Category Archives: Regional

Batavia Park District announces two department head changes

BATAVIA—The Batavia Park District recently ended an extensive search for its new director of finance after the position was vacated in November. The position is crucial to the park district due to its role with budgeting, tax levies and payroll; therefore, the task of finding a replacement was not taken lightly.

Last week, Executive Director Allison Niemela announced that Rita Kruse-Hankes of Aurora had accepted the position.

Kruse-Hankes was previously the assistant finance director for the village of Addison. Prior to that, she held a position as an accounting manager with the village of Downers Grove.

Government experience was crucial in the selection of a new director of finance for the park district. With nearly 10 years of experience in government finance and a strong financial background, Kruse-Hankes was an ideal fit.

“I look forward to the new challenges of leading a finance department in a forward progressing organization,” Kruse-Hankes said. “Having been born and raised in the Tri-Cities area, I feel my knowledge, work experiences and passion will inspire a better district for the future.”

Kruse-Hankes is a Certified Public Accountant and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University. Wednesday was her first day with the Batavia Park District. She can be reached at or (630) 879-5235 ext. 2021.

Kari Miller has recently been promoted from marketing and public relations manager to director of marketing and public relations. She will oversee the marketing and public relations department consisting of seven employees. Additional responsibilities include being the webmaster for the district and developing and maintaining comprehensive marketing plans and promotions for all recreation programs, special events, the Depot Museum and the Hall Quarry Beach. She will be in charge of the district’s communications, including publications, email blasts, video productions, social media and public relations campaigns.

Miller joined the Batavia Park District in 2008 and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in communications from Bradley University. She has eight years of public relations experience.

Miller was promoted by Allison Niemela, the former director of marketing and public relations who recently was promoted to executive director. The promotion will be a smooth transition for the district.

“Kari is one of the fastest rising stars I’ve encountered, always looking out for the best interest of the district,” Niemela said. “She is very talented and deserving of this promotion.”

During her tenure with the district, Miller was instrumental in managing the district’s social media accounts, which include Facebook, Twitter and texting promotions. She continues to look for new ways to improve communication channels with residents.

Miller also implemented a flipbook feature to the website,which replaces PDF files and allows for added features such as video and photographs to be linked throughout the fun guide to the website. Miller is currently building a new website for the district based on feedback from surveys and focus groups, and is always welcoming new challenges.

“This is definitely a very exciting time for me,” she said. “A lot of my work is behind the scenes so I’m honored the executive director has the confidence in me to take on this position.”

Miller has demonstrated her leadership skills in several capacities. This year she is the director of the Communications and Marketing section for the Illinois Park and Recreation Association. Last year Miller was the recipient of the district’s most prestigious honor: the Bruce the Spruce Award. Miller received the award as a result of the respect her co-workers have for her and for her work ethic.

“Being nominated by my peers was a huge compliment, and one that I’m incredibly proud of during my time at the Batavia Park District,” Miller said.

Miller can be reached by email at or by phone at (630) 879-5235, ext. 2022.

Elgin Symphony Orchestras ends 2012 with sold-out performance

ELGIN, ILL.—The Elgin Symphony Orchestra (ESO) recently hosted more than 3,000 concertgoers with its “Let It Snow” holiday concerts on Dec. 15-16. The Sunday concert was literally sold out—not one seat was left open. Patrons were waiting in line, anxious for the news that someone had turned in their ticket, thus opening up a seat.

From the Christmas-themed balloon sculptures to the family photography station to the Elgin Children’s Chorus in festive attire holding candles during the “Silent Night” sing-a-long, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra concerts gave each audience member a magical start to the holiday season.

This is the first sold-out concert the ESO has seen in recent years, and it’s just the latest in a series of expanding concert attendance for the ESO events at the Hemmens Cultural Center.

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra also announced at the “Let It Snow” concerts that an anonymous donor will match up to $150,000 through the end of 2012.

“Let It Snow”, featured a new voice to the roster of ESO guest artists: Rachel DeShon, named “Seattle’s Littlest Diva.” ESO patrons were entranced as DeShon graced the stage in a red dress and ended the program with her signature song, “O Holy Night.” DeShon has been featured with Marvin Hamlisch, and was scheduled to tour with him in 2012 before his untimely death. DeShon was recently featured with the Seattle Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony.

To support the ESO, visit

National recognition

KC Health Department awarded national accreditation status
KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department recently announced that it has received national public health department five-year accreditation status through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). With this achievement, Kane County becomes the first county health department in Illinois to reach this status.

To receive accreditation, a health department must undergo a rigorous, multi-faceted, peer-reviewed process to ensure it meets or exceeds a set of quality standards and measures. Hundreds of health departments are preparing to seek national accreditation through the program, which launched in September 2011 after more than a decade in development. So far only 22 health departments have been granted accreditation status, out of a total of more than 3,000 in the U.S.

“Accreditation is the gold standard for health departments and demonstrates our commitment to providing quality services and better serving our community. National accreditation signifies the incredible efforts the Kane County Health Department puts forth every day to improve and protect the health of the public,” said Health Department Executive Director Barbara Jeffers. “Achieving accreditation opens the door to a number of benefits, including increased credibility, accountability, and possible funding advantages. Having reached this milestone will provide us with valuable, measurable feedback to further our commitment to continuous improvement.”

“The Kane County Health Department is one of the first of many health departments that we look forward to being able to recognize as a high-performing public health department,” said PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN. “The peer review process provides valuable feedback to inform health departments of their strengths and areas for improvement, so that they can better protect and promote the health of the people they serve in their communities.”

While public health departments provide expert leadership in protecting and promoting the health of people in communities across the country, there has not been a set of nationally recognized standards until now. The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHA) established in 2007, was created to serve as the national public health accrediting body, and is jointly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The development of national public health accreditation has involved, and is supported by, public health leaders and practitioners from the national, Tribal, state and local levels.

More information about accreditation is available on the Health Department website at and the PHAB website at

Snowball Dance at S.S. Peter and Paul Catholic Church

VIRGIL—S.S. Peter and Paul Catholic Church will host its Snowball Dance (one of Kane County’s oldest dances) on Saturday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m. to midnight at the church, 5N939 Meridith Road in Virgil.

