September 2010 Archives

Insiders thought that the August legal bills for the campus monitor grievance in Plainfield School District would be more than July's bill.

They were wrong.

August bills totaled $3,696.

So far the district has paid $14,124 in legal fees in a four-month period regarding a grievance filed on behalf of 19 female campus monitors who were laid off due to gender and not seniority.

May: $1,232
June: $4,158
July: $5,038
August: $3,696

Grand total: $14,124

This amount does not include any time incurred during the month of September, which will be billed in October. So that means I'll just have to file another Freedom of Information request next week see how much the district has spent on lawyers for the grievance, lawsuit and charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, Illinois Department of Human Rights complaint.

The law firm charges $220 per hour so having the attorney review an e-mail from a former employee or review a press release can add up.

August bill include:

- $1,100 to attend interviews with high school administrators about the grievance and attend union negotiations regarding health insurance calculations.
- $198 to hold telephone conference with district board officers and administration.
- $154 to review correspondence from former employee regarding grievance and draft response.
- $66 to review and revise talking points for press release.

In August, the cash-strapped district was not billed for reading newspaper articles. In the previous months, the school district was billed $264 to review newspaper articles about the campus monitors as well as $66 to review correspondence regarding proposed statement to Fox News.


Review legal fees here: S.D. 202W - PASS Grievance-Legal Feesaugust.PDF


Plainfield School Board had a heated discussion over artificial turf Monday night with school board President Stuart Bledsoe saying the board has yet to receive the information requested in April.

Bledsoe wants to know how much money the district has spent to repair and maintain the stadium fields at each of the four high schools, saying the fields are in poor condition and many games had to be moved to another site which is an embarrassment.

Bledsoe believes installing artificial turf will save the district money. However, school board members Eric Gallt and Mike Kelly said installing turf will not save the district money in the long run because turf has to be replaced every 10 years. Instead artificial turf allows districts to use the fields for other activities beyond football, such as band and P.E. classes.

Bledsoe disagreed that turf wouldn't save money.

"When our fields get shut down because they are unusable, we have to send our athletes to other fields which means bus rides and which means scheduling man hours to fix those fields," he said.

"We don't have numbers in front of and that's what we asked for," Bledsoe said. "We have no idea what they're spending on (Plainfield South High School) that's been shut down three times this year because of repairs. ... Unless we have real numbers, we can't have this conversation about what we are not saving and what we won't save.

"We were promised it in July. Here it is September. How come we haven't gotten it yet," Bledsoe asked.

Kelly said while he would like to see turf installed at the high schools, he can't agree to that and layoff employees next school year to balance a $6.7 million deficit.

School board member Roger Bonuchi clarified that the money for the artificial turf would come from the $252.1 million construction funds provided by the March 2006 referendum. Those funds cannot be used to save jobs, but can improve school facilities.

Out of that money, the district came under budget by $19 million when it built three elementaries, John F. Kennedy Middle School and Plainfield East High School. That money can be used to repair buildings as stated in the referendum langauge. Galt said the $19 million should be used to repair the district's aging buildings because the board can't rely on a referendum for more funds.

Politically, Gallt said it's a bad idea to use the money to install turf when the district is expected to layoff more employees. Personally, Gallt said he would like to see turf installed because his sons are soccer players and they play better on turf. But for the district as a whole, he's against it.

"Whether it's a big grey elephant or not, it's something we need to look at," Bledsoe said. "We have to look at hard costs of numbers - of what we're spending every year, fixing these fields. Instead of just sitting here saying, 'Well, it's not a good idea to talk about spending millions of money right now' ... It's the best idea. It really is."

School board member Michelle Smith also supports turf.

"For me, it's not about money. It's about the safety of our kids," she said. "Our fields are in horrible shape. Our kids can't play on them. They're awful. When you walk them, they're terrible."

Smith said if the board decides not to install artificial turf, then the district should make the fields safer.

Superintendent John Harper directed Joel Murphy, director of facilities, to read aloud items that he will give to the board at its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Oct 12 at Central Elementary School, 23723 Getson Drive in Plainfield.

Murphy will get:

- The number of activities that had to be relocated to other venues.

- Identify community groups willing to invest in installing turf, what they are willing to invest and what are their expectations are.

- To identify a vendor to do an evaluation of each of the high school's fields and get cost estimates for installing turf.

