When asked about the low points of his high school life, Bolingbrook High School's Valedictorian Tom Peterson gave a surprising answer: Getting his braces off.

"Most people see that as a glorious thing, but as a trumpet player it was probably one of the worst things that could have happened to me. It changed up the whole setup of my embouchure," he said about the use of his facial muscles and shaping his lips to the

"It took about a year of practice to get back to where I was and that was so depressing. When you wake up and you can't play your instrument that you played for so long, it's like a nightmare," he said.

"My range went down an octave and a half. My tongue was garbage for the first couple of weeks. It forced me to lock down on the fundamentals of playing what I was doing right and wrong and to fix it."

Aimee A. Rupsis, director of bands at Bolingbrook High School, said getting braces put on and removed is one of the most difficult things for a brass player to go through.

"Because of the nature of playing a brass instrument, what happens to the teeth has a dramatic effect on sound and playing ability," she said. "It can be a very trying time for any brass player to go from playing really well to having a terrible sound and no range - yet knowing you were once able to do that and knowing you have to rebuild and re-learn in order to get back to where you were.

"I'm impressed by how fast he was able to recover and that he was able to get through this trying time with little private instruction. Because he is a determined musician, he was able to overcome this adversity and return to being a solid and really outstanding trumpet player," she said.

"The only way to overcome a change like that is to practice regularly with dedication and hard work and it is a very difficult thing mentally to overcome," she said. "I believe our students at BHS would have worked hard, but not every student is as dedicated to becoming a good musician as Tom is. Some might have given up, where Tom worked hard to overcome the difficulty."


This past Mother's Day, Tom spent it out on the sidewalk with his sister, Lacy, 6
"What kind of help me get through it, I taught my little sister how to ride a bike today. It was fun," he said. "I made sure she did not fall. My oldest brothers tried and failed miserably.

"And, I got her to do it in about an hour. I was patient that's how I did it. I was patient and I encouraged her," he said adding his older brothers do get some credit for starting the process and his best friend, Kevin Mitchem, did give a her pep talk.


As of May 20th, Tom was still working on his graduation speech. He has some ideas and it's a tall order.

"I want to be funny. I want to be inspirational. I want it to be a learning lesson. I want people to learn from it as well as kind of enjoy it," he said.

"I think paradox is the greatest thing in the world. It's like taking out the 'or' and putting an 'and' in there even though an 'and' is not supposed to be there.

"I like being both funny and intellectual. I like to be both serious and playful. I like to be productive and have fun. I want to do all of that. That's what I love about paradoxes because it's wonderful," he said. "I want to go up there and have fun and give people advice, words of wisdom, talk about high school through everyone's eyes, give them something they can connect to and something they can take home."

Plainfield School District is asking for permission to deny a request for comments from an online community survey.

Here's why:

By U.S. Mail and Electronic Mail

May 9, 2011

Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General
500 South 2nd Street
Springfield, Illinois 62706
Facsimile (217) 782-1396
E-mail: publicaccess@atg.state.il.us

Re: Intent to Deny Freedom of Information Request

Dear Public Access Counselor:

The Board of Education (the "Board") of Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 (the "District") intends to deny partially a request for records under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, 5 ILCS 140/1 et seq. ("FOIA" or the "Act"). On April 25, 2011, the District received a FOIA request, dated that same date, from Catherine Ann Velasco, a reporter for The Herald-News, requesting copies of the "[e]xecutive summary and data from the community survey." On May 2, 2011, I partially responded to the request, enclosing a copy of the Executive Summary of the 2011 Community Survey conducted by the District, which I understood to be responsive to the request for the "[e]xecutive summary." In that same communication, I extended until May 9, 2011, the time to respond to the remaining request for "data from the community survey." 5 ILCS 140/3(e).

Enclosed with this letter is a copy of a record including all data from the community survey other than the comments provided in response to the survey. The District's Superintendent, Dr. John Harper, provided copies to members of the public of and cited to all data other than the comments in strategic planning sessions held this week, which I understand to constitute a public citation by Dr. Harper, the head of the public body, to that data. See 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(f). However, the comments provided in response to the survey were not cited or provided to the public by Dr. Harper. Accordingly, the comments constitute predecisional material exempt from disclosure under Section 7(1)(f) of the Act, 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(f), and the District intends to partially deny the request for "data from the community survey" to the extent the request seeks copies of those comments. Below, the District sets forth a detailed summary of its basis for asserting the exemptions based on Section 7(1)(f), which also constitutes its proposed response to the FOIA requester.

