February 2011 Archives

Well, tonight's the night for the big decision on the $5.7 million in stimulus money.

The money will be used to pay for current jobs, but once the district gets its reimbursement check, Superintendent John Harper and his administration want to use the money to restructure a land loan.

In turn, by using the stimulus money to pay off the principal upfront and restructure the land loan, the district will be able to free up about $200,000 annually which equates to three to four teaching jobs saved in the long-term.

"This affords us the opportunity to pay down that note and it levels our payments and we avoid that $2.3 million balloon in 2015," Harper said.

Or the board can choose to use some or all of the $5.7 million to save jobs on the chopping block for next school year, giving staff a reprieve for one year until next year when about $10 million will have to be cut.

The board plans to make a decision on budget cuts at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of Plainfield North High School, 12005 S. 248th St.

So here's where the board members stand as of last week.

School board President Stuart Bledsoe: SAVE JOBS

"You want to tell people we are going to get surplus money only if we cut (112 jobs? I ain't doing it. There is no such thing as surplus dollars when you're ... in the hole," Bledsoe said last month.

Vice-president Dave Obrzut: UNDECIDED

"I would prefer to see more information on it. It is a very hard question to answer simply because I don't want to see a single job lost. Having said that, let's be realistic now, we are in deficit mode here. I would like to keep as many people employed as I can," Obrzut said. "I want to use it where it will save the most jobs and do the most good."


"If we have the balloon payment coming, I think it is going to have an impact on jobs in the future as well," Kelly said. "We believe we have this flexibility built into the law which was not true with other money that we received. We need to take advantage of it for the long-term financial health of the school district. If we don't do the cuts ... then we have to cut $10 million next year."

Michelle Smith: SAVE JOBS

"I like us to use as much money as we can for jobs. I'm OK with some of the money being used for other things if we feel that's the most fiscally responsible thing for us to do," Smith said. . But, I feel (we need) to use some of it to save jobs because that's the intent of the money ... Even if they say we can use it all for land, I still don't feel that's what it all should be used for."


"I wanted it to be used in an efficient manner so we can stretch it out. I wouldn't bring back the positions that we recommended for removal because I don't want to get in the situation that we are cutting 100 jobs next year," Gallt said. "I think for the sanity of our staff that we get to the point that we are not continually cutting jobs. It is very stressful."

Roger Bonuchi: UNDECIDED

"I'm tending to lean on the side of using the money as extra money so we don't have to lay-off as many people. I'm kind of leaning in that direction. I'm betting that the landscape of our income is going to be more positive next year," Bonuchi said. "If you are one of the people getting laid off, you would probably want another year. If you're one of those people getting laid off , you're not really caring about whether that money gets used to pay off a land debt."

Rod Westfall: SAVE JOBS:

"I will vote to put staff back in. I fought for this last year. Especially in the high schools where you have 2,000 kids - we need support services," Westfall said. "I'm hoping to see as many jobs saved as possible. It is my belief that's what (the stimulus money) was intended for."

The board met in closed session Thursday night to talk about specific jobs and decide what they are doing tonight so maybe some of the members changes their minds once they received more answers.

It will be interesting to see what happens. There are many employees and taxpayers who would like to see the money used to save jobs for one more year.

Got a couple of calls on this because students need to make changes to their class schedules for next school year this week.

The answer for now is: Yes, there will be early bird classes next school year.

The district's current proposal is to have high schools start earlier next year so a bus driver can have three routes instead of two. This will save the district about $600,000.

But when Superintendent John Harper proposed this plan, he said the question of continuing early bird classes was undecided.

Spokesman Tom Hernandez said today that the current direction from Harper and principals is to provide early bird classes next year.

"Anything can change at any time based on board action/direction, but the board of education wants early bird too so that more kids can take more rigorous classes during the day," Hernandez said.

So for students worried about how many Advanced Placement classes they can fit in next school year, take a deep breath - you can.

Many folks couldn't get out of their driveways during the big snowstorm, but that didn't stop 25 Plainfield Central High School students from learning.

They just hopped on the computer to study for their upcoming exam in calculus and honors precalculus.

