Mann - Oak Park's outlier school

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By John Hubbuch

Mann Elementary School is once again in the paper. This time the principal resigned, but it seemed like he was going to get fired. No one really knows what is going on except the superintendent and the board, and they ain't talking. Where is Edward Snowden when we really need him? 

The previous principal left because of improprieties involving the annual standardized tests, which is a little like Barack Obama stealing votes from Romney in Illinois. He would win anyway, and Mann would have had the highest test scores without any hanky-panky.

 Mann is a lot of people's Schadenfreude wet dream. Mann's misery is their pleasure. The stereotype of rich entitled parents and their spoiled kids suffering failures, albeit small ones, is somehow satisfying in an admittedly mean-spirited way.

 I was a Mann parent from 1984 to 1995. My three sons are graduates of Mann Elementary School. They had a great educational and social experience. I believe that whatever success they have had in life was in part due to the education they received there. They probably would have had a similar quality education at any of the other Oak Park elementary schools, but that is a road they did not take. 

Now I live back on the south side of town. We are in the Irving district where Marsha volunteers. It seems like a great school.

Our oldest son started at Longfellow School, but when he was in the second grade, we moved into the Mann district. We did so in part because we wanted a larger house, but there were lots of larger houses in other school districts. One of the main reasons we moved to Mann was because it had the highest test scores of all the elementary schools in the village. We considered River Forest, where the schools had even higher test scores than Mann, but we liked Oak Park's diversity even if Mann wasn't all that diverse. And Mann was cheaper. Test scores weren't the only consideration, but there was something comforting about sending your kids to the school with the highest test scores.

 Things don't seem to have changed much since my children were in elementary school. Mann still has the highest test scores, the most expensive homes, the highest taxes, the least crime, and it is still, by far, the whitest. In some ways Mann is the perfect place to sort out the essence of Oak Park. I'm guessing there are a lot of us who move and stay here because we like and support the diversity. We like telling our friends and ourselves that we live in Oak Park, not River Forest. But we would find it comforting to live in the section of town that is in fact closest to River Forest, where the test scores are higher and the crime is lower. Diverse, but not that diverse. See "Goldilocks."

I suspect a lot of Oak Parkers would like to send their kids to Mann Elementary School if they could afford to — and if they were honest.

Reader Comments

49 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Sandra Oliva Mann parent  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 2:45 PM

kenny, tu eres un IDIOTA sin clase! There was african americans, indian and latinos in the Mann performance. I should know because my daughter was part of the show, not the solo.

A Mann's Mann from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2014 2:28 PM

As a Mann parent, I only let my children watch 100% USDA Certified Organic television programs.

Ima Woman  

Posted: April 11th, 2014 2:02 PM

The only thing more annoying than a Mann parent is a River Forest parent.

Ima Mann from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2014 1:38 PM

Great article. Cheers!

I am a man  

Posted: April 11th, 2014 1:01 PM

Mann is smart. Mann is strong. Mann is responsible. Mann is compassionate. Whats the issue?

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 11th, 2014 9:38 AM

Kenny - What other comments are "haphazardly assembled"? I'm really only making one observation, which you may not agree with, but it is not baseless. And I've written absolutely nothing about test scores. Try thinking more and writing less.

Mann Parent  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:37 PM

LOL. Why are we posers, exactly? Because the elementary school districts were carved in such a way that one has fewer low-income students than the others? Therefore, we aren't REAL Oak Parkers?

Kenny - NE OP from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:11 PM

OP Transplant, it's clear you are not a pop culture buff. Your other comments were haphazardly assembled looking to support your baseless argument. Analyzing the D97 report cards one will notice Mann scored an 88 in Math and an 81 in Reading. Demographically, they're 78% white with 4% low income families. The remaining seven schools avg: 55% White, 22% Low Income, 77 in Math, and 79 in Reading. My point being, the Mann district is comprised of a bunch of posers pretending to represent OP.

OP Dad  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 9:13 PM

As far as crime goes, once you get a couple blocks east of Austin Blvd. the levels of crime do not fluctuate a huge amount. The insinuation that one's family is somehow safer living in the Mann district compared to the vast majority of other areas is beyond deluded. Any area that has more apartment buildings is going to get more crime for the fact that there's more people, but look at the Mann district crime blotter just after Christmas. You'll see all the criminals flock there.

OP Dad  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 9:07 PM

We consciously avoided the Mann district not only because of the lack of racial diversity, but also the lack of economic diversity, and we couldn't be happier with our decision. No doubt there are nice people there, and less affluent around the fringes, but the general vibe I've experienced is snobbery and arrogance, much like the tone of the article. We could have afforded Mann, but we might as well have moved to another suburb.


Posted: April 10th, 2014 8:08 PM

Of course, when I refer to the author of this article's stale opinion, I mean the actual test scores, as referenced by one poster below. Mann most definitely does NOT have the highest.

Jeff from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 8:02 PM

This guy is phoning it in. He writes this same article every year. This year though is conspicuously short on facts and long on stale opinion. Starting to think he does this just so he can get a rise from the wacky OP parent hordes.