The comments in the survey responses are exempt from disclosure under the preliminary draft exemption, 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(f), because the survey is a predecisional document in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are formulated, and the comments portion of the survey has never been publicly cited or identified by the head of the public body. Section 7(1)(f) of the Freedom of Information Act allows withholding of:
[p]reliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated, except that a specific record or relevant portion of a record shall not be exempt when the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.

First, the document is a "preliminary" record in which opinions are expressed. Although the comments section of the survey, once completed by the survey-respondents, are arguably "final" documents, the Illinois Appellate Court made clear in Harwood v. McDonough, 344 Ill. App. 3d 242, 244 (1st Dist. 2003), that the word "preliminary" in section 7(1)(f) does not refer to the "posture of the particular document sought to be disclosed" but rather to "predecisional intra-agency communications." Id. at 247-248. A document that is relied upon by a public body in formulating an ultimate, final decision, even if the "final" product of a third party, is nonetheless a "preliminary" document "in relationship to the eventual 'final' decision" made by the public body. Id. at 248.
A number of Illinois Attorney General letters in response to notices of intent to deny make clear that responses to public school surveys are preliminary documents under Section 7(1)(f). In 2010 PAC 9676, for example, a requester sought, among other documents, a climate report prepared by an outside consultant to explore the climate at certain high schools in a school district. The report was drafted for use by the administration and board of education of the school district in making decisions regarding the operations of the District's high schools. The school district also indicated that the climate report had never been cited publicly by the head of the public body. The PAC approved the use of the 7(1)(f) exemption. And in 2010 PAC 9970, a requester sought survey results in which parents of student-athletes rated a school district's tennis program and tennis coaches for three seasons. The reports sought by the requester compiled survey answers and comments, much like a community survey does. The PAC noted that the responses to the surveys included many recommendations and strong opinions from the survey responders. The school district also indicated that the survey was intended to provide school officials with feedback to consider in making future decisions about the tennis program. Finally, the school district asserted that the documents had never been publicly cited by the head of the school district. The PAC held that the school district could deny the request under 7(1)(f).

Other Attorney General letters in response to notice of intent to deny bolster this conclusion, by recognizing that other records similar to community surveys are also exempt from disclosure. In 2010 PAC 6749, for instance, the PAC approved a school district's use of the predecisional materials exemption with regard to, among other documents, an "IASB Superintendent Search Report to the Board [of Education] from the IASB." The document was "created to aid in developing search criteria and as a resource for the Board's preparation for interviews with finalists" for a superintendent position at a school district. The PAC determined that this document was being used by the District as part of its deliberative process in relation to the selection of a new superintendent, and thus was protected from disclosure by the predecisional materials exemption. School surveys such as the community survey at issue here also seek information from community members in an effort to deliberate on various issues, and thus should implicate the exemption. In another response letter, 2010 PAC 6803, the PAC approved use of the predecisional materials exemption for a score sheet used by the University of Illinois to make bid determinations. The PAC noted that the score sheet is a tool used to numerically evaluate proposals in an effort to formulate a final action. Similarly, the PAC found that preliminary scoring documents used as part of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's environmental compliance process were exempt predecisional materials. 2010 PAC 6510. Under these precedents, a survey that collects data of any sort that would be used to make determinations about public body action should be protected from disclosure.

Here, the community survey specifically was created to be used as part of the District's deliberative process in relation to the school climate. The survey results--especially the comments section--contain recommendations and opinions of survey recipients for the express purpose of giving input to the Board as part of its deliberative process. The survey results also provide data that is used to evaluate options available to the District for final action.

