obvious with all the clout pushing for spots in these schools that we need twenty more of these SE schools (in mostly safe to safe neighborhoods) to meet the needs/wants and abilities out there. These same people with clout should stop simply trying to help out there friends and families and do something about this whole mess so it doesn’t have to continue in the future. They are the ones that can and need to make it happen. That is what everyone should be talking about.

  • 5. cps Mom  |  January 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    CPSO – Are you sure your “thinking out of the box” isn’t Pandora’s box. Once you start giving allowances for donations of time and money, how do you draw the line? What is acceptable and what isn’t (I mean a $350 scarf from Burberrys may be quite reasonable for some and certainly $3,000 to sweep for “bugs” is a bargain). I have heard great things about the WY principal but everyone knows of a great basketball player with low grades (yes even in 2010 admissions) or a political connection that managed to get in to that school. There seems to be a “5th tier” of students that got in because of special talents, political connections, relatives or my favorite the ever popular double bonus relatives of political connections.

    #1- kids are failing at these schools because admissions includes exceptions to the admissions criteria and a large range of student capabilities based upon the elementary school experience. A student receiving all A’s from a mediocre elementary school can get in with lower test scores due to the extreme grade advantage (the major reason that I am against using grades as a strong criteria). Many of these schools have honors level classes only.

  • 6. Hawthorne mom  |  January 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Wait, are we really saying that NO smart child ever drops out of high school? Come on, really? Kids are people, and people have all kinds of problems…..just because a kid is smart, either getting into a good school through test scores or through clout, doesn’t mean they will all automatically graduate from high school and go on to college. Most will, but 100%? Not in the real world.

  • 7. dave4118  |  January 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    I think that this is part stroking of the principal’s ego, part marketing, part political bullying. The fact remains that for ever kid ‘clouted’ into a spot, another child was denied entry…..oh well…..that denied applicant would have just taken up space, with the clouted kid, we got something in exchange….the priorities are out of whack.

  • 8. Anonymous  |  January 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    I think it depends on the way we want to see our schools. Do we see intelligence as only an academic thing? Or do we accept that some children who are low in academics can be intelligent in other ways, like music, sports, and art? I don’t think anyone should get in purely based on being the relative of a bigwig, but I do think there should be some wiggle room for principals to choose students who will enhance the school in other ways. After all, being book smart isn’t *everything*, and it is only 5% of the seats.

  • 9. Jennifer  |  January 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    When the point of the school is that it is for those who are academically intelligent I think it does matter.

  • 10. cps Mom  |  January 5, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Was it only 5%? Seems like a lot more wiggle room than that especially since no one really knows how students were picked after offers were turned down. Plus, wasn’t the Prin. Discretion supposed to be about helping students with hardships and extraneous circumstances? Are/were the clouted kids replacing those that really need the brake. If so, I do find that abusive.

    “Failing” and “dropping out” aren’t always the same thing. Yes, there are some very smart teenagers that go astray. I would be more inclined to think that failing is more about academic level and practices that lead to low achievement. I’m sorry but students that don’t do homework (as in not 1 time) or don’t show up need to move over and let someone else in. Consider that this is standard practice at some elementary schools.

  • 11. grace  |  January 6, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Re: the 5% guideline. I’ve read that at WY, each year the principal defined this as 5% of the total enrollment, not of each freshman class, and that is partly why the inspector general described her as “egregious” in finding seats for the well -connected children.

    These same parents can return her favors and help promote her to CEO, or another position she might feel she deserves.
    I wonder if giving her more power in CPS make things fairer?

    Think how much an education at WY is worth…$45,000 or so for 4 years. Our taxes… We paid for some well-connected children whose admittance the I.G described as egregious.

    Shoudn’t we ask for fairness here?

    CPS obsessed, this is not a situation where a struggling school fighting to improve is looking for middle class parental support. WY has been a gem for decades. The funding has always been available for this school, and you should stop by and visit to see it for yourself.

    The current s.e. freshman class is the first one in decades where the admissions process was audited by an outside firm, and where principal discretion was sharply curtailed and reviewed. We need to be sure that this remains in place.

    The I.G.’s report had said — months earlier — that Kenner should be barred for life from exercising principal discretion at al!.

    She lawyered up quickly, and David Dinkins was fired for keeping a clout list for Arne Duncan. Kenner and the principal of Lane Tech, however, still made their principal picks!

  • 12. RL Julia  |  January 6, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I don’t think this would be as big an issue if the competition wasn’t so tight. If there were 20 SE or at least decent schools where a student had the opportunity to blossom into a college bound kid or was given decent options /education on how to earn a living post graduation without going to college – would anyone really care?

    While I find the article useful, I think it distracts from the larger picture of there are more kids who qualify for an SE-level (or one notch below) education who aren’t going to get it because there are not enough HS’s in the system capable of consistently providing it.

  • 13. mom  |  January 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I have problems with using discretion for clout. I do not have a problem with using discretion to let in kids who are gifted athletically or musically etc but missed the cut offs. Kenner does have a huge ego but she runs a great school and she certainly understands high school sports, which I believe is a big part of the high school experience.

  • 14. mom2  |  January 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    @12 – RL Julia , I agree with you. Why can’t there be articles and focus on the lack of enough high schools as you describe above? That truly is the real issue in all of this.

  • 15. anon mom  |  January 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    What about letting kids in who may be “gifted athletically” but are actively recruited from a suburban school? The basketball coach just got nailed holding practice at DuPage County high schools for this very purpose.

    SE high schools are not universities with a goal of having a well-rounded student body. They have set criteria for admissions that rely heavily upon test scores. For one school to change the criteria for admission would require an overhaul of the entire system that would include the means to assess EVERY candidate’s gifts. We’re talking auditions, essays, interviews… with the taxpayers funding the whole lengthy, intensive, she-bang.

