Thursday, January 29, 2015

Moody’s Investor Advice: Charters Draining Public Schools’ Budgets | Diane Ravitch's blog


Some fiscally stressed Pennsylvania public school districts have come up with new approaches for combating a primary pressure point: competition from charter schools, Moody’s Investor Service says in a new report. Some of the plans would be transformative, such as a proposal to send all students to other school districts and pay tuition, or to operate a public school district as all-charter.

“Some financially stressed districts have offered recovery proposals that fundamentally alter the nature of their public school district operations,” says Moody’s Assistant Vice President — Analyst, Dan Seymour. “The bold plans face near-term execution challenges, but are positive in the long run as some of these districts would continue to deteriorate without significant structural changes. The strong measures are more likely to lead to long-term financial and operational soundness than continuing on the existing course.”

While charter advocates assert that competition will cause public schools to improve, this is not what is happening in Pennsylvania. Charters make alluring promises and drain away students and funding. The public schools, with less resources, goes into a tailspin, soon finding that it must cut programs and services, making it less able to compete with charters.

The Legislature passed a law in 2012 allowing the Governor to appoint an emergency manager to take over the district, suspending local control. Four districts currently are in receivership: York City, Duquesne, Harrisburg, and Chester-Upland.

The Moody’s report sees the state takeover as a plus because it overrides local opposition to strong remedies. One of those strong remedies, as we have seen in York City, is to turn the children and schools over to an out-of-state for-profit charter chain.

Do you hear the canary in the mine? The competition with charters, which have an inexperienced and low-wage staff, increases the financial pressure on districts. The more students leave for charters, the less able is the district to compete because of fixed costs and experienced teachers who are paid as professionals, not temps. The business answer: shut down the district, turn all the schools into charters, or send the students to other districts.

The end result is the same: the replacement of community public schools by privately managed charters staffed by temps. If the chain can’t make a profit, it will close its doors and leave. What happens then?

Is this a way to “improve” education? Not for students. Not for communities.

Moody’s Investor Advice: Charters Draining Public Schools’ Budgets | Diane Ravitch's blog

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Watchdog group files lawsuit against College of DuPage - Chicago Tribune

TO SEE the earlier post:

On the eve of a second vote on a controversial buyout package for College of DuPage President Robert Breuder, an Elmhurst-based watchdog group filed a lawsuit alleging that the college's board of trustees violated state open meetings laws last week when it refused to disclose the details of Breuder's $762,000 severance package before voting on it.

lRelated College of DuPage board to redo approval of leader's controversial buyout


Lawsuit against College of DuPage board of trustees

Lawsuit against College of DuPage board of trusteesRead the story

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in DuPage County Circuit Court, comes a day after the school's board announced that it would meet Wednesday to deal with the contract once more, suggesting that there was a problem with how officials handled it initially.

"Breuder's 'voluntary' retirement should not be accompanied by a rubber-stamped $762,868 severance payout," Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the watchdog group For the Good of Illinois, said. "Our lawsuit allows the trustees a time out to think this through. The hardworking students and taxpayers deserve better governance." The Edgar County Watchdogs, a downstate taxpayer advocacy group, joined in the lawsuit.

College of DuPage spokesman Joe Moore declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he had not seen it.


  • The board of trustees will meet in a special session Wednesday night to "clarify a procedural motion" to approve the contract "addendum" with Breuder, according to a brief statement from the state's largest community college.

The board had approved the agreement 6-1 on Thursday without publicly releasing terms until after the vote.

The Tribune had obtained a draft of the severance package before the meeting and published the details, including that Breuder will get a lump sum payout of $762,868 when he retires on March 31, 2016.


Under a recent binding opinion from the Illinois attorney general's office, the state's open meetings laws require that such details would need to be made public before a vote. At the board meeting last week, trustees did not publicly read the terms of the contract change before the vote. The board also did not publicly release the terms of Breuder's deal until about an hour after the vote and did not post them on its website.

