Between the Bylines

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What was your reaction to the Drew Peterson verdict?

--Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgSummer doesn't begin until Wednesday.

You wouldn't know it from the weather, though. Temperatures across the Chicago area already hit 97 degrees in May. And Monday brought us the first of what could be three straight days of high temperatures in the 90s.

(Read more in today's The Courier-News: "Sticky Chicago sees first of forecast three straight days in the 90s.")

If you, like me, are built better for Chicago winters than Chicago summers, here are a few tips to stay cool from the McHenry County Department of Health:

  • Always wear light-weight clothing that has plenty of ventilation (the fabric should "breathe").

  • Stay well hydrated (consume an abundance of liquids in the summer).

  • Exercise or schedule other strenuous activities when the heat and humidity are lowest (early morning and late evenings).

  • Rest in cool, shady places frequently. If you're hot, go cool down - get indoors, drink cool liquids, enjoy the air conditioning for a few minutes or take a cold shower.

  • Watch out for those at greatest risk - very young children, persons with health conditions like the elderly, pets. Certain medications may put you at greater risk of heat-related illnesses, so be aware of how medications may interact with the heat.

  • Visit a cooling center. McHenry County's cooling center at the Illinois Health & Human Services Building, 2215 Lake Shore Drive, Woodstock (815-338-0234).

Share your tips to beat the heat, learn risk factors to watch out for in the heat, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgWere you as moved by Elgin Community College instructor Joseph Onesimus' story as we were?

The Plato Center resident will travel to Kenya, where he was born, at the end of the month to complete his late father's vision: Bringing a clean water source to his village. Work on the water-supplying borehole started last spring with support from several Quad Cities churches and Onesimus' mother's mission organization, Child Arise Kenya. The completed project, called Living Waters Borehole, will bring clean water to 5,000 people.

Onesimus' story appeared in Sunday's Courier. You can read the full story here on our website: "One man's summer vacation of a lifetime."

Here's how you can help.

Donations can be sent to:

Child Arise Kenya Widows and Orphans Ministry
827 Fifth Avenue Drive W.
Andalusia, IL 61232

For more information about Child Arise Kenya or the Living Waters Borehole project, call 309-798-2596 or visit

-- Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer

Assembly April 17, 2012  Grieff 039.jpg

Photo submitted by South Elgin High School Principal Melanie Meidel.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emily.jpg It had taken Brittany Blue, 18, of Streamwood about 45 minutes to dress in her long, black prom gown, pull her short blond hair half up and put on her makeup - the light-colored foundation, the dark eye shadow, the fake blood splashed across her neck.

Brittany was one of nine South Elgin High School seniors who took part in a reenactment of an alcohol-related car accident late last month in the school's outdoor stadium, part of an assembly about the dangers of drinking and driving on prom night.

The assembly had been a "blur," said Brittany, who had played dead during the reenactment, stretched across the hood of one of two smashed cars.

"I couldn't open my eyes. I could just hear things. I was moving, I was moving and then I was in a body bag," she said.

Afterward, the seniors peeled off fake flesh and prom attire in the high school dressing room as they dressed for the rest of the school day. They talked about the upcoming South Elgin prom, held this Saturday at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center, about graduation, about their last days spent together as a class - no less of a blur than the morning assembly had been.

"(Prom) is a lot of fun, but you have to be willing to spend money on it," said Mike Favia, 18, Bartlett.

He said he'd pay at least $300 for prom, including $150 for a pair of tickets and about $100 for a tuxedo rental, with a blue tie to match his date's dress - "a big thing here." If he wants to go in on a "party bus" with friends, he said, that will be another $100. And that's not to mention what he'll pay for a trip with classmates to the Wisconsin Dells the day after prom.

South Elgin Principal Melanie Meidel put that number closer to $500.

That's still pretty conservative compared to the average price nationwide a couple will pay for prom this year: $1,078, according to a survey of about 700 readers of Seventeen Prom and TeenPROM magazines last year and additional research by USA TODAY. Most of that will go toward the prom dress ($231) and rented tux ($127, plus another $100 for a tie, cummerbund and shoes).

Micalena Mikhail, 18, of South Elgin said she spent about $500 on her dress -- "I didn't have to get alterations, though."

"You just want to feel special," Micalena said.

And Brittany said, "When you look back at your high school photos, you want to look good."

That cost is one of many things Meidel said has "changed a lot" about prom since she was a senior attending the event in her high school gym. And that's something that's the same across all of the Fox Valley, echoed by residents who attended prom 34, 47 years ago.

