St. Joseph-Ogden grad lands AD job at Salt Fork

On the Move! Following the rise of successful members from our community
In 2011, Dustin Dees decided to further his education to obtain a Master’s in Education Administration from Eastern Illinois University. The move paid off last month when the 2004 St. Joseph-Ogden High School graduate assumed the role of Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Catlin High School last month.

Before moving into his administrative role at the high school and as AD, Dees was a physical education teacher and coach at Tuscola High School.

"I felt like it would open the door for future opportunities to work with students, teachers, and coaches in an educational leaders role," he said. "I am grateful for all my experiences as a teacher and coach to this point. I owe a lot to some great communities and school systems such as Decatur, Monticello, Bismarck - Henning, and Tuscola. These places provided me with the experience I needed to pursue my dream of working in education administration."

He is grateful for the opportunities and the individuals who mentored him leading him to land his position at the Vermilion County school. He counts himself lucky to have been able to coach basketball, track & field, and cross country in several great towns, with some great coaches, and more importantly, with several programs that had great student-athletes.

"I owe a lot to great high school head coaches and athletic directors such as Coach Mike Stephens at Bismarck-Henning, Coach Matt Franks when he was at Tuscola, Coach Dave Beery at Monticello, Ryan Hornaday, Tuscola’s AD, and Randy Moss when he was the AD at Monticello," he pointed out. "Being around coaches and athletic directors like these helped me learn what great coaching and leadership look like on a daily basis."

Dustin Dees celebrates an SJO touchdown during a 2003 football playoff game
Senior Dustin Dees celebrates a touchdown by running back Daniel Widick during SJO's Week 2 road playoff game against Carlinville. When asked what did he remember about the 2003 game he wrote:

"I remember that game being a thriller! We were down early and made a huge comeback to win 19-14! If I remember correctly Carlinville had been ranked in the 4A polls that year and dropped down to 3A for the playoffs. They were really good that year and had a better seed than us. Answering the bell and winning that game was huge."

The Spartans indeed defeated the Cavaliers, 19-14.

The most rewarding part of coaching for the former Spartan who played football and basketball at SJO, is watching kids improve.

"I feel like as a coach it’s always a personal goal each meeting with your team for each athlete to get better at something," he explained. "That may not always mean improvement in the sport you are coaching, the reward for me extends into witnessing athletes become better teammates, improving work ethic, and building strong character."

His fondest memories from high school was playing four years of Spartan football.

"There was always such a buzz around our football program. There was just something about the fall at SJO and high school football that gives me goosebumps thinking about it," he recounted. "When I reflect on those days I think about how lucky I was to learn from the great coaches I had like Dick Duval, Brad Allen, and Bob Glazier."

Off the gridiron, Dees said the quality of his education at SJO was invaluable.

"I also have great memories of having some of the best teachers," he add. "I always felt like we had extremely high quality teachers at SJO, many of who were also coaches, and that made going to school a lot of fun."

While at Tuscola, Dees helped obtain $5,000 matching grant with Tuscola CUSD #301 and the Tuscola Rotary to add "POLAR" heart rate tracking technology for the classroom. He also developed a dynamic physical education curriculum for kindergarten age students through the fourth grade and he led the way in the creation of a school wide wellness committee. He also created a school Health and Wellness Fundraiser called "Competing for Wellness".

Prior to taking teaching and coaching responsibilities at Tuscola High School, Dees spent two years in the Bismarck-Henning school district where he coached junior high basketball and track. He also developed a junior high "Student learning outcomes" for physical education program and built district approved Student Growth Assessment program.

Outsiders might look at his job as athletic director and assume that scheduling games and managing travel for teams under his umbrella might be one of the biggest challenges he will face in the new job, especially as the Vermilion Valley Conference adds three new programs after the break up of the Sangamon Valley Conference at the end of the coming school year. Dees said navigating the uncertainties as well as maintaining a safe athletic environment during the Coronavirus pandemic might be tougher.

"Scheduling with the new VVC should go pretty smoothly since the conference AD’s work well together," he said. "The challenge I see for next year will be accommodating and changing some of the things that we do for COVID-19."