  • 16. stillanonymous  |  January 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I have a serious problem with such principal discretion. This is a PUBLIC school, after all. If wealthy people want to buy their way into school, let them do so at a private school not funded by your dollars and mine.

  • 17. cps Mom  |  January 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    @15 I agree – we have schools specializing in the arts. They select students by audition and portfolios. We even have an agricultural school and IB programs for international exchange. Selective enrollment is about academics. The kids at Payton, Northside and Jones all appreciate the fact that their sports teams are not going to bring home championships over some of the neighborhood and suburban schools with open enrollment and the ability to actively recruit for sports. They still compete, do pretty well at it too, and enjoy homecoming and all the other rights of passage associated with high school. Sometimes students are prohibited from playing if even one grade dips below a C because academics comes first at these schools.

  • 18. cps mom 5  |  January 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Kenner said she wants to be CEO of Chicago Public Schools because she has what it takes to improve things. Yeah, well get in line with the rest of them.

  • 19. mom  |  January 6, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Maybe. But part of the reason that many qualified students choose WHYS and Lane over the other schools is precisely because they offermuch more of an array of extracurricular activities and experiences than the schools you mention. There are students at Lane and WYHS who are on a varsity team and play in the orchestras–why should a well rounded student have to go to a performing arts school? They are also much more diverse. I’m not excusing Kenner’s clout choices but I do not that over the years she gave many (mainly african american boys) who were not that far off the cut off an opportunity to attend the school due to their athletic ability–and that was part of her discretion at the time.

    This is a different issue from violating IHSA rules on recruiting, which in no way do I condone.

  • 20. mom2  |  January 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    @19 – You are right about this. I know many students that picked Lane (or WY) over other schools in which they qualified because it had more focus in all areas rather than just academics. They wanted a school where they could be on various sports teams or perform in a top notch band, etc. and still be in a great SE school with great test scores, etc. It is what makes those two schools special. If those principal picks are the reason why those schools are like this, then maybe I do understand the value in picking that way. I am quite opposed to picks based just on who you know and little else, but other talents as a reason…that makes sense to me.

  • 21. mom  |  January 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I was pleasantly surprised to learn that at Lane there are football players who also play in orchestra (incidently, both Lane and WYHS have terrific music/art programs). Lane has a large all male chorus which has many athletes. IMO, these common crossovers make life enriching and multidimensional.

  • 22. Grace  |  January 7, 2011 at 8:06 am

    @RLJulia: Kenner took care of the children of the welll-connected. They didn’t have to complain on blogs, or appeal to the Board, in order to expand the number of S.E. schools for all those kids who merit a seat. They have the inside track.

    Kenner is a public employee who seriously bent the admissions rules until the feds and the I.G. stepped in.

  • 23. cps Mom  |  January 7, 2011 at 9:15 am

    My understanding was that her picks were political and to stack the sports teams. This was not about boosting the orchestra. The violations were blatant and not on the boarder line of cut offs. Some students were able to get in with C’s. One of the reasons Whitney is a top academic school is because of the Academic Center. They have many of the top gifted students in Chicago.

  • 24. copy editor  |  January 7, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I wonder why Kenner thinks she can run CPS, an organization serving 400,000 students, most of whom don’t have parents who are going to suck up to her. It’s a very different world when the children’s interests have to come before the principal’s.

  • 25. Grace  |  January 7, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Kenner’s reply in the Sun Times could be seen as a challenge to the I.G. and the Mayor. Even though she was by far the most egregious, she knows that clout has always been used to give seats to kids who didn’t make the cut off — throughout all the schools in the s.e. gifted, classical, etc. system.

    Keep the outside auditor.

  • 26. James  |  January 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I agree that the discretionary picks should not be based on political or economic clout, but that a tightly overseen process in which kids who don’t quite make the cut academically but who bring other things to the table (athletics, fine arts, etc.) could be OK. Although it sounds like Kenner was out of control and admitting on clout for a number of years. She and the WY LSC should be ashamed.

    Also, while I think the well-rounded high school experience at WY and Lane is to be lauded, it exists also at Payton. Unlike Northside, Payton has a football team, has a fall homecoming, has football players that play in its band, doesn’t emphasize academics to the near exclusion of all else, doesn’t have a student body obsessed with the Ivy League, etc. There is a reason that Payton is generally the most sought after SE HS, and the differences between it and Northside are significant when it comes to these non-academic factors.

  • 27. cps Mom  |  January 7, 2011 at 11:35 am

    True – they all do. But, if #11 is true that means over 100 freshman seats were appointed!! That’s is 25% of the available seats and well beyond excusable.

  • 28. RL Julia  |  January 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I don’t have kids at either Payton or Northside, but BOTH schools seem to be similar. Northside may not have a football team but they do have tons of other athletic teams and seem to do all the sort of school spirit-y stuff that all the other SE schools do. I am sure following posts will prove me completely wrong, but the two schools seem to be remarkably similar to each other and to Jones as well -at least to me- in that they are all academic powerhouses with lots of activities -athletic and otherwise, attended by (multi-) talented, focussed and ambitious students. Since Payton is named after Walter Payton, I imagine, they sort of have to have a football program if only to save face. A brief scan indicates that while Payton has football, Northside has diving, boy’s water polo, wrestling, softball and LaCrosse.