Second, the comments provided in response to the survey have never been cited by the Superintendent--the head of the public body, and it is inconsequential that some other portions of or the executive summary of the survey have been cited. Section 7(1)(f) specifically provides that the exemption can be waived by public citation to either "a specific record" or a "relevant portion of a record." 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(f). The Harwood decision also makes clear that citing to some portion of a predecisional document does not make the whole document subject to production. In Harwood, the court addressed the applicability of the predecisional materials exemption to a report concerning the relocation of Boeing's headquarters to Illinois. The report was prepared for the public body by a consulting firm. The FOIA requester argued that Governor Ryan had publicly cited the report, when he cited data that came from the report. The alleged citations included data that was included in an "executive summary" of the survey results and charts that were distributed to the public and that contained information that was not listed in the executive summary. The court noted, however, that the report itself had never been cited. Instead, the Governor had cited only the executive summary of the report, "a document that was prepared specifically for public release and that was provided to [the FOIA requester]." The charts that were distributed similarly "recapitulated all of the information contained in the executive summary and did not cite the complete, full . . . study itself." The court thus held that the report was exempt from disclosure under the predecisional materials exemption, recognizing that citation to some part of certain materials does not lead to waiver of the exemption for all related materials.

Here, although the superintendent has provided copies of an executive summary of the surveys to the public, the executive summary is a document that was prepared specifically for public release and is exempt under the precedent of Harwood. Similarly, although the superintendent has provided copies of some of the data from the survey results, the Superintendent has never cited to the complete, full survey results themselves and especially has never cited to the comments section of the survey. The District has provided the FOIA requester copies of the executive summary and the data other than the comments from the survey results, but is not required to provide the comments section. Harwood v. McDonough, 344 Ill. App. 3d 242 (1st Dist. 2003). The survey results are thus exempt from disclosure under the predecisional materials exemption.

Because the comments section of the data requested is preliminary material that has not been publicly cited by the head of the public body, the District asks the PAC to approve the use of the 7(1)(f) exemption for the comments portion of the survey data from the 2011 Community Survey. If the PAC determines that section 7(1)(f) does not apply to the records, the District retains the right to deny the request based on any other exemptions that may apply.

As required by Section 9.5(b) of the Act, 5 ILCS 140/9.5(b), enclosed is a copy of the original request for records, the extension letters described above, and a completed "Form For Pre-Approval of Use of Exemption 7(1)(c) or 7(1)(f)." Also enclosed is a copy of the letter to the requester for your records. I understand times for response or compliance by the District under the Act are tolled until the PAC renders a decision. 5 ILCS 140/9.5(b).


Tom Hernandez
Director of Community Relations and FOIA Officer
Plainfield CCSD 202

Survey results are always more fascinating when you can look at percentages or the number of folks who voted rather than a rating system.

The Herald-New requested the data via the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

There were 3,018 people who responded to an online survey questionnaire. The district asked people to reflect on the last five years. They could choose strongly disagree; somewhat disagree; neither disagree or agree; somewhat agree and strongly agree. There were some people who didn't answer the question.

The survey results were broken down by several categories, including school level and staff.

For example, there were 34 percent or 1,513 people district-wide who strongly agreed that students have adequate access to current technology for instructional purposes. However, there were 13 percent or 597 who disagreed.

But if you look at the answers by certified staff, they tell a different story.

Out of the 494 certified staff members who responded to the question, 56 percent or 273 people who agreed there was adequate technology. However, 32 percent or 156 teachers and certified staff disagreed that students had adequate access to technology.

You also have to remember the staff who provides technology in the classrooms almost lost their jobs until the board decided to use a federal grant to save jobs.

It will be interesting to see how this survey impacts the board's decision next year and if those jobs will be saved to keep technology in the classrooms and if the district decides to place technology as a top priority among its goals in the five-year strategic plan.

Below the Herald-News lumped "the agrees" together and "the disagrees" together to show how parents, staff and community members rated Plainfield School District.

The survey says:

Satisfied with gifted services for children: 79 percent agreed and 15 percent disagreed.

Satisfied with special education services for kids: 76 percent agreed and 16 percent disagreed.

Elementary schools provide adequate opportunities for extra- and co-curricular activities: 67 percent agreed and 18 percent disagreed.

Classroom instruction is designed to meet students' individual learning needs: 65 percent agreed and 20 percent disagreed.

District administrators and staff is helpful and supportive: 64 percent agreed and 13 percent disagreed.

I am satisfied with the level of technical skills that students learn and use for learning: 63 percent agreed and 19 percent disagreed.