"The Board's actions were a slap in the face to the principles of open government and transparency that are embodied in the Open Meetings Act," said Andrzejewski, who also founded Open the Books, another watchdog group that has been critical of the community college.

The suit also asks the court to order the college to move Wednesday night's meeting to a larger room on campus in anticipation of a large crowd.

An emergency hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning in DuPage County Court

Watchdog group files lawsuit against College of DuPage - Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

North Boone voters’ request for referendum regarding Stadium bonds denied

The petitions did not have pages numbered and were not fastened properly.  SEE item #9d, below.

The petitioners were seeking referendum approval of a large bond issue-- which without the petition could be issued without voter approval. 

For more this story click on: and



Click on the photocopy to enlarge: 



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Our View: Freeport schools must build trust before asking for yes votes - Opinion - Journal Standard - Freeport, IL

I differ in their comparison to Belvidere—Belvidere was facing a massive increase in debt payments because of capital appreciation bonds.  Is this something that Freeport is also facing?



By The Editorial Board
Posted Jan. 24, 2015 @ 3:51 pm


The timing could not be worse for the Freeport School Board to ask voters to say yes to a referendum question, yet that’s what three School Board members did Tuesday night.

Tuesday was the deadline for placing on the April 7 ballot a proposal to increase the county sales tax by up to 1 percentage point to help public schools. The board should have allowed the deadline to pass, regrouped and waited until next year.
The timing is terrible, not just because of the local economy, but because the schools seem to be in such disarray. These kinds of referendum proposals pass when the public trusts what school districts are doing. Freeport School District 145 has done little to inspire trust, especially in the past year.
There still are plenty of questions about the departures of Superintendent Roberta Selleck and Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hardy. Classroom achievement is lagging, there’s a budget deficit, AND the district raised its tax levy.
Seventy-three percent of voters said no to a sales tax increase in March and that was before the aforementioned mess. Why would voters change their minds after all that?
Adding to the uncertainty is a School Board election that will produce at least three new board members. Six candidates are running for four seats. Abbe Hayner is the only sitting board member running for re-election, and she was the only no vote Tuesday night.
Under legislation passed in 2007, school boards representing 51 percent of a county’s students can vote to put a sales tax referendum on the ballot, and the tax increase will be imposed automatically if approved. Previously, county boards had to authorize a referendum and vote to implement the tax increase.
The money from this “schools facilities tax” can be used only for capital projects and to retire debt from previous projects. It cannot be used for operating expenses, such as salaries.
The proposal would aid all school districts in Stephenson County, but Freeport is by far the largest and will draw most of the votes.
The Schools Facilities Tax is a proposal that has failed more often than not across Illinois. One of the most recent successes was in nearby Boone County, where voters said yes by an overwhelming margin in April 2013. Sixty-five percent of Boone County voters approved of the sales tax increase.
The Boone County effort, led by volunteers from the Belvidere School District, succeeded because voters trusted their school officials to do what they said they would.
The facilities tax referendum also succeeded because the volunteer committee did incredible work educating voters on why the tax was so important. Supporters stressed how the sales tax would relieve some of the burden on property taxes and how anyone who shops in Boone County would be helping to pay some of the school bills.

Read more:
The Freeport School District accounts for 58.6 percent of your property tax bill and it would be great if the sales tax increase would lead to stable or declining property taxes. However, we doubt voters would believe the proposal is anything but a way to get more money out of residents.
It would require a tremendous education campaign to make them think differently, something we did not see in March. The public forums and guest column supporting the tax were inadequate, as shown by the results at the polls. Opponents of the tax did a much better job of delivering their message.
The public’s faith in Freeport schools must be restored before the district asks for any yes vote on a referendum, no matter how well-intentioned. That won’t happen in the next three months.
Perhaps next year, with a new superintendent in place and improvements in the classroom, the new School Board can revisit the idea. Now is not the time.