Admission to the dance is $10 per person, and is limited to those 21 years of age and older. Music will be provided by Hometown Band, with sandwiches and chips available at approximately 10:30 p.m. Beverages will be available for purchase.

IACA names Keck 2012 Auditor of the Year

ILLINOIS—In recognition of his many years of service as their continuing education sponsor, the Illinois Association of County Auditor has named William F. Keck, CPA, retired Kane County auditor, as their 2012 Auditor of the Year.

Citing his professionalism and dedication to the IACA, association members believe Keck is a role model for county auditors, present and future.

Family New Year’s Eve party

AURORA—Bring the kids to a mid-day New Year’s Eve celebration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31, at Vaughan Athletic Center, 2121 W. Indian Trail Road in Aurora.

This event will include giant inflatables, fun and games, sports demos, hula hoop contests, dancing, live DJ, a balloon drop, party favors and snacks.

The cost of admission is $7 per person if registered by 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28. After that, admission is $10 per person, with no charge for children ages 2 and under.

For more information, call (630) 907-9600.

How to safely remove snow from your roof

ILLINOIS—If heavy snow is left on your roof, it can result in costly water damage, or even cause your roof to collapse. Safely remove snow from your roof by using the following guidance from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

Find additional resources to prevent roof damage during severe winter weather at

Snow removal equipment meant for pavement should never be used on the roof since they can damage the roof cover system. Stay grounded. Use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground. You are likely not a tightrope walker, so don’t use a roof rake while on a ladder.

Hire a snow removal contractor if you feel uncomfortable removing snow from your roof. Look for an established, licensed and bonded professional. Be sure to check references, and ask to see the contractor’s certificates of insurance.

Visit for more information about how to make your buildings more resistant to a variety of disasters, large and small.

Marmion entrance exam for 8th-grade boys

AURORA—Marmion Academy High School will host its second entrance exam for 8th-grade boys on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, beginning at 9 a.m. In order to register for the exam, an application for admission must be filed prior to or on the day of the exam.

To file an application or receive more information on Marmion Academy, visit or contact the admissions office at (630) 897-6936, ext. 227.

School boards push to add definition of cyber bullying in school policy

CHICAGO—The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) seeks legislation that would require every Illinois public school district policy on bullying to contain a definition that includes “cyber bullying.”

Representatives from 360 Illinois school districts considered resolutions on various public school issues at the Association’s annual Delegate Assembly. The assembly was held in conjunction with the 2012 Joint Annual Conference, Nov.16-18 in Chicago.

The resolution, submitted by Dunlap CUSD 323 in Peoria County, is intended to encourage school districts to bring a wide range of education stakeholders together to establish local policies that will help deter all forms of bullying, including activities conducted online.

The rationale behind the resolution noted that the effects of cyber bullying have been fatal, and there are no consequences in state law to deter such behavior.

Cathy Piehl, board secretary of the proposal’s co-sponsor, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville, said such a bill would provide state guidance for local districts to deal with a growing problem that is “very destructive to our school environment and our school districts.”

Piehl said the general definition of cyber bullying is well established, and the resolution presented to delegates strikes a good balance between guidance from the state and the flexibility for local control.

“I don’t think the legislation that was in place before defined cyber bullying,” she said.

The measure was passed overwhelmingly by the school board delegates.

Representatives also approved a resolution that seeks to revise the method of funding state-authorized charter schools to limit the amount that can be diverted from local school districts to support charters.

Sponsors said the proposal would encourage creation of new state-authorized charter schools to the extent the state provides the means to fund them. They said decreases in state aid endanger services for both state-authorized charter school and their host school districts.

The amount of state funds diverted from the local district currently is based on the per capita tuition calculation of the local district multiplied by the number of students at the charter school. For example, a state charter school drawing 300 students would receive $3 million from the local district if that district had a per capita tuition charge of $10,000 per student. The local district must shoulder 100 percent of the cost even though state dollars may only account for 20 percent of the local district’s revenue.

The resolution was approved overwhelmingly and without discussion.

A total of 23 resolutions were submitted for consideration this year; 11 of which were new proposals, and one that amended an existing position statement. The others reaffirmed existing position statements. Local member districts are encouraged to draft and submit proposals in the spring. After a committee review them and offers its recommendations, the Delegate Assembly votes on the resolutions. Those approved are used by IASA and other school management supporters to establish an agenda for their lobbying efforts.

“This resolution aims to limit the withholding of state funds from school districts hosting a charter school by pegging it to the percentage of state funds the local district received per student in the prior year,” said Ben Schwarm, IASB deputy executive director. “School districts said they need to have the state revenue per student follow the student, not local revenue. The state, as the chartering entity, would then ensure payment of the balance of the per capita funding entitlement to the charter school.”

Other resolutions approved by local school board representatives included proposals that:
• Allow school districts additional flexibility under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL)
• Encourage employers to allocate time off for employees’ state-required school board member training
• Restore boards’ right to enter into contracts with third parties for non-instructional services
• Exempt students from physical education classes as needed to attend show choir
• Ease state requirements for homeless student transportation beyond district borders in order to bring the state law into agreement with federal law

Delegates also approved a call for biennial state budgets rather than yearly budgets, essentially requiring that lawmakers determine the amount of funding for education entitlements and General State Aid to schools no later than March 31 (three months prior to the start of the budget year).

Sponsors said the budgeting cycle needs to be changed to allow school boards to make fiscal and staffing decisions after they are informed about the amount of state aid and educational entitlements available. Currently, local school district budgets are due months before the state budget is finalized. The timetable has been a bigger concern in the past few years because state budget shortfalls and lean fiscal times have caused delays and reductions in state payments to school districts.

Delegates rejected seven of 12 resolutions containing new or amended position statements for IASB, including a pension reform proposal to seek additional state revenue, including potential Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reform sources to cover any additional cost placed on school districts for pensions benefits of teachers.

