Top stories in Northwest suburbs in 2015

  • Students and parents packed Conant High School on Dec. 7 for a District 211 board discussion on whether to scuttle a settlement to the long-running dispute over a transgender student's access to locker rooms.

      Students and parents packed Conant High School on Dec. 7 for a District 211 board discussion on whether to scuttle a settlement to the long-running dispute over a transgender student's access to locker rooms. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 12/23/2015 9:18 PM

Schools were the source of the biggest news stories in the Northwest suburbs in 2015, with a battle over the locker room rights of a transgender student in District 211 and a strike in District 23 that lasted more than a week leading the list. Here's a closer look at a dozen of the stories that stood out most this year in the minds of Daily Herald editors and reporters.

Transgender locker room debate

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

1. Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 officials engaged in a high-stakes battle with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights over the level of access a transgender student should have to a girls locker room, with pressure coming from the possible loss of $6 million in federal funds, a divided community of parents and students, and American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing the student.

School officials were willing to grant more access than some parents and students wanted, but not as much as the OCR and some other parents and students wanted. After weeks of discussion and negotiation, the school board and the OCR signed off on a compromise, only to have it almost blow up when the two sides read entirely different meanings into what was called for.

After school officials threatened to walk away from the settlement, the OCR agreed to the district's interpretation and the board reaffirmed the agreement at a meeting in December. But some parents were still unhappy, calling for board members who backed the agreement to resign.

The agreement allows the student access to a girls locker room with a separate changing area.

"We are installing privacy curtains in our locker rooms, with the assurance that this student will use them," school board President Mucia Burke said. "We believe this is the best course of action for this student while balancing the needs of all the teenage students in our district."

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Strike in Prospect Heights schools

The Prospect Heights Elementary District 23 teachers strike enters its second day.
  The Prospect Heights Elementary District 23 teachers strike enters its second day. - Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

2. Prospect Heights Elementary District 23 students missed seven days of class in September while the teachers union and school board battled over raises. It was the first strike in the district's 150-year history, and it was bitter at times.

Most teachers will receive 3.75 percent raises in the first year of the contract, 3.5 percent the second year, 3.25 percent the third year and 3.75 percent the last year. Teachers who make more than $90,000 a year will receive a 3 percent increase the first year, 2.5 percent increase the second year, 2.25 percent increase the third year and 2 percent the last year, according to the contract. The contract does not include a salary schedule, which had been a sticking point for the teachers during negotiations.

Board member Judi Zimmerman, who voted against the new contract, resigned, saying, "I'm tired of the business of education." And board member Kevin Novak said, "I was kind of struck and in awe with the amount of animosity that was shown between the individuals on both sides." He said he hoped people "could drop all history" and focus on "bettering our children."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cardinal George laid to rest

3. Cardinal Francis George was laid to rest last April next to his parents, Francis and Julia, and maternal grandmother, Lucy McCarthy, at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines after a funeral Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. He died at age 78 of kidney cancer.

The burial service followed a funeral procession past St. Pascal Parish in Chicago, where George attended Mass as a boy and later was ordained a priest. Among the hundreds gathered at the cemetery were family, priests and nuns, as well as everyday Catholics.

Appointed by Pope John Paul II in 1997 to lead the Chicago Archdiocese, George was remembered as a man of deep faith, intellect and compassion. The leader of the nation's third-largest archdiocese was known as a vigorous defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, who in his three years as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spearheaded opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

At the height of the abuse crisis in 2002, George led a group of U.S. bishops who persuaded resistant Vatican officials to more quickly oust guilty priests. And in his final years in Chicago, in a move to put the scandal in the past, he oversaw the release of thousands of pages of church records on abuse cases while touting systemic changes designed to guard against a repeat.

Rosemont cop accused of killing brother-in-law

Rosemont police respond to a report of a shooting in the gated community of Scott Street and Grandville Avenue. An off-duty police officer shot and killed his sister's husband, who had become violent and threatened their lives, according to a state police investigation.
  Rosemont police respond to a report of a shooting in the gated community of Scott Street and Grandville Avenue. An off-duty police officer shot and killed his sister's husband, who had become violent and threatened their lives, according to a state police investigation. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

4. An off-duty Rosemont cop who shot and killed his brother-in-law in January said he "had to do it" because he feared for his life and that of his sister and baby nephew, according to a state police report released in April.

When Officer Rick Drehobl Jr. and his sister, Deanna Caffarello, -- Joseph Caffarello's wife -- and Deanna's son left the Caffarello house in Drehobl's car, Caffarello chased after them, speeding down another street before turning and striking Drehobl's car head-on, according to police documents.

After the crash, Drehobl said Caffarello began approaching him while saying, "I'm going to kill you," before he was shot, according to the state police report.

Vicky Schnackel of Carpentersville, a secretary at All Saints Lutheran Church in Palatine, is immunized by public health nurse Anne Sommers as the Cook County Health department hosts a measles vaccination clinic after a rare outbreak of the disease in Palatine.
  Vicky Schnackel of Carpentersville, a secretary at All Saints Lutheran Church in Palatine, is immunized by public health nurse Anne Sommers as the Cook County Health department hosts a measles vaccination clinic after a rare outbreak of the disease in Palatine. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

5. After seeing only 10 documented measles cases over five years in Illinois, in January and February an outbreak of the highly contagious disease at KinderCare Learning Center, 929 E. Palatine Road, in Palatine, produced 13 cases among infants too young to have received the vaccine.

