Apply for the Governor's Hometown Award, applications are being accepted now

The Governor’s Hometown Awards program, now in its fourth year, recognizes individuals and organizations that make an impact on the quality of life in their community. The award is given to projects that met a need with substantial volunteer support and made a significant impact in the nominee's town or village.

The Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service is accepting applications for this year's Governor’s Hometown Awards (GHTA) program now through February 19. The Governor’s Hometown Award promotes the Commission’s mission to improve Illinois communities "by enhancing volunteerism and instilling an ethic of service throughout the state." The GHTA recognizes projects that, with the help of local government, enlisted sizeable community support and volunteerism resulting in beneficial outcome not only for recipients of the effort but the for the overall community.

The competition is open to townships, villages, cities, and counties for projects during the period of January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2020.

Past recipients include Edwardsville's Growing with the Garden which was recognized in 2018. Working with the Edwardsville YMCA Early Childhood Development Center to design and develop three raised gardens in the facility’s children’s playground, an Edwardsville High School senior taught kids at the center the importance of vegetables in the diet, helped them plant, cultivate and harvest vegetables from the new gardens.

With more than 35,000 veterans in Lake County, an educational program that demonstrated the benefits that equine-assisted therapy provides service men and women and veterans who face challenges such as PTSD was the result of a collaboration between BraveHearts, a therapeutic riding and educational center, and the Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores in 2018. The joint cooperation created an interactive event for Lake Barrington and its surrounding communities that resulted in GHTA recognition the following year in 2019.

Locally, in 2018, Urbana was honored as a project winner for their "Friendship Grove Nature Playscape" project. A year later, Urbana received an Honorable Mention for their "Urbana Park District Advisory Committee" work and Vermilion County also received and HM nod with their "Step Up Vermilion County" project.

For additional information regarding program and the application process, please visit This year's application can be downloaded from this link: 2020 GHTA Application.

The Serve Illinois Commission is made up of a bipartisan group of 40 members board appointed by the Governor JB Pritzker and is administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Spartan basketball schedule is out and players are ready

The first St. Joseph-Ogden basketball game of the season tips off next Thursday when the girls' team will square off in a rematch at home against Villa Grove on February 4. The Blue Devils, who were eliminated from the IHSA postseason by the Spartans a mere 51 weeks - give or take a few days - ago, will be seeking revenge for the 50-34 loss in 2020.

Peyton Jacob drives to paint for the Spartans
Payton Jacob drives to the paint during the St. Joseph-Ogden's girls last home game in 2020. The Lady Spartans debut in their first home game of year next Thursday against Villa Grove. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
The boys squad also opens at home next week. On Friday, the SJO boys squad will take the floor against Cissna Park in the main gym at the high school. The Spartans will have six more home games before closing out their season on the road at Monticello.

The Spartans' ultra shortened season for both the girls and boys will end on March 8 and 9 respectively with no postseason play as per the recently released IHSA schedule that is squeezing normally ten months of prep sports and activities into five. Both varsity and junior varsity squads on each side will play a 12-game schedule this season.

Despite the low number of contests, players are excited to finally be able to get out on the court and compete.

"I know my teammates are all just as excited as I am," said St. Joseph-Ogden junior Taylor Wells. "We have all been waiting for answers on whether or not our season would happen since November. My team and I are very excited to be back in the gym getting to work."

Ty Pence, whose skill set and work ethic on the hardwood is paying dividends as his stock rises as a top college prospect in Illinois, echoed Wells' enthusiasm.

"I was very excited when I heard the news," he said. "I’m glad that our seniors will have a chance to have their season and hopefully we can be the best we can be.

Below are this year's boys and girls junior varsity and varsity schedules.

St. Joseph-Ogden Junior Varsity Basketball Schedule


Cissna Park High School
SJO Main Gym • 6:00 PM

St. Thomas More High School
SJO Main Gym • 5:30 PM

Rantoul High School
Rantoul High School • 5:30 PM

Bloomington Central Catholic High School
SJO Main Gym • 5:30 PM

Unity High School
Unity High School • 5:30 PM

Pontiac High School
SJO Main Gym • 5:30 PM

Prairie Central High School
Prairie Central High School • 5:30 PM

Illinois Valley Central High School
SJO Main Gym • 5:30 PM

Olympia High School
SJO Main Gym • 5:30 PM

Teutopolis High School
SJO Main Gym • 1:00 PM

Monticello High School
Monticello High School • 5:30 PM


Villa Grove High School
SJO Main Gym • 06:00 PM

St. Thomas More High School
St. Thomas More High School • 05:30 PM

Rantoul High School
SJO Main Gym • 05:30 PM

Bloomington Central Catholic High School
Bloomington Central Catholic • 05:30 PM

Unity High School
SJO Main Gym • 05:30 PM

Pontiac High School
Pontiac High School • 05:30 PM

Prairie Central High School
SJO Main Gym • 05:30 PM

Paris High School
Paris High School • 11:00 AM

Illinois Valley Central High School
Illinois Valley Central High School • 05:30 PM

Olympia High School
Olympia High School • 05:30 PM

Teutopolis High School
Teutopolis High School • 01:00 PM

Monticello High School
SJO Main Gym • 05:30 PM

St. Joseph-Ogden Varsity Basketball Schedule


Cissna Park High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:30 PM

St. Thomas More High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Rantoul High School
Rantoul High School • 07:00 PM

Bloomington Central Catholic High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Unity High School
Unity High School • 07:00 PM

Pontiac High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Prairie Central High School
Prairie Central High School • 07:00 PM

Illinois Valley Central High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Olympia High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Teutopolis High School
SJO Main Gym • 02:30 PM

Monticello High School
Monticello High School • 07:00 PM


Villa Grove High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:30 PM

St. Thomas More High School
St. Thomas More High School • 07:00 PM

Rantoul High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Bloomington Central Catholic High School
Bloomington Central Catholic • 07:00 PM

Unity High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Pontiac High School
Pontiac High School • 07:00 PM

Prairie Central High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Paris High School
Paris High School • 12:30 PM

Illinois Valley Central High School
Illinois Valley Central High School • 07:00 PM

Olympia High School
Olympia High School • 07:00 PM

Teutopolis High School
Teutopolis High School • 02:30 PM

Monticello High School
SJO Main Gym • 07:00 PM

Photo of the Day - January 28, 2021

SJO's Frankie Izard runs to 7th place at state

Izard clocks 12.64

St. Joseph-Ogden's Frankie Izard tries to stay ahead of Camp Point Central's Zakila Wiskirchen and Chicago Christian's Rylei Jackson (left) during the 100-Meter Dash championship race during the 2016 IHSA Girls State Track Finals in Charleston. Izard, whose career PR was 10.65, finished in 7th place at 12.64. She also competed in the 60-Meter Dash, 200-Meter Dash, 400-Meter Dash, Long Jump and the Triple Jump during her prep track & field career.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Free exercise program for adults as part of a new study at U of I

Has the pandemic got you or your parents a little out of shape?

Dr. Neha Gothe, a Doctor in Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Department of Kinesiology, is conducting a research based study on the benefits of Yoga, Stretching-Toning, and Aerobic exercises on brain health. Gothe is the Director of the Exercise Psychology Lab where she explores the bio-psycho-social health benefits of physical activity across the lifespan.

