What was your reaction to the Drew Peterson verdict?
--Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter
What was your reaction to the Drew Peterson verdict?
--Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter
Summer 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:
Share your tips to beat the heat, learn risk factors to watch out for in the heat, after the jump.
Were 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 ChildAriseKenya.com.
-- Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer
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!
Last 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.
This was my pick for the Courier's year-end "Faces of 2011" series. Certainly the biggest story I covered this past year was the teacher layoffs (363 in one meeting!) and battle against legislation to extend the Sears EDA in Community Unit School District 300 -- all part of Superintendent Michael Bregy's first year at the head of the suburban Chicago school district.
Here's a look back at how that story unfolded in a long list of articles, dating from this spring, when the school district first began organizing against that legislation, to the vote last month to this week's restrospective on Bregy's first year...
D300: Sears talks ignore student needs
D300 won't give up Sears tax dollars without a fight
D300 to Hoffman Estates: 'You haven't seen anything yet'
D300 resolution 'adamantly opposes' tax break for Sears
How tax breaks for Sears EDA would affect Sears, D300, U46, ECC and Hoffman Estates
Rally emboldens D300 in battle over Sears EDA
D300 goes to Springfield
D300, senator propose compromises on Sears tax break
Dist. 300 eyes next steps in Sears tax break battle
D300 to fight against latest, 'horrible' Sears tax break bill
School tax limit nixed; D300 keeps eye on Sears proposals
District 300's still in the game over fate of Sears EDA
Votes on Sears EDA bills delayed again
D300 superintendent recounts week in Springfield
ECC weighs in on EDA bills; D300, HE, Sears finally meet
D300 still at the table with Sears, HE over EDA bill
D300 sees key points in EDA bill
D300 satisfied with Sears incentive bill changes
D300 deal with Sears, Hoffman Estates remains 'resolved'
D300, Sears, Hoffman Estates react to impasse in over competing legislation
D300 'actively monitoring' expected vote on Sears EDA legislation Monday
Sears EDA bill passes House
D300 reacts to House vote, recognizes community support
Sears EDA bill passes, heads to Quinn to sign
Your reax to Sears EDA passing both House and Senate (Between the Bylines)
New Dist. 300 superintendent has trial by teacher layoffs, Sears deal
The Sears EDA story in video, after the jump.
We've got a lot to look forward to this year, Mayan apocalypse notwithstanding. But first, let's take a look back at the year that was.
Here's a list of the articles in our "Faces of 2011" series, in which we reporters pick the local people who made news -- or best illustrated what made news -- in the past year. Read on, then vote in our poll below for the biggest local news story of 2011. Ready... set...
-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter
It's all over.
After three months of discussion since the veto session started in October and three different bills (with seemingly countless amendments), legislation to extend the economic development area around Sears Holdings Corp. headquarters in Hoffman Estates passed both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate this week. It goes now to Gov. Pat Quinn to sign, which he has indicated he plans to do.
Except that Community Unit School District 300 said yesterday it isn't over.
You can read more of the Carpentersville-area school district's reaction to the legislation's passage in my article, "Sears EDA bill passes, heads to Quinn to sign." Or watch District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy's reaction to its passage first in the House in the video below:
I also got a number of reactions yesterday from our readers on both my personal Twitter profile and The Courier-News' Twitter and Facebook profiles. Here's what you had to say:
@MaryFioretti (Mary Fioretti of Algonquin): while our leadership had to compromise, it still is regrettable that D300's portion of the property taxes pay ... $5 million and $350,000 for a legal defense fund. H.E. takes on obligations that they must pay for then runs to the State to ... extend their free ride. Government MUST CHANGE. If D300 had not intervened, this would have been worse. And Em you've ... written about all those things. Very dissappointed (sic) in State leadership allowing property taxes to be stripped from 21K kids posted Tuesday on Twitter
@AliGoebbert (Ali Goebbert of "Chicago area"): A loathsome precedent was just set by the state of IL in the passing of SB397. D300 carries the burden of keeping Sears here. posted Tuesday on Twitter
@katzmeow66 (Kathleen Burley of Algonquin): sad day in Illinois taking education property tax money from children to keep a failing company in Illinois. ... Hoffman Estates will now receive close to $2 million more than they would get if there were NO EDA in place! posted Tuesday on Twitter
More reader reactions, after the jump.
The day after former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's sentencing to 14 years in prison, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka told The Courier-News, "I just want him to go away."
Topinka had been the Republican candidate for governor against Blagojevich in the 2006 elections, making her the last person to run against him for office. She was elected comptroller this year.
On Thursday, she was at Elgin Community College to host an employment expo. (Read The Courier-News' coverage of that event: "Elgin college expo attracts hundreds of jobseekers.")
"This man (Blagojevich) already has impacted my life way too long, and the lives of the people of the state of Illinois too long, and what's sad is because of what he's done and how he has conducted business, or lack thereof, in the state of Illinois, we're going to be paying for this guy's bills for another generation. It's going to be costing everyone," she said.
The comptroller called many of the programs pushed by the former governor "at best, a photo op" and said, "They never were paid for. We never had the money to begin with."
In June, Blagojevich was convicted of 18 corruption convictions that included attempting to sell Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat. He accepted responsibility for his crimes Wednesday and apologized in court, saying, "I am just so incredibly sorry."
Afterward, he made a brief statement, quoting Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If": ""If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same."
Topinka said she didn't feel his apology was "for real," though she said, "I feel very badly for his children -- but you know what? -- he should have taken them into consideration on the front end. Maybe he should have spent less time memorizing English literature, and more time really governing."
"It's still all about him. He said, 'We're going to fight this adversity.' He's still defiant. The hubris and the arrogance is still there, and so it goes."
Read a transcript of Topinka's full remarks to The Courier-News, after the jump.