  • 29. ackie mom  |  January 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm


    H.S. SPORTS City Champion

    Girls Tennis – Whitney Young
    Boys Golf – Whitney Young
    Girls Golf – Walter Payton
    Boys Cross Country – Northside Prep
    Girls Cross Country – Whitney Young
    Boys 16 Inch Softball – Taft
    Boys Soccer – Whitney Young
    Girls Volleyball – Walter Payton
    Girls Swimming – Northside Prep
    Football – Simeon

    H.S. SPORTS City Champion

    Wrestling – Lane Tech
    Girls Basketball – Whitney Young
    Boys Basketball – Morgan Park
    Boys Swimming – Whitney Young
    Boys Bowling – Clemente
    Chess – Whitney Young
    Girls Bowling – Gwendolyn Brooks

    H.S. SPORTS City Champion

    Baseball – Whitney Young
    Boys Track – Lane Tech
    Girls Track – Whitney Young
    Boys Tennis – Walter Payton
    Boys Water Polo – Curie
    Girls Water Polo – Whitney Young
    Girls Softball – Lane Tech
    Girls Soccer – Walter Payton
    Boys Volleyball – Whitney Young

    CPS Individual State Champions

    Lavinia Jurkiewicz – Whitney Young, Girls Cross Country
    Lavinia Jurkiewicz – Whitney Young, Girls 3200 Meter Run
    Raena Rhone – Whitney Young, Girls 400 Meter Dash
    Jonathan Gardner – Whitney Young, Boys Triple Jump Champion
    Jonathan Jackson – Lane Tech, Boys 300 Meter Hurdles
    Max Schneider – Lane Tech, Boys Wrestling 145 pounds
    Michael Auger – Whitney Young, Board 1 — Chess
    Lukasz Zak – Lane Tech, Board 4 — Chess
    Lorenzo Cox – Marshall, Board 8 — Chess

  • 30. ackie mom  |  January 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Forgot to mention the souce:

  • 31. ackie mom  |  January 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm


  • 32. Two cents  |  January 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks Julia for recognizing that the two schools are similar–it is always annoying when one blogger wants to point out which school is better when really, what we all want is more good schools, and to have our kids choose (and hopefully get into) the school that is best for them. None of the schools are perfect I might add, after all this is public education and we live in Chicago.

  • 33. ackie mom  |  January 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    @ Two cents: If you are referring to my posts, you need to open your mind to the fact that the data I posted may support the results of principal picks – good or bad. I simply put it out there to confirm the comments that are listed throughout previous comments and to correct any prior speculative comments. Does it make a school “better”?

  • 34. Two cents  |  January 7, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    To ackie mom-nope–wasn’t referring to your post–referring to James. Yes, I understood your post all very well.

  • 35. Grace  |  January 8, 2011 at 8:48 am

    @Ackie mom, thanks for the info. Shows how good all these schools — and kids — are.

    The people at the top of any organization set the tone. When they are not ethical, then we have to suspect the entire system.

  • 36. RL Julia  |  January 8, 2011 at 9:28 am

    When did Chess become a sport?

  • 37. cpsobsessed  |  January 8, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Looking at the list of winning schools is almost comical after our discussion about hand-picking and seeing WY up there so much.
    As a researcher, I feel compelled to point out that ofther factors could influences this correlation. I do see a lot of the SE schools on there so I’m guessing that kids who strive to succeed academically also strive to excel in other areas, like sports. I doubt every kid up there get in through discretion.
    Also, I’m sure many smaller struggling high schools don’t even have some of these teams?

    I agree with everyone that letting kids in because of clout is pretty lame. Very lame. That’s the embarrassing part about living in Chicago. BUT… I do believe that Kennar was just continuing with standard operating procedure. Not that that makes it right. But I suspect there was a general understanding that principal discretion was invented, in part, for that reason.

  • 38. cpsobsessed  |  January 8, 2011 at 9:35 am

    @36 RL Julia: Maybe same time poker became a sport?

  • 39. cps Mom  |  January 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    @37 – I think you’re on to something in that gifted/smart kids may lend itself to being talented in other areas like sports/music/art. To add to a discussion above, these families probably have many options and will not necessarily chose a fine arts school. A child with advanced talents in 1 area only is not necessarily the best candidate for a selective enrollment high school whose focus is on honors level academics. I don’t think that should warrant special treatment.

    Thanks for that list of sports achievements. One thing that is not reflected is that the competitive sports available at most schools (like basketball) that went to WY are strongly contested by many neighborhood schools who run circles around NS, Payton and Jones. You aren’t going to find many contenders in golf, swimming and water polo at most schools.

    Chess is big – you should attend a tournament. It gives non-athletic kids something to add on to their “:resume” for college.

    While patronage is SOP in Chicago, Kenner went well beyond acceptable bounds. Others lost their jobs over this.

  • 40. RL Julia  |  January 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    cps ,mom – Totally . Also the SE high schools have a higher percentage of more resourced parents to make sure that the equipment is up to par, the gym heated etc…and to bitterly complain if someone tries to cut the water polo team. Payton and Northside (and Westinghouse) are all relatively new schools which means that their equipment is that much newer. Lane has a thousands of alumni who are in a position to write the team a check if asked etc….Orr probably doesn’t.

  • 41. cps Mom  |  January 9, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Not to mention the training for soccer and volleyball that kids get at an early edge – traveling teams and powerhouse clubs. These things cost $$$$$.

  • 42. teacher  |  January 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    #40 – Lane is 60% low income. You make it sound as though the school is wealthy – not true. Coaches get much equipment by posting their needs on Donors Choose and the kids do fundraising (e.g., sell candy) inside the school. Any ofther CPS school could do the same. I have never heard of an alum donating to a sports team.

  • 43. Grace  |  January 10, 2011 at 9:23 am

    CPSO — Sorry, but I can’t see how Kenner was simply going along with the program when the I.G. called her picks “egregious,” and recommended that she be barred for life from principal picks.

    I didn’t even know that principal discretion existed, and I’m a CPS parent for 11 years. It was only during the 2009-10 school year that I learned that a formal principal selection process existed.

    Seems like I was the only one who thought you had one shot at admittance — grades and tests — and then you simply waited to hear?

    But I never wanted my kids to attend a school they didn’t deserve to be in based on grades and scores. I think that would set them up for embarrassment or failure.

