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The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes / Posted on January 17, 2019

So I watched - on Facebook Live! - the mayoral forum this morning at Whitney Young High School and this afternoon at the Tribune, the last in their series this week. I tweeted my commentary at #WYHSForum, #WYHSDebate, #ChiMayor19 and #TribEndorse from @BeachwoodReport.

Near the end of the Trib session the judge in the Jason Van Dyke cop conspiracy trial released her (absurd) decision.

Now I'm in Bucktown for another Weekend at Benny's - long-time (and even mid-time) readers know what this is about. New readers will soon learn!

I have some additional notes besides my tweets on the mayoral forums. I'm going to work on putting them together now and post them here in a bit, so there will be a column. You can see them below this photo of Benny's tail.

*

Benny is shy today. That's his tail as he hides out in the litter box area.

bennytail.jpg

*

First, I can hardly let the candidates' praise of Whitney Young High School principal Joyce Kenner go without noting how undeserving she is of any civic acclaim - much less how undeserving she is of still holding her job. From the Beachwood vault:

February 25, 2008:

"The youngest son of NBA legend Michael Jordan entered Whitney Young Magnet High last fall under a little-known loophole that gives principals of Chicago's elite-eight college prep schools wide-ranging discretion - on top of new powers they could get this week," the Sun-Times reports.

"Marcus Jordan was a junior-year transfer.

"That means he never had to sit through the freshman admission test that eighth-graders take for Chicago's college prep high schools. He was exempt from being judged by a mathematical formula involving tests, attendance and grades that is used by Young and seven other CPS college preps to decide freshmen admission.

"Instead, as a transfer, Marcus' fate was left up to the principal of Young, an academic and basketball powerhouse.

"'Transfers into selective-enrollment high schools are entirely principal discretion,' said CPS spokesman Michael Vaughn."

Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner put it this way: "[The Jordan family] has done a great deal for this city."

And this city has done a great deal for the Jordans. We made him rich and famous; rich and famous enough, in fact, to clout his kid into a magnet school.

August 25, 2009:

Anthony Beale is now the second alderman to admit he made a phone call to the principal of Whitney Young to get his daughter into the school, the Sun-Times reports.

"You're talking about an A-minus student," Beale said.

Yes. But was this straight-A student left out of Walter Payton Prep because of a similar call?

*

It gets better.

"[Whitney Young Principal Joyce] Kenner said she had a 'personal relationship' with Beale, whom she knew as a baseball coach when her son was playing baseball. 'When he called me, it wasn't about him being a political figure,' Kenner said."

It was about her personal relationship with Beale.

I don't know which is worse.

*

Similarly, Kenner didn't know Ald. Ricardo Munoz as an alderman when he called her to get his daughter into her school. "She knew Munoz as the father of a boy her son played basketball with."

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It gets better.

"I try not to be political at all,'' Kenner said. "If you ask me how many aldermen there are, I don't even know."

The principal of Whitney Young doesn't know how many aldermen there are?

*

And finally:

"Even Michael Jordan, whose youngest son by-passed the usual admission process by transferring to Whitney Young as a junior in 2007, did not contribute [money] to the school, Kenner said."

March 22, 2010:

"In 2008, former U.S. Sen. Braun sought help for two students, though she said Monday she does not recall placing a call to Duncan's office. Pickens said she called him, seeking help getting a student into Whitney Young Magnet High School, and he asked Principal Joyce Kenner to call the former senator back.

"Braun said she called Kenner to inquire after one child's mother told her the student's application had been 'lost in a computer glitch.' Braun said Kenner told her: 'I'll take care of it.'"

Personally.

"The child got into Whitney Young, despite a below-average admission score."

Also the result of a "computer glitch."

"This process is not pure, and everyone knows it," Braun said. "The process is a disaster, and quite frankly, I don't have a problem making a call. If the process were not as convoluted as it is, parents wouldn't be asking for help."

The Chicago Way: Game the process instead of fixing it.

"Kenner, who has testified under subpoena in the federal investigation, said the admissions problems are 'old news.'"

Old news to her, she knew about the list!

"'There is a new framework in place for principal discretion,' she said in her e-mail response. 'I think we have an opportunity to move on from this issue.'"

Her e-mail account refused to answer further questions.

"Burnett requested consideration of a student in 2008 whose test score did not get him into Whitney Young. The log suggests the principal offered the student future enrollment as a consolation and notes that Burnett 'was OK with that offer.'"