Our View: Freeport schools must build trust before asking for yes votes - Opinion - Journal Standard - Freeport, IL

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Belvidere Daily Republican


Belvidere, Poplar Grove, school districts to have elections
By Bob Balgemann


BOONE COUNTY - The city of Belvidere, village of Poplar Grove and the two Boone County school districts will have elections on Apr. 7.


In North Boone Community Unit School District 200 there will be at least two new board members as incumbents Denise Balsley and Amy Morse aren't running for re-election.

There are five candidates for three four-year terms, including incumbent Collin Crull out of Leroy Township. Another Leroy resident, Ed Mulholland, former District 200 transportation director and girls’ varsity basketball coach, also is in the running.

Richard Hutchinson and Mary Maxey both are in Boone Township and only one of them may be elected to the board.

Finally, Joe Haverly is a candidate out of Manchester County.

There will be two contests in Belvidere Community Unit School District 100.

One seat is available in Belvidere Township and there are three candidates: incumbent Michael Rathman, the current board president, along with newcomers Frank Marks and Allison Reed-Niemiec.

In the "other" category, which includes the remaining eight townships in Boone County, one seat is open. Candidates are Holly Houk, Kelly Galluzzo, Lynnette Danzl-Tauer and Heather Sell-Wick.

The city of Belvidere has partisan city council elections and there will be a primary on Feb. 24. Republicans Mark Sanderson, a former alderman, and newcomer Dylen Larsen will vie for their party's nomination in Ward 5.

The winner of that contest will meet incumbent Alderman John Sanders in the Apr. 7 general election. The primary election will cost the city about $20,000, according to Mayor Mike Chamberlain.

Incumbent Ward 3 Alderman Karen Schrader is not running again. There, the Apr. 7 competition is between Republican Wendy Frank and Independent Daniel Hulina.

Incumbent Ward 1 Alderman Clayton Stevens is seeking re-election and being opposed by Andrew Racz, a former alderman, and A.M. "Marty" Mast.

There also is competition in Ward 2, where Daniel Arevala is challenging incumbent Dan Snow.

Finally, Ward 4 Alderman Ron Brooks is unopposed.

In Poplar Grove, longtime Trustee Bob Fry has decided not to seek another term. He is the lone remaining village board member from the previous administration, some of whom were voted out of office in 2009.

There are five candidates for three, four-year terms. They are incumbents Jeff Goings and Ron Quimby, along with newcomers Neeley Erickson, Jason Vodnansky and Ed Wethington.

Goings and Quimby are finishing their first terms. Erickson is the legislative aide to state Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, while Wethington is a member of the village's planning and zoning commission.

Belvidere Daily Republican

North Boone District 200 - Unofficial blog: Petition Question Removed from April 7, 2015 Ballot

This from: 

This is not associated with North Boone School District.

Additional information on the North Boone Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education's recent decision to issue $4,500,000 in working cash funds.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Petition Question Removed from April 7, 2015 Ballot

I am sorry to report that our efforts to place the issue of $4.5 million in bonds on the April 7, 2015 ballot was ordered removed from the ballot. The issue was that we did not bind (staple or paper clip) the petition and number the pages.  I tried to argue the point that the petition provided to us by the School District did not include clear indications to perform those actions as they do for candidate petitions provided by the State of Illinois, but that position was rejected.  It is noteworthy that not a single signature on the petitions were challenged. 

I sincerely regret disappointing the 735 people who signed those petitions hoping to have their voices heard and the 21 other residents who took time out of their schedules to obtain that number of signatures. 

I have posted the objection paperwork filed with the local election officials and also the document which contains their judgement.  They are both located on the side of this home page under the documents link.

District 200 Voter at 3:11 PM


No comments:

District 200 Voter
This effort is being coordinated by three voters in the North Boone School District - Mary Maxey, Jim Anderson, and Tom Kinser. Feel free to contact them by using the "Contact Form" on the Home Page.