  • 44. klm  |  January 10, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I think somebody should look into the self-serving CPS employees whose children benefit. I know of a CPS teacher (former classmate of one of my kids from private preschool) that was able to get her son nto the magnet school of her choice because “she knows the principal” and figured that if things didn’t work out there, her child would just go to the school where she teaches (a highly sought-after Classical/RGC school –I’m being vague, since I don’t directly want to cause grief to her in any way). She said all this in a very matter-of-fact way. A relative of mine (a CPS teacher) says that she was told to make calls and use her “favor to another CPS educator” card when it’s time for her child to get into elementary school. I can understand that it’s sometimes in the best interest to help fellow educators out before other people, but this kind favoritism is why I believe it’s totally unacceptable for principals to be make admissions decisions –we’re talking PUBLIC school here, paid with PUBLIC money, so in the zero-sum games of admissions to the relatively few places in “excellent” CPS schools, it’s kinda’ “immoral” (not too strong a word when we’re talking kids’ educations and futures) . It should be noted that some principals have no part of this –Mrs. Gray at Edison RGC for one (and to her great credit), has put in her employment contract a clause expressly disallowing any “principal picks”. Therefore, it’s not like principals are “required” to make these all-too-often self-serving decisions, they CHOOSE to make them.

  • 45. mom  |  January 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    It would be more accurate to post the top five for each sport and then you can get a more general idea of what is available at each school.

  • 46. Mayfair Dad  |  January 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Wow, this has been a lively thread.

    Upon reflection, I guess I am less troubled by principal discretion used to enroll a top athlete or talented cello player, so long as the athlete or musician is an above-average student who is capable of doing the work. You could argue the time spent perfecting a jumpshot or sonata took away from study time, and these achievements are no less extraordinary.

    However, “clout” admissions are wrong, period, even if everybody else is doing it. You wouldn’t accept that answer from your teenager and you shouldn’t accept that answer from your teenager’s principal.

    I suspect Kenner was really in deep to receive a lifetime ban.

  • 47. RL Julia  |  January 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Our suspicious natures being what they are, I feel sorry for the kids of politicians, teachers, principals, etc… because no matter where they go, I imagine every assumes that they don’t deserve to be there and are only there because of their connection.

    To klm: In terms of letting the kids of teachers into the school where they work – it is a highly individualized decision – some teachers don’t want their kids in the same building because of the perception of bias, some do because it makes them feel more vested in the school community. Most teachers I know are pretty concerned with their children’s education and make sure they live in areas where the could live with the local school. It doesn’t seem fair that they could get their kid in on clout alone and I have heard of enough examples where principals have denied the request to think that at least on the elementary school level it isn’t happening much. I’d like to think that your friend’s referral to her “get into school free” card is more about her anxiety than any reality.

  • 48. cps Mom  |  January 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    My understanding is that Northside does not elect to use discretion either. They go by points only, as should be the case with SE schools because that’s how they are designed to accept kids. If you add sports or musical talent to the mix then how do you determine of those who has the most to offer? Difficult if not impossible.

    The Prin Discretion guidelines call for extraneous circumstances – like an illness sustained by the child or a death in the family keeping them from physically or mentally being able to perform on a test. Every “special appointment” outside of the guidelines takes away from the real purpose and true beneficiary’s of this policy. Also, as mentioned above, consider that for every student clouted in or picked for “special abilities” a child that qualifies by the established point system in turned down.

    Let’s hope they keep discretion out of the magnet process – for a “lottery” system, many seats were hand picked. This did include CPS employees, yes, but many others. In the higher grades, a stellar academic background or a Doctor parent (no offense to doctors, but it did help).

  • 49. Grace  |  January 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    We need an outside auditor to review admissions for all the schools selective, magnet, classical and gifted, including principal picks.

  • 50. James  |  January 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    To #28 (Julia) and #32 (Two Cents) —

    You two chastised me for pointing out the differences between Payton and Northside. I have kids at both schools. I know there is a difference. If that “irritat[es]” Two Cents, so be it. His or her irritation isn’t going to make the differences go away or stop me from pointing them out when appropriate.

    And for what it’s worth, I am all for increasing the number and quality of all SE HSs. What that has to do with discussing the differences between two of the existing schools, I don’t know. I’d further point out that my comment was specifically in response to what #20 (mom2) was saying about WY and Lane. She said that she knew kids who chose those two schools because they offered “more focus in all areas rather than just academics.” That is what, according tp her, made “those two schools special.” I merely pointed out that that is also the case at Payton and that it isn’t the case at Northside. I honestly could not care at all if you two believe me or not. It happens to be true, and I thought it was entirely appropriate to point that out on a thread dedicated to discussing CPS SE HSs.

  • 51. mom2  |  January 11, 2011 at 9:47 am

    @James, thank you for pointing out the opportunities at Payton. I did know that they offer a lot, but I think the size of the school being so much smaller can cause some people to look elsewhere for the full high school experience. Others may actually prefer a smaller school. Nice to have both options (if you have the scores to have the option in the first place). Now, can we just add about 10 more of these types of choices in mostly safe neighborhoods – please!

  • 52. cps Mom  |  January 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Agreed – with more schools we will naturally get that “well rounded” quality that so many desire and this discussion of principals discretion becomes unnecessary. Until then, I have to say that unless we have a list of parents here that are willing to give up their space for the sake of making the school more diverse in sports and arts or just because this is Chicago then why should discretion be done at the expense of someone elses child.

  • 53. more schools?  |  January 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I’m finding these comments about more schools baffling. More selective enrollment schools seems to widen the divide even further between the haves and the have nots. I understand that some neighborhood schools are simply not options but the people posting to this blog don’t live in those neighborhoods. It seems that more kids in the neighborhood schools who missed the cut off with involved parents and honors programs within these schools is a more economical way to address this. In any event, I don’t think there is money for more SE schools.