“Discussions about reforming the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) pension funding have included a proposal to shift the normal cost of this to local school districts, with a price tag of an additional $800 million to be paid by school districts,” Schwarm said. “While most delegates agreed that absorbing an $800 million hit would devastate local school districts, concern was voiced about the fairness of using TIF funds to defray these costs, particularly because such funds are already allocated for specific purposes by municipal officials.”

IASB delegates also heard reports from IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy and Association President Carolyne Brooks.

“Education faces some of the most challenging times in the history of our country, and it truly is crucial that we do something in Illinois to help preserve our democracy,” Brooks said.

Brooks was re-elected as Association president, and Karen Fisher as vice president. Both will serve one-year terms. Brooks is a board member in West Richland CUSD 2 in Noble, Ill.; Fisher is a board member in THSD 140 in Ottawa, Ill.

More than 84 percent, or 727 of the state’s 861 school districts, attended the 2012 Joint Annual Conference. This was the 80th meeting of the IASB, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

Attendance at this year’s event topped 10,000. This included school board members, exhibitors, administrators, superintendents, board secretaries, regional superintendents and university professors, IASB service associates, school attorneys, state board officials, special ed administrators and others. The conference offered a wide variety of professional development programs in 116 panel sessions, nine pre-conference workshops, three general sessions and other learning opportunities.

The Illinois conference is the largest state education conference in the nation. More information about this year’s conference can be found on the Association’s website:

Publisher teams up with Beebe to tell story

by Mike Slodki
AURORA—Aurora Christian football coach Don Beebe has made a career and life out of transitions.

A 1983 graduate of Kaneland High School, he suited up for the Knights and went to school at Western Illinois and Chadron State College in Nebraska.

After working construction and putting up aluminum siding in nearby towns like Montgomery, he moved on for a shot at the NFL Combine and was subsequently drafted by the Buffalo Bills.

After several years and an infamous Super Bowl swat later, Beebe went to the Green Bay Packers, where he earned a championship ring in 1997.

Beebe then moved on to the next phase of his life, operating Don Beebe’s House of Speed, and most recently, head coach of the two-time Class 3A football champion Aurora Christian Eagles.

That’s where Jim Gibson comes in.

Gibson, owner and operator of Big Talk Publishing in Aurora, met with Beebe to put a book together. The result, “Six Rings from Nowhere,” was released at Aurora Christian High School last week.

It wasn’t hard for Gibson, a veteran of the television and movie industry, to get involved and tout the story.

“What’s great is that Don isn’t a blue-chipper, he’s blue collar,” Gibson said. “He’s the guy reading that book.”

Hoopla surrounding the book should continue with the NFL playoffs on the horizon. This season marks the 20th anniversary of the Bills’ historic Wild Card round comeback against the Houston Oilers, as well as the Super Bowl swat to rob Leon Lett of a defensive touchdown.

Gibson said CBS Sports is set to be in the area to interview Beebe and Lett about the play.

“(Beebe’s) so humble about all this. He’s a guy that showed up at the same combine with a pair of old tennis shoes and a duffle bag sharing space with Deion Sanders, Troy Aikman and Barry Sanders,” Gibson said.

The book is available for purchase at, sixringsfromnowhere .com,, or at Aurora Christian High School.

“This book was a no-brainer, and comes after a long process,” Gibson said. “I knew of Don before this, and as I got to know him on a much deeper level, I felt he really needed to explain his story.”

“Six Rings from Nowhere,” co-written with writer Denise Crosby, has an introduction by Beebe’s Bills teammate Jim Kelly, and a forward by his Packers teammate Brett Favre.

Included in the book are tales of Favre giving a game ball to Beebe after their Super Bowl XXXI win over the New England Patriots, and his first catch in the NFL, a touchdown pass against Houston cornerback Cris Dishman.

“(Beebe’s) a guy that was out of college football for three-and-a-half years, and decided ‘I have to get back to football,’ and that’s the beginning,” Gibson said.

Big Talk Publishing’s effort is a story of faith, hope and triumph, plus plenty of anecdotes for the most ardent football fan.

The story of the Kaneland Knight-turned construction worker-turned-wide reciever-turned-championship coach and father of four has something for everyone.

“Working with him and talking about how he got his first ring and the winner of ESPN’s first Play of the Year was great,” Gibson said. “But it’s about a guy who has the heart of a champion.”

Treasurer asks residents to help locate military medal owners

SPRINGFIELD—On the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford unveiled an updated Operation Reunite list of names now that several military medals have been returned to veterans.

Operation Reunite is the program that links veterans and their families with any unclaimed military medals, awards and military artifacts that have been transferred to the treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division. Rutherford launched Operation Reunite shortly after taking office in 2011.

Rutherford recently returned two Purple Hearts to a woman in Rockford whose family earned the medals, and returned a Bronze Star to veteran Tommy Fenton of Mt. Vernon, Ill., meaning two families now have their honors in their hands.

“I don’t have many better duties as treasurer than to reunite a military medal with a veteran,” Rutherford said. “It is my goal to return each and every one of the medals and awards that belong to these veterans or their heirs.”

The list of names is printed on the Operation Reunite brochure, which can be found at

“If anyone recognizes a name on the list, please let us know,” Rutherford said. “While we have a city connected to the names of most of the medals, and perhaps even a last known address, enough time has passed that the address is no longer valid. To find a hint about the veterans’ new address, or the whereabouts of the veterans’ families, would likely allow us to reunite these medals with the rightful owners.”

The email address for the Unclaimed Property Division is

The vault located beneath the Illinois State Capitol contains thousands of lost of forgotten valuables, including nearly 200 military artifacts, which includes medals belonging to the men of women who have dutifully served our country. The valuable military awards span more than a century of American conflict, including one medal that dates back to the Spanish American War, circa 1898. Other priceless items include service records, dog tags and commendations from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office came to be the caretaker of these military artifacts after they were lost or forgotten. Often, a veteran of the armed forces or a family member has stored these objects in a bank’s safe deposit box and forgotten about them over time. Banks eventually relinquish stewardship of the contents of these boxes to the treasurer’s office. The treasurer then serves as the custodian for these items, storing and protecting them in the state vault under the Capitol until they may be reunited with whom they rightfully belong.

