Month: October 2014

2014 ISBE Report Cards/Sun-Times Ranking Released — How Districts 89, 92 and 209 Fared

Cook County Recorder of DeedsSchool Uniforms

Friday, October 31, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 7:48 PM

This article is sponsored by Villegas Headstones and Monuments – Support them because they support us.

The Chicago Sun-Times released its annual ranking of state standardized test scores today. This year, Chicago’s elite selective-enrollment schools, such as Whitney Young and Walter Payton College Prep, dominated the top of the list — as they did in 2013. Rounding out the top ten are open-enrollment schools in some of the state’s wealthiest and most exclusive school districts in places such as Winnetka, Hinsdale and Lincolnshire.

The rankings are based on data compiled, and released annually, by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The rankings, which the paper has been publishing for more than a decade, are based “on average scores on state achievement tests, not on the percentage who meet state standards — a measure that has come under criticism,” according to a statement on the paper’s website.

The paper’s elementary school rankings are based on the test results of students in third or fifth grade; middle school rankings reflect the test results of students in grades sixth through eighth; and high school rankings are based on the results of students in 11th grade.

Kindergarten through eighth grade schools can be included in both middle school and elementary school rankings. It isn’t yet known whether or not District 89’s transition to a middle-school format, which went into effect this year, will change how it’s schools are ranked in the future. As of press time, officials from the District couldn’t be reached for comment.


Now playing at the Lyric Opera House — Maywood’s Own

Maywood Fine Arts Porgie and Bess

As to the general spirit of the rankings, not everyone believes that they’re an effective way of gauging school quality or academic achievement.

“Carolyn Brown, a Kelly High School teacher, said her daughter transferred from [Whitney] Young [High School] to Kelly [High School] — whose students performed better than about 27 percent of state students — because she wasn’t comfortable with the competitive environment at the elite school,” according to a Sun-Times article accompanying the paper’s 2014 rankings.

“‘At the most basic level, the rankings make kids feel like going to their own neighborhood schools is a consolation prize or worse,’ Brown said. ‘They ended up there because they couldn’t get in somewhere better.’

“‘Brown said every year students at Kelly tell her, ‘ ‘I didn’t realize this was such a good school. I tried to get into fill-in-the-blank’ . . .and are surprised to find the number of programs we have here. There’s the impression that the neighborhood schools are not good enough.’

“‘Scores don’t show the whole picture of what a school can offer,’ she said.

“‘Ranking schools is a really unhealthy practice,’ Brown said. ‘It pits schools against each other. We shouldn’t be in competition with one another because we all serve the same purpose.’,” according to the article.

To compare each school’s performance this year, with that of last year, click here and search the full database of results from last year’s ranking. VFP

Correction: A previous version of the chart below detailing the performance of each school in District 89 omitted Stevenson. The chart  has since been updated to reflect that correction.

How Area Schools Stack Up

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BREAKING: Judge Attacked at Maybrook Courthouse by Bellwood Man

michael ganterMichael Ganter, 30, of Bellwood, allegedly assaulted a sitting Cook County court judge today. Photo from Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 || By Michael Romain

This article is sponsored by Villegas Headstones and Monuments

A Cook County judge was attacked this afternoon by a defendant who was in court for a status hearing relating to an aggravated battery case, according to Cook County jail officials. The incident happened at about 12 PM in the District Four Courthouse at 1500 Maybrook Drive.

Michael Ganter, 30, of Bellwood, apparently broke free from deputies as he was being escorted back to lockup, rushed the bench and hit the judge in the head with his hands before a Cook County sheriff’s deputy intervened, producing a Taser to subdue the man.

According to Cara Smith, the executive director of the Cook County Jail, one of the prongs may have made contact with the judge. She said that officials were still investigating the incident.

Eventually, law enforcement personnel were able to subdue Ganter with the Taser. He may be charged with multiple felonies. The judge was treated at nearby Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. Smith said that she believes he is “doing well” and that his injuries weren’t life-threatening.

According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, Ganter “was booked into the jail after Stone Park police arrested him Aug. 12 on the aggravated battery charge, court records show. He was being held on a $200,000 bond.”

“Ganter was treated and released from a hospital, and is being returned to police custody,” the Sun-Times report states. VFP

Click the photo below to see what these angels have in common!

