ROSCOE VILLAGE — It's better to have had your dream job and lost it than to never have had your dream job at all.
At least that's what Aaron Hoof said he's trying to tell himself.
Hoof was let go from his counselor position at Lane Tech College Prep High School last Friday as the result of Chicago Public Schools budget cuts — one of 35 staff members laid off at Lane, including four of the school's 12 counselors.
He'd had an inkling he might be on the chopping block when rumors began circulating at the end of the school year that the counseling department would be hit hard by layoffs.
A career changer, Hoof was only in his second year at Lane, with low seniority.
"I'm spot 10 out of 12," he said. "I have spent the last four weeks prepping" for bad news.
The call he'd been dreading came from Principal Christopher Dignam while Hoof was having brunch with his best friend.
"I do my best to stay positive," said Hoof, as he participated in Lane Tech's protest march on Wednesday.
"It sounds cheesy to say but my roommate's a yogi — I'm trying to peace out."
Lane's dwindling counseling staff — the school had 14 in 2011 and is now down to eight — has drawn the attention and concern of parents.
"We have a senior next year. She needs her counselor," said Lane Tech parent Susan Dobinsky. "They're very important to the school."
Hoof noted that his caseload, which topped 400 students spread across all grade levels, was already well above national standards that max out at 250.
"We're a college prep high school. We want all of our kids to go to college," he said. "Try writing 140 recommendations."
It's a problem he'd be happy to still have. Though Hoof said he has a line on a new gig, his experience at Lane will be hard to top.
So many of his grad school peers never found a counseling job, but the "stars aligned" for Hoof to land at Lane, a place he calls "magical."
"I am obsessed with Lane Tech High School. I think it is the greatest high school in the United States of America," he said.
"Our students speak 43 languages at home. Eighty percent are low-income. A lot of them are the first in their family to go to college," he said. "They don't even know how amazing they are."
Even with no savings to speak of and the stress of searching for new employment, Hoof said the hardest part of the past week has been coming to terms with leaving Lane.
"What's heartbreaking is that I loved the job where I was at," he said. "I had my dream job out of the gate."