Taft principal says dream big; could football team play in Alaska?


The possibility that the Taft High School football team could play next year in Alaska demonstrates the desire of students and staff to push themselves to the next level and to accept new challenges, according to principal Mark Grishaber.

“We are going to dream big,” Grishaber said at the Oct. 18 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council. “It’s the year of risk taking.”

Grishaber said that Taft administrators have been in conversations with West High School in Anchorage about playing a game there in 2017. He said that West is a good choice for Taft because both schools have an international baccalaureate program.

Taft already has begun scheduling basketball games with other schools named “Taft” in the United States.

The same mindset that the school takes in sports is applied to the classroom, as students are being asked to take a challenging schedule, Girshaber said. “It’s programming up,” he said.

Recent accomplishments show that Taft is “gelling as a high school,” Grishaber said. It captured three city sports championships this fall, and for the second consecutive year it was designated a Level 1 school, which the Chicago Public Schools awards to its top performing schools.

“We’re eating our educational broccoli,” but “it’s not just about academics here. It’s the arts and athletics,” Grishaber said.

Also at the meeting, Grishaber said that with the teacher’s contract dispute settled, the school system is focusing on capital improvement projects, and the proposed new football field for Taft appears to have a good chance of being funded. The $3.5 million project would  include an artificial surface and spectator stands.

A resident who attended the meeting said that he recently watched his grandson’s freshman football game at Taft and that the poor condition of the field posed a threat to players’ safety. He said that community deserves a better field given the area’s high property taxes.

It also was reported that the council’s Facilities Committee recently met with Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) to discuss a proposal to build a new high school near Irving Park Road and Oak Park Avenue on the Read-Dunning site.

Some LSC members have said that the school could be used to relieve overcrowding at Taft, and Grishaber has recommended that the school be used as a freshman academy for Taft. Plans for the school have not been finalized, and it is not known if the project would be funded in the near future, LSC parent member Lisa Collyer said.

Meanwhile, Grishaber said that he hopes to have a veterans memorial installed outside the school in time for the 2017 Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade, which will conclude with a ceremony at Taft.

The design calls for an eagle overlooking the names of Taft students who served in the military. Members of the Taft U.S. Naval Junior ROTC Program are raising funds for the project.

It also was announced that Patrick Levins, who was the school’s English Department chairman, has been named an assistant principal at Taft and that Annie Martinez is now chairwoman of the department.

In addition, Huma Chander has been appointed as the school’s International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program coordinator, and Brian Hayes is the new Science Department chairman.

The school’s basketball program will be holding a fundraising concert, featuring a performance by Rick “Elvis” Saucedo, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, in the school auditorium, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and tickets are $10.

The next council meeting will be held at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15. The meetings usually start at 6:30 p.m., but council members wanted an earlier time for at least one meeting this school year in order to encourage more students to attend.