SJO senior spotlight with Zac Seeley

SJO senior soccer player Zac Seeley

St. Joseph

A younger brother and a younger sister

Running, fishing, playing soccer, playing video games, and hanging out with friends.

Favorite SJO memories:
He has enjoyed playing soccer at SJO, eating lunch with his friends each day and participating in Homecoming week all four years of high school.

Favorite classes:
Ag Construction, Ag Mech Tech, BSAA, Biology, and Intro to Ag

Favorite teachers:
Mr. Miller and Mr. Risley at St. Joseph Middle School and Mr. Don Beckett and Mr. William Billman at SJO.

Clubs & Activities:
Soccer (4 years) and Maroon Platoon

Career Plans:
He enlisted in U.S. Army and is currently in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, undergoing basic combat training.

Advice to future SJO students:
Get your homework finished on time.

Text provided by St. Joseph-Ogden High School. Photos by Clark Brooks.

Transitions: Jack Knott, 79

Jack Wesley Knott, 79, was carried away to heaven at 4:55 p.m. Saturday (June 13, 2020) in Urbana. He was the son of Hiram Wesley Knott Jr. and Marian Louise Wood Knott.

Born in Urbana on June 18, 1940, he grew up near Kolb Park in St. Joseph and spent countless hours playing along the Salt Fork River. Never afraid of work, he delivered newspapers as a young boy.

He graduated in 1959 from St. Joseph High School, where he had been a member of the choir and participated in the state vocal contest. After graduating, he attended Champaign Commercial College in 1962.

Jack served in the Illinois National Guard from 1963-1969 as a staff sergeant in the 1144th Transportation Battalion. He completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

He worked as a computing supervisor in the Computing Service Office at the University of Illinois from 1963-1997. He also owned a jewelry store in the Lando Place Mall located on 6th Street in the heart of the University of Illinois campustown for several years.

Actively involved in the St. Joseph community, he was a member of the St. Joseph Civil Defense and St. Joseph Lions Club, including president; served on the St. Joseph Township Swearingen Memorial Library Board; and was co-chairman of the 1972 St. Joseph Centennial. He also was a member of the Mount Olive Cemetery Association board. He was a member of St. Joseph Church of Christ.

On Aug. 17, 1963, Jack married Barbara Gale Maddock at the St. Joseph Church of Christ; she survives him.

Also surviving are two sons, Gregory John Knott (Brooke) of St. Joseph and Kevin Wesley Knott (Julie) of Homer; and two grandchildren, Riley Knott and Hayden Knott of St. Joseph. Additionally, he is survived by numerous cousins that he was especially close to.

He was preceded in death by his parents; grandparents, John Bluford Wood and Ella Wood; one brother, James B. Knott; and sister-in law, Patricia M. Knott.

Graveside services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at Mount Olive Cemetery, Mayview, with Dave Barcus officiating. Freese Funeral Home, 302 E. Grand Ave., St. Joseph, is handling arrangements.

Memorials may be given to the St. Joseph Township Library.

Money Matters: Five tips to weather the COVID-19 recession

by Jake Pence

The National Bureau of Economic Research’s Business Cycle Dating Committee has officially announced that the United States has entered a recession. The United States has seen a record 128 consecutive months of economic expansion before COVID-19 bottlenecked the nation’s physical, mental, and economic health. However, this article is not going to be a COVID-19 or recession pity party; in fact, it will be quite the opposite as a mentor once told me, "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

Before we dive into the weeds, let’s preface these tips with the fundamentals of money management in a recession. First, you must live within your means and minimize discretionary spending. Second, you must prioritize saving and building an emergency fund of at least six months worth of expenses.

Third, you must continue to make your debt payments. If you want to learn more about any of those fundamentals then you’re a google search away, but my goal is to give you tangible, long-term tactics that will set you up for success both during and after this recession.


To effectively live within your means, you must understand where your money is going and be proactive with your cash flow management. In the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, he wrote, “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Well … it’s time to confront the brutal facts about your spending and adjust your budget accordingly.

Whether your budget is in an excel document, on a piece of paper, or in your head, it is important that you have an understanding of the money you earn and the money you spend. In a recession, it can be difficult to earn more money; therefore, it is important to spend less money.

