Illinois Public Media News
Five months after the closing of Columbia Center, the Champaign School Board has confirmed that a regional program will teach most of its students expelled from school for the foreseeable future.
Unit Four school board members voted unanimously Monday night to pay 43-thousand dollars over the next two years for an expanded READY program. The Regional Office of Education for Champaign and Ford Counties operates READY as an alternative program for middle and high school students with behavioral problems. School Board President Dave Tomlinson says READY will be the first choice in such cases. "(The READY program has) been doing a good job for several years," says Tomlinson. "We've transitioned in that (alternative education) category already to READY for this year, so we're going to continue to do that for the foreseeable future."
READY didn't have the capacity this semester to accept all the students that Unit Four wanted to send to it. A few receive home instruction instead --- a program actually designed for students forced to stay home due to medical conditions.
Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services Michael McFarland says the expansion of READY should make it big enough to accept all Unit Four students needing alternative education. He says a few with special education needs will continue to be sent to the Circle Academy at the Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana, or the Pavilion Foundation School in Champaign
A federal judge has turned down a request from the plaintiffs in the Champaign Unit Four Consent Decree case for more hearings.
Attorneys for plaintiffs in the racial equity case had requested hearings on its motions to extend the Consent Decree past June 30th. They also wanted a comprehensive hearing on whether the Champaign school district had been acting in good faith in all its actions to meet the requirements of the decree. But Judge Joe Billy McDade ruled Monday that the decree does not require such hearings.
Unit Four School Board President Dave Tomlinson says he's pleased with the judge's decision. He says the move will limit hearings in the Consent Decree case to whether the district has met specific requirements in special and alternative education and building new classrooms on the north side of Champaign. He denied charges from the plaintiff's attorney that opposing a comprehensive hearing was an attempt to shut out public comment. "This is a court document and we have to fight this in court," Tomlinson said.
Plaintiffs' attorney Carol Ashley could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
An astronaut from Central Illinois will lead NASA's space shuttle mission this afternoon.
The commander leading a seven-member crew on the shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope is University of Illinois graduate Scott Altman. This mission has been long-delayed, originally scheduled for last October. On-board equipment that transmits data back to Earth broke down, and it's taken months for engineers to prepare replacement equipment that the Atlantis crew will take to the Hubble.
This is one of 8 or 9 final missions for the Space Shuttle program. It's expected to be phased out either next year or early 2011, depending on government funding. Altman, who was on three other shuttle missions, says he'd like to believe the U of I could play a role when the Orion space capsule resumes manned missions around 2015.
"When I came to NASA, I'd hoped I would be one of the first people to visit Mars and go beyond where we've been. Now I realize it's the next generation that's going to do that, and it's the people I talk to at Illinois who are going to make that happen and be a key part of that," Altman said. "I kind of envy them (for) that opportunity."
Altman says he's happy to pass the torch to potential astronauts, but he admits he's envious of them when making return visits to his alma mater. Altman received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the U of I in 1990. He's a native of Pekin.
The University of Illinois and the union for graduate student workers on its Urbana campus have agreed to call in a federal mediator to help them reach a contract agreement.
The decision came Tuesday in the second bargaining session between the U of I and the Graduate Employees Organization. Administration spokeswoman Robin Kaler says they hope to eventually reach an agreement that the U of I can afford.
"We're looking to achieve a fair and equitable contract within the budgetary constraints that we face," Kaler said.
Meanwhile, G-E-O spokeswoman Peter Campbell accuses the administration of failing to reply to the contract proposal they offered at last month's bargaining meeting. Instead, he says the U of I negotiators only wanted discuss what he calls extraneous issues.
The current contract for graduate employees runs out August 15th. Campbell says they hope to keep the advances made by that contract and improve wages and benefits, especially health care.
University of Illinois Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman says the recent damage to a Native American exhibit are 'malicious' attacks that impact everyone in the campus community.
