Serving children is a major reason one becomes a teacher or runs for political offices that address children. One runs for the school board to make sure that the educational environment and learning atmosphere are such that children’s educational needs are being met. Children are always first. Board vice-president, Beth Nolan, made a recent decision to vote against free lunches for all students. That vote seems to be diametrically opposed to what school board members are elected to do. Nolan and her slate ran on a platform of openness, transparency, parental involvement and making Decatur Public Schools a destination district. It is staggering to think that a board officer could or would vote against what is best for children. Money for this program comes from federal sources and not from local school district budgets.
I find it appalling that after points were made to her by other board members about the need for application and approval of the four year government sponsored free lunch program, Miss Nolan still voted against it. Children cannot learn if they are hungry and school meals are often the best and only meals some children have each day. How can a board member be more concerned about the district’s image than she is meeting children’s needs? One wonders what Miss Nolan’s political affiliations or personal agendas are to make such a decision against children?
The Illinois State Report Card lists Decatur as having a 66.2% poverty rate, and 62.6% minority representation. We have a 74% four year graduation rate, a 67% teacher retention rate, 12.8% mobility rate and as many as 9% of the students not ready for the next grade level. We have heard that classroom management and discipline are out of control and no provisions are made to address either in the district’s strategic plan. Why isn’t Miss Nolan concerning herself with these relevant and pressing educational issues rather than district image? It appears Nolan is not in touch with the constituents of DPS’s student body, the realities of the classroom or solutions needed to address data related to deficient student achievement. For the past two years, the main focus of this board has been addressing building utilization, not student achievement. Other than aesthetics or curb appeal, brick-and-mortar have little to do with quality teaching and learning.
One wonders how many teachers or principals were consulted about combining two middle schools into one building. How will the district approach the safety factor involved in having 900+ middle school students under one roof? How many parents were asked for input and involved in the decisions to consolidate middle schools or close and move educational programs to other buildings? As per past practices, when and where were the public hearings held in regards to closing buildings? How much input has staff or the DEA had in regards to contractual changes impacting the instructional day or teaching and learning? How will any of these building consolidations or closings assist in addressing state report card academic deficiencies or student achievement? Where are the openness and transparency this board pledged to demonstrate? Are these bricks-and-mortar decisions being made solely to promote the district’s image and curb appeal? Doesn’t a board have to work with and for the students they have as opposed to not facing the facts that are before them regarding poverty, demographics and academic achievement?
I guess Miss Nolan is more determined to make this district a destination district than she is meeting the personal and academic needs of children.
B. A. Buttz, Decatur
One Plus One = Three
On January 16, 2019, Rev. Stacey Brohard, Executive Director of The Good Samaritan Inn spoke to the Golden K Kiwanis Club of Decatur. The Good Samaritan Inn serves, on average, 300 individuals a hot meal each day. Rev. Brohard stated that serving so many would not be possible without the generosity of those in Decatur. He has also stated that his organization could not accomplish their mission without their volunteers. Service Organizations, such as the Golden K Kiwanis Club of Decatur, provide an organized array of volunteers to not-for-profit agencies throughout the Decatur Community.
Many say, “I can volunteer without joining a service club like Kiwanis.” And, they are right. They can volunteer as individuals. However, with two individual volunteers, (1 + 1 = 2.). Service Organizations, like Kiwanis, provide organized volunteer efforts that accomplish more for not-for-profit agencies than do individuals acting alone. Therefore, with Kiwanis, (1 + 1 = 3).
There are several agencies in the Decatur Community that are searching for volunteers. Those vacancies impact the lives of children and the health of our community. As those who volunteer can testify, there is no feeling like the one you get when a child looks up and giggles; or when someone tells you thanks for serving me a hot meal – it is the only one I will get today. In Golden K, we call those “Kiwanis Moments.” Such moments can only be experienced. They cannot be bought, borrowed, begged or stolen. Such moments are truly special. It seems ironic, to me, that the news media spends so much time reporting bad news when there is so much good news to be found. Maybe someone in the media could explain this.
Examples abound. One example is the Mt. Zion Key Club. If you are low on energy and your tank of positive thoughts is empty, visit a monthly meeting of this group. At their meeting on February 24, 2019, they enjoyed a Men’s Cake Bake Contest. Men from Golden K Kiwanis and the guys of the Key Club competed to see who could bake the best cake. There were some very good cakes to taste.
For those looking for a reason to be proud of Decatur, Forsyth, Mt. Zion and the surrounding area, look no further than the Mt. Zion Key Club. Elise Lewis, faculty advisor, and the members of the Key Club do some really great things. At 94 members strong, this year could be something very special. They meet the last Sunday of each month in the cafeteria at Mt. Zion High School at 7:00 p.m. If you should choose to attend one of their meetings, just try to keep from smiling. I dare you.
Charles R. Smith, Golden K Kiwanis Club
Decatur Vietnam Era Veterans: You Are Not Forgotten
The date is March 29, 1973, the last US combat troops are leaving Vietnam. Most of the POW’s are released or in the process as prescribed by the Paris Peace Accord. Returning home, there are no ticker tape parades, or grand welcomings. In fact, quite the opposite. Many are told to remove their uniforms to avoid the confrontational issues that may be waiting for them. Protesters booed and hissed putting it mildy to those who only had their military uniforms to wear. March 30, 2019, the last Saturday in March, there is the annual Vietnam Era Veterans Recognition Day. An event of healing, an event of tears, an event of laughs, an event to remember the brave men and women who served in the military during the Vietnam War. Stories amidst the background of this group of graying warriors. Those who answered the call of their nation way beyond the brief statements in any history book. An annual event to honor a rapidly vanishing breed of American Heroes
The millions of men and women who so valiantly took to the battle field. Many in their late teenage years, fresh from high school. Many not old enough to vote and choose who may send them to a foreign land to support the American cause. Yet they held their heads high and went. This event is in its 7th year. For many years the Vietnam Era Veteran hid their scars, left that hat they wore so proudly in the closet, kept a tight lip when people spoke of the wars and the military. Now our gladiators, doughnut dollies, aviators, sailors, nurses, doctors, show their pride without the threat of being ridiculed.
For one afternoon they experience that happiness of being welcomed home. To the “Missing Man Table” for those who have still not come home, to the call of their military branch of they stand with pride. This annual event is completely held with donations of many sponsors. Yearly our committee works many hours to hold this event. Circumstances this year have the event being held at The Mt. Zion Convention Center. This event is open to the public.
Remember: Saturday, March 30, 2019, from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM at the Mt. Zion Convention Center, 1400 Mt. Zion Parkway, Mt Zion, Illinois. There is no admission cost thanks to our generous sponsors.
Bruce A. Stephens, Chairman, Decatur
Addressing Alzheimer’s In Illinois
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are nearly 600,000 unpaid caregivers for the more than 230,000 Illinoisans living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. These numbers will continue to rise until a cure or prevention is found. We must address the vital needs of these Illinois families and caregivers who face daily emotional, physical and financial challenges from this disease. As a volunteer advocate with the Alzheimer’s Association, I am committed to making Alzheimer’s a priority in our state because I was recently diagnosed: Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) one of the many Dementias under the ALzheimer’s umbrella, each requiring separate research and funding. Our state government needs to become actively engaged in the fight against dementia, and I hope my Senator, Andy Manar, will work to be a part of this change.
For far too long, Illinois has struggled to take care of its residents, without having a single state level position devoted to addressing the needs of the growing number of Illinoisans affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It is time to take action by passing Senate Bill 1726, creating a full-time dementia coordinator. This legislation, supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, will create a dementia coordinator position to ensure there are adequate services for all families and caregivers by implementing the Alzheimer’s Disease State Plan recommendations. The best part about this bill is that it’s paid for with private funds – which ensures this initiative doesn’t contribute to Illinois’ fiscal woes.
As an Illinoisan who is experiencing the hardships of this disease, I ask my Senator, Andy Manar, who I recently met with, to cosponsor Senate Bill 1726 to keep the needs of families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s at a forefront. I look forward to working with you and engaging our state government in the fight to END ALZHEIMER’S!
Larry C. Tate, Decatur
Democrats Encourage Total Irresponsibility For One’s Actions
Like my Dad who grew up in Decatur, I grew up in Illinois but it seems I can’t completely escape. As Democrats always do, follow their basic instincts, they encourage total personal irresponsibility for one’s actions. After all, how can you make anybody responsible for anything when all people are simply animals with good hearts that can’t help themselves?
So, here I am in Georgia and, along with 48 other states, will soon pay the Illinois bills for out of control spending on government employees via an insolvent pension fund. Unless we come up with another solution for encouraging massive state imposed largesse deposited on so called “public servants” (that make way more in total compensation than their taxpayer employers), our nation is financially doomed. The only question is whether government pension liabilities will destroy America before our out of control healthcare expenditures? Another story for another day.
Rob Branson, Brookhaven GA
Above letters posted March 13, 2019