‘Wall of Pennies’ unveiled at Taft LSC meeting

A 5-foot-tall likeness of the Taft Eagle titled the "Wall of Pennies" was presented at the June 6 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.

The work of art consists of thousands of pennies which members of the school’s Italian Club painted over the course of 3 years. The eagle is giving a thumbs up and has the initials "i.b." on its chest in reference to Taft’s international baccalaureate curriculum.

"When you guys come back in 50 years (to Taft), that will still be hanging on the wall. I guarantee that," Taft principal Mark Grishaber told the artists.

The students dedicated the artwork to the memory of Jeff Komada, who oversaw Taft’s technology for three decades. He was killed in an accident last year while assisting another motorist on southbound I-294, near Touhy Avenue.

Also at the meeting, Grishaber said that he would be taking a 100-day medical leave to undergo a bone marrow transplant. He plans to return to Taft in mid-October.

"I found out that my sister Michelle is a match for my bone marrow transplant. Thank you sis for life!" Grishaber announced in a June 5 tweet.

Grishaber missed part of this school year while he was undergoing chemotherapy for his leukemia, which was diagnosed in 2016.

The meeting also featured Grishaber’s annual state-of-the-school address. He reported that the school has a new dance studio, captured four city sports championships and experienced a significant decrease in in-school suspensions from about 600 in 2014-15 to about 150 this year.

Grishaber said that 72 students were responsible for 37 percent of the student misconducts issued during this school year and that 75 percent of students had no misconducts.

Many of the misconducts were issued for improper cell phone use or hanging out in a hallway during class, Grishaber said. This fall a "breakfast club" may be formed in which a group of students would meet with an administrator every two weeks in an effort to address these issues, he said. The idea is in reference to the film "The Breakfast Club" in which five high school students attend detention on a Saturday morning. Grishaber said that the meetings would take place during the school day.

Enrollment is expected to increase from 3,227 students this spring to about 3,300 this fall, Grishaber said. "That’s going to place a little strain on us, (but) it’s doable," he said.

In other news, Taft’s June 11 graduation ceremony included the presentation of a degree to Ray Ortiz, a former Chicago Public Schools student who dropped out of school in the 1960s to join the military. The school system has a policy that allows the awarding of degrees to veterans of the Vietnam, Korean and world wars who left school early to fight for their country, Grishaber said.

The council also honored retiring parent LSC members Lisa Schwieger, Joe McFeely and Lisa Collyer and student representative Jack Stevens. "The school is going in the right direction, and my hope is it continues," said Schwieger, who served for several years as the council’s chairwoman.

The council plans to choose replacements for the parent positions at its organizational meeting in July. At least seven parents have applied.

"It’s very rewarding, and it can make a difference," Schwieger told the applicants.