Waubonsee Foundation announces available scholarships

SUGAR GROVE—The application for 2013-2014 Waubonsee Community College Foundation scholarships is now available online at More than 200 scholarships are offered to new and returning Waubonsee students.

All applications must be completed and submitted online. Paper copies will not be accepted. The due date is midnight on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. Scholarships will be awarded in early April 2013.

For more information, call the Waubonsee Community College Foundation at (630) 466-2983.

Waubonsee names Dale director of Registration and Records

SUGAR GROVE—The Waubonsee Community College Board of Trustees recently appointed Marc Dale Jr. as its director of Registration and Records/Registrar.

Dale, an Aurora resident, began his community college career as a financial aid advisor at Ivy Tech Community College in East Chicago, Ind., in 2009. He was promoted to the position of assistant registrar in September 2010.

Dale earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations from Purdue University, and his master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Chicago State University.

Illinois Treasurer encourages residents to take advantage of college savings plan

ILLINOIS—By taking action before the end of December, families who hope to help their children afford a college education can receive a boost in their accumulated savings. Three specific tax benefits can be realized by adding a Bright Start 529 College Savings Plan to year-end tax planning strategies. Bright Start contributions even make perfect holiday gifts for children, grandchildren or any loved ones.

In Illinois, those who contribute to a Bright Start 529 plan receive three particular tax benefits:
• Contributions are deductible from personal income generating a 5 percent benefit based on the state’s current income tax rate.
• Earnings grow tax free over the life of the account.
• Withdrawals are not taxed when used for qualified education expenses.

“For families who want to save for college, Bright Start accounts are an outstanding tool. For as little as $25 to begin, people can start saving for education and realizing the tax benefits,” said Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford. “But remember, time is running short to take advantage of deductions on your 2012 Illinois taxes—contributions need to be made by the end of December. I urge parents and grandparents to consider these college savings accounts as thoughtful, meaningful holiday gifts for loved ones.

Illinois raised its individual income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent back in 2011. However, the state does allow for contributions to its Bright Start College Savings Plan to be deducted from personal income, lowering most individual’s state tax bill by 5 percent of their Bright Start contributions. In essence, most parents who contribute $10,000 realize a “bonus” of $500 in a lowered tax bill.

With the end-of-year tax deduction deadline approaching, today’s a good day to invest in a loved one’s education. Maximum contributions of up to $10,000 for an individual, or $20,000 if married and filing jointly, can be deducted from your Illinois state taxable income each year. One can even rollover a 529 plan account from another state and deduct the amount of their contributions made to the former plan.

For more information on Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s Bright Start College Savings Program, visit and click on the college savings link, or go directly to the program’s website at

MP teen killed in multi-car collision

CAMPTON HILLS—A two-car collision in Campton Hills has claimed the life of a Maple Park teen.

Zachary Bingham, 18, of the 49W800 block of Peterson Road in Maple Park, was traveling eastbound on Route 38 at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday when his 2002 Pontiac Grand Am was struck head-on by a westbound 2003 Nissan Altima traveling at a high rate of speed and passing numerous vehicles.

The driver of the Altima, Jennifer Liston, 30, of the 3100 block of Old Gate Road in Madison, Wisc., was pronounced dead at the scene by the Elburn and Countryside Fire Department. Bingham was transported to Delnor Hospital in Geneva and later Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., where he was pronounced dead.

The Altima driven by Liston was reported stolen out of Wheaton, Ill. Prior to the accident, Liston was involved in a minor hit-and-run incident in Geneva. Kane County Sheriff’s deputies spotted the Altima traveling westbound and attempted to perform a traffic stop, but Liston fled at a high rate of speed. Deputies then briefly gave pursuit before they were eluded.

According to a Campton Hills Police Department press release, numerous witnesses reported that the Altima driven by Liston was traveling recklessly, passing numerous vehicles on Route 38 at speeds reported over 100 mph.

Immediately following the collision, Liston’s

vehicle proceeded westbound on Route 38, rear-ending a vehicle driven by Kevin Kull of Sugar Grove. Kull’s vehicle was then pushed into the eastbound lane, where it was struck by an eastbound vehicle driven by Ryan Anderson of Sycamore.

The passenger in Bingham’s vehicle, Erin Pazin, 19, of Elburn, and the passenger in Kull’s vehicle, Nadia Kull, 48, of Sugar Grove, were both treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The accident is currently under investigation by the Kane County Accident Reconstruction Team.

AMBER Alert team celebrates 10-year anniversary

SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois AMBER (America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert Task Force recently announced the 10-year anniversary of the first AMBER Alert broadcast in Illinois.

Every year, hundreds of children are abducted in Illinois. Most are returned home safely; unfortunately, others are not. The public’s help in locating missing children is critical, and the AMBER Alert Task Force relies on tips and information to assist law enforcement’s efforts in finding missing children.

When a child is reported missing, every second counts. That is why the AMBER Alert Program’s greatest tools are the eyes and ears of the public.

The AMBER Alert System is named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted in 1996 while playing near her home in Arlington, Texas. She was later found murdered. In response to community concern, the Texas Association of Radio Managers, with the assistance of Texas’ local area law enforcement, created the first AMBER Plan. All 50 states now have similar plans.

The Illinois AMBER Alert Notification Plan is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters and the National Weather Service (NWS) to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. This is the same concept used during severe weather emergencies. The goal of the AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe return of the child.

The effectiveness of the system requires collaboration between law enforcement agencies, Illinois Broadcasters, the NWS, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Press Association and the public.

“While we hope for a day when we never again need an AMBER Alert, the broadcast community, as always, stands ready to voluntarily serve at moment’s notice,” said Dennis Lyle, president and CEO of the Illinois Broadcasters Association.

Since its inception, the Illinois AMBER Alert System has been used to broadcast 88 messages of abducted children, with the Alert accounting directly for 41 children returned home safely.