Darice Brooks, who is coordinating the project, is looking for adults between the ages of 55 and 79 who would like to participate in the free 6-month exercise program.

"Each participant will be a part of one of the three groups and earn up to $240," Brooks said. "Along with the $240, participants will get a physical activity tracker and exercise equipment that they will get to keep at the end of the study."

Brooks said the COVID precautions will be observed with all exercise sessions. Participants and staff are required to wear face masks and all exercise spaces will be cleaned and disinfected following University protocol. Group size is limited to just 10 people at a time and everyone will have "adequate space (6ft or more) between them during the in-person exercise sessions". All research staff members are tested 2x a week via the UIUC Shield program.

The project is seeking participants 55–79 years old, right-handed, desire a more active lifestyle, and exercise less than a couple hours a week. Interested adults also must have no past or current diagnosis of cognitive impairment, have no health conditions that may be exacerbated by exercise, will be in the community for the duration of the study as well as have no MRI contraindications.

The project is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging and is called "S.A.Y. Exercise". There are three PhD students and two students working towards their masters also working on the project.

For more information click on the flyer below or visit the study's website at

College Notebook | Crowe leads Cobras to 2-0 start

Crowe shines in Parkland season opener

Peyton Crowe opened her sophomore season with the Parkland College with an 18-point performance against Jefferson College last Wednesday. The St. Joseph-Ogden grad now starting a starting five with the Cobras, led the team in steals with three in the 71-62 home win on January 20. Crowe is averaging 14 points per game after the first two wins for the 2-0 Parkland girls squad.

Bree Trimble shoots a free throw her senior year
Bree Trimble shoots a free throw in a home game againt Oakwood in 2018.
Photo by Clark Brooks

Trimble scores 13 at Parkland

Starting along side teammate Peyton Crowe, Bree Trimble went 2-for-2 from the free throw line to finish the night with 13 points in Parkland College's second home contest of the season. She led the Cobra with four of the team's 17 assists in the 71-64 victory on January 23.

Baker captures two firsts

Last Saturday, Riley Baker, a junior on the Eastern Illinois University track team, set a new indoor facility record at the Indiana State John Gartland Invite in Terre Haute. The former Spartan hurdler and sprint specialist took first in the men's 400-meter run with a time of 50.00 in the new the state of the art Indoor Track & Field Facility that opened in 2018.

Later, as a member of the Panthers' 4x400 relay squad, along with teammates Damian Clay, Tadiwa Mhonde and Gregory Downs, he earned another first place award when his foursome led the field with 3:22.52 win the event.

Baker and the EIU men's track team are back in action again on February 12 at the Grand Valley Big Meet in Allendale, Michigan.

Plotner makes college running debut

Freshman Jillian Plotner started her college cross country career with the University of Tennessee at Martin by helping her team to a third place finish at the Redhawks Invite held at Osage Centre Fields on January 23. Plotner, the fifth runner from the Skyhawks to cross the finish line, turned in a time of 20:05.6 in the 2020-21 season opener. UT Martin competed in a field which included regional foes Eastern Illinois, Memphis, SIUE and Southeast Missouri. The women's team finished with 74 points.

Mabry #3 runner for EIU

Former St. Joseph-Ogden distance specialist Sam Mabry was the third runner to finish for the Eastern Illinois University Panthers at the Redhawks Challenge at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO.. EIU finished fifth in the women's 5k race. Mabry, a 2019 grad from SJO, who raced against former teammate Jillian Plotner (SJO '21), now at UT Martin, turned in a time of 20:34.8 to finish 29th overall.

Know a Unity or St. Joseph-Ogden graduate playing at collegiate level? Let us know their name, sport(s) and where they are playing. An email or a link to their social media account for interviews is a big help, too. Send The Sentinel a message to us at

IHSA releases 2021 schedule for sports

John Lydgate said, "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time."

IHSA News That phrase will no doubt echo the feelings around the state after the Illinois High School Association released the schedule high school sports for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year in Illinois.

The Board of Directors issued the following statement:

"Unprecedented circumstances create extraordinary decisions. The IHSA Board of Directors faced one of the most difficult decisions in the Association’s 100-plus year history today. Please know that we did so with great diligence, empathy, and understanding. There were an immense number of factors that went into today’s decisions. We knew there would be obstacles no matter what we decided. Whether those hurdles included overlapping seasons for multi-sport athletes, equity between sports, preseason acclimatization guidelines, the prioritization of spring sports, facility conflicts for schools, officiating, and that is just naming a few. Please know that each potential roadblock was recognized and given consideration. The IHSA membership, like our state, is incredibly large and diverse. Each Board member brought different concerns to the table that impacted their own school or region differently. There was never going to be a one-size fits all solution to playing 25 sports seasons in a little over four months. What did occur was collaboration and camaraderie. Each Board member may not have been able to have all of their specific concerns addressed, but we worked together to produce a schedule and plan that we believe will work for our student-athletes."

In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the list of the sports along with their start and finish dates.

2021 IHSA sports schedule

"We understood the high level of anticipation surrounding today’s announcement, along with the scrutiny that will accompany it," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. "Ultimately, the Board adhered to its stated goals throughout the pandemic: providing an opportunity for every IHSA student-athlete to compete safely this year and maximizing opportunities for traditional IHSA spring sports after they lost their entire season a year ago."

Anderson added that "many schools and coaches could likely offer a tweak here or there that would have, in their opinion, made it 'better' for their school or sport". He believe the Boarks decisions are a positive step for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of student-athletes around the state.

"We are excited to channel our energy into creating as many positive experiences for Illinois high school students as we can between now and the end of this extraordinary school year."

Every sport listed above, except football, requires athletes to attend seven practices on seven different days prior to competing. Two-a-day practices still count as one practice. In regards to football, participants must practice on 12 different days before playing their first game. Players transitioning from basketball or boys swimming & diving into football catch a break and are only required to complete 10 different days prior to their first contest.

The other key outcome from the meeting is IHSA guidelines will require all student-athletes and coaches to participate in masks. They will not be required for swimming & diving events, gymnasts on an apparatus or at outdoor events where social distancing can occur. All game personnel not participating in the contest must also masked and social distance as much as possible.

Photo of the day - January 27, 2021

Nick Krisman is ready to fire a pitch over the plate
Perfect pitch

Nick Krisman, a three-sport St. Joseph-Ogden standout and a member of the Heartland College baseball team, fires a pitch at Franzen Field during their quarterfinal playoff game in Gifford on August 2, 2008. Krisman earned the win after Royal beat Gifford-Flatville in a exciting, nine-inning affair, 11-10.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Guest Commentary: Happy to see documented immigrants come to America

by Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

Americans can expect more immigrants to enter our country in the months and years ahead. Most Americans aren't opposed to more citizens. Many of us are not favorable to undocumented foreigners roaming about our country.

I've been to Mexico and a few other countries. I've always had to show my passport and answer questions when entering another country or coming back to America. It only takes a few minutes. Many years ago, my sons and I stood in a line of about a hundred people coming back to San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico. We showed our Driver's license back then and came on back into the country. No one even asked for identification when we crossed into Mexico.