  • 54. Mayfair Dad  |  January 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    From the Final Principal Discretion Handbook, dated 03-18-10 (

    “A selective enrollment high school principal may exercise the five percent discretion to select qualified applicants who are deemed uniquely suited to the school’s defined educational mission. Students admitted under a selective enrollment high school principal’s discretion must meet threshold qualifying admissions criteria:

    (a) Timely application for entrance in a selective enrollment school during the general admissions process;

    (b) Participation in the selective enrollment high schools’ standardized admissions testing process; and

    (c) In order to be considered for principal discretion at a particular selective enrollment high school, the student must have listed that school on his/her general admissions process application.”

    Elsewhere in the policy…

    “(a) Unique Skills or Abilities. This category requires evidence of the applicant’s skill or ability in one or more extracurricular activities, including, but not limited to, visual and performing arts, athletics, school clubs, language skills or other particular skills or abilities that would enhance the learning environment at the selective enrollment high school.”

    To the parent who shelled out all that money for 8 years of private cello lessons, has a budding opera diva at home, or dreams of watching his son play footbal at Ryan Field in Evanston, this path to admissions to a SE High School is a god send. How can it be unfair if every student in Chicago has access to the same path, as long as proper oversight and review exist?

  • 55. James  |  January 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Mayfair Dad — I think the issue is that “proper oversight and review” of principal discretion picks did not exist until very recently. Before that, it was a free for all. I agree that a regulated system that is overseen by somewhat disinterested folks downtown is OK as long as it fills only a relatively small percentage of the total class eats. 5% seems about right to me.

  • 56. cps Mom  |  January 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Yes – thanks for looking that up because in working off memory I did not include “unique skills or abilities” in extraneous circumstances. I would hesitantly agree that as stipulated above (monitored outside of the principal, proof of skill, limited to 5% of 1st year applicants, close to cut-offs) has merit. I’m hesitant because of the difficulties in determining the value of artistic or athletic skills amongst the candidates and the opportunity for “relaxing” those criteria as has happened in the past. At the same time I do realize that this whole process is not perfect and will never completely appease all interested persons involved.

  • 57. Grace  |  January 12, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Hi James.Sorry, but there really are no ‘somewhat disinterested’ employees downtown at CPS who haven’t had to deal with the pressure of clout.

    From the Mayor’s office, to aldermen, principals, CBOE staff, etc. all have relied on CPS staffers to get seats for relatives, friends, and supporters.

    The S.E. admissions process needs to continue with an outside auditor so that he or she can run interference for the CPS staffer when those pressures are applied.

    This problem — patronage s.e.h.s. seats — is exactly the same as patronage city jobs. The court appointed someone to oversee that process and control the use of clout in awarding city jobs. It should be done at CPS, too.

  • 58. EDB  |  January 12, 2011 at 9:37 am

    @52 – More Schools?

    Sorry, but there are many people posting here who have neighborhood schools that are not an option. I live in Wicker Park, and have seen many others post here from WP. My neighborhood HS is Clemente, a school I have seen described as a “war zone”. From everything I have read and heard, it is gang infested and not a place you would send your child to learn. I’m sure this isn’t the only example of a “no go” school that is the neigborhood option for parents on this board. Something needs to be done.

  • 59. Grace  |  January 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I don’t know how CPS turns around a neighborhood school that has gangs. I suspect that, under Renaissance 2010, CPS closes them and re-opens them as charters, which have the right to expel students for bad behavior. This, of course, overloads the neighborhood school.

  • 60. more schools  |  January 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

    @58 Maybe–but it doesnt’ mean that you get to open more schools to separate your kids from the other kids. I’m sure there are many kids at Clemente who are NOT in gangs.

  • 61. EDB  |  January 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

    @60 – it does mean we need more acceptable options for public schools. we pay high taxes (even higher now) and should have some expectation of a decent education for our kids. I’d love for all the neighborhood schools to be great, but they’re not. I’m sure there ARE many Clemente kids not in gangs, but think about how much better they could do if school wasn’t a scary place. I worry about the kids who don’t have parents like us looking out for them too. Parents who don’t know there are options. Who’s looking out for those kids & making sure they get a decent education?

  • 62. stillanonymous  |  January 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Grace — yes. That is my issue. The neighborhood schools cannot be the “dumping ground” for students with behavioral issues. That’s why I believe there should be alternative schools — call them whatever you will — for students with criminal backgrounds, behavioral issues, etc. And those should NOT be the neighborhood schools. If we all felt our neighborhood schools were safe, wouldn’t we all be far more interested in investing in them? We can’t have all the children suffer because of the few. And I believe there are far more students who want to learn than there are students who want to cause trouble and disrupt classrooms. I worked at an alternative school. We took in kids who were “good,” but were suffering at CPS due to gang issues or pregnancy. They wanted to learn, too, but CPS wasn’t the place for them.

    CPS needs to think far more broadly. Grace is right. Charter schools can claim to be “safe” by kicking out disruptive students. But neighborhood schools cannot? How is that right? Our tax dollars should not fund these new charters when we need to figure out ways to simply make our schools safer.

    Why not build alternative schools, instead of new charters, and have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for any behavioral disruptions in ANY of ours schools. Then those students can get the help they need, which one can probably lay a safe bet is NOT about textbooks. It could very well be counseling, job skills, social skills, etc.

    I just believe that safety in our schools is what people are really concerned about and what drives people to seek SE/magnets so heartily.

    Rather than separate the bright kids from the rest, let’s just separate the disruptive/violent kids from those who want to learn — at every level. Not all kids will be scientists, but they all deserve to have a safe place to learn.

    And those kids who are suffering from other issues should have a place that addresses whatever it is that is causing them to take that right away from the rest.

  • 63. mom2  |  January 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    @62 – you are exactly right.

  • 64. more schools  |  January 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    not that easy. can’t expel kids with ieps.

  • 65. bagg  |  January 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Current parent of an 8th grader here. With regards to ChiArts high school, the performance arts program is substandard. The training is more geared to students who do not have any formal training and these students will not get into the professional dance program. Experienced students, like those that already train at Joffrey or Ballet Chicago, will waste hours at ChiArts. And thus, many of us parents of performance arts students are looking at the SE schools.

