Lester: CEO saves Glen Ellyn school during a road trip

  • Paraprofessional Yvonne Robinson works with students in a primary class at the Philip J. Rock Center in Glen Ellyn.

      Paraprofessional Yvonne Robinson works with students in a primary class at the Philip J. Rock Center in Glen Ellyn. BEV HORNE | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted2/11/2016 5:13 AM

Luckily for the Philip J. Rock Center and School, Seth Harkins' wife was willing to take the wheel during a recent road trip out East to visit the couple's daughter. And he had a mobile hot spot.

The Glen Ellyn institution, the nation's only public residential school for people who are deaf and blind, was in a big bind. It was running out of money because its state funding was locked up in the eight-month battle between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-led legislature over the state budget.

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Then Harkins, the school's CEO, got a phone call.

Road mode

"I got a telephone call that the state board had agreed to give us federal flow-through dollars and they needed a budget done in a certain federal format by 3 p.m. that afternoon," Harkins said.

"I said to my wife, 'You're driving, I'm going online in the car. And we're going to get it done.'"

The Illinois State Board of Education is now sending $3.6 million in federal funds to the school, the same amount as it typically gets from the state.

Tuition boost

The Rock School will begin accepting out-of-state students next year, with tuition expected to help stabilize finances. Tuition, Harkins says, is $762 per day.

The school has nine live-in residents, with many more youths from across the state using the center's services. Harkins says officials estimate there are 430 families around the state with children who are deaf and blind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Playing for a laugh

Crystal Lake South High School installed bleachers without the city's approval, prompting residents to sue.
  Crystal Lake South High School installed bleachers without the city's approval, prompting residents to sue. - Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

The suburban lawyer who successfully sued Crystal Lake High School District 155 over bleachers at the Crystal Lake South High School football field says he has one small regret in a case he calls a highlight of his legal career: Tom Burney, former Palatine village attorney, wishes he'd mentioned during oral arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court that the bleachers' were as "close as an extra point" to homes -- a quip intended specifically for Justice Robert Thomas of DuPage County, a former Bears kicker. However, Burney notes, the justices can be "a pretty somber group."

Burney was in the news this week for cutting the legal fees the district must pay him as part of the settlement from $317,000 to $273,000, reducing his rate from $400 to $350 an hour. He said that was only fair after the homeowners who sued the district ultimately compromised by agreeing to keep part of the bleachers intact.

Silent treatment

Why haven't GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle talked for months?

Democrat Preckwinkle chalks it up to the Republican governor "borrowing" her chief financial officer, Ivan Samstein, for meetings in Springfield one day a week last year and then declining to help put Republican votes on a pension fix for Cook County unless Preckwinkle backed his pro-business "Turnaround Agenda."

"I said, 'Wait, I didn't ask you for anything when I had Ivan come down and work with you,'" Preckwinkle said. "I made certain judgments about his character that have not changed since. Reciprocity is an important part of the process and human relationships."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rauner's press secretary, Catherine Kelly, shoots back that "the governor has pushed (Preckwinkle's) pension proposal, but the legislature doesn't want to act on it."

Marijuana munchies

James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal was on hand at the Professional Dispensaries of Illinois' Medical Marijuana Expo last week in Buffalo Grove with a few samples of her latest treats, sans the marijuana they'll include at a later date. Segal, who owns Mindy's Hot Chocolate in Chicago, has agreed to make a line of products for Cresco Labs, which plans to operate three cultivation centers in Joliet, Kankakee and Logan County. Products include chocolate brittles, hot chocolate, and granola bites -- all of which will eventually be laced with butter infused with cannabis oil. The edibles are expected to be for sale to licensed patients at the end of the month.

Today's snap

GOP state Reps. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove and Ed Sullivan of Mundelein were in New Hampshire this week to help John Kasich's presidential bid and took the campaign to a graveyard, in true Chicago tradition.
GOP state Reps. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove and Ed Sullivan of Mundelein were in New Hampshire this week to help John Kasich's presidential bid and took the campaign to a graveyard, in true Chicago tradition. - courtesy of ed Sullivan

Yes, these are Chicago-area politicians canvassing for votes ... in a graveyard. With the "vote early, vote often" adage familiar to many Chicagoans, this snap of GOP state reps. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove and Ed Sullivan of Mundelein out in New Hampshire this week to help out John Kasich's presidential campaign prompted a chuckle from many in Kasich's circle, Sullivan says.

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