Lester: Transgender policies today's new frontier for schools
Is the battle over locker room policies for transgender students akin to the school desegregation battle of the 1960s?
One suburban superintendent thinks so.
"My job is always to be able to react and respond to how society changes. We have to adapt," Barrington District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said.
"You go back to the 1960s, desegregation of schools was a big issue. Today we have other issues, including this one."
I called Harris after Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois praised District 220 for having practical and relatively controversy-free policies for transgender students.
The ACLU sued Palatine High School District 211 for barring a transgender student from full access to the girls' locker room, which the U.S. Department of Education says violates federal law.
'Every kid's different'
Harris said District 220 officials work through whatever accommodations are needed for each child, and that can include unrestricted locker room use.
"A lot of times it's through supervision," with a staff member in the locker room in case of questions or issues, he said. "Sometimes it's through facility modification. Sometimes it's a classroom modification."
Generally, he said, kids are "extremely flexible."
Progess, you say?
Could a budget deal be on the way, after a five month impasse between GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and members of the Democratic-led legislature?
Top operatives on both sides say discussions are finally progressing, though House Speaker Michael Madigan and Rauner aren't singing Kumbaya just yet. Some Democrats believe that Rauner's compromise to ease eligibility rules for child care assistance might have sent a message that he could be willing to cut a deal.
Serving it up
Catholic Sister Alicia Torres, who earned a Master of Divinity Degree from Mundelein Seminary in May, conquered the Food Network show "Chopped" Monday night, winning $10,000 for the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. Yes, that's the same site as the infamous 1958 school fire that changed school safety codes around the country and the world.
The 30-year-old nun was one of four chefs cooking unconventional appetizers, entrees and desserts using Thanksgiving staples -- turkey, green beans, potatoes and cranberries -- on the special volunteer edition of the show that aired Monday. Seminarians taped a cute video as they cheered her on with gusto from television sets on campus.
I caught up with former state Sen. John Millner at his office at the DuPage County Airport, which offers a stunning view of takeoffs and landings. The retired Carol Stream police chief, who now works as a lobbyist and consultant, is keeping quite busy. He recently was interviewed by veteran journalist Paula Zahn for her Investigation Discovery "On the Case with Paula Zahn" show about serial killers, including some of the more noted murders in DuPage County. It's expected to air in the coming months, he says.
Cents for Central
St. Paul Lutheran School in Mount Prospect won the village Historical Society's "Cents for Central School" challenge, raising $939.49 to restore the old schoolhouse that was moved to the village's downtown several years ago. Principal Jennifer Heinze -- who years ago was my math teacher -- links Central School with the growth of the St. Paul church and school, noting the church's charter was signed there in 1912 when Central School served as the gathering and meeting place for everyone in the area.
Name that team
Following the announcement that a baseball team from the collegiate (and yes, wooden bat) Prospect League will come to play at Benedictine University this summer, Lisle Baseball Partners has launched a 'Name the Team' contest. Fans can visit www.lislebaseball.com to submit their team name and win a $500 cash prize, tickets and other items.
Anti-establishment Illinois Republicans weren't the only ones in attendance to see businessman and 2016 presidential contender Donald Trump in Springfield this week. John Kamis, co-founder of Democratic Think Tank Innovation Illinois, provided a play-by-play to me from afar via text message. "If I become president we'll all be saying merry Christmas again," was one of Trump's noteworthy lines from the night.
Here's 95-year-old Sister Stella Louise Slomka. Now residing at Nazarethville nursing home in Des Plaines, she recently reminisced with me about her days as president of St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago, which she proudly recalls was nicknamed "the hospital that won't run away" during her tenure.