I'm happy to see documented immigrants come to America. They will come and they will work. In our area of the country we have a growing population of Hispanic farmers working our farmland. There are Hispanic restaurants popping up in every town. Asian restaurants, nail salons and more are on the increase. The best little food joint in our community is owned by a Hispanic immigrant and his family. They are the hardest working restaurant people I've ever seen.

Immigrants who document and come the legal way to America are coming here for a better life.

They are not coming to sit on their backsides and collect our food stamps, welfare and whatever minimal amount of income they can obtain. Most of them come to help their families, send money back home and to achieve the American dream. They don't come to be poor Americans. Many of these immigrants who are business owners often struggle and pay the price with many hours of hard work to stay open. For most of them, paying their workers $15 an hour will mean less hired labor and more hours of labor for the owners to try to keep their businesses open.

Steve Geis, from our town had this to say recently about his documented grandfather coming to America:

"Over 100 years ago my grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. He came here via Ellis Island where it was documented where he came from as well as the destination he was going to. He said, "We know the name of the ship he was on, and names of all of its passengers. He and the many others did what was required of them to become legal citizens. Locally, we found copies of his naturalization process. He and most other immigrants did it correctly!"

He added, "I would say welcome to anybody who would follow the procedure and become a fellow citizen of our great country."

America is not opposed to legal immigrants. Most of us are opposed to undocumented people crossing our border illegally. We are opposed to anyone from any nation who might come with any intent to harm our country.

Let's continue to keep America a beautiful country for legal immigrants and a safe, free place for all.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


Photo of the day: January 26, 2021

After taking the baton, Migee Kim runs the anchor leg of 4x100

Quarter of the way to fourth

Sprinter Migee Kim takes the baton from teammate Ashley Shroyer during the 4x100m relay at the 2007 News-Gazette Honor Roll Meet at the University of Illinois track and field complex. The Rockets finished in fourth-place with a time of 52.61 thanks to speedy efforts of the duo.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media
Clark Brooks)

Parkland fall Dean's List includes students from all six communities

Despite the challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic at start of new academic year last fall, more than 40 area college students received recognition for their performance in the classroom and online while attending Parkland College.

Recipients named to the Dean's List must earn a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 grade scale for the semester to receive this honor. Student enrolled in fewer than 12 hours can make the Dean’s List by achieving a 3.5 cumulative GPA for 12 or more hours during the current academic year.

Fall 2020 Dean's List


Zach David
Adam Frerichs
Caleb Johnson
Kenly Taylor


Karson Ewerks
Marlena Finical
Kaitlyn Fink
Kia Freese
Ella Godsell
Peter Manrique
Tori Patton


Peyton Crowe


Jenna Albrecht
Danielle Almaraz
Emily Bigger
Abigail Burnett
Chloe Duckett
Avery Edwards
Emory Ericksen
Kameren Goodell
Erin Henkelman
Miranda Lindsey
Rebecca Long
Caroline Moore
Alivia Norem
Grant Siegmund
Tyler Slagley
Anna Wentzloff


Tucker Catron
Amy Ellis
Ruskin Hovde
Zeth McCloud
Kaitlyn Pruetting
Katelin Roberts
Sydney Schurvinske
Elysabeth Short
Enoch Wells


Alexis Benskin
Vivian Brown
Abigail Charleston
Hannah Fridgen
Chelsie Helmick
Megan Henry
Cassidy Kamradt
Rachael King
Hallie Lutz
Peyton Miller
Jana Ping
Rakesh Sharma
Jillian Stadel
Erin Stevens
Chayton Townsend
Kristina Trame
Mikayla Wetherell

Did you graduate from college with an undergraduate or advance degree in December?
Tell us about it!

If you were on this semester's Dean's List and your name were omitted from our list above please know it was not intentional. University communications and public affair offices typically provide or make available lists of fall and spring graduates by zip code. Quite often students living off-campus supply their school address in the city they live while attending school as their contact address instead of their hometown address. If you supplied the institution with a different home address, and would like to have your name added to the list hometowns we cover above, email us your information to

Journalism scholarships available for students, application due Feb. 22

by Adriana Gallardo, Ash Ngu and Mollie Simon


We are proud to announce our sixth annual scholarship program. This year we are teaming up with The Pudding, a visual essays online publication.

ProPublica, with additional support from The Pudding, will be sponsoring need-based scholarships for 25 students to attend an eligible journalism conference in 2021 and/or to contribute toward journalism related expenses such as subscriptions to news publications, software, FOIA fees, or equipment (think cameras, recorders, etc.).

Anyone who is a permanent U.S. resident is eligible to apply. We especially encourage students from an underrepresented group in journalism — including people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities — to apply.

The $750 scholarships will go to students who would otherwise be unable to attend conferences or purchase supplies to support their education and ongoing reporting.

The following conferences offer great opportunities for networking and professional development, especially for those just starting out in journalism. Scholarship recipients will also have the opportunity to meet ProPublica and The Pudding staff throughout the year at conferences (virtual or in person). Check out last year’s scholarship recipients.

You can apply for the scholarship here. The deadline is Feb. 22. Students have the option to select a conference as part of their application. We understand many have yet to announce dates and that formats may change, but we would still like to know which you are interested in attending.

  • AAJA, Asian American Journalists Association. Location and dates TDB.
  • AHCJ, Association of Health Care Journalists. Austin, Texas, June 24-27.
  • IRE, Investigative Reporters and Editors. Indianapolis, June 17-20.
  • JAWS, Journalism and Women Symposium. New Mexico, Sept. 24-26.
  • NABJ National Association of Black Journalists. Houston, Aug. 18-22.
  • NAHJ National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Virtual, July (exact date TBD).
  • NAJA, Native American Journalists Association. Phoenix, Sept. 15-19.
  • NICAR, The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. Virtual, March 3-5.
  • NLGJA, Association of LGBTQ Journalists. Location and dates TBD.
  • NPPA, National Press Photographers Association (Northern Short Course). Location and dates TBD.
  • ONA, Online News Association. Location and dates TBD.
  • SND, Society for News Design. Location and dates TBD.
  • SRCCON, organized by OpenNews. Location and dates TBD.

Every year, we share what ProPublica is doing to increase the diversity of our newsroom and of journalism as a whole. These scholarships are a small but important step to help student journalists from underrepresented communities take advantage of everything these conferences offer.

High school, college and graduate students are welcome to apply. You must be a student at the time of application, but it’s OK if you’re graduating this spring.

Questions about the application process? Want to contribute to our scholarship fund to send more students to these conferences? Get in touch at

This story was originally published by ProPublica on January 20, 2021. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Photo of the day - January 24, 2021

Cord Shaffer throws the discus at a track meet in Tolono

Shaffer medals twice

St. Joseph-Ogden's Cord Shaffer heaves the discus at the Unity Track Invitational on Friday, April 20, 2007. Shaffer finished third in the event and first in the shot put at the Rockets' annual track & field meet.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Illinois' sin taxes are some of the highest in country

by Joe Barnas, Writer
Illinois Policy

Many New Year’s resolutions may include kicking bad habits, but even when the government tries to curb smoking, drinking and caloric intake by imposing one of the heaviest tax burdens it’s still a matter of personal choice.

Excise taxes have failed to improve Illinoisans’ health while creating an undue burden for those with the least. But lawmakers have yet to kick the habit.

If Illinoisans’ celebratory excess this holiday season is to be followed by resolution to be better next year, maybe politicians, too, need to end the bender and cut back their penchant for excise taxes.