In 2012, Illinois has activated six AMBER Alert Broadcasts . In four of those cases, the AMBER Alert was credited with the recovery.

Since 1997, nationwide AMBER Alerts have been credited for over 590 children returned home safely.

“The proof of the effectiveness of an AMBER Alert Broadcast is in the numbers,” said Illinois AMBER Alert Coordinator Craig Burge. “This program is unlike many others because it is a public partnership. Citizens in Illinois can take pride in the fact that they can help each and every time a child is abducted by simply being aware of their surroundings and reporting what they see to law enforcement officials.”

Burge also stressed that collaboration is key. “This collaborative effort will continue to provide the basis for the success of AMBER Alerts for years to come,” he said.

For more information about AMBER Alerts, visit

Village Board discusses hiring 911 dispatch service

by Chris Paulus
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village Board members on Nov. 20 discussed hiring the company Tricom to answer 911 calls and take care of dispatch.

Montgomery currently takes care of dispatch for Sugar Grove, while Tricom currently dispatches for St. Charles, Batavia, Geneva and Elburn.

“When a 911 call comes in, we take data from our dispatch centers and go straight to the squad cars,” said Nicole Lamela, regional vice president of Tricom. “If it’s a landline, it gives us the info of their address. If it’s a wireless call, the GPS bounces off the cell towers and shows up on our map.”

Tricom notes its consistent achievement of a 60-second response time. The company has a system whereby calls are prioritized and allocated when necessary. Board members and Tricom representatives during the meeting expressed a desire to work together.

Dog-attack wounds cited as cause in death of Big Rock woman

BIG ROCK—The death of a Big Rock woman has been ruled the result of wounds sustained during a dog attack.

Dawn Brown, 44, of the 400 block of Jefferson Street in Big Rock, was found dead on the afternoon of Nov. 12. After completion of her autopsy by the Kane County Coroner’s Office, it was ruled that Brown died from wounds she sustained inside her home during an attack by her pet Mastiff.

Brown and her husband also owned a Boxer and Pit Bull mix breed. All three animals were taken into custody by Kane County Animal Control.

A memorial service for Brown was held on Saturday in Big Rock.

Goodbye, Cottonwood Farm; Hello, Autumn Lane

Photo: The former Cottonwood Farms of Big Rock is now open under new ownership. Autumn Lane Equestrian has full barns and individual stalls available for boarding. The equestrian facility was recently purchased and renovated by Joe Ludwig and his daughter Gianina. Courtesy Photo

by Keith Beebe
HINCKLEY/BIG ROCK—Gianina Ludwig has lived in Hinckley and Big Rock her entire life, and at a very young age was raised around horses. So it made perfect sense when her father, Joe, purchased Cottonwood Farm in Big Rock on Oct. 1, 2011, and then immediately leased the 21-acre property to his daughter as a way to “fulfill her lifelong equine dream by transforming the property into a high-end boarding facility at an affordable price.”

Gianina reopened the farm a month later under a new name: Autumn Lane Equestrian Center.

The farm, located on Dauberman Road, was reintroduced as a horse boarding facility rather than a breeding ground, and featured one other very noticeable facelift.

“(We’ve added) an indoor riding arena, heated club room, bathrooms, bridle path, outdoor arenas and much more,” Gianina said.

The changes made to the former Cottonwood Farm weren’t purely cosmetic, either, according to Gianina.
“We have recently introduced winter layups for race horses to our previous boarding packages, stall boarding and pasture boarding,” she said.

Gianina also recently opened a tack store on the property, and offers feed sales as well. She said the fact that the equestrian center was a former breeding facility makes it a fantastic property for a boarding facility, thanks to its very large double-sized stalls, 42 pastures, solid wood fencing, open layout, and top-quality amenities throughout the facility.

An Autumn Lane Equestrian Center press release states that the Pasture Board Plus is the highlight of Gianina’s facility, offering an affordable pasture board with the luxury of using the entire facility. The Pasture Board Plus program includes “indoor shelter, use of the indoor and lighted outdoor riding arenas, use of the bridle path, wash bays, tack rooms and, of course, the clubhouse.”

Entire barns are also available for lease, including the likes of a 36-stall barn with 8,640 square feet, and a 40-stall barn with 10,368 square feet.

The facility also features over 21,000 linear feet of wood board fencing with 42 private pastures and a bridle path. Simply put, you name it, this place probably has it. And given her deep connection to horses, it’s only fitting that Gianina live on the Autumn Lane premesis, as well. She does so to ensure she oversees everything that goes on around the farm.

“(Autumn Lane is) a must-see to believe,” Gianina said.

2 Elburn residents charged with cannabis trafficking

ELBURN—Two Elburn residents were among the five suspects recently arrested following a three-month-long investigation into cannabis trafficking that yielded a seizure of 598 pounds of cannabis.

Matthew A. Westerlin, 28, and Crystal L. Westerlin, 29, both of the 300 block of Nebraska Street in Elburn, were arrested on Nov. 13 and each charged with cannabis trafficking, a Class X felony; unlawful possession of cannabis (more than 5,000 grams) with intent to deliver, a Class X felony; and unlawful possession of cannabis (more than 5,000 grams), a Class 1 felony.

The investigation began in September after law enforcement personnel obtained information regarding a cannabis-trafficking organization, based in Kane and McHenry counties, that transported “hundreds of pounds of cannabis” from Arizona to Illinois.

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group, North Central Narcotics Task Force, Illinois State Police, and the DuPage and Kane County state’s attorney’s offices, used surveillance to gather additional information regarding the organization, including the date of the next cannabis shipment.

During the shipment, agents followed the suspects, who traveled from Arizona to Illinois in four seperate vehicles, and performed simultaneous traffic stops in Kane County—one of which took place at the intersection of Route 47 and Jericho Road in Sugar Grove. The other stops occurred on Orchard Road in Aurora.

Agents also performed a search of the Westerlin’s home.

The five suspects appeared in Kane County Court on Nov. 14 for a bond hearing, with Matthew and Crystal’s bonds each set at $27 million.

