Thursday, March 26, 2020

Back together again! PBL joins the Illini Prairie Conference

By way of an overwhelming decision three days ago, Paxton-Buckley-Loda's bid to join downstate Illinois' premier prep sports conference was unanimously approved school administrators.

PBL, the league's first expansion team of sorts and the 11th school in the conference, joins St. Joseph-Ogden, Unity, Monticello, Rantoul, Prairie Central, Pontiac, Olympia, Central Catholic, St. Thomas More and Illinois Valley Central to make up the Illini Prairie Conference starting in the fall 2021.

Spartan defensive back Cole Berry picks off a pass intended for Panther receiver Matt Poll in the second half of their game on August 29, 2017. St. Joseph-Ogden, ranked #1 in Class 3A in The Associate Press pre-season poll, went on to defeat Paxton-Buckley-Loda in their non-conference battle, 27-7. The Spartans and Panthers will face each other once again under the Friday night lights starting in 2021. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

The Panther athletic program is a comfortable fit in the void that left the football schedules of nine teams open when St. Thomas More announced in January that they would move to 8-man competition. The Sabers will stay in the conference competing in all the remaining sports they offer.

Four schools applied for the opening after conference commissioner Brad Allen, a former teacher and coach at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, announced the IPC was looking for another program to help round out the conference football schedules.

The Panthers, with an enrollment of 472 this year, were already scouting a new conference affilation to compete with schools with similar number of students. They will leave the Sangamon Valley Conference after a 31-year run in a year from this May.

"I think the Illini Prairie has a lot to offer. A lot of conference schools has three levels of volleyball, freshman, junior varsity and varsity football and junior varsity and varsity baseball," PBL athletic director Brock Niebuhr told the Ford County Chronicle. "From that standpoint, I’m excited that we’ll be able to, hopefully, be able to step right in and compete. That’s what our goal is. I’m looking forward to doing that.”

From a scheduling standpoint, PBL was also an easy choice for many of the IPC athletic directors.

"For other sports, we will simply go to an 11 team conference schedule, kind of like what the Big Ten looked like from 1991-2011 when Penn State became the 11th conference team and before Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011," said St. Joseph-Ogden athletic director Justin Franzen. "We can now play 35 regular season volleyball, softball, and baseball games, 31 regular season boys and girls basketball games, 25 soccer matches. We already compete against PBL in almost every other sport that we offer, so adding a conference school just simply means that AD's need to adjust their schedules, which we do each year anyway."

Paul Bigham runs the ball for PBL
Panther running back Paul Bigham is brought down while running the ball in the second half. Bigham left the game after this play suffering a shoulder injury as he was brought down by the three Spartan defenders. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Head football coach Shawn Skinner noted the Panthers recent success on the gridiron, which includes qualifying for the Class 3A playoffs over the past five seasons, and the quality of their other their athletic programs such as basketball and cross country. Without a doubt PBL will raise the bar.

"Aside from football they compete well in all sports. I think it’s a solid fit for them to join the conference and maintain the high level of competitive balance in our league," Skinner pointed out. In regards to football he thinks PBL joining the conference is a great addition. "Their proximity is ideal and they are a similar school from a size standpoint."

St. Joseph-Ogden was able to fill the open week on Skinner's schedule relatively quickly inking a one-year deal with Nashville. With veteran quarterback Crayton Burnett coming back to lead the offense, the Spartans will open the 2020 season on road against last fall's 2A state runner-up.

Skinner said the Hornets will have "almost their entire starting team" back this fall.

"It will be a real challenge for us week one," Skinner added.

While SJO's open date was quickly filled in February, Franzen acknowledged some schools are still looking for a team to play.

Unity, one of the programs looking to replace the STM game, announced yesterday that they will travel 430 miles to Pierce City, Missouri, where they will play their week seven contest.

More than 260 SJO students named to third quarter Honor Roll

Last week St. Joseph-Ogden High School announced the third quarter honor roll recipients. Two hundred and seventy-five students achieved honor roll recognition during the third quarter as the COVID-19 virus silently spread throughout the United States.

