Month: May 2015

Breaking: Emergency Responders Discover Two Fatally Shot on 1600 Block of South Third Avenue This Morning, Sun., May 31

Police LightsSunday, May 31, 2015 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 7:36 PM

Two men were found fatally wounded after a shooting that happened this morning, Maywood police say. Officers responded to a call of shots fired at around 11:16 AM today, Sun., May 31.

Maywood Fire Department first responders discovered the bodies of Stephon Johnson, 25, of Maywood, and Devinne Raymond, 25, of Carol Stream, at 1610 S. 3rd Avenue.

Johnson, who was discovered on the porch of the home, had beeen shot in the head, neck and right arm, while Raymond, who was discovered in the back of the home, had been shot multiple times in the chest, police say.

Both men were rushed to Loyola University Medical Center, where Johnson was pronounced dead at 11:33 AM and Raymond was pronounced dead at 11:44 AM.

Police say no suspects have been identified at this time, but that the case is currently under investigation. Maywood police are asking anyone with any information leading to an arrest to call (708) 450-4471. VFP

This post has been updated to include the correct address of the homicides. The men were found at 1610 S. 3rd Avenue, not 1608 S. 8th Avenue as previously mentioned. We regret this error. 

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BREAKING: Man Injured in Shooting Near 16th and Oak Tonight, Fri., May 29

Police LightsFriday, May 29, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

One man is in stable condition at Loyola University Medical Center after a shooting that broke out this evening, Fri., May 29, Maywood police say.

The police say they received a call of shots fired in the area of 16th Avenue and Oak Street at around 6:43 PM tonight. But officers who responded to the scene didn’t discover any evidence of a shooting, said Maywood community policing officer Pirsia Allen. Shortly afterward, however, the police received a call from Loyola that a person from Maywood had arrived with multiple gunshots.

Andrew Smith, 33, of Maywood, was reportedly shot in the stomach by an unidentified assailant. It isn’t known whether or not Smith was shot by a single, or more than one, person. The shooter(s) is still at large. Police haven’t provided any more details on the incident. Anyone with information leading an arrest is asked to call (708) 450-4471. VFP

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Bellwood Man Sentenced in 2009 Murder Case

Darrel ToppsFriday, May 29, 2015 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || 5/26/15 || By Thomas Vogel

An unresolved 2009 murder case finally concluded this past April. The six-year-old case, which included a hung jury, ended with the accused man accepting a plea deal.

Around 10 p.m. on June 15, 2009, Kenyana Bates, an 18-year-old University of Illinois student, sat in a parked car outside an apartment complex at 837 Dunlop Ave. in Forest Park. Two other individuals, both males, were also sitting in the vehicle.

Suddenly, a gunman, firing from a nearby car, directed 15 rounds at the three individuals, killing Bates. The driver was hit in the left shoulder but recovered. A third passenger was unharmed. Four days later, Forest Park detectives, in collaboration with a west suburban gang task force, arrested Darrel Topps (pictured), then 28, of Bellwood, on first-degree murder charges.

Authorities believed Bates was not the intended target. Instead, they posited Topps was aiming for one of the other passengers, allegedly a rival gang member. Officials later discovered Topps attempted to shoot the same man while driving on the Eisenhower Expressway in July 2008.

As reported by the Review, Topps’ trial began in 2012 but two jurors refused to convict and the proceedings ended with a hung jury.

“Some of the witnesses seemed to have changed their stories,” Police Chief Tom Aftanas (then deputy chief) said at the time. “We are disappointed, to say the least,” he concluded then.

Before this latest incident, Topps had been incarcerated two times. One incident, in 2002, involved fleeing a police officer and a second, in 2005, was for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

According to the Cook County State’s Attorney, the case concluded last month when Topps pled guilty to a second-degree murder charge. Gregory Ginex, associate judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, sentenced Topps to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

“The state’s attorney presented him with a plea deal … [and] he didn’t want to risk a second trial,” Aftanas told the Review.

Accounting for time already served, Topps will be eligible for parole in November 2016.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment by press time. VFP

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Congratulating the Proviso East, PMSA Classes of 2015

east graduationFriday, May 29, 2015 || Originally Published: Proviso Township High School District 209 || 5/28/15

The Class of 2015 of Proviso East High School said “goodbye” to their home for the last four years at their commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 23, at the UIC Pavilion.

The seniors graduated with pomp and circumstance during the ceremonies that were a mixture of congratulations for their efforts and hard work, happiness for graduating, and sadness in leaving friends and high school behind them as they move on to a new chapter in their lives.

Ulises Rodriguez, the class valedictorian, encouraged his fellow graduates to strive for success after high school.

“When I think of the Class of 2015, I see nurses, teachers, lawyers, musicians, YouTubers, professional athletes, chefs, and so much more,” Ulises said. “Leave your mark. Whatever you decide to do with this diploma, always remember, failure is not an option.”

Empress Harris, the class salutatorian, echoed those thoughts, saying the graduates are a resilient group.

“We know how to dust our shoulders off, stand tall, and get back on the narrow path of success,” she said. “We are a goal driven class. Nothing can hold us back and our ambitions propel us forward.”

The Class of 2015 will be leaving a memento behind.

Moriah Hampton, the senior class president, presented Mr. Tony Valente, principal at Proviso East, a certificate with the class gift of two granite benches, with one inscribed with the class motto of “Failure is not an option” and the other dedicated to the memory of their classmate, Dominique Thomas, who passed away in 2011 during the graduates’ freshman year. The benches will be placed in the walkway to the clock tower entrance at Proviso East.

Congratulations, Proviso East graduates!

For more photos of the Proviso East graduation, please click here.

Celebrations, Tributes Mark PMSA Graduation Ceremony

PMSA GradsThe nearly 200 members of the Class of 2015 at Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy paid tribute to a sense of togetherness as well as a beloved teacher at their commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 23, at the UIC Pavilion.

The 197 graduating PMSA seniors mixed pomp and circumstance and honor as they move on to a new chapter in their lives.

Brianna Earskine, a graduating PMSA senior, said that the class was a group of close friends who supported one another.

“My time at PMSA has taught me the true definition of togetherness,” she said. “Whether it was ‘Black Out’ Day or seeing which class could scream the loudest, we never failed to cheer one another on.”

Khushi Suri, a graduating PMSA senior, said that the class became closer as they grew.

“As a class, we’ve bonded in a manner none of us could have predicted,” she said. “As the years have changed, so have we. We made lasting friendships, learned some valuable lessons, and gained a set of expectations that have provided us with the information and mindset that is required to go out and change the world.”

To read more, click hereVFP

Photos courtesy Proviso Township District 209.



New D89 Superintendent Gets Up Close and Personal With Community, Touts District’s Diversity

imageWednesday, May 27, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

MELROSE PARK || A crowd of at least 60 people convened today, Wed., May 27, at the Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 administrative offices, 906 Walton Street, to meet David Negron (pictured), the district’s newest superintendent. Negron is the principal of Heritage Middle School of District 104 in Summit, Illinois. According to Negron, Heritage has a population of about 570 sixth through eighth grade students. His effective start date with D89 is July 1, he said.

Negron has a background in school social work and was formerly a bilingual education teacher before becoming a principal. He also has roots in Melrose Park, where he was employed by Westlake Hospital for over a year, and in Maywood, where some of his family members resided before moving to Texas, Negron said.

Board member Regina Rivers said Negron was selected from a pool of about 40 candidates and that his bilingual education background was particularly attractive.

“He came from a district that is similar to ours and has the [middle school] structure,” she said. “That he is bilingual also helps a whole lot when dealing with parents of both [African American and Hispanic] ethnicities. It will also be important when [working with] the dual language academy.”

District 89 board member Dianne Williams said that the presence of a community focus group enhanced the hiring process, which Rivers said was facilitated by an outside party. Williams said the focus group comprised a range of people, including district principals, union reps, district office staff members, parents and teachers.

“That was really important for us to hear the feedback from them,” Williams said of the focus group, adding that the group was almost unanimous in its support for Negron.

Williams noted that an important aspect of Negron’s candidacy was his committment to stay for the long haul. Former D89 superintendent Michael Robey was with the district for three years before his resignation last summer. Williams said Robey left “on his own accord.”

“Dr. Robey did great things for us and we appreciate what he did, but we do need someone who is going to stay longer and Mr. Negron assured us that that was one of his goals.”

Negron said that part of what lured him to the position with the district is its diversity and its early implementation of the dual language magnet school.

“The culture of diversity in this community was something very appealing to me,” Negron said. “Many districts I’ve been in were just one suburb, one community. [Another thing] that attracted me to the district is its vision of implementing dual language [learning]. That goes back to the culture of diversity. I’m looking forward to the challenge of rolling that out year after year.”

Negron also addressed the issue of communication, which seems to have been a chronic problem during the 2014-15 academic year in which the district transitioned to a middle school format and opened a dual language magnet school. Negron said communication between administration officials, parents, students and staff members is high among his immediate priorities going into the new job.

“Communication was definitely a hot topic of discussion during the job interview process,” he said. “I have what I call an open door policy. A lot of people say that, but not a lot of people mean that. I have no problem with parents calling me directly with their concerns and tough questions. My intention is to communicate with parents on a weekly basis; daily if necessary.”

Negron said that he hopes to create a superintendent’s parent advisory council comprising members of the community, with a representative from each municipality that D89 covers. The council would meet with Negron on a regular basis in order for him to get a ground level sense of what is happening in each community.

