Congratulations to Lindsey Jensen, Illinois Teacher of the Year!

“I really want to make my profession proud, and I really want to advocate, not only for students, but for teachers as well. I absolutely think it’s the most important job in the world, but it is a challenging job, and I want to be someone who brings attention to all that teachers do.” Lindsey Jensen, Illinois Teacher of the Year 2017

186 educators: enjoy your well-earned break!

UIS Perspectives: Educating leaders in education (, 12/16/17)

What makes successful K-12 schools tick? A recent study cited by Education Pioneers, a nationwide school improvement project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, concluded school leadership is a critical factor. Along with excellent teachers, outstanding principals and superintendents have significant impact on how well students learn in school.

That impact is the reason that, in addition to preparing highly-qualified K-12 teachers, UIS offers graduate programs in Educational Leadership that prepare principals, superintendents and other school personnel for leadership roles in schools throughout central Illinois and beyond.

Scott Day, a faculty member at UIS for 20 years (and winner of the 2017 Faculty Excellence Award), leads the Educational Leadership program. “What attracts students to our program,” says Day, “is top-notch faculty with extensive experience working as principals and superintendents.”

“Our graduates always say how well prepared they feel for the job based on the program’s course projects and the extensive internship requirement,” he continues. “The professional preparation is about as realistic as you can get — and that is the key to our (and our graduates’) success.”

Hanfu Mi, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services, agrees: “Faculty who teach in the Educational Leadership program have not only had careers as successful principals and superintendents, they also remain connected to people and issues of importance in K-12 in Illinois — engaging in research, service and other professional activities that keep them informed of exactly what is going on in the schools across the state.”

“Dr. Day is a good example of that connectivity,” Dean Mi continues. “He currently serves on the Executive Board of the Illinois Principals Association and spends significant time each semester in the schools, mentoring current graduate students (most of whom are also full-time teachers) and advising alums who continue to stay connected to the faculty long after they complete the program.”

Jennifer Gill, Superintendent of Springfield Public School District 186, is one of those alums. Gill was born and raised in Springfield, where she graduated from Springfield High School and later taught at Wanless Elementary School, one of 23 elementary schools in the district. “I chose the University of Illinois at Springfield for my Masters Degree in Educational Administration due to strong recommendations from educators in my community,” says Gill. “I quickly realized the opportunity to learn from professors who were practitioners as well as those who were grounded in educational research was the blend of support for which I was looking.”

Dr. Gill later returned to UIS for her Superintendent’s licensure and the Chief School Business Endorsement, working with a cohort of fellow educators with whom she maintains valuable professional relationships today.

Superintendent Gill is not the only UIS Educational Leadership alum in District 186. In fact, more than 60% of the principals employed in the Springfield Public Schools today are proud graduates of the program. Another alum is Lyn Williams, who became principal of Southeast High School this fall after serving 11 years in other roles in the district, most recently as Assistant Principal at Lanphier High School.

“Finding a graduate program that provided me with research-based instruction and real-life relevance was my priority when choosing both a principalship program and a superintendency program,” says Williams. “The expertise of my instructors at UIS allows for class time to be spent problem-solving around real-world case studies and the discussion is filled with dynamic analysis and insight that is second to none.”

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Our View: Better ways for Lincoln Library to address late fines (, 12/12/17)

All area children should have access to Lincoln Library. Libraries are, after all, the great equalizer. They serve everyone regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, social status or economic class. Those who can’t afford books, DVDs, an internet connection or a computer can turn to their local library for access. The resources a library offers could truly change someone’s life for the better.

But the recent initiative launched by Lincoln Library – which as a holiday gift is encouraging patrons to pay off fines accrued on children’s accounts – has us wondering if there wasn’t a better way to solve the issue at hand.

Just after Thanksgiving, the library set up a display of wrapped gifts decorated with paper ornaments – 169 were initially put up . Each represents a fine accrued by a juvenile patron. Accounts are blocked after they rack up more than $10 in fines, which means those children can’t check out materials. The highest library fine on the display was $193.

“The gift people are paying for here is library access for kids,” Jessica Paulsen, the library’s access services manager, told an SJ-R reporter last week.

Lincoln Library now only charges fines on overdue adult materials, and for damaged or unreturned items. But before July, a children’s or young adult book would incur a 25-cent fine for every day it was late; 50 cents was charged daily for late DVDs.

The initiative aims to get those accounts paid off (donations can be made through Dec. 30), so the library can let those kids know they are free to resume checking out materials.

It’s a well-intentioned idea, but there are problems with the execution.

For one thing, there are different reasons why a kid might have racked up the fines, and the Angel Tree doesn’t differentiate the circumstances. Is a $15 fine for a kid who just wanted to keep a DVD he checked out, so he didn’t return it? Is a $50 fine from a girl who was visiting a sick parent in the hospital and returned books for a school project a few weeks late? What about a younger child who’s being punished for the irresponsible actions of a mother or father who didn’t make time to take them to the library?

There are older kids and teenagers who could return books on their own, and it’s frustrating that under this good-hearted idea, they would not be held accountable for their actions. They are borrowing resources from a taxpayer-funded facility; by returning them late, or damaged or perhaps not at all, they are depriving other patrons from using those items. How will they learn to be responsible if a stranger wipes out their debt and frees them from the consequences of breaking the rules?

We’d prefer to see older kids with fines invited to volunteer at the library in a trade to erase their fines. They could shelve books or read stories to younger children. One of our readers suggested the kids with excessive late fines write an essay on why libraries are needed in the community. These approaches would help kids learn to be responsible, while being held accountable for the mistreatment of the library’s resources.

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How to give the gift Springfield library fine forgiveness (, 12/8/17)

Instead of giving a kid a book this holiday season, you can give him a library.

Lincoln Library has launched a new initiative in which patrons can pay off fines on children’s accounts.

“The gift people are paying for here is library access for kids,” said Jessica Paulsen, the library’s access services manager.

Since the Monday after Thanksgiving, a display of wrapped gifts adorned with cutouts of mittens, snowmen and stars has sat in the lobby. Each “ornament” represents a fine accrued by a juvenile patron.

The display has only been in the lobby for two weeks, yet as of Friday, already 41 out of the 169 accounts have been paid off, amounting to more than $600 being donated, according to Paulsen. Accounts are blocked after they rack up more than $10 in fines. Once an account is paid off, the library sends the child a letter announcing the change.

“Oftentimes, it’s not the kid’s fault that someone can’t bring them to library to return a book,” Paulsen said. “We feel horrible that we are kind of punishing these kids.”

Most of the blocked accounts are from when the library still charged for overdue juvenile material. Before July, every day any book was turned in late would incur a 25-cent fine. DVD fines were 50 cents. Now, Lincoln Library only charges fines on overdue adult materials and for damaged or unreturned items.

Deanna Jones, a library assistant who staffs the circulation desk, has seen the faces of kids who try to check out books, only to find out that fines have blocked their account.

First, comes a look of disappointment, then helplessness.

Oftentimes, the kids leave their books at the desk and walk away, she said.

“It would help if people could pay off the bigger amounts, even if people put $10 toward them,” Jones said.

The highest library fine on the display is $193.

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Springfield School District receives ninth, 10th bomb threats (, 11/30/17)

be9a2bce-bee9-4ee8-a779-fff032a25a3e-large16x9_southeast3Springfield District 186 schools received their ninth and 10th bomb threats this year on Thursday afternoon.

The district said the incident at Southeast High School occurred at 1:20 p.m. via phone call, and the second occurred at Springfield High right before the 3:17 p.m. dismissal.

District 186 said in a release students at Southeast were evacuated “out of an abundance of caution” to the adjacent football field.

After the building was searched, students returned to class at 2:30 p.m. and school dismissed at normal time.

Due to the timing of the call at Springfield High, students were dismissed at the normal time, but after-school activities were delayed as the building was searched.