Maywood Fine Arts Porgie and Bess

Cook Recorder II

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Maywood Fine Arts Performers to Shine at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House

Maywood Fine Arts Porgie and Bess

Thursday, October 30, 2014 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR*

MAYWOOD | Five student dancers and two adult performers from Maywood Fine Arts and Stairway of the Stars Dance Studio were cast as “Supers” in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Heidi Renteria, the head dance teacher at Stairway of the Stars encouraged this group of talented individuals to try out. “We have so many skilled students, I can’t help but to think of them when I see auditions posted,” says Renteria. “It’s going to be an amazing show.” Porgy and Bess opens November 17 and will run through December 20.

Along with these performers, two more students landed roles in Il Travatore which is currently running now through November 29, and Anna Bolena which opens December 6 through January 16 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

For Tickets and more information on the operas go to VFP


One Year After Closing and Re-Opening, Maywood Public Library on Track to Being Debt-Free

Cook County Recorder of DeedsMaywood Library Building

Thursday, October 30, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 2:00 PM

Executive Director Huntington says Library hopes to be out of debt by mid-year 2016

Last year around this time, the Maywood Public Library was closed. The venerable institution had experienced a shortfall in operating funds due to a drastic reduction in property tax revenue and a debt burden stemming from the financial costs of building its gleaming $8 million annex in 1998.

But even then, library officials — notably Executive Director Stan Huntington — insisted that, despite a lack of cash, the library’s underlying financial foundation was nonetheless pretty strong. In fact, paradoxically, the library’s closing was, in part, caused by the fact that so much of its annual revenue was being allocated toward paying down its debt.

After pressure from local residents and officials, such as Mayor Edwenna Perkins and State Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th), Seaway Bank extended for another 12 months the terms of repayment on about $500,000 the library owed on a short-term tax anticipation note. It also lent another $150,000 to the library, which the board believed at the time would be enough to continue operations through the spring of 2014.

One year later, Huntington’s evaluation seems close to being vindicated. Unlike so many taxing bodies in the area, the village included, the Maywood Public Library, which levies its own taxes, has a pension fund that is, according to library officials, virtually 100 percent funded.

In comparison, Maywood’s police and fire pensions have funding ratios of only 33 and 36 percent, respectively. A recent analysis by the Better Government Association (BGA) named Maywood’s police and fire pension systems among the ten most troubled in suburban Cook County — with those of Melrose Park included on that list.

With the mortgage paid on the $8 million addition, the only debt that the library currently has is about $300,000 in money owed to Seaway bank — an amount Huntington believes should be paid down in the next few years.

“We will be out of debt, if all goes well, in 2016 — hopefully by mid-year,” he said. “The other debt you have outside of capital debt is employee liabilities. In this case, ours are zero. That puts the library on really good footing.”

That said, however, Huntington was careful not to overstate the library’s financial forecast, which is intimately tied to the general economic vitality of the village itself.



I. A public hearing to approve a proposed property tax levy increase for the Maywood Public Library District for 2014 will be held on November 5, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Library, 121 South Fifth Avenue, Maywood, Illinois.

II. The corporate and special purpose property taxes extended or abated for 2013 were $1,466,767.59. The proposed corporate and special purpose property taxes to be levied for 2014 are $1,895,500.00. This represents a 29.2% increase over the previous year.

III. The property taxes extended for debt service and public building commission leases for 2013 were $0.00. The estimated property taxes to be levied for debt service and public building commission leases for 2014 are $0.00. This represents a 0.0% change from the previous year.

IV. The total property taxes extended or abated for 2013 were $1,466,767.59. The estimated total property taxes to be levied for 2014 are $1,895,000.00. This represents a 29.2% increase over the previous year.



“I don’t want people to think the library is rolling in money — that’s just not true,” he said. “We’ve lost a lot of money. Our EAV [Equalized Assessed Value] has tanked to the point where we can’t get that back. The library’s income has dropped by about half-a-million dollars, which is very substantial. Maywood’s property values have decreased substantially. That’s hurting the village, it’s hurting the schools, it’s hurting everybody.”

Huntington said, short of substantial industrial or commercial development taking place in Maywood, it could be well into the next decade before the village begins to recover some of that value.

In the meantime, he said that the library is trying to capture as much tax value as it can before the St. Charles TIF district expires on December 31, this year. The village effectively ended the TIF last year, but opted to pay into it for an additional year.

