7th/8th grade football team considered for Taft’s Academic Center


The Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center at Taft High School could have a football team next fall that would include students from Taft’s feeder elementary schools.

It was reported at the Dec. 15 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council that Chicago Public Schools sports administration directors Randy Ernst and Mickey Pruitt recently presented the proposal to the school.

The center, which has 250 students, offers a flag football program but does not have a tackle-league team. Under the proposal the center’s team would be allowed to accept seventh and eight-grade players who are enrolled at Taft’s feeder elementary schools.

Public elementary schools in the city typically do not have a football team because of the expense of operating one, according to Taft principal Mark Grishaber.

Taft athletic director Ryan Glowacz said after the meeting that details of the proposal are being worked out that that it is not clear which league the center’s team would play in.

The Academy for Urban School Leadership, which manages 32 Chicago public elementary and high schools, participates in a league where grade-school players often feed into one of the AUSL-managed high schools, including Phillips Academy, Glowacz said. In 2015, Phillips became the first Chicago Public School to win a state football championship.

Grishaber said that there appears to be enough interest among the center’s students to support a team and that the inclusion of the feeder schools would generate a lot of positive publicity for Taft among area families. Taft recently captured headlines when the school gave each feeder school $1,000 for coaching stipends.

Grishaber said that it would be interesting to see the number of players signing up for the program given that there are popular football programs at several Northwest Side parks. He said that Taft is “a sleeping giant” when it comes to football.

The program would be geared to those who are not on a park team and are looking “for another opportunity” to play football, Glowacz said. “Were not looking to take players away from the parks,” he said.
LSC parent member Joe McFeely said that the football plan is similar to a successful “Junior Eagles” boys’ and girls’ club basketball program that consists of fifth through eighth graders from Taft’s feeder schools. Several of the program’s players have gone on to play high school basketball at Taft, he said.

It also was reported that the Taft Alumni Association is donating $5,000 to help pay for display cabinets for a new school museum and that its members have been sending the school packages with class rings and other artifacts. “For me it’s fun to open them up,” Grishaber said.

Also at the meeting, Grishaber said that the school has started using robo-calls to inform parents when their child has a tardy or truancy problem and that while some parents have found the calls annoying, they are working. “The numbers appear to be decreasing for the year,” he said of the truancy rate.

The school’s overall attendance rate for this fall is 93.6 percent, and record highs that were set in September, October and November in 2014 have been broken, Grishaber said.

Despite the improvements, the school has some students who have been truant up to 50 times and that attempts are being made to identify the reasons for the truancy and to help the student get back in the classroom, Girshaber said. “A lot of times it’s issues at home,” he said.

In other news, the council approved the purchase of six overhead projectors for science classrooms at a cost of $19,000. It also was announced that the school is receiving two additional Smartboards, one of which will be used in a classroom for diverse learners, and that all of the school’s math classrooms will soon have a Smartboard.

It also was reported that a candidates forum for those running in the LSC election next spring will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, in the All Purpose Room at Taft, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Candidate applications are due Friday, Feb. 19, but the school system often extends the deadline.

The next council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16.