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By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association
PINCKNEYVILLE – Sometimes, you have to scribble your Freedom of Information Act request on whatever’s handy.
For Jeff Egbert, publisher of the Pinckneyville Press, that was the back of the printed agenda for the May 28 meeting of the local high school board.
The board, as ordered by the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor’s Office, had just voted to serve a social studies teacher with a notice to remedy – meaning the board had determined the teacher had done something that needed to be remedied.
It was the second time this year the Pinckneyville Community High School District board had taken the vote. The first vote, in January, was voided by the PAC’s binding opinion dated May 17 that the board had violated the Open Meetings Act when it failed to adequately explain what it had discussed in closed session and then voted on in open session.
The rare binding ruling from the PAC was the result of a complaint Egbert filed when the board did not disclose what the teacher had done to warrant a process that could lead to job loss.
Still, when the board voted again in May, it continued to refuse to disclose to Egbert what the teacher had done to warrant the discipline.
“They just stared at me, just shot daggers at me, and went forward with their vote,” Egbert said. “So I turned the FOIA in before I left [the meeting]. I actually wrote it on the back of the meeting agenda.”
The PAC wasn’t needed this time, however.
Egbert received a response to his FOIA request a few days later. The teacher, Robert Simpson, had missed numerous days of work - many without calling in. After the teacher resigned, Egbert said, the Pinckneyville Police Department put out a news release saying Simpson had been picked up at a local hotel on a Jackson County warrant for meth charges.
That’s the sort of stuff the public needs to know, Egbert said.
“In all honesty, I didn’t want to write about this,” he said. “I thought it would be one story, one-and-done and over. In my mind, I was trying to save [the board] from themselves, but they wouldn’t listen, so I turned them in to the AG.”
The school board’s president, Greg Thompson, deferred to the board’s attorney, Stuart Morgenstern, who also declined to comment for this story. Superintendent Keith Hagene did not return messages left requesting comment.
The PAC office handles, on average, about 4,000 requests for review each year, about 10 percent of them regarding OMA violations.
Lack of staff means far too many cases don’t get fully investigated, let alone result in a binding opinion, according to attorney Don Craven, who represents the Illinois Press Association and its member newspapers.
“They don’t weight in with binding opinions nearly as often as I’d like, but it’s a matter of people,” Craven said.
He said virtually every case that results in a binding opinion requires an extension beyond the 60-day limit the PAC has to investigate – as was necessary in Egbert’s case. Often, those who file requests end up resorting to filing lawsuits because the process gets drawn out too long, with cases collecting dust in attorneys’ and counselors’ backlogs.
In each of the nine years since the PAC was formed, more than three-quarters of the requests for review have been filed by members of the public. So it isn’t just journalists who see their pursuits of the truth languish.
“Government is supposed to be open, and people are supposed to be able to understand what the hell it is their public bodies are doing,” Craven said. “It’s public business, not private business.”
Egbert is grateful for the PAC’s swift action in his case – after he gave the school board a month to turn over the resolution discussed in closed session. It didn’t deliver, so he enlisted the PAC.
“I can’t say a bad word about the PAC in this case,” he said. “The light was shined in this case because of the Public Access Counselor.”
Egbert said at their roots, the many FOIA requests he’s filed are not only about shedding light on malpractice, but even saving public bodies from themselves.
“They sure didn’t thank me,” he said of the school board, laughing. “I thought maybe they’d thank me for helping them do things right, but no.”
Craven said he’s grateful for a state full of journalists who doggedly pursue the truth and transparency.
“I deal with journalists day in and day out who are continuing the fight,” he said.
He said if public bodies simply followed the rules and didn’t hide information, it would save everyone a lot of stress and time.
“How much a public body has to say when it comes out of closed session, and how much they have to explain to the public on what they’re doing, is a constant source of aggravation – probably on both sides of the table,” he said.
Egbert, who was born and raised in Pinckneyville, said he never set out to be a watchdog in his community of just more than 5,000 people – until he started asking more questions and getting fewer answers.
“I’m related to half the town, and sometimes I have to write about friends and family; that can be stressful,” Egbert said “I didn’t really start the paper with this [mentality]. I asked what I thought were fair questions with the leaders in the county and the city. Roadblocks were automatically thrown up. I just thought it was really odd.”
He said apart from the resulting tension with members of public bodies, some remain bitter enough to pull advertising. For example, he said the board’s president, Thompson, also a local Country Financial agent, told Egbert he will no longer buy advertising in the Press.
“There’s a lot of bitterness over this binding opinion, and if they’d only done things right from the start, none of this would’ve been necessary,” Egbert said.
“None of this is personal.”
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2022
Contact: Dennis Kosinski
Phone: (815) 323-3788
Jack Cunningham launches re-election website
AURORA – John A. “Jack” Cunningham, Republican candidate for Kane County clerk, today announced the launch of his re-election website at www.electjackcunningham.com.
A spokesman for the campaign stated that everyone is invited to go to the website to learn more about the candidate and what he has accomplished.
Included on the site is a short biography of Jack Cunningham, along with endorsements, goals and aspirations, the ability for visitors to volunteer, make donations, and view information on the upcoming June 28 Illinois primary.
Visitors to the web page can ask questions of the candidate through the website, or by sending Jack an email to: Jack@electjackcunningham.com.
As explained on the web page, Jack’s campaign is based on election integrity and efficiency. The campaign’s slogan is “Making it easier to vote, and harder to cheat.” Some of the steps outlined on the site highlight Jack’s introduction of video cameras in the ballot county rooms, verification of vote by mail ballots, and improvements of technology in the ballot tracking process. Jack has instituted a paper trail for each ballot cast.
Although there are multiple other duties of the clerk’s office such as vital records, tax extensions, marriages, and passport services, Jack’s emphasis in this campaign will be centered on elections and voting, as that is the one area that affects the most people in the immediate future, and is currently on the minds of most voters.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Peysakhovich
June 7, 2022
Illinois Psychiatric Society welcomes new leadership
President Abdi Tinwalla, MD, MBA, MS (Pharmacy), DFAPA, CCHP, and President-Elect Andrew J. Lancia, MD, step into leadership roles as the nation’s mental health issues take center stage
CHICAGO – The Illinois Psychiatric Society welcomes incoming President Dr. Abdi Tinwalla and President-Elect Dr. Andrew J. Lancia for their 2022–2023 term. Both are experienced professionals well equipped to provide leadership at a moment when the nation’s mental health takes center stage.
Incoming President Abdi Tinwalla, MD, MBA, MS (Pharmacy), DFAPA, CCHP, received his medical degree from Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, and completed his psychiatric residency at Rush University Medical Center. He completed his Forensic Psychiatry fellowship from University of Rochester, New York. He has a Physician MBA from Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
Currently, Dr. Tinwalla serves as the behavioral health medical director for Amerigroup/Anthem. In this role, he supervises the provision of behavioral health services to approximately 900,000 Medicaid recipients. He also provides treatment at the Department of Human Services Treatment and Detention Facility for the Sexually Violent Persons in Rushville, Illinois, and in the community. He holds an academic appointment with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He is actively involved in teaching of the forensic psychiatry fellows.
In addition to his duties as president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society, Dr. Tinwalla also serves on its Executive Council and is an active member of its Governmental Affairs Committee as well as the Forensic Committee. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. He has presented nationally and internationally on several topics in correctional psychiatry and on the treatment of paraphilic disorders.
“I am cognizant of the gargantuan task we psychiatrists face as we help the nation heal its multiple wounds. Whether we are talking about COVID, which plagues our bodies, or whether we talk about racism, which is just as insidious and deadly, there is a role for us to play in moving towards being healthier as individuals and as a community.,” said Abdi Tinwalla, MD, MBA, M.S., CCHP, DFAPA.
President-Elect Andrew J. Lancia, MD, received his medical degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He served as resident and chief resident of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and was a Caterpillar Faculty Scholars fellow at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.
Currently, Dr. Lancia serves as medical director of Consultation-Liaison Services, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria; and as medical director of UnityPoint Behavioral Health Integrated Services of Hospital Based Programs (Methodist Campus), UnityPoint Health Methodist. He is also chair of UnityPoint behavioral health at Methodist, UnityPoint Health Methodist. Dr. Lancia also holds several faculty and teaching appointments, including associate professor of clinical psychiatry, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, adjunct clinical preceptor, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, as well as Interim deputy chair of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.
Dr. Lancia’s work has been recognized with a number of honors and awards, including Above and Beyond (recognizes those who go beyond formal, identified job duties to exceed the needs of patients, visitors, and staff) from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics; Leading Physician of the World & Top Psychiatrist in Peoria, Illinois, from the International Association of Healthcare Professionals; and an Outstanding Achievement Award in Integrating Behavioral Health into Primary Care from the Illinois Psychiatry Society. In his current position, he has received many awards from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, including the Faculty Teaching Award; an Outstanding Teacher Award, Celebration of Excellence; the Scholarship Award; multiple Golden Apple Inpatient Teaching awards; the Commonwealth Award; the Teaching Excellence Award for the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Course; the Teaching Excellence Award for the Psychiatry M3 Clerkship; an Outstanding Faculty Award; the Dean’s Team Award, and the Teaching Award Psychiatry Residency Program.
“The young psychiatrists I am teaching now practice medicine in an ever-changing world. People used to whisper about mental health; it was a taboo subject. This is still often the case in many circles, but now we see and feel the effects of both mental illness and wellness everywhere. Currently, the need for better access to quality mental health services is a central theme nationally. Rather than whispering, the entire country is in a robust national discussion about the future of mental health. In my role with IPS, I look forward to contributing to that discussion to help manage the changes we’re experiencing in society and in our profession, so we may meet our world's need to understand suffering and promote wellbeing,” said Andrew J. Lancia, MD, DFAPA, FACLP.
The Illinois Psychiatric Society also welcomes incoming officers L. Joy Houston, MD, FAPA, who will serve as board treasurer, and Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, MD, FAPA, who will serve as board secretary.
IPS President Dr. Abdi Tinwalla IPS President-Elect Dr. Andrew J. Lancia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alison Maley
Government & Public Relations Director
Illinois Principals Association recognized by
Great Place to Work® on Certification Nation Day,
a national celebration of outstanding workplaces
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Principals Association is proud to celebrate Certification Nation Day on May 17, along with the community of Great Place to Work-Certified™ companies across the country. Great Place to Work® has designated May 17, 2022, as Certification Nation Day to salute and recognize the companies working to create great places to work for all.
“The positive culture at IPA allows our team of richly talented individuals to support one another with a shared mission of developing, supporting, and advocating for innovative educational leaders,” shared Dr. Susan Homes, deputy executive director for professional learning. “To achieve this mission, we serve each other first so we can serve our members. I'm proud to be part of an association that is not only forward thinking but is recognized nationally for our innovative solutions and support for school leaders.”
Great Place to Work Certification™ is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying outstanding employee experiences.
“Certified companies put employees first” says Michael C. Bush, chief executive officer at Great Place to Work. “Thriving employees increase revenue, profit and provide market-leading customer experiences. I hope that Certification Nation Day can inspire other executives to create and sustain employee-first cultures."
“Great Place to Work Certification™ isn’t something that comes easily” says Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place to Work. “It takes ongoing dedication to the employee experience.”
“My favorite thing about working for IPA is the team-oriented culture,” said Arlin Peebles, Ed Leaders Network director and IPA staff member. “Our staff motto is ‘Serving each other, serving educators, serving children’ and it is put in that order for a reason. Whenever we need something from another staff member it is immediately prioritized and taken care of. We have a huge amount of respect for each other, and it is always exciting when we get a chance to collaborate on a project to serve our members.”
“Everyone at IPA works together as a high-functioning team,” said Janice Schwarze, professional learning associate and former principal. “I feel valued as a professional, and I also feel like I am part of a big family who looks out for me personally.”
According to Great Place to Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93% more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits and have a fair chance at promotion.
About Illinois Principals Association
The Illinois Principals Association is a professional association serving more than 6,000 building-level administrators in Illinois. IPA provides professional learning and advocacy opportunities, supporting principals and other school administrators to lead effective learning organizations.
About Great Place to Work Certification™
Great Place to Work® Certification™ is the most definitive “employer-of-choice” recognition that companies aspire to achieve. It is the only recognition based entirely on what employees report about their workplace experience – specifically, how consistently they experience a high-trust workplace. Great Place to Work Certification is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying and recognizing outstanding employee experience. Every year, more than 10,000 companies across 60 countries apply to get Great Place to Work-Certified.
About Great Place to Work®
Great Place to Work® is the global authority on workplace culture. Since 1992, they have surveyed more than 100 million employees worldwide and used those deep insights to define what makes a great workplace: trust. Their employee survey platform empowers leaders with the feedback, real-time reporting and insights they need to make data-driven people decisions. Everything they do is driven by the mission to build a better world by helping every organization become a great place to work For All™.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Emily Warnecke
Merger creates Illinois' largest school
energy management group
The Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) and the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) have announced a merger to create the Illinois Energy Consortium powered by Future Green — Illinois’ largest energy management group. The initiative will help member school districts reduce their energy spending, protect them from market volatility and invest in renewable energy.
“Price volatility, supply disruptions and the transition to lower carbon generation are just a few of the long-term trends facing the energy markets that we are responding to,” said Dr. Michael Jacoby, executive director/CEO of IASBO. “This initiative will provide school districts with much-needed stability and cost certainty through aggregating their respective energy loads to secure lower prices than they could on their own.”
The new entity is a merger of the Illinois Energy Consortium (IEC) and Future Green Energy Consortium (FGEC). The IEC, created in 1997, is Illinois’ largest electric and natural gas pool. More than 30 percent of all Illinois public school districts and colleges are members. The FGEC was created in 2016 as a way to provide members with renewable electric power solutions at no out-of-pocket cost.
“Illinois member schools have saved tens of millions of dollars in the past by joining forces under the umbrellas of the IEC and FGEC,” said Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of IASA. “By merging the two, districts will be able to invest more dollars into the classroom while also exploring green-energy solutions such as onsite solar generation and electrification of bus fleets.”
After the passage of the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in 2021, Illinois school districts are in a unique position to install solar panels on site and reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to saving money, onsite solar provides protection from extreme weather events and can potentially generate revenue for the district in the event it is able to sell excess renewable energy back into the grid.
“In February 2021, there were school districts in Illinois forced to close due to a sudden massive spike in the price of natural gas,” said Dr. Tom Bertrand, executive director of IASB. “That volatility creates stress on the school district, parents and students. Providing more stability with energy costs can allow districts to avoid major disruptions to learning.”
Illinois Energy Consortium powered by Future Green will be actively managed by Econergy LLC, based in Chicago. Econergy has helped more than 2,500 schools and businesses across the country unlock access to renewable energy savings by building energy coalitions.
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