Three vie for 47th Dem committeeman spot; Races in 32nd Ward Dem and 3 GOP positions

On the final day of filing two additional persons entered petitions to create a three-man race in the 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman race. There were also races for the GOP and Democratic Committeeman race in the 49th Ward, and the 32nd, 33rd and 40th Ward GOP Committeemen races.

Scott Waguespack and John Fritchey were already contesting the 32nd Ward Democratic Committeeman position.

Richard Mell, Pat O’Connor, Tom Tunney and James Cappleman are running for Democratic Committeemen unopposed in the 33rd, 40th, 44th and 46th Wards.

Scott Davis and Diane Shapiro are running unopposed for Republican Committeeman in the 44th and the 46th Wards.

Incumbent boss Eugene Schulter faces two challengers in the 47th Ward. Former Alderman Schulter gave up on what promised to be another term as alderman in January to seek selection to the Cook County Board of Review. That effort was to end poorly as Michael Cabonargi was selected for the Board of Review spot and the aldermanic position was lost by the regular organization to newcomer Ameya Pawar.

Schulter, first won the committeeman spot in 2004.  He backed ward residents Tom O’Donnell for alderman in 2011, Dan Farley for Statehouse in 2010, Independent Forrest Claypool over Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios in 2010 and Dan Hynes for US Senate in 2004.

Schulter first sought the post in 2000, but lost that year to his mentor, Ed Kelly. Kelly ran a candidate against Schulter in the 2003 municipal elections, Jack Lydon. After Schulter’s victory, Kelly stepped down in 2004.

Lydon contributes to The Bulldog as a sports writer.

Opposing Schulter is Paul Rosenfeld and Peter Coffey, both of the East Horner Park neighborhood.

Coffey is the Director of Government Affairs at DePaul University and, according to LinkedIn, was the past Director of Government Affairs at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Rosenfeld and his family are active members of the Bell School community and Grow 47. His role in the Blagojevich scandal as “Lobbyist 2” was acknowledged in an exclusive interview with The Bulldog.

His candidacy is backed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, according to the Chicago News Coop. “It is an endorsement of Paul,” Preckwinkle said of her attendance at (a) fundraiser for Rosenfeld. “I worked with Gene. I just think that Paul will bring the kind of energy and progressive vision that I share” the CNC said in a September article.

In the 32nd Ward, a race between Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey and Alderman Scott Waguespack promises fireworks.

As reported by The Bulldog, Fritchey criticized Waguespack for his vote on the city budget last month. Waguespack was opposed in his reelection bid by two candidates associated with Fritchey. Both Fritchey and Waguespack have reformer credentials, with Waguespack leading the opposition to former Mayor Richard M Daley in City Council and Fritchey leading efforts to reform Cook County government since his election to the Cook County Board.

Incumbent Republican Committeeman John Curry faces challenger Stephen Boulton to be boss of the 32nd Ward party.

Curry has been active in the Republican Party since he was in college at Northwestern. He reports he is a third generation Chicago Republican. A lawyer, Curry is a resident of the Bucktown neighborhood.

Boulton is a partner at McCarthy Duffy, according to his LinkedIn Profile.

Scott Campbell and Gregory Eidukas are both running for the 33rd Ward GOP boss slot. In the 40th Ward Rafael Chagin is opposing Bill Powers for the post.

New and improved North Side Schools scorecard

Below you’ll find a new and improved North Side Schools map.

What happened? Soon after the previous map was issued the Chicago Tribune issued its summary of the ISAT scores. Frankly there wasn’t any new information there. (Although some of the data visualizations may make the report useful).

And the Chicago Public Schools issued its School Progress Report.  This was full of great information and we wanted to update the map based on what was there. Make no mistake, though, as we reported a few weeks ago, the so-called “comprehensive map” is not so good.

We proud to give you what a parent needs to make decisions.

We’ll update the high school map shortly.