  • 66. mom2  |  January 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    @64 – who said anything about expelling kids? Can’t they be transferred to a special school that could better help them? Is that considered expelling? Why is it that CPS thinks it makes more sense to keep adding schools for everyone except those that are the real problem or that need extra attention in various ways? Until things change, you will never get people to stop begging for more and more SE schools and will never get people to put support and effort into their neighborhood high schools.

  • 67. cps Mom  |  January 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    @66 I agree on the need for an alternative program if we are to ever help older kids that are on the wrong path. I also feel that there is a place for charters. They have a plan and are making a positive difference. And yes they can reject students that will not go along with the plan and can also fire teachers. Don’t forget that some are privately funded.

    @65 – just curious for someone I know in the arts (who says the opposite about Chi-Arts) – what SE school gets you into the Joffrey ballet? From a standpoint of options. Do you have any particular recommendations?

  • 68. RL Julia  |  January 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I believe that Federal Law requires that students with IEP’s who may or may not be disruptive must be educated in the least restrictive environment. This includes those with behaviorally based IEPs. The current trend is to integrate classrooms rather than have separate SpED classrooms even.
    Its basically against the law to segregate kids out just because they are disruptive and unpleasant or not interested in learning.

    I hate to put it on the administration but it is really the individual school administration’s job to keep the school and its students safe and that means that often principals also need to be community organizers. It is also the parent’s job to keep their kids out of gangs. At some point, the schools should not be held soley responsible for student behavior.

    I personally am against zero tolerance – for the obvious stuff where a law is actually broken fine but I think that happens already. What I am against is the zealous administrator that decides to follow the uniform discipline code to the letter even though it is not completely warranted (like the second grade boy who kissed a girl in his grade etc…).

    Unfortunate to hear that ChiArts is following in the path of many other arts magnets (nationally) in providing weak academics. On the other hand, the school is only a few years old. It is still getting its legs.

  • 69. EDB  |  January 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    CPSObsessed – did you see this article in the Trib about restoring recess in CPS?,0,5547221.story

  • 70. anon  |  January 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    “Is this any better/worse than Northwestern University pursuing top athletes by offering tutoring and remedial classes?”

    If this is true, things have changed since I was there.NU’s football team was terrible and there was talk of dropping out of the big team because it would not lower any academic standards for athletes.

  • 71. chiarts  |  January 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    @65 What is the basis of your statement that the performance arts standards at ChiArts are substandard? I know two families enrolled who say the opposite and are professionals in performing arts.

  • 72. bagg  |  January 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I’m comparing ChiArts dance program with other dance schools and pre-professional schools around the chicagoland area and the country. The basis of all dance is ballet. ChiArts ballet training is not worth your kids time. Rather, go to Joffrey (russian) or Ballet Chicago (balanchine). Currently, the ballet summer intensive auditions are occurring now thru end of Feb. The ChiArts dancers do not have the clean technique and musicality in comparison to the other dancers (from the tri-state area). If you are parent of an aspiring dancer, it would behoove you to watch the Joffrey and Ballet Chgo student dancers in performances or in class observations. Then go to ChiArts and notice the differences. Night and day.

  • 73. mom2  |  January 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    @68 RL Julia – You are missing the point of some of these discussions. No one is blaming a school, asking the school to be responsible for a child’s behavior, or even asking a school to be the only ones to keep kids safe. The discussion is about how parents on blogs like this will continue to beg for more SE schools and will never put their efforts into neighborhood high schools as long as CPS requires a school to keep disruptive kids in the classroom and in the school with our children (those that want to learn and care about education, etc.)

    If it is against the law and they are following the “current trend”, etc., then no one should expect anything to change in CPS as far as the high schools go. We parents will just continue our trend away from neighborhood high schools and toward alternatives such as SE and maybe a magnet or charter here and there.

  • 74. cps Mom  |  January 12, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    @ 72 – Chi Arts is completely different in that it is a college prep high school emphasis art. They do not have an academic requirement for entry but do hold auditions for space. It does sound completely different from the ballet training that you are talking about. I don’t see how it would be possible to take intensive dance training and go to an SE school at the same time. There’s lots of homework every night. It’s even difficult for those in sports.

  • 75. bagg  |  January 13, 2011 at 12:00 am

    @74 – I personally know Joffrey and Ballet Chgo students that currently attend or have graduated from Northside, Payton, Whitney, Parker, Latin, and Ignatius. These elite ballet dancers train like athletes all year-long, 6 days per week, 3 hours per day, all day Sat and some Sundays. After high school, the dancers either go the professional track or attend colleges like Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Northwestern, etc. These kids are very focused and excellent at time management.

    Regarding the ChiArts audition, very easy because most of the kids have had no dance training whatsoever. At Joffrey and Ballet Chgo, most of the dancers have had ballet training since the age of 7.

  • 76. cps Mom  |  January 13, 2011 at 9:42 am

    OK – I hear you. I thought that we were talking about kids that do not make the academic cut offs but get into SE because of specialized skill. As far as an actual school that offers training in the arts, I only know of Chi-arts and Chicago Academy of the Arts (which is private tuition based). So again 2 completely different things. I’m also guessing that the route you describe may be unaffordable for some. For a school that offers academics and art I have heard that Chi-Arts fills a real need so lets not trash talk it.

  • 77. RL Julia  |  January 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Mom2 @73 – No one is blaming the schools – but they are not sending their kids their either – and the cycle begins again.

    My point is that disruptive students can often be managed through school culture that doesn’t support the behavior or actively seeks to refocus the child/teens behavior into something more productive – social curriculums such as Responsive Classroom manage to do this quite successfully in some Chicago schools.

