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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SEA 2017-19 Contract Ratified!

A Letter From The President

Dear SEA Members,

At this time I would like to notify you of the results of the ratification written ballot vote.


Yes vote: 462
No vote : 10
Spoiled : 3

The motion passed and you have ratified the 17-19 tentative agreement. Thank you to all of those that assisted throughout this process. SEA is stronger when we stand together. TA information will be available on the SEA webpage on Tuesday.

In solidarity,

Springfield teachers, District 186 reach tentative contract deal (, 11/17/17)

A tentative agreement has been reached on a new contract between Springfield Public Schools and teachers.

The next step is for the union to vote to ratify the contract. That vote will be held before Monday’s school board meeting, Springfield Education Association President Crysta Weitekamp said.

If ratified, the school board would then vote on whether to approve the new agreement Monday.

As in the past, district and union officials aren’t releasing details of the contract, including its length or cost to the district, until the agreement is approved. Weitekamp said she believed there would be enough support from members, calling it a “good deal.”

Board President Adam Lopez declined to talk about the contract until Monday’s meeting.

Teachers in District 186 have been operating without a contract this school year as negotiations have dragged on longer than normal.

Weitekamp said that was due to the state budget impasse and uncertainty over whether a new funding formula would go into effect.

In February, the district and teachers agreed to a one-year deal covering the 2016-2017 school year that provided teachers with pay increases for longevity and more education. However, the contract did not include bumps in base salary. Teachers initially rejected the district’s offer before signing off in February. Details of the initial contract were not released, so it’s unclear what, if any, changes were made.

There is extra money in the District 186 budget to work with for pay increases.

In September, the school board approved a spending plan that included an $812,312 surplus before contract negotiations with teachers and other unions.

However, that budget did not factor in District 186 potentially receiving an extra $1 million in general state aid, according to some estimates, under the new funding formula.

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Police dog to regularly search Springfield public schools (, 11/16/17)

Springfield Public Schools has hired a retired canine handler to regularly search middle and high schools for drugs, bombs and guns, a move school officials say will serve as a deterrent to bringing contraband into the buildings and possibly avoid an evacuation when a bomb threat is received.

The school board last week hired former Springfield police officer Ron Howard, who retired in 2016 after 27 years, including 20 training police dogs and handlers.

Howard will be paid $25 per hour — the standard rate the district pays off-duty officers, said Jason Wind, director of school support.

Having dogs search lockers and school grounds is nothing new, according to Jon Filbrun, the district’s coordinator of security and safety.

Random searches have been conducted two to four times per year at middle and high schools, using dogs from the Springfield Police Department and Illinois Secretary of State Police.
But relying on outside agencies also means the district is subject to the agency’s availability, Filbrun said.

In the case of serious incidents — like multiple threats that caused four schools to be evacuated in October — that’s not a problem. But doing searches on a regular basis isn’t as feasible, he said.

“We had to depend on if the agency was able to pull officers away,” Filbrun said.

Wind said Howard and his dog will rotate through several buildings, typically working between two to four hours total per week.

The dog is trained to detect guns, drugs and bombs. Filbrun called the searches an “added preventative” to keeping contraband out of the buildings.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” he said. “We want kids to know the dog is going to be there searching for these things. Hopefully that will make kids think twice not to bring it to school.”

On Wednesday morning, Howard and Styxx, a 2 1/2-year-old Belgian Malinois he owns and trained, searched lockers at Grant Middle School, 1800 W. Monroe St.

The search, conducted while class was in session, lasted a little under an hour and covered most of the main floor and upstairs hallways. No contraband was found.

Wind said the times of the searches will vary, occurring during the school day, after hours or before students arrive in the morning.

During school hours, students in the part of the building where the dog is sniffing have to stay in the classroom, but those on a different floor can go into the hallway, Filbrun said, adding the dog will be kept on a leash and cars also could be searched.

Both Wind and Filbrun also said they do not believe the searches would disrupt classroom learning, noting during previous searches outside agencies brought in eight or nine dogs, forcing every student to remain in the classroom.

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