Jim Mabie began his career like a lot of our award winners did 40 years ago: at a firm that was swallowed up by another and no longer in existence. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's merely an indication of how long he has been in the business.
As the chairman of the board of ChiArts, he played an integral role in launching the school, which has 150 freshman from all over the city. After the fourth year, ChiArts will have a total of 600 kids. Half the kids qualify for a free lunch — that is, their families fall under the poverty level. A sign of its success? The school has a daily attendance rate of 97.1 percent and no dropouts, putting it at the top of the Chicago public school system. And it has a longer school day than regular schools, since the arts concentration doesn't begin until 2 p.m. (after regular academic subjects) and lasts until 5 p.m. “That's a very long school day,” Mabie says. Most schools are in session from 8 to 2:30. “It's a demanding schedule.” The operating budget of ChiArts is $3.5 million; 60 percent of that is paid for by taxpayer money (“for the academic side,” he says), the remaining 40 percent (or $1.5 million) has to be paid for with private money. “So we have to raise the balance each year. So far it's been from private foundations and individuals. It's a big deal because as the school accepts more students, that need for [arts] money will escalate,” Mabie says.
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