    My second point is that CPS (and other school districts) used to have these special schools until it was revealed that many of these schools were little more than warehouses for the difficult to educate student and that little or no education was taking place. The remedy to this is ultimately is addressed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which mandates that all students with IEPs be educated in the least restrictive environment possible and be integrated with their age peers as much as possible – and spend no more than two hours per school day in the “resource room” which may be reserved solely for those with IEPs. This means that for students with IEPs concerning behavior, the onus is on the school to maintain order etc… Now, not every disruptive kid has an IEP stating such but the fact is, there is no simple solution.

  • 78. mom2  |  January 13, 2011 at 11:28 am

    RL Julia @77 – Thank you for the information. I do see both sides and if I had a child with an IEP for behavior, I know I wouldn’t want him or her in a place where no education was taking place. That would be terrible. Do you know if anyone did some research into why these places were “warehouses” instead of a great place with extra help for kids that need it? Did anyone try to change that rather than just getting rid of those places and putting these kids back with everyone else?

    I do see how placing kids with a specific issue in a place where they can be around kids without these issues and where they might learn something more from being with them would be good for those kids. But, for behavioral issues (not a learning disability or physical disability), I don’t see how this ever benefits the rest of the classroom. Do we know if these kids with behavior issues are now learning more? Do we know if the other kids are still learning the same amount or less?

  • 79. RL Julia  |  January 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Mom2 – For kids with extreme behavioral problems there are a host of private therapeutic schools (such as the Cove School) that specialize in serving kids with fairly pronounced emotional/behavioral issues and educating them as well. From the little I know, it seems like some schools are more effective then others. Much depends on the child and what the problems are. While these schools are private, school districts will often pay (after a few years back and forth with lawyers, so it seems) the tuition for the child in question.

    Previously kids with disabilities were shunted to the side until they could drop out – A 1975 act decreed that districts had to pay for the appropriate education of its disablied studenst but it seems to me that before No Child Left Behind (NCLB), school systems were not held completely responsible for their drop out rates or their student’s achievement the way they are now- and hence there was little reason have anything but the most minimal expectations for educational attainment for special education students or accomodate learning differences or limitations in a mainstream classroom setting.

    I always think that these things are germaine because in some ways the Magnets/SE high schools are sort of the same story on the other end of the spectrum – but are deemed legal because the criteria for eligibilty isn’t based on having an IEP – but in the same way its forcing an accomodation out of a school district.

  • 80. cps Mom  |  January 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Both magnets and selective enrollment take IEP students. Magnets are supposed to take any student on a lottery basis. Most selective schools have both a profound and severely handicapped program segregated from the school population and an IEP program integrated. Some of the behavioral issues are not so clear cut. For example, what about a child with Azbergers (sp?) who is extremely gifted yet socially immature and maybe even violent? Many parents want their child integrated, understandably so, with the student population.

  • 81. ballet  |  January 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    It is my understanding there are students at ChiArts who have years of formal ballet training at schools such as Joffrey (and there ARE other ballet schools besides Joffrey and Ballet Chicago). I have heard positive comments from these people. I haven’t probed but I would imagine these dancers would have a separate advanced ballet class. Certainly, a dancer with potential without ballet training would have a hard time catching up because it takes years of disciplined work. having said that, there are other forms of dance expression that can enrich a ballet dancer’s experience and make them better dancers.

    There definitely are ballet dancers at selective enrollment schools but their high school experience is limited because they must be at ballet class 5 times a week and it leaves little time for anything else. But the same can be said for other activities. Most do very well because they manage their time.

    Attending a performing arts school allows them to train without having to drive all around town for lessons and classes. Also, they do not have to take traditional gym classes. It makes life more manageable.

  • 82. James  |  January 14, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I don’t know that much about ChiArts, but I do know a family whose daughter is a freshman this year who is enrolled and likes it. She was accepted at Jones, but went with ChiArts. I understand that the academics are a little easy — this kid is a star academically at ChiArts when, I think, she’d be middle of the pack at Jones, based on other kids I know at Jones. But it certainly works for her and provides a unique education that her parents otherwise would not be able to afford.

  • 83. anon  |  January 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Does Bagg know that the Joffrey ballet master’s daughter is in the dance program at ChiArts???!!!!!

  • 84. anon  |  January 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Share This:

    ChiArts Chicago High School for the Arts
    Issue 11 • November/December 2010

    An Inspiring Master Class
    On November 16, American violinist Rachel Barton Pine (center) visited ChiArts to share her amazing talent with our Music majors. Ms. Barton Pine gave a 3-hour master class to Dr. Racheli Galay’s String Technique students, in which she provided feedback and guidance to the young players and performed some of her favorite pieces.

    Ms. Barton Pine has appeared as soloist with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, working with conductors Zubin Mehta, Erich Leinsdorf, Marin Alsop, Neeme Järvi, and Placido Domingo, among others. A tireless ambassador for classical music, Ms. Barton Pine is dedicated to community engagement and music education and frequently participates in pre-concert conversations, gives master classes, and presents programs in public schools. ChiArts is honored and grateful for her visit.

    Eat to the Beat
    at the Harris Theater
    Come see ChiArts’ students at the Harris Theater on Friday, January 21 from 12-1pm! ChiArts dance, music and theatre majors will perform and the visual arts majors will exhibit their work as part of the Harris Theater Eat to the Beat lunchtime series. All tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the theater’s box office (205 E. Randolph), by phone at 312-334-7777 or online. Bring your lunch (or purchase it at the Harris) and come ready to feast on our students’ exceptional talent. Don’t miss this event!!