North Boone District 200 - Unofficial blog: Petition Question Removed from April 7, 2015 Ballot

Breaking News: Personal-belief exemptions from vaccinations decline -


Los Angeles Times | January 22, 2015 | 7:05 PM

The number of California parents who cite personal beliefs in refusing to vaccinate their kindergartners dropped in 2014 for the first time in a dozen years, according to a Times data analysis.

The shift came amid rising alarm over the number of children being exempted from immunization, which prompted new campaigns to reverse the trend. Statewide, the rate of vaccine waivers for kindergartners entering school in the fall declined to 2.5% in 2014 from 3.1% in 2013.

Bigger declines were seen in districts with some of the largest vaccine exemption rates.

Breaking News: Personal-belief exemptions from vaccinations decline - - Gmail

Friday, January 23, 2015

College of DuPage President Breuder to retire in 2016, receive $760,000 |


GLEN ELLYN – College of DuPage President Robert Breuder has announced he will retire, effective March 31, 2016.

The Board of Trustees accepted his retirement Thursday by a 6-1 vote, with Vice Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton voting against the acceptance.

As part of his retirement, the college will pay Breuder a lump sum of $762,867.77, according to new board-approved contract provisions. Board documents also state Breuder will help the college select its next president and that the Homeland Security Education Center will be named after Breuder.

Breuder's contract originally ran through June 30, 2019.

Breuder did not respond to media questions after the board's meeting Thursday, but in a news release from the college he said he's planning to help the board move forward.

"Between now and then I will continue to help ensure our college remains well positioned for the future," he said in a letter to the board announcing his retirement.

Board Chairwoman Erin Birt said the board was informed in April 2014 that Breuder intended to retire.

Hamilton had strong words regarding the severance payment Breuder will receive. She spoke during public comment, calling the lump sum a "wanton betrayal" of the college. She felt the board should dismiss Breuder over the public fallout that arose in recent months.

"I say 'no' to the golden parachute," Hamilton said. "And 'yes' to getting rid of Breuder."

She also took issue with how the process of Breuder's retirement approval was handled.

"I think the board did a bad job of not including the community," Hamilton said.

Birt said the documents were confidential, and not to be distributed until after board approval.

Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Elmhurst watchdog group For The Good of Illinois, wanted the college to conduct a full cost study of the severance pay to determine how it could be used.

"We need clarity on whether or not the lump sum will count as pensionable salary," he said. "If so, Breuder's pension will rival his current working salary."

Trustee Kim Savage was pleased with the retirement plan, and said Breuder has done a lot of good work for the college.

"We now have an institution that is a desired institution to come to, not an institution of second choice," she said.

Breuder has been the college's president since 2009. He previously served as president at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Penn., and Harper College in Palatine.

During his time at College of DuPage, Breuder helped pass a $168 million referendum, establish 70 new programs and complete $550 million in campus improvements, according to a college news release.

The school and Breuder have been in the spotlight during the past six months, starting with an email that leaked in July. The email from Breuder to board trustees addressed freeing up $20 million the state set aside for building demolition at the college.

In the email, Breuder suggested finding options that would be "politically attractive" to the governor's office, such as constructing a teaching and learning center with the money.

The governor's office responded to the leaked email by saying it would not provide the $20 million.

There was substantial fallout as a result of the email. In August, the board voted 5-2 to censure Hamilton for "inappropriate and embarrassing conduct" when she misled the public about the email, according to the censure resolution.

The college Faculty Association in September voted no confidence in Breuder – an action the board has not publicly addressed.

In October, For The Good of Illinois claimed the school was hiding $95 million from trustees using imprest payments, which are less than $15,000 and do not require board review.

A recent audit by Crowe Horwath LLP gave the college a clean bill of financial health. The board voted unanimously not to audit the imprest payments.

In December, the board voted to approve an audit of the college radio station, despite its prior acknowledgement of the potential that fraud had taken place there a year earlier.

