Monday, January 29, 2018


I’m honored to be a contributor to what promises to be an extraordinary documentary project. It’s called CPS Lives and it will explore the other side of the story of Chicago’s public schools. The goal is to give a voice to those most intimately involved with the system, namely the students and educators, thereby showing us in the words of the project’s mission statement: “the power of public education in Chicago.”

My contribution to the project will be Senn High School in the Edgewater neighborhood. I chose that particular school because, A) it is in my own community on the far north side of Chicago, B) it is essentially three schools in one. In addition to a neighborhood school with an open admission, there are two selective programs, an international baccalaureate and a fine arts program. There are actually four schools under the roof counting Rickover Naval Academy which shares the building but is not technically affiliated with Senn. C), the four schools under one roof drawing students from all over the city add tremendous diversity to a school that is already in the most diverse community of the city.

Passing period at Nicholas Senn High School

D), the school and its building both have a rich history. The story goes that one of the great American educators of the early twentieth century, Ella Flagg Young, never learned to swim. She resolved that no child under her watch would suffer the same fate. The first female school superintendent of a major U.S.  city, Young insisted that the new Senn High School would not only have two swimming pools, one for girls and another for boys, but would also have ample space for gymnasiums and other recreational activities, a revolutionary concept for 1913. It was a time of reform and Young, a protege of Jane Addams, was to education what Addams was to social change. Even the Neo-Classical architecture of the school designed by Arthur F. Hussander, an example of the “City Beautiful” movement, speaks to the community’s desire to transform dirty, crowded cities like Chicago, into centers of higher learning and civilization. You can read more on the architecture of Senn High School by checking out my friend Julia Bachrach’s article on Senn here in the Chicago Historic Schools website.

Last but far from least I chose Seen because E), so as not to embarrass them with my lurking about, neither of my children go there.

The project kicked off on January 8th with my photographs of Senn as the featured school of the week on the project’s Instagram site. Please follow our exploits on Instagram at CPSLives and here on their website.

Stay posted for further updates.

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