But the communication pipeline seemed to be greased immediately during this Wednesday’s meet-and-greet. Among those in attendance were Maywood’s new village manager Willie Norfleet.

“I’m out to support and welcome another partner in raising the quality of life for the children in [District 89] as well as in the Village of Maywood,” Norfleet said.

Larry Shapiro, the senior services coordinator for Maywood and a suburban liasion for U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), said he’s looking forward to building on past engagement between the village’s seniors and the school district.

“The [Maywood] Senior Club has actually had children’s choirs from the district to come [perform],” he said. “We want to continue to involve our seniors with our schools and our children so we can have that intergenerational relationship.”

Barbara Cole, the executive director of Maywood Youth Mentoring, said she’s hoping to engage Negron in conversations about enhancing parental involvement within the district.

“I’m looking forward to working with [Negron] on improving parent involvement, which is a key component of improving academics for all children,” Cole said.

For his part, Negron said that he’s ready to begin these many, diverse conversations and noted that he intends to systematize the community dialogue.

“I think you need to put systems in place to make communication happen,” he said. “It doesn’t happen on its own.” VFP



LLOC Meeting Scheduled Tonight, Wed., May 27, 7 PM (Agenda Inside)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR

A Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting is scheduled to take place tonight, Wed., May 27, 7 PM, at 125 S. 5th Avenue, Maywood. Among items to be discussed (for more info, click here):

Public Items:
A. Mayor’s Report
B. Village Manager’s Reports:
1) Discussion for consideration to approve Pumping Station SCADA, (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems) purchase outlining critical system needs pertaining to water operations for the Village of Maywood Public Works Department at a cost of $20,552.00 and waive the purchasing policy.
Pumping Station SCADA Purchase.pdf
2) 2014 PY Cook County CDBG Project Washington Boulevard Improvements (6th  Avenue through 9th Avenue) Engineering Agreement from Edwin Hancock Engineering
Norfleet – 2014 PY CDBG Engineering Agreement Memo.doc
ENGINEERING (Design Const) AGREEMENT (April 2015).doc
3) Railroad Avenue Water Main Improvements (15th Avenue through 21ST Avenue) Engineering Agreement from Edwin Hancock Engineering
Norfleet – 2015 Railroad Avenue Watermain – Engineering Agreement Memo.doc
Railroad Avenue Water Mian – ENGINEERING (Design Const) AGREEMENT (April 2015).doc
C. Village Attorney’s Reports: None
6. Other Matters:
A. Discussion for consideration to increase the number of hours for the Police and Fire Commission’s Assistant work hours.
Police and Fire Commission’s Assistant Hours.doc

Summer School at Proviso East After All; A/C Units to Help Keep Students Cool

ProvisoEastWednesday, May 27, 2015 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Jean Lotus

Summer school for Proviso Township High School District 209 will take place at Proviso East High School, as originally planned. On May 12, the school board proposed moving summer school to Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park — the only building in the district with air conditioning. But the board’s request was too late because it involved a change in zoning in Forest Park.

Instead, the district will purchase 30 one-ton spot air-cooling units for $56,850 from Carrier Rental Systems in Bridgeview to use in Proviso East. The 182-pound, self-standing units cool at 12,000 BTUs per hour. The board voted to purchase the unites at an emergency meeting, Thursday at 7 a.m.

The units should help cool down the classrooms used for summer school, said board member Claudia Medina.

“That place is built like a castle. I can understand why they need air conditioners. You can’t even open a window,” she said.

Summer school is moving to Proviso East because of construction taking place at Proviso West. Classes will run from June 9 through July 10 from 8 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.

The plan to use Proviso Math and Science Academy for summer school this year stumbled because the village of Forest Park has a zoning ordinance forbidding the building to be used for “remedial education.” Medina told the board Mayor Anthony Calderone had hinted Forest Park might be willing to amend the ordinance. But the board was slowed by a procedural hiccup: they couldn’t ask attorney Steven Avalos of Del Galdo law group to act on new business without a vote.

Because extra students will be in Proviso East for summer school, according to Tracy Avant-Bey, director of Information Technology, the school is set up to allow some students to use laptops with wireless wi-fi during class. The students use the APEX online program for much of summer school work.

During the regular school year, Proviso East has inadequate electrical service to plug in computers needed, said district Finance Director Todd Drafall and building manager Ron Anderson. The school will get an electrical overhaul as part of capital improvements next year.

The spot air-cooling units and laptops will not be running at the same time. The laptops will be charged overnight, Avant-Bey said Monday in an email. Batteries are expected to last five hours, she said.

Board member Kevin McDermott worried the laptops would not have sufficient battery life to be reliable.

“There’s really not much we can do about it,” he said. “There was not enough time to make this all happen this year. If we had started the process a month earlier, we might have been able to have summer school at PMSA.” VFP