Month: August 2015

Sen. Lightford-Sponsored Bill Addressing Racial Disparities in School Suspensions Becomes Law (Data Inside)

Sen. LightfordMonday, August 31, 2015 || By MIchael Romain 

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) (pictured left) designed to help eliminate the racial disparities in school discipline outcomes in the state was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) on Mon. August 24. The bill passed the General Assembly with bipartisan approval in late spring.

A statement released by the Lightford’s office cites a 2012 study, which found that Illinois leads the nation in the number of black students it suspends and has the widest disparity among states between black and white student suspensions.

Last school year, according to Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) enrollment data, African American students comprised around 18 percent of all PreK-8 students in the state — but they comprised around 40 percent of PreK-8 students in the state who received at least one in- or out-of-school suspension.

The new law, which takes effect September 15 next year, is designed to “help ensure that all students are in school and off the streets as much as possible,” according to Lightford’s statement.

The new law requires school districts to “limit suspensions and expulsions to the greatest extent practicable” by stating how a suspension or expulsion best serves the interest of the school and by limiting disciplinary removals of more than three days only to students who present on-going threats to schools — and even then, only after having exhausted all other options.

The new law will also require districts to allow suspended students the opportunity to make up their work and create re-engagement policies for students who are disciplined.

“Constantly suspending and expelling the very kids that need to be in school is one of the most counterproductive practices of our education system,” Lightford noted. “We need to keep yong people in school learning how to succeed and off the street corner learning how best to end up in prison.”

In April, Lightford stated, in an article published by the Illinois Times, that “schools are suspending kids for 10 days flat out.” She said many expulsions are taking place and “kids are not in school learning as they should be. I do recognize that kids need to be disciplined, so the bill does allow that to remain.”

In a recent article by Huffington Post national corresponded Christina Wilkie, Lightford’s bill is part of a more comprehensive national dialogue about the connection between school discipline and the criminal justice system.

“As the nation engages in a broader conversation about criminal justice reform, school discipline policies are emerging as a key factor that can alter a young person’s course in life. Numerous studies in recent years have shown that students who are suspended from school, or referred to the juvenile justice system for minor offenses, are significantly more likely to drop out before graduating from high school,” Wilkie wrote earlier this month.

“On Tuesday, the Center for American Progress released a new report on truancy, which included the formal recommendation that schools “make punitive consequences, such as ticketing, fines, or removal from the classroom, a last resort.” VFP

2014 Number of Students Suspended Only Once by Gender, Grade Cluster, and Race/Ethnicity || ISBE Data || Note: To protect student privacy, cell sizes of less than 10 are suppressed; cell sizes of 10 or more are suppressed when disclosure would allow indirect disclosure of cell sizes of less than 10. In other words, cells that have no figures may indicate that the number of students suspended in that designated group was fewer than 10.

In-School Suspensions in Illinois by Gender, Grade Cluster and Race (students suspended only once)

IL In School Suspensions

Out of School Suspensions in Illinois by Gender, Grade Cluster and Race (students suspended only once)

IL Out of School Suspensions

In School (top) and Out of School (bottom) suspensions in District 89 by Gender, Grade Cluster and Race (students suspended only once)

D89 In School Suspensions

D89 Out of School Suspensions_2013-14

In School (top) and Out of School (bottom) suspensions in District 209 by Gender, Grade Cluster and Race (students suspended only once)

Proviso Township In School Suspensions_2013-14

Proviso Township Out of School Suspensions

Businessman Kyle FitzGerald Elected Director of Maywood Bataan Day Organization Ahead of Annual Memorial Service

Kyle Fitzgerald

Kyle FitzGerald (pictured outside of ReUse Depot at an event last year with black jacket, second from left in back row), was recently elected the Maywood Bataan Day Organization’s director-at-large. The MBDO’s annual Bataan Day Memorial Service will be held Sun. September 13, 2015. File photo. 

Monday, August 31, 2015 || By Michael Romain

Ahead of its 73rd annual Maywood Bataan Day Memorial Service, which takes place on Sun. September 13, the Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO) recently elected Kyle FitzGerald as its newest director-at-large. FitzGerald owns and directs the ReUse Depot, 50 Madison St., which recently relocated to the village from nearby Bellwood.

