Duncan had list of favor-seekers

March 23, 2010

BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter
When U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan ran Chicago Public Schools, his office quietly kept a log of elected officials and others seeking to help kids win admission to the most coveted schools in the system, a former top Duncan aide said Monday.

That list has now come under the scrutiny of both federal officials and the schools inspector general as part of a probe of whether clout played a role in admissions to Chicago's elite schools, sources said.

Calls listed on the annual "logs'' included anyone who contacted the schools CEO's office seeking help in placing a student, such as a parent concerned about their child's safety, said David Pickens, who was a top assistant to Duncan and is now chief of staff to the president of the Board of Education.

But the logs also held the names of elected officials, "a lot of aldermen,'' businessmen, local school council members and Board of Education employees who wanted to get kids into selective enrollment or magnet schools, Pickens said.