Month: April 2017

Breaking: Lyft Driver Killed in Maywood on Thursday

Police tape

Thursday, April 27, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

One man is dead after a shooting that happened at the corner of Oak Street and 14th Avenue in Maywood Thursday morning.

According to Maywood police, Adaranijo Adekunte, 53, was fatally injured during a shooting that reportedly happened at around 1:36 a.m. Adekunte, whose place of residence isn’t yet known, was a Lyft driver, police say.

Police haven’t specified whether or not Adekunte was working when he was shot and didn’t reveal any motives for the shooting.

Currently no one is in custody. This case is still under investigation. More information as this story develops. VFP

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Breaking: Maywood Could Raise Minimum Tobacco Age to 21

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The Maywood Board of Trustees may pass an ordinance that would raise the minimum age required to buy tobacco products in the village from 18 to 21 years old.

During an April 26 Legal, License and Ordinance Meeting (LLOC), the village board voted unanimously to move the measure to the next regular meeting on May 2 for final approval. Trustees Antonette Dorris and Ron Rivers were absent.

The proposed ordinance was introduced at the urging of Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, who said that the measure would help deter the sale of tobacco products to minors and young adults, “which often leads to loitering concerns around retail tobacco establishments,” according to a village memo.

“Proviso East stands next to two gas stations and we found that 18 year olds capture [tobacco] products from those gas stations, bring them into school and sell them,” Talley said.

The village has a partnership with the health advocacy organization Proviso Partners 4 Health, which is affiliated with Loyola University. Representatives with PP4H have been advocating for a new ordinance as a public health measure.

Talley said that if the measure passes, then retail establishments who sell tobacco products to minors would face a range of penalties,  including the revocation and suspension of their business licenses, that are similar to those for illegally selling alcohol.

Other municipalities that have raised the minimum age of tobacco sales to 21 years old include Oak Park, Chicago and Evanston.

The proposed ordinance in Maywood cites a range of statistics showing the negative public health effects of tobacco use, which “remains a leading cause of preventable premature death in the United States, killing nearly half-a-million Americans and costing the nation almost $200 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity each year.” VFP

Read the proposed ordinance below:

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PMSA Jumps Ahead in Recent U.S. News & World Report Rankings


Wednesday, April 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy was recently ranked 32 among 658 Illinois high schools included in the most recent school rankings released by U.S. News & World Report.

The list, U.S. News Best High Schools Rankings, considers data on 28,496 public high schools in the country. PMSA was ranked 1,044 among those high schools nationwide, good for a Silver medal. Last year, PMSA received a Bronze medal.

Last August, PMSA garnered the top spot in Chicago Magazine’s ranking of the top 20 high schools in suburban Cook County.

“We are elated with the 2017 ranking,” stated PMSA Principal Dr. Bessie Karvelas in a recent statement. “These wonderful results would not have been possible without our teachers and students who continue to be proud of their school and their accomplishments.”

Karvelas thanked the school’s “committed faculty, leadership team and devoted parents” for the ranking, adding that her administration seeks a gold medal in the future.

“We are proud of our school community’s commitment to academic excellence as it continues to demonstrate high levels of educational attainment,” said D209 Supt. Jesse J. Rodriguez. “The designation shows, once again, the potential of PTHS D.209. We are Proviso Proud.” VFP

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Maywood LLOC Meeting Scheduled Tonight, Wednesday, April 26, 7 PM

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

A Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting is scheduled to take place tonight, Wednesday, April 26, 7 p.m., at 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood. Among items to be discussed include (for a full agenda packet, click here):

  • Discussion and approval to move to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeal, the New Hope Christian Center plans for interior build- out and modification of existing commercial space at 14 South 19th  Avenue for the “New Hope Empowerment Center”.
  • An Ordinance Creating a New Chapter 126 (Transportation Network Companies) of Title XI (Business Regulations) of the Maywood Village Code relative to the Operation of Transportation Network Companies within the Village; and
  •  –  A copy of the Transportation Network Providers Act (625 ILCS 57/1 et seq.). Documents regarding “911 Consolidated Dispatch Center (Maywood and Broadview)” with a cover Memorandum dated April 19, 2017 from Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, Ltd.
  • An Ordinance Amending Title XI (“Business Regulations”), Chapter 116 (“Tobacco”) of the Village of Maywood Code of Ordinances to increase the minimum age of sale, purchase and possession of tobacco products from eighteen (18) years of age to twenty-one (21) years of age, and regarding Tobacco Licensing and Enforcement.

