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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

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgThis 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 Protests Sears EDA.jpg

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.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgHappy 2012!

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...


And vote!

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIt'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.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emily.jpgThe 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.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emily.jpgWhen, as a reporter, you hear the words "Stress-Free Zone," you have but one response. And that response is, "Yes."

"Yes, I will go to there and cover that -- and maybe never come back."

This is how I found myself in a chair massaging my back and legs, my hands wrapped in paraffin wax, in the Jobe Lounge at Elgin Community College. Or, as it was dubbed this morning, the Stress-Free Zone.

The Stress-Free Zone is an event put on by the College Programming Board just before finals every year at the community college. (You can learn more about it in my article in Thursday's Courier-News.)

I don't usually take part in the events I cover. But this one featured "oxygen therapy," and that was something I thought I sort of had to experience to write about. Also, it seemed like something blog-worthy, because, while I've been hearing about oxygen bars for years, I've never actually seen one. Have you?

Campus Spa, which provided the treatment at Elgin Community College's Stress-Free Zone, points to information about the benefits of oxygen therapy from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute on its website:

"(Oxygen therapy can allow people to) function better and be more active. Oxygen therapy can help in various ways. It may help: Decrease shortness of breath and fatigue (tiredness), Improve sleep in some people who have sleep-related breathing disorders, [and] Increase the lifespan of some people who have COPD."

The treatment at the Stress-Free Zone wasn't a true oxygen bar, the Campus Spa representative told me. A true oxygen bar pumps something like 95 percent oxygen at your face, she said. This was maybe 30 percent oxygen and mostly to convey a citrus scent, since, you know, you can't exactly scent the entire Jobe Lounge with relaxing aromatherapy candles. The scent was dispersed through a little apparatus that looks like one of those hands-free headsets for your cell phone.

Holly Grimm of South Elgin, one of the students in line ahead of me at the Stress-Free Zone, said it smelled a little bit like menthol. "It's supposed to give you extra power," she said.

I thought it smelled like orange Pez, and it dried out my contact lenses. That's not to say it wasn't an entirely enjoyable and therapeutic experience: After all, it was accompanied by the back and leg massage and paraffin wax hand treatment. And there's something to be said for just taking a minute to sit still, to be quiet and to just breathe.

Oxygen therapy? Hand treatments? What do you do to relax and de-stress?

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgSeveral parents have wondered on the School District U46 Facebook group why the Elgin district called a lockdown last week at South Elgin High School but not last month at Elgin High School.

You've probably heard about the lockdown at South Elgin by now. If not, I went over it again in today's cover story, "Secure schools: Lockdowns just one way to make them -- and students -- safer." The short version is police had received reports of an armed and intoxicated man at the high school.

But you may not have heard about the incident last month at Elgin. I asked U46 Safety Coordinator John Heiderscheidt about it while researching today's story. Here's what he said happened:

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, a caller told police he had overheard another man talking about a bomb at Elgin High School, according to Heiderscheidt. It wasn't a "bomb scare." It wasn't a very credible threat. But it was "suspicious," he said.

Credible or not, district officials still searched the building, assisted by Elgin police. But no doors were locked, and no message was sent home, according to the safety coordinator.

That's because, he said, "The difference between the two is pretty dynamic."

Parents were alerted to the incident at South Elgin High School because it was "a major disruption" -- the school was locked down for nearly an hour and surrounded by police, Heiderscheidt said. ConnectEd messages are sent by the district in an emergency, he said, whereas a call about the incident at Elgin High School would have been "informational."

There wasn't a lockdown, he said, because there was no threat inside the building to hide from, like the rumored gunman at South Elgin.

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgCommunity Unit School District 300 is back in Springfield today, trying to meet with legislators to ensure a bill set to replace Senate Bill 540 would be fair.

But district representatives also may discuss House Bill 3793, according to District 300 CFO Cheryl Crates.

That bill would affect how much schools collect from property taxes in tax-capped counties, like Kane County, as well as how much all Illinois school districts receive in General State Aid. (More about how that would work here.) Crates has not yet calculated how much less the district would take in if that bill were to pass, she said, but local revenue now is $170 million -- even a 1 percent drop would mean more than $1 million.

Elgin School District U46 has said the bill would cost it $3.7 million it already has budgeted for its current school year.

"We will (discuss House Bill 3793) ... but the whole state is down here talking about it, and nobody is here backing us up because it's a one-district issue," Crates said.

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgDo you know how many public high schools there are in Illinois? 688.

That's why I'm forever indebted to the Illinois State Board of Education for pulling just the chronic truancy rates for those schools into a single spreadsheet for The Courier-News. That's how I learned Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville had one of the 10 worst truancy rates in Illinois. (I had an inkling it was up there.) That's all in today's cover story.

Here's how all Elgin School District U46 and Carpentersville-area Community Unit School District 300 high schools rank in terms of truancy:

  • 10. Dundee-Crown High School, Carpentersville (Community Unit School District 300)
  • 93. Larkin High School, Elgin (School District U46)
  • 94. Hampshire High School, Hampshire (Community Unit School District 300)
  • 117. Elgin High School, Elgin (School District U46)
  • 121. Jacobs High School, Algonquin (Community Unit School District 300)
  • 160. South Elgin High School, South Elgin (School District U46)
  • 231. Streamwood High School, Streamwood (School District U46)
  • 361. Bartlett High School, Bartlett (School District U46)

What were the Top 10? Where did my school rank? After the jump.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the in the paper category.

Gloria Carr is the previous category.

Janelle Walker is the next category.

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