Elementary School Tours – Privilege, Courtesy, or Right?

February 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm 127 comments


Just for a change of subject, someone emailed me with this dilemma about trying to tour their neighborhood school before Kindergarten begins.

I won’t name the school, but it is one of the well-regarded neighborhood elementaries.  Very high test scores (and as typically goes hand in hand, a low ratio of lower income students.)  You get the drift.  One of the schools that a parent might seek out a neighborhood for. Probably doesn’t take many/any kids via lottery.

CURIOUS WHAT YOUR THOUGHTS ARE?  Any advice?  Does the school owe local parents tours?  Is this common?

The reader writes:

I moved into a neighborhood this winter and will have most oldest child in kindergarten next fall (2014-15 school year). I called (Neighborhood Elementary School) and they do not schedule any open houses for new families.
I inquired about a school tour and was told that it is the school’s policy is to not give tours.  I escalated my request and received a call from the asst. principal stating again that they do not give tours and that the administration spends every minute of the day tending to school related issues and does not have the time to give tours as well as tours are disruptive to the students and teachers.  I requested an after hours tour and suggested that a member of the PTA could show me the facilities.  Again, they stated policy is no tours.
They directed me to check their website for school information and they can answer my questions over the phone.  I explained that I am new to the area, do not know anyone that attends the school and do not feel comfortable sending my 5 year old child 7 hours per day/ 5 days per week with out seeing where they were going, however they just stuck to the no tour policy.  I requested a meeting with the principal and she said she would forward my request.  Still waiting to hear back….
Can a public school deny a parent access to the school? Is there anything else I can do?

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127 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Y  |  February 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    It’s a courtesy that is generally made available by a school but by no means a right that has to be extended to potential families. Schools do it typically for marketing purposes, especially those turning around or ones with special programs. A neighborhood school performing well doesn’t have the same need to do this. I feel this is an indication of how society has taught us to question all things about education, even with a well-regarded/performing school. The lack of trust in the professionals in the schools to educate children is destroying public education.

  • 2. Cheryl  |  February 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    My suggestion is to attend the next LSC meeting or PTA meeting. That parent will be able to get the tone of the school from observing those meetings. And every LSC meeting is open to the general public as well as community residents.

  • 3. Chicago School GPS  |  February 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I agree that the LSC meeting is another great option to get a feel for a school. Most schools have dates posted to their websites. Or even attend a school play, community night, etc.

    I have yet to come across a school that refused to give tours outright, but have found schools do vary with frequency, and the frequency tends to correlate to how well regarded a school is. Some magnets/gifted schools do it once a year, some up and coming neighborhood schools do it weekly, other more popular schools may want to mitigate the frequency by doing it monthly or every other month. I definitely agree that given the breadth of choices for schools in Chicago, one shouldn’t enroll their child in any school sight unseen. What may be loved by your best friend may not “feel” the same to your family when you see the school, and that’s ok, but you can’t determine that without visiting a school in person.

    Some tours are very formalized affairs with an opening presentation, handouts, etc, and others are informal walk-throughs with parents playing a big role. Administrators do have very limited time so if a tour is not attended to by the principal, I tell families not to worry too much about that aspect. But hopefully the tour guides can give you a way to contact the administrators should you have more questions.

    While no means comprehensive, we try to post any school tours we hear about on our website to help parents plan their school visits (definitely confirm with the schools prior to visiting, though, as dates can change) http://www.chischoolgps.com/Calendar.php

  • 4. mom  |  February 8, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Also, I would go at school dismissal and watch the how the children act & strike up some conversations with parents picking up their kids. In addition, you could show up at dismissal time and go to the office which tends to be busy at that time & you may be able to observe briefly and ask for a tour again.

  • 5. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    While a tour may be a courtesy, the absence of courtesy is telling. Despite a long wait-list, Mayer Magnet holds several tours a year. Gifted and classical schools hold them too. I don’t think it should be a question of whether the school needs to hold one. Few if any are going to give you a private tour, but group tours seem standard at many schools. I’m very surprised about the absence of a new-parent open-house or orientation.

    Attending an LSC or PTA meeting would be a good idea. My only caution about LSC meetings is that, depending on the school, they can be the forum at which those with complaints are most likely to attend and speak. That is not necessarily the case, but you do run a selection-bias risk. The PTA or “Friends of..” are more helpful in terms of putting you in touch with a range of parents, although now you have the bias the other way — toward those that are more likely to be happy with the school.

    I’m sympathetic. I arrived in Chicago in July 2010 and tried to get tours of schools, just to be able to see inside. I was told none were available then, but the principals or APs at several returned phone-calls promptly to talk with me — I remember Mayer and Lincoln doing that within 24 hours in July. I emailed the Mayer’s Friends of.. over the summer, and was placed in touch with kindergarten and 1st grade parents within 24 hours again.

  • 6. Eileen  |  February 8, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    If you spoke to Cynthia Gerber at Lincoln school she is especially awful and difficult. Try finding someone with better people skills, they should take you in.

  • 7. CarolA  |  February 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I will agree that with all the new changes and added responsibilities, administration may have a difficult time scheduling tour times for individuals. Some schools may have a PTO volunteer that could take you on a tour, but that would be a school by school choice. I think the ideas suggested above are good within reason. In my opinion, PTO meetings would be a better drop-in option than LSC for the reason stated on a previous post. Open house tours are available at our school at the beginning of each year. Seems odd considering you’d be enrolled at that time. Great idea to show up at dismissal and hang around the parents outside. Most will be honest. I would actually suggest both: PTO meeting and dismissal. Keep in mind that going to a school function and attending PTO meetings will give you an inside view of the school as well. Go to the school website and see what’s coming up. What about your neighbors?

  • 8. Sped Mom  |  February 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm


  • 9. lawmom  |  February 8, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Yes, I think the school should give tours. Most elementary schools have open houses throughout the year so you can at least go in a group. I also like the other suggestions above. Attending an LSC meeting is a great way to assess the principal and some staff, as well as see what the culture is like. I can see how giving private tours could be a drain on the school staff. Ones I know about are usually led by a parent volunteer.

  • 10. sfward  |  February 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I don’t think you will get a tour at that school. It also might show a principal with a his/her way or the highway outlook. If you’re someone who wants to be an active parent, the outlook might be hard to take.

  • 11. Danaidh  |  February 8, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    @1–Y writes “The lack of trust in the professionals in the schools to educate children is destroying public education.”

    That’s a 2-way street. Granted, there are some “crazy parents” out there, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for school-based personnel to ignore parents and the communities that support their schools.

    My fear is that school administrators’ and teachers’ lack of trust in parents and community is destroying support for public education at large. That’s a much bigger problem.

  • 12. ChicagoMomofBoys  |  February 8, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    So much for the Welcome Wagon, huh? In the absence of a formal tour, I’d do a little networking and locate a current parent (preferably of a kindergartener) who can walk you around the school during a time that’s deemed appropriate. This is what I did when receiving a magnet offer with only 24 hours allotted to respond.

  • 13. anonymouse teacher  |  February 8, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    I sent my children to a magnet school sight unseen, because tour time had passed. It ended up being a great choice, but I know we got lucky. When we moved schools, I was so touched by the way we were welcomed into our new school in more ways than I could describe here. The time the staff and principal took to ease my kids’ transition was really meaningful to me and I’m grateful to them. So, fwiw, I think the word “owe” is distasteful and isn’t a good one in this context. But mutually beneficial? Yes.

  • 14. pantherparent  |  February 8, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I think she has her answer because now she sees how the school operates. They don’t have time for a new parent because they spend every minute planning and tending to school issues?

    Hmmm..Mrs. Principal…is the school that poorly run? Are the teachers unable to teach properly? Are there that many issues to tend to? Are you unable to work 15 minutes longer one day to welcome a parent that obviously cares enough to request a tour?

    A parent walking in the hall and popping into a class is disruptive? Is learning in this school that fragile? What don’t they want you to see?

    Schools take on the personality of the principal. I’ve seen it first-hand. If you can’t get your questions answered now, what makes you think you’ll get your questions answered when your child is there?

