Friday, September 28, 2012

New Leadership, New Energy, New Spirit FRANCIS SCOTT KEY SCHOOL IS ON THE MOVE!

The Francis Scott Key leadership team with students: (left to right) Pete Retsos, Assistant Principal; Principal Margo Giannoulis-King; and Dean of Students Wendell Smith. (Photo by Brad)
There is new electricity in the air at Francis Scott Key Elementary School, 517 North Parkside Avenue, a feeling of hope and excitement as the new school year opens. Much of the credit for this atmosphere can be credited to the new administration and what they are bringing to Key. Margo Giannoulis-King is the new Principal at Key. She was a Principal Intern last year at Phoenix Military Academy High School and is a member of the UIC Principal Urban Leadership Program with a focus on curriculum design. 

Before moving to Phoenix Military Academy, she taught at Kenwood Academy High School, where she was recognized for her creativity and uniquely innovative style. Ms Giannoulis earned her Bachelor’s degree from Loyola University and her Master’s from DePaul. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked in City Hall organizing the Chicago Farmers Markets and mentoring CPS high school students in government. When Key parents sought her out and urged her to apply for the principalship, Giannoulis firmly declined, emphasizing that she was a high school level administrator and teacher. The parents were persistent and finally convinced her to come to Key. In June, when Ms Giannoulis arrived at Francis Scott Key, she determined immediately that the entire school required a change in culture and climate if students were going to excel. She brought with her from Phoenix Pete Retsos to be her Assistant Principal and Wendell Smith, a former Marine, joined the leadership team from Kenwood Academy as Dean of Students. Thus, a high school structure and focus were put into place by leaders with secondary school backgrounds. 
Even as Francis Scott Key advances, students still like to be kids at recess. (Photo by Brad)

There were also changes in the classroom, with 33% of the 17-member teaching staff new to Key. The instructional style was changed to be more individualized, better serving each child’s needs and comprehension. Giannoulis describes herself as an instructional mentor and takes an active role working with teachers and students in the classroom. Already, Key has progressed from Level 2 to Level 1 in test scores. This year, 78% of 4th graders are reading at Meet & Exceed Levels. The staff is starting Saturday classes for ten weeks from 8:30 to 11:30 AM. The school has a Brain Hurricane Tutoring Program to help students master subject material and advance further academically. The new administration launched a student government and called for elections, coinciding with the national political campaigns. Elections were held Tuesday, following a candidates forum. Cleveland Gidney Clark was elected President. 
Cleveland Clark explains his platform in his run for Key School President at the candidates forum. He won the election. (Photo by Brad)

Key is starting a competitive chess club and other clubs and extracurricular activities usually reserved for the high school scene. The students are enjoying the opportunities and variety of options. Mr. Retsos has a background in musical and spoken word production. He says he is working to develop student talent and is inviting professional performers to the school to expose Key students to a variety of cultural experiences. Currently, Key has 305 students enrolled in grades kindergarten through 8, but Giannoulis says those numbers are rising as word spreads of the improvements at Key. The leadership team at Key puts it bluntly: “All Key students have a right to attend the best high schools and colleges. It is our duty to ensure they qualify and succeed!” For information regarding curriculum offerings and enrollment opportunities at Francis Scott Key Elementary School, call Ms Giannoulis-King at 773/534-6230. 
Candidates for Francis Scott Key Student Government. (Photo by Brad)


  1. Ms. Giannoulis was an amazing principal who turned our school around and yet CPS still closed it. Ms. Giannoulis was also dealing with bias from the Chief at the time for all of her hard work in introducing grants, new leadership and a new energy. The community, parents and students loved her. Yet the chief at the time showed reverse discrimination against her and the new AP for being white in our West side community. We miss her and wish there were more Principals like her.

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