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COVID-19 diagnosis gives Galena Gazette editor added perspective


Hillary and Jay Dickerson pose with their daughters (left to right) Ruby, 14, Lilly, 17 and Maya, 15. Hillary is the editor of Galena Gazette and Jay is the weekly newspaper's sales manager.


‘It’s frustrating’ to see public ignoring seriousness of virus, weekly paper’s leader says

For Illinois Press Association

GALENA – In April, Hillary Dickerson, the editor of the Galena Gazette, wrote a column titled “Finding Silver Linings.” She shared her family’s heartbreak with the weekly newspaper’s readers. Most notably, her oldest daughter’s graduation ceremony and performance in “Mamma Mia” had been suddenly scrapped.

But Dickerson quickly shifted to a place of gratitude for the chance for her, her husband, and their three daughters to spend more time together.

“In the past several weeks, our time together as a family has been the greatest blessing in my life. … I’m sorry to say that it had been far too long since we had time to make dinner together every night and then sit around the table to share that meal,” the Page 4 column in the April 8 edition reads. “There’s no rushing off to the next meeting or activity. We’re present in one another’s lives. We even clear the table together and do the dishes with barely a complaint. We’ve ended the evening with some great board game battles, hours spent huddled working on a puzzle or cuddled up together in the living room watching a movie.”

Her moment of reckoning was just beginning.

In early October, six members of the small-but-mighty newspaper’s staff tested positive for COVID-19, including Hillary and her husband, Jay, who’s also the paper’s sales manager.

“Luckily, the timing worked out that [the office was] able to remain open the entire time,” Hillary said.

She and Jay immediately isolated at home. She was able to connect to the server and lay out pages the following Monday.

“Luckily our symptoms were quite mild, so we were able to push through,” Hillary said.

She and Jay both suffered mild sinus symptoms and extreme fatigue, Hillary said. One of their daughters suffered those same symptoms, as well as a headache. Another daughter, who was diagnosed a week after those three had tested positive, “only” lost her taste and smell, Hillary said.

“It was so strange, all those different symptoms in one house,” she said. “We’re all pretty much back to 100 percent now.”

That is apart from their youngest, 15-year-old Ruby, whose sense of taste is still a bit off.

“She says almond milk is salty, bananas are sweeter ...” Hillary said.

Brace for the real tragedy in all of this.

“... and Goldfish crackers have a weird aftertaste,” she continued.

Hillary and one reporter make up the editorial staff that covers Galena, a popular tourist destination in the state’s northwest corner. Over the years, the Gazette has regularly won the Illinois Press Association’s editorial sweepstakes, and finished runner-up to The Hinsdalean in 2019.

“Having lived and worked near Galena for many years, I’ve always admired the work The Galena Gazette staff has done,” said Jeff Rogers, director of the IPA’s foundation. “It’s consistently one of the best nondaily newspapers in the state. It’s a paper that is really plugged into the communities it covers, and it shows in the journalism practiced by Hillary and her team.”

Since Gov. JB Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order March 20, apart from three staff – two ad reps and a graphic designer – the Gazette’s team has worked in the office, often beyond its reduced schedule of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“As I’m sure you understand, people are often at the office outside those times,” Hillary said. “We have a large enough space that we’re all 10-plus feet apart. We wear masks and require those of customers.”

The week after Hillary’s diagnosis, her reporter started working from home as a precautionary measure.

Whereas many daily newspapers have made their offices completely off-limits, it’s a different game for weekly publications and their small staffs.

The Carroll County Review, in Thomson directly south of Jo Daviess County, has an editorial staff of one – 76-year-old owner and publisher Jon Whitney.

“The office is really an extension of our house and we spend more time here than at home. At least it seems like it,” Whitney said. “We only have a part-time person that missed about six weeks, but is back now. Other than that, it's my wife [Nancy] and I.”

Hillary Dickerson said her family’s experience has given her new perspective, while Jo Daviess County’s positivity rate has eclipsed 10 percent and restaurants throughout the state are bucking orders to close their dining rooms.

“We’ve been very open about our positive test results in the community, and I hope that sharing our experience helps others understand the seriousness of what is happening,” she said. “Our positivity rate in this region is climbing daily and I see all sorts of people not taking the pandemic seriously on a daily basis. It’s frustrating.”

Hillary misses pounding the pavement, covering events, and doing in-person interviews. She said staff will occasionally mask up to cover in-person meetings, while keeping their distance.

“As convenient as it is to attend a meeting virtually, I’ve certainly noticed that the discussion among board members isn’t the same,” she said.

Whitney seconded that, saying one village board has canceled most of its meetings after two of them held in a large space to accommodate social distancing didn’t go well.

“That did not work well because of acoustic problems,” he said. “Most of the board members are elderly and don't hear well; two do not have computers or internet service.”

He said the other village board the Review covers was once virtual but has resumed meeting in person, but will likely return to the virtual format now that cases are again surging.

In lieu of high school sports seasons, the Galena Gazette is producing a special section with feature stories about how the school has adjusted to the pandemic and highlighting some of the unique things that are happening in and out of the classrooms.

“We actually believe this section could have wider appeal than just a typical sports program, so it will be interesting to see the response,” Hillary Dickerson said. “It’s also a great way to document what’s happening now for future generations.”

While newsrooms’ overwhelming consensus lament of 2020 might be “It’s not the same,” the Dickersons, with their newfound perspective, willingly accept it.

“I’m willing to change things up if it means keeping people safe, and we’re still definitely committed to covering the communities we serve,” she said..

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Illinois Principals Association examines
principal pipeline in new report  

Nov. 18, 2020
CONTACT: Alison Maley
Government & Public Relations Director
Illinois Principals Association


SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Principals Association recently released a report on the principal pipeline and school leader turnover entitled “Effective and Sustained Principals for Every Illinois Community.” The report examines the critical role principals play in creating effective schools for every child, details the serious problem of principal attrition, and makes policy recommendations to help slow attrition and rebuild the principal pipeline.

“The rate of principal attrition and the lack of individuals entering the principalship in Illinois are at crisis points,” said Dr. Jason Leahy, Illinois Principals Association Executive Director. “Policymakers, school districts, the IPA and other stakeholders must make a concerted effort to invest in both current and future school leaders. Effective and Sustained Principals for Every Illinois Community offers recommendations to jumpstart conversations to develop strategies that ensure every Illinois school has an effective and sustained principal.”

Effective and Sustained Principals for Every Illinois Community illustrates many of the reasons principals are leaving the profession at a greater rate than ever before. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) have previously identified increasing student and staff social emotional issues, high-stakes accountability, a lack of decision-making authority, and obstacles to professional learning opportunities as some reasons that principals are increasingly leaving the profession. Locally, a 2019 IPA member survey indicated that over 50% of principals surveyed are under extreme stress 10 or more hours every week, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Principal attrition not only creates a void of talented individuals to impact the lives of children, but the financial and qualitative effect of turnover is significant. Preparing and onboarding a new principal costs an average $75,000 nationally, and student performance in Math and Language Arts generally decreases the year after a principal leaves and requires up to three years for a new principal to make up the loss.

To stem principal attrition and rebuild the principal pipeline, the Illinois Principals Association recommends policy changes at both state and school district levels which include:

• Support and maintain building administration staffing levels recommended by the Evidence Based Funding Model;

• Provide statewide leadership mentoring and coaching, especially to new principals;

• Provide continuous professional learning opportunities;

• Create alternative pathways to the principalship;

• Study why individuals are not choosing school leadership as a viable career path; and,

• Offer scholarships and other incentives to individuals who choose the principalship as a career path, especially for BIPOC individuals and other underrepresented groups.

For more information about Effective and Sustained Principals for Every Illinois Community, please visit https://ilprincipals.org/advocate/principal-pipeline-crisis/.

About the Illinois Principals Association

The Illinois Principals Association serves over 5,900 educational leaders statewide and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders. For more information about the IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org.






Tuscola author publishes book
of award-winning columns  

Nov. 12, 2020
CONTACT: David Porter

217-991-0935 or

David Porter, a newspaper publisher in Tuscola, Illinois, has published a 300-page compilation of his award-winning Ramblin’ Man columns. Called The Make-Out Room & Other Stories, the title column won the 2020 Best Humor Column award from the National Newspaper Association. Over the past 26 years, the column also has received first-place nods from the Illinois Press Association and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

The self-syndicated column has appeared in more than a dozen Illinois newspapers. The stories draw from the everyday experiences and musings of the author. Topics frequently include family, cigars, reflections on the news and oddball stuff.

Dave Barry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist quipped, “David Porter is without question the finest newspaper columnist on the planet that I am aware of who is based in Tuscola, Illinois.”