- Annual cost of maintenance of the fields at each high school stadium.

- Cost estimate of making the grass fields more playable for a greater number of days.

- Contact Plainfield Park District to get the list of their community groups that use their facilities as a possible funding source.

"The board's been waiting and we're going to provide it," Harper said.

Plainfield School Board is holding another very early meeting.

The board will meet at 7 a.m. Saturday to discuss discipline data at the administrative center, 15732 Howard St.

The Board will discuss bullying and hear discipline reports from administrators at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.

At Wednesday's committee board meeting, an administrator asked Sharon Alexander, middle school principal at Aux Sable, why there was a spike in discipline issues in November.

There were two answers: Some students just had enough of school and are ready for a break so they push the right buttons for an early exit before the holidays.

Another was tied to gym class and having to exercise inside the school instead of getting outside, running around and breathing in some fresh air.

The district studies the numbers of suspensions and expulsions by subgroups - white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, multi-racial, special education, low income and Limited English Proficient.

In the past, the district has also studied the number of suspensions and expulsions for objective and subjective offenses for each of the subgroups.

For example, an objective offense is pretty clear, such as truancy, arson, battery and bringing a weapon to school.

Subjective offenses range from bus behavior, talking back, threatening and inappropriate gestures.

The district wanted to make sure the numbers didn't spike in one subgroup over another for subjective offenses. The district looks at every angle of its discipline data. It's pretty comprehensive.

If you make it to Saturday's meeting, you'll learn a lot. The meeting is open to the public.

What's your take on this issue? Are you happy with the way the district handles student discipline?

Turf for two

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Joliet Township High School Board agreed to move forward and install artificial turf at the football fields for Joliet West and Joliet Central high schools. Cost is about $1.3 million each.

What about football games at Silver Cross Field?

Well, that can still happen. The board said it has enough money to do both, but in the meantime it's time to move forward and put turf at both schools.

More to come.

Joliet Township High School Board has a lot on its agenda tonight, including buying a $4.3 million warehouse to store its buses and decide where the Steelmen should play next fall.

I've heard from folks who will be there tonight to remind the school board of its promise during the referendum to build two field houses. That promise was to provide equal facilities between Joliet West and Joliet Central high schools.

Folks do not think renting out Silver Cross Field for Steelmen games is equal. They want Central to have a football stadium with lockers and bathrooms - comparable to Joliet West.

The board meets at 7 p.m. tonight at the district office, 300 Caterpillar Drive.

Check out this blog tonight for more details.


Last week, I got to see something really special at Bess Eichelberger Elementary School in Plainfield.

Author/Illustrator Kevin Luthardt captured Bess' life in a mural that he painted as students walked to lunch and gym classes.

It was neat to see what it looked like on Monday and then on Thursday. I can't wait to see the final product .

For someone who has never met Bess, Luthardt has done an amazing job capturing her life in his whimsical style.

In the mural, Bess sits in her rocking chair below the Six Pillars of Character that are part of the school's creed. The pillars sort of look like a crown above Bess, Luthardt said.

But I told him that was fine. Even Superintendent John Harper agreed that Bess was the matriarch of Plainfield School District. She was the first female school board president, serving five years in that role. In all, she served 26 years on the board.

Instead of sitting on a crown, she's in a rocking chair reading to children her favorite book, "Make Way for Ducklings."

Bess was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the school in 2008, meeting many students, but now there's a generation who will never meet her.

At least now, they will get to see her on a daily basis on the wall near the gym - doing what she did best - looking out for children.

Check out my Facebook page to see some photos of the mural before it hits the paper tomorrow.

Check out the story at
Herald-News


This story wasn't an easy one to write because Plainfield School District had stated in its settlement that the case was filed in Cook County.

Sun-Times Reporter Chris Fusco searched and searched for the case with no luck. Then, I checked with Will County as he suggested and - Eureka - there was the case.

Go figure.

Basically, the special education teacher's aide got injured on the job when she picked up a student who fell in gym class. She had two doctor's notes that said she couldn't work, but the district's worker's comp doctor said the injuries weren't related to the incident and she should return to work. So when she didn't go to work, they fired her.

Inside sources say $30,0000 is about a year's pay with benefits.

The district still has to settle her worker's comp case which will include medical bills.

But this story isn't over. The question of the day: How much in legal fees did this case cost?