Honor Roll student Ty Pence in SJO's home game against PBL.
Freshman starter Ty Pence dives for a loose ball in the Spartans' home game against Paxton-Buckley-Loda in January. In addition to being a gifted athlete, Pence earned high honor roll recognition in the classroom in the the third quarter. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Students who earned a grade point average of 3.25 or higher on the school's 4.0 scale are recognized as Honor Roll students. Those whose GPA soared above 3.74 earned the added distinction a High Honor Roll student.

Click on the student's name to read more about their scholastic or athletic achievements.


High Honor Roll
McGwire Atwood, Kaytlyn Baker, Olivia Baltzell, Tyler Burch, Maddux Carter, Yamilka Casanova, Ariana Chambers, Cale Coursey, Morgan Cramer, Aiden Cromwell, Zachary Dahman, Emily Elsbernd, Joselyn Frerichs, Alex Funk, Kennedy Greer, Andrew Guelfi, Mikyla Haley, Maya Hewkin, Taylor Hug, Peyton Jones, Jacob Kern, Aaron Lane, Collin Livesay, Aidan McCorkle, Kyle Meccoli, Teagan Miller, Allegra Pearman, Ty Pence, Jack Robertson, Kirsten Schaefer, Johanna Schmitz, Jack Setterdahl, Paige Siegmund, Trinity Tapia, Taylor Voorhees, Alayna Wagle and Maggie Ward.

Honor Roll
Alyssa Acton, Madison Adams, Sylvia Bills, Owen Birt, Ethan Blackburn, Gwen Chatterton, Bryce Collins, Aleah Dial, Leah Finley, Grace Flessner, Jessica Gadbury, Joseph Gherna, Kylie Greer, Connor Hale, Hallie Harms, Hayden Henkelman, Jonas Hutcherson, Shayne Immke, Emily Jeffries, Cameran Kelley, Hunter Ketchum, Carter Mabry, Haleigh Maddock, Katherine McDermott, Blake Morgan, Courtney Myren, Jacob Newman, Ava Northen, William Page, Emma Rydell, Isabel Sexton, Katharine Short, Mallory Wagner and Rebekah Weinmann.


High Honor Roll
Addison Allen, Tyler Altenbaumer, Kailyn Anderson, Ella Armstrong, Madison Atwood, Abigail Behrens, Ella Besson, Andrew Beyers, Brandie Bowlin, Mara Burkhalter, Kennedi Burnett, Angela Chahine, Braden Clampitt, Anastasia Conerty, Deanna Cummins, Benjamin Cunningham, Sidney Davis, Zander Dressen, Ashley Eldridge, Jared Emmert, Hannah Fox, Zella Fuqua, Brennan Haake, Liam Hamer, Alyssa Hamilton, Lauren Harper, Claire Huffman, Payton Jacob, Alison Kearney, Ava Knap, Ashlyn Lannert, Wyatt Loghry, Kelsey Martlage, Sophia McDade, Coby Miller, Conrad Miller, Elijah Mock, Jett Morris, Jessica Palmer, Emma Parkinson, Jackson Place, Hope Rajlich, JoLeena Reynolds, Kendra Riddle, Taryn Sexton, Alyssa Shoviak, Luke Stegall, Rebecca Steinbach, Mackenzie Trame and Taylor Wells.

Honor Roll
Nicolas Anzelmo, Alanna Bensyl, Allison Burnett, Mackenzie Fulk, Avian Gerdes, Caitlyn Holzinger, Kennedy Hudson, Kailyn Ingram, KayLeigh Kamphaus, Olivia Klotz, Jacey Lewis, Braden McElroy, Ava Meyer, Ava Miller, Keaton Nolan, Jonathan Poulter, Griffin Roesch, Grace Schmitz, Anna Snyder, Regan Uden, Ethan Vanliew and Elijah Weinmann.