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 6:21 PM

Etymologist - "Snowflake" has been a term for white people since long before Fight Club. Given the other remarks about the Mann students' lack of color, it's clear what the poster meant.


Posted: April 10th, 2014 6:04 PM

Dude, when you constantly have to tell everyone how "diverse" your community is, it's really not that diverse. And I like how you think that telling your friends you live in OP instead of RF gives you some type of street cred.


Posted: April 10th, 2014 6:03 PM

The term snowflake has nothing to do with white people; it's from Fight Club, and is widely used to refer to kids/millennials whose parents think they are unique and special, more unique and more special than everybody else's children. It is perfectly appropriate to use here.

Chris from Western Springs  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 5:17 PM

Weren't you the same guy who put down Hinsdale because of good schools and being too white? And now you are saying that Mann is the place to be because it has a good school, is whiter and is near whiter River Forest? You are inconsistant, and a horrible journalist who writes just for the sake of writing.

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 4:28 PM

I suspect we can all agree that the D97 talent show is interminable. I sat through it for years.

In Kenny's Defense  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 4:21 PM

Sorry, kids. But it's a really long show. Sing a song together, it's fun.

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 4:00 PM

Special or not, snowflake is a derogatory term for white people. Coupled with his comment about their "lack of color" in the same post, it's pretty clearly a racial comment. I know it's generally okay to badmouth white people in Oak Park, but grade school kids?

In Kenny's Defense  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 3:36 PM

By snowflakes he likely meant "special snowflakes" -- more a reference to the fact that every other school at that talent show puts together fun high energy ensemble pieces (group dances, etc. with lively music and costumes) with maybe one outstanding individual performance, whereas the Mann part of the show is characterized by solo performance after solo performance after unending solo performance. Not faulting the kids, but every year it's the same and you gotta ask yourselves, why?

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 3:10 PM

Well, Kenny, you did describe the children as "snowflakes" and referenced their "bleak lack of color." You also called the Asian students "the sole diversifying factor within Mann's cultural blight." So I'm going to go ahead and count those comments as references to race.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 2:45 PM

OP transplant- What would you expect from a truly color blind community... by definition they can only perceive the world in black and white.

Kenny - NE OP from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 2:40 PM

OP Transplant, my only mention of race was reference to an Asian family at the a D97 talent show. You, and you alone, own your assumptions.

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 2:34 PM

Kenny points out one interesting characteristic of OP culture - any discussion of race here involves only the two approved races, and diversity is measured by counting the number of African-American residents involved. But the world is full of folks who are neither black nor white, and, coming as we do from different races and cultures, I don't understand how we fail to make the village more diverse. We just don't have a role in the "whites oppressing blacks" narrative that drives this village.

Kenny - NE OP from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 2:04 PM

At a D97 talent show in March, no school identifier was needed for the Mann students. Their bleak lack of color acted as a glaring differentiation. We were all surprised to learn that Asians do live in OP, but stereotypically, they flock to the Mann district. It is here where they act as the sole diversifying factor within Mann's cultural blight. Mommy and Daddy made sure each child had it's very own solo piano performance. Proud daddy was seen videographing this moment on his overpriced camera.

Kenny NE - OP from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 1:46 PM

Feels like I've just be trolled! These precious snowflakes would be better served at a Naperville school. The uncontrollable cockroach infestation at Brooks and OPRF will act as an offsetting factor. This will ultimately reverse any percieved advantage their parent's wasted tax dollars may have afforded them. It will take hours of psychotheaputic analysis for these kids to realize it was their Mann education that left them with a weak shell.

Joe from Oak park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 1:00 PM

I am glad that my children don't attend Mann, so that I don't have associate with pretentious jerks like the author of this article. Oh, and I can't afford to live in a house in the Mann district. So I guess when I say I am glad I don't live there, I am subconsciously pining for the Mann lifestyle.

Where is the editor?  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:49 AM

Nonetheless, the biggest question is why are taxes so high when, in essence, 1 in 4 students in D97 cannot read or do match at grade level?

where is the editor?  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:42 AM

@bjlanning: D97's numbers were reported 9/13 for Spring 2012 and 2013. It is interesting that none of them match the's numbers for those time periods. The overall and 2012 numbers appear to reflect the scoring of the 2012 numbers based on the scoring system implemented in 2013. D97's 2012 numbers are, undoubtedly, based on the 2012 scoring system. Nonetheless, it is interesting that the 2013 scores differ up to 4 percentage points.


Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:18 AM

The more relevant question is :what is the boaard/roberts doing to enable success moving forward? how do we give every child a chance to succeed (close gap), how to we create a culture of OAK PARK as one unfified group vs. us /them anaology. This all starts with leadership and at the top.


Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:15 AM

Test scores are somewhat irrelvant and closely clustered. There are students from all schools who are academic rock stars and test scores are not a measure of LT success. OP is middle class (including Mann) and there are great teachers at all the schools. Our differences are far less than our common values...


Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:11 AM

This paper is getting more and more ridiculous. Add to this Lord Hammond's lame obscene attempt at an April Fool's Day joke (GREAT job commentators ignoring his desparate cries for attention on that one). Wet dreams and happy endings for all the dirty old white men at this paper! I'm done here.