It's an interesting question because the case was filed in 2007. I filed a Freedom of Information request to get the grand total, but won't get that information until Sept. 28th. The district needed an extra five days to get information.

In October, the school board agreed to a $52,000 settlement with the district's first black principal who alleged in a federal lawsuit that he was fired from his job because of race discrimination.

Lawrence Rainey , who was hired in June 2005 to lead Liberty Elementary School in Bolingbrook, received $34,069, and $17,931 was given to Rainey 's attorneys, according to court documents.

But the lawsuit, which took three years to settle, cost the district $445,777.50 in legal fees.

So it will just be interesting to see how much this recent case cost the district. Any guesses?

Here's the article:

Herald-News

Finally, Plainfield School District has dates and times for graduation ceremonies for all of its four high schools.

Here you go:

Plainfield East will hold its first-ever graduation ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 21; Plainfield North and Plainfield High School -- Central Campus will hold their graduations at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 21; and Plainfield South will hold its graduation at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 22.

From the e-mail I got from folks, you're not happy with this schedule - saying all ceremonies should be on Sundays so athletes can attend, too.

That's what Bolingbrook and Romeoville high schools do.

And, it's not just a Plainfield issue. Not everyone is happy with how their school districts handle graduation. In many cases, it's because athletes get excluded if they compete. They have to choose between competing or the ceremony.

Any thoughts?

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Sometimes, you're just on the phone at the right time with the right person.

I was talking to Romeoville Deputy Chief Mark Turvey last week when an officer called him over the radio to say they found a bomb on the playground at Irene King Elementary School.

So I headed over there to find the school was surrounded by officers who blocked the entrances as they waited for the Cook County Bomb Squad to arrive.

It ended up not to be a bomb. The scary-looking objects were air quality monitoring devices that were placed at six schools to check air quality after the rupture of an oil pipeline in the industrial park near Route 53 and Normantown Road.

The devices did look like bombs. And, on the eve of Sept. 11th - no one was taking any chances.

Valley View School District closed Hermansen Elementary School. Irene King and five other schools were put on a lockdown.

School District Spokesman Larry Randa said there were apologies galore and promises of better communications by the company, Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

But oops, they did it again. Six new devices showed up in high-traffic areas at various Romeoville schools Tuesday afternoon, again unannounced to either the police department or the school district, Randa said.

"Placing these latest devices in these highly visible locations created a safety hazard because parents who hadn't heard about Friday's incidents were concerned when they saw this strange looking device," said Leroy Brown, school safety coordinator in a press release. "And those who had heard about last week's incidents were naturally curious about the device and were stopping to take a look."

At first, maintenance workers cordoned off a device at King Elementary School using yellow "caution" tape. But the next day, the district said enough is enough, and removed the devices at King and the other schools.

The devices were returned to Enbridge officials Wednesday morning who again apologized for the lack of communication, Randa said.

Meanwhile, the school district is figuring out how much this oil leak is costing them.

So far, the pipeline company officials have agreed to pay the school district between $14,000 to $15,000 to pay its bus drivers and monitors for the day of work they missed on Sept. 10 when all school transportation was canceled because buses weren't allowed to leave the district's Spangler Transportation Center which is located a few blocks from the pipeline break.

It's also costing the district about $4,000 a day in additional pay to keep the buses with its drivers instead of parking the buses at the bus barn.

The district has yet to calculate additional personnel costs to deal with emergency procedures and planning.

So stay tuned.


The Spartans have a new principal.

Valley View School Board unanimously selected Derek Kinder to replace Principal John Sparlin who left last month to take a job in Morton High School District in Cicero and Berwyn.

DerekKinder.jpg

Kinder's base salary will be $125,000. He was selected out of 36 people who applied and was chosen from three finalists. Kinder, who was named acting principal in August, has been with the district for 10 years. He served as assistant principal at RHS since the 2006-07 school year.

Prior to that he was curriculum coordinator for the district for a year and a social studies teacher at RHS for five years, including one year as department chair.

A graduate of Joliet West High School, he attended Illinois State University as a Division I student athlete and graduated from University of St. Francis with a bachelor's degree in history and secondary education. He has a master's degree in educational administration from Governors State University.

Plainfield School Board agreed 6-1 to keep the tradition of Saturday graduation ceremonies, but also added one for Sunday afternoon.