In a mass e-mail sent Tuesday, Herman decried the vandalism on the 'Beyond the Chief' exhibit on Nevada Avenue, the most recent occurring over the weekend. He says the U of I has the widest interpretation of free speech and expression, and will not tolerate acts of intimidation, violence or hate. And the director of the U of I's Native American House, Robert Warrior, says American Indian students on campus are echoing those comments. "They're questioning what kind of environment they're having to learn in. How safe is this place?," says Warrior. "And even if it seems physically safe to be on campus most of the time, how safe are the ideas that students are expressing? How safe do they feel, and how welcome do they feel on campus?"
Warrior notes the work of 'Beyond the Chief' artist Edgar Heap of Birds has been on display for more than 20 years in several other communities, and has remained undisturbed. He says the U of I exhibit made up of metal signs has been strengthened to make further attempts to damage the art more difficult. Herman says he's confident the culprits responsible for the damage will be caught.
University of Illinois provost Linda Katehi is leaving the Urbana campus after three years.
A statement from Chancellor Richard Herman's office says Katehi has accepted the chancellor's position at the University of California at Davis. Katehi was an administrator at Purdue University when she was named UIUC provost in 2006. Katehi is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering. In the statement, Herman called Katehi an individual of strong intellect, a leader and a nationally respected scholar. Herman says a search for a new provost will begin as soon as possible. UC Davis officials say Katehi's appointment there will be effective this summer pending approval by the university's Board of Regents. She holds two degrees from UCLA.
A recount of some precincts in the Champaign school district has found no change in the results of a tight school board race. County clerk's officials pored over ballots from 13 out of 52 precincts, and clerk Mark Shelden says in his blog that the results are no different than the Election Night count last month. That means Stig Lanesskog remains the winner by two votes over Lynn Stuckey. Stuckey has the ability to challenge the results in court - she's not immediately available for comment.
A hand recount of ballots Thursday confirmed Dale Munds' one-vote re-election as mayor of Bondville.
The losing candidate, former mayor Karl Kennicker, had requested the recount. "I was worried about the three under-votes," said Kennicker. "There was three people who didn't vote for either one of us for mayor. I wanted to see if by mistake, someone had circled it or put an X through the box, instead of filling in the oval."
But the Champaign County Clerk's blog reported Thursday that the hand recount of ballots showed the same result as the April 7th county by computer --- 47 votes for Munds, 46 votes for Kennicker and three ballots with no votes for mayor.
Kennicker served as mayor of Bondville for 12 years before losing to Munds in 2003. He says he now considers the election settled ... and hasn't decided if he'll seek office again in the future.
Meanwhile, the county clerk's office scheduled another discovery recount for Friday morning, May 1st, at 8:30. Lynn Stuckey requested a recount in the Champaign School Board election, after losing by two votes to Stig Lanesskog.
Seven University of Illinois students have been given the option of coming home or staying in Mexico for the rest of their study-abroad programs.
The assistant director of the U of I's study-abroad office, Erika Ryser, says there isn't much for the students to do since the swine flu outbreak started making headlines last week.
"Their Universities have canceled classes through May 6 -- it's a national move," Ryser said. "So they're all kind of staying put in their housing -- most of them are with host families -- except for those who've made arrangements to come home."
Ryser says the study-abroad office is monitoring health and government websites and working with a network of other university offices to inform their students and determine what to do about summer programs in Mexico. She says two of the seven spring-semester students have opted to return to the United States.
Local health departments are keeping an eye out for the potential of a flu outbreak, but they've been planning for such an occasion for years.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District director Julie Pryde says even though there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Illinois, there are some common sense measures you should be following, whether or not there's an outbreak. One is to stay home from work or school if you're sick.
"If you have a fever, stay home, contact your doctor or your health care provider," Pryde said. "Don't go around other people when you are sick. That's good public health practice in general, but it's especially important during a time where there is a potential for a pandemic outbreak."
The health district has been promoting a "Stock Two for Flu" campaign for the past few years - it asks shoppers to buy one or two extra food items or other personal needs to keep in stock at home in case a flu pandemic keeps them at home. But she stresses that there's no need to fear or panic over the potential.
School officials are trying to spread the word that cleanliness is also important in keeping influenza at bay - principals in Champaign Unit 4 are being asked to make sure their students are regularly washing their hands.
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