A 2019 study from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation found Illinois captured the sixth-highest amount per capita in excise taxes during fiscal year 2016.

Excise taxes are a “tax on a specific good or activity” and include “sin taxes” such as those on alcohol, tobacco, gambling and marijuana.

In fiscal year 2016, Illinois collected an average of $788 from every person in state and local excise taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. This exceeded each of Illinois’ neighbors by at least $100 per person.

Illinois’ myriad excise taxes are compounded by those imposed by municipalities at the local level. Chicago, for example, recently levied a 9% “amusement tax” on concerts and sporting events – which it expanded to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Illinois has seen many new and increased taxes since the study, including new taxes on recreational marijuana, legal sports betting, parking garages, as well as a doubled gas tax, increased tax on e-cigarettes, a new $1 per pack fee on cigarettes, a progressive tax on gambling proceeds – and that’s at the state level alone.

Politicians use sin taxes to generate quick tax revenue while looking to curb behavior advocates deem undesirable. But those objectives are at odds with each other: If a sin tax successfully discourages residents from purchasing the item it’s been applied to, tax revenues from those products and services are expected to decline.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center found that, despite Illinois’ statewide alcohol tax hikes in 1999 and 2009, the increases had no significant impact on drunk driving fatalities.

Sin taxes are also some of the least reliable revenue sources. Tax Foundation research from 2017 showed inflation-adjusted net collections from cigarette taxes demonstrate a pattern of brief revenue spikes immediately after an increase, followed by significant long-term dips. Tobacco use has steadily and significantly declined since the 1960s, so cigarette sin taxes are extremely unreliable as a revenue source. Data from the Illinois Department of Revenue shows the Prairie State’s 2012 cigarette tax hike fell more than $120 million short of projections.

In another example, promises of new revenue fell short after Illinois legalized video poker and slots in 2009 – slapping it with a tax to help fund a $31 billion infrastructure spending program. State lawmakers projected state revenues to reach $1 billion by November 2013. In reality, the state brought in less than $70 million by then. Five years later, total state revenues were supposed to rise to $2.5 billion, but state coffers only saw $1.4 billion by November 2018.

Excise taxes are also largely regressive. While well-to-do residents may not need to tighten their belts to afford high excise taxes, low-income consumers suffer most under them.

Plus, Illinois’ exorbitant alcohol and cigarette taxes will surely move border-town residents this New Year’s to cross over to neighboring states for friendlier prices. According to at least one estimate, Illinois loses up to $30 million annually on cross-border alcohol sales.

Soda taxes have proven the regressive nature of sin taxes, according to the Tax Foundation – but that didn’t stop Cook County from imposing its own highly unpopular soda tax, while exaggerating its potential public health benefits. The tax was eventually repealed following backlash.

Not only has taxing Illinoisans’ appetites failed to rescue the state from its fiscal plunge, it’s also hurt those with the least.

This new year, Springfield lawmakers should look to real pension reform instead of regressive tax hikes to fix the state’s financial problems. Illinoisans should be left to fix their bad habits at their own discretion.

Joe Barnas is a writer at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization that promotes responsible government and free market principles. Originally published December 23, 2020.

Photo of the Day - January 22, 2021

Spartans defeat Rockets at home

Chance Izard attempts to dribble around Jared Routh
St. Joseph-Ogden's Chance Izard attempts to dribble around Unity's Jared Routh during the Spartans' home game in 2019. Izard contributed ten points, seven in coming the second half, in SJO's 48-37 win over the Rockets in Illini Prairie Conference action on January 22. Routh finished the contest with seven points in the low scoring affair.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media
Clark Brooks)

Photo of the Day: January 20, 2021

Michael Lafenhagen stiff arms a St. Thomas More player in October of 2011

Lafenhagen and the Rockets roll in the first round playoff game

Unity's Michael Lafenhagen stiff arms a St. Thomas More player as he runs for a long gain during their IHSA playoff game on Saturday, October 29, 2011. The Rockets defeated the visiting Sabers 41-6 in their week one Class 3A contest at Hicks Field. The Rockets advanced to face Monticello next Saturday on the road in Week2 action.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Photo of the Day: January 19, 2021

Gage Haga wrestles his way to the state meet.

Haga picks another win

In complete control of his match, St. Joseph-Ogden's Gage Haga wrestles a Unity grappler during their home meet on January 29, 2014. Haga, a future state wrestling finalist who was a three-sport athlete at SJO playing football in the fall and ran track during the spring season, won the dual meet bout.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Guest Commentary: We must live our lives right now

by Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

When did life begin for President Donald Trump or President Joe Biden? Did Trump's life begin when his father loaned him millions to start investing? Did it begin when he married Melania? Or, did life begin when he was elected President? Maybe his life is beginning now that his Presidency is over?

What about Biden? Did Biden's life begin each morning when he boarded Amtrak headed for Washington? Maybe his life began when he was elected a Senator or even the Vice President? Maybe his life is just beginning now?

Trump will have options after the White House. He is a businessman. He will figure it out.

"Someone will publish Trump's memoirs. I predict he'll make about 50 to 75 million dollars off his book royalties."

Maybe NBC will seek him to do The Celebrity Apprentice once again? Yes, NBC hates him but they love money. The Celebrity Apprentice made NBC and Trump hundreds of millions of dollars. Someone will publish Trump's memoirs. I predict he'll make about 50 to 75 million dollars off his book royalties. He has over 70 million loyal followers. If ten million people buy a book with a $6 to $9 profit for the publisher then you can start multiplying the cash. Book publishers are all about money and sales. They know the market potential. Trump will stay busy on the speaking circuit. In about a year look for him in a city near you drawing a crowd.

Biden's life is only changing in that he finally gets to sleep in the White House. He will be in the same place where so many politicians and families have slept before. Biden is familiar with the nation's Capitol. He has practically spent his entire life there in politics. It's what he has awakened to almost every morning of his life. Although now, he will sit in the Oval Office.

Life is changing for these two men in different ways but what about your life? When did your life begin? Did it begin at your conception? Your birth? When you turned 16 years old or 21? Maybe it began when you retired? When will your life end? The beginning of your life starts when you start living your life. The end of your life concludes when you give up and stop living your life.

Our lives are brief, here today and gone tomorrow. Don't base your life on who is The President. The quantity and quality of our lives typically hinge on our decisions and the transitions we adjust to. Life is filled with transitions, just look at Biden and Trump.

Change disrupts us and the climate of fear and skepticism is dominating our nation.

For you and I we must live our lives right now. Every day we wake up is a new beginning and a new life. The old life was yesterday and we can't relive, change or erase it. However, we can learn from yesterday and education is very valuable.

When someone else's life begins is all conjecture on our part. When your life begins is your daily decision. Live your life. Maybe at this moment, your life is just really beginning


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


St. Joseph Middle School Honor Roll

Seventy-three 8th grade students at St. Joseph Middle School displayed their academic ability in the classroom by earning a spot on this school year's second quarter honor roll. Click on the image to review the list for each grade.

Seventh Grade Honor Roll

Eighth Grade Honor Roll

Tier 1 is back, restaurants can return to partial indoor dining

The restaurant business in Champaign County will be booming this week.

