ELGIN — Confirmation Tuesday that Channing Memorial Elementary School Principal Ernie Gonzalez will not return to his post brings the total of new principals who will needed in School District U46 to seven for the next school year.
That’s still fewer than the current school year, when the Elgin school district saw nine new elementary school principals and one new middle school principal, according to U46 spokesman Tony Sanders. It also hired a new supervisor at Independence Center for Early Learning in Bartlett.
But Jeff Johnson, a member of the Elgin Community College chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, said that “We were hoping if the students know what they’re in for, they would commit.”
And about 260 ECC students did commit to complete their certificate or associate’s degree at a “Signing Day” drive Wednesday in the hallway of the college’s Student Resource Center. The drive is just one of 1,200 organized nationwide by Phi Theta Kappa chapters as part of the Community College Completion Corps (C4), a national education initiative.
During the Elgin pledge drive, Phi Theta Kappa and student government members collected signatures; gave away popcorn, buttons and T-shirts; and, in Johnson’s words, they “let students know what they’re in for.”
This April 5, the top four vote-getters in the race for the Community Unit School District 300 Board of Education will get a seat on the seven-member board.
That doesn’t always happen, district spokeswoman Allison Strupeck confirmed. No more than three board members can come from each of District 300’s four major townships: Algonquin Township, Dundee Township, Hampshire Township and Rutland Township.
But this spring, no permutation of the three board members whose four-year terms last through 2013 or the six candidates to choose from tip the board for any one township.
Candidates include incumbents Monica Clark of Hampshire Township, Karen Plaza of Algonquin Township, Chris Stanton of Rutland Township or current school board president Joe Stevens of Dundee Township. Past board member Susie Kopacz of Hampshire Township and Steve Fiorentino of Algonquin Township also are on the ballot.
That leaves the complicated math problems for the candidates, many of whom named the budget as the biggest issue facing the Carpentersville-based school district. Here’s how all six answered The Courier-News’ question, “What do you think is the biggest issue facing the school district right now, and how does your approach to this issue separate you from your fellow candidates?”
CARPENTERSVILLE — Community Unit School District 300 is one of only 388 school districts across the country to make the 2011 Advance Placement Achievement List, part of the College Board’s 2011 School District of the Year Awards announced this week.
The Carpentersville area school district is joined on that list by just 27 school districts in Illinois, including nearby Burlington Central Community Unit School District 301, St. Charles Community Unit School District 303, Indian Prairie Community Unit School District 204 and Oswego Community Unit School District 308.
Chicago Public Schools was named District with the Greatest Increase in the Number of African American, Hispanic/Latino and/or American Indian Students Earning AP Exam Scores of 3 or Higher among large districts with more than 3,500 students enrolled in AP courses in 2010. And Arlington Heights Township Public High School District 211 was named District with the Greatest Increase in the Number of Students Earning AP Exam Scores of 3 or Higher overall among medium districts (200 or more students in AP courses).
Chicago Public Schools also took top honor: 2011 AP School District of the Year among large school districts.
ALGONQUIN — School District 300 board members have unanimously voted to cut more than 50 teachers, counselors and administrators.
Those cuts — approved at Monday night’s regular meeting — include retirements, resignations and performance-related releases, and they will mean 26 fewer positions in the Carpentersville-area district next year. But they also include 27 teacher and three counselor positions, released solely to reach a balanced budget for 2011-12.
“This is more painful than anything I’ve ever done in my career – to sit here and talk to you about budget reductions when I was a building principal less than a year ago,” said Superintendent-elect Michael Bregy.
ALGONQUIN — There’s no research that shows students with special needs disrupt other students in the classroom, according to Ronald Felton of The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative.
And, Felton said, “The kids will tell you the story — and, yes, there are other districts that do this.”
The Collaborative’s associate director said he asked about this at one Tennessee district that fully integrates the students in its regular and special education programs. The students looked at him as if they wondered why he’d ask such a thing, he said.
“It’s not strange to them anymore,” Felton said. “They’re teasing kids who live down the block. They know their brother, who would probably smack them upside the head.”
Community Unit School District 300 needs to “continue the movement they’ve started” to move students with special needs into general education classrooms as able with additional support.
That’s one of the recommendations from The Collaborative’s recent audit of the school district’s special education that Felton shared Tuesday night.
But several of the teachers, parents and paraeducators who maxed out the 130-seat center at Westfield Community School for the presentation expressed concern about that integration.
ALGONQUIN — A recent audit of Community Unit School District 300’s special education program produced a report that is more than 80 pages long.
“Short version: Break down the silos.”
So said Ronald Felton, associate director of the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative, which conducted the audit over the past several months.
Felton told the school board Monday night that the Carpentersville-based district has built a “silo,” a special education program that stands separate from its regular education.
That’s not unusual for an urban school district, he said. But many districts have taken steps to break down that silo, Felton said, and he briefly outlined 10 recommendations for District 300 to do that in the collaborative’s report.