The Class of 2011 will have:
· One graduation ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 21;
· Two ceremonies concurrently at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 21;
· One ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 22.

Plainfield East High School will pick which of the 2 p.m. ceremonies it prefers - either Saturday or Sunday - since this will be its first graduation since opening in 2008. After this school year all four high schools will rotate times for their graduation ceremonies.

However, the board's goal to hold the ceremonies the weekend prior to Memorial Day Weekend.

The majority of folks told the board that they did not want to deal with traffic to get to a weekday ceremony. They told the board to not make a decision based on a few students, in this case, athletes.

In the past, athletes have had to arrive late to Saturday graduation ceremonies or leave early to participate in Illinois High School Association's advanced rounds of competition.

Bolingbrook and Romeoville high schools have Sunday ceremonies. However, the Plainfield Ministerial Association asked the school district to stay away from Sunday graduation ceremonies.

In past years, Plainfield Central's graduation ceremony was at 10 a.m. Saturday. Then, board members and administrators would head off to Plainfield North or Plainfield South for 1 p.m. ceremonies.

This time, the entire board would like to attend the first graduation ceremony at Plainfield East so a separate day is needed.


There were 280 people who weighed in their opinions via the district website:

- 139 people or 59 percent opted for Saturday

- 47 or 17 percent on a weeknight.

- 94 people or 34 percent requested a combination of a weeknight, Saturday or Sunday.

The district also conducted a survey using an automated phone system.

Out of 426 parents with 12th graders:

- 57.3 percent wanted Saturday only;

- 21.1 percent wanted weeknights only

- 21.6 percent requested a combination of weekends and weeknights.

Out of 573 parents of students in grades, 9-11 who took the survey:

- 47.3 percent wanted Saturday

- 27 percent for weeknights only

- 25 percent for a combination

So are you happy with this decision?

Superintendent Phil Schoffstall announced in an e-mail Monday morning to friends and colleagues that he will retire in June.

"Tonight at the school board meeting, I will provide a letter of intent to retire as superintendent of the school district effective at the close of the 2010-2011 school year," he wrote.

"I thank you for what you have done for our students, for what you are doing on a daily basis, and for what we will do together in the remaining months to provide our students with the best educational experiences."

Phillip Schoffstall.jpg

This is his letter to school board President Steve Quigley:

Mr. Quigley,

As you know, my contract as superintendent of schools with the Valley View School District concludes June 30, 2011. This memo is notification of my intent to retire from employment on that date. Upon and/or prior to June 30, 2011, all contractual obligations will have been completed. It is my desire to offer whatever assistance necessary to facilitate a smooth transition from my assignment to whomever is selected as the next superintendent. I will endeavor to make the transition in a manner that serves the best interest of our students, staff, and community.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Phillip Schoffstall"


It was a long one.

Plainfield School Board met for 4 1/2 hours Saturday morning, going over its budget and discussing future cuts.

The board decided not to form a Citizens Advisory Council to get suggestions on ways to cut a projected $6.7 million deficit from the 2011-12 budget, but gave Superintendent
John Harper two marching orders.

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No. 1: Eliminate the entire deficit.

No. 2: Do not increase fees for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.

"There is no more money to be gotten from fees so we are choking a potential revenue source," Harper said. "I'm not saying I disagree with it, but I'm acknowledging the fact by not raising fees we may be cutting other programs."

School board member Roger Bonuchi suggested closing down one of its 30 schools as a way to save money. However, he stressed the school would not be Plainfield East High School which opened two years ago.

Bonuchi said closing a school was one of the suggestions brought to the board last year and it might be time to look at that idea again.

Closing the district's newest school hit the rumor mill, he said, and he wanted to stress that closing Plainfield East is not even a consideration.

Bonuchi wouldn't say which school the district is considering, but did stress it wouldn't be any of the high schools.

Now that Harper has his parameters, he's going to come up with a timeline to give the board.

Bonuchi asked if the board could have something by Thanksgiving, and Harper said that's a possibility.

Once the board gets the proposed budget, they plan to give Harper their suggestions to revamp the plan before holding public hearings that will probably be held in January.

Not a bomb, after all

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Silver cylinders that were Duct taped to utility poles on Valley View School District property resulted in closing down Hermansen Elementary School and putting six other schools on lockdowns before the Environmental Protection Agency claimed their devices.