ReUse occupies the former site of the old Maywood Armory, where the 33rd Infantry Division of the Illinois National Guard was once based. After America entered WWII, the 33rd infantry division would be merged into Company “B” of the 192nd Tank Batallion, which would go on to face the infamous Bataan Death March.

“Kyle plans to continue redeveloping the property to better serve the reuse community and serve as a destination for craftsmen, woodworkers, do-it-yourselfers, and artists. The goal is to restore the 33rd tank company facade to honor the history of the building and those who trained at this prestigious facility before serving for our country,” according to an MBDO statement.

Bataan Day Invite

Maywood Native, Proviso East Alum Makes Documentary Film About Chicago High School

Igor Studenkov pic_Page 6

Derek Grace speaks about his film “College Week,” during a screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago on Sun. August 30. Igor Studenkov/Wednesday Journal.

Monday, August 31, 2015 || Originally Published: Austin Weekly News || By Igor Studenkov 

Filmmaker Derek Grace, who produced the award-winning film “Pirate Pride,” about the rich basketball tradition at Proviso East High School (his alma mater), has turned his skilled lens to another high school — this time Spencer Technology Academy in Chicago’s Austin community. The article below will be published in Austin Weekly News this week:

For the past nine years, Austin’s Spencer Technology Academy has taken a novel approach to encouraging kids to stay in school and get into college.

At the end of each year, each homeroom in the school ‘adopts’ a college. The homerooms compete against each other, researching their college and figuring out the best way to show what they learned. At the end of the week, which is called College Fest, a panel of judges looks at their work and picks a winner.

A new documentary by Derek Grace, called “College Week” (after the contest), captured Spencer’s competition in 2013, showing the challenges and triumphs along the way. Grace served as a judge of the contest in 2011 and was so impressed by what he saw that he decided it deserved to be captured on film.

The documentary premiered on Sun. August 30 at the Gene Siskel Film Center downtown as part of the annual Black Harvest Film Festival. Grace told Austin Weekly News that “College Week” will also be screened on September 19 during the Oak Park Film Festival and it will be available on Video on Demand in October.

The film was a brainchild of Dr. Shawn Jackson, who served as Spencer’s principal until the 2014-15 school year. As he explained in the documentary, he and the teachers wanted the students to learn the importance of pursuing college education early, so that the lesson would stay with them as they move on to high school and beyond.

During each College Week, each homeroom teacher chooses a college that his or her class will focus on. The students learn about college education, in general, and about the specific college they research. The students redecorate the homerooms to fit the colleges. Spencer alumni are invited to speak to students about their experiences.

On Friday, the students give presentations about their college to judges and one winner at each grade level is announced. The week culminates with a neighborhood parade.

Jackson said many colleges are well aware of College Week. They have contributed memorabilia and the event has been profiled by several college publications.

The documentary, which ran for about an hour, focuses on the 2013 College Week, following the event from the initial preparations to that year’s 8th grade graduation ceremony. It profiles some of the teachers, students and administrators involved, getting their perspectives.

The film demonstrated how, through a combination of compassion and tough love, teachers were able to make a difference in their students’ lives and help them deal with issues.

“College Week” didn’t shy away from some of the stumbling blocks the event ran into. Shortly before the week started, an armed stand-off with the police took place right outside the school; during the school’s College Week, thieves broke into Spencer and stole some iPads; and road construction threatened to derail the annual parade. But in spite of all that, students and teachers persevered and the event went fairly smoothly.

After the documentary finished, the screening room erupted in thunderous applause. A Q&A session with Grace, Jackson and some of the teachers profiled in the documentary followed.

After the screening, audience members were invited to attend a mini college fair, which was held in the Siskel Center’s reception area. Representatives from the University of Chicago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Jackson State University, Fisk University, Chicago State University and Alabama State University were on hand to talk to kids and their parents about their programs. The mini-fair ran until 6:00 p.m.

Grace said that he was heartened by the positive response to the documentary.

“It’s exciting, it’s fulfilling,” he said. “It’s just heartening to see people ask questions. It lets me know that I did the right thing.”

Jackson expressed similar sentiments, saying that he appreciated that the audience got to see the work Spencer teachers, parents and students do.

“I’m very excited that the Spencer got the recognition it deserves,” he said.