Vote Now for Your Favorite ‘Purposed-Filled Prom’ Essay

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Prom picBecause we believe in the integration of literacy and everyday life, the Village Free Press recently sponsored an essay contest open to all students in Proviso Township High Schools District 209 who plan on attending prom this year.

The idea was to get students writing and thinking critically about an important milestone in their lives. Earlier this month, we released the essay prompt and a panel of judges evaluated the dozens of entries that came in before narrowing in on five finalists.

We invite you to read those finalist essays below and, after reading, vote on your favorite. We judged the essays based on four main criteria: grammatical correctness, clarity of thought, conciseness and creativity. Feel free to come up with your own criteria if you want.

Special thanks to all of the brilliant students who submitted entries. Wading through this rich talent pool was both pleasurable and difficult — difficult because we had to settle on just five among a host of fantastic essays.

The students who write the three highest vote-getting essays will receive first, second and third place cash prizes of $300, $200 and $100, respectively. The first-place winner will be featured in a full-page photo essay, with a photographer and VFP reporter covering the big day from preparation to prom night.

All five finalists will have their prom sendoffs photographed and will receive free digital access to those photos, some of which will be featured both online and in the May print issue of the Village Free Press.

The essays have been published without the names of their authors in order to preserve the integrity of the contest. Vote for each essay on the merits!

Readers have until 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 to vote for their favorite essay.

Another special thanks to the Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood Chambers of Commerce for their generous donations. Students were told to write their essay based on the following prompt:

“Describe how attending prom is a highly anticipated milestone that will prepare you for the next chapter of your life?”

My Purpose-Filled Prom Essays

Finalist 1

Attending prom has been something I’ve always looked forward to since I was 7 years old. No one told me of all the obstacles and also the awesome experiences I was going to go through before prom. Prom is the first milestone before graduation and college. I’ve never been more happy and proud of myself to be here, 2 weeks before prom.

Coming into high school, mostly to a school like Proviso Math and Science Academy was a privilege. This school challenged me to my full potential. Also I realized how much I like volunteering, at food pantries, school, my community church, and I am also looking forward to volunteering at a hospital. These 4 years have gone by so fast, and I’m excited for prom. I’ve learned how to be more responsible with my money. I currently work 2-3 days a week at Marshalls. It gives me enough money for my personal expenses, so I had to save from that and cut my expenses to buy a dress, shoes, and accessories. I personally didn’t want any help from m y parents because I feel like prom is more of a luxury and it’s not mandatory that a student has to attend.

Now two weeks from prom, I have just about everything ready, only a few details are needed. I know for a fact that prom night will be an unforgettable one. This is about the last time, our class will spend time together before we all go on our own ways to college.

Prom is such a beautiful milestone and my parents are so proud I came all this way. My parents weren’t sure I would be born a healthy baby. They got the scare of their life when they realized my mom had to give birth in the car, with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. Prom is a milestone for my parents as well, and they are anxious to send me off to prom.

Prom is the beginning of a more independent me. I start making life choices, like chosing a college and career, and eventually I would like to own a house and start a family.

Prom is the beginning of a new beginning and many more challenges and good experiences, not only for me but also for my classmates.

Finalist 2

It was a clear, sunny day in May in the sixth grade. Marisol, my bestest friend, and I were hanging out in recess with a bunch of girls talking about prom. “Well, MY sister got promposed to by her boyfriend who got the cheerleaders at the football game spell out ‘PROM’ and got her a dozen roses!” said Nicole.