Unbeknownst to local school and police officials, the devices were placed at each school by environmental officials to check air quality following the ruptured gas pipeline emergency Thursday in Romeoville, said Spokesman Larry Randa.

"It's fair to say there was a breakdown in communication," Romeoville Deputy Police Chief Mark Turvey said.

"It appears no one was informed the air quality monitors would be taping cylinders with Duct tape to the poles in front of schools on the day before September 11," Turvey said.


Herald-News


About six years ago, I attended "Annie" at Heritage Grove Middle School. I remember sitting in the audience and thinking something was different.

Then, I realized that the majority of the students on the stage were white. I counted the number of minorities in the audience and on the stage. There were less than 10.

About 15 miles away in Bolingbrook, the diversity at Humphrey Middle School was more apparent because they had a larger percentage of minority students.

Well in six years, the student demographics has changed. Out of 29,254 students in the district last year, 61.2 percent were white; 19 percent, Hispanic; 8.9 percent were black and 5.3 percent Asian.

The last time I walked into the cafeteria at Heritage Grove Middle School they had flags from different countries hanging from the ceiling to represent their students' diverse backgrounds.

Well that's one way Plainfield School District is working on having folks of all backgrounds feel welcome.

The district conducted a Diversity Audit in 2005, asking administrators, teachers, parents, and students their views. The audit showed that stereotypes and assumptions about race and ethnicity create the feeling of being unwelcome for some people.

So now the district is conducting a survey to find out how they are doing, and what remains to be done, to address this issue.

To fill out the survey go to:

District Equity Action Team Survey

Be counted.

Here's an update:

ROMEOVILLE - Hermansen Elementary School's classes were cancelled Friday, after what turned out to be a harmless device, was discovered taped to a light pole in the school's parking lot.

The suspicious cylindrical device was discovered around 6:30 a.m. by maintenance personnel arriving for work, said Larry Randa, Valley View School District Spokesman.

At the time, about 10 staff members were in the building along with 20 students who participate in Hermansen PTO's KLH Before-School Club. There are about 689 students, grades K-5, enrolled in the school at 101 Wes Glen Parkway in Romeoville.

Students and staff were moved to the nearby Wesglen Clubhouse as a precaution as police arrived to the school.

School officials decided to cancel classes shortly after 9 a.m. after being informed by authorities that it could be several hours before an "all clear" could be given. Most parents had kept their children home after being notified of the situation via the district's automated telephone system, Randa said.

Complicating the situation was the lack of availability of school buses which were confined to the school district's transportation center because of a nearby oil pipeline leak that occurred yesterday, he said.

By 10 a.m., all 39 students who had come to school had been picked up at the Wesglen Clubhouse by family members.

Once the Cook County Sheriff's Department Bomb Squad determined the device was harmless, Romeoville Police Department officers and school district administrators conducted a thorough search of the school and the surrounding property, and determined that there was no further danger.

ROMEOVILLE - Classes will be held today in Valley View School District, but students in Romeoville and Bolingbrook will need to find their own ride because there will be no school bus service today.

The district had to cancel its morning and afternoon bus routes today because of ongoing cleanup efforts following an oil pipeline leak near the bus barn.

The decision to cancel bus services for children was made in conjunction with the Village of Romeoville based on the proximity of the oil that was released onto the roadway in front of the Transportation Center. Repair efforts include staging of equipment that will not allow the buses to leave the bus barn.

Phillip Schoffstall.jpg

Enbridge Energy's environmental response team has been on the scene since Thursday afternoon when the leak was discovered and is working closely with all emergency officials to complete the cleanup as soon as possible, said Valley View Spokesman Larry Randa. The leak in the 34-inch pipeline was stopped Thursday afternoon, but excavation at the leak site could not be started until this morning.

Superintendent Phillip Schoffstall said student absences today will be listed as excused.

Both Bolingbrook and Romeoville will provide extra police services around all schools to help with the expected larger than usual traffic flow.


Is your teen scary?

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The Plainfield Foundation for Excellence is inviting teens and adults, ages 13 and up, to participate as cast and crew for this year's haunted house - "Scream High Class of 2010."

Auditions for all cast members are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 17. at Vaughn Dance Academy, 24116 W. Lockport St. in Plainfield.

This year, the haunt will be in the basement of the new Plainfield Police Headquarters. This year, the Foundation is partnering with Plainfield Police Department's DARE program.