Jamie Christian knew when she got to high school that she wanted to join the show choir.
Waubonsie Valley High School’s group, Sound Check, had performed at her middle school, and she remembers it vividly.
“We sat down during class to watch them, and everyone was in awe …,” she said. “That was the biggest thing I wanted to do. There was no question.”
Now 17 and a senior at Waubonsie Valley, the Auroran has been part of the show choir since she was a freshman. And these days, it’s not just the occasional middle schooler who is in awe of the 52-member group.
There also are the film crews from across the country that have come calling in the past year or so, the TV news appearances, the October cover story in Parade magazine.
“That’s the ‘Glee’ effect,” choral director Mark Myers said. “We’ve had a lot more calls about TV shows. People want us to do documentaries, reality TV shows. It’s more in the public eye — that’s for sure.”
That’s the effect prep music programs across northern Illinois have reported since the popular TV show “Glee” — a musical comedy about a high school show choir — premiered in 2009 on Fox, and the music from its sound track hit the top of the charts. The pop culture phenomenon has earned 19 Emmys and 11 Golden Globe nominations, two Grammy Award nominations and two Platinum and two Gold albums. It even beat out The Beatles for the most songs on the Billboard Hot 100 by a non-solo act, according to the show’s Web page on Fox.com.
Area music programs range from the award-winning show choir at Waubonsie Valley to Elgin School District U46’s hardworking Visual and Performing Arts Academy, at Larkin High School in Elgin, which draws students studying music in depth.
And the “Glee” effect on them has produced everything from mild annoyance to spikes in auditions to the launch of Naperville Central High School’s first glee club.
For the rest of the story, a photo gallery and audio slideshow, visit The Courier-News.
ELGIN – For Maria Bidelman of Elgin, the process was simple. She was at a neighborhood function when several people came up to her and told her they thought she should run for the School District U46 Board of Education, she said.
That’s how the school social worker, now finishing up her first term on the school board, said she was identified and encouraged to get involved in the Elgin school district.
“A little encouragement goes a long way,” Bidelman said. “It did for me.”
The idea of a little encouragement was one that was sounded repeatedly at a candidates forum for the upcoming school board elections Thursday night in the library at Elgin High School. That included encouraging parents to get involved, as well as students to set their expectations higher.
ELGIN — When Ryoko Manabe saw the news Friday morning about the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck off the eastern coast of Japan, it was 11:30 p.m. in Japan, she said.
It was too late at night to contact her family, who all live in the country, she said. And she had to get to work at the U46 World Languages and International Studies Academy at Streamwood High School, where she is a Japanese language instructor.
“That’s the toughest part — because of the time difference, you can’t really call,” Manabe said.
CHICAGO — The 2004 boundary changes in Elgin School District U46 disproportionately impacted schools that were predominantly Hispanic, an expert witness testified Tuesday in the racial bias lawsuit against the school district.
With that, plaintiffs’ attorneys Futterman Howard Ashley and Weltman finished calling live witnesses in the first phase of the lawsuit. That phase alleges the boundary changes discriminated against black and Hispanic students by assigning them to overcrowded schools.
It's a miracle! Judson professor, former students find surprise success with documentary on miracles (Sun-Times Media)
I’m sharing this article here in it’s entirety because it’s one of my favorite articles I’ve worked on in a long time (If you know me, you’ll see why). View the photo gallery that accompanied this story on The Courier-News. And learn more about filmmaker Darren Wilson, his documentaries “Finger of God” and “Furious Love” and its upcoming Furious Love Event on Wanderlust Productions’ website.
ELGIN — Judson University professor Darren Wilson thought he’d make a short, 15-minute film about his aunt and uncle’s gold teeth.
They’d gotten the teeth in Canada. During a church service. The teeth had just appeared in their mouths, and Aunt Patsy and Uncle Bob had changed, Wilson said.
In fact, many of his family members were being changed by what they were experiencing at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, now called Catch the Fire Toronto, he said. And they were being changed for the better.
Still, the Pingree Grove resident didn’t want to go with them to a church he characterized as “weird” and “charismatic,” because, he said, “I’m a college professor. I’m not going to do weird stuff.”
But after his wife Jenell promised she would never ask him again if he would just go with her to a conference this one time, he relented.
And as he predicted, on the last night of the conference, things did indeed start getting weird.
A little old man was prophesying there was an angel named Breakthrough in the room. Wilson closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see what was going on around him, and that’s when he says he saw it: a shadowy figure only visible when his eyes were closed. A figure that seemed so intense, he thought it could break through a wall. A figure that asked him three times if he was ready.
Wilson had been around church long enough to know if an angel asks you a question, you say “Yes.” So he did.
Then, he said, the angel grabbed him by the head and told him, “Make that movie.”
That movie turned out to be the first 15 minutes of “Finger of God,” an independent Christian documentary about miracles. It has sold more than 70,000 copies since it was released in 2007.