  • 15. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 8, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Although we moved into the neighborhood for the school, I never thought I’d send my kids there. But after touring several schools, along w/the parish school~I knew the neighborhood school offered the best possible education for my kids~Not just in academics, but w/ancillary subjects and after school activities and sports.

    I visited several schools and never made an appointment, I just popped in and requested a tour.

    I agree with #5 Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins) | February 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    “While a tour may be a courtesy, the absence of courtesy is telling.”

  • 16. mj  |  February 9, 2014 at 2:02 am

    It is a right. cps agrees it is a right and States so in its parent policy docs. Call the school counselor if admin wont allow it.

  • 17. cpsobsessed  |  February 9, 2014 at 3:35 am

    I agree that schools should have the courtesy of a tour. They by no means should be required to do a personal tour every time someone calls, but it would annoy me if there were no tours ever. That feels arrogant and exclusionary to the community.
    I’d personally expect two tours a year, minimum one tour.
    I’d bet it’s pretty easy to find a parent to do it a few times a year.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 18. Dunning Mom  |  February 9, 2014 at 9:47 am

    I teach at a very popular CPS elementary school and we have tours all the time. There are two open houses per year, and frequent tours organized by the parents. If someone walks in off the street asking for a tour, the office finds someone (parent or staff member) to take them for a quick look around – it really isn’t that hard.

    I also have a kindergartner in CPS and went through the whole application/tour process last year. Not once did a school turn us away. We visited several regular CPS schools and one charter school.

    I would be very suspicious of a school that doesn’t let prospective parents come in. Who do they think the school belongs to? Schools belong to the community and should be open to the community.

    At this point I would recommend going over their heads to your alderman and Central Office. A policy of not allowing parents in the building flies in the face of everything CPS is trying to achieve in terms of building parent interest and participation in education.

  • 19. klm  |  February 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

    I agree with all the above, mostly, re: the problems with the school’s treatment of the potential future parent. Public education means being open to the larger community and its concerns and interests about the schools –public funds (i.e., taxes) are being used to support the place and pay the administrators, teachers and support staff, etc. What’s more, neighborhood schools, especially, should be fostering the best possible relationship with their neighbors in order to foster support, alliances for volunteering, mutually beneficial allegiances (when schools ask for more tax-based money, they’re more like to get a positive response from a public that is happy with and that likes their local school), etc.

    That said, I know I’m not the only one that’s had every kind of experience when touring CPS schools. Certain “good” ones (especially the top RGCs, neighborhood elementary schools with North Shore-beating ISATs, etc.) don’t market or seem to care as much about attracting new families. Why?

    Because they don’t have to.

    They already are dealing with way more applicants (good magnets, RGCs, Classicals, etc.) or a flood of neighborhood families with school-age kids that have moved into a particular “good” school’s enrollment zone, which is already causing over-crowding (a la Lincoln). So, although they should as a courtesy and because of their special role as a public institution SHOULD be giving tours, finding time to meet with and communicate with potential parents, etc. they too often don’t.

    That said, don’t let an initial bad experience cloud your feelings about a school. Most parents send their kids to school in order for them to learn, not to have the nicest school secretary or the friendliest administrators. The learning environment is not necessarily reflected by this kind of bad first impression.

    BTW, I personally had a fantastic experience with Lincoln. We did the tour, but also met with the (still current) principal, the K teacher was wonderful and happy to talk with parents and even gave out her phone number and encouraged us to contact her with any questions or concerns, etc.

    When we were admitted to a RGC, there was a mix-up and nobody told the administration that we were showing up for a tour (I’m sure the secretary screwed up and we were unable to attend the ‘official’ tour for admitted kids). So, there we were in the office one day –and nobody got the memo. Despite this, the V.P. apologized about the apparent mix-up (it wasn’t even her fault) , showed us around proudly, had us meet the teachers that were available, was happy to answer questions, etc. Finally, she expressed her hope that we’d choose her school. I later knew parents at that school that couldn’t stand her, for whatever reason.

    Even if we had bad initial experiences with these schools, our kids would still be getting the same quality education with good teachers, just the same.

    I also agree that the best thing to do is show up a little early before dismissal,then strike up a conversation with parents, go to LSC meetings and talk to parents there (these will be the most in-the-know people, quite often), etc.

    Also, remember that no matter what school, there will be some that think it’s the best school ever, some that think it’s the worst school ever and 80% that think it’s fine.

    First impressions are not everything, but they mean a lot.

  • 20. Hip Rodriguez  |  February 9, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Although I’m not 100% sure, I believe any tax paying citizen has the right to tour a school. Of course this is within reason. Just like you have the right to tour the police station, fire house, etc… If I were you I would contact Central Office and make your feelings known.

  • 21. CPS Parent  |  February 9, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    I’m not so sure that by default a “taxpayer” has the right to walk into a school and demand to inspect the place. Title 1 schools must, however, show all educational materials to a member of the public if that person files a request. All CPS schools are Title 1 recipients.

  • 22. anonymouse teacher  |  February 9, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    @21, Would it be just materials purchased with Title 1 funds or all materials purchased by the school? I am trying to imagine the process by which someone would file that request. Just getting someone on the phone who has any idea what that is would be truly hilarious. Do schools keep lists of which items are Title 1 items or no? I’m thinking of what is in my classroom and I think there might be 4-5 big books from 25 years ago that say “title 1” on them. That’s about it. There’s also not much else purchased with other school funds in the room, but if anyone wants to come see my chairs, tables and rug, they’d be welcome to!

  • 23. NW side parent  |  February 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    I had a similar experience with my designated neighborhood school, Reilly Elementary in Avondale. It’s overcrowded, and generally low-performing, and none of my immediate neighbors have ever sent their children there. Nonetheless, I thought I should actually tour the school before ruling it out. After all, everyone says that more people should be considering/supporting their neighborhood schools, right?

    I called the school to inquire about a tour or open house in the WInter/Spring. I was told that the school does not “do” tours. The person on the phone said that there was an open house once a year in September (in the evening, not when school was actually in session), but thought it was geared toward enrolled families and not prospective families or members of the public. She was not even sure it I would be permitted to attend.

    Well, I was pretty PO-ed. As a taxpayer, and Reilly as my designated school, I think I have a right to tour the school. At a minimum, I think schools should offer at least 2-3 tours per year for prospective families or others interested in seeing the school.

  • 24. cpsmama  |  February 9, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    You could go on Report Card Pickup day- I beleive it is April 7 for elementary schools this year

  • 25. Counterpoint for discussion  |  February 10, 2014 at 2:27 am

    Check the principal’s voter registration. It sounds like they are a registered Democrat.

  • 26. marcsims  |  February 10, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Tutor and Mentor African American Boys

  • 27. CPS Parent  |  February 10, 2014 at 9:07 am

    The United States Post Office became more customer service oriented when UPS became a viable alternative. Likewise, as charter schools become a bigger slice of the pie, “neighborhood” schools will value potential students and families more as well. If the “neighborhood” school principal doesn’t attract enough students she looses her job. Happened to about 40 principals last year.

  • 28. klm  |  February 10, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Per the experiences of people above and my own in the past, I think what’s really bothering people is the degree to which some CPS schools’ administrators and support staff seem to not to try or even really seem to care.

    What’s ultimately so upsetting about schools being so wanting and showing so much antipathy in their treatment of potential parents is the idea that this is the kind of attitude they’ll bring when it come to educating their charges. Who wants to send their kids to a school where the people that run the place don’t even seem to care enough to address potential parents?

    This is the sort of thing that makes some of my friends avoid CPS altogether, either by going private (the ones with money) or moving to a suburb with “good” schools (even when that means living in a matchbox, having a hellish commute, enduring the mediocre chain restaurants, etc).

    If CPS wants to be successful in attracting and keeping even Chicago families that have options (by moving away) it needs to sure that all its schools are welcoming and caring towards towards current and potential families. Maybe some sort of policy or directive –it really is that important, it seems to me.

    It’s Marketing 101.

  • 29. AMR  |  February 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

    I learned this the hard way with my son’s magnet school, they are very inflexible and unwilling to work with you (and his has a very long wait list as well). Be prepared for that the entire time your child is there.

