Bridging the Gap


Chloe Crookall '17

Friends of Jones is the school’s wizard behind the curtain. Social science teacher Meghan McClory is the Scarecrow, PE teacher Rob Heselton is the Tin Man, and athletic director Frank Griseto is Dorothy.

It was in the midst of a mid-school year struggle a year ago with the Chicago Teachers Union, that Friends of Jones handed Principal P. Joseph Powers a check for $260,000 after a two week fundraising frenzy.

“My jaw dropped when I was getting updates on the emergency appeal,” said Powers. “I knew [Friends of Jones] were working hard on it, but I had no idea it would come so quickly and from so many families.”

The crisis had been looming since September 3, 2015 when Chicago Public Schools released their budget for the year, a budget that included more than $400 million from the state that they didn’t have. With no way to make up that money, CPS was left with the only option of cutting funding from schools. Jones specifically would have lost $312,000. While Powers had $60,000 saved in a “rainy day fund” in case of a budget shortfall, he turned to Friends of Jones for the funds he was lacking.

“It was in December, that it was determined that we needed more money, and quickly. So we put out an emergency appeal,” said Cairon Deitsch-Jones, president of Friends of Jones. “Dr. Powers wrote a letter, which was really the catalyst to get families to donate and were able to raise a large amount of money. ”

In the next several weeks, Friends of Jones was able to raise $260,000 from nearly 700 families.

“We owed approximately $192 per person and a lot of people gave $384. Money for their child at Jones and for another student who isn’t able to pay,” said Jane Clifford, last schools year’s Treasurer for Friends of Jones.

The money raised by Friends of Jones was able to keep the school functioning without any changes in staff. However, without the role of Friends of Jones in the initiative, Jones would have faced the consequences that became reality for many other CPS schools.

“If we had had to cut $300,000, we would have had to lay off four to five employees,” said Powers. “Younger teachers with lower salaries would have been the first to go.”

A cut of this size would have increased class sizes and could have eliminated some higher level, elective classes from the curriculum.

“I have a daughter at Lane [Tech] and they were forced to cut staff because of the budget shortfall. We at Jones didn’t have to cut any,” said Clifford.

This year, a similar situation is brewing. CPS faces a $215 million hole in the budget and has no way of coming up with that money. So far, they have decided to designate four non-instructional days as unpaid furlough days for all CPS employees. These days are projected to save about CPS $35 million. This is an echo of the furlough days CPS issued last year, a precursor to the budget shortfall that came later in the year.

“You have to plan for something that’s not necessarily going to happen,” said Powers. “We still don’t know if there’s going to be a mid-year budget reduction this year.”

Deitsch-Jones believes the same crisis is unlikely to happen two years in a row, but more information on the budget situation should be revealed in the coming weeks.

“We have an excellent parent network but we don’t want them to be put in a position where they have to contribute every year,” said Margaret Hampton, current Friends of Jones treasurer.

So far, the future looks uncertain, but Powers believes that Jones sits in a better position than most other schools, and will be  ready for what happens.

“We’ve always had a tremendous amount of support,” said Powers. “We couldn’t do it if we didn’t have Friends of Jones. I’ve been through a few budget battles before but I’ve never had this kind of backup.”