Matt Bilen, creative media director of Wilson’s Wanderlust Productions, said, “In the independent Christian genre, it’s kind of unheard of. Darren will drop numbers, and people will be like, ‘What?!’ ”
Money comes in
Wilson started Wanderlust with just himself and a camera borrowed from Judson, he said. But the gold teeth led him to other miracles — gold dust and gems dropping from the sky during prayer services in Naperville, a deaf woman healed in Africa, and another man raised from the dead. He decided he was going to need a production company if he was going to borrow money to film all of them.
“I did what I thought I was supposed to do, and money would come in,” he said. “It was absurd. I had to go to Africa, and I had, like, $500 left, and I opened the mailbox and there was a check for $3,000 from someone I kind of know — someone from Michigan who God told to send it to me.”
He told his wife he would be surprised if anybody saw “Finger of God” because it was just too weird. He made it with $20,000, threw it up for sale on Amazon.com and figured that was it.
But that was just the beginning: Wilson was interviewed on a TV show called “It’s Supernatural,” and “Finger of God” was picked up by cable channel Trinity Broadcasting Network. The documentary sold about 200 copies every time it was shown on TBN, he said. He had boxes of DVDs stacked to the ceiling of his home; and his assistant, Brittney Banks, was spending five or six hours a day packing and shipping them around the globe.
Wanderlust now has four employees, including Chief Operations Officer Braden Heckman, and office space in the basement of Judson’s fine arts building in Elgin. Wilson had taken a sabbatical from his position teaching writing to film “Finger of God” and now teaches “very, very part-time” at the Christian university.
Last year, the production company released a sequel, “Furious Love,” about spiritual warfare — filming Christians praying with self-described witches at a festival in Salem, Mass., and with prostitutes on the streets of Thailand.
A third documentary, tentatively titled “Father of Lights” and “the biggest, most epic yet” is in production, Wilson said. Wanderlust also is working on a documentary about Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Ken Shamrock, tentatively titled “Fighting Shadows,” and a pilot for an animated series called “Anointed Fighters.”
Wilson has “a sense” what “Father of Lights” will be about, but he said, “These movies are my journey. It’s not like I go in with preconceived notions. It’s me going and discovering.”
“What I’m trying to do with this is find the dead center heart of the Gospel. We started with miracles, and it wasn’t miracles. We did spiritual warfare, and it wasn’t spiritual warfare. … Let’s get to the core of what Christianity is.”
Of all the miracles Wilson has filmed and experienced, he said, “The gemstones still freak me out.”
But Bilen said, “I think probably the biggest impact is just seeing simple people who go out and love.”
That’s the idea behind Wanderlust’s “Furious Love” event April 6-9 in Monroe, Mich., Wilson’s hometown. The event will pull together Christian speakers who have appeared in Wanderlust’s documentaries, including Heidi Baker, whose prayers for healings were answered in “Finger of God”; Philip Mantofa, pastor of an Indonesian mega-church featured in “Furious Love”; and Will Hart, who prayed with Thai prostitutes in “Furious Love.”
A few viewers have reported they have come away from “Finger of God” showings with gold dust on their hands, Wilson said. Many more have come away changed by the speakers in Wanderlust’s documentaries, he said.
“It’s changed my DNA. It’s changed how I view everything. I still am who I am. I’m not going to feel guilty over not acting like the people I film. It’s finding out who you are,” Wilson said.
“Most people aren’t radical. They’re just like me. … But most people realize there has to be something more … something more than what the church is.”
CHICAGO — Many of the mobile classrooms at Elgin School District U46 schools had a fresh coat of red paint on them when Edward Kazanjian visited them in December 2008. But that was like “putting lipstick on a pig,” Kazanjian said.
The consultant testified Monday in the racial bias lawsuit trial against the district that a number of the mobiles he visited at U46 elementary schools were not viable and should not be used — and the rest wouldn’t be viable much longer.
“They’re not providing good educational space for the kids in there, and my examination of enrollment numbers show they probably didn’t need them in the first place,” Kazanjian said. “Mobiles should be a last resort.”
ELGIN — When Nathan Latka was a kid, he didn’t get an allowance. His mom told him to think of some ideas of things she might pay him for, and she’d negotiate with him.
In elementary school, he came up with the idea to sell candy on his school bus at a dollar a pop. He’d bought a 100-piece bag of candy for $5.99 at Costco, netting a nearly $94 profit.
Latka still is coming up with business ideas. In fact, in the past 16 months, he’s launched six different businesses, all focused on social media.
Within a year of launch, those businesses were bringing him a nearly six-figure income — enough to fund his college education. Just 21 years old, Latka is a junior studying business finance at Virginia Polytechnic and State University.
The self-proclaimed “College Entrepreneur” spoke to Judson University students during a moderated question-and-answer session Friday at the Christian university’s Herrick Chapel.