The Teenage Face of Chicago School Scandal

She was denied admission despite straight-A grades

Every scandal is best told through a human face, and in the case of Chicago Public Schools' burgeoning clout admissions scandal, that face belongs to Hyde Park teenager Celia Hensey.

Hensey was featured in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday as a prime example of what's wrong with selective enrollment process at Chicago's best schools. Despite straight A's and a score of 984 on the 1,000-point admissions scale, Hensey was rejected by Walter Payton College Prep.

Her sin? She was docked 10 points for five absences in the seventh grade due to the flu. In other words, she actually merited 994 points in the reality-based world.

And even that might not have gotten her in.

After all, neither of her parents are aldermen.

Hensey appeared on a Chicago Tonight panel last night with Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), one of two city council members who got their kids into highly selective public schools by calling the principals. While Hensey was rejected by Payton, Beale's daughter slid into Whitney Young.

Beale denied clout played a role in his daughter's admission, as has Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner. But that depends on how clout is defined. Kenner told the Sun-Times that she knew Beale from his baseball coaching and the days when her son played. She said she had a "personal relationship" with the alderman. "

"When he called me, it wasn't about him being a political figure,'' told the paper.

Hensey had no such luck. After she was rejected from Payton, her mother went to the school to talk to the admissions director, who simply said, "We're sorry."

"It's very, very tough to get into these schools if you're just a regular person," said Catalyst education reporter Sarah Karp, who was also on the panel.

Federal investigators are now looking at the so-called "principal's picks"; Kenner has been subpoeaned.

But it's too late for Hensey - and all the students she represents who had the misfortune to get the flu and not have parents who hold public office.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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