For more information and to schedule an audition, contact Ken Erdey at screamhaunts@gmail.com.

Seems like a perfect family project. They need adults who can fill their teacher roles. So come out with your kid and be scary.

Originally, Plainfield School District stated in an electronic newsletter that its board would hold a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Well, you'll have to get up a bit earlier to make this meeting.

The board will hold its meeting at 7 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 11) at the district administrative center, 15732 Howard St.

The agenda includes a 2010-11 proposed budget study session; discussion about the deficit reduction process including the possibility of forming a Citizens Advisory Committee.

The board will also discuss priorities and parameters to guide the budget deficit reduction process.

At that meeting, the board plans to discuss what they would be willing to cut in the budget for the 2011-2012 school year. The district is expecting a deficit of about $7.5 million in June.

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Superintendent John Harper told the board he needs marching orders on what the board wants regarding the upcoming budget cuts. He asked for five to eight parameters that can drive the work as administration puts together a budget for next school year.

"Tell me if you want fees to be touched. Tell me if class size should not be touched. ... AP classes," Harper said last month. "If the board can help me, give me the priorities, it will guide the work and I think the product will be a good one."

The board will also discuss if the district should form a Citizens Advisory Council.

Harper recommended forming a council that would be composed of residents with financial expertise and community members invested in curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular programs.

The council would include Harper, district finance administrators and one board member.

The group would meet seven consecutive Thursdays, Oct. 7 through Nov. 18, with a presentation to the board Nov. 22, offering suggestions on what the board could possibly cut in administrative costs, operations, instructional and co-curricular and extracurricular programs.

The meeting is open to the public so bring some coffee or whatever else you need to get to this very early meeting.


Here's the story:
Herald-News

JOLIET - Joliet Grade School Board delayed its vote to approve bids to build a new elementary school next to Gompers Junior High School.

At its Wednesday night board meeting, the board removed the item off of its agenda. The board is now expected to vote on the issue at a special board meeting 6 p.m. Sept. 16 at the administration center, 420 N. Raynor Ave. in Joliet.

The district received nine base bids to build the school for 600 students. The highest bid was $15.2 million and the lowest bid was $13.3 million, said Wesley Russell, assistant superintendent of business.

The district needed more time to review the bids to make sure that all bidders followed criteria before administration makes a recommendation, Russell said.

Joliet Township High School Board wants to do what Plainfield did, and now it looks like they are moving closer toward their goal by moving its school buses.

School board President Chet June said by moving the school buses to another facility, the district will have a building it could rehab to bring back its special education students.

At a previous meeting, board members mentioned that Plainfield School District brought back special education students from out-of-district facilities to save money and asked that the administration 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.

So what do you think? Good idea or bad idea? Any concerns?

Here's the story on their plans to buy a warehouse to house their buses.

Check out
Herald-News

JOLIET - Joliet Grade School Board is expected Wednesday to vote on approving bids to build a new elementary school next to Gompers Junior High School.

Coincidentally, the board will meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Gompers Junior High, 1501 Copperfield Road, which is near Silver Cross Hospital.

The district received nine base bids to build the school for 600 students. The highest bid was $15.2 million and the lowest bid was $13.3 million, said Wesley Russell, assistant superintendent of business.

The architects will review the bids to make sure that all bidders followed criteria before administration makes a recommendation, Russell said.

That means if the low bid of $13.3 million does not meet crieteria, the school district will have to take the next lowest bid. Stay tune to this blog on Wednesday to find out which bid was chosen.

So now the big question of the day: What should they name the new school?

Here's a story that ran in today's Herald-News:

PLAINFIELD -- After a plastic bottle containing chemicals exploded in the hands of a student at a Plainfield school Friday afternoon, Edward Hospital in Naperville was placed on a hazardous material alert.

The mother of the unidentified fifth-grader brought her daughter to the hospital from Creekside Elementary School at 13909 S. Budler Road in Plainfield Township.

The girl and at least some emergency room personnel had been sickened by the contents of the bottle, which the girl's mother had brought into the building with her.

Police and fire emergency radio reports indicated the bottle might have been a "MacGyver bomb," typically concocted with household chemicals and aluminum foil.

Tom Hernandez, director of community relations for Plainfield School District, said the Creekside student "found a plastic bottle" Friday outside the school "and proceeded to shake it." The contents "shot out of the bottle and sprayed" onto the girl, he said.

