About Mid-American Gardener

Mid-American Gardener is a live call-in/roundtable discussion program hosted by horticulture expert Dianne Noland, instructor of five courses in the University of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Dianne received both her bachelor and master of science degrees in horticulture from the U of I and worked for several tree nurseries in central Illinois. Her informal style of engaging and encouraging people, whether experienced or novice gardeners, puts callers and letter writers to Mid-American Gardener at ease.

Dianne is joined by guest experts who are highly trained professionals from around Illinois. Many are University of Illinois professors and Extension advisors with varied expertise in the fields of entomology, horticulture and landscape design. Some are master gardeners, and a few own and operate nurseries and gardening centers.

Dianne and the expert panelists provide roundtable show-and-tell presentations, answer letter and video questions from viewers and provide animated roll-ins featuring fun facts and other gardening questions and answers. Mid-American Gardener, which premiered (under the title Illinois Gardener) on WILL-TV on May 1, 1992, has a loyal following of viewers who tune in to get tips on garden pests, what to plant, diseases attacking lawns and plants, as well as pruning and other basics of plant and tree care specific to Hardiness Zone 5.

Season 5 preview event: Registration closed

image of Downton Abbey cast against backdrop of Downton

7-9 pm Friday, Dec. 12
Virginia Theatre
203 W. Park Ave., Champaign
Doors open at 6:30 pm

Registration for this event is closed.

Those with confirmed reservations will be allowed entry first. Those without reservations will be seated if space is available. If you are coming without a reservation, please come closer to 8 pm just before the preview will be shown.

Join us to watch the first episode of Downton Abbey Season 5, coming to WILL-TV in January.

Lady Mary and Lord GranthamGather a group of friends, put on your finest Downton attire and join the fun! We'll have Downton-related prizes for costume winners, as well as special door prizes. The theater's concession snacks and beverages will be for sale and a cash bar will be available.

To help you wait until the event, here are some Season 5 tidbits:

Maggie Smith Trivia: Take the MASTERPIECE Maggie Smith Trivia Quiz and test your knowledge.

Character Catchup: Lady Mary: Everything you need to know about Downton Abbey's icy and eligible lady, Mary Crawley.

Watch a Season 5 preview:


Michelle Dockery talks about the "new Mary" in season 5: Bringing Sassy Back
Another first look at Season 5:

Downton Abbey Season 5 on Masterpiece premieres January 4, 2015, at 8 pm on WILL-TV.

For DVDs and more Downton Abbey items, visit shopPBS.org.

Trish O’Shaughnessy: Peoria mom puts public school students on path to success

By Robert Holly, CU-CitizenAccess.org / Photo by Darrell Hoemann

Trish O’Shaughnessy first started helping in Peoria public schools because of her two boys, the oldest in middle school and the youngest in fourth grade.

She eagerly volunteered in classrooms and enthusiastically helped staff school events. She worked her way up to be recognized as a leader of her local parent-teacher organization.

Soon, she was appointed the career-tech advocate and coordinator of the Peoria Public School Foundation’s Horizons Club, a pilot middle-school career-readiness program that started at the beginning of last school year.

“You start working with your own kids, and that’s why you go into the schools,” said O’Shaughnessy, a former speech-team standout and graduate of Illinois State University. “Then, you get there, and you realize it’s not about your child – it’s about all these children and how to help them.”

There are more than two dozen schools in Peoria School District 150, the district where O’Shaughnessy spends most of her time. That total includes at least seven middle schools. 

Overall, Illinois State Board of Education data show that schools in the district have performed slightly less than average in terms of achievement testing.

While O’Shaughnessy’s two sons inspired her to first get actively involved in the Peoria public school system, it was the struggling students who led her to fully commit herself to the Horizons Club coordinator position.

“Every student in this district I’ve worked with is so bright and so inquisitive,” O’Shaughnessy said. “I’m just amazed by the things they know and what they want to learn.’

In 2013, the state’s Adequate Yearly Progress Report found that the district was not making adequate yearly progress in either reading or mathematics.

Last year, Peoria Public School District 150 had a high-school graduation rate of 71 percent, lower than the state graduation rate of 83 percent. The year before, the district had a graduation rate of only 69 percent, compared to the state rate of 82 percent.

Reversing the negative

As coordinator, O’Shaughnessy helps reverse some of the negative statistics through the Horizons Club.

She connects promising and struggling students alike to potential careers by introducing them to notable central Illinois professionals. For example, through the club and O’Shaughnessy’s efforts as coordinator, about 25 students in three schools have mingled with police chiefs and business owners, learning what it takes to be successful in the process.