  • 30. OTdad  |  February 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

    “I’m not so sure that by default a “taxpayer” has the right to walk into a school and demand to inspect the place. “

    Same as we probably cannot just walk in any “taxpayer” funded facilities and demand to tour the place. “right” is an overused word. I do agree that the school should be more diplomatic and flexible in dealing with touring requests from potential parents.

    If I were an elementary school principal, I would do the following first:
    (1) Setup a virtual tour on the school website. Or simply a video showing the building, gym, library, classroom,….etc.
    (2) Post a 2-minute self-introduction video of each teacher with his/her classroom scenes.

    I guess after viewing videos, fewer parents would feel compelled to physically inspect the school at times other than the Open House.

  • 31. RL Julia  |  February 10, 2014 at 11:04 am

    There are many ways to be able to visit a school without a formal tour – LSC meetings, PTO meetings, open houses and events/activities that are held for the school population or even just showing up at the end of the day for dismissal. While the refusal to give tours is a little off-putting. I think it is more of a reflection that the school doesn’t have an enrollment problem and apparently doesn’t feel like it needs to be friendly to potential families/students.

  • 32. Peter  |  February 10, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Sorry to hear this, any CPS school we’ve ever been interested in has tours.

  • 33. PatientCPSMom  |  February 10, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Just to the defense of the school and their policy. With all the security issues schools face today allowing unknown prespecitve parents to tour the school allows access to these people at your kid’s school. The schoool does not know these people. There is a well known private school here that does not even let current parents to go to their own kid’s classroom for security reasons. CPS has cut the funds Principals get so even at at many of the highest rated CPS schools security has been cut. I know the tone of the communication could be improved but keeping the kids safe and teachers on task isn’t too bad a reason given all the other issues the BOE and CPS face.

  • 34. Monday School News | District 299: The Inside Scoop on CPS  |  February 10, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    […] Elementary School Tours – Privledge, Courtesy, or Right? CPS Obsesssed: I won’t name the school, but it is one of the well-regarded neighborhood elementaries.  Very high test scores (and as typically goes hand in hand, a low ratio of lower income students.)  You get the drift.  One of the schools that a parent might seek out a neighborhood for. Probably doesn’t take many/any kids via lottery. [25 comments] […]

  • 35. SutherlandParent  |  February 10, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I also agree with Christopher Ball’s statement, “While a tour may be a courtesy, the absence of courtesy is telling.” And it’s not a courtesy that’s offered at our neighborhood school.

    As @33 PatientCPSMom points out, security concerns play a role. Our principal has very real fears about a mass shooting incident and has used Newton as an example for why we have such strict security measures in place. She’s also not a real warm and fuzzy type, so I don’t think she sees the value in community outreach.

    But that does lead to a fortress-like mentality. Even for current parents, volunteer opportunities are limited and tightly controlled.

    And for what it’s worth, our principal is currently in arbitration over the LSC’s recent decision to not renew her contract.

  • 36. Chris  |  February 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    “Although I’m not 100% sure, I believe any tax paying citizen has the right to tour a school.”

    1) So, if you are a citizen who doesn’t pay taxes, you’d be excluded? Gotta present your IL-1040 to get the tour?

    2) From where does this “right” arise? Can I use that “right” to get a tour of a prison, or a courthouse, or the water purification plant? If not, why not? Please explain the distinction.

  • 37. anonymouse teacher  |  February 10, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    @28, Oh the horror of having to endure such a tragedy as a chain restaurant!

  • 38. PrivateToursAreForPrivateSchools  |  February 10, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    #6 Eileen Really? WAs that necessary? She is an incredible AP who, given a school that ‘s overflowing with more than 820 students and a separate building three grades have to walk to and from every single day and having to teach herself, write grants for the school, answer emails from those over 800 students’ parents, organize special school events, handle discipline issues, meet with her principal and other staff, forgive her if maybe she doesn’t jump at the opportunity to answer the call of yet another request for a private tour.

    FYI, in general, I am VERY much opposed to private tours. I think it is a huge burden on the staff and students. I would be beyond annoyed to think my child’s class is interrupted on a regular basis with some stranger sticking her head in or staring through the window. How can anyone (as was said above) suggest that’s even a minor thing. It’s major. It’s my child’s education that IS actually being interrupted. Everyone thinks they’re the one person put out. Imagine that you are NOT the only person that week, or even that day, to have asked for a tour. Because you’re not.

    Or, imagine how much you love it when you’re at work and someone says you have to have an intern follow you around or someone introduces you to a client and asks you to take him or her around the office. That’s happened to me — maybe twice a year. If that happened to me even monthly, I’d tear my hair out. Maybe that’s one example so that we can all relate.

    I think a once a year Open House is more than enough. If you cannot make that, there are always opportunities like parent open houses, book fairs, band concerts, etc. And as others said, if you are TRULY interested in a school, start with the LSC or “friends of” group. You’ll always be welcome there. And I feel like you learn a great deal more there than by touring the building.

    Sadly, on the tour, you’ll only see that the physical structures are falling apart and are overcrowded. But that won’t tell you that kids are happy and learning.

    There’s not much to see. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole lot of wonderful happening in our public schools.

  • 39. Yet another parent  |  February 10, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Many schools have tours right after the first dispatch letters with offers and wait lists arrive. This is great because you can meet other parents. The original post spoke not to private tours, but rather any opportunity such as an open house. I think how a principal or vp treats you during the harrowing wait list and perspective student period is indicative of how things will be if your kid is atypical. On the young side, a diverse learner, gets picked on or picks on other kids.

  • 40. NW side mom  |  February 11, 2014 at 12:49 am

    #38–I respectfully disagree that tours are only for seeing the physical structure. In fact, I think physical structure was one of the least important things on a tour. It’s an opportunity for the school to provide information about its teachers and staff, curriculum, philosophy, and the programs offered. And, ideally, an opportunity for those touring to ask questions. That’s why a concert or other community event is not really a proper substitute for a tour.

    And, I agree that tours can be disruptive. But, I don’t think the issue here is private tours–it is schools that don’t give tours at all.

    I agree with the PPs that attending LSC meetings and “Friends of” meetings are another way to see the school, but still not a substitute for a real tour where prospective parents can ask questions.

  • 41. Lynn  |  February 11, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Spell check please. How can we have an article on schools and education and have an error in the headline?

  • 42. Chris  |  February 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    “Spell check please. How can we have an article on schools and education and have an error in the headline?”

    Maaks myslef wanna plus intu myself’s commentz lotta non-standard Englis and tyyppos and grammur mistaaks. Me will tries and doez less worst in the futurez, just for Lynn, tho.

  • 43. 2nd grade parent  |  February 11, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    There is some irony to @41 Lynn’s comment, for me.
    As a parent who has given countless tours at my n’hood school, I bristle at Lynn’s post a bit.
    Similar to this blog, there is often only a ‘short bench’ working to support many schools.
    At our school there are no tours led by parents beyond the two Open Houses. This is how I’d imagine the prospective parent inquiry for a school tour:

    prospective parent: “Hi, I’d like to know when I can tour your school.”

    front office:”We offer an Open House for prospective parents which includes a presentation and building tour.”

    prospective parent:”What date?”

    front office:”Not sure, the one parent we rely on is currently working on Fundraising. We really need new computers for the school.”
    Lynn, throw CPSO a bone; advise on which word & acknowledge the effort.

  • 44. cpsobsessed  |  February 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    @Lynn, thanks – I thought I had corrected that before. As you may or may not know (or care) I pretty much run this thing from my Blackberry and don’t always have the capacity to edit during the day.

    Contrary to your POV, I feel we can still discuss any topic by over-looking spelling and typo errors. This is not a newspaper, it’s (to me) more like a Facebook conversation where many people are multi-taking and/or using phones to participate. I know some of you follow a post with a typo with a correction and I’d encourage you not to bother. I consider this all very informal.

    For those who cannot discuss education with a glaring typo that distracts you, I apologize from the rest of us. I know it’s a bigger deal to some people than others.

  • 45. cpsobsessed  |  February 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    @43: very good point about parent resources. Hopefully the parents who think that a school should give a tour will volunteer to give the tours once their child is enrolled in a school.