Math teachers Tom and Lynn Bond offered a "virtual study party" to the students on Feb. 2 via the Internet.

"We were planning on a test on Wednesday for honors precalculus, so when the first snow day was announced, we told students to expect the test the day we got back," Lynn Bond said in a press release.

To allow for any questions they had on the review packet to be answered before the test, the teachers made themselves available for a couple of prearranged hours each day.

The students logged on to the virtual classroom to help each other solve problems, or to ask the Bonds questions on the review packet they were working on in preparation for the exam.

"The students who visited the classroom got their questions answered and did very well on the test," Lynn Bond said.

And because Lynn regularly bakes and brings in banana bread for class study sessions at school, a couple of students even drew a loaf of virtual banana bread on the discussion boards.

Pretty cool.

All seven board members running for Plainfield School Board were at last night's meeting.

Two - Dave Obrzut and Roger Bonuchi - are both on the board.

The others are taking notes. They are: William Dargan Jr., Kevin Kirberg, Greg Nichols, Anthony Scala and Tommie Van.

School board President Stuart Bledsoe who is not running for re-election introduces each of the candidates at the board meetings which is pretty classy.

Who are they? What do they stand for? Why are they running?

Well, next week, we'll find out a bit more at CAPE's Candidates' Forum at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 in the auditorium at Plainfield Central High School, 24120 W. Fort Beggs Drive, Plainfield.

If you want to ask a question to be presented at the meeting, you got until Feb. 20th to send one in.

Questions can be sent to lauraries@sbcglobal.net. Please put "Candidates Forum Questions" in the subject line. Deadline to send questions is Feb. 20.

Laura Ries Dralle, board president of CAPE, said the forum is an important event for the community.

"The CAPE organization has a long and rich tradition of hosting the Candidates Forum, which offers parents and taxpayers alike the opportunity to personally meet and determine the positions of the people running for the Board of Education through an objectively moderated, ninety-minute question and answer session," she said.

By R.L. Anderson

ROMEOVILLE - Incoming superintendent James Mitchem Jr. has found the man to step into his shoes as principal of Bolingbrook High School.

The Valley View School Board approved hiring Fabby Williams to replace Mitchem who will officially become superintendent July 1st.

Williams' salary will be $150,000 which includes contributions into the teachers' retirement system. Currently, Williams is interim principal at Austin PolyTech Academy in the Chicago Public School system.

"Here's my commitment to you," Williams told the school board Monday night. "I want you to hold me accountable for the education all of our students will receive. My promise it to make sure every classroom at Bolingbrook High School will have a very good and effective teacher who cares about the children. It's more than just teaching them how to write or hot to read. It's about caring about them as people, as individuals."

Williams has an extensive educational experience in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina. He is a candidate for a doctorate of education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and he holds a master's degree in educational leadership, a masters in education and a bachelor of social work - all from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC.

The board unanimously approved Williams hire as well as three other administrative posts at Monday night's meeting.

Of the four positions, two were filled with current district employees and two by newcomers.

New promotions

Rachel Kinder will be the new assistant superintendent for curriculum grades, 6-12. Her salary will be $150,000 which includes contributions into the teachers' retirement system
Kinder, who is the assistant principal at Bolingbrook High School, has a master's degree in educational administration from Governors State, and a master's in instructional leadership and a bachelor's degree in Spanish translation and business from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

"The mission before us is clear. Be honest in analyzing where we stand, capitalize on our strengths, and confront those things that do no support the mission that all students can and will learn when given the right opportunity to do so," Kinder said.

"The most critical component of this is the belief that it can be done. I believe we can meet the challenge and, most importantly, I believe in our students," she said. "I believe in all of our students that they can leave us ready for college and careers if we engage them and respond to their needs."

The new assistant director of bilingual education will be Yadira Mata who is currently a ESL/bilingual teacher at Brooks Middle School.

Mata has been at Brooks Middle School for five years where she has been the Valley
View Adult ESL class coordinator for middle schools and one of the district's bilingual parent council coordinators.

