When the story broke, it made national news. The school district in Chicago fired a rookie principal for refusing to enroll additional ninth-graders. In news story after news story, officials with the Chicago Public Schools made the same promise: Freshmen at Gage Park High School would get a good education despite the overcrowding.
It’s March, early evening, and the auditorium at Gage Park is filled with angry parents. The halls aren’t safe. Fights are breaking out nearly every day. Kids are getting suspended.
Did Chicago Public Schools keep its promise to students, parents and teachers?
The answer was an alarming no.
Field and McEvoy said, “Through our reporting, we were able to document the way the district’s decision and lack of planning hurt kids. We also documented how the situation could have been avoided. Through e-mails — leaked to Chicago Public Radio — we learned that Chicago Public Schools had ample warning about what the consequences might be if they increased enrollment at Gage without a plan.”
Judges said, “Mr. Field and Ms. McEvoy’s entry added the necessary sparks to make an intriguing and remarkable story. They have proved the power of the media in righting the wrongs which seemingly encircle us.” Judges cited the “superior use of natural sound with strong interviews, woven into a wonderfully crafted story line and augmented by marvelous production. … The community and the faculty at Gage … should be comforted by the reality that Mr. Field and Ms. McEvoy have made their plight known, and with that knowledge, will come change.”
Indeed, when the June 7 and 8 story aired, Chicago Public Radio discussed issues raised by the story with the head of Chicago Public Schools in an off-the-record meeting.
CEO Arne Duncan acknowledged the district had mishandled the Gage Park situation and was taking steps to address overcrowding. Duncan also agreed to take part in a community meeting, including students, teachers, principals, activists, lawmakers and parents.