With a big sigh of relief, Region 6 of the Illinois Department of Public Health's COVID-19 Resurgence Mitigation Plan - which includes Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Dewitt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland, Shelby and Vermilion counties - moved from Tier 3 to Tier 1 yesterday. Restaurants can now return to partial, limited indoor seating.

And it is a moment too late for a number of area restaurants that have permanently closed their doors. However, it means that establishments like Roch's, which made the decision this past weekend, and Rich's Family Restaurant in Ogden more than a week earlier, to completely shutdown operations temporarily to conserve dwindling assets can now open to start generating revenue once again.

"We are back open! Tier one is official," said a post on Billy Bob's Facebook business page on Monday, a little more than a week after settling a dispute with the Champaign County public health agency suspended that suspended their health on December 11. The non-compliance with the state's mandate led to a court ordered temporary restraining order.

Monical's in Tolono announced on Facebook they would reopen today at 11am.

"We will follow the guidelines for Tier 1 mitigations which will include 25% seating capacity. Masks will also be required to enter the store and when you get up from your table," the post stated. "We are so excited to see our guests back in our store."

They are kicking off their reopening with a special featuring a 16" one topping pizza for $12.

Here's are the less restrictive measures now in effect for Region 6:

All bars and restaurants close at 11pm and may reopen no earlier than 6am the following day
• Indoor service limited to the lesser of 25 guests or 25% capacity per room
• Establishments offering indoor service must serve food
• Indoor service reservations limited to 2-hour maximum duration and maximum
4 persons per party (dining only with members of the same household recommended)
• All bar and restaurant patrons should be seated at tables
• No ordering, seating, or congregating at bar (bar stools should be removed)
• Tables should be 6 feet apart
• No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting
• No dancing or standing indoors
• Reservations required for each party
• No seating of multiple parties at one table
• Includes private clubs and country clubs

A new round of COVID-19 vaccinations starting January 19

Champaign County residents 75 years of age or older that did not previously receive a vaccine and people age 65-74 with underlying health conditions can receive a free coronavirus vaccination at an upcoming clinic between January 19 and January 22. The vaccine will be administered by appointment only.

Residents can schedule their time online at or call (217) 239-7877. According to the news release below, "individuals may experience a longer wait time" for appointments by phone.

Full release:

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD), in partnership with Carle Health, OSF HealthCare, Christie Clinic, Promise Healthcare, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will be hosting additional community-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics for Champaign County residents. The upcoming clinics will be held January 19-22, 2021 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only.

Next week’s clinics will serve anyone 75 years of age or older that did not previously receive a vaccine plus is expanding to include individuals age 65-74 with underlying health conditions - cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart disease, obesity, sickle cell disease, diabetes, smoking, and immune-compromised due to organ transplant.

Written documentation from the individual’s Primary Care Physician will not be required.

The community clinic will be held at the iHotel and Conference Center located at 1900 S. 1st Street, Champaign.

To register, please use one of the following methods:

Preferred method is online at Scheduling is also available by calling (217) 239-7877 but individuals may experience a longer wait time. Entrance for the clinic is through the east wing of the iHotel and Conference Center. If you do not feel well the day of your appointment, please call to reschedule.

Special notes:

The Kohl’s Plaza vaccination site administered by Carle Health is full for the weeks of January 18th and 25th and is currently not accepting additional appointments. Those eligible will be contacted when additional clinic dates become available.

Please refrain from contacting your healthcare provider to be placed on a wait list if you do not meet the requirements for the current phase.

“We are very excited as we move through this last phase of the pandemic. Vaccine distribution is rapidly changing so we ask everyone to please be patient as we are able to provide clinics and help our community return to normal. We will announce vaccination availability as quickly as possible so continue to watch CUPHD’s website and social media pages for updates,” said Public Health Administrator, Julie Pryde.

Patients will need to wear a face covering, practice social distancing, and plan to allow at least 15 minutes for observation after the vaccination. Please limit the number of individuals in your party that are not receiving the vaccine and wear clothing to allow easy access to the upper portion of the arm for the injection.

The cost of the vaccine is currently being covered by the federal government and most insurance plans cover the cost to deliver the shot. If you have questions about what your personal coverage is, call your health plan provider at the number on the back of your insurance card. It is important to know that no one will be turned away or receive a charge if they do not have health insurance.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has compiled a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccination. Information can be found at:

To track the phases and local vaccinations, visit

There were 44 COVID-19 outbreaks in Illinois schools

Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune
Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica

Nearly two months into the school year, Illinois public health officials said they have verified COVID-19 outbreaks in at least 44 school buildings across the state, but they declined to say where those cases occurred and acknowledged they may not know the full scope of the virus’s spread in schools.

Many other states already publish data on outbreaks in schools. But Illinois so far has released only county-level data about COVID-19 cases in people younger than 20.

Unlike many other states, Illinois doesn’t publish the number of cases linked to schools or which schools have been affected — even as parents and educators try to assess whether in-person learning is safe. State health officials released overall numbers at the request of ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune.

With more than 1,800 public schools operating in person at least part time, along with an unknown number of private schools, the outbreaks represent a tiny fraction of Illinois schools in session, according to an analysis of state education data. Most outbreaks have been small — two or three cases at each school — but at least 105 students and 73 employees at public and private schools have been affected.

State health officials said many COVID-19 cases seen among children are tied to gatherings outside school and other community events, while acknowledging that local contact tracing efforts likely have missed some school-related cases.

In all, 8,668 Illinois children ages 5 to 17 have tested positive for the virus from Aug. 15, when schools started to reopen, to Oct. 2, state health officials said. That amounts to about 180 new infections among children each day, on average, since school returned. Between March and early August, there were 11,953 confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, an average of about 72 a day. Fewer than five school-aged children have died of the disease, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Even as parents, school leaders and others in the state have pushed for more transparency about cases related to schools, the state health department said this week that it continues to weigh whether to publish data on school-driven outbreaks and has no timeline to decide whether to do so.

IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said health officials are concerned that publishing COVID-19 data tied to schools could identify students and staff and violate their privacy. The department publishes case counts for other facilities, including nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals. It also specifies the number of cases in people younger than 20 in each county.

“Obviously we want to be as transparent as possible and get information out that people can use. That’s why we have on our website the county-level data. That way, counties can make their own decisions about what they want to do,” Arnold said. “We’ve certainly received a lot of interest in this data. We’ve received interest from many different groups.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked at a news briefing Wednesday whether the state will publish data about school-related infections. He did not commit to it.

“I’m sure that IDPH is looking at school-specific reporting,” Pritzker said. “I’m very much in favor of trying to get our kids back into in-person learning; however, we want to make sure that it’s safe. And it’s very difficult at the state level to dictate how each school — of the 4,000-plus schools that we’ve got across the state of Illinois — can do that.”

Other states make district- or school-level outbreak data public online, including Ohio, Indiana and Mississippi, which post data about public and private schools; Michigan and Tennessee, which list new and ongoing outbreaks; and Kentucky, which provides student and staff case numbers “out of transparency and as quickly as possible,” according to the state website with school data.

A school outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed cases within 14 days of the start of symptoms in people who do not share a household and did not have close contact in another setting.

Nearly two-thirds of the confirmed school outbreaks resulted in two or three infections, and about a third led to between four and nine cases. One school had an outbreak that affected 18 people.

