On any given weekday, the sounds of traffic can be heard during afternoon history lessons at Jones College Prep, one of the
most sought after schools in downtown Chicago. The school sits on S. State St. and Harrison St., right in the middle of the busy South Loop. Jones is one of the top four selective enrollment high schools in the city, and has to turn away applicants by the hundreds each year.
“After three years at Jones, I can honestly say that I would’ve been very happy to send my kids here,” said the school’s principal, Dr. P. J. Powers.
With almost 40 years of experience in education, and roughly 20 as a principal, Dr. Powers’ opinion is more than just hearsay. He admits to having the typical budget issues, but as an administrator he has few, if any, complaints.
“I managed to come across a school with a very strong staff of very committed educators,” he said. “I’ve found that everything comes down to devotion. That, and how you use your resources.”
The education students receive at Jones College Prep keeps the school at the top of the list for parents who are lucky enough to choose where their children learn.
“It’s evolved into one of the elite selective enrollment high schools,” said parent Yvonne LaGrone.
She said the school originated as a “two-year business school for predominantly female students.” The curriculum and focus of the school has shifted over the years to include the diverse student population it has now.
About 30 students battle each year for every one spot Jones has to offer, and the enrollment is based on test scores. Due to the meticulous enrollment process and exams, the school now has some of the city’s top scores and has received national recognition and multiple awards like the Blue Ribbon Award from the Department of Education.
When Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel discussed Chicago Public Schools in his campaign, he focused strongly on the safety of the children. At Jones, though safety is a top priority, it’s not a glaring issue or an outstanding worry.
“Safety concerns were a major consideration when we were investigating what school to choose for my daughter,” LaGrone said. “At Jones, there’s always security at the only open entrance and within the school.”
Dr. Powers made a point to reiterate the trust in Jones’ safety efforts.
“We have the regular disciplinary issues, but we strive to make the students feel safe,” he said. “Emotionally and physically.”
Powers said many students at the high school level don’t feel confident to raise their hand in class because they think they’ll be made fun of.
“That’s not something we tolerate or want our students to feel,” he said.
Yvonne LaGrone feels she speaks on behalf of the other Jones parents when she talks about her daughter’s education.
“This school provides a quality education that will permit my daughter to be competitive with students across the country,” she said.
- School Choice (chicagonow.com)