Jeanine Pedersen from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:07 AM

In terms of ISAT testing, yes, Mann with its homogeneous, fairly affluent, student body (barely) outperforms every other school in the district. But when you look at the data in terms of real learning (also available at the Illinois report card site) Mann is outperformed by almost every school in the district. And in terms of nice houses -- get real. The nicest houses in Oak Park are in Holmes, especially near the FLW district.

Another classic  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:05 AM

"Diversity, but without the blacks." Do you even read the crap you write?

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:47 AM

Has any data been published showing that Mann students perform better in middle school or at OPRF? Has that data been controlled for student demographics? This is the real information that needs to be shared.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:46 AM

The real question is how kids of similar demographics perform at other schools. As it has been mentioned, Mann has a relatively homogeneous student body biased towards higher incomes. It makes sense that Mann would have higher scores as there is a high correlation between test scores and family incomes. It isn't that Mann is better, they just have fewer lower income students mucking up the stats.


Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:12 AM

According to the state, that is, Mann still has the highest overall scores. . Without Mann, D97 probably would not make the Bright Red Apple designation every year.

Thrifty Mom from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:10 AM

I had Mann envy because of the higher test scores when we were house hunting in Oak Park. Years later, I am glad we didn't need to spend more money for a house in the Mann zone in order for our kids to get a good education at our local D97 school. Lots of kids get top test scores at non Mann schools. The larger percentage of low income kids at non Mann schools explains the test score gap.


Posted: April 10th, 2014 9:57 AM

uh wow. the term "wet dream" in the wednesday journal.

Thornton from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 8:17 AM

IMHO the amount of digital ink spilled here discussing the merits or demerits of a particular school, principal, or board completely misses the mark of what education is all about. It is lighting a fire within a child, not filling a bucket or checking off a test score box. Read, do math, instill the virtue of hard work, challenge the child, and watch them flourish.

Mann mom  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 11:26 PM

Sorry..hit done too soon. Lack of professionalism shown by LeDeaux and the PTO Board speaks volumes.

Mann mom  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 11:22 PM

I am a Mann parent, who is embarrassed to admit it. The lack of professi

Rolling my eyes from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 4:48 PM

"I suspect a lot of Oak Parkers would like to send their kids to Mann Elementary School if they could afford to ?" and if they were honest." And in one sentence, you've demonstrated the elitist attitude that is the real reason for any Mann-related Schadenfreude. I know and love some Mann families, but I've also met enough of them who think that we all live in envy of Mann to make me glad we chose another school.

where is the editor from checking the facts  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 9:48 AM could argue that Mann, with its comparatively homogeneous demographics, is grossly underachieving viz a viz Longfellow. Of course, "corrections" in this crappy rag are limited to gun nuts; not uninformed, retired insurance lawyers who are too lazy to check facts before writing this crap.

Where is the editor from check the facts  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 9:45 AM

Hate to have the facts get in the way of your usual uninformed opinion, but Mann's test scores are no longer highest (correlates with the end of the "erasing parties"?): Longfellow's reading and math ISAT scores were higher in 2013. Whittier and Holmes were nipping at Mann's heels in reading. Whittier's math scores were higher than Mann's. In fact, given the disproportionate impact the changes to the ISAT had on "subgroups," cont.


Posted: April 9th, 2014 5:33 AM

As someone who grew up in OP and attended Lincoln, lived around the world for 20 years, attended IVY and returned to place kids at Mann, here are my observations. There are many wonderful people across OP as well as many self serving and entitled a__ holes. Second, the wealth, school and class gap varies greatly across all areas and is smaller than most think. OP is middle class - yes some high middle and some low middle. Finally, we all want the best for our children and do the best we can

Melissa from Chicago  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 11:31 PM

Actually, we avoided the Mann district when we lived in Oak park for 30 years. Our two kids went to Whittier....there is more to an education than the highest test scores. I've always viewed the Mann district as the place to live if you wanted to say you lived in Oak Park but didn't really want to experience the diversity which is the essence of Oak Park. My parent's families were strewn all over OP in the early 20th century so I wasn't partial except to live where there WAS a variety of folks

Emily Meszaros from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 11:10 PM

I'm a Mann parent and have been for 4 years. I don't live in a mansion, 1/2 mansion or anything close to it. I want to speak out for those of us "on Harlem" and say that the stereotyping of Mann kids and their parents is really outdated and foolish. Look me up- I'm a regular lady who wants her kids to have a good education. This situation is really tough- for our kids, above all else - and I'm glad that the other schools in town are not dealing with such an issue.

South Oak Park Resident  

Posted: April 8th, 2014 10:32 PM

When we first moved to south Oak Park, I too had the Mann obsession. But we have fallen in love with south Oak Park, the people, the ability to walk everywhere and yes we are fans of Irving School too. We could buy a bigger house in the Mann neighborhood, but we are happy where we are. There is also more than test scores when evaluating schools. It is unfortunate that we look at test scores rather than the love of learning, excitement and simply growth in knowledge.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad