Let The Truth Be Told About
The School Board Election
I am a parent of four children, all who graduated from District 61 Public School. One of them has finished her post graduate with Doctor of Pharmacy degree, one is pursuing post graduate degree and the last two are still in college. I thank God for their accomplishments and I pray that all our students will have the same quality education they received.
It is very disappointing that some people are condemning our current Board of education under the leadership of President Sherri Perkins despite all their accomplishments. There seems to be concerted efforts to replace them without any honest reason. The only obvious reason was that the former Superintendent Lisa Taylor's contract was not extended. Let the truth be told that the Board was never given the opportunity to vote on this issue because a member posted on the Facebook the discussion in the Board's closed session meeting. This was a violation of the closed session rule which has led to the havoc in our city.
Some of the School Board candidates are running because of their desire to get rid of the current Board Members who they felt were responsible for not extending former Superintendent's contract. The questions that these candidates and some of our community leaders should have to honestly answer are as follows:
1. According to the external audit: Do repeated violation of rules and regulations, to the tune of 214 different discrepancies, by the Superintendent mean anything?
2. If an employee of a company engaged in misappropriates use of the company's funds and credit cards for personal use, in the amount of over $10,000.00, what would be the fate of that employee? Would that employee be subjected to prosecution?
3. If a Superintendent can not adhere to rules and regulations and violated the trust of Board of Education, how can we hold our students accountable? Our students can commit a minor school offence and be suspended for 5 days!
4. Why hasn't anybody mention anything about the fact that our graduating students were not college ready nor career ready but rather on how the Superintendent got along with everybody?
5. What exactly did the School Board Members do wrong, knowing that they never voted not to renew the Superintendent's contract nor was she fired?
Our community need answers to these questions, ignoring this would be a disservice to our community and to our students.
We need Board of Education Members who are honest, independent and have respect for the rule of law. We want those that have the ultimate interest of our children education rather than trying to appease someone or beholden to any special interest. I believe that Courtney Carson, Alida Graham, and BA Butz have these qualities and well qualified to be elected to the Decatur's Board of Education.
Scheider Would Be Excellent Choice
For Decatur School Board
It was recently argued we need a new face on the School Board. If so, Al Scheider would be an excellent choice. I have gotten to know Al while volunteering at Dennis School. He is there, volunteering all day long, every day of the week, working with students. The students love him. They enjoy his sense of humor. They learn a great deal from him and I think they sense how much he cares about their learning.
Al has an immense amount of varied experience in education as a coach, educator, curriculum developer, and summer school administrator. He is running for the School Board only because he cares so much for the students. He is full of useful ideas. I particularly like a program he has developed in which upper division high school students would receive credit for volunteering in elementary schools.
There is no doubt that we have good, credible, well intentioned candidates for the Board. But I doubt that many of them give nearly their whole working week to mentoring students, and have as much impact as a result. We will all be able to take pride in having a School Board that includes Al Scheider.
James O. Watson
Change In Leadership Is Needed On School Board
At a recent School Board Candidate Debate hosted by MacArthur and Eisenhower High School students, one candidate said that the great thing about this election is that you have choices. If you are happy about how the school district is operating in its current state, you have choices. If you are ready for change you have more choices.
Four years ago, the five unions that represent the Decatur Public School district employees endorsed candidates Buttz and Graham. Those five unions have lost confidence in those candidates. This year those five unions, along with the Great Decatur Chamber of Commerce, have endorsed Kendall Briscoe, Beth Creighton, and Beth Nolan. This signifies that a change in leadership is needed.
I would like to thank the unions and the Chamber for recognizing that although change takes hard work, these candidates are ready to take on the challenge and make Decatur Public Schools a destination for education. I am also ready for change and will be voting for Kendall Briscoe, Beth Creighton and Beth Nolan.
Al Scheider For Decatur School Board
As a former colleague of Mr. Al Scheider, I wholeheartedly support his candidacy for the Decatur School Board and respectfully ask that all voters within the Decatur School District consider casting a vote for him on April 4th.
Mr. Scheider served as the guidance counselor of Meridian High School for nineteen years, demonstrating at all times an irreproachable work ethic. He devoted countless hours to student advocacy, both during and beyond the school day, and no one, whether parent or colleague, ever doubted his devotion to his students’ success.
Mr. Scheider provided individual attention to every student in the district. In fact, he knew every student by name. He truly cared about Meridian students, working in conjunction with their parents and teachers to help them prepare post-graduation plans and to assist some of them with day-to-day difficulties.
What sets him even further apart, however, is his commitment to all aspects of education. While at Meridian, he attended school board meetings, kept meticulous records, served on negotiation teams, kept current on state and federal educational matters, and frequently approached legislators. He does not fear tackling difficult problems and will never take shortcuts or make excuses. He will do the work.
The Decatur School District would benefit greatly from Mr. Scheider’s presence on the school board. He will always do his homework, and, of paramount importance, will always place student interests first. Please consider voting for Al Scheider for the Decatur School Board. He would act with intelligence, insight, and integrity for the best interests of Decatur students.
The following former colleagues of Mr. Scheider also wholeheartedly support his candidacy: Beth Curry, Mary Brown, Sheila Rappe, Tony Klein, John Rude, Evan Kershner, Cinda Stocks, Debbie Horne, Sheila Moore, Laura Klink, Linda Hill, Denna Williams, Mary Ann Scott, and Janis Mahone.
What? Me Retire?
What? Retire? What on earth would you do? Where would you go? If you do not go to work there will be no one to go to lunch with, or no one with whom you can carry on a conservation. Work is who you are.
These are some of the comments I heard in 2009 when I announced my retirement from Millikin University. A friend invited me to a Kiwanis meeting. There I discovered what I would do, where I would go, and, who I am.
In Kiwanis, our motto is “we serve the children of the world.” The three Kiwanis Clubs in Decatur do that by serving the children of our community. Each year we contribute over 20,000 volunteer hours to the Decatur area.
Kiwanis has a place for everyone, from grade school to the grave. In high school, it is called a Key Club and in college, Circle K. These organizations provide students the opportunity to give back to their community and to learn organizational skills, leadership skills, how to work successfully in groups, and many others.
For adults, we have regular Kiwanis Clubs, 3-2-1 Clubs, and Golden K Clubs. Golden K Clubs are, primarily, for those of us who are retired and no longer use that four-letter word—work.
Each not-for-profit organization in Decatur say they cannot operate without volunteers. The Decatur Celebration alone uses more than 120,000 volunteer hours each year. Not-for-profit organizations operate on razor thin budgets even in those years when Illinois does have a state budget. These agencies lack sufficient funding to pay for the services volunteers provide.
If you are interested in learning more about Kiwanis or the work we do, attend one, or all, of our meetings. For Early Birds call 217-330-7668; for Golden K call 217-877-8695; for the Noon Club call 217-433-8301.
Decatur Kiwanis Clubs
Do You Want A School Board Member
Who Puts Students First?
Do you want a school board member who puts students first? Do you prefer someone who will be open to your concerns? Wouldn’t you like someone on the school board who sincerely has the desire to use his professional experience and knowledge to improve the district? Then you need to vote for Al Scheider!
Al’s thirty years of experience working in the education field as a teacher, counselor, and tutor, fifteen years working with budget planning, and seven times serving as contract negotiator are experiences that other candidates cannot contribute. Al has served as a board member for a non-profit group and recently received the support of CIPAC. Al won’t be a “behind the scenes” board member, but an active participant, supporting students and district staff alike. Knowing Al, he will make himself available to students, school personnel, parents, and community members to listen to concerns regarding school issues.
Al served as high school guidance counselor for Meridian School District as our three children attended school. Not only was Al knowledgeable in counseling students regarding academic needs, college requirements, and financial aid opportunities, he went above and beyond his position to help students any way he could.
Al also faithfully attended their extra-curricular activities. The students knew that Al was their greatest supporter both inside and outside the walls of the school. To this day whenever we run into Al, he asks about our children and their careers.
We believe Al will be an excellent school board member and know the students of the Decatur School District will be Al’s top priority. We hope you will give him the opportunity to serve as a school board member for District #61.
Doug and Mary Neff
Vote For Julie Moore Wolfe To Continue Job As Mayor
I am writing this letter to show my support for Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe. My late brother, Mayor Michael McElroy, handpicked Julie to be his Mayor Pro-Tem because he knew she was very capable of handling all of the challenges facing our City.
Mayor Moore Wolfe is a true professional with the experience to keep Decatur moving forward. Julie works very hard with our state government in Springfield, as well as our U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives in Washington D.C. to ensure that Decatur receives our fair share of tax revenues.
As a lifelong resident of Decatur, my trust is in Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe to lead our city in these financially difficult times.
Do not gamble Decatur’s future away by voting for inexperience and empty promises. Vote for proven leadership by voting for Mayor Julie Moore- Wolfe.
Chris Riley Will Make A Great City Council Member
During my tenure as state representative and as state director of agriculture, I had the opportunity to work closely with Chris Riley in his service as an elected member of the Decatur Park District and in his role as a government relations professional for global agribusiness company ADM.
Chris’ energy level is inspiring. He takes the time to consider and listen to all viewpoints before making a decision. He is very positive in his approach, and seeks to build consensus wherever possible.
As a member of the Decatur City Council, Chris will tirelessly work to find ways achieve economic growth and build upon Decatur’s successes.
It’s Not Too Late To
Make Lenten Promise
Need help with that Lenten promise to stop eating meat?
It’s customary for Catholics to stop eating animal-based foods for Lent, which lasts until April 13 this year. It’s seen as a form of repentance, a show of self-discipline, and an act of mercy toward God's most vulnerable creatures—the animals we raise and kill for food.
Animals are made of flesh, bone, and blood, just as humans are. They feel pain and joy, form strong family ties, and grieve when they lose a loved one. They, too, are beloved by God and are included in His teachings about compassion, peace, and love.
Pope Francis encourages everyone to respect each of God's creatures and the environment in which we all live. We can do this simply by choosing tasty vegan foods.
It’s not too late to make a healthy, humane Lenten pledge, or to get back on track if you’ve gotten sidetracked. I urge my fellow Catholics—and anyone else who wants to learn more—to visit www.JesusPeopleforAnimals.com for tips, vegan recipes, inspiring testimonials, and information about the beings you’ll help by being vegan.
Above letters posted 3/21/17
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School Board Candidate Beth Nolan
Provides Hope For Real Change
To the Editor:
Decatur School District 61 faces a pivotal election on April 4th. I have watched with dismay as one school board after another has presided over a relentless decline in student proficiency and achievement. We constantly elect career educators to the school board to supervise the administrators, who are also career educators expecting somehow we will get a different result.
One incumbent, running for reelection, astonishingly revealed that the board hasn’t discussed student achievement for 3 ½ years as if somehow this was beyond his control.
For the first time in ages we have the chance to elect a candidate who is different and provides hope for real change.
My business partner, Beth Nolan, is a candidate for District 61 Board and she brings a different skill set and mindset to the table. Beth is a product of Decatur Public Schools and after graduating from the University of Notre Dame returned to Decatur to begin her business career. She began her career with the Brechnitz Group in 2000 and was asked to become a partner in 2005 because we recognized her intelligence, thoughtful decision making under stressful conditions, unyielding work ethic and adherence to the highest ethical standards.
Beth Nolan will bring all of that to District 61. Her experience in public finance and understanding of fund accounting will pay added dividends to the District. Beth brings more to the table than just a strong business background. She advocates public/private partnerships similar to the one she helped engineer between Dennis School and Millikin University which has been hugely successful. Beth understands the connection between quality public schools and the role they play in business decisions, which is why she played a leadership role in “Grow Decatur”. Please join me in supporting Beth Nolan for Decatur School District 61.
Citizens Can Vote For A Change In Direction
For District 61 School Board
This April, we can vote for a change in direction for the DPS61school board. Beth Nolan, Beth Creighton, and Kendall Briscoe have a plan and shared vision for the future of this district. They have my vote.
I only need look back a year when 4 DPS61 school board members demonstrated their dysfunction, lack of vison, poor management skills, and, judging from the gathering at MacArthur high school the evening of February 16th, 2016, their blindness to the will of the people that elected them! The result - a highly successful locally grown superintendent ended up leaving and has become the superintendent of a growing district.
Board members Alida Graham and BA Butts helped make this happen, and they are up for re-election. Because of this action, taxpayer dollars are being used to hire a search firm rather than being used to educate our children. Graham and Butts are pushing for a vote to name a new superintendent prior to the April election, despite the recommendation by the very same search committee that they postpone a decision until after the April election.
Attending DPS61 school board meetings I observed several “incidents” during the last several months that have displayed the disfunction that has rendered DPS 61 school board ineffective and driven by what appears to be a personal agenda.
I cannot in good conscience vote for Butts or Graham based upon their performance and lack of transparency in actions taken. The option of Nolan, Creighton, and Briscoe is a refreshing change that is transparent, visionary, promotes defined performance objectives and simply put, is the definition of leadership.
That is why I am voting for them and for change that represents a new direction and a new spirit for the students of this district.
Elect Al Scheider To
Decatur School Board
As a school parent who interacted with Al Scheider during the years he was a school counselor, I believe he will be an excellent choice for the District 61 School Board.
Al’s resume speaks to his qualifications in contract negotiation and budget management. His years as a teacher, coach and counselor speak to his deep familiarity with the issues faced by the families, professionals and students in our schools.
What his record fails to show adequately is the way Mr. Scheider brings both heart and intellect to every role he plays.
I will always be grateful that Al was part of the “village” which helped me raise my now-grown children. Harnessing Al Scheider’s passion for education to serve the families of District 61 is a remarkable opportunity for our community. Please vote for Al Scheider for School Board!
Julie Moore Wolfe Is Best Choice For Mayor
Julie Moore Wolfe has my support in the upcoming mayoral election. I have known Julie for many years and served with her on the City Council. She has been successful in every endeavor she has undertaken, from broadcasting to the Chamber of Commerce, state government, City Council, and Decatur's current mayor.
Julie has many attributes that she brings to this position. She is intelligent, an excellent communicator, positive thinker, hard working, and cordial and respectful to everyone she meets. Julie became mayor at a difficult time following the death of beloved Mayor Mike McElroy, and has grown in the position to become a strong leader. She and our City Council make decisions which they believe are in the best interests of the citizens of Decatur. Julie is a superb, articulate representative for our city.
My fifteen years of service on the Decatur City Council give me a seasoned perspective and I firmly believe that Julie Moore Wolfe should be elected Mayor of Decatur on April 4th.
Larry W. Foster
Nolan, Briscoe, Creighton Should Be
Elected To Decatur School Board
Since 1990 I have represented over 150 school boards throughout the State of Illinois. I served as the primary attorney for the Decatur School Board from mid-1993 until I retired at the end of 2014. During this time I have seen school boards which worked together harmoniously and ones which were divisive. Since 2012, among the most divisive I have observed was the Decatur School Board, in large part due to Alida Graham and B.A. Buttz.
Since my retirement, things have deteriorated even more.
The Board was urged by the consultants hired to assist the Board in selecting a new superintendent to defer the employment of a new superintendent until after the new board was seated. Notwithstanding this admonition, a majority of the board, including Alida Graham and B.A. Buttz, ignored this advice and elected to proceed with hiring a new superintendent on the eve of the forthcoming board election.This apparently will occur at the March 28th board meeting. No doubt this selection will be by a split vote giving any potential quality candidate significant pause regarding accepting the position.
At a January 5, 2017, board meeting the consultants hired by the school district to assist in the search for a new superintendent indicated that "the Decatur community was ready to move forward but does not know the direction of the district due to the lack of focus by the Board of Education." The purpose of the January 5th meeting was to have an open dialogue regarding the roles and responsibilities of the Board and the Superintendent.