    This reminds me of a story about my son’s school from when he first got in. He was attending a (pricey) private PreK because we were still hesitant about CPS at the time. When he was offered a spot in the new RGC at an off-the-radar neighborhood school I told a private school parent about it as she lived close to the school, to see if she knew anything.

    She commented with disdain that the neighbors often played with their toddlers on the school’s playground and that the principal never took the time to come outside and invite them in to see the school or take a tour.

    So now, not only did she want the school (which she clearly looked down upon as CPS) to hold tours but for the principal to come outside and personally invite them all inside! She continued this rant to someone else about 4 years later, apparently still irked by it.

    As a note, this principal actual WOULD hold a private tour every time someone asked (back when the school was growing.) Not sure how they handle it now – I’ll have to inquire.

    Anyhow, I have the last laugh because she now has one of the best neighborhood schools about 2 blocks from her house but will have blown around $200K on tuition for her 2 kids. Then again, thanks to all the public parents busting their butts I’m sure her house is worth a lot more today.

  • 46. Chicago Mama  |  February 11, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    I think your inquiry-letter-writer, CPSObsessed, sounds a little entitled. There are some things we don’t know about the letter-writer’s request (tone/language) to the principal, and what is going on at nameless elementary school at this time.

    IMHO, a school can deny *anyone*, parent of incoming-K or not, entry into the building. That is basic safety and security of the *current* students and teachers in the building. As a parent of three *current* CPS students, I would be wary if their school let anyone into the building without some check. And yes, school tours are disruptive to the flow of the classroom. Three people touring my office full of adults is distracting; I’ve seen what happens when 20 adults are hulking through a Kinder classroom in the middle of writers’ workshop.

    Seven years ago, when my oldest child was 5 and going into K, neither of the neighborhood schools near me gave tours as a matter of course. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Nettelhorst and the ideas–of school *choice* and the idea that schools need a marketing campaign–it pushed into the middle-class culture, I am not sure that any one of us would expect one. I toured each neighborhood school as one-off requests with the principal. But while I saw children and teachers in classrooms at these tours, I got a much better feel for the culture of each school when I attended LSC meetings at each. And LSC meetings must follow the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

    Open houses then–as now–are geared toward current students and current families. I found this off-putting when I had a 4-year-old, but as the parent of three students now, I understand why schools do it this way. Because the admin and teaching staff of schools need the time to make those school-home connections with the parents who cannot volunteer in the classroom, who do not have the energy or the resources or who do not even realize that they need to make a connection with their child’s teacher about school, the curriculum, their child’s progress, and their involvement in their child’s education… until the Open House that takes place 3-4 weeks after the school year began.

    At most CPS schools, you have to go into the building to enroll your child and prove residency, so there will always be chances to see the school and meet the principal/teachers before the school year begins. At our school, they also host a curriculum night for incoming K families in May/June and a back-to-school event so children can see the classroom and meet the teacher before school actually starts.

    Our PTA does not give school tours. Neither does our LSC, nor our friends-of organization. That is not the purview of any of these organizations within our school. That may be the case at letter-writer’s school as well.

    The final point I want to make in this comment is that while I understand that letter-writer is concerned about sending her child to a school for 35 hours/week, at some point, you have to be willing to trust the school/system. If you don’t trust that Great Elementary School has hired teachers who have met the education, background/security, certification requirements set out by the BoE, you may not be happy with the school no matter how many times you get to see the inside of the building before August 2014.

  • 47. ToursRock  |  February 12, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I do view the willingness to do a tour as a sign of what to expect from the school once your child is there. One of my kids goes to a newer classical school that received more than 3,000 applications last year for about 65 seats–they do not have to put out the red carpet or welcome wagon, yet they do. The principal and the K teachers do several scheduled open houses and tours each year. Parents from the “Friends of” group volunteer as tour guides and share their personal experiences. It’s a BIG decision for families, so the school wants to provide as much info as possible. A few years ago, my child was accepted in a later round, after the scheduled tours ended, but the principal and assistant principal took my whole nosy family around and answered our questions. They responded promptly to emails afterward. We were impressed and continue to be impressed by the attention they give every family, three years later. I wouldn’t write off a school that is unwilling to be open to tours, but I would be mindful about it, see if that sort of style works for you or not. I like transparency and collaboration, so this school is a good fit for us.

  • 48. Polska mama  |  February 12, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Hello ,

    I attended LSC meeting last night at my first grader magnet cluster school and I was shocked what I saw. During public participation one lady voiced her opinion how ” she is sick and tired about people coming from bad neighborhoods to her area school and now they know where she lives , and this have to stop in the name of law”. We are family who got to this school thru magnet cluster lottery . I felt like someone slap me in my face. Principal didn’t respond to this opinion and I think she will do it next meeting. What should I do? Just ignore it? Please forgive me my errors. English is my second language , but I guarantee you that my child doesn’t put anybody scores down. He actually is in 96 percentile for both language and math on his MAP scores 🙂

  • 49. Chicago Mama  |  February 12, 2014 at 11:12 am

    @48 – yes, ignore it. Haters are gonna hate; now you know not to bother interacting with this person. It is a public meeting and if people want to go on record with this sort of vitriol, they are within their rights to do so. The principal cannot control what parents with children at the school say in a public forum.

  • 50. Even One More CPS Mom  |  February 12, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I agree with @49 Chicago Mama. There are great adults/parents at every school and there are terrible adults/parents at every school. She is a parent but not a staff member in the school. That is a positive, that she is not interacting with your child. If you are happy with the school and staff itself, write off one elitist, obnoxious parent and just avoid her. Enjoy the rest.

  • 51. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    @33 @35 People who seek to do harm at a school, don’t call to ask for a tour. They don’t need to. Limiting tours is necessary to limit disruption to the classes and often about too few volunteers available, as others have also said. If a school official denies tours on security grounds, he or she is deeply stupid.

    @48 I would say something to the LSC chair and the principal. It is the chair’s responsibility to keep decorum at meetings. Our LSC chairs has cut off the rare people who veered toward a racial tirade or a shout-down.

    I don’t mean to 2nd guess you, but you might have offered a solution: suggest that the “lady” move to a different neighborhood, one where racist shits are welcome. If she had such a concerns, maybe she shouldn’t have chosen to live in a magnet-cluster area. Not only is she a bigot, she’s independently stupid.

  • 52. Polska mama  |  February 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    @49,50,51 thank you ! What I’m worry is that group of haters will try to eliminate magnet cluster component .Her husband is LSC member. I have a 3year old at home and was hoping for siblings lottery.

  • 53. HS Mom  |  February 12, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    @48 Polske mom – I’m sorry this happened to you. Since the principal may be addressing these comments at the next meeting, I would definitely let him/her know that you attended the meeting and were greatly hurt and offended by these comments. By virtue of attending an LSC meeting alone, I’m imagining that you are a concerned parent interested in your child’s education and the issues of the school. I would let the principal know that if this becomes a threatening matter in any way, there will need to be some action taken so that all families feel safe and a welcome part of the school culture.

  • 54. HS Mom  |  February 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    One other thing, make sure the comments get into the minutes of the meeting.

  • 55. Polska mama  |  February 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    @HS mom – thank you for your suggestion . I think I will talk with principle about this and will make sure that this comments are included in minutes. However my husband wants to talk directly with this person and suggest her to move to different area or better different country 😉

  • 56. OO Neighborhood  |  February 12, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    48. Polska mama – Unfortunately, this is not so rare of an opinion from parents at schools with magnet or lottery programs. There is an attitude of “this is our good school” that we worked hard (somehow, by buying a house in the neighborhood, by volunteering, by donating, etc.) and now others are coming in to (make our school more overcrowded, lower our scores, not pay their school fees, not do their part to make this a better school, etc.).

    I’ve been on both sides of it. Felt the sting when asked if I lived in the neighborhood (we did not). Felt the outrage of parents in an overcrowded school (why are we accepting students from the lottery)?

    Don’t assume Principal will support your efforts. I’ve seen how Principals use the fact that they have taken students from outside the area as a scapegoat for lower test scores. Helps them when they have to explain why scores are not to the level parents want them to be for the school. Have seen this over and over. Nice, easy excuse for Principals when parents want to hold them accountable.