School officials called poison control and were advised to run cold water over the girl's face and arms, Hernandez said. They also telephoned the girl's mother, who then took her daughter to the hospital, he said.

"The initial report is the girl was uninjured, so that's good and we're glad for that," Hernandez said. He declined to comment further.

Hospital spokeswoman Mary Ellen Pavlik said no patients or employees were endangered or injured.

The girl was released from the hospital Friday afternoon after undergoing unspecified treatment, Pavlik said.

Plainfield School Board will hold a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Sept. 11 at the administration center, 15732 Howard St.

Yep, that's a Saturday.

At that meeting, the board plans to discuss what they would be willing to cut in the budget for the 2011-12 school year. The district is expecting a deficit of about $7.5 million in June.

john_harper.jpg

Superintendent John Harper told the board he needs marching orders on what the board wants regarding the upcoming budget cuts. He asked for five to eight parameters that can drive the work as administration puts together a budget for next school year.

"Tell me if you want fees to be touched. Tell me if class size should not be touched. ... AP classes," Harper said last month. "If the board can help me, give me the priorities, it will guide the work and I think the product will be a good one."

School board President Stuart Bledsoe said it's time for the board to get creative in finding future cuts because they can't keep cutting teachers. In fact, he would like to see class sizes even smaller.

The board will also discuss if the district should form a Citizens Advisory Council.

Harper recommended forming a council that would be composed of residents with financial expertise and community members invested in curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular programs.

The council would include Harper, district finance administrators and one board member.

The group would meet seven consecutive Thursdays, Oct. 7 through Nov. 18, with a presentation to the board Nov. 22, offering suggestions on what the board could possibly cut in administrative costs, operations, instructional and co-curricular and extracurricular programs.

The entire board has yet to discuss this proposed council. But a committee of three board members had some reservations.

So do you think the district should have a Citizens Advisory Council? Will it help? And, what should the district cut?

Here's the article about the council:

Herald-News


Tornado Time Capsule

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Plainfield Central High School is inviting the community to donate items to a time capsule to commemorate the heroes of the 1990 Plainfield tornado.

Donated items should in some way reflect the August 28, 1990 tornado. They can be items from 20 years ago, or even items from today.

Maybe, Pam Leddy should donate her eye glasses.

Before she headed to the vault at the school district's administration center 20 years ago, she took off her reading glasses and put them in her purse. The vault did provide a safe haven for many that day. She had hung onto her purse during the tornado and even as she waited to be rescued by folks moving the debris that buried her.

After she was pulled out, she remembered standing on top of the rubble and was astounded by what she was seeing. A Dumpster in a tree. The steeple was missing from St. Mary's Church.

"My eyes were looking at this and you can't believe what you are seeing. A building you walked into that day was a pile of rubble," she said.

That's when she opened her purse and threw her eye glasses away into the rubble. Later on, they found the glasses which she still has tucked away at home.

So maybe, she would consider putting them in the tornado time capsule.

"The time capsule is dedicated to all of the heroes of the tornado as well as the Plainfield community," said Robert Smith, principal at Plainfield Central High School.

Items should be labeled with a family name and can be dropped during school hours at 24120 W. Fort Beggs Drive by Oct. 15.

The items will be placed in a time capsule that will remain in the front office of the school until the capsule is opened again on Aug. 28, 2030.

Student Council members as well as staff members who were in the building the day of the tornado and who are also retiring this year, will close the time capsule near the end of a school assembly, around 2:25 p.m. on Oct. 21.

Are you planning to donate any items?

To read Pam's full story

Herald-News

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I had to chuckle when I saw this picture of Superintendent Paul Swanstrom reading a book at my old haunting grounds - The Herald News at 300 Caterpillar Drive in Joliet. That's where I used to work until Joliet Township High School District bought the building.

Swanstrom looks like he's in paradise with the lily pads in the background. Too bad the resident egret didn't show up for the photo op.

Did your teen read his or her assigned book?

This summer, all students enrolled in English 1, 2, 3, or 4 at Joliet West and Joliet Central high schools were required to read the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, "Maus, A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History" by Art Spiegelman.

Next week, Teacher Deborah Leininger at Joliet West High School will introduce students to foods that were eaten in the concentration camps, including Hungarian walnut noodles. They will also get to sample a weak vegetable soup.