High Honor Roll
Isabelle Brooks, Crayton Burnett, David Bytnar, Taylor Campbell, Kylie Duckett, Jacob Dwyer, Hanna Eastin, Nadirah Edwards, Emily Fisher, Dakota Franzen, Atleigh Hamilton, Emmy Houston, Lukas Hutcherson, Logan Ingram, Izabellah Innes, Cailer Kellenberger, Shelby Kofoot, Ethan Lane, Aiden Livesay, Tyson Madsen, Sophia Martlage, Flannery McCorkle, Garren Meeker, Abigail Moberg, Samantha Naylor, Alec Painer, Erin Patton, Aidan Roberts, Indira Robinson, Mazie Ronk, Evan Schmitz, Max Shonkwiler, Tessa Smith, Payton Vallee, Nora Walden, Brayden Wendt and Logan Wolfersberger.

Honor Roll
Hunter Brooks, Rylee Clements, Raegan Crippen, Makayla Duckwitz, Britney Evans, Alex Frerichs, Emily Froman, Isabella Getty, Spencer Lahners, Madigan Loman, Alyssa Maddock, Brandon Mattsey, Jackson Rydell and Mitchell Whitlock.


High Honor Roll
Lindsey Aden, Jenna Albrecht, Mallory Ames, Kendall Ayers, Taylor Barnes, Katelyn Berry, Emily Bigger, Kaylee Blackburn, Ginny Bytnar, Payton Cain, Trevon Carr, Payton Clements, Brendan Cooperider, Kristen Costa, Kathryn Cramer, Andrea Cunningham, Faith Dahman, Bailey Dowling, Hannah Dukeman, Jaiden Freeman, Payton Grimsley, Lucas Grindley, Erica Guelfi, Emily Hardimon, Cody Johnston, Danielle Kelso, Nathan Maier, Ava Mills, Carson Mills, Allison Monk, Nolan Peacock, Eric Poe, Hannah Rajlich, Jenna Schaefer, Rylee Stahl, Kenly Taylor, Stephanie Trame, Anna Tranel, Isabelle Vliet, Brayden Weaver, Sam Wesley, Zoey Witruk andJackson Wooten.

Honor Roll
Joseph Acton, Michara Allen, Kolton Batty, Ross Booker, Austin Carnes, Drew Coursey, Blake Dable, Asjah Fonner, Clay Frederick, Tristan Fuqua, Robert Gebbink, Brayden Grimsey, Ethan Hinrichs, Conner Hodge, Chance Izard, Lacey Kaiser, Aubrey Kern, Eliza Lewis, Keegan McCarty, Mason McLain, Alivia Norem, Taddy Pettit, Dyllan Price, Lexi Ribbe, Joshua Sexton, Joshua Vice, Karsyn Wetzel andJoel Wilson.

Governor Pritzker pushes state income tax filing date to July 15

Ben Szalinski, Illinois Policy

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced at his daily press conference on March 25 that July 15 will be the new deadline for Illinoisans to file state income taxes. The change comes five days after the same move was made by the federal government, which also pushed the deadline to July 15.

Pritzker said refunds are still being processed and distributed for those who have already filed taxes. Additionally, the state is allowing restaurants and bars extra time to pay their sales taxes. Other things such as evictions and utility shutoffs for late payments have also been suspended by executive order.

Pritzker said delaying the filing deadline will help soften the immediate economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor instituted a stay-at-home order that started March 21 that will last at least through April 7. All non-essential employees are to stay home and non-essential travel should be limited. On March 16, all restaurants and bars were closed to dine-in customers, but allowed to remain open for drive-through and take-out service.

The closure of businesses is leading to severe economic losses and a rise in unemployment. Between March 16 and 18, unemployment claims in Illinois rose by 64,000. After new social distancing measures were introduced, the number was expected to rise higher. Nationally, some experts believe unemployment may hit an unprecedented 30% in the second quarter.

While the numbers paint a grim economic future, it is important to note many of those seeking unemployment will be able to return to their jobs when social distancing orders are lifted. The current unemployment count does include furloughed workers.

In addition to putting off the day Illinoisans must pay taxes, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is suspending collection of traffic fees until April 30 to ease the economic burden on residents. Drivers will not immediately have to pay for late parking tickets, towing fees or red-light camera tickets. The city will also suspend its “booting” system.

Illinois currently has 1,865 cases of coronavirus with 19 deaths. The number of cases rose by 330 on March 25, the same day Pritzker announced the delayed tax deadline. Thirty-five counties have reported cases across all ages.