Download a PDF of the spreadsheet (With a big tip of the hat to reader Kim McCarten for helping us see our shortcomings).


Ravenswood and North Attendance elementary schools scorecard

***UPDATED 12/2/2011 A more recent version of the map and spreadsheet are available.***


How would you rank our area public schools?

In the next week parents will be sent a new report by the Chicago Public Schools. According to media reports, the ‘progress reports’ will accompany student report cards starting today.

The reports will emphasize students reaching benchmarks to go to college, according to the Chicago Tribune. Other indicators will include “teacher and staffing information, graduation rates, school climate, leadership and parent satisfaction,” the report says.

All of these measures are available through independent sources gathered here for you by The Bulldog.

Using surveys published within the past 18 months by Newsweek and Chicago Magazine, test scores compiled and analyzed by the Chicago Sun-Times, input from parents, students and community members on GreatSchools and in a University of Chicago survey and finally data provided by the Chicago Public Schools, The Bulldog set out this week to understand our public school system.

It is a difficult system to navigate. In the Ravenswood area there are four area public high schools: Lane Tech, Amundsen, Lake View and DeVry. In addition, a high school student has a wide choice of other schools. And a small part of our coverage has attendance at other schools, Roosevelt and Senn.

Mistakes made by parents and adults are paid for by children.

And we find this very frustrating, virtually no one in politics takes responsibility for the problems. They blame unions, parents, ‘the schools.’ We might look no deeper than the TIF issue to understand how this sorry situation has been twisted to benefit long-time politicians.

The Bulldog chose to start by creating a database that presents in one place a place for you to examine all the information on your school choices. We’ve presented this information to you as a searchable Google map and as a spread sheet that you can use to sort, filter and examine the information.

Today, we start with our area elementary schools.

In addition, we’ve added an outline so that parents who don’t live in Ravenswood or the North Attendance area can follow along and develop their own database.

Did you have a suggestion? Did you see an error? Drop it in the comments and we’ll try to deal with it.


Ravenswood area neighborhood schools

North Attendance Area selective enrollment schools



The Ratings and Rankings

Further Notes on the Schools


Political Representation

Q: Where is the information from? What does it mean?

A: CPS Performance rating is a ranking of 1-100 issued for each school by the Chicago Public Schools. A score of 100 is best. If a school is on probation this is noted in the balloon. The information is available on the website.

The Chicago Sun-Times ranking of elementary schools (classes K-5), middle schools (classes 6-8) and high schools (classes 9-12) ranks schools based on the number of schools ranked. A ranking of one is best.

The University of Chicago Consortium study of CPS schools is exhaustive, covering many of the ‘soft’ issues that educators and parents believe are important to success. Each school has exhaustive reports including surveys of students who praise and critique the school. This ranking is based on a scale of -5 to +5. +5 is considered the best.

The Chicago Magazine ranking of schools was published in June 2010. The ranking of the top 250 elementary schools includes both city and suburban public schools. A ranking of 1 is best.

The GreatSchools site invites parents, students and educators to discuss their school. This rating is based on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best and is awarded by the site. Further scores are published for community involvement.

Q: I don’t see my school. Why? 

A: Maybe we missed it? Ask a comment, we’ll answer. Other reasons: this is a site primarily designed for neighbors in the Ravenswood neighborhood. In the process of creating the database we attempted to identify every school choice for Ravenswood parents in CPS. That means that all of the North Attendance Area selective enrollment schools should be included.

Parents in the other two attendance area will need to develop their own data base. (This is really time consuming, but we’ll help by showing what we did. See our outline, below).

Q: My school shows a N/A or a N/R. What does that mean?

The reports are not comprehensive. In some cases no data was posted for a school.

In the case of one school, Chicago International Charter School, also known as CICS, we had issues with the data as it was sometimes aggregated for the more than 4,000 students in the CICS system of schools instead of for each school. Why is that important? Examine the relative differences for the Noble Street Schools, also charters, and you’ll see that the information should be broken down by school.

