Lester: Rooney working as high school teacher and state senator

Former Rolling Meadows Mayor Tom Rooney has been on the job as both a high school social studies teacher and a new state senator after working out an arrangement with Leyden High School District 212.

After Rooney was appointed to replace state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine last October, school officials paired him with first-year social studies teacher Emmett O'Keefe, Rooney tells me. O'Keefe staffs the classroom at West Leyden High School in Northlake while Rooney is in Springfield, and on the days when both teachers are on campus, they use the extra time to work individually with students who've struggled on tests.

At the state Capitol, Rooney has been using technology to bring real-world lessons to his students.

"We really took advantage of the legislature being in session," Rooney says. "For my economics class, I taught one day via Google Hangout from my office. I could see the kids raise their hands and called on them for questions. The next day, I taught from a committee room. Thursday morning, I talked to the kids live from the Senate floor."

Rooney says the arrangement means he and O'Keefe are in constant communication and he's often grading papers on Amtrak rides.

<h3 class="leadin">On the books

How does the balance sheet look?

District officials confirmed Rooney's pay has been prorated for the number of days he spends teaching on campus, and Rooney moved off the district's health insurance and joined his wife Sue's plan.

He says his pension and sick time are being calculated at a slower rate, based on the number of days he's teaching at school. He has opted out of a legislative pension.

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East Leyden High School Alex Podgor, right, is planning on erecting a number of flagpoles for a veterans memorial in Rosemont as part of his Eagle Scout project. Courtesy of Alex Podgor

Eagle Scout's honor

Speaking of Leyden, 17-year-old East Leyden senior Alex Podgor of Rosemont wrote recently that he's working on an Eagle Scout project to create a veterans memorial flag park in his hometown.

"We currently have no place to honor our heroes," he says, noting he's been granted the go-ahead by Mayor Brad Stephens. But Podgor needs some help in paying for eight flagpoles at about $800 per pole. He plans on erecting the poles March 1, with the dedication ceremony on Memorial Day. For more information or to donate, call Alex at (847) 777-9768.

<h3 class="leadin">After-hours help

Workers at Prairie State Legal Services are volunteering to help those affected by President Donald Trump's travel ban, but they recently received a memo that they must do so in off hours due to the federal funding the organization receives, Anne Buche Conroy of Waukegan tells me.

<h3 class="leadin">No 'so-called judges'

New Illinois State Bar Association President Vincent Cornelius rejected Trump's description of federal Judge James L. Robart as a "so-called judge" after Robart blocked the president's immigration order.

"While reasonable Americans can disagree with a judge's rulings, questioning the legitimacy of a federal judge is inappropriate," Cornelius, a Joliet native, said in a statement. "In the words of American Bar Association President Linda Klein, 'There are no so-called judges in America.'"

Cornelius, a founding member of the Black Bar Association of Will County, is the state association's 140th president.

He began his legal career as an assistant state's attorney in DuPage County, then joined the law firm of James D. Montgomery and Associates in Chicago before opening his own firm in Wheaton.

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Mark Rouse and daughter Caitlin after a "color run." Rouse suffered an aortic tear and underwent emergency surgery three years ago. courtesy of Rouse family

Three years later

Mark Rouse, owner of Runners High 'N Tri in Arlington Heights, tells me last week marked three years since he suffered an aortic dissection, a tear in the aorta, and underwent emergency surgery followed by a lengthy recovery. These days, Rouse is doing well and cheering on his daughter Kaitlin as she runs track and field at Prospect High School. We're glad you're here, Mark.

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