I’m sooo jealous of Nicol’es sister, I’ve always wanted a huge promposal by a boy. I didn’t know much about prom, yet I knew that I wanted to go to prom with someone who means the world to me. I turned to Marisol and asked her “Hey, I’m kind of ugly, and so are you but you mean so much to me, will you go to prom with me? At first Marisol took my promposal as a joke, but I couldn’t have been more serious. After working out the logistics of my idea and shutting down her assumption that I may have a crush on her, she saw my good intention and said yes. Marisol and I have been inseparable since the second grade, so for some reason I’m certain we’d still be together through high school, surprisingly, we did! Going to prom, but more specifically, going to prom with Marisol has been a lifetime goal of mine at this point. Going together seems to be like the seal of approval on our lifelong friendship and it’ll be like a renewal of our friendship vow! I will be promposing to her soon and I will need to buy and print a lot of photography of us together, I plan on making a giant poster collage with Marisol and pop that question!

That money would really help me take the poster collage to the next level! I want to make it so big, i’ll need the help of more than 3 people. I am not worried about not having enough photographs to cover it in; I have photos of Marisol and I saved since the second grade from my old Nokia all the way to photographs taken yesterday! I’ve been saving them on a Dropbox account I made just for her, for there are way too many photographs and I couldn’t bear to lose them! Although Marisol and I have boyfriends of our own, we had even sworn that we’d still go to prom together, regardless of our relationship status. I am positive that Marisol will be expecting her promposal soon; we’re both already bought our tickets and we’re raring to go!

Finalist 3

Prom is an American tradition that has been going on for over 200 years. It is a special event many plan for years before attending. To me, attending prom is a privilege and I feel blessed having the opportunity to attend this school year. I will be the first person in my family to ever attend prom. Unfortunately, my older brother could not attned prom during his high school career due to the lack of funds. Prom is a once in a lifetime experience that resembles an ending, as well as the start of something new. It is the end of my high school career and the beginning of my college career. It is a celebration of all of the hard work I have done that has allowed me to accomplish goals I never dreamed of. I would have never imagined to receive a full tuition leadership scholarship to attend Oberlin College in Ohio through the POSSE Foundation. Thus far, this is my greatest accomplishment and I feel blessed knowing I will be greatly helping my family with the financial burden of attending college. Prom is a chance to have fun with loved ones including friends, teachers, mentors, and counselors. As an extrovert, I already know I will love and appreciate every moment of prom because I enjoy socializing and spending time with people, especially loved ones. Furthermore, prom also resembles a new beginning in which I get a short break from life’s busy priorities to let loose and enjoy myself. Prom teaches me that with great sacrifices, reward eventually follows. I am often stressed and constantly worry about my future because I am afraid of disappointing. However, due to this restlessness over time I have learned to prioritize and manage time with ease. Even now, as I am writing this essay I feel happy knowing that I am being productive. After prom, I will then start over and do it all again in college, and then, fingers crossed, repeat in medical school. Prom will be a night to remember for the rest of my life filled with lots of laughter and love.

Finalist 4

When I was a sophomore at PMSA I took part in a play called “Promedy” and by writing this, I can finally come to the realization that one of the character’s words could not be more true in relation to the magnitude of prom. One of the main character’s whose name was Beatrix stated that prom is the “quintessential teenage experience.” In my humble opinion I truly believe that Beatrix was onto something because though prom may seem like just another dance that everyone goes to, I would challenge people with that mindset to take a step inwards because they are on the outside looking in. Prom is the culmination of a class of students, the relationships students have built with one another, and honestly after taxing years of hard work as a high schooler packed all into one night. Disregard all the homecomings and formals dances that happened leading up to the point because prom is the grand finale of them all. While I am sure seniors could encapsulate the hardships and sacrifices made in high school as only an adolescent, prom is a stepping stone for students whom directly after graduation will be preparing themselves for the turbulence of the adult world and are very likely to endure more hardships as well as face more sacrifices whether it be by going to college or joining the workforce. Prom is one of the finals moments for a senior to be a senior, ruminate on their time as a high schooler and truly cherish the high school aura that was presented to them. If there were any underclassmen who already thought they had their minds made up about not attending prom then I would do everything in my power to persuade them to choose otherwise and let them know they are doing a disservice to themselves. No one should have to be deprived of a legitimate time to have fun and that is what prom is all about. Once again I must reiterate that prom is not just a dance but rather a piece of the “senior significance puzzle” that goes right alongside a senior’s “first” day of high school, college acceptance letters and getting your diploma at graduation. I believe everyone is perpetually writing their personal book of life so why not use prom as a way to end a chapter on a high note and then proceed to fully prepare ourselves for the transition into a new chapter of our lives.