KHS community helps aid Sandy victims

To help Allyson and Girl Scout Troop 466 with “Hats Off for Hurricane Help”
contribute to the Red Cross’ Sandy relief effort by texting “REDCROSS”
to 90999 for a $10 donation or visit

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Kaneland High School Assistant Principal Diane McFarlin considers herself a “Jersey girl” at heart. Her husband is from New Jersey, and she grew up near the eastern seaboard.

It’s these ties to the New Jersey area that inspired McFarlin to take action when Hurricane Sandy struck a large part of New York metropolitan area two weeks ago.

McFarlin asked everyone in the KHS community to donate any warm outerwear (all sizes, including coats, gloves and scarves), childrens clothes (all sizes, emphasis on baby clothes) that they have laying around. She currently has a donation box outside of her office.

“We have a lot of friends and family in New Jersey. We vacation there. We’re ocean folks, and we love the east coast,” McFarlin said. “When the hurricane hit, it affected everyone I knew out there. My friends in the northern part of New Jersey—their community was decimated. They were spared themselves, but they experienced lots and lots of damage to their homes. It was like people didn’t have anything out there.”

All donated goods were sent to McFarlin’s friend Johnna and her husband Larry, who live in Highland, New Jersey, and have been helping members of the community who have lost their home and belongings.

“Homes (there) have been destroyed, gasoline is nonexistant and the community needs help. When Johnna can find the time and the power to text and message folks, she says that she and Larry are trying to help the most needy, but it seems everyone needs something,” McFarlin said. “I told her that I work in a very giving community, and said that I would put the word out to (everyone in the community) to find it in their heart to help.”

Many have found it in their heart to do just that, as McFarlin has already shipped over 20 boxes to New Jersey. Kaneland Secretary Laura McPhee said KHS staff went into “full commando mode” and brought in clothing, blankets and baby supplies. McFarlin then shipped out the items at her own expense.

“Johnna and Larry traveled back and forth to give the items to people in the shelters and those that stayed in their homes,” McPhee said.

McPhee’s daughter Allyson decided she wanted to get involved with the Sandy relief effort, too, and with her mom came up with “Hats Off for Hurricane Help.” And with Diane’s blessing, the McPhees began to reach out to members of their family, as well as Allyson’s friends in Girl Scout Troop 466.

“We have been sending carloads of clothing to Jersey, and just yesterday Diane learned that Fort Monmouth (Military base) will be opened up to house-displaced New Jersey residents, as all shelters and temporary housing are used up,” McPhee said.

Allyson also asked her dad to find out if his boss would help defray the cost of shipping goods out to New Jersey. George Flolo of the The Flolo Corporation in Bensenville, Ill., agreed to send the remaining boxes to Johnna and Larry.

“Without his generous donation of shipping costs, we would be forced to take what little monetary donations that have been received and use it for shipping,” McPhee said. “I have been amazed at everyone’s continued goodwill.”

Allyson and Girl Scout Troop 466 now wants to focus on helping the Red Cross, and will post “Hats Off for Hurricane Help” flyers around Maple Park and Elburn. People interested in contributing to the Red Cross’ Sandy relief effort can text “REDCROSS” to 90999 for a $10 donation or visit

McFarlin called the generosity of the Kaneland community “overwhelming,” and said Johnna would like to thank each and every person who has contributed.

“For me, this gathering of supplies reminds me why I live in this community,” McFarlin said.

WCC names Paralympic gold medalist October Featured Alumnus

Photo: Joe Berenyi of Oswego won three cycling medals at the recent 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and has been named WCC’s Featured Alumnus. Berenyi played baseball for the Chiefs before losing his right arm in an accident. Courtesy Photo

SUGAR GROVE—Over the last few months, Waubonsee Community College graduate Joe Berenyi, an Oswego resident, has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, met President Barack Obama, and been hailed as a hero at local and national appearances.

In recognition of all of these recent accomplishments, as well as the many years of dedication and strength that went into achieving them, Waubonsee is proud to name Berenyi its Featured Alumnus for October.

Growing up in Aurora, Berenyi was always an athlete. He played football and baseball at Aurora Central Catholic before playing baseball at Waubonsee in 1988 and 1989. A pitcher and outfielder, his school record of three doubles in a single game still stands.

“Joe was a quiet, tough player,” said Waubonsee baseball coach Dave Randall. “And he’s used that competitiveness to excel in what he’s doing now.”

After graduating from Waubonsee in 1989, Berenyi’s playing days were over, but his competitive fire still burned.

“I had always liked riding my bike, and I started to do it more for exercise,” he said. “But I like to compete, and so entered a few local races.”

Then, in his second year of cycling, the day before a big race, Berenyi was involved in a construction accident that resulted in a broken leg, shattered kneecap and the loss of his right arm.

Needless to say, recovery was not easy, but after a few years, Berenyi decided it was time to try out the truth of the old axiom about not being able to forget how to ride a bicycle. Prairie Path Cycles was able to modify bikes to include electronic shifting gears and brakes that work with just one lever so Berenyi can ride using only his left arm.

By 2009, Berenyi was back in local races, and in 2010 he was at the Paracycling National Championships.

“I was interested to see how I would fare there, because everyone I had raced around here had been able bodied,” Berenyi said.

Berenyi took silver in that first paracycling race and hasn’t looked back since. In this, his first year of international competition, Berenyi won medals in three of his five events at the Paralympic Games—a gold in the 3 kilometer individual pursuit, a silver in the men’s individual time trial and a bronze in the track cycling mixed sprint competition.

“It was bigger, better and more impressive than I expected,” Berenyi said of his Paralympic experience.

At 6,000 strong, the crowd at the games was large and especially loud, given that Berenyi’s competitor in the gold medal race was British.

“The decibel level was like a jet engine, but it didn’t distract me,” Berenyi said. “I knew what I had to do—just pedal.”

Pedaling is mostly all Berenyi had time for while in London. He and his family were able to take the train to Paris for a day, but otherwise, Berenyi was training, recovering and competing. And, of course, living life in the Olympic village.

“The food in the village was very good,” he said. “They have stations with food from all over the world.”

