"I was in favor of it at the time," Bev Jaszczurowski, a mother of three students in Elgin Area School District U-46, says of a 2004 effort to leave the district that was overwhelmingly supported by Bartlett voters. "But here's the thing: Illinois has so many governing bodies ... as my kids get older, I'm seeing the benefits of being in a larger school district, like the Beacon Academy (for gifted students)."
A recent EdBuild study found that across the country, 47 of the 71 school districts that attempted to withdraw from their districts have succeeded, and others are being actively discussed.
Bartlett's attempt to break away from 40,000-student U-46 and create its own school district failed to gain momentum in the state legislature, which must approve the decision.
Jaszczurowski says she's "stayed really involved and really on top of everything" by being on the U-46 Citizens Advisory Council and speaking up at board meetings about issues such as getting trailer classrooms removed from Nature Ridge Elementary School, where her children attended.
Since the referendum, U-46's finances have improved. Its test scores have, too. The district's diversity -- 29 percent white, 6 percent black and 52 percent Hispanic -- is a plus, she said.
"I've seen diversity increase in my time in the district, and I think it's a good thing. We just need to learn to live together, not just see the differences all the time, to see the similarities," she said.
Helping find answers
Just why did attorney Sam Adam Jr. -- who's represented former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges and rapper R. Kelly on charges of having sex with a minor -- sign on to represent the family of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins of Chicago? Adam tells me he was struck by the quest of Jenkins' mother, Tereasa Martin, who is struggling to find answers as she herself battles breast cancer.
"Seeing the mother out there searching for her daughter ... I was tickled pink she'd have trust in me to help out with this," Adam said. "She needs an answer. That mother does not need to live the rest of her life wondering 'what if'?"
Jenkins, 19, was found dead in a freezer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont earlier this month, a story that's made national headlines.
Couples celebrate 50 years
Several suburban couples celebrated their golden wedding anniversaries with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago over the weekend. Joyce and Ed Majerczak of Rolling Meadows, Jane and Dick McCaffrey of Inverness and Victoria and Martin Pilut of Inverness were among those present, according to the Chicago Archdiocese.
Joyce Majerczak tells me the couple's anniversary was Sept. 9 and the Mass capped a week of celebrations that included a "great big party" last Friday at Chandler's Chophouse in Schaumburg. "Everyone danced," she laughed. As to the 50 years of marriage, the mother of three and grandmother of eight says "it's flown by."
A big thanks to Aurora University for hosting me and my friend and mentor Mike Lawrence, former director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, for a Constitution Day panel. More than 300 students attended the event, moderated by former Illinois House GOP Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, that centered around free speech and freedom of the press in challenging times.
Meanwhile, Aurora University's freshman class is at an all-time high of 800 students. University leaders credit a bigger recruiting push for undergrads and ranking as one of the most affordable private colleges in the state, with tuition at $22,580.
Props to Des Plaines
Money Magazine put my hometown as No. 35 in its rankings of best places to live in America.
The ranking highlights Des Plaines' affordable housing, access to O'Hare International Airport and low unemployment.
The article even drops a pop culture reference, noting Maine North High School, which closed in 1981, was the primary filming site for the hit 1985 film "The Breakfast Club."
Schaumburg ranked No. 9 for being an "economic and manufacturing powerhouse" and having rich shopping resources, Wheaton ranked 27th for its impressive trees, high median income and diverse dining scene and Villa Park is No. 28 for low crime, low housing costs, a diverse population and good bicycling, with the Illinois Prairie Path running right through it.