You can do this by checking your bank account, credit cards, and wallet on a weekly basis to see how much money you spent and what you spent it on. This will allow you to confront the brutal facts of your spending and identify what is necessary (groceries, housing, insurance, etc.) and what is discretionary (eating out, new clothes, subscription services, etc.).


Recessions affect almost every nook and cranny of the economy, especially credit markets. When credit markets tighten, it becomes difficult to get approved for a mortgage, car loan, credit card, or any other type of financing. Although it may be difficult, it is NOT impossible to gain access to financing in a recession. Access to financing is often what separates individuals who capitalize on the opportunities a recession presents, discounted asset prices, from those who don’t. Consequently, individuals with strong credit scores will be first in line at the credit market.

Your credit score consists of five components: total accounts, length of credit, credit inquiries, utilization rate, and missed payments. The most important components are the credit utilization rate and missed payments. To best explain your credit utilization rate, let’s say you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit line and a $500 current balance. This is equal to a 50% credit utilization rate ($500/$1,000).

You should maintain less than a 30% utilization rate across all forms of credit to improve your score. Missed payments are self-explanatory; however, it may become tempting to skip a credit card payment when times are tough. Do not give into this temptation as missed payments are the most important component of your credit score and will affect your score long after the recession ends.


Does the word "taxes" make you cringe? Cry? Worse? Well … taxes, taxes, taxes. For most individuals, taxes will be the greatest expense over the course of their lifetime. However, there are many LEGAL ways to pay less taxes so that you can keep more of your hard earned money.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of the United States tax code discusses how to legally reduce your taxes. You do not need to read the entire tax code, but you need to talk with an accountant who (hopefully) understands the tax code and will create an efficient tax plan for your unique situation. There is a critical difference between an accountant who prepares your taxes and an accountant who prepares your taxes and minimizes your taxable income through proper tax planning. When you can no longer increase your income or reduce your expenses, then focus on (legally) keeping more of your money.

If you don’t currently have an accountant or you file using a free online platform, then simply start by scheduling a meeting with a local accountant to review your financial situation. Most accounting firms will offer a free consultation to decide whether or not you will benefit from tax planning.

One other critical tip, you often will get what you pay for in terms of accountants and not all accountants are created equally. Don’t be afraid to pay a little extra for a great accountant who saves you far more money than a cheaper alternative, so be sure to focus on how much they save you rather than how much they cost you.


The purpose of diversification is to mitigate your risk. There is risk associated with any investment, and that risk is amplified in an economic downturn. Therefore, it is important to have a variety of investments in your portfolio. For example, if the stock market crashes and you have 100% of your investment portfolio in stocks, then your portfolio value will take a tremendous hit.

Alternatively, if the stock market crashes and you have 50% of your investment portfolio in stocks, 25% in bonds, and 25% in real estate, then your portfolio will not be as severely affected. When it comes to your financial portfolio, it is important to spread your eggs in a variety of baskets rather than loading them all into one basket.

Diversification can be done within each asset class. Let’s take a look at the 50% stocks, 25% bonds, and 25% real estate portfolio as an example. Within the 50% of your portfolio allocated to stocks, you should own stocks from different industries with a range of company valuations. An example would be owning shares of Amazon (e-commerce), Visa (financial services), and Caterpillar (industrial).

Within your 25% bond holdings, you can get a CD from a local bank or buy a government municipal bond; within your 25% real estate portfolio, you can own a single family home rental property in St. Joseph, IL and a duplex rental property in Champaign, IL. A few asset classes that you should consider investing in are stocks, exchange traded funds, bonds, real estate, real estate syndications, and precious metals such as gold and silver. Overall, prioritize diversification so when one sector of the economy is negatively affected, all of your chickens don’t come home to roost.


If you’re going to take away anything from this article then let it be this: don’t become emotional with your finances due to the recession. The next few years contain a lot of uncertainty, but don’t lose sight of your long-term financial plan and jeopardize your long-term financial security due to short-term economic events.