The economic impact of the virus is expected to be staggering in Illinois. The Illinois Policy Institute put together a report detailing what the state must do now to prepare for the fallout from the halt in economic activity, including a commercial property tax holiday and pension reform to preserve needed revenues.

Originally published by Illinois Policy on March 25, 2020. Published by permission.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

IHSA maintains commitment to a spring sports season

The Illinois High School Association reiterated the association's commitment to providing a spring sports season earlier today. Today, coaches, athletic directors and school administrators received a brief update from Executive Director Craig Anderson.

Anderson said that the IHSA is monitoring updates from government officials on COVID-19.

Once schools receive the okay to resume in-person instruction, administrators for each spring sport will assess feasibility and look at scheduling options. The IHSA could potentially offer their championship series during the summer months depending on the availability of available facilities.

IHSA Member School Administrators & Spring Sport Coaches,

I know this time continues to be a challenge for all of us. I hope this note finds you well.

As the IHSA staff and Board of Directors continue to monitor updates from government offices, as well as state and local health departments, we continue to support the possibility of our member schools completing both regular- and post-season spring sport seasons. The date schools are allowed to return to session will determine the length of the spring sports season and the potential of an IHSA State Series.

We will be working with our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) to determine the need for an acclimatization period in advance of competition once school resumes. No timeline has been set at this time.

We are considering an extension of the spring sports season limitation to provide more participation opportunities for students. This may include movement of the post-season timelines and State Series.

We will continue to provide updates as new information is available. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

If you need to contact our office, please do so via email as we are adhering to the "stay at home" directive.

Craig Anderson
IHSA Executive Director

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Yesterday's class, today's reality

About six and half years ago, back in October of 2013, I wrote a commentary addressing the lashing that St. Joseph-Ogden High School was taking from news outlets that week after a story broke that teachers were holding "death panels". Most of the attention was quite negative and tabloid speculation.

Who could have remotely imagine that the critical hypothetical event discussed in a sociology class would one day be a very real issue for governments around the globe and the doctors feverishly battling a pandemic.

Sociology Class At SJO Exposes Biases Beyond The Classroom

I remember an assignment in high school, probably as many adults my age, based on the crash of Uruguayan Flight 571 back in 1972. The story of the survivors was later recounted in the book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors and brought to cinematic life in 1976, my freshman year of high school.

As part of our assignment, we had to choose, as did the survivors of the crash, to become cannibals to survive or perish from malnutrition and exposure in a similar crash. As the source for food became scarce we had to decide who among the survivors would be sacrificed with dignity and heartbreaking regret to provide protein for the next several days worth of meals.

"The local hospital has enough machines to support six people. That means four people are not going to live. You must decide from the information below which six will survive."
After the initial joking and comical outbursts typical of high school juniors and seniors, the conversation turned serious. Our teacher guided the class through a conversation where each student eventually examined their moral beliefs, will to survive and sacrifice, and the emotional toll it could and likely would take years after rescue.

In 1978, it was our Kobayashi Maru and from other accounts, high school students around the country are given similar no-win or not-everyone wins situations. How many of you completed a similar assignment?

According to several comments posted to a local television station’s Facebook wall, previous classes at St. Joseph-Ogden High School (SJO), have pondered similar dilemmas over decades. Recently, the classroom lesson has gain overnight national attention. However, contrary to reports on other websites, the students are not making actual life or death decisions.

Hats off to The Leader, the community’s weekly newspaper, who simply headlined their story: "School Assignment Cause Controversy". Other news agencies were not so benign.

Nudged into the spotlight by after the parent of one student reportedly posted her objections to the classroom lesson on social network page, Fox News and even former presidential candidate Sarah Palin chimed in on what has been dubbed the "Death Panel", a term originating back in 2009 while the Affordable Care Act was in its infancy. Nearly every media outlet reporting on the assignment for the Sociology class could not resist assigning a sensational, gutter press headline to their stories or blog posts.