Tracue Sanlin, Jackson’s one-time protégé and the current Spencer principal, also attended the screening. She admitted that stepping into her mentor’s shoes was intimidating, but ultimately she felt that College Week wasn’t about any one person — was about the school community as a whole.

“What people say is impossible is possible at Spencer,” said Sanlin. “We are invested in our kids, in our neighborhood.”

She said that ongoing CPS budget issues would probably leave Spencer with less to spend on College Week than ever. Nonetheless, she said she was determined to do whatever it takes to make it work and to make it the best College Week yet.

“It’s going to be the 10th year anniversary [of the start of the program], so we’re going to go big,” said Sanlin. “We’re going to have to figure out a way to do as good as it’s been before with whatever budget we have.” VFP

Fore more information about the film, click here.

“This Is What Our Officers Deal With,” Says Maywood Police Chief to Board About BB Gun

BB Gun

A BB gun that looks like the real thing is passed around during an August 12 LLOC meeting in Maywood. Below, trustees gawk at the gun while handing it to colleagues. Photos: Michael Romain.

BB Gun IIFriday, August 28, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

“I just want to show you what the police department is exposed to,” said Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley during an August 12 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting.

“I’m getting ready to give you a firearm. It’s not a real firearm, but I want you to see the weight and what it looks like, so you’ll understand what our officers are dealing with daily,” he said.

The replica gun elicited astonished gawking and barely restrained gasps among those in attendance, including members of the village’s board.

“This is a BB gun?” asked Trustee Isiah Brandon incredulously.

“That’s a BB gun,” Talley said, after noting that the department was able to secure a grant to fund the acquisition of better quality bulletproof vests.

It’s just one among a series of creative responses to a tight financial situation. Talley’s presentation to the board comprised his second quarter report for 2015 on the department’s activities. Below are some areas Talley highlighted:


Talley said 65 of the village’s 69 closed circuit surveillance cameras were functional. He said the ones that are not functioning are in an area undergoing construction. Talley noted that he was in talks with public works to fix a camera that had been shot out by a bullet, but wasn’t in the village’s department’s budget to be replaced.

Community Policing

Talley said he and members of his staff are convinced that block clubs and neighborhood watch groups are going to be key to fighting crimes more effectively in the village. He said officer interaction with residents, through events such as meet-and-greets, are important to build trust and social cohesion between police and residents.

Talley touted the department’s ability to land grants for various community-oriented programs, such as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) mentoring program held at Irving Middle School over the summer. Talley said the department has brought in roughly $1.8 million worth of grants to the village.

The chief also noted the department’s emphasis on trying to increase voluntary engagement among residents with various police-led projects, such as helping conduct senior citizen status checks.

Gangs and Patrol

Talley said Area Towing donated two vehicles to the department to improve the department’s “conspicuous patrolling mission.” He said the department has been working with Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, particularly with respect to Boykin’s Seven Point Plan (designed to gather ways to reduce gun violence), in order to leverage resources for fighting crime.

Talley said the department applied for a JAG grant for $700,000 in order to form a departmental gang unit, which the village can’t afford. Talley said the department should be notified of whether it received the money by mid-September. He said if the money comes in, a gang unit commander will be placed to lead this unit in October.

Talley said he is in talks with Angela Smith, the village’s business coordinator, to secure two locations for police sub-stations — the specific locations of which are not clear. Talley did say one would be near Loyola University Medical Center, which is located along Roosevelt Road. He said, under the direction of Trustee Michael Rogers, he researched existing sub-stations in nearby communities and was impressed with what he found.

He said in Bellwood, the presence of one police sub-station “transformed the whole area” to such a degree that the village’s mayor bought a residence right behind it. Talley said by the time he went into Bellwood to do research on the sub-station, the village had sold the building “because it changed the community so much that they didn’t need the post anymore in that area.” Talley said a similar situation is conceivable in Maywood.