The book, available on amazon.com, is illustrated by Lana Weatherford Hill of Arcola. Hill, who was a classmate of Porter’s at Tuscola High School, also writes an award-winning column and illustrated the children’s book Ten Little Sisters.

The Make-Out Room also is available for Kindle readers on amazon.com. A link can be found online at ramblinman.us.

Porter is married to the former Jennie Quinn, a Kindergarten teacher. They first met while in Kindergarten together. They have three children, five grandchildren (and one on the way) and four great-grandchildren.

EDITORS: For an electronic copy of the book for review, please email presseditor1@gmail.com. Cover art also is available





In Illinois, harvest typically takes place between September and November. Motorists should be on the lookout for farm equipment during that time, including combines, grain carts and semi-trucks. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)



Harvest safety reminder:
Always be on the lookout
for farm equipment on the roads

Oct. 23, 2020
For Immediate Release

By Katie Zelechowski
Illinois Farm Bureau

Harvest season is the time of year when some of the best aspects of Midwest agriculture can be experienced by all. Pumpkin patches and apple orchards in Illinois are open for visitors and the golden-brown fields of mature crops line rural roads across the state. But along with these markers of fall come the dangers of transportation incidents associated with harvest.

The harvest season in Illinois typically spans from September to November each year. During that time, drivers should be on the lookout for a variety of farm equipment including combines, tractors, grain carts and semi-trucks. These large vehicles are not only cumbersome for the people operating them, but they take up extra room while traveling down the road, moving slowly and making wide turns.
“Farmers and equipment operators are working hard this season to transport crops grown in our state,” said Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) Assistant Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Rodney Knittel.

“But while fall is a busy time of year for many of us, especially farmers in the middle of harvest, it’s important to take rural road safety seriously,” he said.  

When drivers see slow-moving vehicles on the road, they should slow down and be prepared to stop. They should look for lights on the equipment to indicate any changes in speed or direction.  

If the operator pulls the equipment to the side of the road, other motorists should not assume the driver is letting someone pass; they may be preparing for a turn. Before passing, other motorists should use extreme caution and always wait for the equipment operator to acknowledge their presence and indicate that it is safe to pass.

In addition to using caution around agriculture equipment, it is also important to keep in mind that rural roads have unique characteristics and conditions that can make them more challenging to navigate.

Since they are not maintained in the same way city streets are, country roads may have poor or damaged surfaces and narrow lanes with no shoulders. Center and edge lines, sharp turns and blind hills may also be unmarked. These condi­tions can be extremely hazardous at night when there are no streetlights to illuminate the road.

“Remember, harvest activities do not stop when the sun goes down, so be prepared to encounter agriculture equipment on the road at all times,” said Knittel.

IFB’s Associate Field Support Director Jackie Jones, who oversees the organization’s health and safety programs, said above all, motorists should slow down and be patient when traveling.

“Farmers on the road are doing their best to keep other motorists safe so that everyone can get home to their families at the end of the day,” said Jones. “But it takes everyone working together to make that happen.”

For more tips on road safety during the harvest season, visit www.ilfb.org/ruralroadsafety



Poor or damaged surfaces, narrow lanes with no shoulders and unmarked center and edge lines are all common characteristics of rural roads. During harvest time, always use caution when traveling in the countryside and be on the lookout for farm equipment. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)




Commentary: Historical monuments, memorials, and statutes
should reflect our finest values

Executive Director
5255 Shepherd Road
Springfield, IL 62703

(217) 525-2518
Oct. 19, 2020
For Immediate Release

The Illinois State Historical Society (ISHS) welcomes the ongoing public discussion about monuments and commemoration in the Prairie State. Communities across Illinois face decisions about the presence of commemorative statues, monuments, and memorials and the naming of public spaces and buildings.

The ISHS encourages Illinois communities engaged in these discussions to carefully consider not just the historical facts of the figure being commemorated but the historical context and intent of the commemoration itself. Furthermore, those engaging in these discussions should reflect on who constitutes their communities and if all relevant voices are being heard. Finally, each community should determine what stories best represent their history and values and how best to tell those stories in a commemorative landscape.

Removing or reinterpreting a monument does not "erase" nor "change” history. It asserts that interpretations of the past are dynamic and change over time. Voices and perspectives that were previously silenced are now active participants in choosing the priorities and purposes of public commemoration. Ultimately, each community is challenged to determine which stories best represent their history and values and how best to tell those stories in a commemorative landscape.