Finalist 5

Prom is defined as a formal dance, especially one held by a class in high school or college at the end of a year; to me prom is more than a gathering with several students on who has the best dance moves. You may question yourself why I say prom is more than dressing up in your best attire and showing off your dance skills! I’ll explain because prom has prepared me for the next chapter in my life and it will prepare anyone attending prom in their anticipated milestones. Time management, budgeting, responsibility, and communication skills are just a few things I have grasped toward this journey into a new chapter. I have also learned to be compliant to rules and regulations as it is important when dealing with staff or professional business in life. This milestone I speak so highly of also teaches you respect, and how to socialize in this Information Age of society.

As any important event, there are deadlines that you have to meet in order to be prepared. My time was used effectively and productive as I knew that nothing in life waits for you. As a dedicated student and an athlete attending prom, prioritizing my time was a key factor in order to be prepared in this milestone. Budgeting and communication skills was a huge responsibility that I’ve learned while preparing myself for this event. Money could not be wasted as I am also preparing for college, graduation, and school cost. I had to be responsible enough to make sure no payments were wasted, all payments were counted for, and all were necessities. I used my communication skills in order to interact with students, staff, and other administration to help prepare with paperwork that was required in order to attend this event. Though this watershed is only talked about to some as a pleasant masquerade filled with exhilaration and laughter; it has taught me that life hands you situations and no matter how they’re presented each one teaches you how to prepare yourself for the next phenomenon and how to become successful in your endeavors. All in all, I agree attending my senior high school prom is a highly anticipated milestone that has prepared me for the next chapter of my life. VFP

Report: White Flight Correlated to Job Loss in Black, Latino Suburbs

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Norman Rockwell | “New Kids in the Neighborhood,” 1967

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

A new study by the Metropolitan Planning Council’s research chief, Alden Loury, examines what happens to a town’s jobs climate when its white residents leave and, as is usually the case, black or brown residents move in.

Loury wrote that his study shows “that suburban municipalities that witnessed sharp declines in white population between 2000 and 2010 have continued to lose population, lose jobs or lose both since 2010, particularly majority-black and majority-Latino suburbs.”

Like Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood, Melrose Park and Stone Park — all suburbs highlighted in yellow in the map below, which indicates either job loss or population declines.

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“In the map above, the municipalities in red have lost both population and jobs since 2010. The areas in yellow have lost either population or jobs. And the green areas have seen both population growth and job growth.

“Majority-black and majority-Latino suburbs have been hit the hardest. Seven of the eight majority-black suburbs included in the analysis have lost population, lost jobs or both since 2010. In addition to Calumet City and Riverdale, they include Bellwood, Broadview, Dolton, Harvey and Maywood. Each of those suburbs saw their white population decrease by more than 38 percent from 2000 to 2010.”

To read more of Loury’s analysis, click here. VFP

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D209 Superintendent Outlines Strategic Plan, Radical Changes for Next Year

Rodriguez_no_name-3801Tuesday, April 25, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The 2017-18 academic year at Proviso Township High Schools District 209 will be radically different from years past, based on changes Supt. Jesse Rodriguez outlined during an April 20 meeting at Proviso Math and Science Academy, 8601 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Forest Park.

Rodriguez convened the meeting to present the foundation of a long-term strategic plan at the district that his administrative team is in the process of creating and that the board will be expected to approve in the coming months. Some of the measures that will anchor that plan, however, are either already in place or will be in place by the beginning of the next school year.

Those measures and the general direction of the strategic plan that is in formation converge around the issue of equity, Rodriguez said, adding that the issue was a reoccurring theme during the community meetings he convened across the district shortly after he was hired last year.

“There was a lot of feedback, some of it negative, relating to the perception of PMSA,” Rodriguez said, adding that many parents were concerned that PMSA was taking resources away from Proviso East and West.

Rodriguez said community consensus around equity across the three schools partly informed his decision to make some significant budget reallocations. He said his administration saw $1.4 million in staffing adjustments, a $300,000 reduction in administrative costs, and repurposed funding of $2.5 million.