In a statement released last week, the College of DuPage denied any communication with Elmhurst College about College of DuPage's former radio engineer being convicted of theft while working at Elmhurst College.

College of DuPage President Breuder to retire in 2016, receive $760,000 |

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Belvidere School Board incumbents dropped from ballot on technicality - News - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL

  • By Ben Stanley
    Rockford Register Star
    Posted Jan. 21, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

    BELVIDERE — When it comes to school board elections, two Belvidere representatives learned a hard lesson: Number your candidacy papers or number your days in office.
    Belvidere Board of Education members Jason Colson and Dan Wilson were removed from the upcoming April 7 School Board ballot because the candidacy paperwork they filed with the county in December did not include page numbers.
    “It seems so trivial when you think about the will of the voters," Colson said, referring to the people who signed his petition. "You would think that would outweigh the little things like (page numbers)."
    Constituents have five business days from the Dec. 22 filing deadline to review candidate petition papers and file an objection if they feel the petitions do not comply with state statute.
    “Anyone’s petition is considered valid unless it’s objected to,” said Boone County Clerk Mary Steurer.

The objections were filed on Dec. 30 by Lisa Whitcomb, a local insurance agent who heads the organization Parents Advocating for Students and Staff, or PASS. PASS has been active in

lobbying for stricter compliance with special education requirements in the Belvidere School District.
“The way in which you represent individuals begins from the time you file your candidacy paperwork,” Whitcomb said. "There is an absence of compliance, and that, for me, is very important."
Once an objection is filed, it is reviewed by the Boone County Officers Electoral Board, comprised of Steurer, Assistant State's Attorney Matthew Fuesting and Boone County Circuit Clerk Linda Anderson.
Listed as the reason both Colson and Wilson were withdrawn from the ballot in the board's Jan. 8 decisions: "The candidate did not comply with the code in that he failed to paginate his petition papers as required by the code."
"Let the voters decide who is most deserving of the position rather than one person who has a grudge against not using page numbers on your petition," Colson said.
Whitcomb filed objections to the submissions of five candidates, including Heather Sell-Wick, Frank Marks and Kelley Galluzzo, but only Colson and Wilson were removed from the ballot.

“I really don’t understand the reason why she did it because she really doesn’t know anything about me at all," Colson said. "I am a taxpayer, I have two children in the School District, my wife works for the district; I have many different interests that go into this district. ... It’s not consistent with the will of the voters who signed my petition. Because one person doesn’t like that the pages aren’t numbered I am not longer on the ballot."

Click on the photocopy to enlarge: 


Belvidere School Board incumbents dropped from ballot on technicality - News - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

St. Charles schools consider ending class ranking system -


St. Charles Unit District 303 staff showed school board members a list of more than a dozen schools and districts that retired their class ranking systems, some as long as five years ago.

St. Charles Unit District 303 staff showed school board members a list of more than a dozen schools and districts that retired their class ranking systems, some as long as five years ago.

St. Charles schools consider ending class ranking system -

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How much do Illinois college presidents make?


1. Phyllis Wise, chancellor and vice president | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Phyllis Wise

2. Paula Allen-Meares, chancellor | University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago

3. Robert A. Easter, president | University of Illinois system

Robert A. Easter

4. John G. Peters, president | Northern Illinois University

Left position in June 2013

John G. Peters

*5. Alvin Bowman, former president | Illinois State University

Left position in May 2013


6. Glenn W. Poshard, former president | Southern Illinois University

Former Congressman Poshard stepped down in November 2014 to join Rauner’s transition team. A Better Government Association investigation found Poshard collects four pensions totaling more than $200,000 a year. Click here for more on that report.