Talley said that the department is looking to acquire accreditation from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police by January 2017. He said all of the policies that the department is putting into its new policy manual “are steeped in CALEA [Commissions on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies] standards, so once we get state certification it will be easier for us to move to national certification.” He said, national certification requires a 3-year observation period and that “once that’s done, we’ll be on track to get [certification] by 2021.” VFP

Second Quarter Police Department Activity by the Numbers

  • 5,650 service calls

  • 5,482 premise checks 

  • 54 felony arrests

  • 162 misdemeanor arrests

  • 1,454 parking violations written

  • 18 unlawful firearms removed (doesn’t include the BB gun shown above) 

JOBS: Chipotle Hiring Blitz to Fill 4K Jobs at 200 Stores; Newspaper Looking for Part-Time Business Manager

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR 


CHICAGO (WLS) — Chipotle Mexican Grill is hosting a national career day to fill 4,000 jobs, the fast-food chain announced Monday on its website.

The one-day hiring blitz is set for September 9. Chipotle plans on opening about 200 new stores in the next year.

To sign up for the career day, click here. [Text by ABC 7 Chicago].


Business Manager

Wednesday Journal, Inc. || Part-time position. 25-30 hours per week. Schedule to be determined. Salary in $35,000 range based on skills and experience.

Strategic goals

• Leader on our business side making sure colleagues have the numbers and context they need to succeed in their jobs
• Gain broad understanding of the financial and operational aspects of the company and how the work of colleagues connects with and impacts the business of our company
• Strong interest in creating opportunities for our company as we move ahead in an industry in the midst of genuine transformation
Strategic activities
• Responsible for financial/accounting management for company with revenues in $4 million range
• Budgeting/forecasting
• Key number/data development and communication
• Billing, collections, accounts payable, payroll, taxes, end of month close
• Must know management software, Quick Books
• HR functions as they relate to insurance and payroll
• Bidding and contracting with vendors including publication printers, insurance providers, office equipment suppliers
• Supervises Bookkeeper, works with outside accounting and tax services
• Oversees building operations


• Reports to publisher
• Strong connections to department leaders
Hiring qualities
• Experience in business and accounting management
• Loves technology and enjoys bringing people to it
• Sees big picture, applies it to every detail
• Wants to have impact in improving operations, profitability
• Energized by extended range of duties
• Critical thinker, strong communicator, solution oriented
• CPA a plus

Interested candidates should contact VFP

BREAKING: Broadview Man Murdered Last Fri. August 21, Near 5th and Quincy

BREAKING NEWS ALERTWednesday, August 26, 2015 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 4:57 PM

One man is dead after a shooting that occurred last Fri. August 21, according to Maywood police. Officers responded to shots fired at approximately 12:37 AM in the area of 5th Avenue and Quincy last Friday. When they arrived on the scene, they found Bryant Jackson, 20, of Broadiew, unresponsive in an alley. The victim was transported to Loyola Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, police say.

Anyone with information on this shooting can contact Det. Sgt. Diaz at (708) 450-4471. More as this story develops. VFP

This story has been updated to include the victim’s identity.

For more updates ‘Like’ VFP on Facebook:

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In Maywood, a Sunday Basketball Tournament Becomes Prelude to a Renaissance

Sunday in Maywood VIII

Sunday in Maywood VIITuesday, August 25, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

On a recent Sunday afternoon in Maywood, Captain Denard Wade, Sr., a Maywood fireman, stood on a basketball court at Connor Heise Park, at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Washington Blvd.

“I remember winning a championship back in ’84 on this center court right here,” Wade said, recalling the glory of his youth, when summer basketball in this village was king. Tenth Park is Maywood’s version of the Rucker — a local mecca of basketball tradition that has seen better days.

The Reebok rims donated years ago by by Los Angeles Clippers coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers, a product of these courts, have accumulated layers of rust. Some backboards and goals are missing altogether. The court’s synthetic surfacing is completely worn away at some points.

The wear-and-tear, though, didn’t stop Wade’s colleague, Maywood Fire Captain Laighton Scott, and professional basketball player Quinton Beasley, another product of these courts, from organizing a back-to-school tournament earlier this month.

The tournament complemented a back-to-school giveaway at Winfield Scott Park, at the intersection of 17th Avenue and Maywood Drive, held on the Sunday of the tournament’s championship game. The giveaway was sponsored by Athletic Konnection, a sports training organization comprising a close band of athletes who are alumni of area elementary and high school programs.

“This right here is what keeps people from bleeding on the streets,” Wade said, his voice nearly drowned out by the grunts and shouts and footsteps emanating from the courts that flanked him. “That’s all I care about.”