Health department officials are also tracing current school outbreaks in which the total number of infected people isn’t yet known, said Dr. Connie Austin, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the IDPH. Austin said the department is reluctant to estimate the risk of attending school — each community is different — but emphasized that students and staff should wear masks and keep socially distant when together.

“We need a little more time to be able to evaluate these outbreaks,” Austin said. “It is certainly happening; that’s why schools need to take the precautions they can take.”

In Illinois, students and staff at about 25% of school districts are operating exclusively in person, and nearly 70% are spending at least some of the week in person. A total of about 685,000 students attend school in these districts. Some of the state’s largest school districts — including Chicago and U-46 in Elgin — are operating entirely remotely for now.

Many school districts gave parents a choice between in-person classes and e-learning but allow them to switch only during school breaks, including at the end of a grading period. For both parents and school officials, it would be helpful to know more about virus transmissions at schools, one parent advocate said.

“Parents are in the dark about infection rates. How can we make an informed decision about whether or not to send our kids back to school when we don’t know how it is actually going at the schools that have returned to in-person school?” said Mary Fahey Hughes, a parent liaison for Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, a parent group that advocates for public education.

Michigan provides weekly updates on outbreaks in schools throughout the state, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration recently ordered schools to notify the public within 24 hours of any confirmed student and staff coronavirus cases. The push for transparency came from the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators, among other groups, after inconsistent reporting by schools.

“The only way to get through the pandemic is using transparency,” said Peter Spadafore, deputy executive director of the Michigan superintendents group. By publishing statewide figures, school leaders “can begin to understand what measures were successful in mitigation and stopping outbreaks.”

“When we talk about returning to school in person … we then have a lot of data to understand what works and what doesn’t,” Spadafore said.

Emily Oster, a Brown University economics professor, has been working with school administrators across the country to create a national dashboard to track the virus’s spread. Participation in the dashboard is voluntary; about 115 Illinois schools are included so far, with 0.13% of students testing positive in late September, about the same as the national rate.

“If we don’t have public accountability reporting, people don’t know what is going on. That is making it hard for them to make choices,” Oster said. “There are a lot of states and places that are hiding behind privacy, and the push I keep trying to make to people is it would be good to release this data.”

Nationally, cases among children and teens peaked in July, declined in August and then started rising again in early September, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Infection rates were twice as high in teens as they were in children. The CDC said that in-person learning can be safe when community transmission rates are low, but that it could increase risk in communities where transmission is high.

Illinois data suggests that many cases among teens involve outbreaks at colleges, not at K-12 schools. There were 15,464 confirmed cases among people younger than 20 between Aug. 16 and the last week of September, according to IDPH. But in roughly the same time period, the agency documented only 178 connected to K-12 schools.

Large outbreaks on university campuses in Illinois and across the country have been documented, though, contributing to case spikes in college towns.

For example, cases have surged recently among younger people in McLean County, in central Illinois. But Jessica McKnight, administrator of the county health department, noted that many of those cases were in the 18- and 19-year-old range. Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University have both reopened in the county.

She also said most of the virus spread in K-12 children so far has been tied to community sports and other gatherings unrelated to school.

“We’re making it as safe as possible within the walls of the school,” McKnight said. “You have control over what happens inside the building. It’s outside the building … that may be more concerning.”

School districts have taken varied approaches to informing their communities about COVID-19 cases. While some publish real-time dashboards, others alert parents only with form letters when a positive case is discovered. Some send out periodic updates tallying the week’s cases.

North suburban New Trier Township School District 203 updates an online dashboard twice a week with the number of staff and student COVID-19 cases, as well as the number in quarantine. After starting remotely for all but select students, the high school reopened Monday with 25% of students in person at a time. As of Wednesday, there were five positive cases among students and none among staff, according to the district. Nearly 60 students and 13 employees are in quarantine, according to the dashboard.

Mike Sutton, superintendent of Highland Community Unit School District 5 in Madison County, near St. Louis, doesn’t publish a dashboard but sends families a weekly summary with a tally of the week’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. He said there have been about 25 confirmed or presumed cases in the district since the school year began.

“This has not been ideal, but we believe that’s how important it is to have kids in school,” Sutton said.

In west suburban Geneva District 304, about 5,500 students and staff members have been learning in person since Aug. 31. There have been 26 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and school workers, though none of the cases is linked to exposure at the schools, according to district spokeswoman Laura Sprague.

“These confirmed cases are from community-based exposure rather than in our schools, which shows the health and safety precautions we put in place are working,” Sprague said.

Students and staff wear masks during the school day; families are required to complete a daily symptom screening and certify that nobody in the family has COVID-19 symptoms. District officials email families and staff whenever they learn of a positive case in the school community, Sprague said.

Olympia District 16 in McLean County publishes its own online dashboard that updates daily.

“Being transparent with numbers, cases, etc., has helped and our staff has been positive about being in person,” said Laura O’Donnell, the district’s superintendent.

County health officials said they reviewed districts’ return-to-school plans and made suggestions when necessary, and they have advised districts what to do when they have had positive cases.

In St. Clair County, in southern Illinois, school officials alert the health department when someone tests positive and they work together to trace exposure. Some school employees have taken the county’s contact tracing course to understand the process, said the health department’s executive director, Barb Hohlt.

The county, like others across the state, does not publish the number of cases tied to schools, Hohlt said.

“We will follow the lead” of the state health department, Hohlt said. “We are leaving it up to each school (to decide what to disclose about) cases in a school. We will inform parents or teachers or employees only if there is a need to know they have been involved in a case or contact.”

Statewide, there have been 307,641 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 8,878 deaths attributed to the virus as of this article.

*** Clarification, Oct. 22, 2020: This story originally said some Chicago Public Schools students will return to classes in November. The district hopes to begin in-person learning for preschool and certain special education students in the second quarter, which begins in November.

This story was originally published by ProPublica on October 21, 2020. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Filed under: Education

Photo of the day: January 15, 2021

Unity senior Beau Taylor wrestles at quad meet in 2007.

Beau Taylor tries to pin Dwight's Mike Carter during their 171 lb match at the Rantoul quadrangle meet Saturday, November 25, 2007. Taylor, a senior on the Unity wrestling team, fell 10-6 just as time ran out. Unity went on to defeat Rantoul 54-30 and finished the day with a 2-1 record. The Rockets opened the meet with a loss a 48-22 loss to Dwight, but rallied back beating the Eagles and rolling Hoopeston Area, 58-6.

Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks

A good reason to not leave your kids "Home Alone" in Illinois

by Joe Barnas, Writer
Illinois Policy

Could Illinois parents who leave their eighth grader at home alone, or allow them to be unsupervised at the local park, find themselves under investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, or even under arrest?

A vague and restrictive state law could mean the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services comes knocking if parents leave their 13-year-old home alone.
That would have been bad news for the parents in the 1990 film “Home Alone.” They accidentally left 8-year-old Kevin McAllister behind at their Winnetka home, in a frantic rush to get out the door for the family Christmas trip to Paris.

While that holiday comedy was fiction, the legal threat to Illinois parents is real.

State law currently states “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor” has been neglected.

Vague language such as this is ripe for broad interpretation that opens the door to regulatory abuse. Under one interpretation, it is illegal for parents to leave any child age 13 and younger by themselves – whether at home, at the park or walking the dog around the block.