Among the many issues raised in that January meeting were the need for the Board to not micromanage staff; to work collectively, not individually; to only hire staff the recommendation of the superintendent; to direct staff and parents who contact individual members to discuss an issue or raise a concern to contact the appropriate staff member; and to understand that the superintendent is the chief executive officer, not the Board. These recommendations were obviously made because a majority of the Board, including Alida Graham and B.A. Buttz, were acting substantially outside their roles as board members.
The Decatur community needs better school board members who understand their role. The election of Beth Nolan, Kendall Briscoe and Beth Creighton on April 4th would go a long way toward creating a board of education which knows its role an provides the Decatur community with strong educational leadership.
Everett E. Nicholas, Jr.
Three School Board Candidates Bullied
Incumbents Buttz, Graham
Bullying with verbal assault, fabricated information, and rule breaking is all too common in society.
We certainly do not want verbally abusive, rule breaking bullies near our children by serving on the Decatur Public School District 61 Board of Education.
I attended a Decatur District 61 School Board Candidate Debate Sponsored by the Decatur High School Students last night.
The debate moderator set forth rules requiring that the candidates respect the process, each other and the students.
The students did a fabulous job asking the questions.
The debate went well until closing remarks.
Board Candidates Beth Nolan, Kendall Briscoe, and Beth Creighton used their closing remarks to begin an intense verbal assault on the incumbent board member candidates Buttz and Graham.
Beth Nolan, Kendall Briscoe, and Beth Creighton demonstrated bullying and abusive behaviors with fabricated information that was not based on fact as they attacked Buttz and Graham. The bullies broke the debate rules.
Candidates Nolan, Briscoe, and Creighton’s bullying and abusive behavior did not just affect their targets, it also traumatized the students and the audience.
Graham and Buttz remained professional and did not engage with their abusive attackers.
Some might say that this is simply politics as usual.
It is not politics as usual when at a school sponsored function by students, for the candidates to verbally assault, bully, fabricate information, and break the rules of the event.
Nolan, Briscoe, and Creighton showed the students, and the audience that they are bullies, rule breakers and information fabricators who should never be allowed near the education of our precious children.
They did this to try to look better than the incumbent candidates.
All it did was prove why they should never be elected to the Decatur Public School District 61 School Board.
Jo Anne Martin
Thanks For Column By Councilman Bill Faber
Thanks to Councilman Bill Faber! His column (that he pays for) keeps all of us informed about the council and many other things. We who are unable to attend the meetings rely on Councilman Faber and his column.
I have so much respect for his opinions. It is always good to hear what he has to say. He is backing John Phillips and wants a new city Manager. He speaks for many of us. Go John!
Scheider Would Be Great School Board Member
I am not a native of Decatur, I did not go to school here, but I taught here for over forty years and lived here the major part of my life. My three children all benefited from the good education they received in the Decatur public schools and my wife was school nurse at Eisenhower for nearly 15 years.
This is the first election for school board where I have worked personally with one candidate and had one candidate be not only a neighbor but a former student. I respect both very much, Beth Creighton and Al Scheider. Al has a lot fewer advertising signs than most candidates but he brings an enormous amount of practical experience with personal care for individual students that must be required for any school board member. I know this because I have worked closely with Al at Project Read helping a recent Decatur school graduate who was not proud of his degree, achieve the proficiency in math and science that he needed for further career advancement. We shared the joy often of seeing this student flourish.
I know Al volunteers regularly at Dennis school and will talk glowingly about his kids there. I believe students need more than bricks and mortar, teachers need more than long term contracts and air conditioning. A board member must know how to work with diverse groups in a collaborative and positive manner. I see no evidence that the current members of the board have been able to do this. But I have seen Al do this and I believe that parents with children in the schools would be sensitive to all these issues.
I encourage change on the board with members who care about creating a positive learning environment for all students.
Illinois State Workers Highest Paid In The Nation
The Illinois Policy Institute reports that in 2015 our Illinois state workers were the highest paid in our nation. Career state workers receive on average $1.6 million in pension benefits. All of our state’s unions have adopted Governor Rauner’s pension reform policies except the AFSCME.
Because of that Illinois’ pension debt grows by 20 million dollars per day. Illinois government worker pension costs alone consume 25% of our state’s budget (if we had one). Because of that our schools are receiving less state funding as the pension money goes to satisfy our $111 billion of pension debt.
It’s Mr. Madigan’s job to fix this problem. All our governor can do is recommend rational solutions.
Above letters posted 3/14/17
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Earlier letters posted below.
Everyone Has Stake In School Board Election
First, I would like to apologize to the people of the Decatur for neglecting my role as citizen. As a teacher and educator for almost thirty years, as one who believes deeply in the importance of education as the means of maintaining our democracy, preparing students for productive lives, as well as furthering civilization, I thought my responsibility was over when I retired.
I stopped watching school board meetings and keeping abreast of the school situation. It wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized how things have changed in the last ten years in the Decatur school district.
If you are reading this letter, you probably learned to read from a book designed just for that purpose—to teach young people to read and understand story content, to develop a reading vocabulary, taught by a teacher who recognized the importance of techniques that had been successful over many years. You also learned to spell, to compose sentences and to communicate ideas in writing, as well as speaking.
It is unlikely that you learned to read only by reading library books, yet that is exactly what the reading program in our schools has become. In a misguided attempt to save money and try something “innovative”, our school boards were hoodwinked into abandoning structured curriculum and reading programs.