The tournament was open to adolescents and teenagers. For the perhaps the first time, Wade said, boys played head-to-head against, and side-by-side with, ambitious girls like 11-year-old Zolottie Caldwell.

“I want to be a famous basketball player, but they usually take people out of high school. I want to finish school first,” Caldwell said nonchalantly as she worked the scoreboard during a semifinal game.

“Some of these girls play better than the boys,” Wade said, before pointing out one girl who is a Division I college player and another girl, a teenager, who has the potential to compete at that level, if not higher. Wade couldn’t point them all out, there were so many — the whole court brimming with up-and-coming female hoops talent.

To say nothing of the boys, who are always coming up behind the ones that have gone before them — James “Papa” Brewer preceded Doc Rivers who preceded Michael Finley who preceded Shannon Brown.

“This is beautiful,” said Brown’s father, Chris Brown, a retired Maywood police officer, of the action at 10th Court. “This gives them confidence. They’ve been honored, they’ve been saluted for their efforts, they’re not out here in the streets with gangs or stuff like that. So that’s our mission — to empower them so they can resort to life’s positive aspects.”

Everett Stubblefield, 35, was at the tournament as a volunteer referee. He remembers when the Reebok rims were first installed. He remembers when Doc Rivers’s footprints were still visible in a cement block right off of the courts. He remembers dripping sweat on this court — sweat he would leverage into athletic scholarships at various colleges and universities. He now coaches basketball at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park.

“These kids need to see this,” he said. “They need to see black men coming back to the community. They need to see men and women out here in unity. They definitely need positive role models to keep them going. A lot of them don’t get a chance to see stuff like this.”

Stubblefield, a graduate of Washington Elementary and Proviso East High School, was getting ready to watch one of his sons take the court for the championship game.

Tre Brown, a member of Athletic Konnection who planned the back-to-school giveaway at Winfield Scott, said Sunday was just the prelude to what he believes will be a flourishing of athletic and academic activity in the village. He said he envisions distributing free supplies to thousands of children in the not-so-distant future. Already, he noted, hundreds of kids frequent the organization’s various Halloween, Easter and Christmas activities and giveaways.

“My slogan is Bible, books and basketball,” Brown said. “If you don’t have those books, you’re not going to be able to go anywhere. We want to do this every year with even more entities.”

Brown stressed that the activity at Winfield Scott shouldn’t be considered separate from the activity at 10th Park. They were two sides of the same coin.

“They need to see black men coming back to the community. They need to see men and women out here in unity. They definitely need positive role models to keep them going.”

“We’re working together. We were over there yesterday watching them. Today, it just happened that we scheduled both events at the same time. But when they finish over there [at the 10th Park tournament], they’re going to come over here [to Winfield Scott] to play softball,” Brown said, adding that his organization distributed book bags and school supplies to roughly 150 students.

The supplies were acquired through a partnership with ComEd. At 10th Park, Maywood police officers were passing out free food, book bags and supplies provided by officers David Gude, Larry Connor, Corey Cooper and Sonja Horn.

The day seemed to defy all of the typical Maywood stereotypes — that the town is insufferably divided against itself, that there’s nothing going on, that cooperation is alien to people here.

“Everybody pitched in to make this happen,” said Wade of the basketball tournament. He said all of the village’s taxing bodies and various departments — from police to fire to public works — contributed resources and money to make the tournament possible.

Wade expressed hope that Sunday’s basketball tournament would build some forward momentum and act as a catalyst for more permanent programming at the park. Wade said he envisions an outdoor basketball league that would operate during select summer months on Tuesdays and Thursdays — like how it was in the past.

And Stubblefield said he and some other ball players envision renovations to the courts at 10th Park that could come as early as next year.

Wade said tournaments like the one Laighton planned work to engender confidence in present and former community members who may want to donate money and resources to projects like court renovations. It shows them that Maywood can still do big things and that those who want to give back should feel comfortable doing so.

“There’s structure and order here. We’re getting it done. It’s a start,” said Wade. “The kids won’t walk away with big trophies. Uh, uh. They’re going to make some memories.” VFP

Sunday in Maywood I Sunday in Maywood II Sunday in Maywood III Sunday in Maywood IV Sunday in Maywood V Sunday in Maywood VI