1980-1986 Thomas Jefferson Academy

The Thomas Jefferson Academy (TJA) was an independent elementary school (K-8) for 80 Chicago boys and girls of diverse backgrounds. Founded in 1980 and dubbed by a student as "The Little School on the Prairie", TJA was located two blocks north of Wrigley Field on 1126 West Grace Street in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago.


I founded TJA and for six years served as the school's Headmaster, doing
the following:
  • Developed the school's philosophy of Life Purpose Education: of school as a place where students master the basics of learning in order build their own lives, focusing on six areas: family, friendship, education and career, hobbies and interests, social responsibility and belief systems.
  • Served as Business Manager (1986 operating budget: $400,000),
  • Director of Admissions
  • Director of Development. Secured outside funding and developed seven-member Board of Trustees.
  • Taught English courses.
  • Oversaw two successful accreditation processes
    • State of Illinois (NonPublic School Recognition awarded in 1985)
    • North Central Schools Association (Provisional Membership awarded 1985). 
In 1986 TJA was forced to close. he Tribune Corporation, having purchased the Chicago Cubs in 1985, went on to purchase the nine-acre lot on Grace street two blocks north of Wrigley Field that housed the school building that TJA rented from its owners, the Sisters of the House of the Good Shepherd. When the Tribune Corp declined to give TJA a long-term lease, TJA looked for but was unable to find a suitable new location. Upon closing in 1986, seventeen TJA families promptly left Chicago for the suburbs. The school had been instrumental to their desire to live in the city.
Some Thomas Jefferson Academy Links

TJA in the media
On Life Purpose Schooling

Promoting and funding TJA

The Arts at TJA

Computers at TJA

Intergenerational TJA

"Betty Sardine and the Tunas": an underwater rock band by TJA 7th Grader Leonard Pugh
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