Berenyi will have plenty of chances to sample more international cuisine as he continues to paracycle on the world stage over the next few years. While he hasn’t ruled out competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, right now he’s trying to enjoy being home and adjusting to his newfound celebrity.

After receiving a hero’s welcome when he returned home to Oswego on Sept. 10, he was off to the White House on Sept. 13, where he and a group of 400 other Paralympians and Olympians got a chance to meet the Obamas and Vice President Biden.

“I don’t know how it happened, but I was chosen to stand in the front row right behind the president,” Berenyi said. “I was right next to [Olympic sprinter] Tyson Gay and two down from [Olympic swimmer] Michael Phelps. I think that photo might end up being the family Christmas card this year.”

Rabies registration for unaltered pets to increase Dec. 1

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department is sending a reminder that fees for rabies registration for pets that are not spayed or neutered will increase on Saturday, Dec. 1. The County Board adopted the new fees at its Sept. 11 meeting.

The cost of the annual rabies registration for unaltered pets will increase to $25, up from $10. The cost of a three-year registration for unaltered pets will increase to $62.50, up from $25.

Registration for pets that have been spayed or neutered will remain at $10 for the annual registration and $25 for a three-year rabies registration.

County pet owners who are age 65 or older are exempt from the new fees.

Report of suspicious incident near Maple Park

KANE COUNTY—Kane County Sheriff’s Deputies on Tuesday afternoon were dispatched to the 46W400 block of Beith Road near Maple Park on a report of a suspicious vehicle.

The driver of the vehicle pulled into a driveway and asked an 8-year-old boy if he wanted a ride. The boy ran into his house. His mother, who heard the vehicle stop, looked outside and saw the vehicle, described as a maroon 1990s model four-door—possibly a hatchback—with a loud muffler. The driver was described as an older male with white hair, glasses and a “wrinkly” face.

Sheriff’s Deputies checked the area but were unable to locate the vehicle. There were no additional reports of this nature in the area.

Martinez endorses Lauzen for Kane County Board Chairman

AURORA—At the Western Township Republican Organization meeting in Blackberry Township on Oct. 18, Tao Martinez, Democrat nominee for Coroner, announced his public support and endorsement of Chris Lauzen, Republican nominee for Kane County Board Chairman.

“I have been saying from the beginning of the campaign that there is not a Republican way, or Democrat way, to run the Coroner’s office. Just the professional way. I see Senator Lauzen as a man with a great background to be Chairman of the County Board. He has 20 years of legislative experience,” Martinez said. “But even more important than that, he has many years of accomplishments in business and accounting in the private sector. Voters should look for the most qualified candidate in every race, and I believe that Senator Lauzen is the best person for the job. Mrs. Klinkhamer is a nice lady, and I mean no disrespect for her or her background. I just see the combined public and private sector experience of her opponent as a better option.”

Fire Prevention Week

SPRINGFIELD—The Office of Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM), in cooperation with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), is marking National Fire Safety Week to educate families on the importance of fire protection. This year’s theme, “Have Two Ways Out,” aims to educate families on how to establish a fire escape plan that includes two ways out of every room in the home.

“Having a fire escape plan should be a priority for every family. The plan should include two ways out of every room in the house,” State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis said. “Everyone in the household should be trained on how to escape the home within the first three minutes after the sound of a smoke alarm.”

A “two ways out” plan should also include overnight guests and visiting friends or family members. Families should assign an outside meeting place during a fire emergency and instruct members not to go back inside the house.

Special attention should be paid to infants and toddlers as they cannot help themselves during an emergency. An adult family member should be assigned to immediately assist infants and children under the age of 5 at the sound of a smoke alarm.

During a fire emergency, children should be taught to never hide in closets, under the bed or a table. School-age children should be encouraged by parents to participate in fire drills in their schools and share with family members what they learned from the experience.

According to the (NFPA), fire departments respond to a house fire in the United States every 80 seconds. In 2011, fire departments in United States responded to 1,389,500 fires. The most recent statistics reflect 369,000 house fires, resulting in more than 3,005 civilian deaths. Of those, 2,520 fatalities were reported in homes. Fire injuries to civilians during the same year totaled 17,500. Nearly 14,000 of those cases occurred in home fires.

The following is a list of fire prevention recommendations:
• Create an escape route—A two-ways-out escape plan that includes every room in the house could be disguised as a fun activity through role playing. Parents should stress helping those who are most vulnerable, including seniors and the disabled.
• Smoke alarms—Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including bedrooms and hallways, and replace its battery twice a year.
• Prevent electrical fires—Avoid overloading circuits or extension cords. Cords and wires should never be placed under rugs or in high traffic areas.
• Keep plugs safe—Unplug all appliances when not in use. Follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions and use all five senses to spot any potential disasters.
• Alternate heaters—Make sure there is ample space around any portable heating unit. Anything that could catch fire should be at least three feet away. Inspect your home’s chimney annually and use fire screens to help keep any fires in the fireplace.
• Position appliances carefully—Try to keep TV sets, kitchen and other appliances away from windows with curtains. If there is a wiring problem, curtains can spread a fire quickly.
• Clean dryer vents—Clothes dryers often start fires in residential areas. Clean the lint filter every time after every drying load, and clean the exhaust duct to prevent blockage behind the dryer at least twice a year.
• Keep matches and lighters in a safe place—Children should never be allowed to use matches or lighters. Inspect children’s bedrooms for any matches or candles being used without adult consent.

For more information about fire safety prevention and other useful information, visit

National Family Partnership, DEA join forces for 2012 Red Ribbon Week

ILLINOIS—The National Family Partnership (NFP) recently announced the national contest for its 27th annual Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23-31.

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. After the murder of a DEA agent in 1985, parents, youth and teachers in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the destruction caused by drugs. This year, families can get involved by entering a contest to promote awareness in their neighborhoods and win a drug prevention grant for their schools.