My school provides adequate support and resources to meet non-academic needs, such as post-high school plans, personal counseling and crisis support: 60 percent agreed and 13 percent disagreed.

Resources have been developed to fulfill the vision, mission and goals of the district: 60 percent agreed and 18 percent disagreed.

Student discipline is fairly consistently administered on the bus: 58 percent agreed and 16 percent disagreed.

My elementary school provides additional time, support, resources and programs before, during and after school to assure student learning: 54 percent agreed and 19 percent disagreed.

As a high school parent/guardian, I feel encouraged and welcome to participate in my child's classroom and school: 48 percent agreed and 24 percent disagreed.

I wished I had Nicole Walker as a teacher in high school. She truly shows you how science works.

Walker, who has been teaching at Plainfield Central High school since 1997, has received the prestigious 2011 Harald Jensen Award. The award is named for Lake Forest College faculty member Harald Jensen, who was an influential member and founder of the Illinois State Physics Project. Jansen used physics to inspire and intrigue students, and the award honors teachers who do likewise with their students.

She has also received the Claes Nobel educator of distinction award for encouragement of and dedication to the academic success of students in 2009.

Is your kid not doing well in science? Well, here are some tips from the master.

1. What is the challenge of teaching physics?

"The greatest challenge of teaching physics or any class lies in convincing teenagers that a little work goes a long way. If they were to re-read the notes they took in class the night that they were taken, they would understand so much more. It would actually become much easier," she said. "They would save time in the end. The language of physics consists of vocabulary words and formulas. Spending three to five extra minutes a night times five days in a week would cost you 25 additional minutes. Learning the same material the night before the test would require an hour and a quarters worth of effort. Your retention of the material would be short term and not as deep. A little daily studying helps you to understand far more. Each day, I add another piece to the puzzle. You won't see the big picture if you're ignoring the daily tidbits. Those who have enjoyed a physics class with me exit with a stronger work ethic. My goal is to better prepare students for college and to encourage them to ask questions throughout their lives."

2. Why do we need to know physics?

"Physics encourages critical thinking. This is the art of analyzing and evaluating how you think with the view of improving this process. Critical thinking is essential to the mastery of content. I use Socratic questioning to teach. Students are not familiar with this technique at first and are not terribly fond of it. They would prefer to just be given an answer," she said. "Socratic questioning is a systematic and in-depth line of questioning that uncovers the structure of your own thoughts and allows one to make connections and see the big picture. It teaches one how to think and to figure things out for themselves. It's beneficial for building ACT test taking strategies. In essence, we play 'volleyball' with questions that are asked in class. It may take us five or six 'hits' to get the 'ball; over the net, but we learn something in the process about solving the problem. We also learn to trust our own judgment and ability to problem solve. That is a life-long skill."

Starting next year, no matter what school you're at - high school finals will count 20 percent toward the overall grade.
Last November, school board member Michelle Smith said there should be consistency among the four high schools as to the value assigned to final exams.
Currently, depending on what high school you attend in Plainfield School District, a final exam could impact the class grade by 10 percent or 20 percent.
Smith said she didn't have a problem with 10 percent, but thought that value should be applied at all high schools.
The high schools decided a couple years ago that finals would count for no less than 10 percent, and no more than 20 percent of the semester grade. But each building has autonomy to decide what that means for themselves, said Glenn Wood, director of high school curriculum.
At Plainfield East, finals are worth 10 percent of the final grade. Plainfield Central and Plainfield North set it at 20 percent.
Plainfield South allows between 10 and 20 percent, depending on course or department. For example, all algebra courses are worth the same percent because individual math teachers cannot set their own percentages.
Last fall, the board decided to let its curriculum coordinating council, consisting of teachers, parents and administrators, come up with a plan that would address consistency among the schools. The board requested the council to create an equal weighting across the district for final exams.
At Wednesday's committee meeting, Wood presented the new weighting system of 20 percent.
The curriculum and instruction department contacted school districts and universities to see what they do.
Valley View School District in Romeoville and Bolingbrook came in at the highest with 25 percent. The majority of the school districts have finals count for 20 percent of the overall semester grade, including Lincoln-Way, Joliet Township, Naperville, Downers Grove, Minooka, Lockport and Hinsdale.
Wood said they discovered that there was no consistency at the colleges, which range from zero to 60 percent. They checked with the colleges of business, engineering and education.
Principals are set to start the new policy next school year.
"Everybody is on board," Wood said.