Recently, library officials put out a notification announcing a public hearing to take place at the library on November 5, at 6:30 PM, in association with “a proposed property tax levy increase.”

“The proposed corporate and special purpose property taxes to be levied for 2014 are $1,895,500.00. This represents a 29.2% increase over the previous year,” according to the notification, which was published in a recent edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Huntington explained that that figure is arbitrarily high, since he doesn’t know how much the EAV will be in 2014 — and the village, for whatever reason, isn’t telling. With the December deadline looming, however, he noted that he had to put something out in order to take advantage of the expiring TIF valuation.



Maywood Fine Arts Porgie and Bess

He said that residents shouldn’t interpret this as an increase in the amount of property taxes they pay to the library, since the library’s portion of tax revenue is capped at a certain figure by Cook County.

“As a practical matter, the average resident won’t see any change in their tax bills at all,” Huntington said. “Not with the Maywood Library, at least, because we’re tax-capped and we’ll be dropped back to whatever the cap allows.”

Huntington noted that this may not be the case for the village, which isn’t subject to the cap.

“Maywood is a home rule community, so they can tax at whatever they want,” he said. “There’s no limit to what they can tax.” VFP

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Maywood Police Officers Ticketed for Not Wearing Seat Belts — Chief Says Crackdown Will Increase Professionalism

police seat beltThursday, October 30, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 4:49 PM

State law exempts police from wearing seat belts, but Maywood Police chief wants his officers to wear them nonetheless 

MAYWOOD | At last night’s Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley reported to the village’s Board of Trustees that, upon his orders, two officers had received compliance tickets for not wearing their seat-belts.

“I have 54 sworn officers, including myself. Fifty-two of us wear seat-belts, two don’t,” Talley said.  “Those officers were issued citations. They’re going to be in court on Friday [November 7].”

Talley said that the two officers were simply following Illinois state statute, which in 2010 was changed to exempt police officers from wearing seat-belts. In other words, the officers were well within state law.

“In 2010, the legislature saw fit to exempt police from wearing seat belts,” Talley said. “I don’t agree with [that]. It’s contradictory to current statistics,” he said, citing data which claims that, while 63 officers a year are killed due to not wearing bullet-proof vests, 72 a year are killed due to not wearing seat belts.

But, while it may not be against state law for police officers to not wear seat belts, it is against Maywood’s municipal code. As long as state law exempts officers, however, the municipal code is virtually irrelevant.

Talley suggested the Board update Maywood’s municipal code to effectively exempt village police officers from the state exemption. That way, the village’s local law requiring Maywood police to wear seat belts would override the state law.

“So all we have to do is go ahead with the ordinance and adopt the legislation on the state exempting the police provision from that legislation in our ordinance, because these officers were written up under our ordinance on a compliance ticket,” Talley said.

Although police officers engaging in behavior for which they would otherwise punish ordinary civilians may seem on the surface a bald hypocrisy; pragmatically, the issue is more complicated.

For instance, Illinois State Representative Don Moffitt (R-Gilson), who sponsored a bill exempting police from wearing seat belts while requiring firefighters to wear them (the bill was signed into law by Gov. Quinn last year), claimed that the police need the flexibility to quickly jump out of cars if a foot chase ensues or they need to quickly exit the vehicle and draw their weapons.

And there’s this post — presumably authored by a cop — on, an online message board for law enforcement officials:

“Twice I tried to shove the car in park and go to jump out of the car only to be held down by the belt, of which only then did I remember was fastened. The third time I remembered the belt, unfastened it, jumped out, and whirled around as I discovered my seat belt was firmly wrapped around my gun and duty belt.”


Operation Uplift

Operation Uplift

The issue is whether the benefits of police not wearing seat belts outweigh the costs. Apparently, Talley doesn’t think so.

“One of the models I’m using is that of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP),” Talley said. “They prescribe to what they call the ‘Low 100,’ which outlines a lot of easy things that police can do protect themselves and wearing their seat belts is one of them.”

According to an article published in the IACP’s monthly trade magazine, The Police Chief, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “show that from 1980 to 2008 nearly 4,000 law enforcement officers across the United States were killed in the line of duty.

“In the late 1990s and continuing over the course of the last decade, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty as a result of traffic collisions has consistently risen, surpassing 50 percent of all law enforcement line of duty deaths in some years, including 1999, 2003, and 2008. Additionally, 42 percent of law enforcement officers killed in crashes were not using restraints (seat belts).”