A few years ago, when TJ Jackson, Alida Graham and BA Buttz were elected to the school board, they all, as experienced administrators and educators, understood the importance of those standards of successful learning.
Unfortunately, the political and personnel problems of District 61 have been a distraction from what their real goals were in getting our educational system back on track.
Alida Graham and BA Buttz have much experience in what works for excellence in learning. Al Scheider has been a teacher who knows what successful Decatur schools look like, and Courtney Carson has a unique educational experience that would enhance our efforts to improve learning for all our students.
Everyone has a stake in this school board election. If you are a parent or grandparent of a Decatur student, you want your child to have the best future possible. A structured curriculum is needed to guide teachers and students.
If you think you are past caring about quality education, think about the quality of people who are going to be hired as police, fire and emergency personnel. When you have to rely on a younger person to help you shop for groceries or administer medications, you will want to have someone who is educated and competent to help you.
All of Decatur’s children need and deserve a quality education, and the future of Decatur depends upon all of us participating in providing it for them. The enthusiasm students, teachers and parents have for that kind of successful program is what will attract teachers and business to our community.
Clear Choices For City Council Following Meeting
To the Editor:
I attended the CONO meeting and came away with clear choices for the
city council. I'm going to vote for Marty Watkins, David Horn and Andrew Apel. They were easily the most down to earth, compassionate and humble candidates of the six. Their answers to what they would do when confronted with problems facing our fellow citizens showed their heart and their innovative ideas.
Those ideas ranged from what to do about abandoned houses to garbage and water service for renters. Andrew Apel included an idea for start-up businesses for dredging companies. David
Horn explained why making Decatur more appealing in its appearance would encourage people who work in Decatur to live in Decatur. Marty Watkins has covered the city seeking votes knocking on more than 2,200 doors in the poorest neighborhoods to the most prosperous neighborhoods. You have to respect that!
If there were four seats open I would happily vote for Chuck Kuhle for that fourth seat. He came across as a thoughtful decision maker who would be guided by doing things right.
The remaining two candidates, Pat McDaniel and Chris Riley, just seemed like they were committed to the same-old same-old ways of doing the city's business. Continue the expense of maintaining our parks that are way out of step with our population and our needs, and, in the case of Mr. McDaniel, see every problem as being outside what the city can legally address. Talk about a "can't do" approach!
Vicki Sheets Has Done Amazing Job
As Decatur Township Assessor
When Vicki Sheets took office on January 1, 2014, she was faced with many challenges. She was taking over an office that had one of the worst CODs in the state.
In 2010, Decatur’s quadrennial assessment had to be done by the Chief County Assessment Office, and the township was charged for the work the county did. Since taking office, Assessor Sheets and her staff perform all assessment work on time and under budget. Vicki believes the taxpayers deserve trained, knowledgeable staff and has ensured that all staff are trained in their positions, and Deputy Assessors attend continuing education courses.
Assessor Sheets updated the office technology as well as office procedures, and using the PamsPro system, was the first downstate township assessor office to electronically submit the annual assessment values to the county. Electronic submission has saved both the township and the county many man hours, all while reducing the opportunity for error. Something that used to take 2 staff members over two months to do, is now done with the click of a mouse.
For the first time ever, the Decatur Township Assessor’s Office has a data driven website, enabling property owners to research information on all properties in the township from their own computer.
Vicki has established outreach programs and workshops, geared toward educating the public about the assessing process, exemptions and tax bills.
None of this was easy, and she will acknowledge that there is still much to do. However, Vicki is the leader that took control of an outdated, inefficient office and turned it around. Decatur Township should be very proud to call her their Assessor.
As a 21-year employee of the Decatur Township Assessor’s Office, I feel Vicki has accomplished more for the taxpayers than any previous assessor, and deserves not only our thanks, but our support and our vote in the April 4 election.
School Board Members Buttz, Graham
Stood Up For What Was Right
Considerable ink has been used in supposition of events surrounding actions of DPS 61's Board and former Superintendent Lisa Taylor.
I must say that I, too, was skeptical of the Board's actions involving an obviously popular and charismatic public servant, who, on the surface, appeared to be doing everything right.
After some time had passed I learned that the Board had been instructed, by District legal counsel, to refrain from discussing the audit and investigation until after the Board had reached a consensus. Some Board members failed to adhere to those instructions and public opinion was swayed in favor of the Superintendent
Ultimately, after information was acquired thru the Freedom of Information Act and became public domain more information became readily available to the public.
I believe, following the audit, it became clear to the Board that the Superintendent and the subordinate officer, under her direction, had clearly violated District policy on over 200 separate occasions. Further, that the Superintendent had not demonstrated she was meeting the District's needs in development and application of curriculum.
However, before any Board action could be taken or her contract extension discussed she resigned and moved on. Why, if she had done nothing wrong?
As for Board Members Buttz and Graham, squandering their opportunity to be public servants, I vehemently disagree. More of our public servants should demonstrate such willingness to adhere to rules and regulations (District Policy) regardless of ambient pressure and public outcry. It takes a special person to stand up for what is right in the face of popular opposition. I applaud their effort to protect our students and the taxpayers.
Lloyd R. Holman
Why Vote For Incumbent Mayor, City Councilman?