Whether this recession lasts 6 months to 3 years, it is still a very small period of your life. Make the necessary adjustments to your portfolio, live within your means, and actively manage your cash flow; however, do not become emotional and make rash decisions that will affect you long after this recession ends. We are in this for the long-haul.

Warren Buffett is a world-renowned investor and once said, "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked." Well … the tide is making its way out and time will tell who has prepared for this moment. If you feel vulnerable, then don’t become emotional or make rash decisions. Instead, cover yourself up while you still have time and make sure that you too, don’t let a good crisis go to waste.

About the author:
• Jake Pence is the President of Blue Chip Real Estate and a consultant for Fairlawn Capital, Inc.. A 2019 graduate from the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois, he is a 2016 graduate from St. Joseph-Ogden High School where he was a three-sport athlete for the Spartans. You can view his latest acquisitions and advice on his YouTube channel here.

Community group organizes Juneteenth celebration in St. Joseph

A peace walk is scheduled for this Friday, June 19, at 6:10pm starting on the Northeast corner of US 150 and Main Street in St. Joseph to celebrate Juneteenth. Participants should arrive at 6pm or earlier prior to the start of the march.

Members of SJOnward, a local community group promoting diversity, inclusion, and racial equality in St. Joseph-Ogden and surrounding towns, will lead a procession through town stopping at least once for eight minutes and 46 seconds to pay homage to George Floyd, and African-American man in Minneapolis who was allegedly killed by an on-duty police officer in a video captured by a 17-year-old onlooker.

Juneteenth commemorates the day when Union general Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston on June 19, 1865, that anyone held in bondage in the state of Texas were free. The day is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day or Cel-Liberation Day. Despite that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed nearly two years and six months earlier, a large number of Americans, especially in remote areas of the country, continued to endure slavery due to the lack of availability of Union trips to enforce the Abraham Lincoln's executive order.

After walkers arrive at Kolb Park, there will be a speaker talking about the cultural and historical significance of Juneteenth, information about the history of sundown towns and how this has shaped perspectives of our community. Other speakers will be on hand to discuss their personal experiences with racism in St. Joseph and beyond.

Organizers ask that participants observe social distancing precautions by wearing a mask and keep a six foot distance from others as much as possible.

For more information visit the event page on Facebook here.

Spartan Spotlight with senior Hannah Rajlich

2020 St. Joseph-Ogden High School grad Hannah Rajlich likes to cook. Either way, that's probably a good thing considering her chosen career path in studying the science of food.

Hannah Rajlich runs her leg of the 4x800 relay at the IHSA state track meet in 2018. The third-place finish helped SJO secure the Class 1A state title that year. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
This fall, the two-sport athlete in cross county and track athlete whose dream is one day becoming an Olympic team nutritionist, will move to College Station, Texas, where she will join the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas A&M. She said she likes baking more than cooking.

"My favorite (thing to make) would have to be Oreo cheesecake," Rajlich admitted. "I learned to bake by myself, but my grandma was the one who got me into it when I was young."

She is not afraid to experiment in the kitchen and like the races she ran the last four seasons with the Spartans, she doesn't give up when things don't necessarily go right the first time.

"I actually don’t have many kitchen failures," she explained. "One time I did try to make a strawberry pie - when I was like 12? - without a recipe and it didn’t turn out too great."

There are three people she would enjoy having over for a home cooked meal and good conversation. Her top three choices for dinner guests include her grandmother, Taylor Swift, Olympic gold medalist Emma Coburn, who specializes in the steeplechase.

"With my Granny we would just catch up on life," Rajlich said. "With Taylor Swift we would talk about how she became so successful and with Emma Coburn I would ask her about her training and Olympic experience."

Besides baking and spending time in the kitchen, her hobbies include traveling, hanging out with friends and family, and, of course, running.

"My top three places to travel to are Jamaica, Prague, and Bora Bora," Rajlich said. "I’ve been to Jamaica a few times now, and it’s my favorite place to travel to, plus I have so many good memories with my family there!"

She has also been to Prague in the past, too. She can't wait to return there in the future. The capital city in Czech Republic city is known for its architecture and is home of the Trdelnik, a sweet treat like a cinnamon roll which is wrapped around a pole, grilled, and then topped with a walnut mix and sugar.