7. Rita Cheng, chancellor | Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Rita Cheng

8. Geoffrey S. Obrzut, former president | Illinois Community College system

Left position in June 2013

Geoff Obrzut

*9. Sheri Noren Everts, former interim president | Illinois State University

Left position in August 2013

Sheri Everts

More on the Chronicle’s survey data:

These data show the total compensation received in the 2013 fiscal year by 255 chief executives at 227 public universities and systems in the United States. Fiscal years typically run from July 1 to June 30, but can vary by institution.

The Chronicle surveyed institutions to collect these public data. Our analysis included all public doctoral universities in the United States and all state college and university systems or governing boards with at least three campuses and 50,000 total students in the 2011-12 academic year. This is a slightly expanded group of institutions than in prior years. Some institutions (listed below) did not respond to repeated public-records requests for compensation information and therefore are excluded from these data.

Chief executives who lead both a university system and its main campus are listed under the campus name. At some universities, more than one president served during the 2013 fiscal year. Presidents who served for only part of the year are marked with an asterisk.

Some presidents served at more than one institution during the same fiscal year. All individuals who served in the capacity of chief executive, including interim leaders, were used in the analysis. Partial-year dollar amounts are reported for presidents who did not serve for the entire year. Names and titles of the five highest-paid employees at each institution are presented as they were provided by the institutions.

How much do Illinois college presidents make?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Judge: Suit from former NIU police chief can go forward |

AP story is slightly different than Chronicle

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge has refused to toss a 2014 civil rights lawsuit that was filed against Northern Illinois University by its former police chief.

The 26-page ruling denying NIU motions to dismiss means Donald Grady's federal lawsuit can continue, DeKalb's Daily Chronicle reported. Grady is seeking his reinstatement and a public apology, among other things.

NIU fired Grady from his $200,000-a-year job in 2013, after he was accused of mishandling evidence in an investigation into allegations that a campus police officer sexually assaulted a student. Grady denied the accusation.

The lawsuit says Grady, who is black, was fired without a fair hearing and treated differently than white employees who were implicated in an alleged scheme to use proceeds from off-the-books scrap metal sales.

The tough-talking Grady was police chief at the 25,000-student campus in DeKalb for more than a decade, including during a deadly campus shooting on Feb. 14, 2008. Five students died, and the gunman, former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak, committed suicide.

Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled Friday that he dismissed Grady's claims against an NIU's vice president, Steven Cunningham, and its general counsel, Jerry Blakemore. But he found most other claims met minimum requirements got the suit to continue in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Grady's lawsuit also seeks back pay and damages based on an alleged loss of earning capacity.

In filings supporting motions to throw out the lawsuit, NIU said it followed proper procedures in the lead up to Grady's firing. And it said Grady "has not demonstrated that his employment was terminated because of his race."

A message left at NIU's media office on Sunday was not returned.

Judge: Suit from former NIU police chief can go forward |

Ex-police chief Donald Grady’s civil rights lawsuit against NIU moving forward | Daily Chronicle


Donald Grady scored a legal victory Friday in his federal civil rights lawsuit against officials at Northern Illinois University, where he worked as police chief for more than 11 years before his firing in February 2013.


  • In a separate matter, Grady also said that some evidence he was accused of hiding in an investigation into rape charges against one of his officers was actually known to the defense for months.

    In U.S. District Court in Chicago, federal Judge Harry D. Leinenweber denied a request to dismiss Grady’s lawsuit against several current and former NIU officials, whom Grady claims violated his civil rights by firing him without due process and treating Grady, a black man, differently than white NIU employees who were named in the investigation into the off-the-books “coffee fund.”

    Grady also claims his firing was retaliation for his investigation into the coffee fund.

    The lawsuit seeks Grady’s reinstatement with back pay and a public apology. Grady earned more than $205,000 a year as NIU’s police chief. Leinenweber dismissed Grady’s claims against NIU Vice President for Administration Steven Cunningham as well as NIU Vice President and General Counsel Jerry Blakemore.

