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By PETE SPITLER
DU QUOIN – After months of analysis by his office, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has issued a binding opinion that the Du Quoin District 300 Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act during one of its three executive sessions that took place during the school board's April 7 special meeting.
Perry County Weekly-Press Publisher Jeff Egbert submitted a Request for Review to the AG's Public Access Counselor on April 11 seeking a review of the school board's closed sessions during that meeting, which was the one during which a group of Durham School Services bus drivers turned in their gas cards and other employee materials in protest of the board's choice of Durham in continuing to provide student transportation in the district.
The drivers who are not District 300 employees had previously aired their grievances with their employer in Durham to the board during its regular March meeting, with the April 7 meeting being called, in part, to allow the board to take action on the bus contract.
In the opinion released on July 12, Raoul stated the board failed to cite an applicable exception before closing the meeting to the public and improperly held a closed session for discussion of bids for a student transportation contract.
On Monday, July 18, the Du Quoin school board issued the following statement in response to Raoul's opinion: "On July 12, 2022, the Illinois Attorney General's office released Binding Opinion 22010," the statement said. "In that opinion, the Illinois Attorney General's Office concluded that the second of three closed sessions conducted during the April 7, 2022, special meeting of the DCSD 300 Board of Education did not conform to the requirements of section 2A of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
"During the executive session at issue, the Board discussed three competing bids for a student transportation contract. The Board entered the second closed session based on concerns that legal consequences could result from the student transportation bidding process. The Attorney General's Office has determined that those concerns did not meet the relevant exceptions to the Open Meetings Act.
"The Board respects the decision of the Attorney General's Office and will make the verbatim recording and minutes of the second closed session available to the public," the board continued
"The Board remains committed to providing quality public education while operating in a manner that is open and transparent."
During the April 7 meeting, the board heard about a half-hour of open discussion on the bus contract topic before board member Kevin West made a motion to go with Robinson Transportation (whose bid was $345,543 higher than Durham's), that was seconded by board member Crystal Harsy.
The motion failed on a 3-2 decision, with board member Steven Still abstaining without explanation and Board President Brian Rodely, Vice President Trent Waller and Secretary Amy Rose all voting "no."
Waller then made a motion to choose Durham, with Rodely seconding. This time, the vote deadlocked at 3-3 with Still, West and Harsy all voting "no."
Still then motioned to go back into executive session, which the board agreed with. About an hour and a half later, the board returned to open session and voted 4-2 (with Still voting with the board's leadership) in favor of Durham before returning to executive session for the third time.
The school board has acknowledged it did not publicly state the exception for going into closed session for the second time after Still's motion, but argued that its discussion fell within the scope of "anticipated litigation."
In his opinion, Raoul pointed to the 2021 Illinois Appellate Court case City of Bloomington v. Raoul, in which the court found members of the Bloomington City Council had entered closed session without reasonable grounds to believe that litigation against the City of Normal concerning the cities' intergovernmental agreement was "probable" or "imminent" and was instead speculative in nature.
"Here, the (Du Quoin School) Board contended that its closed session discussion concerning the student transportation bid was permitted by Section 2(c)(ll) of OMA because litigation was anticipated," Raoul wrote in his opinion. 'The Board did not state any litigation was pending."
Raoul added that in the school board's redacted answer, the board members "noted their concerns" and board attorney (Matthew Benson), who participated in the executive session, "validated their concerns."
"This office's review of the verbatim recording of the Board's 7:24 p.m. closed session meeting revealed the Board's discussion of its concerns did not focus on probable or imminent litigation," Raoul wrote. "Similar to the city council in City of Bloomington, the Board's discussion of litigation was Speculative.
"Further, none of the materials the Board submitted to this office indicate that at the time of the April 7, 2022, special meeting, the Board had a reasonable basis to believe that litigation was more likely than not to occur."
Raoul continued by stating the board's discussion was not limited to the "strategies, posture, theories and consequences" of the litigation, but "primarily concerned what course of action to take in awarding a bid for the student transportation contract."
In its answer to the PAC, the school board also indicated its closed session exemption fell within "criminal investigations."
This section permits public bodies to hold closed meetings to discuss "informant sources, the hiring or assignment of undercover personnel or equipment, or ongoing, prior or future criminal investigations when discussed by a public body with criminal investigatory responsibilities."
Raoul's opinion placed bolded emphasis on the last 10 words in that sentence.
"The Board did not identify for this office any source of authority it has to conduct criminal investigations," Raoul wrote. "Further, there are no provisions in Article 10 of the Illinois School Code ...which describes the powers and duties of school boards of education that authorizes the Board to conduct criminal investigations."
At the conclusion of his opinion, Raoul directed the school board to "remedy this violation by disclosing to Mr. Egbert and making publicly available the verbatim recording of the 7:24 p.m. closed session that occurred during the April 7, 2022, special meeting and the corresponding portion of the April 7, 2022, closed session minutes."
"As directed by section 3.5(e) of OMA, the Board shall either take necessary action as soon as practical to comply with the directives of this opinion or shall initiate administrative action under section 7.5 of OMA," Raoul wrote.
The school board did have the option of filing a complaint for judicial review of the matter in the Circuit Court of Cook County or Sangamon County within 35 days of the date of the opinion.
As for the school board's other two closed sessions during that April 7 meeting, Raoul determined that they were properly conducted using the personnel exemption.
"The 6:02 p.m. session discussion focused on the retirement of one specific employee, and the hiring of two other specific employees," Raoul wrote. "The 8:42 p.m. closed session focused on two specific administrators' performances during the student transportation bid process.
"Because those discussions directly concerned the employment and performance of specific employees, section 2(c)(1) of OMA authorized the Board to hold the discussions in closed session."
The school board is scheduled to convene this Thursday, July 21, at 6 p.m. for its regular July meeting.
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Digital Public Relations Specialist
Ten $1,000 scholarships now open to Midwest high school seniors
High school seniors from Illinois and five other Midwest states have a chance to earn the scholarships
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA — High school seniors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin now have a chance to receive one of 10 college scholarships worth $1,000. Registration is open now through April 28, 2023. Parents are also now able to register their student.
High school seniors or their parents may register for the ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest. ISL Education Lending will award $1,000 scholarships to 10 students whose names are randomly drawn after the registration period. There are no financial need, grade point average or class rank requirements. The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship can be used at any eligible institution in the United States.
Registered participants also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.
“Student loan debt is a huge concern for new college students,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of ISL Education Lending. “As a nonprofit, we provide tools and resources to help high school seniors plan so they can reduce the amount of debt they need to take on while achieving their education goals. Students sign up for a chance at a $1,000 scholarship, and we take that opportunity to share information with them about our free resources.”
The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are seniors at a high school in one of the qualifying states during the 2022–2023 school year and who intend to attend college, either virtually or physically, in fall 2023. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest.
Additional Resources Available
In addition to offering student loans, ISL Education Lending has other resources for families planning for college and for students who intend to pursue advanced degrees. The Parent Handbook consists of valuable tips to help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. Parents of students in eighth through 12th grades can also sign up to receive twice-monthly emailed tips on academic, college and career planning through the Student Planning Pointers for Parents program. The College Funding Forecaster helps families understand the total cost of four years of college based on a freshman-year financial aid offer. Information about these resources is available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SmartBorrowing.
# # #
About ISL Education Lending
Established in 1979 as Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation, a private, nonprofit organization, ISL Education Lending helps students and families obtain the resources necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. ISL has helped nearly 400,000 students pay for college, offering student loans and other products under the name ISL Education Lending. The organization, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, also provides an array of borrower benefits, financial literacy tools and community reinvestment programs, including support for free college planning services for students and their families. For more information, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org.
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Contact: Stephanie Benson, program chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Illinois Reading Council
http://illinoisreads.org and www.illinoisreadingcouncil.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IllinoisReads #Illinoisreads
Illinois Reading Council's
2023 Illinois Reads Book Selection
featured at the
IRC Conference on March 9-10, 2023
The Illinois Reading Council (IRC) has just released the list of ILLINOIS READS books for 2023. ILLINOIS READS is a statewide program that promotes reading for all Illinois citizens. The program promotes six books in six different age categories by authors and illustrators who have ties to Illinois. The books range from read-to books for infants to books for adult readers. Bookmarks and posters highlighting the ILLINOIS READS books will be available in early 2023. Order early as supplies are limited!
The 2023 ILLINOIS READS Program will also be featured at the annual IRC Conference in Springfield on March 9-10, 2023. Conference registration is now open for educators, librarians, and others interested in promoting literacy. More information is available at the Illinois Reading Council website.
