You may have already seen Stephen K Hayt Elementary on this blog. They are one of SchoolSparrow’s Chicago hidden gems.
Since then, members of the SchoolSparrow team were able to sit down and interview Daniel Gomez, the Principal at Hayt Elementary. He has been the principal since 2005, and is doing a wonderful job leading the school. According to the Hayt website, under Principal Gomez’s tenure, “Student performance has steadily improved in reading, writing, math and science. Student attendance has also improved; maintaining an attendance rate of 95% or higher throughout his tenure. Mr. Gomez also enhanced the technology at Hayt.”
The goal of this interview was to uncover what exactly makes Hayt Elementary so great. We have seen the data, and we know that Hayt is a great school, but this interview takes us behind the scenes, making it evident why Hayt Elementary is a high quality school in Chicago.
Here is the full profile on Hayt Elementary using information gathered directly from Principal Gomez.
Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School – Chicago, IL
Hayt Elementary is located in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago with great access to the Red Line, the Lake, and tons of restaurants and shopping options on Clark Street. With the Loop only 20-25 minutes away, it’s a perfect location for those who love the city.
Address: 1518 W Granville Ave Chicago, IL 60660
Principal Gomez gave us another interesting insight into the community, saying “Hayt is in the 48th Ward, but a majority of the students come from the 40th ward. If I had a trolley that went down Granville it would be nice because most of my students live off Granville.”
Hayt is a very diverse school, and according to Principal Gomez, the school has over 30 languages represented in the student body!
Unique Features of the School:
When we asked Principal Gomez what makes the school unique, he stressed its diverse student body and the additional academic offerings they have.
“We are the Hayt Patriots and I feel it’s appropriate,” Gomez said. “My goal is to give students the American dream and that starts with an education. It is very diverse and I have hired a diverse staff. I have Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, French, Mandarin, Vietnamese, German, and Spanish speaking teachers. The faculty is as diverse as the student population and we are the only elementary school in the area that teaches German as a world language.”
This really stands out, because when a school has a diverse student population, the staff does not always reflect that. But this is not the case at Hayt. Principal Gomez is very aware of the diverse student population, and hires accordingly. The fact that there are teachers that speak a variety of languages to fit the needs of a student population that speaks over 30 languages is outstanding.
Principal Gomez understands what it feels like to learn English as a second language, because he himself was one of these students.
“My mom was from Spain and when she came to the U.S., she did not speak a word of English,” Gomez said. “I’m one of 7 kids and I know what it’s like not to have income. My parents taught me to work hard and I know what it’s like to not know English and be taken advantage of. That’s where my passion comes from.”
About the Staff:
Not only is Hayt Elementary a diverse school with a diverse staff, but they have great teachers as well. We asked Principal Gomez what makes his teachers so great and he said, ”We have great teachers and common planning time on grade levels. We use a lot of data and are passionate about helping struggling students and having engaging lessons. If kids are always engaged they are not thinking about misbehaving because it’s a fun lesson. We have a safe and orderly environment. Kids feel safe at school so they concentrate on academics and not about their safety.”
Principal Gomez gave all of the credit to the teachers, but the administration supports these teachers as well. We asked him how administration is contributing to the school and he said, “We have behavior health teams and culture and climate teams. 99% of the budget goes to the salary of the staff. It is the people that really make the difference. What I try to do is make the conditions right for them to do their job effectively and get them the right materials and equipment. I’m not the one in front of the students but I try to make it as easy as possible for them to do their job.”
This collaboration between the administration and the great teachers at the school contribute to a holistic education that students and parents can be proud of. This was one of the things that really makes Hayt stand out.
Community and Parent Engagement:
Another part of the success of Hayt Elementary is the community that it is in. This became evident when Principal Gomez started speaking about all of the community partners that they have. Principal Gomez mentioned a plethora of partners, including Raven Theatre, Openlands, Loyola University, Northwestern Science, Roots and Shoots, and Central Romero.
Gomez also mentioned that the school has received multiple art grants.
“We have music around the world program and kids learn songs from different countries from a local community member,” Gomez said. “The program finishes with a family cultural day and in which we have had numerous stations and each station has activities from different countries.”
All of these activities are done with the help and support of the teachers and parents, Gomez said.
Principal Gomez also spoke highly of the parents of the school, many of which are not native English speaking. He said that they have hard working parents, along with “a bilingual advisory group and ESSA and PTA. He went on to say, “We try to get parents involved with helping in the classrooms, attending field trips, assemblies, and report card pick ups. Parents come for activities and they are there for any performances that we have.”
Curriculum is an important part of any school’s success, and we see this at Hayt Elementary. Principal Gomez spoke about the curriculum for each subject and grade level here:
“For math, we have two curriculums. K-6 we use GoMath and 6-8 we use Big Ideas for math. Those two teams chose those curricula, so I give decision making to teachers in the curriculum.”
“For language arts, we teach more by the standards than by curriculum. ELA is a teacher-created [curriculum] to common core standards. For science, we use Amplify Science and we are trying to get funding for K-4 to purchase Amplify Science. With social studies, we teach based on standards. Third grade learns about Chicago. Upper grades learn more about the government and social justice issues, but city curriculum drives social studies.”
At Hayt, teachers get to make decisions about curriculum. This shows the trust that Hayt Elementary has in its teachers, and the great relationship between the faculty and the administration.
One of the main reasons that Hayt Elementary was on our original hidden gem list is because of its test scores. At SchoolSparrow, we set test score expectations based on the largest contributing factor, which is the family income profile of the school.
Hayt Elementary exceeds these expectations by over 50%. We asked Principal Gomez what he attributed this to, and he said “Well I think it’s a combination of numerous things. One is the school climate and culture, but it’s also the teachers setting expectations. I also think it’s families supporting their children and setting expectations. That is why we have higher student performance and growth.”
When all of these things come together, it is easy to see why Hayt Elementary is one of the best schools in Chicago. Hayt has a great approach to learning and support, and a lot of the school’s success can be attributed to Principal Gomez along with the outstanding staff at the school.
The median price of homes currently listed in 60660 is $250,000 (or $259 per square foot). Since Hayt scores only a 6 out of 10 on GreatSchools, it’d be all too easy to overlook this school, but don’t make this mistake! Hayt ranks as one of the best schools in all of Chicago and scores a definitive A on SchoolSparrow. You can search for properties for sale within the Hayt attendance boundaries here.