"That's where my Dad is from, and where my grandparents grew up," said the St. Joseph native, who has four siblings, two older brothers, one younger sister, and one younger brother.

The South Pacific paradise of Bora Bora is at the top of her list of places she has visit and you can't really blame her.

Rajlich said, "It has always been my "dream' vacation because of the beautiful beaches and the unique location."

When she was not competing or doing training runs, Rajlich was involved in with National Honor Society, on Student Council and in Spanish Club at SJO. She also was a member of AMP and in the Spartans' student cheering section, Maroon Platoon.

Her advice for future SJO students is to get involved and to soak in the whole high school experience because it goes by so fast.

Despite not having a senior track season due to the Covid-19 Pandemic this spring, Rajlich leaves SJO with seven IHSA state medals and a pair of All-State ones to boot. She played a major role in running program bringing home the five state trophies and two championship titles the running program secured during her tenure. Heading into her final season she had high hopes for the SJO running program this spring with her sight set on the Spartans winning one more state trophy before her scholastic running career ended.

"My most memorable medal would have to be my 2016 State Champion XC medal," she said reminiscing about her first prep IHSA state final. Rajlich represented the Spartans in both track and cross country all four years of high school. "I was our team’s fifth runner as a freshman and we won the meet far ahead (of) the second place (team)."

Rajlich runs a lap around Detweiller Park in her last cross country race of her high school career last November. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
There is a second medal in her possession, one that she earned her sophomore year during track season, that also carries a fone memory attached to it.

"My second would be my 2018 4x800 3rd place All-State medal, when I ran a PR as our third leg in the pouring rain, helping contribute to our team State Champion trophy."

Her relay squad, featuring junior Rylee Sjuts along with seniors Zea Maroon and Sam Mabry, finished third in that race with a time of 9:51.85. SJO won the Class 1A state title with 43 points besting second place finishers Farmington and St. Teresa, who took third place.

"I have had so many great teammates over the years," she said. "Coming in as a freshman, Keely Smith was someone I really looked up to, and helped me become a leader for our team.

"She did everything right, even when things got really tough for her. And, she is one of the nicest people I know!"

Looking way, way, way into the future, before she retires, Rajlich has a couple of goals she would like to accomplish.

"Before I retire, I would definitely like to work with athletes and maybe have my own practice or business."

Sixth Coronavirus case identified in St. Joseph

Today, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, an additional positive case of the Coronavirus was confirmed in St. Joseph. It is the second to be announced this week. Six residents out the 420 members of the community that have been tested so far have tested positive results.

Meanwhile in Tolono, four new cases were identified in that community, bring the total to nine since the start of the pandemic in March. Three hundred and thirty-seven tests with residents from within the 61880 zip code have tested negative so far according to the IDPH.

Champaign County has logged 22,071 tests with just 728 of them coming back marked positive. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is reporting there are 57 active cases with six individuals currently hospitalized. While 662 cases have been declared recovered, there have been nine deaths attributed to the virus.

COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus mainly as a cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • If you or a family member has any of the following symptoms, the CDC recommends that you seek medical attention immediately. Those symptoms include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse or have bluish lips or face.

    People who have serious underlying medical conditions and older Americans may be at higher risk for contracting serious complications from COVID-19. The CDC has said those at high risk include:

  • Anyone 65 years of age and older
  • Older adults who live in a nursing home or long-term care facilities
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Individuals with Chronic lung disease or asthma, congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease, diabetes or neurologic conditions that weaken the ability to cough.
  • People with weakened immune systems, those who have undergone chemotherapy radiation for cancer currently or in recent past, people who have Sickle Cell Anemia, anyone with chronic kidney diseases requiring dialysis and those diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Also included are individuals who without a spleen or a spleen that doesn’t function correctly or people who are extremely obese with a body mass index (BMI) great than or equal to 40.
  • Free testing is available at Marketplace Mall at the State’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site. A doctor’s referral, code, or appointment is not needed. Testing is available for anyone from 8am to 4pm, 7 days a week while daily supplies last. For more information call the COVID-19 HOTLINE at (217) 239-7877.

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