    Speak to the Principal, but stay away from the parent. That is common sense, no matter what posters on this site are advising you.

  • 57. Polska mama  |  February 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The school I actually am talking about is not overcrowded , 2 years ago was underutilized. Now has perfect capacity. Our local school is on restricted enrollment . It is sad how people think that their local school is just for them. We also pay chicago taxes, donating time and money to this magnet cluster school, never fake address to get to this school , value education , drive my child 4 miles every day bc magnet cluster students are not eligible for bus but that is still not enough for some 😦

  • 58. OTdad  |  February 12, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    @55. Polska mama:
    “However my husband wants to talk directly with this person and suggest her to move to different area or better different country “

    She does have the right to air her opinion during the LSC. I’m not sure you should take it personally. You and your husband have the same rights to air your opinions in next LSC, not on the street and face to face.

  • 59. anonymouse teacher  |  February 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    @52, Parents don’t have the power to eliminate the magnet cluster name. I wouldn’t worry about that. They can be as rude and mad as they want, but they have no power to change the name “magnet cluster”. I’d worry more about the lack of funding in CPS and the new round of budgetary cuts coming this summer again. That will affect you and your child far more than just one awful parent.

  • 60. SutherlandParent  |  February 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    @51, “People who seek to do harm at a school, don’t call to ask for a tour.” Oh, I completely agree with you. I was just trying to relay what our principal has said. And she’s not definitely not stupid, but humans are notoriously bad at evaluating real risk. I imagine she thinks she’s controlling the variables she can.

    Regarding attending LSC meetings to get a flavor of a school, as I mentioned above, our LSC has decided not to renew her contract, and she’s filed for arbitration (citing confidentiality, the LSC won’t release the full results of the principal survey, and the principal has declined to do so herself, so one has to draw one’s own conclusions about the current school environment and the LSC’s decision…). Most of our LSC meetings for the last year have been just a little tense. I can’t imagine the impression any newbies would have of our school based on those. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t attend them–but as others have pointed out, they don’t tell the complete story of a school.

  • 61. klm  |  February 12, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I’m curious how certain suburban (of course I’m thinking of the ‘good’ ones per ISAT scores and reputation, not struggling ones in Hammond or Harvey) schools handle these requests.

    I’m half-seriously interested in calling a few schools in Wilmette, Oak Park, Northbrook, Naperville, etc., to see how they handle things. People (especially Naperville –it seems like it’s the go-to suburb for transplants) transfer to Chicagoland all the time, so I’d assume suburban schools are used to these kinds of inquiries/requests.

    Then, do the same thing with an equal number of CPS schools.

    If suburban schools’ responses are similar to CPS schools, I’m more like to give CPS schools a break. If not, then there’s the whole “No wonder so many people don’t want to try CPS” response.

  • 62. SutherlandParent  |  February 12, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    @61 klm, that’s a good question. But I think it’s the differences between CPS schools that is so maddening. There are some valid questions to be raised about comparing schools within CPS in light of parent involvement, diversity, income, school type and other variables. But it sounds like the administration at each individual CPS school either sees value in open houses/tours, or they don’t. And if you are in a school that doesn’t, that’s just too bad for you.

  • 63. cpsobsessed  |  February 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    @46: I can see the sense of entitlement conveyed. But I think it is based on frustration with being totally shut down by the school.
    If the school had said “We are so busy that we can’t give tours, but please come to an LSC meeting/PTO meeting/etc and you can meet some parents – perhaps one can help you out. Something, for crying out loud! It is just so maddening to be told no. Just no.

    I remember at my old neighborhood school you’d go in and the admin lady would ignore as would anyone else walking in and out from behind the front desk. It makes your blood boil to stand there being ignored. It’s such a clash with how many of us perceive customer service and unfortunately that front office is many people’s first experience with a school.

  • 64. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    60. SutherlandParent | February 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    I believe your LSC has opened the results for the principal to share with parents if she wants. She has already shared with some ppl. You should ask her to share with you.

  • 65. concerned parent  |  February 12, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    @51 “People who seek to do harm at a school, don’t call to ask for a tour.”

    What? Does there need to be protocol for security issues? No, Adam Lanza did not schedule a tour before he massacred those kids. He certainly would have done more harm if he didn’t have to break in.

    Also, hanging out in school yards and at dismissals probably not a good thing either.

  • 66. cpsobsessed  |  February 12, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    @klm, but it’s a known fact that those schools have more funding for things like admin, asst principals etc that free up time for someone to give a school tour.
    CPS school leadership is stretched so thin between lean staff and additional bureaucracy.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 67. SutherlandParent  |  February 12, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    @64 SSI4, you are correct, the LSC has voted to allow the principal to share the parent survey results if she chooses. I don’t feel that I need to see the results. Whether or not I agree with the LSC’s decision, I think they have taken the evaluation of the principal’s contract seriously. If I wanted to second-guess them, I’d feel obligated to run myself 🙂

  • 68. SoxSideIrish4  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:02 am

    67. SutherlandParent | February 12, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    True. From what I’ve read, Sutherland School’s LSC is doing what is in the best interest of the kids, school and community as a whole. The LSC seems like they take all Sutherland matters very seriously and want to make the school even better by creating a culture focused on educating the kids in the best possible environment. I applaud Sutherland LSC and wish other LSCs would follow their lead (in doing what they deem is best for all kids), whether it’s popular or not. I’ve never been on an LSC or will run bc I feel there are so many others who are more apt for that position, although at my kid’s school, I do volunteer.

  • 69. klm  |  February 13, 2014 at 7:59 am


    Good point.

    Also, we’re fixated with the CPS school that seemed to give one parent the cold shoulder. We know they are all are not like that.

    As I mentioned before, it’s obviously not fair to judge many CPS schools by these first impressions. If somebody had a bad initial experience with, say, Lincoln or Burley (or Coonley, Bell, Edgebrook, ……..), and decided subsequently to avoid them in their school search, they’d be making a huge mistake.

    Thanks for pointing out the fact that CPS schools are stretched kinda’ thin, administration and support-staff-wise. Very often that’s the reason that they’re not as initially welcoming. It really is an important factor.

    The most important thing for most of us is still what kids are learning (or not learning) –something really good has to be happening in the classroom for ISATs to be as high as they are at some CPS schools. What’s going on in the administrative office is secondary.

  • 70. HS Mom  |  February 13, 2014 at 8:44 am

    @35 – “Our principal has very real fears about a mass shooting incident and has used Newton as an example for why we have such strict security measures in place.”

    I’m not sure that I disagree with her on this. I think security is important. After 9/11 we’ve had the strict airport security and it’s been necessary. I don’t think anyone can assume that someone looking to do harm thinks rationally.

    Given that we are fortunate to have many choices for schools I think it’s good to have an open house or presentation as a way of making a statement about the school. I do not think it should be during school hours or when class is in session for safety and distraction mentioned above. Most parents work and can’t attend during the day anyway.

  • 71. Lady  |  February 13, 2014 at 8:54 am

    wow. sorry for you. When I was running around to all the gifted schools and classical schools and the other ‘good’ schools, what a crazy time. I also did get a one-on-one personal tour with the principal of our neighborhood school. I had to wait a few days for when he had a break in his schedule and I got 45 with this guy a few years back. He was itching to have people like me (ie, not obvious immigrant nor minority) enrolled their children in the school as they have huge competition with the catholic school down the block. NCA is diverse and decent, Hyatt school is ok and mostly minority (Bosnia immigrants, Hispanic, African refugees, Pakistani immigrants, etc.) and low income. It is a beautiful building with a newer annex. I got to see lots of things happening: parent english classes, a counseling session for refugee mothers who were mostly rape and abuse survivors from war in Bosnia/Ethiopia, etc. Things that were amazing that I had no clue about.

    They have pre-school too. I sent my one kid there for pre-school after the tour. My older child was accepted into a magnet where they all go now.