Why would any taxpayer in Decatur vote for a mayor or city council candidate who has:
-Condoned City Manager Gleason’s admitted use of city resources for his personal use at taxpayers’ expense
-Voted for every tax and fee increase proposed by City Manager Gleason
-Voted for an increase in the City Manager’s salary
-Remained silent when City Manager Gleason stopped the sale of the library building to Macon County, which would have allowed Macon County to sell their building to private investors, increasing the real estate tax base
-Blindly follows City Manager Gleason’s decisions disregarding the costs to taxpayers
Why do the local media appear to support the existing Mayor and City Manager in spite of the obvious avoidable ethical, moral and tax issues created by the present City administration?
Why won’t many taxpayers vote in the upcoming local election on April 4 when the need for the taxpayers’ voice is so great?
Dennis G. Mahorney
Local Government Week
Is Time To Applaud Work Of Public Servants
It's "Local Government Week" in Illinois, a time to applaud the work of our public servants, those who perform tireless work to provide essential services for their communities. We often think of the outstanding service of first responders and the like, but we also depend on those who do more mundane tasks - sometimes totally under the radar - such as maintain roads, clear the snow, and operate food pantries.
It was this recognition of public service that prompted the Illinois General Assembly 10 years ago to designate the first full week in March each year as Local Government Week to help Illinois residents understand the role that local government fills.
As executive director of the Township Officials of Illinois, I can tell you that townships are an extremely efficient and cost effective unit of government, costing taxpayers less per capita than larger units to accomplish many of the essential tasks we often take for granted. This efficiency needs to be taken into account as Illinois wrestles with significant financial complexities. Taxpayers will make their voices heard as municipal and township elections will occur statewide next month on April 4. I encourage voters to study the candidates and cast their votes for the ones they feel are best to make local government work.
Bryan E. Smith
Township Officials of Illinois
Words Of Jesus Describe Left-Wing Liberals, Protestors
When I sit watching all these left wing liberals, protestors and paid screamers, the words of Jesus keep going through my mind, when he said “Oh ye generation of vipers”.
My feelings exactly.
Concerned With Intentions Of PLUS Slate
For Decatur School Board
I am concerned with the misgivings and self-righteous intentions of the slate, (PLUS), running for the school board. Beth Nolan, Beth Creighton and Kendall Briscoe claim to have no "hidden agendas". All three candidates utilize a Grow Decatur platform which fosters political and social change in the community. How can one be affiliated with this group and have no agenda?
A conflict of interest exists. Two of the three candidates have children at Dennis School and one has a spouse who teaches at Dennis. One wonders if PLUS will be able to make quality, objective decisions for all schools? Briscoe is a former DPS Keil Building employee. Perhaps, she has an ax to grind?
The three candidates state a current board weakness is no one has children in the district. Without children in the district, the current board makes objective decision that address all schools without subjectivity or favoritism for one. All current board members' children went to DPS.
It appears all three candidates not only have hidden agendas, but also personal agendas. They aggressively and vehemently attack board governance and incumbent board members running for re-election. Why not run a clean campaign emphasizing what PLUS will do instead of criticizing the current board? The board does not need aggressive, dominating, know-it-all, mean-spirited personalities.
Two of the candidates publicly criticized the board during the Lisa Taylor superintendency issue. Taylor was investigated by auditors who found 214 credit card violations totaling $23,582.00 and an unauthorized $10,000 contract adjustment never approved by the board or ever reported by the Herald and Review. The three supported her. We must be wary of this Nolan, Creighton, and Briscoe slate. No special interest group should have total decision-making power and control over the schools.
Above "Letters to the Editor" posted 3/8/17
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Earlier Letters Below
Great To Again See Staley Office Building
Illuminated By Color-Changing Lights
For many years, the Staley office building, now owned by Tate and Lyle, had its upper structure illuminated by color-changing lights that could be seen for several miles. A family member of mine was said to have the job involving the lighting display.
Over time, this display was no longer a sight to behold. In recent weeks, the building is beautifully lighted again and, even more brilliantly than before, no doubt using modern LED technology.
It is wonderful to see one of our city's iconic buildings again basking in its original grandeur.
Again this holiday season, through the Tribune photo archives, we have seen another city icon in its past Christmas glory, when it stood proudly in Lincoln Square, brightly decorated with strings of lights, huge red bells and candy canes.
After its historic move to Central park, the transfer house decorations eventually disappeared. Are these now antique decorations gathering dust in a warehouse somewhere, or lost forever?
Our city's most iconic structure looks the same all year long. As the building has been preserved for future generations, it could be returned to its holiday glory as well. If the original decorations are indeed lost they could be replaced in the same manner in which we replaced the fountain in Central Park.
We should all thank Tate and Lyle for the Staley building lighting restoration. Take some time in the evening to view our city's newest light show. You will be amazed!
The Tribune often strikes a nostalgic chord with many articles on former celebrities and personalities. Another well known local personality popular in the 1940's an 1950's was Decatur musician, Jack Carson whose real name was Carl Bergbower. He sang with a band on WJBL which later became WSOY radio. Your readers will hopefully cultivate and grow more unearthed information on Jack Carson.
It Would Be Gross If Doctors And Nurses At Decatur Memorial Hospital Voted For Moore Wolfe
In her video, 120 Seconds Julie Moore Wolfe, https://www.youtube-.com/watch?v=g2X9f1IUPcE, Ms Moore Wolfe states that she would never be a nurse or a doctor or anything medical because "it's just gross."