"Teacher Makes Students Decide Who Lives, Who Dies"

"Ghastly: Students Decide Who Lives, Who Dies In Death Panel Discussion"

"Illinois High School Students Given Death Panel Assignment"

"Death Panel Assignment In IL High School"

First of all, calling it a "Death Panel" by the reporting outlets is illogical. But, those outlets reporting on the issue were more interested in sensationalizing than reporting.

Those who penning the headlines obviously did not graduate from SJO, a school with a Prairie State Achievement Exam score of 66.7, second highest within a 20-mile radius of Champaign-Urbana, or Mahomet-Seymour topping the list at 71.1%. The word panel, by definition, is a group of people.

The assignment was for each individual student, not a party of two or more students working together, to complete the survey handed out by the teacher.

The assignment read:

"The following ten people have a problem. They are all in desperate need of kidney dialysis. Unless they receive this procedure they will die. The local hospital has enough machines to support six people. That means four people are not going to live. You must decide from the information below which six will survive. Next to each person’s short biography there is a line where you place a score. Put the people in order using 1-10, 1 being the person you want to save first and 10 being the person you would save last. You are only to use the information provided."

In the bio section, students learn about the ten individual in need of medical attention, six men and four women, ages 9 to 65 and their background, which included ethnicity and profession (even someone in the oldest of them all). Four of the individuals were married with children and one was a single-mom with a 3-year-old. After students completed their ranking, the teacher, whose has not been identified, and the class normally discussed the choices that were made.

And no, the results are not tabulated and shipped off to Washington D.C., Mr. Obama at the White House or any government agency using abbreviations such as NSA, CIA or DIA to be used to form public policy, the next great purge or as data for some ultra-secret, right/left wing extremist group.

Brian Brooks, principal at the high school, explained the assignment for the class for juniors and seniors, to Lennie Jarratt, author of the post on

"The purpose of the assignment is to educate students about social values and how people in our society unfortunately create biases based off of professions, race, gender, etc. The teacher’s goal is to educate students in the fact that these social value biases exist ..."

Among sporadic criticism, there has been overwhelming support in the more than 360 comments about the assignment in the comment section on the Facebook post by WCIA Channel 3 earlier yesterday.

Tracy Wright wrote: "I see the irony of this situation being that it is being referred to as the "death penalty" assignment. Nowhere in the assignment is anyone assigning death, as the circumstances of the assignment assume death was inevitable without the use of medical treatment... the assignment is to determine whom gets medical treatment to save the individual- not the same ... what a great assignment and I applaud the teacher's effort at making today's students think."

Later, Sherri Morgan added: "Great assignment in critical thinking. Real life scenarios. He is not passing along his opinions. He is opening up their minds."

"I believe if the teacher was trying to convey to his students the potentially serious consequences social bias can have on individuals, this could be an excellant excercise [sic] to guide young minds to ponder this issue," wrote William Marshall.

Ignoring posts about Palin’s comments, Obamacare and those likening the list to the future of the Affordable Care Act, most detractors took issue with the age group required to complete the assignment. Most, either for lack of knowledge or desire to add a little sensationalism of their own, incorrectly assumed the students are younger than 15 years of age. The class is an elective for juniors and seniors, making the actual ages of the students between 15 or older.

Heather Lian stated: "This assignment was for 14 year olds...and to teach a 14 year old that it is okay to put a number value on someone's life based on race, age, and occupation is wrong, no matter what political party you're affiliated with."

"Disgusting!!!!" Jamie Denham posted in opposition to the assignment. "We dont [sic] want our young people to think in those terms!!! If you condone this then they will think that mindset is the norm!!!"

"Is it okay to put a number value on someone’s life at the age of 14 -- or at any age?"

Like it or not, our lives are simply a numbered value. There are a select group of mathematicians called actuaries who earn a comfortable living assigning every human life a numerical value that in the case of health care has determined who lives and who dies. They decide how credit worthy a citizen is, interest rate for loan note or mortgage and premiums for automobile insurance.

As Ms. Lian is apparently unaware of, there is an entire, vibrant industry that puts a number value based on not only age, race and occupation, but also the street someone lives on, the number of miles they drive a year and how many times they make a late credit card payment.