March 25, 2011:

"In 2009 the Whitney Young boys varsity basketball team had one of its best seasons, winning the Class 4A state title with a squad that included seven players who joined college programs," the Tribune reports.

"But the team wasn't even supposed to be in the playoffs, the Tribune has found. After its coach, Tyrone Slaughter, was found to have violated Chicago Public Schools recruiting rules, district regulations called for the team to be banned from the postseason, but officials failed to enforce that penalty.

"Slaughter received a six-game suspension and then went on to break recruiting rules again. In February he was suspended for 10 days by the Illinois High School Association after he held a team practice at a suburban middle school 23 miles from Young."

And he still has his job?

Yup, sports sure teaches character.

*

But this is my favorite part:

"In addition, the Tribune has learned that Joyce Kenner, the principal at Young, was found to have violated CPS policy when she admitted two basketball players in 2008 even though they did not go through the required process for selective enrollment at the magnet school. The students were on the championship team roster."

January 23, 2012:

"The Chicago Schools Inspector General has recommended that Principal Joyce Kenner be banned for life from hand-picking kids for admission to Whitney Young Magnet High," the Sun-Times reported last January.

So when candidate after candidate in their welcoming remarks slobbered over how great Kenner was, I threw up a little in my mouth. (Paul Vallas even jokingly thanked her for not running for mayor; she certainly has the graft part down.)

*

Now, a few notes beyond my Twitter commentary:

-> Amara Enyia standing next to Bob Fioretti was a reminder that she endorsed him over Chuy four years ago. Someone should ask her why, if she regrets doing so, and what that says about her judgement.

-> Amara again proclaims that she's an organizer, but she had four years to organize this campaign and owed $70,000 in state election board fines and had $60 in the bank before Chance the Rapper came to her rescue. What does that say about her organizing bona fides?

-> Vallas laughs at candidates how repeat on the trail how they'll use the money that would be spent on a new police academy to fund all of their own plans instead: "Throw down the mic, no police academy, problems solved!"

-> Lori Lightfoot won me over with her police task force leadership and ensuing actions, and I've kind of rooted for her a bit in this campaign, but she doesn't seem up to the job of mayor to me. That's a thought I had - and not for the first time - during this forum. It's not that anything is wrong with her, per se, like I don't have a bill of complaints against her like I do some other candidates, but mayor is a job that is bigger and broader than her experience has prepared her for thus far.

-> Amara has the rhetoric, though it's often also empty progressive-activist buzzwords without any meat on the bones, while Vallas has the nitty-gritty ideas (not big, sexy ideas, but a ton of budget and financial maneuvering), while Toni Preckwinkle has a real record of progress and position on criminal justice and education, even if she isn't the greatest campaigner in the world and definitely has her flaws.

-> Gery Chico twice attacked Preckwinkle for a quote to the Sun-Times he reads as she being against magnet and selective enrollment schools. Preckwinkle says she's only saying she supports great open enrollment schools in every neighborhood so every kid can get a great education.

I'm disappointed in Chico's campaign. As I wrote earlier this week, his previous campaigns for U.S. Senate and the mayor's office were substantive, impressive affairs. This week he seems to just be on the attack in a desperate bid for attention and traction.

Chico also exposed his key flaw in his attack against Preckwinkle: He's elitist. This was my major bone of contention with him when he was Richard M. Daley's school board president. He led the charge as much as anyone for a magnetized, selectively enrolled, charter district, and that's the opposite of where I'm at on education policy. (Vallas says that, as CPS superintendent, he magnetized every neighborhood. But the idea of strong neighborhood schools isn't to attract students from around the city, but to create strong schools right in the neighborhood! The way those of us who grew up in affluent suburbs with great schools had.)

-> Bill Daley says the school district must be right-sized, which means more school closings, because the city is shrinking and "We're not getting new kids in the system." How does this square with his campaign to grow Chicago back to 3 million people?

-> Amara does a lot of "reimagining." And I support that. Absolutely. But she rarely gets down to brass tacks. Her rhetoric is as airy as Vallas's is straight from a budget book.

-> Chico calls one student's question on neighborhood youth councils the best question he's heard in four months of campaigning. The next question is the second-best. #Pandering

-> Fioretti can never seem to think of enough to say to fill his allotted time, so when he's done he says, "Thank you," and that's the signal that he's done talking.

-> What if all of these candidates were in the city council? A council with many of these folks would be a much better and lively council than the one we have.

Okay, it's getting late, so I'm going to save the Trib session and the cop conspiracy ruling for tomorrow.

-

The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Bennylicious.

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