    Culture and friendliness varies school by school. Hyatt was warm and welcoming. My experience of a tour at Pierce was exactly the same. We were welcomed with open arms and shown everything. We also got to witness a student emergency and see them handle it with finesse. That is a great school in Andersonville. Exceptionally diverse and a has a strong parent presence.

    Maybe you picked the wrong neighborhood I hate to say.

  • 72. HS Mom  |  February 13, 2014 at 9:09 am

    @71 – If that was to me – we are well beyond the tours. FWIW our magnet school did not allow outsiders in the school during the day and that was a plus to me. Having missed the open house, we enrolled in the school sight unseen which was OK for us. We also had an incident where someone claiming to be a parent on the intercom came in and stole some teachers purses.

    Ironically, we took several days off work to investigate out of neighborhood schools only to wind up not getting in.

  • 73. falconergrad  |  February 13, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Please don’t go to the office at dismissal time if you can avoid it. The staff is still very busy and/or worn out by then. I don’t know what purpose it would serve other than to take up time that should be going to people who genuinely need service right at that time. Our school is big and the office is small. Sometimes there is nowhere for someone else to fit in the waiting area. Sometimes the vestibule is used as a waiting area for kids who are bused. The staff will eventually get to you and ask if you need help. What are you going to say? I just came to observe you at one of the more chaotic times of the day?

    I try not to go to the office of my kids’ school at certain times because I know there will be a lot going on. And I don’t want to be in the middle of that if I don’t need to be.

  • 74. Chris  |  February 13, 2014 at 11:20 am

    65: “Also, hanging out in school yards and at dismissals probably not a good thing either.”

    I also presumed that anyone recommending that is recommending that one have one’s kid(s) with them, playing on the playground, to avoid the weirdness.

  • 75. PatientCPSMom  |  February 13, 2014 at 11:23 am

    @65 No one would have imagined some one breaking in a school and harming kids, you do not think some one would call and schedule an appointment to do violence, but we can’t always predict what a person’s intentions are because nothing happens until it does and then you know it’s possible. But then it’s too late. That’s why we hear over and over again, “I never thought this would happen here”. Best to err on the side of caution and limit access to classrooms and kids during school. There’s plenty time for tours at other tmes.

  • 76. ChicagoMomofBoys  |  February 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Per the occasional comparison to suburban schools, I don’t think it’s apples to apples. While the vast majority of families in said suburb will send their child(ren) to their area public school, there are many potential school options in Chicago — even within CPS — and thus tours/visits may carry more weight in families’ decisions. A little bit of courtesy can go a long way.

  • 77. pantherparent  |  February 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    You would think with per-pupil funding that principals at neighborhood schools would do all they can to attract students, including giving tours. If I recall, it’s about $5,000 per student.

    That’s nearly pure revenue as impact on cost is negligible. Until you have to add teachers of course.

  • 78. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I’ll 2nd falconergrad on going to a main office at the start of school or the end of school — they are chaotic times; everyone will be busy.

    @65, 70, 75: No one is proposing letting tour visitors stroll unescorted through the schools. Even at a school without tours, people enter the school during the day. Absent sci fi transporter technology, this is a necessity. My point was that if you happen to be the very rare public elementary school that a rampage-killer targets (3 in the past 20 years, including Sandy Hook; no students died at the other 2), denying tours is not going to prevent the attack.

    I am bewildered why so many people are so concerned about keeping the average humdrum adult out of a school, but are unconcerned about the multiple obstacles they then create to getting students safely and quickly into a school should a danger emerge outside before school, during outdoor recess, or at dismissal.

  • 79. cpsparent  |  February 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    IMO, it sounds like this principal doesn’t care. He/she knows that the school is in high demand and doesn’t want to deal with wooing new parents since in the end they will likely send their kids there. I would be curious to see if they allow many parent volunteers.

    At our school, we have a monthly tour that is given by parent volunteers. It’s about 45 minutes and the principal comes out for a few minutes to talk to the parents. Simple but leaves a good feelings with potential parents because it shows how open and friendly the environment is.

  • 80. Leggy Mountbatten  |  February 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    If they won’t give you a tour, it speaks volumes of how you’ll be able to deal with the administration in the future. Of course, it shouldn’t be “Hi, I’d like a tour” like you’re going to the Willis Tower, but several open houses and scheduled tours throughout the year should be sufficent. It would be to the advantage of the administration to accomodate parents who are interested enough to check the school out beforehand, because those would be the types who I would think would be more involved in school life, such as volunteering, donating $$$, and making sure their kids attend school without truancy or dropout problems!

  • 81. RL Julia  |  February 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    When I was on the LSC – can’t tell you the number of times a person would call for a tour and if I was available, I’d come over…. and the person would flat out not show. No call, no nothing. On the other hand, also can’t tell you the number of time I was around and someone had just stopped by and a tour sort of happened because there was time. IF you are really interested in this school as a place to check out – go there. Chat them up – show a little peace, love and understanding. If not, and you are waiting for them to prove their worthiness etc… take their lack of a tour as a sign that this is not the place for you and move on.

  • 82. H  |  February 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Would the original poster/writer be willing to name the school? Sounds as if it’s very much the outlier.

  • 83. LP  |  February 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

    @82 “Would the original poster/writer be willing to name the school? Sounds as if it’s very much the outlier.”

    As others have inferred – it sounds like Lincoln.

    When a school’s popularity and success lead to CPS considering zoning out half the current families in its attendance district maybe you can understand the reluctance (among both admin and parent volunteers) to accommodate new families shopping around.

    The sense of entitlement also sounds like Lincoln. Naperville is not on the radar for most families looking at Lincoln – make of that what you will. Instead a significant number of families that want to tour Lincoln are also applying to Parker and Latin. The Lincoln Park private schools roll out the red carpet for prospective families; the public school does not. Neighborhood parents should be aware of the differences in level of service when they make their choice.

    Anyway, if the school is Lincoln (or Bell or Blaine), then its a case of ‘first world problems’ rather than evidence of parent-hostile CPS policy.

  • 84. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2014 at 11:27 am

    It’s not Lincoln.

    Just wanted to nip that in the bud before rumors started.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 85. Peter  |  February 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Blaine has tours as does Bell.

  • 86. cpsobsessed  |  February 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I called lincoln and they offer 1 tour. April 25th 2014.

    Not sure what happens in you move here after that date.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 87. Ebinger  |  February 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Ebinger has monthly tours led by the Principal plus a Kindergarten Tea in the Spring (PTA, K Teachers speak, other parents involved, get to peek into classroom). When I showed up for the tour, I was the only one along with my child, but still gave me a full 1 hour tour (I had lots of questions too). Funny story – back in the Fall the Principal was meeting with a prospective parent who was considering moving into the Ebinger attendance area and the Mayor showed up while the Principal was meeting with the parent. He just showed up unannounced.

    I wonder if that swayed the parent (in either direction!:)

  • 88. klm  |  February 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm


    So true.

    Even if some high-ISAT CPS schools have comparable academics (at least in the core subjects –art, that’s another story) to some of the best private schools, there’s no way they can have a correlating “rah, rah, rah” welcome mat.

    First, they don’t have the budget or personnel.

    Second, they aren’t by nature in the business of marketing themselves (now the CPS schools that are begging middle-class
    families [i.e., ones with kids that will bring up their test scores] to give them a try, that’s another story).

    Lastly, as you pointed out, they already are dealing with too many enrollment-zone students, so boiler rooms are being converted to classrooms and storage closets into resource rooms, etc. They’re not going to be totally crazy about getting yet another family’s kids there.

    Lincoln often becomes the Plan-B schools for work-transfer transplants that want to live in the city and ideally want to get their kids into a Name private school. However, things being the way they are (who ever gets into Lab …. or even Latin or Parker without a connection –hardly anybody and some years nobody) the Plan-B school is where they end up. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known like that. Some of these people tend to forget that their kid is in a Chicago Public School, so things outside the classroom aren’t like their last (expensive private) school in Singapore, so there isn’t a cadre of front-office staff.

    My experience with Lincoln has been great, but I’d understand if the people in the front office didn’t leap to respond automatically to any potential enrolling family like it would be the greatest thing ever if they decided to choose the school.