That seems to be totally weird. She, Ms Moore Wolfe, is the Director of Community and Government Relations for Decatur Memorial Hospital.
Yes, she works where nurses and doctors practice their professions doing medical things to make us well. And she says, "it's just gross."
I hope the nurses and doctors who practice in Decatur, and who are part of the Decatur Memorial Hospital staff, do not vote for Ms Moore Wolfe. That would be just gross.
John L. Duncan
Elect New People To
The Decatur Board
This time, a year ago, the news was filled with stories about the Decatur School Board looking to get rid of Lisa Taylor and the community fighting to keep her.
It was amazing to see so many different groups within one community come together and speak so loudly in support of the same cause. Alternatively, it was devastating to see the school board ignore this outcry so completely and without reason. Now we have our chance to do something about that. We can re-elect B.A. Buttz and Alida Graham and they can continue to make decisions based solely on their own interests instead of the interests of our community, or we can elect new voices to the school board.
As a parent of two DPS students, I am looking forward to electing new faces to the school board, though they are far from new faces to me. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Beth Nolan, Beth Creighton, and Kendall Dolly Briscoe in action and working with them to improve DPS schools and raise funds to support our schools. Please do not let the injustice that was done a year ago win out again.
Above Letters To The Editor Posted 3/1/17
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Everyone Needs Guidance, Even The City Manager
For better or worse, Decatur is run by a City Manager form of government. That position has often been strongly criticized. It’s not undeserved, but that scrutiny shouldn’t be placed squarely on the back of one individual.
My decades of management experience tell me that when a manager fails, some or all of the problem is usually the result of a lack of guidance from other organization leaders. Effective leaders put others around them in positions to be successful through collaboration. This is where my experience and opinion vary from the current Mayor and most of the City Council.
Bad decisions by the current city manager have cost Decatur taxpayers money and should not be overlooked, but those decisions are a direct result of failed leadership to manage, train and coach him.
In my experience, many organizations fail by hiring someone they believe to be a quality candidate, then throwing them into the job to sink or swim.
The University of Illinois Athletic Department may be a good example with their previous coaching hire philosophy. Contrast this with the University of Wisconsin program which seems to develop its coaches from within. We need a Mayor that has the experience to train, coach and manage the key player in our city management team.
It’s time city leaders work together for the good of taxpayers, instead of allowing one individual to make unquestioned decisions that affect us all.
Decatur Tribune Sports Editor Is Appreciated
This letter is to specifically commend your sports editor, J. Tom McNamara.
Over the many years we have been reading the Decatur Tribune he has consistently done a thorough job of reporting every local sports venue in a very readable way.
From him we have learned the history of our local sports, the ups and downs of the local scene, upcoming events, and the personalities involved, all the while making sure his words were accompanied by relevant pictures and headlines. We are so grateful for this intrepid man of words and pictures--Tom McNamara--WE APPRECIATE YOU !
Joanne and Terry McCarthy, Sr.
Enjoyed Articles About Horse Drawn Milk
Wagons, The Roy Rogers Club
I enjoyed several articles in this issue, especially the stories about the horse drawn milk wagons of yesteryear and the story about the Roy Rogers Club at the Alhambra Theater on N. Water St.
When I was 5 or 6 (71 years ago) I lived on Bon Aire Court, a short street just off of Cantrell Street, like lots of families in those days got our milk from a horse drawn milk wagon. The kids on the block loved to get a piece of ice from the wagon when it stopped and even though it was during WW II and everything was rationed, my mom gave me an apple that she had cut up and I fed it to the horse and I DO remember the soft nose of the horse as he happily ate the apple:-).
I also loved reading about the Roy Rogers Club that met each Saturday where they showed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans movies. I remember Roy's
dog, Bullet and his beautiful big Palomino horse Trigger.
When Roy actually came to the Alhambra one Saturday, I managed to get an autographed picture of Roy on his horse, Trigger. He had signed it, "Happy Trails Roy Rogers". I have that picture framed and it is proudly displayed under a saying of another great American, Abraham Lincoln who
wrote the lawyer's creed "time and advice are a lawyers stock in trade".
A few years later we had moved to 1204 N. Edward St. ( I was 7 or 8 by then) and I made friend with a Ron Rubin who lived a couple of blocks north and Ron's dad was Ted Rubin. His picture appears on page 4 of the issue posing with his horse and milk wagon.
Mr. Rubin got permission one day to let Ron and I ride along while he delivered the milk. To kids that age it was a ride equivalent to riding in a brand new 787 Dreamliner in today's parlance:-)!
I am sending this copy to my "little sister" who is now nearly 68 and who lives in Chesapeake, Virginia and I'll try to get her to send the copy to our still littler brother who now resides in a small town near Bevlvedere, IL. and is retired and 67 his next birthday.
Like 1000s of other "kids" who grew up in Decatur during those years,
your paper's stories are like a wonderful walk down memory lane.
Thank you so much.
Jerry L. Lambert, Esq.
Letters Above Posted 2/22/17
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Using Public Procurement Card For Personal Use
Is Violation Of District Policy
Thank you for printing the article on the former Decatur Public Schools Superintendent. The content of the article is not only the side of two school board members, but more importantly the facts and public information. Far too many individuals in Decatur rallied around the former superintendent without having the facts at hand. Clearly, giving oneself permission to use a public procurement card for personal use is a violation of district policy. Over 200 transactions totaling more than $23,000 is no minor violation. As auditors noted, these were significant deficiencies. There was clear disregard for obtaining permission from the board president. And how does one give oneself a salary increase of $10,000 without board approval?