We also want to remind our fellow Illinoisans that historians who specialize in the history of Illinois and its people have done careful and nuanced research that could meaningfully inform these discussions. Drawing on their expertise potentially helps uncover the intentions of those who erected the monuments, and how these monuments function as symbols whose meaning changes over time.

Since 1899, the ISHS has stood for the open inquiry and rigorous research that helps to connect people with our state's history.

We encourage communities to continue considering questions of monuments and commemoration, and welcome them to avail themselves of our network of experts and resources.
William Furry, for The Board of Directors of the Illinois State Historical Society

# # #


Illinois Principals Association encourages principal appreciation
in October

Government and Public Relations Director
(217) 525-1383
Oct. 1, 2020
For Immediate Release

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Lifetouch and the Illinois Principals Association (IPA) encourage all communities in Illinois to celebrate Principal Appreciation Week October 18-24, 2020, and Principal Appreciation Day on Friday, October 23, 2020. This state-endorsed recognition was first approved by the Governor of Illinois in 1990 and is annually celebrated. The IPA also joins the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) to recognize October as National Principals Month.

“In October, we celebrate Principal Appreciation month to honor the tireless efforts and contributions of school leaders throughout the state,” said Dr. Amy Dixon, President of the Illinois Principals Association. “During this unfamiliar time, school leaders are working harder than ever to find unique ways to connect with students, feed their communities, provide Wi-Fi to those in need, facilitate numerous stakeholder meetings, and more. The list is truly endless. As our principals step out of their comfort zones to lead through these challenges, we know our schools will be better tomorrow than they are today because of their efforts. Please join us in celebrating the eminent abilities that our principals exemplify. We hope that they remember to take care of themselves, take care of those they serve, and let the organization know if we can help in any way.”

“School leadership matters, especially right now,” said Dr. Jason Leahy, IPA Executive Director. “As a former principal and having visited dozens of schools throughout Illinois, the quality of a school’s learning environment and the ability of a school to do what is best for its students comes as a direct result of the leadership provided by the school’s Principal and leadership team. Courageous leadership is essential to equitably educate students and work to provide the resources and support they need to reach their potential. It is important that we recognize and encourage our schools’ leaders every day. The pandemic has heightened the need for us to intentionally share appreciation for those who do so much for our state’s young people.”

Principal Appreciation Day provides learning communities an opportunity to publicly recognize the work, commitment and importance of principals, assistant principals, and deans throughout the state. Lifetouch and the IPA invite all teachers, students, parents, and community members to perform some act of appreciation on Friday, October 23rd to acknowledge the leadership of building administrators in Illinois’ public and private schools.

Lifetouch is proud to be the official school photographer for the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Lifetouch is honored to support local members of the Illinois Principals Association in recognition of “Principal’s Appreciation Day.” Lifetouch is excited to have joined forces with Shutterfly to bring together two industry leaders who share a common purpose –to share life’s joy through capturing and preserving memories with the click of a camera. While we continue to deliver the quality photography and service you expect from Lifetouch, we are creating a new, innovative experience that will allow you to do more with your photos than ever before. As a part of our mission to help you share your memories, Lifetouch and Shutterfly are truly better together! Learn more at: https://schools.lifetouch.com/shutterfly/

The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization which serves over 5,800 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders. For more information about the IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org

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Sept. 17, 2020



SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ top newspapers were honored today at the Illinois Press Association’s virtual convention. More than 120 daily and nondaily newspapers competed in 40 editorial categories.

The Nebraska Press Association judged the more than 2,000 editorial entries for work done in 2019.

The Chicago Sun-Times won the Stuart R. Paddock Memorial Sweepstakes Trophy for large dailies.

The Sweepstakes Trophies are awarded to newspapers earning the most points in six different circulation divisions. Points are awarded for first place through honorable mention in most contest categories, including general excellence, photography, news writing, opinion writing, design, community service and editorial page.

Runner-up for the Paddock Trophy was the Chicago Tribune Media Group. In third place was Daily Herald Group, Arlington Heights.

In the medium-sized daily newspaper category, The News-Gazette in Champaign took top honors for the fifth consecutive year. It was awarded the Mabel S. Shaw Memorial Sweepstakes Trophy. The Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake claimed second place, and the Quincy Herald-Whig placed third.

In the small daily newspaper category, The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale claimed top honors. The newspaper was awarded the Patrick Coburn Award of Excellence. Coming in second for the Coburn Award was the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, followed by The Telegraph in Alton.