It is also unclear what constitutes “an unreasonable period of time” – among other uncertainties with the law. Would that be an hour? Or would that be closer to the three days young Kevin was left to fend off burglars?

For Wilmette mother Corey Widen, such a nightmare scenario with DCFS became a reality after letting her daughter walk the family dog in 2018. Eight-year-old Dorothy was walking Marshmallow around the block by herself when a neighbor noticed and called police.

Wilmette Police determined the negligence accusation was baseless, but that wasn’t enough for DCFS. The state agency opened an investigation into Widen, putting the family under a microscope and throwing them into nerve-wracking uncertainty – all for simply letting Dorothy walk the dog on her own.

Eventually, DCFS found Widen was innocent and dropped the case.

Illinois’ law is the strictest in the nation. The highest age any other state stipulates for a child to be left alone is 12. Thirty other states have no such age restrictions.

Chicago mother Natasha Felix also experienced in 2013 the overzealous enforcement of Illinois’ child neglect laws. She let her three sons – ages 5, 9 and 11 – run around the playground right outside their apartment window. A passerby called DCFS and Felix was charged for inadequate supervision – even though she was keeping a watchful eye on her children through the window.

It took two years until the charge was finally erased from her record.

To make matters worse, parents can temporarily lose custody of their child before they even have the chance to defend themselves in court against negligence accusations. A child can even be temporarily taken away from a parent without a warrant when an allegation is made.

Later, 15 vague factors – from the duration of time the child was left unsupervised to the weather – are considered while the parents defend themselves against the allegations. At the least, the parents suffer a frightening and humiliating experience in having their parenting questioned and possibly even losing custody of their child temporarily.

The weight of this law falls disproportionately on single parents and low-income households. Parents who leave their kids home alone after school out of necessity – often living paycheck to paycheck – while juggling irregular work hours can easily become victims of the vague and arbitrary restrictions.

Lawmakers in Springfield have recognized the need for change, but no concrete reform has succeeded. In 2019, the Illinois House unanimously passed a bill lowering the age restriction to 12 from 14. The measure never received a vote in the Senate.

As children run to the neighborhood sledding hill or off to build a snowman in the park this holiday season, lawmakers should once again move to make this law more clear and less invasive on a family’s life.

Most 13-year-olds can responsibly stay home alone and watch over younger siblings for an extended period of time. Parents best know their child’s maturity and abilities, not an officer or case worker from DCFS.

Teaching self-reliance or understanding a child’s capabilities shouldn’t be mistaken for negligence. A system that allows a single call from a passerby to embroil parents in a months-long struggle that threatens their family and their good name is one in dire need of reform.

Joe Barnas is a writer at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization that promotes responsible government and free market principles. Originally published December 23, 2020.

Photo of the Day - January 14, 2021

Singing with the Parke

Jake Parke, tailback and team co-captain, leads the Spartan football team in the singing of the school fight song after defeating visiting Marshall for a second straight year in the playoffs on November 5, 2005. St. Joseph-Ogden crushed the Lions 40-0, thanks largely to Parke's three TDs, in the victory Saturday afternoon. SJO advanced setting up a quarterfinal showdown at Unity. Parke scored three touchdowns in the Week 2 playoff game.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

32 juniors make Unity's first semester high honor roll

Malia Fairbanks, Phillip Hartke and Grace Renfrow are three of 32 members of the junior class who achived a grade point average of 3.75 or better at Unity High after the first semester. Forty-eight students from the class of 2024 will also be recognized as high honors students on January 26 along with the entire list of students below who made the honor roll or attained high honors status from their efforts between August 19 and December 22.

Students earning a GPA of 3.20 to 3.74 are recognized as honor students.


High Honor: Emma Aders; Evelyn Atkins; Rachel Branson; Marissa Charleston; Gracie Cox; Brooke Garretson; Shay Haluzak; Maggie Hewing; Elizabeth Hulilck; Taylor Joop, Olivia Kleiss; Madelyn Moore; Korie Novak; Kimberely Pruitting; Daisy Rawlings; Annie Schmidt; Mia Shannon; Lillian Styan; Jonah Sullivan; Cerra Thompson; and Kyleigh Weller.

Honor: Caroline Bachert; Alyson Bagwell; Brandon Bates; Isabella Bryant; Corbin Cox; Summer Day; Nathan Drennan; Corrina Duvall; Emma Felsman; Shannon Flavin; Alyssa Hartman; Ellen Henning; William Jokisch; Evan LeFaivre; Emily Lopez; Suzanne Migut; Andrew Miller; Aubryanna Norman; Connor ODonnell; Brady Porter; Chloee Reed; Conner Sharp; Ryan Vasey; Nolan Wallace; Caden Wingler; and Laela Zook.


High Honor: Katelyn Allen; Marie Baxley; Emma Bleecher; Zayne Bonner; Grace Brock; Sarah Butler; Thomas Cler; Sophia Darnell; Nolan Decker; Allyson England; Malia Fairbanks; Harper Hancock; Cameran Hansen; Phillip Hartke; Elise Johnson; Annabell Jokisch; Delaney Kamradt; Carli Keller; Lauryn Kennedy; Carson Kleparski; Addison Montgomery; Sydney Olson; Kaitlyn Reedy; Grace Renfrow; Samantha Ruggieri; Allison Shonkwiler; Sara Steffens; Erika Steinman; Shelbee Taylor; Isabella Warner; and Destiny Williamson.

Honor: Savannah Alagna; Cody Broadfoot; Calli Chandler; Marshall Church; Kystal Crossin; Evelyn Eastin; Hunter Evans; Hailey Flesch; Grace Frye; Tristania Hansen; Bridget Henry; Taylor Henry; Tyler Hensch; Clayton Jamison; Payton Kaiser; Blake Kimball; Macie Knudsen; Alexandrea Lemon; Alida Maggio; Claire Markstahler; Cameron Marvin; Hanna Mataya; Nolan Miller; Cole Newell; Konnor Orwick; Trustan Price; Madeline Reed; Dillion Rutledge; Alaina Scroggins; Kelley Street; and Taylor Wiersema.


High Honor: Rachel Aders; Caleb Amias; Emily Anderlik; Emmalee Atkins; Mary Bryant; Anthony Chaney; Anna Clark; Lauren Cooke; Hunter Duncan; Brendan Graven; Roger Holben; Erin Lopez; Andrew Manrique; Jayci McGraw; Jolie Meyer; Lauren Miller; Dylan Moore; Andrew Mowrer; Mason Perry; Abigail Pieczynski; Julia Ping; Audrey Remole; Sarah Rink; Reece Sarver; Kaitlyn Schweighart; Annabelle Steg; Raena Stierwalt; Sophia Stierwalt; Avery White; and Luke Williamson.

Honor: Calvin Baxley; Maria Buffo; Haley Carrington; Jayden Clem; Annah Cloin; Joshua Davidson; Paige Farney; Boden Franklin; Brandon Goyne; Haylen Handal; Tyler Liffick Worrell; Kayla Nelson; Ellen Ping; Cale Rawdin; Alivia Renfoe; Emma Stratton; Emmilia Tieman; Ava Vasey; Garrett Wingler; and Kara Young.