A 14th case not associated with day care center involved an adult from the Northwest suburbs.

The source of the cluster was never determined.

Downtown Arlington Heights

6. Downtown Arlington Heights was the place to be in 2015, as Metropolis Centre for the Performing Arts finally seemed to be on the upswing with a new board, a new director and "Spamalot" as one of its most successful shows in recent history. Other changes brought Courtland's Garage, a popular Chicago burger spot, to the former Harry's and the new Day Go Dogs and Za restaurant to Campbell Street. Outdoor dining on the public sidewalks was approved for nearly a half dozen restaurants, shoe shoppers could delight in the new Tootsies Shoes on Dunton Avenue and art studio Bottles & Bottega welcomed wine and painting enthusiasts.

Cortland's Garage is one of the examples of new business arrivals in Arlington Heights in 2015.
  Cortland's Garage is one of the examples of new business arrivals in Arlington Heights in 2015. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

On the residential side, a new seven-story apartment tower called Parkside Apartments was approved for 212 N. Dunton, and the 90-year-old Vail-Davis building got $1.4 million in updates to create luxury apartments above La Tasca and Bangkok Cafe. New owners took over Tuscan Market and Wine Shop, and the popular book club had some of its biggest events to date, including "Sex and the City" author Candace Bushnell, who launched her latest book.

It wasn't all good news. The Memorial Day Parade was canceled for the first time ever as a major storm loomed. Panera Bread closed in February and the spot remained empty the rest of the year. The surprise closing of Circa 57 in September left a big hole at the corner of Campbell and Vail.

Barrington's 150th

The Barrington White House, a historic downtown home, underwent a $6.1 million, donor-funded renovation to become a community and cultural center for the town's 150th anniversary.
  The Barrington White House, a historic downtown home, underwent a $6.1 million, donor-funded renovation to become a community and cultural center for the town's 150th anniversary. - Doug T. Graham | Staff Photographer

7. Barrington threw itself into the celebration of its 150th birthday, with the heart of the party being four days of family-friendly events Fourth of July weekend. Among them was the long-awaited opening of the White House, a historic downtown home that underwent a $6.1 million, donor-funded renovation to become a community and cultural center for Barrington.

Former village Trustee Tim Dunn, who is the great, great grandnephew of the house's builder, read the Declaration of Independence from the home's front porch.

AJ Gallagher moving back

Insurance broker AJ Gallagher is renovating the property at 2850 Golf Road to move its headquarters back to Rolling Meadows. The company received $30 million in tax incentives from the city of Rolling Meadows to help make the move happen.
  Insurance broker AJ Gallagher is renovating the property at 2850 Golf Road to move its headquarters back to Rolling Meadows. The company received $30 million in tax incentives from the city of Rolling Meadows to help make the move happen. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

8. Insurance brokerage giant AJ Gallagher is moving back to the same office complex in Rolling Meadows that was its home for 15 years before it moved to Itasca in 1991.

Gallagher is spending at least $40 million remodeling the building at 2850 Golf Road before employees of the country's fourth-largest commercial insurance broker take occupancy in the first quarter of 2017. Work on the project started in late summer.

Gallagher will get up to $30 million in tax increment financing district money from Rolling Meadows to help pay for the renovations.

Eventually, Gallagher will become one of the city's largest employers, with as many as 2,200 employees on the Rolling Meadows site.

Long Wheeling election

9. Wheeling Village Trustee Joe Vito, who ran as a write-in candidate, was sworn into office at the end of July after a nearly four-month battle for a spot on the village board.

Trustee Mary Papantos, who joined the board in April, lost the post when a Cook County circuit court judge ruled 33 write-in ballots originally deemed invalid should be counted.

"I always thought that I won the election, and I'm finally kind of vindicated in that position," Vito said.

Chicago Bulls D-team in Hoffman

10. The Chicago Bulls announced in November that they would open a minor league NBA Development League team and sign a five-year contract to play at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

In announcing the team, Bulls President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Reinsdorf promised the franchise would be a boon to suburban fans, recreating the fun and excitement of the United Center experience at the Sears Centre.

Motorola moving

11. Motorola Solutions Inc. announced in September that it is moving its global headquarters to Chicago next summer after about 50 years in Schaumburg, where its sprawling corporate campus helped set the standard for companies across the suburbs.

The maker of communications equipment for government and first-responders will send 800 jobs to Chicago and 200 to Elgin, leaving 1,600 employees, primarily software and hardware engineers, in two buildings, the 12-story corporate tower and the 2-story IT building.

The 277-acre campus, once home to thousands of employees, will be put up for sale for redevelopment and then Motorola Solutions plans to lease those two buildings from the new owners.

Expanding Arlington Heights schools

12. Due to climbing enrollment, work began in October on additions costing $16.2 million at two elementary schools in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25. Ivy Hill will get 10 new classrooms, while Olive-Mary Stitt will receive five. Both schools also will get larger, air-conditioned gymnasiums and larger common areas. Both have installed mobile classrooms to alleviate overcrowding until construction is done.

Since 2008, District 25's enrollment has grown by more than 38 students each year. According to projections, the district could get another 200 students by the start of the 2019-20 school year. The district is studying possible expansions at Westgate and Windsor of no more than four additional classrooms at each.

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