Prisoners ate bread made with part sawdust, but Leininger won't be serving that. However, she hopes to show students how the bread was made.

"I know this is not exactly literacy, but I think it might add a nice perspective to the whole history of the story," she wrote in an e-mail.

Joliet West Teacher Susan Kulevich will be showing students pictures of German uniforms and clothes worn in the concentration camps during her Family & Consumer Sciences classes.

"I also have a few sleeves of clothing for students to pass around and try on to feel the comparison of fibers," she said in an e-mail.

These teachers are definitely taking this summer's reading selection to heart, showing students different aspects of that time.

Not all teachers do that. One student at Bolingbrook High School was upset two years ago that she read her summer reading book and it was never discussed in class. Too bad because she had a lot of questions.

She also had several written assignments that were never graded and that upset her because she was preparing for the Advanced Placement test and felt it would help if her teacher graded her essays so could improve for the test that would give her college credit, if she scored well.

Hey, I'm a big fan of reading for enjoyment, but don't you think the teacher should at least grade the homework? Yes or No?


JOLIET - Joliet Grade School District has requested that Grand PrairieTransit fire the bus driver and monitor who unknowingly left a sleeping 4-year-old girl on the bus and took her back to the bus barn in Lockport Wednesday morning.

The child, who attends pre-kindergarten at Woodland Elementary School, was never left alone on the school bus, said Chris Ward, chief officer for legal services and labor relations.

Ward reviewed the video tape from the bus camera and saw that the bus driver and monitor were on the bus the entire time the child was on the bus.

The district contracts with Grand Prairie to provide bus service to its students.

"It is our understanding that the bus left Woodland School and went to return to their bus barn at which time they discovered the child was on the bus and returned the child to Woodland School," Ward said.

Anthony Benish, attorney for the school bus company, confirmed that the two employees were going to be terminated.

"We have procedures in place to make sure something like this does not happen and obviously the procedures were not followed and because of that, the driver and the aide are going to be terminated," Benish said.

More to come Friday in The Herald-News at

Herald-News

www.heraldnewsonline.com.


Who will fill the shoes of Joliet Township High School Superintendent Paul Swanstrom?

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If you haven't heard, he's retiring on June 30, 2011. Well, a very good guess would be the current assistant superintendent of educational services, Cheryl McCarthy.

Why? Well, she's in the job title - assistant superintendent - that's been filling the superintendent spot for the past three superintendents.

Here's the history:

The school board selected Swanstrom without interviewing any other candidates. Swanstrom, who was assistant superintendent for educational services, replaced James

Clark who served as superintendent for six years.

In that search, the board interviewed internal and external candidates, but chose Clark who was assistant superintendent for educational services at the time.

Clark replaced Charles Baird, who worked nearly 30 years in the district. Baird was assistant superintendent of business, but he held both job titles - assistant superintendent of business and superintendent when promoted.

McCarthy impressed the board at July's board meeting, presenting a bit of her doctoral dissertation which showed there was academic improvement in all racial subgroups at Joliet West High School when the school used three or more reform strategies.

School board President Chet June said the board has decided to search within the school district for the next superintendent. He said currently there is more than one candidate the board is considering.

"We are looking inside first," he said Wednesday. "We are in the second phase of our strategic plan. We got the academic program set up. ... We are making progress slowly. These things seem to be working. We don't want to give that up. We don't somebody to come from the outside and say, 'Oh, we're going to change all this.' ... We don't want that. We want continuity right now."

June said if everything comes to the positive conclusion that they are hoping for - the school board will not have to search for Swanstrom's replacement outside of the district.

So what do you think? Should the board search for candidates nationally? Or just hire someone from within?

Plainfield School District has spent $10,428, in legal fees in a three-month period regarding a grievance filed on behalf of 19 female campus monitors who were laid off due to gender and not seniority.

This amount does not include any time incurred during the month of August, which will be billed in September.

So that means I'll just have to file another Freedom of Information request in the middle of September to see how much the district has spent on lawyers for the grievance, lawsuit and charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, Illinois Department of Human Rights complaint.

On Tuesday, I received a detailed bill that shows what the district is being charged for and for what.

The school district was billed $264 to review newspaper articles about the campus monitors as well as $66 to review correspondence regarding proposed statement to Fox
News.

Review the legal fees here: S.D. 202W - PASS Grievance-LegalFees.pdf

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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