    Most of Grady’s other claims against former President John Peters, former Vice President Bill Nicklas, the NIU Board of Trustees and others were allowed to stand, with the judge finding that Grady’s allegations met the minimum requirements to proceed.

    Grady was placed on paid leave in November 2012, not long after it came to light in DeKalb County Court that witness statements that could have helped former NIU police officer Andrew Rifkin defend himself against rape charges had not been turned over to prosecutors. The witnesses, two students who knew the victim, spoke to Grady first, and administrators reasoned he should have known they were not shared.

    Charges against Rifkin were dropped, then reinstated. Rifkin has pleaded not guilty, and filed his own federal lawsuit against NIU’s Board of Trustees, Grady, and others. But in a filing in a Rockford federal court this week, Grady points out that Rifkin has acknowledged that he had those statements months before it came up in court.

    “Rifkin’s amended response also acknowledges for the first time that, by Jan. 6, 2012 – only two weeks after he was first indicted – Rifkin had already acquired the two witness statements that Grady is alleged to have concealed,” Grady’s filing states.  “Rifkin does not even attempt to dispute that, for nearly 10 months after he acquired these ostensibly ‘exculpatory’ statements, he failed make any use of them to seek dismissal of the indictment.”

  • Above is from:  Ex-police chief Donald Grady’s civil rights lawsuit against NIU moving forward | Daily Chronicle

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

    Homeless board plans middle school outreach in new year

    By Bob Balgemann


    BELVIDERE - The Boone County Homeless Project Board of Directors has a new chairperson in Jennifer Jacky and a new vice chair in Shannon Hansen.

    A change in leadership often can lead to fresh ideas and one of the projects Jacky wants to begin is to "look at the causes of homelessness."

    Part of that effort will be reaching out to eighth-grade students at Belvidere South and Belvidere Central middle schools with a "reality check" type of program. It will begin early in the new year and last six weeks, in one-hour sessions.

    The sessions will include going over basic living skills. While many have an idea of the kind of lifestyle they would like to lead as adults, this program will get specific about how much money they would have to make in order to achieve that goal. And jobs. There will be a career inventory that shows what kind of money is paid for the different vocations and what it would take to get there.

    There will be a section on housing, the various types and the cost. The benefits of owning a home as opposed to renting will be discussed. The importance of budgeting, and staying on track, will be part of it as will credit and banking.

    Additionally, there will be a focus on the impact of credit reports on so many areas of life. How far-reaching can it be for people who don't pay their bills?

    There are other aspects of adult life will be explored as the program comes to a close.

    "The goal is to get them thinking about these things," said Jacky, who is executive director of the Belvidere Family YMCA.

    This program was a result of brainstorming among members of the homeless board. It will serve as an advance to the career expo, which will be held during their freshman year at either Belvidere or Belvidere North High School.

    It is a pilot for Belvidere Community Unit School District 100 and may be included in North Boone Community Unit School District 200 next year.

    "The idea is to educate kids (about homelessness) at an earlier age," she said. "They may not be exposed to this home. This will help them become more aware of what's out there. A lot of them want to know."

    "Shannon and I believe in the educational side (of homelessness) and want to reach out to youth," she added.

    Children are an important part of her job at the YMCA. That also goes for Hansen, who is communications director for District 100 and runs the community cupboard food pantry on East Avenue, adjacent to Belvidere High School.

    While homelessness is not a big issue in Districts 100 and 200, there are some students who don't have a place they can consistently call home.

    As of Dec. 15, 2014, there were 28 students enrolled in District 100, who fit the definition of being homeless, and 15 in District 200. That is a decrease from Dec. 15, 2013, when there were 41 homeless at District 100 schools and 17 in District 200.

    Above from:

    John McDonogh High School, 'Blackboard Wars' focus, will close in June |


    Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
    Email the author | Follow on Twitter
    on January 17, 2014 at 10:30 AM,

    updated October 07, 2014 at 3:09 PM


    One year after the Oprah television network featured New Orleans' John McDonogh High School in "Blackboard Wars," hoping to depict a successful charter school turnaround, the Recovery School District is dissolving the school. All staff members will lose their jobs.