Q: One survey says the school is on probation, another lists it among the best, still another says the school didn’t meet Annual Yearly Progress. Help!

It is difficult to penetrate all the lingo used by educators. Our advice is to stop them when the initials come out and ask them to explain each set of initials.

There are differences in how different measures view the progress of a school. You as an adult will need to evaluate the different measures and make an informed decision.

Now, the AYP trips up even the best schools. A school can fail to meet AYP for RELATIVELY low scores in math or reading. We believe you’ll find AYP reports for the top three schools in the area. In some cases, the students in some categories, such as minorities or disabled, scored in the 80’s, missing the AYP of a score in the 90’s.

In other cases, among the poorest scoring schools, AYP demanded scores in the twenties or thirties and were missed. It is all RELATIVE.

But it is also an indicator of where the resources of the school, often determined by the Local School Council, should be focused.

Q: What other advice do you have for a parent?

First, we’ve listed the politicians responsible for these schools. This is not only your money, it is your child’s future being screwed up. Hold them responsible for improving the schools.

We’ve found the politicians love to cut ribbons, but they are also taking property taxes from TIF districts and using them for planters and special deals for developers. YOU have to say you notice and are holding them responsible for the schools.

The second advice we have is to dive deep into the University of Chicago Consortium report. The report explores areas that experts, parents and students all agree are critical to academic success. Here is one example, one school in the area discusses poor leadership with teachers criticizing each other.  That is an area of concern.

Which brings us to our final piece of advice. Go to the Local School Council meeting. Introduce yourself to the parent and community member representatives. If every parent in the school made a commitment to attend one LSC meeting during the year there would be dramatic increases in LSC participation.

Q: My primary language is Spanish (or Polish or Greek or something else). Do you have this report available in Spanish?

No. We are language illiterate here at The Bulldog. We apologize. There is a widget available that can give a rough translation of the text. You’ll find it on the sidebar to the right.

Q: Okay, but how was this information gathered? How do I do it for my neighborhood school that is not in Ravenswood?

Follow the instructions below.

  1. CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS DATA… Go to the following link and to find your school:
    1. If you know your school name enter it in the box. The CPS site is an unfriendly site: sometimes entering part of a school name works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there is no listing when you’ve been accurate with your spelling. If you can’t find the school through the name box, enter the ZIP Code the school is in. That should give you a list of every school in the ZIP Code.
    2. Find a map of Chicago ZIP Codes here:
    3. We found that looking for schools through ZIP Code returned the best results. The querry will return a list of all schools in a ZIP Code. Most schools will be ‘neighborhood’ schools. These schools have “attendance districts.” You can find the attendance districts for the city on the map here:
      1. North
      2. Near North/ West/ Central
      3. South
      4. Far South
    4. If you follow the hyper-link to the school you’ll find a page called ‘At-a-glance.’ The information from our report is not on this tab. It is under the tab called “Scorecard.”
    5. Scorecard gets meaty.
      1. The performance rating we publish in our balloon comes from the bold faced number immediately below the check boxes.
      2. A second number to examine here is the probation status of the school. Charter schools are not put on probation and will have a N/A checked.
      3. Below that are scores for the previous three years detailing about nine measures. The most interesting score to us was the ‘Relative school impact on student growth’ measured against reading and math. We believe these should be positive. Negative numbers here seem to indicate the school is holding students back.
      4. Finally below, at the bottom, are some important reports presented in PDF format. We found class size by examining the ‘State School Report Card’ for each school. That was a lengthy process.
  2. CHICAGO SUN-TIMES RANKING… The Chicago Sun-Times ranking report can be found at this site:
    1. We found that the report was difficult to navigate. So we set it up to return a list only of CPS schools, then looked for the schools we were listing.
      1. Click ‘Advanced Search’.
      2. Under District go to “City of Chicago SD 299”. Click search.
      3. The return will be a list of all CPS schools. Choose the school you are interested in.
        1. At the top of the next page will be the name of the school, attendance and the grades served. This is a very long report with a lot of great information.
        2. On the next line, below the hyper-links, the Sun-Times lists school rank.
        3. Below that is some text. Much of it is boilerplate. Take a moment to read why the school missed its AYP. Not the Composite scores in the box.
        4. Far down the page is where you can find average class size for the school. The Bulldog used a different source for its class size.
  3. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO CONSORTIUM REPORT AND RATINGS… The University of Chicago Consortium report can be found here:
    1. You’ll either need the ZIP Code or the school name to start your search. By the time we got to this report for the database, we had already developed our list of target schools. This is the best independent report and is based on independent information. All the other information is based on reports to the state. Everything else is based on the same base of information. We highly recommend reading these reports in depth.
  4. CHICAGO MAGAZINE RANKINGS… The article for Chicago Magazine starts here:
    1. Follow the link to the best Chicago schools:
    2. The link isn’t obvious, but the ranking continues here:
    3. The immediate issue with the ranking is that it seems to be based only on the percent of students who meet or exceed the state standard. So, other factors that determine success, such as those measured by the UofC study, are ignored.
    4. Finally, it appears the data in this study is dated, as the methodology indicated it was based on reports from 2005.
  5. GREATSCHOOLS RATING… Finally we get to the GreatSchools ranking. The site notes here: deadlines for high schools are due in December and for elementary schools in January.
    1. This page allows you to browse the top ranked schools. To find a particular school we used the text box in the upper right corner. This site will anticipate your key strokes with suggestions for the school based on what you type.  The site also has comments from students, staff and parents about the school.