  • 89. anonymouse teacher  |  February 14, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Am I the only one who read 87’s post about the mayor showing up, unannounced and found that to be really disrespectful? Does the mayor think he can just waltz into any public school, with no notice? Doesn’t he realize principals are every bit as busy as he is and don’t have time to be posing for whatever photo-op he showed up for? I wonder if he expected the principal to drop whatever 50 things she was working on at that given moment to meet with him. I would be mad as hell if he just walked into my school. We have actual work to do.

  • 90. klm  |  February 15, 2014 at 8:47 am


    On some level I agree with you.

    However, on this point, I think “The Mayor came in—cool.”

    In the non-public school setting, this kind of thing happens, like, all the time. Why are CPS employees supposed to be immune? Yes, it’s an imposition in some way, but then again, they Mayor helps run the city and has a lot to do with how CPS is run, etc. If the guy shows up outta’ nowhere, well, that’s his perrogative. CPS schools are public institutions.

    Imagine running a sub-office of a company, law firm, health care system, etc., and the CEO suddenly shows up. The location manager may be a little taken aback, etc., but how in the world can they act like it’s an unwarranted imposition? I know it’s not exactly the same situation, but why shouldn’t the mayor be able to stop by just about any public, tax-funded institution when it’s possible?

    Ebinger is a CPS school, not a private school. The mayor wants to drop by unannounced, he can, IMHO. If anything, it sends a message to some kids at the school that the mayor thinks education is important, no matter how much some adults think he’s an inconsiderate jerk for doing so.

  • 91. HS Mom  |  February 15, 2014 at 9:42 am

    KLM – I’m with you. They must have been thrilled – something to write about in the school news. Besides, it’s been discussed multiple times here that when schools know that important people or prospective parents are coming they roll out their best even to the point of dressing up weaknesses. Surprise visits can be a very good reality check. In this case, sounds like the mayor caught the principal promoting the school to some parents…..good job!

  • 92. pantherparent  |  February 15, 2014 at 11:58 am

    @89 anonymous teacher Your post shows exactly why some people are against the CTU and oftentimes unions in general. Disrespectful? For the boss to show up? What?

    I assume you’re a teacher and maybe you’ve bargained things into your agreement, but in the rest of the business world your boss can show up anytime, anywhere.

    Sorry if you are against someone coming to your classroom to see if you can teach well. Sorry if you are held to measurable performance standards. Sorry if you can get fired for doing a bad job.

    And sorry if the man in charge of the whole city wants to drop by a neighborhood school and say hello. If anything he should be applauded.

  • 93. LP  |  February 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    @92 well said. Anonymouse’s posts (somehow both entitled and defeatist) illustrate the case against CTU so well that I sometimes wonder if it’s a real person or someone trolling as a straw-man. In a way it’s a helpful reminder to have on this blog though…

  • 94. anonymouse teacher  |  February 15, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Okay, one, I never stated I was against being observed or held to measurable standards. Two, this has nothing to do with how hard it is to fire tenured teachers. Three, I am an individual teacher speaking as an individual and this has nothing to do with my contract or what the union has negotiated. I am not against being observed or evaluated. Don’t make this into something it is not. And in any respect, Emmanuel is about as qualified to judge my teaching as I’d be qualified to judge if a surgeon did well. He’s not a teacher, a principal or a superintendent, so I would have zero fear of what he might think. He simply isn’t knowledgeable about the field. He has no degree, no certification, no experience, and hasn’t done extensive research in education. I would be concerned and angry that his presence would disrupt the day, particularly with all the people he brings with him wherever he goes. Mostly, I’d be upset about his arrogance that makes him think he can just walk in, without giving a principal at least a heads up call.

    I am against someone coming into a school who simply by their political persona, will be dragging along an entire entourage of people, and likely a camera crew, disrupting the entire school. This is not my network chief coming in to affect instructional change. Emmanuel is a politician,not a school leader, and I don’t have any illusions that he’s coming for anything other than a photo-op.
    Some people might view Emmanuel as the boss of CPS. He is not. He’s the mayor and if anything, he serves taxpayers, not the other way around. B3 is the overarching boss, not the mayor. She might have the right to come in anytime she wants to.

  • 95. Stunned  |  February 15, 2014 at 5:55 pm


    She MIGHT have the right to come in anytime she want to. Unbelievable! And guess what – you serve the taxpayers too!

  • 96. CPS Parent  |  February 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    At my kids CPS high school, governance is in the hands of the Leadership Team which consists of the heads of all the departments, head of security, food service manager, chief engineer, principal, asst. principals, etc. The team is chaired on a rotating basis by one of the members of the team. In this model the principal is not by default the chief executive officer or the big boss who delegates down. This is a model that seems to work well in schools and parallels what you will find in academia.

    I think anonymouse would agree that this type of leadership structure is what teachers want and expect. Very few teachers will have ever been exposed to the type of hierarchy found almost all other enterprises, for or not for profit, big or small.

    In this context it does make sense that she might not see the mayor’s role or BBB’s position as having any standing in the internal affairs of her school. They are not part of the committee (formal or informal as the case me be at her school) that runs the school.

  • 97. tchr  |  February 15, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    I think she is just trying to say that visits interrupt learning time. And good teachers DO value time.

  • 98. realchicagomama  |  February 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Anonymouse: Bravo! When Emmanuel comes in, it’s a security nightmare and classes are disrupted. I’ve seen it happen. It’s nice to be a showcase school, but it’s also disruptive.

    I’m sad that the “free market capitalist” mindset toward public education has so infiltrated our collective psyche that we think it’s OK to compare every public service and agency to a private one. They are not the same, nor should they be compared or made into competition.

  • 99. OK  |  February 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Don’t think the Ebinger parent mentioned anything about learning time interrupted or camera crews etc. I find teachers response to be out of line with the situation.

  • 100. Ebinger  |  February 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Yikes! He was in the area for something else and stopped by. He brought no entourage and no cameras. It was a quick visit.

    He was welcomed. This is school with lots of parents who are teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other union members. All were happy that he stopped by regardless of differences in politics or contract issues with the multiple unions represented in this area (Edison Park had a Republican Alderman for years).

    Sometimes people don’t even know we are part of the city (met an Alderman once who had no idea Edison Park was in the city), so visit was welcome.

  • 101. klm  |  February 15, 2014 at 8:09 pm


    I don’t think it’s market-oriented institutional behavior people are expressing a desire for in public institutions (including CPS schools), as much as a sense of accountability and requirement of employees at these public institutions to do their job, put up with things, etc., just like the rest of the American work force has to do.

    I’ve always said that a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold –and I mean it. I have as much respect for good teachers as I do any professional, maybe even more.

    That said, it grates people when CPS teachers complain ablout things that so many other people have to deal with: pressure to create results/be accountable without any direction from one’s superiors as to how to do this, a boss that you don’t like, mismanagement, having to work late/extra hours to get paperwork done, getting no recognition for doing a great job, (especially grating when one’s mediocre co-workers get the same or higher paycheck),….

    ….or having some head honcho suddenly show up and acting like God’s Gift when you have a job to do and things to get done, ……

    etc., etc,etc……

    Oh, yeah, and they have summers off, a few weeks off during the school year, work fewer hours, make more money than many/most of us with similar degrees, get automatic raises based on their seniority, rather than how well they are doing their teir job, often have better retirement plans (all paid by us taxpayers) than most of us, etc.

    So, yeah, people kinda’ get sensitive and sometimes act annoyed when teachers complain about things like “anonymouse teacher” did.

    It’s not about wanting public schools to be market-oriented, as much as expecting public school teachers to do their job and put up with things like the rest of us.

  • 102. Veteran  |  February 15, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    #94….I agree with you and think your response is simply that of a good teacher who does not welcome classroom disruptions….this is how I felt every time the fire hydrant was pulled or the years I spent at a school with an egomaniac principal who would show up with minions from the university he taught at….very disruptive……people who don’t teach do not have clue….and as far as “putting up with things like the rest of us” trying holding your bladder for four hours….

  • 103. realchicagomama  |  February 15, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    A sense of accountability doesn’t mean that individual teachers, like anonymouse teacher, are accountable to individual taxpayers, like you or me.