    "A fresh start. This school needs a fresh start," Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said of the school run by Future Is Now.

    Struggling charter schools have three years to prove themselves, and they can lose their authorization to operate after the fourth. However, the school known as John Mac is closing after only two years. The high school had the lowest performance score in the state in 2013, after alternative schools.

    The school system is speeding up a long-demanded building renovation to this summer, instead of waiting until 2016. But instead of moving to interim space, as typically happens, all the students must find new schools.

    Future Is Now charter chief Steve Barr said it was entirely a facilities decision, not made in response to low enrollment and poor test scores: "I think it's a little bizarre to think this is some elaborate scheme to get us out of here. We've only in the middle of our second year."

    Barr said they considered multiple temporary homes for the school but could not find a good alternative. While a number of schools are in portables pending the end of a $1.8 billion facilities master plan, Barr said they were mostly startup charters and portables weren't appropriate for a turnaround school like John McDonogh.

    Future Is Now has the option of voluntarily giving up the charter, which Barr said would require a board vote. But it doesn't matter, because when the building reopens after two years, the charter will have expired. Dobard said the school would not be eligible for renewal or extension.

    Dobard acknowledged that John McDonogh's poor academic performance was an issue. He wouldn't say the state had erred in granting the charter in the first place. "Hindsight is always 20/20, but we went into it with full confidence," he said. "Obviously we wished the school would have been performing better at this stage."

    For Future Is Now, it's an abrupt end to a would-be feel-good tale.

    Barr came to New Orleans with glowing credentials from the other LA: Los Angeles. His interest in John Mac, plus determined alumni, took the school off life support: The historic Esplanade Ridge structure was to have been shuttered.

    John Mac reopened with high hopes in August 2012. It received $800,000 in start-up funding, which Barr promised to use for iPads. In its charter application, it projected 525 students and a middle school. An alumni association had for years criticized what they saw as the Recovery School District's neglect; they were extremely wary of the new management, but grateful the school had been given a second chance.

    No one had really paid much attention to the brand-new charter school when the "Blackboard Wars" trailer came out in January, calling John Mac "one of the most dangerous schools in America." It was a reference to the fatal 2003 shooting inside the high school's gym. The show depicted Principal Marvin Thompson as a tough but compassionate leader in the "Stand and Deliver" mold. But it also showed students fighting in the halls and a young teacher bursting into tears, overwhelmed…

    John McDonogh High School, 'Blackboard Wars' focus, will close in June |

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Obama Proposes Free Community College Education for Some Students -


    WASHINGTON — President Obama will announce Friday that the federal government will work with states to waive the first two years of community college tuition for some students.

    If states go along, the program would cover full-time and half-time students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average and “make steady progress toward completing a program,” the White House said in a fact sheet released Thursday night.

    The federal government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college for those students, the White House said.

    White House officials declined to reveal how much such a program would cost, although they called it “significant.” And they acknowledged in a conference call with reporters that the program was unlikely to quickly win approval in Congress.

    States that choose to participate would have to contribute the remaining funds necessary to eliminate tuition for the eligible students. No price tag was included in the fact sheet, and the White House provided no estimate of the number of students who might qualify.

    Mr. Obama, in the video, said that if the program was carried out, “it’s something that will train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world.”

    The president will announce the initiative at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn. The trip is part of a tour in which he is previewing issues he will talk about in his State of the Union address.

    About 7.7 million Americans attend community college for credit, of whom 3.1 million, or 40 percent, attend full time, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, relying on 2012 data.

    Over all, the federal government provides about $9.1 billion to community colleges, or about 16 percent of the total revenue the colleges receive. Tuition from students provides $16.7 billion a year, or nearly 30 percent of revenue.

    Obama Proposes Free Community College Education for Some Students -