The ILLINOIS READS book selections for 2023 are:
Ages Birth – 4 Years
Would You Come Too? by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Diana Sudyka
This is Music: Drums by Rekha S. Rajan
Chicago, Baby! by Feather Flores, illustrated by Kelly Leigh Miller
ABC Animals! by Stephen F. Majsak
I’ll Be Your Polar Bear by Justin Roberts
Molly on the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington
Pighearted by Alex Perry
A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga
Apple Crush by Lucy Knisley
Three Strike Summer by Skyler Schrempp
A Man Called Horse: John Horse and the Black Seminole Underground Railroad by Glennette Tilley Turner
Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime by Candace Fleming
As Fast As Her: Dream Big, Break Barriers, Achieve Success by Kendall Coyne
Strike the Zither by Joan He
The Wolves Are Watching by Natalie Lund
Darling by K. Ancrum
The Most Haunted House in America by Jarrett Dapier
Stella Keeps the Sun Up by Clothilde Ewing
Elephant’s Big Solo by Sarah Kurpiel
The Meaning of Pride by Rosiee Thor and illustrated by Sam Kirk
Tortoise and Hare: A Fairy Tale to Help You Find Balance by Susan Verde and illustrated by Jay Fleck
Yetis are the Worst! by Alex Willan
Courage by Barbara Binns
The Civil War of Amos Abernathy by Michael Leali
Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall Tumble by Celia C. Pérez
ReThink the Internet: How to Make the Digital World a Lot Less Sucky by Trisha Prabhu
Underground Fire: Hope, Sacrifice, and Courage in the Cherry Mine Disaster by Sally M. Walker
The Upstairs House: A Novel by Julia Fine
Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America by Cody Keenan
Eat, Drink, and Be Murray: A Feast of Family Fun and Favorites by Andy Murray
Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel by Shelby Van Pelt
The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West
Last Summer on State Street: A Novel by Toya Wolfe
ILLINOIS READS is sponsored by the Illinois Reading Council, a nonprofit organization with close to 2,000 members across the State of Illinois. The mission of the Illinois Reading Council is to provide support and leadership to all who promote and teach lifelong literacy. Book lists from 2013 to 2022 may be found on the ILLINOIS READS website. More information is also available at www.IllinoisReads.org and www.IllinoisReadingCouncil.org.
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Contact: Nic Skovgaard
Certifiable Marketing Maniac
TED talk brings entrepreneur full circle
HERRIN, Illinois — Nic Skovgaard, owner of AlterEgo Marketing in Herrin, has been named one of eight presenters at the upcoming TEDxSIUC conference, March 4 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Skovgaard will share his first-ever TED talk, “The Future is Vertical: Why Vertical Video Will Flip Your Screen Forever.”
The trip to the TEDx stage will be special for Skovgaard, who said it was other TED presentations which laid the foundation for his company, a recognized leader in brand development, digital presence and traditional marketing.
“I built my company (AlterEgo Marketing in Herrin) because of two TED talks,” he explained. “Everything about who I am as a person and everything I’ve done of the last decade can be traced back to those two TED talks.”
Skovgaard said a 2009 presentation by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why” and Drew Dudley’s 2010 talk “Everyday Leadership” greatly impacted him. Sinek’s speech explored how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change.
“I will tell you that everything I’ve done with my company, in working with the Jackson CEO program, any volunteering I have done and any mentoring work, all can be traced back to those TED talks. Drew Dudley’s talk completely changed my life as he talked about ‘lollipop’ moments and leadership and how you could be a leader at any place and at any time” he said.
Skovgaard said since first seeing the two presentations, he has tried to follow the speakers’ advice.
“I have been on this quest to have that same kind of impact that those two individuals have had on me,” he said. “If I could make just a bit of that impact on another person’s life, it would mean the world to me."
As one of those speakers who influenced Skovgaard, Dudley said he feels as though the Herrin native already is changing others’ lives and he is honored to have Skovgaard relate his impact.
Dudley said, "’Lucky’ is a more appropriate term, because knowing Nic feels like that can impact me every day. I believe leadership exists in individual moments of interpersonal impact and it's the role of a leader to create those moments every day. On the days I feel too tired, too angry, or too filled with self-doubt to try to live like that, words like Nic's can be a reminder how much recognizing someone else's impact on your life can matter to that person.”
TED talks are presentations, often recorded, at conferences on a variety of topics to educate or inspire. Called “ideas worth sharing,” speakers are selected for TED-sponsored or individual local gatherings called TEDx events. Skovgaard was among those chosen from a pool of 50 potential presenters.