Bell and Lane top Sun-Times school report card

Two area public schools were named among the top 50 in the state in the annual Chicago Sun-Times ranking of Illinois schools.

Bell School was one of 13 Chicago Public Schools that met the standards for the top 50 elementary schools. The neighborhood school was one of just six District 299 schools that did not have eligibility requirements for enrollment and still was ranked by the newspaper.

Bell ranked 29th among CPS schools and 33rd in the state, the report says. The middle school classes ranked 19th in the state.

At a recent meeting of the Bell Local School Council concern was expressed that parents were pulling students from the school for the middle school Academic Center at nearby Lane Tech.

That might cause the school to experience a lower score in the future.

Although Bell was highly ranked, the school still failed to meet the requirements for the No Child Left Behind Act due to lower than accepatable reading scores among its disabled population.

Lane Tech was ranked 20th among all Illinois schools in the ranking. The large school boasts having a larger minority and low income proportion of its student body than many smaller magnet schools.

Six of those smaller schools, including nearby Northside College Prep, were ranked above Lane. The newspaper said the top three public schools in the state were all in Chicago: Northside, Whitney Young and Walter Payton.

Lake View High School was ranked 470th among 638 high schools. Amundsen ranked 536th on the same scale. Both schools were identified by the newspaper as in need of improvement for the ninth year in a row.

Lake View, the report says, is struggling with low math and reading scores among its entire population, with low scores for Hispanics and low-income students.

The problems the report highlights at Amundsen are similar, but more pronounced with lower composite scores.

Among the neighborhood elementary schools Blaine followed behind Bell, being ranked 103rd statewide and 52nd among middle schools.

Audubon and Coonley followed Blaine. Audubon was ranked 308th for elementary grades and 204th for middle schools. Coonley was ranked 388th for elementary and 391st for middle school.