While other districts struggle to balance the budget, Valley View School District has avoided the need to hand out pink slips this year to teachers this year.

However, instructional aides were not as lucky.

For the first time in several years, Valley View will not hand out Reduction-In-Force (RIF) notices to non-tenured certified teaching staff, said Spokesman Larry Randa.

There's a large number of retirements at the end of the current school year, as well as several resignations, which negate the need for a certified staff RIF, said Sharon Hawks. executive director for human resources at Tuesday night's board meeting.

However, there is a need to reduce the number of instructional aides, Hawks said.

Valley View will issue RIF notices to about 29 first-and-second-year teacher aides because of enrollment changes as well as for budgetary considerations. Hawks indicated "around 14" of the 29 are likely to be called back to work at some point in the next few months. Call-backs take place based on seniority

Plainfield School Board slightly adjusted its school start and finish times for 2011-12 school year from the times originally published as part of the new triple tier busing system.

Superintendent John Harper said the district was able to end elementary school five minutes earlier because the high school principals shaved a minute off of each of their six passing periods. Passing periods will be five minutes long instead of six.


"We were able to use the extra minutes at the end of the day to release our elementary school students a few minutes earlier than what we had originally planned," Harper said. "It is not a significant deviation from the original plan."

The board approved the new start times at its Monday night meeting.

In December when Harper originally unveiled his plan for a later start time for elementary school students, he said there would be a challenge in the winter when students walked home from bus stops around 4:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. - when the sky was getting darker.

Elementary schools will now start and end five minutes earlier from 9:05 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. except for Lakewood Falls.

Lakewood Falls will hold school from 8:55 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. due to its proximity to Creekside Elementary, which is about a half a block away. By staggering the times, it will help with traffic in that area, Harper said.

Middle school will start five minutes earlier at 7:55 a.m. and end six minutes earlier 2:55 p.m.

High school will still start at 7:05 a.m., but will end six minutes earlier at 2:10 p.m.

Plainfield Academy's first tier will be held from 7:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and its second tier from 8:35 a.m. to 2:05 p.m. Turn-about program at Plainfield Academy will be held from 1:10 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.

Bonnie McBeth early childhood classes will be held from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Special need classes will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

St. Mary's Immaculate School will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

To save $598,298, the board approved a triple tier busing system that tightens transportation schedules and adjust school times. Bus drivers will handle three routes instead of two, eliminating the need for about 30 buses.

The biggest impact is on Plainfield South and Plainfield East high school students who will start school an hour and five minutes earlier than they do today. Students at Plainfield Central and Plainfield North would start 15 minutes earlier than now.

Comment on this story.


There are three incumbents and three newcomers vying for four seats on the Joliet Township High School Board during the April 5th election.

Most agree on the concept of bringing back students who receive special education services at other schools outside the district. However, they say one must tread carefully.

Incumbents Arlene Albert, Chet June and Jeff Pierson are hoping to keep their seats.
Newcomers Paige Stonich-Vanderhyden, Don "Duck" Dickinson and John G. Linehan are hoping for a win.

Joliet Township High School Board wants to do what Plainfield did. They are moving closer toward their goal by moving its school buses to another site. The district will then have space to turn the current transportation building into classroom space for special education students.

This school year, Plainfield School District brought back special education students from out-of-district facilities to save money.

The JTHS board asked administration to look into the issue.

In the 2009-10 school year, there were 132 special education JTHS students placed in facilities outside of the district compared to 1,045 students who received services within the district. There were 38 students placed outside the district for behavioral issues; 49 for social/emotional and mental health disorders and 27 for severe cognitive.

Q: The board has asked the district to look at bringing back special education students to their buildings in order to save money. What steps should be in place to ensure that the best interest of those students is considered?

LINEHAN: My job as a board member is to ensure that every student's right to a free and appropriate public education, regardless of ability throughout the educational spectrum, will be protected. This would be my primary consideration when looking at any financial efficiencies that can be made.

JUNE: To make sure that the district has the staff and facilities in place to address the issues of the profoundly disabled students who will be coming back into the district and ensure that we can adequately implement their individual education plans.