Mata holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in English as a Second Language Education from Concordia University and master's in educational leadership and a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of St. Francis. Her salary will be $81,975, which includes contributions into the teachers' retirement system.

Brooks new leader

The new principal at Brooks Middle School will be Keith Wood who replaces Ron Krause who retires in June. Wood will earn $120,000 which includes TRS contributions.

"I look forward to using my skills and talents to uphold that mission and to be of service to the students and faculty of Brooks and, in turn, to the district," Wood said. "I want to assure you that I have the will to do things that are necessary to meet expectations, to not let the students' backgrounds or prior experiences serve as a barrier to learning."

Wood has been principal at MacArthur Middle School in Berkley, IL for the past seven years. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Loyola University. He has a master's in school administration and a bachelor's in elementary education from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is an adjunct professor in supervision, research and ethics at Concordia University and a former math instructor at Triton College.

The appointments are effective July 1 except for Mata's who begins her new duties on August 1.

Mitchem said dozens of candidates were considered for the four positions.

"We have made excellent additions to our team," Mitchem said. "We were looking for specific qualities and each of these individuals brought those traits to the table.

Changes in Valley View

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It's not a surprise that there will be changes in administration for next school year in Valley View School District because the school board is not happy with test scores and student achievement.

James Mitchem Jr., the incoming superintendent, will be announcing those changes to staff on Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, one person has an announcement of her own.

Faith Dahlquist, assistant superintendent for curriculum, has accepted a position for the 2011-12 school year as assistant superintendent of educational services in Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District.

Dahlquist, who has been with VVSD since 1995, will continue in her current position through the end of June.

"Faith's experience and professional dedication to students and staff, as well as her extensive curriculum knowledge, will be greatly missed," said Superintendent Phil Schoffstall in a press release. "We extend to Faith our best wishes as she assumes new opportunities in the new assignment."

Dahlquist, who assumed her current position last summer after serving as assistant superintendent for grades K-5 for three years, was principal and associate principal at Independence Elementary School in Bolingbrook for 12 years. She has taught fourth grade, sixth grade and high school algebra in three Illinois school districts.

To read the story about Mitchem's upcoming address go to:


Plainfield Superintendent John Harper told Resident Darran Hurd that the district would be cleaning off the sidewalks Tuesday.

However, when Hurd got home last night - he wasn't pleased with what he saw so he took matters in his own hands - and shoveled with the help of neighbors.

Here's his e-mail to the board and Harper:

The evening of 2/8/2011 Mr. Berika (Sp?), his son Bobby (4th grade), and I cleared the sidewalk from the north west entrance of Drauden Point to the circle drive at Ridge. He had an ATV with a snow blade, his son used a shovel, and I got a portion with the snow thrower for that span. Next I got the other snow pile path cut with the scoop shovel and spade at the Ridge south west entrance to get to the sidewalk to the south. Some unknown person did the sidewalk to the snow pile there on the way to the south. Total time spent was from 5 to 7PM.

Apparently we were both displeased to learn the kids were sliding on the piles into the street after school at pick-up time. That is why adults clear paths and a lot of us know the legal definition of "attractive nuisance".
1. Law . A doctrine of tort law under which a person who creates or permits to exist on his or her land a dangerous condition attractive to children, as an unfenced swimming pool, is liable for their resulting injuries, even though the injured are trespassers.
2. a hazardous condition or object to which this doctrine is applicable.

You may think about asking your legal staff what that term means and how you avoid being liable with your property and my tax bill. We know kids will be kids I suppose, but responsible people take action and buy snow removal equipment.

Please have kids going north and west from school exit on the circle and then use the path cut by us vs having them go to the front entrance drive on the west. I could not find the sidewalk starting point at the drive entrance on the west. Since someone already did the west circle drive sidewalk out to the north and west side that is what we connected to.

Thought about going over to north east side of Drauden Point but there was a big accident with multiple fire-trucks. Thought best to avoid that and let the pros do their work. I am hoping that any snow pile didn't contribute to the accident because of a lack of line of sight. Let's also hope you have no liability on that also.

Darran Hurd

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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This page is an archive of entries from February 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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