Other schools and the ranks for elementary and middle school composite tests in the Sun-Times ranking:

    • Audubon ranked 308 and 204.
    • Bell ranked 29 and 19. The school did not meet AYP due to low reading scores among its disabled students.
    • Blaine ranked 103 and 52.
    • Budlong ranked 999 and 834. The Budlong composite was hurt by low reading scores. The composite fell to 80.9 percent from 81.4 the previous year.
    • Bell ranked 103 and 52.
    • Chappell ranked 1198 and 691. The composite score rose to 82.3 percent from 75.3 percent.
    • Coonley ranked 388 and 391. The school composite score fell to 90.8 from 92.0 the previous year.
    • Courtenay ranked 991 and 346. The school met the AYP, but had falling scores of 90.8 percent v 94.5 last year.
    • Hamilton scored 1422 and 880. Hamilton did not meet AYP due to reading scores. Composite has increased to 78.2 from 69.0.
    • McPherson ranked 1444 and 920. The school did not meet AYP due to reading scores and Hispanic reading scores (which actually exceeded that of the general school population) but had rising composite of 78.5 v 75.7. McPherson has been identified as in need of improvement by the newspaper for the 10th year in a row.
    • Ravenswood ranked 1698 and 1395. The school had a composite rank of 71.8 percent, up from 67.3 percent. It did not meet AYP due to math and reading scores. It has been identified as in need of improvement for the third year in a row.
    • Trumbull was ranked 1843 and 1035. The school did not meet AYP due to both math and reading scores. Trumbull has a falling composite score of 68.4 percent v 77.2. The school has been identified as in need of improvement for the first year.
    • Waters was ranked 1218 and 528. It did not meet AYP due to math scores. The school had rising composite scores of 81.1 percent versus 78.9 the previous year. Waters has been identified as in need of improvement for the 10thyear in a row.

Survey shows some schools still have K openings, some very tight

A survey of the 12 public schools in or serving the Ravenswood neighborhood show enrollment at some schools is very tight, while others can still accept Kindergarten enrollments.

Eleven of the schools were neighborhood schools, meaning the schools have an attendance boundary. Only one of the neighborhood schools, Ravenswood, said it had no opening in Kindergarten classes remaining for today. According to the clerk at the school, Ravenswood had a waiting list of 200 for any openings in K

Courtenay, a small school of just 164 students, said it had no openings. Courtenay is a North Area school, meaning parents across the North Region of the Chicago Public Schools may apply to attend the school.

Trumbull reported to the Bulldog it had about ten openings left. Chappell and McPherson also reported openings.

Waters, Hamilton, Bell, Coonley, Budlong, Blaine and Audubon all said they had openings, but only for children who lived within their districts.

In total, 33 classes of Kindergarten will start today in the Ravenswood area. Bell reported the largest sized class: about 30. Most schools indicated the Kindergarten classes will be about 20 or less.

Parents still wishing to enroll their five-year old in Kindergarten should immediately contact their neighborhood school for details on enrollment requirements.

About 200 families remain on a waiting list to place their child in Kindergarten at Ravenswood School, a survey found. Credit: Patrick Boylan

Citizen Pawar looks ahead to the challenges of Alderman Pawar

Ameya Pawar is facing the challenges of being an alderman in an era of austerity. Credit: Jane Rickard

In a final interview as an ordinary Citizen, Ameya Pawar, the new alderman for the 47th Ward, talked to The Bulldog about running for office, the mysteries of getting a pay cut and the challenges of keeping a campaign promise.

“Everything changed after Daley left the race,” Pawar said in an interview late last week. “The city became concerned about where it was headed.” Pawar credits his campaign for maintaining a positive focus and staying on message for his victory.

Now, things have changed again. As alderman, a title Pawar was struggling with even last week, he has become a symbol of success and power for leaders in the South Asian community. He takes calls from the mayor and meets leaders in the state.

“I’m reaching out to every alderman. I’m letting them know where I stand,” Pawar said.

A city in crisis

Pawar said the term will be challenging as the city is in crisis. “It is headed for bankruptcy if we don’t do something,” he said.

“If you look at the (new) mayor’s 72 page report he outlines cuts. They will be painful.”

“We need to look at city services and determine if they are needed,” Pawar said.

Pawar said he intends to look deeply at cut proposals. There is waste that can be cut. But “we don’t need cuts that scare people,” he said. Plus Pawar said cuts can have unintended consequences that make things worse.