We expect public servants to use public tax dollars appropriately. Unfortunately we find far too often that public servants are using our precious tax money for their personal gain and we see this at the local, state and national levels.
You are correct in stating that even though this superintendent is no longer employed by District #61, this will be an issue for voters when they go to the polls to elect school board members. I for one will be voting for those individuals who will watch over our tax dollars and take seriously their fiduciary responsibilities as a member of the board of education.
Buttz, Graham Have Failed To Understand
Role Of School Board Member
The headline “Lisa Taylor, New Heyworth Superintendent” in early January filled me with sadness because just a few months ago, Decatur Public Schools had a dynamic leader who did an admirable job of bringing parents, educators, business leaders, and the community together. She inspired a growing enthusiasm in many that the Decatur Schools were moving forward in a positive direction.
That feeling is gone and we, as active voters, need to see that B.A. Buttz and Alida Graham are defeated in the upcoming April 4, 2017 election. They have squandered their opportunity to be public servants.
They have both failed to understand what a board member should or should not do. They failed to listen to the community during the public meetings determining the future of Ms. Taylor and our district.
Now they have rammed through a process to select their own candidate for the next superintendent before the new board is seated. Please do not vote for B.A. Buttz or Alida Graham for school board. The children of Decatur Public Schools deserve much better.
President Trump Doesn’t Deserve Any Respect
As a supporter of President Obama and Hillary Clinton I'd like to respond to those saying, "let it go, you lost".
First, I remember a number of protests, even signs with pictures of my President with a bone in his nose, I remember a Congressman standing up yelling "you lie",. I could go on. But more importantly, you elected a man who spent the last 8 years not disagreeing politically with my President Obama, but disrespecting him personally. Maybe you didn't notice but this man Trump was all over the TV for much of the last 8 years pushing nasty disproven conspiracy theories suggesting President Obama was not born in U.S.and therefore not legitmate. He also spread other nasty conspiracy theories questioning his religion, his education, his re-election, and claiming he was hiding something. Similar to the nasty conspiracy theory he spread about Ted Cruz's father being involved in JFK's assasination. This isn't politics, this isn't disagreeing, this is ridiculous nastiness. So you chose to elect such a man who spent the last 8 years acting in this disrepectful, hateful way and expect me and other supporters of President Obama to respect him? Seriously?
Respect is not coming from me, ever, live with it. You chose him. The majority of Americans did not.
(in honor of my Uncle Dave,
who is smiling from heaven on it)
A Focus On Neighborhood Revitalization
Decatur has achieved several significant accomplishments in recent years. The city has transformed its downtown and Lake Decatur amenities are being improved. We have or will spend $90 million to dredge Lake Decatur and $80 million to rehabilitate sewers.
The city’s next focus should be neighborhood revitalization. This year, Decatur was named the 3rd most affordable housing market nationally and internationally. Yet, there are more people who work in Decatur and live elsewhere than people who live in Decatur and work outside the city. Thus, Decatur has the opportunity to grow the number of residents we have, and will do so as we create a city that is even more attractive.
A city-wide neighborhood revitalization initiative should begin with a strategic plan, and the Macon County & Decatur Comprehensive Plan adopted by the Decatur City Council and Macon County Board in 2009 may be a good start. Among the plan’s principles for high-quality community life include: “A network of centers, corridors, and neighborhoods serves as the organizing framework for planning for future growth and redevelopment” and “Good community design results in safe, walk-able, diverse, and attractive neighborhoods.”
Neighborhood revitalization efforts can be achieved through two revenue sources.
First, all revenues from video gaming should be dedicated to neighborhood revitalization. Gaming parlors do not enhance neighborhood attractiveness, and city funds gained from gambling should be used to better the neighborhoods where it is occurring.
Second, social-impact bonds have been used for private citizens to finance social good. Specifically, bonds could be issued to help fund neighborhood revitalization efforts whether it be rehabilitating homes or demolishing long-abandoned properties.
The days of seeing boarded up houses along our main thoroughfares and side streets must come to an end, and working together, a city filled with more vibrant neighborhoods is in Decatur’s future.
David J. Horn
Macon County Honor Guard Provides
95 Funerals During Past Year
Macon County Honor Guard provided a total of 95 funerals in 2016.
We conducted 11 doubles (2 in one day), 16 out of town, and 7 turned down due to time conflictions.
The number for each branch of service is: Army 48, Navy 26, Marines 7, Coast Guard 2, Air Force 12.
The services were for: WWII Veterans 35, Korean War Veterans 35, Vietnam Veterans 17, Cold War 7 and Desert Storm 1.
We traveled a total of 1,987 miles.
We expended 1,995 rounds of ammunition.
Other patriotic services provided (42 rounds of ammo expended): Memorial Day, 2 services (42 rounds); Veterans Day; Pearl Harbor Remembrance (21 rounds); and flag presentations/education at schools, churches, colleges and conventions.
We are extremely proud to perform these last tributes of respect to our fellow veterans and we thank the families for allowing us to do so.
The Macon County Honor Guard was formed in 1995. Since that time 3,597 funerals have been performed, 98,289 miles traveled and 75,718 rounds of ammo used.
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