STONICH-VANDERHYDEN: All parties concerned with the special education students and with identifying their needs should be involved in any decisions being made on behalf of their education. First and foremost the Individualized Education Program (IEP) should not be compromised; as long as the district can support their educational needs and provide for their IEP, having the students located back in the campus buildings would be ideal and support inclusion.

ALBERT: The IEP (Individual Education Plan) of each student being considered must be evaluated thoroughly to be sure we can provide for their educational needs in- house. All parties involved with the special education students will be part of the decision. Then we will determine the staffing needed and the configuration of the facilities. The students IEP will be the guiding factor and we will not bring any student to our in-house program if we can't meet their needs.

DICKINSON: I find it interesting the board is looking to save money with special education, when they have no problem spending it on Silver Cross Field. I would be on board as long as all of their needs are met.

PIERSON: I believe all students should receive services within our district. If we can do this without compromising a students Individualized Education Program, while maintaining fiscal discipline, then I will agree to approve this policy

There are three incumbents and three newcomers vying for four seats on the Joliet Township High School Board during the April 5th election and not everyone agrees on Silver Cross Field.

Incumbents Arlene Albert, Chet June and Jeff Pierson are hoping to keep their seats.
Newcomers Paige Stonich-Vanderhyden, Don "Duck" Dickinson and John G. Linehan are hoping for a win.

Before installing turf at each of the campuses, the district tried to work out a deal with the City of Joliet and the JackHammers to use the field but the negotiations stalled.

In February, Joliet Township High School Board approved about $3 million in contracts last week to ready the fields and install artificial turf and new tracks at Joliet Central and Joliet West high schools.

With the creation of two sports teams at both campuses, the board decided to install artificial turf at both schools. Last fall, Joliet Central Steelmen played at Joliet Park District's Memorial Stadium, but next season, the district is hoping both the Steelmen and the Tigers will be playing their first home football games on artificial turf .

Q: Now that the board has moved forward with its plans to put turf at both campuses, what is your stance on a partnership with the City of Joliet regarding using Silver Cross Field? How much are you willing to spend to let students play at the field?

LINEHAN: While I am not privy to any discussions that the board may have had on this issue and the budget details, I believe that with competent negotiations with city officials that a mutually favorable agreement can be struck. I also think that playing in such a fine facility would be beneficial to both our athletes and our fans.

JUNE: Actually, the board will be negotiating with the tenants of the Silver Cross Field, the Slammers, who I believe have a ten year lease with the City of Joliet. It's crazy for Joliet Central not to use the beautiful stadium that is right across the street and is now not used almost 9 months out of the year.
As far as spending, again, it is ridiculous for the board to pay $25 million for a new stadium when there is a 6,000 seat venue sitting on the other side of Eastern Avenue from JTC. The board is working with our administration and the Slammers to work out a deal which makes sense to us and the taxpayers who support JTHS.

STONICH-VANDERHYDEN: Because Silver Cross Field is conveniently located across the street from the Central campus, it would be an excellent opportunity to explore for our students to be able to play on a field in a facility that is currently under-utilized. The decision of how much to spend to let students play at the field could only be made after reviewing, analyzing and discussing all the associated variables.

ALBERT: I support continuing to explore the possibility of an intergovernmental agreement that would result in our students using the field. Before that happens there must be discussions about when and how it would be used, who is responsible for what and how much is a reasonable amount for that use.

DICKINSON: With the development of our new facilities at both campuses I don't see why we are going to spend the money to do this? Couldn't this money be put to good use in other areas?

PIERSON: I have always looked for opportunities for JTHS to enter into inter-governmental agreements with the City of Joliet and the Joliet Park District. Due to its proximity to the Central Campus and the uniqueness of the venue, I am in support of pursuing this agreement with the City of Joliet with respect to fiscal constraints.

There are three incumbents and three newcomers vying for four seats on the Joliet Township High School Board during the April 5th election.

Incumbents - Arlene Albert, Chet June and Jeff Pierson - have served eight terms; four-and-a-half terms and two-and-a-half terms respectively, totaling over 64 years on the board. They are running together with newcomer Paige Stonich-Vanderhyden, of Elwood, who has served 14 years on the Elwood School, including 12 years as board president.