The greater lesson for the students of the sociology class comes not from the assignment, but bias held by those who are critical of the classroom task. With their own prejudices rampant and unchecked, their incoherent posts on message boards around the web, broadcast the fear of their generation as well as represents the unbridled insecurity representative of their social class.

They fear, armed with knowledge and fewer prejudices as baggage, students who are taught to think and reason will some day live long and prosper on their voyages through life. They fear you will go where no one has gone before. But most of all, deep down inside, they fear that possibly in the future, you will choose a 23-year-old single mom who earns a living from prostitution over them for the last spot on a dialysis list.

Clark Brooks, Publisher

Yesterday, President Donald Trump, no doubt taking heat from business leaders and investors who are watching profits tumble in to an abyss and losing loyal followers in the face of his seemingly lack of leadership while clawing desperately for public approval,indicated that he wants end the self-isolation protocol he was pushing a little more than a week ago as soon as possible.

A CNN article said, "While the guidelines on self-isolating may still be extended, Trump said Monday he was eager to lift them so businesses could begin operating again and employees can return to work. The mitigation measures would not last into the summer, he said.

"I'm not looking at months, I'll tell you right now," Trump said, according to the CNN article. "We're going to open up our country.""

Meanwhile in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made it clear, despite having more than 700 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in his state, is resisting issuing a shelter-in-place order as Illinois, California and other states have done to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus and control the infection rate so hospitals will be able treat severe cases of the infection.

Experts in epidemiology, infectious diseases, microbiologist, virologists and behavior biologists for weeks have recommended that Europe and USA observe self-isolation to avoid the spread of this particularly nasty strain that attacks the upper respiratory system. Italy, who ignored the advice until it was too late, now has more than 69,000 confirmed cases and has lost 6,820 of its citizens to the disease. Their number of deaths is nearly twice that of China where the virus originated.

Yet, in 180ยบ turn from more than a week ago, President Trump now wants America to get back to work. Regardless of the number of lives the coronavirus could leave in its wake, a number estimated close to one million American lives by most predictive models, he want to kickstart the economy which has taken a severe hit with unemployment rising and thousands of people in the service industry scrambling to make ends meet. The human cost is real as demonstrated in China, Italy, Spain and potentially the UK, who is looking equally devastating losses.

Like it or not, as I wrote then and clearly evident in the news today, our lives are simply a number value, insignificant to the wealthy and easily subtracted. Easily sacrificed.

Looks like class isn't out just yet.

Monday, March 23, 2020

A letter from Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges

To the Residents of the Village of St. Joseph,

I wanted to give a brief update as to what the next two weeks may look like in the village.

We will continue to have the village office closed to the public this week and probably the following week. Staff will be in the office answering phones and handling all daily operations. Sewer payments can be made by phone, mail or dropped off at the village’s night deposit located next to the front door.

The public works department will also continue to operate as usual to keep the village running as smoothly as possible under these circumstances. Please avoid approaching the village workers and practice safe distancing.

If you have concerns, questions or emergency needs please contact the office during office hours. The office staff will notify the public works department or have someone contact you by phone.

The village parks will be closed. Enjoy the open space but avoid the playground and the restrooms will remain closed.

Please visit the village website for more information and changing schedules. We will do our best to keep you informed.

I want to thank our wonderful community for being the St. Joseph that I have always loved. Once again, I’m proud to say that this is my hometown and so very thankful to be able to serve my community as your Mayor.

As we make our way through these frightening and trying times continue to be patient with those around you. Continue to work together to help our community members and businesses. Help our local businesses during the shutdown and thereafter. Curbside services are being offered by the restaurants, grocery store and apothecary.

Please check on your neighbors especially our senior citizens and those with disabilities medical or otherwise.

Contact the village office if any of these citizens need help picking up groceries or prescriptions.

Just a few suggestions as we continue to practice safe distancing and staying home; go online and complete your census, read a good book, play board games with your children, take a walk or bike ride (the bike trail is open for business), contact the food bank or schools to help with their curbside services and most of all smile and wave at those you meet each day.

We will all need that bit of encouragement as we work our way through the next few days or weeks to come.

Thank you and God Bless.

Tami Fruhling-Voges, St. Joseph Village Mayor