Families can enter Red Ribbon Week’s contest to win a $1,000 grant for their school and a new iPad for their home. To participate in the contest, families and students will decorate the front of their homes with this year’s message, “The best me is drug free.” Studies show that substance abuse risks lessen when parents talk to their children about the dangers of drugs, and that is the goal of this year’s contest: to encourage families to talk about prevention.

To win $1,000 for their K-12 school and a new iPad, students bring the Red Ribbon Week message home by working alongside their parents to decorate their front door, mailbox, fence, etc., with the “The best me is drug free” theme. Take a photo with the family and their Red Ribbon Week decoration, then upload to or by Friday, Nov. 2 (must be parents or over the age of 18 to upload photos).

Ask family and friends to vote for your entry at between Nov. 2 and Nov. 16. Ten lucky winners from regions across the U.S. will win. Winners will be announced at events at their winning schools in December.

“Students will once again take Red Ribbon Week’s message of prevention home to their neighborhoods with this national contest,” said NFP Volunteer President Peggy Sapp. “By decorating their homes together with this year’s Red Ribbon theme, families carry the message to their communities.”

DEA Administrator Michele M Leonhart said the agency is excited to partner with the National Family Partnership on a contest that empowers communities to come together to talk about the drug problem.

“Red Ribbon Week is also when we honor DEA Special Agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena, who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe,” she said.

4 West Nile cases bring the total in Kane County to 9

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department recently reported four more cases of West Nile Virus, bringing the total so far this season to nine.

The most recent cases are a 67-year-old man and 61-year-old man, both from Elgin; a 50-year-old St. Charles man and a 59-year-old Geneva man. The Health Department will report new cases once a week on Wednesdays until the end of the West Nile season, which ends with the first hard frost of the year.

Other cases this year include a 71-year-old man from Aurora, a 61-year-old Geneva woman, a 70-year-old Aurora man, 16-year-old Batavia girl, and a 64-year-old Elgin man, who died in August.

This summer was hot and dry—the perfect combination for the Culex mosquito, the species that is known to carry the virus. West Nile Virus will likely continue to see activity until the season is over. The Health Department monitors for WNV activity in your area and throughout the county. You can visit to view a map of the trap locations throughout the county, as well as other surveillance activities. Surveillance updates are posted once a week.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

Only about two people out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis, meningitis and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:
• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. Use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present.
• When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
• Change water in birdbaths weekly. Properly maintain wading pools and stock ornamental ponds with fish. Cover rain barrels with 16-mesh wire screen. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.

Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Kane County Health Department’s website, west_nile.htm, or the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website, envhealth/wnv.htm. People also can call the IDPH West Nile Virus Hotline at (866) 369-9710, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Funkey included on list of Chicago’s Top Rated Lawyers

AURORA—Attorney Michael C. Funkey of Aurora was included in the recently published Chicago’s Top Rated Lawyers, distributed with the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal.

Funkey, whose offices are in Aurora, grew up in the Elburn and Sugar Grove area, graduated from Kaneland Junior High School and Marmion Military Academy in Aurora. He graduated from Loyola University of the South in New Orleans, La., earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1967 and a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University’s College of Law in 1970.

He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1970, and was employed by Chicago Title Insurance Company as a title examiner. In 1971, Funkey entered the general practice of law as an associate, and on Jan. 1, 1977, became a partner in the Aurora Law Firm of Alschuler, Putnam, McWethy, Funkey & Grometer. Since 1996, he has been the principal and owner of The Funkey Law Offices in Aurora.

Funkey is presently engaged in the general practice of law in Aurora, with primary emphasis on civil litigation and criminal defense. His experience covers many different types of cases, including insurance defense, plaintiff’s personal injury, extensive experience in family law cases, commercial and business litigation, eminent domain and other types of litigation.

He served as village attorney for the village of Elburn for 12 years, township attorney for Aurora Township for eight years, and served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Northern Illinois University’s College of Law from 1996 until 2008.

He is active in the Illinois State Bar Association, was a member of the Civil Practice and Procedure Section Council from 1992 to 2005, served as Chairman from 2003 to 2004 and was a member of the Tort Section Counsel of the Illinois State Bar Association.

Funkey is a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Aurora and resides in Aurora with his wife, Sandra H. Funkey. They have four children and five grandchildren.

Open Hands Preschool still accepting enrollments

WATERMAN, ILL.—Open Hands Preschool (OHP) in Waterman, Ill., is still accepting enrollments. Classes for 4-5 year olds are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and cost $100 per month. Classes for 3 year olds are Tuesdays and Thursdays and cost $70 per month.

OHP accepts children throughout the year when they turn 3 years of age. There is a one-time registration fee of $25. For more information or to register, call Lenora Gochee at (815) 264-3991.

Illinois Judges to Deliver 225 classroom presentations in celebration of 225th anniversary of U.S. Constitution

CHICAGO—To celebrate the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Judges Association (IJA) will kick off “Project 225,” a special program starting the week of Sept. 17, whereby scores of state judges will deliver 225 classroom presentations at high school civics classes statewide, emphasizing the Constitution’s history and contemporary relevance. The Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787.

A kickoff was held at the Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield on Sept. 12. Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, other Supreme Court justices, government officials, and bar leaders joined IJA President, Judge Rita M. Novak, of Chicago, and members of the association, in a ceremony to explain the program and its objectives.

The judges, who have been trained to deliver the IJA’s “Bringing the Courtroom to the Classroom” presentation, will present an updated version to high school juniors and seniors beginning this week and continuing through the end of the month.

Launched in Spring 2011 by IJA Immediate Past President, Illinois Appellate Court Justice Carol Pope and the association’s Courtroom in the Classroom Committee, the “Bringing the Courtroom to the Classroom” presentation includes an overview of the three branches of government, followed by an interactive discussion on an actual U.S. Supreme Court case, New Jersey v. T.L.O. The case involves a female student caught smoking in the school bathroom. The principal searched her purse and found marijuana, paraphernalia and money, implicating the student in dealing the drug. The student claimed the search violated her Fourth Amendment rights.

A judge uses a PowerPoint presentation to explain how the case moved through the court system, then engages students in a discussion about the competing factors in the case: the need for safety and security versus the protection of personal privacy.