    Upcoming performances at ChiArts
    Tuesday, January 25 at 7 p.m.
    Music Showcase I (String Ensemble and Quartet, Wind Ensemble, Guitar, Jazz Combo)
    Friday, January 28 from 5:30-7 p.m.
    Visual Arts Opening
    Friday, January 28 at 7 p.m.
    Acting & Musical Theatre Sophomore Presentations
    Thursday, February 3 at 7 p.m.
    Music Showcase II (Chorale, Piano, Jazz Fundamental Combos, and Percussion)

    Class of 2014’s First Presentation The Freshman Debut is the first opportunity for ChiArtists to share their talent and creativity with the community. On December 16, parents, staff, friends, and family members filled the hallways and auditorium of ChiArts to celebrate and experience the work of our newest scholar-artists. On stage, the dancers delighted audience members with their enthusiasm and grace while the musicians kept everyone snapping their fingers and swaying in their seats. The acting and musical theatre majors captivated the audience with their focus and humor and the visual artists illuminated the hallways with creative expressions of pencil, paint, clay, paper and film.

    Artists of the Future: an Art Exhibit at SpringHills Suites
    The SpringHills Suites Downtown Chicago hotel hosted an exhibit of ChiArts visual arts sophomores on December 7 as part of their “ArtNight” initiative. The exhibit presented the work of students Marie Clemens, Dianne Chavez, Miguel Ontiveros, Sabina Valencia, Madeline Finn, Hannah Clemens, John Gingrich, Madison Smith, Kelia Louis, Miguel Mercado, Chris McGill, Harlan Ballogg, Gillian Griffin, Shaquita Reed, Brittany Roque and Victoria DeLeon. Event guests had the opportunity to meet our scholar-artists and talk about their work during the reception. A big thank you to the SpringHills Suites for hosting this event and congratulations to all the students selected for the exhibit.
    Core Values on Display
    This fall, students deepened their understanding of ChiArts’ core values by taking part in a creative design competition. Students in each advisory group collaborated on the creation of a door design that best envisioned those values. Inspired by the Fall Masquerade Dance, students used beads, photographs, glitter, and construction paper to express ChiArts’ core values: creativity, community, integrity, humility, balance, and perseverance. First place awards went to Mr. Padraic O’Donnell’s 10th grade advisory (photo on the left) and Mr. Rob Schroeder’s 9th grade advisory. Thank you to all the students and teachers who participated in this project.

    Applications for the 2011-12 School Year
    The deadline for 2011-12 admission to The Chicago High School for the Arts was December 17, 2010 and over 1,400 applications were received. Auditions and interviews will begin in January and continue through February. Candidates who meet the minimum academic requirements will receive a letter by mail inviting them to audition/interview for admission to ChiArts’ Class of 2015.

    3200 S. Calumet Ave, Suite 110 Chicago, IL 60610 | phone: 773.534.9710
    For more information, visit or email

  • 85. Mayfair Dad  |  January 18, 2011 at 11:22 am

    And now a petition drive to end Principal’s Picks once and for all:

  • 86. cps Mom  |  January 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks. The article is pretty much right on in an angry sort of way. I did respond to the idea and hope it helps. It sounds like this group supports complete elimination of discretion – which is not what seems to be the consensus here. I too wonder if nothing short of abolition would change the abuse. Certainly at the magnet level (not discussed here) there should be zero discretion – as it now stands (I had heard that some magnet principals were trying to get it back in).

  • 87. Mayfair Dad  |  January 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    @ cps Mom:

    I was arguing both sides of the issue earlier, but with everything else in Chicago, corruption seeps into the process like rainwater into a bungalow basement, so maybe eliminating temptation altogether is the way to go (i.e. the Hawthorne principal who had it written into her contract – no principal picks.)

  • 88. Grace  |  January 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Sounds like good news… Blog district 299 has a bit about a new fine arts magnet program starting at Senn High School in September 2011. Forum will be at Senn on Thursday, January 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Senn auditorium, 5900 N. Glenwood.

    This forum is required before the Board can act on the proposal. Everyone is invited to attend. Read more:

  • 89. Janine  |  February 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    My son got into ChiArts for Visual Art and Lincoln Park Performing Arts for Strings. I prefer LP, but he is insisting on ChiArts. Any advice?

  • 90. ChiArts  |  April 1, 2011 at 12:22 am

    It amazing that people have so many opinions about ChiArts, but yet have very little information. Well instead of speculating, I did my research before my daughter applied,,,,,

    Quite a few of ChiArts dance instructor are Joffrey teachers. Willie Shive’s daughter attends ChiArts! He is or was the Ballet Master at the Joffrey. Pierre Lockett from the Joffrey assists with auditions at ChiArts. Kim Sagami AGAIN from the Joffrey teaches at ChiArts. Yet according to people who probably don’t know a thing about dance, criticize a program that is 2 years old.

    Yes, there are quite a few novice dancers (with raw talent) in the program. There are also advanced students in the program. Have you seen Houston Thomas? He is an amazingly talented young man who is well on his way to be a professional. I’m not saying ChiArts is perfect for everyone, but it is certainly doing a wonderful job at making a mark in the city and making a difference in the lives of students.

    As far as the academics….who can say anything??? The proof will be in the pudding when the test scores are published. They are only 2 years old so that is not possible until after their 3rd year. For the student who says that it is easy…..Im not so sure of that, but on the other hand ChiArts is not a SE school and their academics can not be compared to NS, WY, or any other selective enrollment.

    Personally, I think ChiArts gets a lot of backlash because there are parents who are pissed because their “superstar” kid didn’t get in! Frankly, my daughter is excited about being accepted at ChiArts and I am confident that she will receive excellent music and academic preparation. So those of you who think ChiArts isn’t good enough for your child, move out the way and allow a deserving child an opportunity to be a part of history in Chicago….

  • 91. poopeWeendy  |  November 28, 2013 at 3:35 am

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  • 92. Cynthia Ellis  |  April 19, 2016 at 11:49 am

    My personal opinion with this entire Selective Enrollment. I feel that it’s a great way to make the student selections for entering into your high school while at the same time every student doesn’t have good testing skills so they may not be able to prove themselves with his/her selective enrollment test scores. However, I feel that his/her overall elementary scores, grades, behavior, attendance records should play a key part into your selection as well. We can’t or should not judge a student off of one test.

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