Community Unit District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy doesn't want to simply shake hands with or high-five those who supported the district in its long fight against extending tax breaks for Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holding Corps.
If he could, he would hug the entire district.
Instead, district leaders during a special board meeting Monday recognized hundreds of parents, students, teachers, staff and community members who took action. Bregy and a core group of supporters made up of school board members, superintendent's cabinet members and parent leaders participated in the ceremony via Skype from Springfield.
"If I could, I would wrap my arms around the entire district -- the sixth largest in the state of Illinois -- and give the district a hug," Bregy said.
Associate Superintendent Sarah Kedroski said phone calls, emails, text messages and letters supporters sent to legislators, as well as the numerous trips to the state capital, all mattered.
"Community members stood up and have been so helpful in so many ways," Kedroski told an audience of about 200 people. "You stood up for fair and reasonable legislation."
Earlier Monday, the Illinois House approved a package of tax breaks that include an extension of up to 15 years of Sears' property tax break, as well as a 15-year income tax credit worth $150 million.
Under the provisions, which the Senate is expected to vote on Tuesday, local governments -- including District 300 -- would receive double the property taxes they now get from the deal. In addition, Hoffman Estates would not be allowed to use revenue from the deal to run or pay for the Sears Centre, a provision District 300 officials pushed for.
Should Sears leave Hoffman Estates, it would have to pay back the incentives. The retail giant is also required to keep at least 4,250 jobs on site in the meantime.
Although the legislation falls short of achieving all of the district's goals, which included ending the EDA in 2013 as the state approved in 1989, district supporters say their voices were heard.
"Without the support and trips to Springfield, I don't think the district would have been considered in a decision regarding Sears," said Kelsey Moss, a 17-year-old senior at Dundee-Crown High School who testified before the House Revenue and Finance Committee in Springfield.
Bruce Taylor, a social studies teacher at Dundee-Crown High School who organized an online petition that garnered 12,500 signature supporting the district's stance, said the support had been tremendous.
"Without the fight we would not have gotten anything," Taylor said.