Don "Duck" Dickinson, 50, of Joliet, who is an aquatic technician for Joliet Park District, is running for the second time for JTHS board. He lost in his first bid by three votes four years ago.

John G. Linehan, 48, of Joliet, who is in sales, is trying for his first bid.

Here's more information about them:

Name: John G. Linehan
Age: 48
Occupation: Sales, LKQ Corporation
Hometown: Davenport, Iowa
Public Service: This is my first run for public office

Name: Arlene Albert
Age: NA
Occupation: Community Education Coordinator for Deerbrook Care Centre
Hometown: Joliet
Education: Bachelor's in journalism from University of Illinois/Champaign Urbana
Public Service: Served eight terms on Joliet Township High School Board, including serving as board president.
Former board member of the Will County School Trustees
Former board member of the Will County Auditorium and Exposition Authority
2010 ATHENA Award recipient from Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Council for Working Women
2005 recipient of the Rabbi Morris M. Hershman Community Service Award from the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce
Recognized by the Long-Term Care Council of Illinois for local radio program I host for Deerbrook focusing on the elder care & health care issues.
Co-Chair of the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk (several years)
Present and past participation in several local and state civic and service organizations

Name: Jeff Pierson
Age: 46
Occupation: Lieutenant, Lisle-Woodridge Fire District
The Voyager Group
Past adjunct faculty Joliet Junior College, Mathematics
Hometown: Joliet
Master of Business Administration, Benedictine University
Bachelor of Science, University of St. Francis
JTHS West Campus
St. Joseph Grade School, Joliet
Public service: Member of the JTHS Board of Education serving for 2.5 terms and as President for two years.
Past Board Member, Joliet Boy's and Girl's Club
My wife Lisa and I served as co-chairs for the Joliet Area Museum Annual Gala Ball in 2003 and currently are the Co-Chairs of the Will Grundy Medical Clinic Charity Dinner.

Name: Chet June
Age: 63
Occupation: Attorney-at-Law
Hometown: Joliet, Illinois
Education: Kindergarten - St. Raymond's
Grade School - Cunningham
Junior High - Hufford
High School - Joliet Township High School (3 years)
Joliet West High School (First Graduating Class of 1965)
College - Monmouth College (IL) Bachelor of Arts
Graduate - University of Iowa Juris Doctor
Public service: (accomplishments, including number of terms served in public office)
4 1/2 terms on the Joliet Township High School Board of Education, including one term as Vice President and one term as President
Vice Chairman of the Illinois Commission to revise and rewrite the Illinois Public Aid Code
Illinois State Bar Association - member of its Elder Law Section Council
Member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys - Vice President of its Illinois Chapter
Kiwanis Club of Joliet - served as chaplain and stage manager of its annual Variety Show.

Name: Paige Stonich-Vanderhyden
Occupation: Interim Director, Workforce Development at Joliet Junior College
Hometown: Elwood
Education: Master of Science in Training and Development, University of St. Francis
Bachelor of Science in Applied Organizational Management, University of St. Francis
Associate in Arts in Business, Joliet Junior College
Associate in Applied Science in Computer Science, Joliet Junior College
Public Service: Served as an Elwood School Board member for the past 14 years and board President for the past 12 years.

Name : Don "Duck" Dickinson
Age: 50
Occupation: Aquatic Technician for the Joliet Park District
Hometown: Life long resident of Joliet
Education: Joliet West Graduate '78, Joliet Junior College, mechanical production technology.
Public Service: Vice-president for JTHS Athletic Boosters for six years; 5 years President of Joliet area girls Softball Association for five years. While President, my board and I built and donated a concession stand to J.T.H.S. We also made numerous improvements to the softball facilities) . I have also been a part of numerous charitable events.

Q: What was the main issue that made you want to run for school board?
LINEHAN: Watching my children grow in Joliet and receive an excellent public school education has provided me with an appreciation for the importance of quality public school education for a community. Serving on the school board will afford me the opportunity to partake in my passion for education while contributing to public service in my community, which is something I have wanted to do.

