Em Miller writes

Subscribe now. Don't miss the FULL WEBSITE, coming September 2012.

Tag: Illinois

Changes in the driver’s seat for student program (Sun-Times Media)

Recent new rules for driving — from outlawing texting to allowing disabled students to get a license — are leading to some equally major changes in driver’s education programs in Illinois.

And not all of those changes are being welcomed by the schools and their instructors.

No one seems to have a problem with regulations addressing the dangers of texting while driving, nor new technology that allows students with various disabilities to drive.

But there also are new requirements for driver’s ed teachers in public schools. Plus, a new Illinois law that could impact private, or commercial, driving schools went to Gov. Pat Quinn at the end of June. (See accompanying story.)

Added to that are severe financial strains in Illinois, all making some school districts rethink how they’ve offered the program.

“I think just the unfunded mandates and the schools being in a numbers crunch — that’s a big change for everybody,” said Jeff Bral, divisional head of driver’s education, physical education and health — as well as athletics director — at Bartlett High School.

For the rest of the story, read Changes in the driver’s seat for student program (Sun-Times Media).

For the accompanying story about changes that could impact commercial driving schools, read Commercial schools favor putting the brakes on pending bill (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.


Weekly Wrap-Up: Catching up after a full week in the Northwoods…

I spent most of the weekend catching up on sleep, and most of the workday Monday catching up on email after I spent the first week of June with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations, on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. I plan to write more about that trip Monday on the blog.

Meantime, here are all the articles I wrote that week and this week for my day job at Sun-Times Media:

Photo credit: File photo for Sun-Times Media.

A ‘positive’ for Pingree: Could a charter school benefit Elgin, too? (Sun-Times Media)

This is the second in a two-part series on the first five years of the area’s one charter school — and the possibility of another.

PINGREE GROVE — By all accounts, the first year or two of Cambridge Lakes Charter School were, in Pingree Grove Village President Greg Marston’s words, “bumpy.”

There were claims of poor communication from parents and a change in administrators after only a few months of operation. Attempts to unionize by some teachers ended in court, while a lawsuit against the architect of several of the school’s academic buildings was filed by the charter holder last year.

“I think it had more to do with the fact the corporation, prior to running Cambridge Lakes, didn’t have any background in education. I think it took them a while to get up and running,” Marston said.

But, the village president added, “Definitely, I’ve heard great things about it now.”

Cambridge Lakes Charter School, now in its fifth year, has been a benefit to both the village of Pingree Grove and Community Unit School District 300, according to village and district officials.

Now Elgin officials are discussing whether a charter school wouldn’t be a benefit to the City in the Suburbs, too.

That was one of many ideas that emerged from strategic planning discussions last month about education as a “quality of life” issue, something that attracts families to a city, according to Elgin City Councilwoman Anna Moeller. Elgin’s public schools, part of School District U46, can be seen as a “barrier,” Moeller said.

“This is just a very early stage question about just education in general in U46,” she said.

“There are some strong opinions out there on both sides. I think people have kind of latched on to that concept (of charter schools). We’re not at that point yet where were hoping to recommend either way.”

For the rest of the story, read A ‘positive’ for Pingree: Could a charter school benefit Elgin, too? (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

Primary focus: Reporters, photographers look back on last week’s election (Sun-Times Media)

Here’s the part this reporter contributed:

Not long after Karen McConnaughay gave her acceptance speech, her arms wrapped around her three-year-old granddaughter Abigail, Tuesday night at Emmett’s in West Dundee, the congratulatory calls started coming in.

One the Kane County Board chairwoman, now senator-elect for the newly-formed 33rd Illinois Senate District, received was from U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, still recovering from a January stroke.

McConnaughay didn’t reveal what the senator told her. But to receive a call from him on Election Night was “awesome,” she said, her voice choked with emotion.

“It was the most meaningful call of the evening,” she said.

For the rest of the story, read Primary focus: Reporters, photographers look back on last week’s election (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Brian Powers for Sun-Times Media.

Noland, McConnaughay win Senate seats; Oberweis, Pierog likely to face off in fall (Sun-Times Media)

WEST DUNDEE – A cheer went up from the table as the first numbers from Kane County began popping up at about 9 p.m. on back-to-back computer screens set up on a table upstairs at Emmett’s in West Dundee.

“Obviously, supporters are always great to reach a conclusion early in the evening,” said Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay.

But with about 80 percent of precincts in Kane and McHenry counties reporting and about 60 percent of the vote about half an hour later, McConnaughay said, “I guess this means we actually did it.”

The St. Charles resident has been a member of the Kane County Board since 1992 and was elected chaiman in both 2004 and 2008.

The 3rd District includes 17 municipalities and spans much of northern Kane County, from Batavia northwest to Huntley. No Democrats ran this year for a seat in the district.

Her opponent, Cliff Surges of Gilberts, is an insurance agent and former Gilberts Village Board trustee.

Although the two candidates appeared to agree on most issues during debates, theirs was been a contentious race, during which Surges accused the chairwoman of “pay to play” politics. Meantime, McConnaughay revealed public records that show her opponent has been late paying property taxes on both his Kane County home and Chicago insurance office on 25 separate occasions since 2002.

“This was a rough campaign. I think we all know politics has become a much harder business than it used to be,” McConnaughay said.

“I really believe we will turn a corner in Illinois and put things back on the right track and make Illinois a place we can be proud to live in.”

For the rest of the story, read Noland, McConnaughay win Senate seats; Oberweis, Pierog likely to face off in fall (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.