For their memories of proms past, read this past weekend's Storyteller, No matter the year or circumstances, prom brings night to remember.

For more ways prom has changed, and become more dangerous, over the years, read Judges tell teens: Bad decisions can make prom a time of regret.

Does the biggest cheating scandal in American history, uncovered last year, have you worried teachers are cheating on student test scores in your schools?

That scandal was exposed in 2011, after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's analyzed standardized test scores in Atlanta schools. That led to findings of widespread cheating in Atlanta schools and a state investigation in Georgia. Investigators then put the finger on about 180 teachers and administrators, some of whom confessed to altering test papers, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This weekend, The Atlanta Journal Constitution did it again, collecting and analyzing standardized test scores not just for Atlanta schools, but for 69,000 public schools across the country. The whole thing is fascinating, and it uncovered test scores in hundreds of cities that followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, had indicated cheating in multiple schools.

You can search the newspaper's database of school districts' test-score shifts here, but I'm guessing there mostly are two school districts in whose results you are interested: Elgin School District U46 and Community Unit School District 300.

So should you be worried about your schools cheating on their standardized test scores? Find out, after the jump!

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgNOTE: In a revival of this "classic" Friday feature, Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey guesses how much beer (or other beverage of choice) it might take him to pay money to see a recently-released movie. His opinions are based on trailers, ads and advance hype.

Here are some of the movies playing this weekend...21 Jump Street

A movie version/update of a silly late-80s TV show about cops who go undercover as high school students. It looks goofy enough that if I have enough beers one night I might rent if off Netflix. Heading out to the cineplex, not so much.

Beer rating: Much light beer. But that gives me a headache.

Jeff Who Lives At Home, Casa De Mi Padre, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgNOTE: In a revival of this "classic" Friday feature, Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey guesses how much beer (or other beverage of choice) it might take him to pay money to see a recently-released movie. His opinions are based on trailers, ads and advance hype.

Here are some of the movies playing this weekend...

Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance

Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle-riding fire face who collects debts for the devil. It wasn't available for critics in advance. You'd think they would put out better movies in February. It's usually cold, and there's not much else to do. Maybe it's a conspiracy to get more people to go bowling.

Beer rating: Lots of Duvel Belgian Ale.

This Means War, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgNOTE: In a revival of this "classic" Friday feature, Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey guesses how much beer (or other beverage of choice) it might take him to pay money to see a recently-released movie. His opinions are based on trailers, ads and advance hype.

Here are some of the movies playing this weekend...

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

This movie is a follow-up to "Journey to the Center of the Earth." The second Journey album came out in 1976 and was called "Into the Future." No one remembers it either.

Beer rating: A 12-pack of Anchor Steam, the San Francisco treat.

Safe House, The Vow, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpgWas that a big orange moon over Cabela's in Hoffman Estates Wednesday night or just a missing prop from Cirque du Soleil's "Quidam," which opened down the road at Sears Centre?

Both were eerily dreamy, which is nothing new for a Cirque show ("Quidam" dates back to 1996,) but sort of surprising, still, as this one bill's itself as "a young girl's escape into the world of imagination."

Zoe's imagination is not filled with puppy dogs and cotton candy, nor is Justin Bieber anywhere to be found in her cranium, as she's apparently from a time before kids had YouTube, i-Product and fast food to keep them occupied.

Guided by a Cirque kind of ringmaster, her trip down the rabbit hole -- or, in this case, onto a huge revolving stage - is filled with acrobats of all sorts, some more nightmarish than whimsical, and comic bits hearkening back to Charlie Chaplin that pull people from the audience (who may or may not be planted there).

The rest of Danahey's review, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgLast night's School District U46 Board of Education meeting was standing room only -- a little unusual for a meeting at which the school board is not expected to make any controversial decisions.

(Although, one public commenter did question whether Superintendent Jose Torres' recent trip to China had been taxpayer-funded. Answer: Here, in today's cover story, "U46 schools chief gathers food for thought during trip to China.")

It appears a good chunk of that crowd had turned out to hear two middle school students speak about the successes they've had in the Elgin school district's AVID program.

Lest you think your comments fell on deaf ears, girls... Or were you left wanting to learn more about AVID, grown-ups... I wrote at length about the program last school year. That article no longer is available online, so I've posted it, in full, after the jump.

Click here to read "Program creating ' AVID' learners," more information about school board meeting coverage on Twitter, after the jump.

Recent Comments

  • bethany: Nice! Thanks for covering, Emily! read more
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  • LF. Gibson-Aiello: My Guess is Bri Murphy - an Elgin native and read more
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