Olivia Streeter, a middle-school student who joined the Horizons Club this past year, said the club has helped her work on goal-setting techniques. She also said it helped her learn the value of teamwork.

“Horizons Club has made me feel very confident about what I want to do,” Streeter said.

Nearly two dozen professionals spoke at Horizons Club meetings throughout the program’s pilot year.

Chris Monroe – a Peoria entrepreneur who owns a handful of businesses, including a coffee shop, a medical supply company and a boutique that provides clothes designed for individuals diagnosed with breast cancer – was one of the professionals who became actively involved.

“When I spoke to the kids, one of the things I shared with them mostly was how to take advantage of the opportunities that comes,” said Monroe, who focused on the concepts of stewardship, teamwork, integrity and passion.

“I think it’s important for the business community to interact with the kids, especially in the public schools,” he said.

Career-readiness program prepares for expansion

During the Horizons Club’s inaugural year, it reached about 75 students, most handpicked by principals.

During this upcoming school year, the club will reach hundreds of students in five different middle schools.

“We will be impacting significantly more students this year, in the number of about 400 students,” said Cindy Morris, who manages the Peoria Public Schools Foundation. “Our foundation board believed that this career and college readiness was a focus that we should be involved in.”

Rolling Acres, Calvin Coolidge, Von Steuben, Thomas Jefferson and Glen Oak middle schools will all be a part of the program.

The expansion of Horizons Club, which also hosts annual career fairs in addition to its weekly gatherings, was a result of a successful first year, Morris said.

“We do surveys with the students,” she said. “We talk to their families, the schools, and they all just say it’s been incredible.’

“The program has been very rewarding for me,” Streeter said.

Moving forward, Morris said Horizons Club will keep track of its students to monitor the program’s impact.

Morris met O’Shaughnessy about six years ago through parent-teacher organization commitments. She said O’Shaughnessy has been “the perfect person” to lead the program because of her compassion and passion for students.

“She looks at every student in the Horizons Club as her own Family,” Morris said.

Overall, Illinois education data show that about three out of every five of the state’s schools meet or exceed achievement testing “cut scores,” or the thresholds between different performance levels.

Illinois is one of 43 states that have adopted the somewhat controversial Common Core Standards, which seek to provide clear-cut benchmarks for academic progress.

However, the state’s overall high-school graduation rate has decreased from 87 percent in 2009 to 83 percent in 2013.

Recently, Illinois education officials have also widely used career-readiness programs in attempt to raise state education statistics. Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, who Governor Pat Quinn appointed as his point person on education, has made such programs a cornerstone of her work.

“Nationally, there is a trend to help students younger and younger make some choices about their careers,” O’Shaughnessy said.


This story is funded in part by a $10,000 grant from WNET that WILL-TV received in partnership with WTVP-TV in Peoria and CU-Citizen Access, a community journalism project of the University of Illinois College of Media. These stories are airing in September between programs this month as WILL-TV gears up for a day of broadcasting about the dropout crisis, American Graduate Day, from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, Sept. 27. You can learn more online at will.illinois.edu/americangraduateday. 

A look at Illinois public education through the eyes of its administrators

By Robert Holly, CU-CitizenAccess / Photo by Darrell Hoemann

Nearly 4,000 schools.  850 district.  2 million students and 127,000 teachers.

And as the Illinois state superintendent of education, it is Christopher Koch’s job to watch over all of them.“I oversee the implantation of pre-K through 12 education,” said Koch, who has held his position since the end of 2006. “We need to look not just at whether kids are attaining a grade level, but whether they’re closing achievement gaps that are in place.”

It is a system in which graduation rates have declined in the past five years – although they remain above the national average – and state achievement test scores have dropped as well.

To close those achievement gaps, Koch said he has largely focused on strengthening education standards and improving data collection. For example, during his time as superintendent, Koch has helped transition Illinois into becoming one of the 43 states under the Common Core standards.

The Common Core program defines itself as “a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts.” Proponents of Common Core – designed by a collaboration of teachers, administrators and education experts – claim the program creates more rigorous standards and requirements for students in order to graduate high school. In theory, the program sets a uniform benchmark level for what students need to know.

Illinois officially became a Common Core state in June of 2010.

Raising the bar

“Raising the bar for teachers and principals has meant a couple of things in the state,” Koch said. “First of all, it means that we have high standards, that we’ve reviewed the standards of other states and other countries and adopted the standards that we’ve adopted.”

The only states that have not adopted the Common Core standards are Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Nebraska, Indiana and Virginia.