In his talk, Skovgaard will be sharing what he sees as a shift in how videos are presented online, exploring a shift to a vertical (or portrait) orientation rather than the once-encouraged horizontal format. He said the change, driven in part by the TikTok social media platform, is based on how individuals consume video content.
“There is no such thing as horizontal video anymore. If I were to give one piece of advice for online video, it would be to never turn your camera sideways again,” he said, emphatically. “TikTok has completely changed that game and everyone else is copying it. I would tell you there is no reason from this day forward to shoot any video landscape unless you are doing it for television.”
Skovgaard said it is a dream come true to be scheduled for the TEDxSIUC event. Dudley said he knows Skovgaard is looking to help others through his presentation.
“While delivering a TED Talk might be a personal goal for Nic, the work he's been putting in to make it happen has focused on creating content that helps others at every step of the way. I think Nic sees the TED stage not as a platform to make him look good but rather as a platform to do good; to share ideas that he thinks will make the lives of other people better,” Dudley said.
The 2023 TEDxSIUC event is set for Saturday, March 4 in the SIU Student Center. Tickets will be available in January.
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Contact: Deborah A. Newman
Deborah Newman Marketing/Communications
Turning Pointe to fund critical support services for families of students with autism; lucky raffle winner to take home $80,000 luxury hybrid SUV
NAPERVILLE, IL — Supporting Turning Pointe Autism Foundation will prove lucky for one family who will win an MSRP $80,000 2023 Toyota Sequoia Capstone Twin Turbo V6 Hybrid SUV for the cost of a $100 raffle ticket. But for scores of autistic students and their families who attend Turning Pointe, the proceeds of the raffle will provide critical funds to aid the Family Support and Respite activities at Turning Pointe.
Thanks to Toyota of Naperville, a member of the Dan Wolf Automotive Group, Turning Pointe is selling just 2,000 tickets at $100 each for the luxury family SUV. The winning ticket will be drawn at Toyota of Naperville, 1488 West Ogden Ave. in Naperville on Dec. 15. The winner need not be present to win.
Giving Families Skills and Resources
“Our son Alex needs to be under constant supervision,” says dad Arnold. ”Even though he’s 19, it’s kind of like raising a toddler. If I step away for a moment, I’m still worrying that he’ll need something and not be able to find me to get help. Everything about our family life revolves around him. My wife and I are always on guard. But since we’ve been at Turning Pointe, instead of living in a bubble, we have been empowered with Family Support seminars on legal, financial and health issues. As Alex’s behavior has become more manageable, his relationship with his sister has improved, and we’ve learned so much that now we can take him on outings and even travel.”
Expanding Resources Needed Most
“The raffle is an important and exciting fundraiser for Turning Pointe,” says Carrie Provenzale, executive director. “The funding it generates will give us an opportunity to support the growing number of families living with children impacted by autism. We know best-practice interventions can vastly improve students’ future independence. The past few years, as more families have learned of an autism diagnosis, supports have been stretched and classrooms at other providers have closed as a result of the pandemic. The raffle funds will allow Turning Pointe to continue expanding support for families.”
Engaging Compassionate High School Volunteers
Arnold says the Saturday Respite program allows Alex to be among friends and staff who understand him and keep him safe. “My wife and I can actually do things together, like enjoy a meal in a ‘non-Alex-friendly’ restaurant and just let our guard down for a bit. It’s a program that Alex enjoys, and he can spend time with neuro-typical high school student volunteers from the Benet Academy Benet Buddies program, who help him socialize. Before Turning Pointe, our life was pretty chaotic. But Turning Pointe has become our family and now we see hope.”
Ensuring Specialized Quality Education and Employment Training
Turning Pointe Autism Foundation was founded 15 years ago by Kim and Randy Wolf, who together with other parents of autistic children, teamed with professionals to build on programming which has proven effective for children diagnosed with Autism. Turning Pointe strives to raise the quality of educational support for children and young adults through a Day School for students from ages 5 to 22 and Adult Services offering support for independent living and employment. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, the organization relies on the partnership of volunteers, donors, school districts, and employment partners to build a thriving center for students learning with autism.
For more information on Turning Pointe Autism Foundation visit https://turningpointeautismfoundation.org. To buy tickets to the 2022 Toyota Sequoia Capstone Raffle by Dec. 15, 2022, visit https://turningpointeautismfoundation.org/2022-toyota-raffle/.
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