Pawar said his first priority was to pass a budget that wouldn’t require property tax increases. Speaking in financial terms he said the budget had to be sustainable. Then he outlined his legislative wish list:

  • Fix TIF. “It’s broken,” he said.

Education First

Pawar’s second item was to deal with academic achievement at Amundsen and Lake View high schools. It is a major concern, he said.

Chicago education should work to elevate the neighborhood schools.

“The work involved to raise the level of the high schools requires looking at paybacks that are beyond two terms of office,” he said.

Pawar discussed the disconnect between the political class in Chicago and the schools. It is a disconnect that allows politicians to cut ribbons opening new school buildings but not take responsibility for poor performance.

Q: Would that happen in the suburbs? It seems as though if the suburbs saw their schools in decline, it would hit their property values and the politicians would be removed.

A: Chicago does have it wrong. Suburban property owners are rewarded for the quality of their schools.

In the city, Pawar said, poorly performing schools act to drive a class of property owner, those with young children, to either seek a performing district outside the city or to place their children in private school.

If the parents stay in the city, they seek enrollment for their children in better schools. Children become stressed as adults pressure them to perform so they can enter magnet schools, or parents are stressed by the money required to put their children in a private school Pawar noted.

But schools can increase property values, he noted. Coonley and Bell in the Ravenswood neighborhood are good examples of neighborhood schools that have worked to increase the value of homes in their attendance area he said.

Democracy in the Ward

Pawar then outlined his third item, the plan to deploy citizen engagement tools discussed in the campaign.

  • The participatory budget process is used in the 49th Ward to allocated the $1.3 million of “menu” items there. Pawar’s introduction would be the first such use in the 47th Ward.
  • Pawar said he hoped to have the ward council active by the end of the year and the participatory budgeting process working next year.

“Ed Burke told me politics is a game of addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.” Pawar said. He accepts Alderman Burke’s advice. Pawar, who was talking about his relations with the rest of City Council, could have been talking about the process he sees in the ward council.

“We’re not always going to agree, but we should be able to have an adult conversation,” he said.

How to turn down $40K

Turning to his pay, Pawar noted he was struggling to keep his promise to take a pay cut. His intent had been to use the roughly $40,000 difference to fund the ward service office. He discovered that either he could attempt to change the city ordinance to cut his pay or he could voluntarily take a pay cut, but he couldn’t use the difference to fund office operations.

The city offered to pay the entire salary to Pawar, then he could use it to fund the ward service office- after paying taxes on it. Pawar, who has three masters degrees and is completing a fourth masters, has substantial student debt to pay.

Q: How much student debt are you carrying?

A: It is as much as a typical mortgage. My student debt repayment is on a sliding scale. If I accepted the $110,000 alderman’s salary I wouldn’t be able to fund any of the ward office from my salary and pay my debt. Typically, I’ve learned aldermen spend about $10,000 out of their pocket for expenses.

“I think people are disappointed,” he admitted. “But I’m in a system where I need to raise money or else I fail.”

“We received two computers dedicated to the 3-1-1 system,” he said. The office needs computers, art, furniture, office equipment, everything. Pawar hopes to make it a third place where people will stop in, have a coffee and talk.

“It makes me sick to my stomach that I’m doing a fundraiser shortly after being sworn in,” he said.

Pawar said he was raising funds because the city ward office is expected to handle many community issues. But new aldermen receive small staffs. The larger staffs come from aldermen receiving assignments as a committee chair on the council.

“Not a penny will go to political activity,” Pawar said. “The staff will handle children’s programs and the participatory budgeting.”

Bell school raises $137K for wish list

Bell School, 3730 N Oakley, announced it raised $137,000 towards filling a wish list.

“These funds will ensure Bell’s continued excellence in education by making many programs possible in the 2011-2012 school year,” a statement on the school web site noted.

The total includes a $40k challenge match and $9K from teacher treats.

Read more at the Bell School site.