At PMSA, administrators will enroll a freshman class that will be at least 30 percent larger than this academic year, he noted, and much larger than those of years past. And yet, expenses at PMSA will remain at the level they’re at this academic year.

The district is holding the line at PMSA so more money can be spent at Proviso East and West, the two schools that house the majority of the nearly 4,000 district students who failed at least one class during a single semester last year.

Those students will be able to receive more opportunities to recover credits during the school day through more enhanced alternative education options, among other initiatives.

Rodriguez said the budget reallocations also allowed the district to address a common complaint among community members that the district’s facilities have historically been uninviting to visitors and that the district’s attempts at community outreach were wanting.

Next year, parents and guardians who are interested in engaging with their students’ education will be greeted by new parent coordinators eager to take them to newly established parent centers, where they’ll socialize, volunteer and even observe cooking classes.

The district has also created liaisons who will assist with student attendance, residency checks and “all of the attendance work we need to do,” Rodriguez said.

“We have to invest in our community,” he said. “Currently, we don’t do a lot of that. So we’re utilizing some savings to make sure we empower families, communities and students.”

Rodriguez said progress at East and West will be guided by “transformation plans.” At East, where a plan is already in place, that transformation could take up to a decade to “develop, initiate, implement and institutionalize.”

The plan at East includes a transition away from a traditional approach to education, replete with standardized testing and curriculum, toward one that is more personalized and tailored to each student’s needs. East is the first school in the state that the Illinois State Board of Education selected to participate in a new competency-based learning pilot program.

And at all three schools, the district has beefed up its technical education offerings by implementing career academies that will allow students to receive instruction in a range of fields, such as cosmetology and culinary arts.

Rodriguez has also revamped the administration’s organizational structure. The superintendent said when he entered office last year, there were “three offices in three schools,” instead of an efficient, clearly defined central office structure.

“That environment was one where a clear structure did not exist and we had independent practitioners in independent kingdoms making decisions that were not aligned to the board goals or to the direction of the district,” he said. “We were functioning and making transactions, but transactional leadership is not what we need. We need transformational leadership.”

The strategy is part of a three-year plan for introducing new initiatives that will further the three board goals that Rodriguez laid out and which he expects the board to adopt soon. Goal One, he said, is to enhance academic achievement. Goal Two is to ensure effective and efficient operations. Goal Three is to empower students, families and communities.

“I’m proposing we have as our number one goal to enhance academic achievement,” Rodriguez said to an audience of around 50 community members. “That is very important. This is not about operations and dollars and contracts and all the other small work we do in a district. It’s all about promoting academic achievement for all students.”

The administration’s first-year strategy, he said, is to identify “high-impact, low-cost” programs that will be funded largely through budget cuts and reallocations.

“In year two, I will be coming [to the board] with a proposal of $1 million to $3 million,” Rodriguez said, adding that the price tag of his proposal in the third year could be “a little bit more.”

Rodriguez said that, according to a 5-year financial projection that will guide his strategic plan, the district’s spending levels will not rise over the next four years.

“The idea is to maintain the spending levels we are going to have next year over the next four years,” he said. “We will be financially stable.”

Rodriguez said the district’s target fund balance over the next four years is at least $40 million. The district’s annual operating revenue is around $100 million, he said.

“The budgets are going to be balanced, so we won’t have to dip into the fund balance,” he said. “There will be no deficit spending for the next four years.”

Rodriguez explained that in order to create additional initiatives that jibe with the board goals and to maintain rigorous programming like AP and IB instruction while holding the line on spending, his team — which included principals and central office administrators — conducted a cost-benefit analysis along with over 200 hours of brainstorming about programming options.

Administrators also received input gleaned from residents during those community meetings and from students who Rodriguez invited into his office over a period of time. The strategic planning process, he said, has taken nine months and counting. In the coming weeks, the superintendent said he’ll convene more meetings with students and other stakeholders to flesh out the plan.

“In my research, I didn’t find anything similar to a strategy plan,” Rodriguez said. “I had conversations with people who graduated in the [1960s and 1970s], and they said this is the first time they’ve seen a strategic plan or heard Proviso talking about a plan with strategic objectives.” VFP

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