In the large, nondaily newspaper category, The MidWeek of DeKalb claimed the Will Loomis Memorial Trophy. Pioneer Press Media Group received second place. The Journal & Topics Media Group received third place.

The Harold and Eva White Memorial Trophy is awarded to a medium-sized nondaily newspaper. The winner this year was The Hinsdalean. Second place went to The Galena Gazette. And in third place was The Journal-News in Hillsboro.

The Woodstock Independent claimed ownership of the David B. Kramer Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the best small, nondaily newspaper in Illinois. The Oakland Independent received second place. And the third-place award was won by the Bureau County Republican in Princeton.


The Illinois Press Association also named a statewide Editor of the Year and Reporter of the Year for the first time during this convention. The Editor of the Year is Chris Coates, Central Illinois editor for Lee Enterprises. The Reporter of the Year is Katie Smith of Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake.

The Illinois Press Association, located in Springfield, represents approximately 440 daily and weekly newspapers.


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Illinois judicial candidates rated in Illinois State Bar Association
lawyers' poll and evaluations

Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications
(217) 747-1433
Sept. 10, 2020
For Immediate Release

Candidates for Illinois judicial offices who are running in the November 3 election have been rated by an Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) evaluations committee, or in a poll of lawyers conducted by ISBA.

Results were made available today at www.isba.org/judicialevaluations.

In Cook County, an ISBA Judicial Evaluations committee used the results of a questionnaire, background investigations, and in-person interview to rate candidates for all judicial offices. Candidates for the Illinois Supreme and Appellate Courts outside of Cook County were also evaluated using this method. Ratings based on these judicial evaluations are the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association.

In counties outside of Cook, the ISBA conducted an advisory poll. The advisory poll is sent to all ISBA members in the circuit or district from which a candidate seeks election. Licensed attorneys who are not members of ISBA, or any attorney outside the circuit or district, may request a ballot. Opinions expressed in the poll are of those attorneys who chose to respond and do not reflect the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association or the opinion of all Illinois attorneys.

# # #

The Illinois State Bar Association is a voluntary organization of 29,000 members that provides professional services to Illinois lawyers and education and services to the public. For more information, visit www.isba.org.


Indy Health Insurance Company seeking investor partners

July 27, 2020
For Immediate Release

LITTLE ROCK, AR (July 27, 2020) – This fall, Indy Health Insurance Company begins accepting patients for its debut Medicare-D plan, pending approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Indy Health is offering additional investment opportunities for independent pharmacy owners, pharmacy organizations and other investors until Aug. 29.

Indy Health Insurance Company, domiciled in Arkansas, will operate in Illinois, Georgia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and will begin enrolling patients in those states when Medicare open enrollment begins in October.
Indy Health's Medicare-D plan will offer seniors an affordable prescription drug plan option.  Indy Health-covered patients may receive their medications from any independent pharmacy in the Indy Health Preferred Pharmacy Network.  
"We’re building a pharmacy network on the strength of the 22,000 independently-owned community pharmacies in the U.S.,” said Indy Health Chair Laura Atkinson. "We envision a plan that empowers the relationship between patients and pharmacists. Pharmacists are patients’ most accessible health care provider. Evidence shows better health outcomes are possible when patients are permitted to see their community pharmacy versus being forced into big box stores or mail order.”
An article in the Journal of American Medicine Network Open newsletter highlights the central role of community pharmacies in patient care. The 3-year study showed older patients see their community pharmacists more frequently than their primary care physicians, providing an opportunity for better patient outcomes when physicians and pharmacists collaborate in the delivery of preventative care and chronic disease management.
Under Indy Health, pharmacies will pay no direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees -- a “claw back” PBMs collect to offset Medicare plan member costs. In 2018 small pharmacies paid average DIR fees of $129,613 per store – an 87% increase from 2017, according to an industry survey. DIR fees are a primary factor in the epidemic of community pharmacy closures. “The absence of DIR fees is a big win for independent pharmacies, who could move from surviving the current U.S. drug pricing crisis to thriving,” said Ms. Atkinson.  In addition, Indy Health Independent Preferred Network members will have better reimbursements, no restrictions to mail and an independent Preferred Specialty Pharmacy Network.
Through Indy Health Insurance Company, Medicare-D plan independent pharmacies will ultimately be able to create their own formulary, medication therapy management services and negotiate their own rebates through an independently owned, sustainable entity providing them with equitable representation within the prescription drug system.  Please visit  IndyHeatlhinc.com to learn more or to explore investment opportunities.


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