    Of course it is market-oriented mindset that makes you think it’s ok to bitch about anonymouse teacher’s bitching about the mayor showing up unannounced at her workplace (or whatever other workplace annoyances she must endure). Maybe you can tell that lie to yourself and believe it, but I’m not buying it. Nor do I believe that you actually think that a good teacher is worth her weight in gold when you follow it up with 3 paragraphs about how easy teachers have it compared to private business people.

    If you’d like to discuss how crappy the corporate environment has become for the average worker, even the so-called white-collar knowledge worker, I’d love to discuss it, but I don’t think that really has any bearing on what is happening systemically in public education or other public agencies. In fact, while corporate America expects people to work 60-hour weeks (or a minimum of 40 / until the job is done), for jobs that require an advanced degree, the financial compensation is on average higher than it is for teachers (source: CTBA). I don’t know any teacher who only works clock hours. Probably as you don’t know any corp employee who only works clock hours.

    Also: the CTU’s pension plan is only partially funded by taxpayers. In 1995, when the city took it over from the state, the plan was fully funded. Teachers are ALSO taxpayers, are also paying into the system as taxpayers and as pension contributors both.

  • 104. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 15, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    @96 @98 @101 Many comparisons of the private sector business would to education that I read here bear no resemblance to the actual business world. My wife works corporate. All high-level executive visits are announced days in advance if not earlier. No CEO or division president just shows up at the desk of team head who reports to someone several levels below the CEO or president. The whole point of corporate hierarchy is to prevent that. There are key meetings that should not be interrupted, client visits that might be going on, and people out of the office. Moreover, an exec. showing up wants briefings, and not ones done off-the-cuff. So a surprise visit is counter-productive.

    Emmanuel’s Ebinger visit was atypical for him. He came to our school this past spring; his staff called ahead a couple of days. He did have an entourage, but he spent most of the 45 min. just talking with the 8th graders. B-line in and out. I’m told that is what he prefers to do at elem. schools. Most people at the school, students and faculty, never saw him.

    I’m no fan of his, but I like his approach. The 8th graders will appreciate the time more than 1st graders would. The length of the meeting was unusual for a politician — most just want to give a 5 min. pep talk, take a token question, and leave. So I give him credit for making the experience a substantive one.

  • 105. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Eek. That should be “business world” not “would”

  • 106. pantherparent  |  February 16, 2014 at 9:21 am

    @94 Perhaps I overreached on the topic but it’s the us vs them mentality that bothers me. Many people choose to believe everything Emmanual does is just a politician looking to get votes. Do you ever think that maybe he is actually trying to make the city better? Maybe you don’t like his ideas or methods but occasionally his deeds should be judged for what they are.

    And the argument of “he’s not a teacher so he can’t judge me” is one people need to stop making. I’m not a baseball player, an MLB executive or a scout, but I know when a player is terrible. How? Just watch him play and you’ll know. Then check the numbers to confirm.

  • 107. Kira J  |  February 16, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I have read all above comments and yes, security is an issue BUT there is after school a parent can go too. I am sorry but if my child went to a school that I wasn’t even allowed to enter during school hours, my child would not attend. I am sorry but if you want to tour of where your child is going you should have a right. Sometimes its necessary to get “pushy” in these situations. Step above the principal, I have had to many times. Its your right as a parent. You are entrusting these people with your child. That makes you wonder if the principal will work with you if a situation arises. I have learned the hard way with CPS that you have to be a b***h to get your point across. As far as the LRC meetings, it depends on the neighborhood and if people really care in the neighborhood.

  • 108. cpsobsessed  |  February 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I agree, there should be at least 1 chance to see the school (actually I think 2 a year shouldn’t be too much to ask.) I don’t agree at all that every parent can request a tour whenever they want, but I think it VERY MUCH helps a school to build good will if they can have a parent-lead tour monthly or even a few times a year.

    I would suspect the best way for this particular to school to encourage tours would be to get several new parents to attend an LSC meeting together and suggest in a nice encouraging way how helpful it would be to have a tour or 2 a year.

    I don’t know that being a bitch or going over anyone’s heads is likely to build enthusiasm on their part to make it work.

    If the ever-changing area offices cared about school tours, it would be a thing. It *should* be a thing, but I don’t know that that route will get you anywhere necessarily. Hopefully the LSC would be more sympathetic about it and would have some connections to parents who can do the tours.

    And again, if this happens and you send your child to the school, try to take *your* turn doing something at the school. CPS only works when everyone pitches in.

  • 109. SutherlandParent  |  February 17, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    @108 CPSO, if a school doesn’t offer open houses/tours because of a lack of volunteers or limited resources, going through the LSC could be a good idea. But if the administration isn’t open to the idea or doesn’t want to do it, is there anything the LSC can really do?

  • 110. realchicagomama  |  February 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    LSCs can effect change slowly, through due process, by making the principal’s community engagement part of his/her principal evaluation.

  • 111. SutherlandParent  |  February 17, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    @110 realchicagomama, I guess that could work over the course of four years of the principal’s contract. If the principal sees his or herself as part of the problem. Or if the same LSC members keep getting elected. Or their replacements have the same priorities 🙂

  • 112. Counterpoint for discussion  |  February 19, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Remember Teachers. If you keep voting Progressive Democratic you get a Progressive Democrat that just shows up (Rahm). Guaranteed that a conservative would not do that, but the conservative would mandate morning pledge of allegiance (To the American Flag), 1 minute of silent reflection time (prayer encouraged), and then all classes taught in English. Democrats won, welcome to Communism that micromanages.

  • 113. Falconergrad  |  February 20, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    “Prospective” parents, assuming you could talk to the principal or AP before and after if you have any questions for them, would you prefer a tour by a parent or an administrator?

  • 114. Even One More CPS Mom  |  February 20, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    @113. As a previous “prospective” parent who toured approximately 20 schools, hands down, an administrator. I always found the parents unable to answer many questions and even worse, on numerous occasions heard parents give incorrect information. They simply do not have the day to day inside knowledge that administration does. However, a tour being given by an administrator with some parent volunteers assisting is the best scenario. Then a prospective parent can get both points of view.

  • 115. realchicagomama  |  February 20, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Our principal does not allow parents to give tours for this very reason.

  • 116. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  February 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    @113 given your conditions, a parent. If there was no opportunity to talk with the AP or P before or after, then the administrator.

    Our school does it like you set up — an administrator presents to the parents and takes some questions, then the parent volunteers chaperone the walk-through tour in small groups, after the the administrators are waiting by the door to answer further questions.

  • 117. reenie  |  February 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Totally agree with 114. As a prospective CPS mom the tours I’ve had with principals were the most informative. But it’s helpful to hear from other parents–often the questions for them are different–so maybe best to tour with an administrator and then talk with parents through an LSC meeting or just your own networking.

  • 118. Teacher  |  February 26, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Tour??? Geez…..what ever happened to meeting the teacher during the first week of school? Now we are tour guides?

  • 119. Claire  |  February 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    I didn’t write this initial post, but I could have. A few years ago, I too went into the office of a neighborhood school which had a great reputation. I said my husband and I are thinking of buying property in this area and I was wondering if I could set up a meeting with the principal to talk about his school. I was told no. He doesn’t do that. How about the vice-principal? No. Could I set up a meeting with a teacher? No. Any teacher? No. Are their tours? No. Is there anyway I can talk to anyone about this school before I move into the area, take on a mortgage and send my kids to this school? No. I knew I could attend an LSC meeting, but depending on the agenda, all I’d might learn is how well they adhere to Roberts Rules of order. What I did learn was that the principal had no desire to interact with parents at all and did not put any kind of system in place for parents to learn anything about his school.

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  • 127. Mary  |  April 24, 2016 at 4:42 am

    First of all, let’s be clear. You aren’t a “parent,” as in parent whose child attends that school–so don’t try to play that card. Secondly, that principal doesn’t know who you are. You claim to have a child who may attend, but that principal doesn’t know that for certain. You could be a school shooter trying to gain access. As a principal I believe school tours for strangers to be a security risk, and even in the best of situations what is really happening is that parents are “teacher shopping.”

    So just do what the school suggested and stop whining.

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