But, even in Illinois, some skeptics are critical of the standards, arguing that stiff requirements do not afford flexibility when it comes to individual schools. Additionally, critics say the Common Core standards place prominence on English and math, but neglect other key areas such as the music and art.

In an open letter to Peru Elementary School District 124 parents, Superintendent Mark Cross wrote that “we believe that kids should be well-rounded, with an emphasis on a solid foundation for learning across all subjects by the time they get to high school and later college.”

“The state and federal government have failed epically in their misguided attempts at ‘reforming’ public education,” the letter continued.

Andrea Brown, a member of the Illinois State Board of Education, said she supports the job Koch has been doing. She said much of the criticism simply comes from a tentativeness to embrace change.

“He’s very committed to making sure he touches base with everybody that has a part in this,” she said. “And, that’s not always easy, because there’s always a little pushback when you’re talking about change.”

Changes in Standards

A review of state education data shows that changes in standards have also lead to what seems to be a sudden drop off in test scores, a trend especially evident when looking at the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.

In 2011, 79 percent of Illinois students met the achievement test’s standards for reading, while 86 percent of students met the achievement test’s standards for mathematics. Students recorded the same scores for both categories in 2012, as well, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Last year, those numbers plummeted.

Only 59 percent of Illinois students met the achievement test’s standards for both reading and mathematics.

Education administrators worked to raise the achievement test’s reading and math benchmarks in January of last year. They cite the drop in test scores as a result of the fact it became more challenging overall.

This school year, administrators will do away with the Illinois Standards Achievement Test entirely and transition to a new testing system that is fully aligned to the state’s Common Core standards.

In the face of political pressures, administrators remain hopeful

Despite the concerns and differences in opinion, Koch is currently one of the longest-serving state superintendents in the entire country, a fact his supporters say is a testament to Koch’s effectiveness and ability to lead.

“I believe that Christopher Koch is a leader in education – nationally and at the state level, both,” said Brown, who has been involved with Illinois education since 1957 when she first became a teacher in a rural school in southern Illinois. “He is able to put conflicts and concerns into a win-win situation with various groups.”

“I have seen many superintendents through the years, and he ranks at the top,” she added.

Additionally, David Fields, who serves alongside Brown on the Illinois State Board of Education, said Koch’s longevity is impressive considering the current polarized political climate.

“We were sort of at each other’s throat in the state in terms of education and the state board,” Fields said. “I think he’s been able to bring everyone together in a less confrontational manner.”

Although Illinois has experienced many well-publicized financial woes, data show that the yearly per student instructional cost has increased during the previous five years under Koch’s leadership.

In 2009, the per student instructional cost – the amount directly dealing with the reaching of students or the interaction between students and teachers – was $6,103.

Last year, that total increased to $6,974, a figure that reflects the national average of about $6,800, according to National Center for Education Statics data.

As state superintendent, Koch earns a salary of $222,468.

“I think we have, certainly, some challenges ahead, financially,” said Fields, who has worked in public education since the early 1960s when he started as a Danville High School teacher. “We will always have challenges because we do not have a standard kid that repots to school every day.”

A portrait of the Illinois public school student

When it comes to student demographics, Illinois is almost perfectly binary in terms of both race and income.

About half of its students are listed as “White,” according to state education data. Black students make up the largest minority demographic at about 18 percent.

And about half of Illinois students are classified as low income.

“We have two million youngsters plus, and they’re all different.” Fields said. “And, I’m grateful that they’re all different, but that means we have to constantly be moving and challenging ourselves to improve upon what we do with our youngsters in our classrooms every day.”

State education data show that most of Illinois’ public students graduate in four years, though overall numbers have declined from five years ago.

In 2009, 87 percent of Illinois seniors graduated from high school.

Last year, the number fell to 83 percent.

Still, last year’s graduation rate for Illinois seniors was better than many other states. The national graduation rate checks in at about 80 percent, according to the most recent statistics from the Department of Education.

Moving forward as the state superintend, Koch will work to keep those graduation rates high.

“Education matters immensely to the wellbeing of an individual,” Koch said.


This story is funded in part by a $10,000 grant from WNET that WILL-TV received in partnership with WTVP-TV in Peoria and CU-Citizen Access, a community journalism project of the University of Illinois College of Media. These stories are airing in September between programs this month as WILL-TV gears up for a day of broadcasting about the dropout crisis, American Graduate Day, from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, Sept. 27. You can learn more online at will.illinois.edu/americangraduateday. 