High Honor: Evelyn Albaugh; Payton Bradley; Connor Cahill; Analyse Carter; Rebecca Carter; Kendra Cromwell; Desire De Los Santos; Taylor Drennan; Natalie Ellars; Bailey Grob; Madison Henry; Brooke Hewing; Shelby Hoel; Caroline Jamison; Eden Johnson; Cassidy Keller; Caelyn Kleparski; Reagan Little; Zachary Lorbiecki; Tatum Meyer; Eric Miebach; Katelyn Moore; Lauren Neverman; Dalton O’Neill; Anna Polonus; Ava Price; Meredith Reed; Maci Richmond; Briana Ritchie; Isaac Ruggieri; Aubrey Sanders; Aubrey Schaefer; Olivia Shike; Grant Siuts; Logan Siuts; Carsyn Smith; Piper Steele; Lily Steffens; Brock Suding; Ruby Tarr; Andrew Thomas; Henry Thomas; Breanna Weller; Jeremy Wells; Erica Woodard; Abigail Woolcott; Emberly Yeazel; and Madysen York.

Honor: Brendan Bachert; Kiersten Bash; Nathan Bleecher; Brenlee Dalton; Elianna Duo; Kamryn Edenburn; Emma Fish; Mike Gray; Margaret Ingleman; Bayleigh Jones; Jocelyn LeFaivre; Trevor McCarter; Dean Niswonger; Gabriel Pound; Zachary Renfrow; James Rennels; Amelia Rinella Flores; Santiago Sanchez Castillo, Erin Sanders; McKayla Schendel; Carly Scroggins; Matthew Short; Josephine Stierwalt; Lynndsay Talbott; Kate Thomas; Aileen Vasquez Munoz; Aidan Ward; Bailey Wayne; Bryson Weaver; Kolten Wells; and Tanner Wells.

Bill Banning Locked Seclusion and Face-Down Restraints in Illinois Schools Stalls as Lawmakers Run Out of Time

Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune
Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica

Illinois lawmakers had the support to ban schools from locking students alone in a room or physically restraining them face down. But they didn’t have the time.

A yearlong legislative effort to end decades of controversial practices that often left confined children crying for their parents and tearing at the walls ended without a vote in the Illinois House on Wednesday as the legislative session expired.

The bill had unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday and was on track for a concurrence vote in the House, but other measures put up for approval instead and last-minute maneuvering by some private schools scuttled plans to call the seclusion bill for a vote.

“Once again, Illinois has failed its children and lost the opportunity to reform school practices that are a serious threat to the safety and well-being of students with disabilities,” said Zena Naiditch, president and CEO of Chicago-based Equip for Equality, a federally appointed watchdog for people with disabilities. She praised the bill’s sponsors for their efforts.

The sponsors quickly pledged to reintroduce the legislation to the new General Assembly in the next couple of weeks.

The legislation would have required any school that receives state funding to make a plan to reduce — and eventually eliminate — its reliance on any kind of timeout and restraint over the next three years.

But a main feature of the bill was an immediate ban on schools’ use of locked seclusion rooms and prone, or face-down, physical restraints. In addition, schools would have been told they could seclude students in unlocked spaces and use other types of restraints only when there is an “imminent danger of serious physical harm” to the student or others. Access to food, water, medication and a bathroom would have been mandatory.

The Illinois State Board of Education would have been directed to sanction schools that didn’t comply with the legislation.

On Tuesday night, advocates for people with disabilities thought their pleas to end the controversial practices would be answered. Some were prepared to issue statements congratulating legislators.

But other issues were pressing as the General Assembly wrapped up its term, including a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, as well as the selection of a new House speaker.

The legislation “had critical components to protect students from harmful and abusive use of seclusion and restraint practices in school,” said Chris Yun with Access Living, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities. “I am very disappointed that resistance from private facilities blocked Illinois from moving forward in the right direction.”

Lawmakers said the biggest challenge to the bill was some schools’ insistence on the need for face-down restraints — though more than 31 states have banned prone restraints because they can obstruct a child’s breathing. Those schools have argued that prone restraint is as safe as other restraints when performed correctly and that sometimes it’s the most effective way to deal with students in crisis.

“We just wish that there would be a way to have a compromise so it is not totally banned but there are qualifiers” and it could be used in some situations, said Sylvia Smith, executive director of Giant Steps, a Lisle school for students with autism. “It is just that sometimes some of our kids, if they have a meltdown, they get extremely agitated and strike out and sometimes they try to hurt themselves or hurt others.”

Such opposition “helped muddy things” ahead of the House vote, said the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Arlington Heights Democrat Ann Gillespie. Still, she said that wasn’t the primary reason for the bill’s demise.

“We had a fully agreed bill,” said Rep. Jonathan Carroll, a Northbrook Democrat who sponsored the House bill, but “just ran out of time.”

Now the process must begin again with the new General Assembly, which was sworn in Wednesday. Gillespie said the bill would be reintroduced by February. She and Carroll said they are determined to strengthen protections for children.

“We’ve poured over a year of our time into this legislation because we must discontinue these horrific and barbaric practices,” Carroll said. He had been secluded as a child and has spoken about the harm it caused.

The lawmakers are trying to amend a law on seclusion and restraint that has been in place for about 20 years; that law is more vague about when school districts can use these interventions and led to widespread misuse, a 2019 investigation by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune found.

State rules adopted last April in response to the investigation had placed stricter limits on the use of seclusion — including a prohibition on isolating students behind a locked door — but did not ban prone restraints. Critics of seclusion and restraint had argued that it was important to pass a state law protecting children from these practices, rather than rely on rulemaking.

“The Quiet Rooms” investigation found that about 100 Illinois public school districts had secluded students more than 20,000 times in a 15-month period from September 2017 to December 2018, often to punish children for poor behavior or to force them to comply with workers’ commands. Those reasons weren’t valid under existing state rules on seclusion, but there was no state oversight or enforcement.

Students also had been physically restrained, or held by workers so that they could not move — sometimes pinned on the floor — at least 15,000 times in the same time period, records showed. Workers often restrained students after they were disrespectful or profane and when there was no stated safety concern.

After “The Quiet Rooms” was published, ISBE mandated that all school districts and private schools provide records on their use of seclusion and restraint from the past three school years. Schools also are now required to alert the state within 48 hours of using seclusion or restraint.

In December, ISBE released a summary of the data provided by the schools, revealing at least 10,785 students had been subjected to seclusion and restraint during that three-year period. There were 43,993 incidents of timeout, averaging 30 minutes each, and 53,336 incidents of physical restraint, averaging 10 minutes each.

ISBE found that in nearly 11,000 of those incidents, school workers identified no safety risk before secluding or restraining a student, as required by state law.

Before the Senate’s unanimous vote, Gillespie told fellow legislators that shutting kids inside seclusion rooms “actually tends to exacerbate the behaviors” that school workers are trying to address.

“There are instances where you need to remove the child into a quieter type of environment, but the goal here is to have the school personnel continue to work with the child rather than just locking them up and moving them out,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie told lawmakers that the goal of the three-year planning requirement was for schools to learn alternatives and eventually eliminate the “traumatic interventions.”

“Hopefully schools will learn those techniques and adopt them over time,” she said.

This story was originally published by ProPublica on January 13, 2021. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Filed under: Education

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