Springfield High parents received an automated call about the search, but it did not mention the bomb threat.

The bomb threats were the second incident this week and ninth and tenth threats this school year. Classes at Springfield High School and Grant Middle School were disrupted for about two hours Tuesday after bomb threats prompted evacuations at both buildings.

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IEA launches “Keep Learning, Keep Moving” campaign to protect students from P.E. class cuts (11/27/17)

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) launched the “Keep Learning, Keep Moving” campaign to preserve daily physical education (P.E.) classes for all students in the state. A commercial featuring IEA member and Glencoe South and Glencoe West P.E. teacher, Hilary Lee, is now airing in television markets throughout the state.

Multiple studies have shown P.E. classes improve test scores, reduce stress and build healthy bodies, but Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner recently made it easier for schools to cut these classes. Under legislation passed and signed into law in August, school boards can now choose for students to participate in P.E. only three days per week as opposed to five. Athletes, or students involved in other specific extra-curricular activities, can opt out entirely.

“I have been teaching P.E. more than three decades, and it’s impossible to ignore the positive effects these classes have on our students,” Hilary Lee said. “Whether they’re in the gym or outside, after working out their bodies, they’re much more ready to focus and work out their minds.”

Exercise is a key component to brain health. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control show reducing P.E. classes can be harmful to a students’ health, education and future. The IEA has also been doing work across the state introducing the concept of trauma-informed and emotionally-inclusive networks to communities. These strategies help students who bring a lot of stressors from outside of school into the classroom. Many students can’t begin to concentrate on their studies until those issues are dealt with. We know that physical exercise can actually help repair damage that’s done to their brains as a result of living in a heightened state of fight or flight.

“Students need to be given a fair chance at achieving the best education and the best future possible,” said IEA President Kathi Griffin, “By keeping kids learning, and keeping kids moving, we give them the opportunity to truly succeed physically, mentally and emotionally. P.E. classes are vital to every student’s growth.”

Learn more about the Keep Learning, Keep Moving campaign and watch the commercial featuring Hillary Lee.

District 186 parents fed up with repeated bomb threats (, 11/28/17)

Bomb threats number seven and eight were called in Tuesday at District 186 schools.

District 186 spokeswoman Bree Hankins said the call came in right before 11 a.m. at Springfield High School and Grant Middle School.

Both schools were evacuated so police could search the grounds.

Many parents decided to pick their students up early.

Joseph Cook, who has daughters at both Springfield High and Grant Middle, said it’s the third time this year he’s had to pick his daughters up following a bomb threat.

“I’m hoping that these kids will stop doing this and grow up a little bit and realize they’re going to ruin their life, “ Cook said. “You’re messing with your future for a little prank to get one day off school for no reason.“

Hankins said both schools were given the all clear within two hours of the threats being called in.

Students that were not picked up went back to class and after-school activities went on as planned.

According to the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s office, making a false bomb threat is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, up to 120 hours of community service, and a judge may also order a convicted person to pay all fees for emergency responders.

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New changes in security for high school basketball games (, 11/22/17)

If you’re going to a high school basketball game in Springfield, be prepared to be searched.
District 186 is now enforcing wanding at all boys games.

This coming after six people were stabbed after a game at Lanphier High School.
“Not a lot of kids are taught that, they think the world and everybody in it is safe and trusting. But it’s not how things are anymore you know,” Rena Rojas, a guardian of a Lanphier High School student said.

Some parents see worrying about safety as one of the last things that should be on their minds while at a school-related event.

“School and school events should not be a place where you have to worry about dropping them off or letting them go do things,” Rojas said.

But after the stabbing event, the school saw a need for change.

“We’ve had some issues throughout the year and throughout the last couple of years with sporting events here in the district,” Director of Support for District 186 Jason Wind said.

Adding a new level of security is not meant to be seen as a motif of fear.

“This is a precautionary measure, hopefully, we go through this wanding process and don’t find anything in this wanding process,” Wind said.

Before entering the arena, those in attendance will be checked by a portable metal detector by off-duty Springfield police.

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