JUNE: "To help continue the improvements made over the past several years. We've added 64 new classrooms and 24 new/refurbished science labs. We've reinstated the two sports teams. We've added a field house at both the Central and West Campuses. We've "weaned" the district from state aid. We have not had to layoff staff and have even been able to give our employees small raises. We've maintained a significant cash reserve fund and a "AA" bond rating. Our students have improved on their state test scores. We've expanded education opportunities by partnering with Joliet Junior College, where our students are able to earn college credit while completing their high school diploma."

STONICH-VANDERHYDEN: With my extensive background and experience as an existing school board member, and more so as a board president, as well as working at a community college, I have the knowledge and leadership skills required for this board position. Throughout my tenure as a school board president, occasionally families in Elwood have expressed their concerns about sending their children to Joliet Township, which is due in part because they are not familiar with the high school district. Bridging our communities together and supporting articulation between all sender school districts and the high school district is important for student achievement and retention.

ALBERT: I have the experience and leadership skills to be on this board. We've made great progress in our district and I want to remain part of the strong team that has vision and knows how to get things done. On my priority list is a focus on continuing to improve our student academic performance and graduation rates. Also we must continue to operate in a fiscally responsible manner while providing additional educational opportunities for our students. It's imperative that we balance our budget, maintain cash reserves and keep the tax rate as low as possible for our taxpayers.

DICKINSON: I have always been a supporter of our high Schools. I just believe a new voice is needed on our board. I believe it is good to have someone with fresh ideas.

PIERSON: I would like to continue my proven record of success and accomplishments that have provided for increased opportunities for all kids while maintaining fiscal discipline.

Q: Do or did you have children who attend/ed schools in the district and what insight did that give you?

LINEHAN: I currently have four children who attend Joliet Grade School District. Henry is in seventh grade at Washington Academy. Mary is in fifth grade at Eisenhower. John is in third grade at Eisenhower, and Martin is in kindergarten at Pershing. Having a child who is nearing high school motivated me to become involved in the JTHS board. I would like to be as happy with the education that my children receive in high school as I have been with their public school education until this point.

JUNE: Two of my grandchildren attended Joliet Central and my youngest granddaughter will attend Central this fall.

STONICH-VANDERHYDEN: I have two children who attend Joliet Central, which has given me insight into the high quality of education being provided by the teaching staff, the variety of opportunities (sports, after school program, clubs, etc.) available for students, and the focus on college and/or career preparation. Joliet Central is always very encouraging and welcoming regarding parent participation and interaction. The equality of the sport facilities between the two campuses is important, and I am pleased the current board is making sure all students have similar athletic resources available to them.
Currently as a member of the JTHS Academy Network Team, I have direct insight into the progress with the Programs of Study for the career academies and the focus of the district in aligning high school curriculum with college and career requirements in order to prepare students for their desired vocation.
Being a member of the JTHS Strategic Planning team in 2002, and co-chair of an Action Planning committee in 2009, has provided insight, as well as an opportunity for input, into the mission and vision of JTHS.

ALBERT: My children attended Joliet Central and were well prepared for college and the work world because of the quality of education they received from our teaching staff. They also benefited from attending a school where there was diversity among the student body.

DICKINSON: I have three children and two stepchildren. Taylor is a sophomore at Northern Illinois University; Ashley is a freshman at Columbia; Andrew is a junior at Joliet West; Bradley is a junior at Joliet West and Allison is a sophomore at Joliet West.

PIERSON: I currently have a child who attends a feeder school to the district that will be attending JTHS in a few years. This allows me to view decisions from a parent's perspective as well as a taxpayer. I look forward to seeing him take advantage of the many high quality opportunities currently offered through JTHS and staff.
I also have two nieces that attended Joliet Central from 2004-2010.

Q: Do you have family members who work for the district? If so, who, and their job titles? If so, are there some issues that you will not vote on and what?

PIERSON: My sister-in-law works part time in the cafeteria at Joliet West. I currently do not see any issues that I could not take action, but if an issue came to the Board, I would abstain from that decision.

Catherine Ann Velasco

Catherine Ann Velasco has covered education and children and family issues for The Herald-News since 1997. She keeps an eye on schools in Will and Grundy counties. Her best stories always come from readers’ tips or public comment during a board meeting. So if there’s some good news or bad news at your school – she’d like to know. Join the conversation about the twists and turns and surprises that pop up on her beat. And, find some extra news that she just can’t wait to tell you.


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