Talley said that he doesn’t necessarily begrudge the two officers — who, per the terms of their union contract, he can’t name — and their attempts to get out of the tickets, which they almost certainly will due to the fact that the village’s municipal code hasn’t been changed to override the state exemption. He said that he’s just operating within the policy framework he’s been given.

“The policy manual I’m working on is from 2006,” he said. “I could not envision bringing officers to the Board of Fire and Police Commission to suspend them for a fine-only offense, so my choice was just to do a ticket. I would do them the same as I would any other citizen. So I’m not faulting the officers for trying to get out of the ticket, that’s what people do. You have a day in court. Actually, I’m appreciative they did this, because I otherwise would have thought our ordinances are adequate. With this happening, I’ve since learned that the ordinance wasn’t correct.”

Talley said that his purpose for ticketing the officers is about public safety, protecting the village from liability and professionalism. He told the Board that even though the state may exempt officers from wearing seat belts, if an officer is injured or dies in an accident due to his or her failure to buckle up, the village could nonetheless be held liable. The costs, he said, would go beyond court-related expenses; for instance, it would also cost to train and hire a new officer to take the place of the officer injured or killed, he noted.

In addition, the Chief said that he has a seven-year timeline for the department earning a national accreditation. He said that one of the criteria for that coveted status is the implementation of adequate safety standards.

“People have a great expectations of us,” he said.  “They’re giving us a lot of authority and they don’t want to see abuses of that authority.” VFP

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LLOC Meeting Scheduled for Tonight, Wednesday, October 29, 2014 (Agenda Packet Inside)


Wednesday, October 29, 2014 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR

A Legal, License and Committee Ordinance (LLOC) meeting is scheduled at 7 PM, tonight, October 29, 2014, at Village Chambers (125 S. 5th Avenue, Maywood IL). Among items to be discusses include:

  • Discussion of a Proposed Flood Program
  • Intergovernmental Agreement between Cook County Department of Public Health and the Village of Maywood
  • Appointment, Employment, Compensation for the Village Manager Candidates
  • For more, click here. VFP


Op-Ed: Protect Your Right to Vote this November


Wednesday, October 29, 2014 || By Blake Sercye 

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated major parts of the monumental Voting Rights Act of 1965, opening the floodgates for a wave of discriminatory voting policies enacted by states across the country — don’t let Illinois be one of them

Election Day is almost here and it seems impossible to turn on the television or radio without hearing someone asking for your vote.  Time is running out and candidates are doing everything they can to get your support before you cast your ballot.  However, this November wehave the rare opportunity to protect the most fundamental component of our democracy – the right to vote.

In the spring, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly approved the Right to Vote Amendment with bipartisan support.  The Right to Vote Amendment is a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that reads:

“(n)o person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or income.”  

The people of Illinois must vote in favor of the Right to Vote Amendment by a supermajority, at least 60% of the vote, on November 4th in order for the proposed amendment to go into effect.

Recent attacks on voting rights nationwide make the need for the Right to Vote Amendment clear.  Just last year in Shelby County v. Holder, a divided United States Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by invalidating key provisions of the statute that helped ensure everyone in our country could exercise their right to vote.  Due to partisan gridlock, Congress has not been able to pass legislation that would fortify the dismantled Voting Rights Acts.

Immediately after Shelby County, several states, including nearby states like Ohio and Wisconsin, have implemented new procedures and rules governing redistricting, voter identification and registration, and early voting that will hamper minority voting rights.  Many of these laws are being contested in state or federal court.  Rather than challenge discriminatory voting laws once passed, we must be proactive in protecting our right to vote by approving the Right to Vote Amendment.

We may sometimes take voting for granted but the right to vote as once guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was secured through decades of protest, struggle, and even bloodshed.In order to have the services, laws, and government that we deserve, we must protect and exercise our right to vote.  Please vote “yes” on the Right to Vote Amendment on November 4th –because if we do not protect our right to vote, no one else will. VFP

Blake Sercye is resident of Chicago’s West Side and chairperson for the Committee to Protect Illinois Voting Rights, a grassroots campaign seeking to amend the Illinois Constitution in order to prevent discrimination in voting.  To learn more, click here.