Marques Lowe: Chambana coach brings inspiration, mentorship to area youth

By Cheryl Silver, CU-CitizenAccess / Photo by Darrell Hoemann

Accountability, trust, leadership, respect – these are just a few of the 20 core values Marques Lowe taught boys in his Young Gentlemen’s Club at Franklin Middle School in Champaign, Ill.

A 2013 Illinois State Board of Education report shows Champaign public schools’ four year high school graduation rate at just over 86 percent, approximately three percent higher than the state average.

That same year, the Champaign school district reported a 2.7 percent high school dropout rate, compared to 2.4 percent statewide. That’s why, Lowe said, his message of hope and success is so important for his Young Gentlemen’s Club students to hear.

“My job was to teach them,” said Lowe, who credits his own mentor for pushing him through some challenging times. “These life lesson skills to carry on through high school, through college, and then to everyday life.”

In 2010, while completing a master’s program in educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lowe worked as a teacher’s aide and coach at Franklin, where, according to Illinois Report Card, nearly two out of every three students is considered low-income. A 7th grader asked Lowe why the school had so many programs for girls but so few for young men.

“And that got me thinking about what I could do to give back,” Lowe said. “I always wanted to be an advocate for the youth and, you know, use what I learned as a young child and growing up to give back.”

Young Gentleman’s Club

With the support of Franklin’s principal and the stamp of approval from his University of Illinois professors, Lowe created the Young Gentlemen’s Club. Anyone was welcome to join, but the club targeted at risk boys performing below grade level or coming   from low-income or single-parent homes.

“I grew up in a very rough neighborhood,” Lowe said. “It was to the point where, you know, getting chased home was just really, really tiring and you having to fight for, you know, your life.”

Middle-school parent Kimberly Lomax said she believes Lowe’s background inspired her son, Leon Lomax, a Young Gentlemen’s Club member in 6th and 7th grade.

“Coming from Chicago and working his way up, getting his masters, and also just being in the community, my son feels that he can do that,” she said.

“He’s taught me to stay focused and basically work toward your goals and not just sit there and let your goals come to you,” Leon said. “You have to work toward your goals.”

“All of my boys are on target to graduate high school,” Lowe said.

In 2011, the Illinois State Board of Education recognized Lowe’s work with an excellence award, calling him “an outstanding role model, confidante and asset to the students and staff of Franklin Middle School.”

Champaign city council members Karen Foster and Paul Faraci nominated Lowe for a 2013 Angels Among Us award. Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said Lowe’s desire to make an impact on the lives of others extends beyond the classroom.

“It’s just a passion he has – working with young people and not only helping them to achieve their dreams, but actually helping them to realize that they have dreams,” Gerard said.

A Mentor

A former Junior Olympian and co-captain of the University of Illinois track and field team, Lowe also founded the USA Track and Field Vipers Track Club in 2010. He said that he considers himself a mentor to the athletes he coaches as well.

“If they can set goals on the track, I compare that to the classroom,” he said. “Ok, you got a C in this class. Let’s set a goal that during the next term period you can get a B. What are the steps that you’re going to take to get that grade up?”

Gerard said Lowe is a coach and mentor who really sees the big picture.

“It’s not just about getting the fastest time,” Gerard said. “It’s about being the best that you can be and the best that you can be is not just on the track or on the basketball court. It’s in the classroom. It’s in the home. It’s in your community.”

“He just really taught me what hard work is and to settle down and focus on one thing at a time,” said Zakkori Johnson, a former Vipers member. “I’m going to Michigan State now, so I’m just ready to use what he’s taught me.”

Lowe resigned from his job with the Champaign School District in June, but he said his work with kids is far from over. 

“We need more advocates in the community,” Lowe said. “We need more mentors. And I hope to be that for a very long time.”


This story is funded in part by a $10,000 grant from WNET that WILL-TV received in partnership with WTVP-TV in Peoria and CU-Citizen Access, a community journalism project of the University of Illinois College of Media. These stories are airing in September between programs this month as WILL-TV gears up for a day of broadcasting about the dropout crisis, American Graduate Day, from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, Sept. 27. You can learn more online at will.illinois.edu/americangraduateday. 

Information for the Public

Board of Trustees

Meet the Trustees: http://www.bot.uillinois.edu  

Board of Trustees meeting schedule


IPM Community Advisory Committee

Members, meeting schedule and contact information: http://www.will.illinois.edu/about/advisorycommittee

IPM Community Advisory Committee members may be contacted via this e-mail address: ipmadvisorycommittee@illinois.edu

IPM Management

(see documents below)

Local Content and Service Report


Annual CPB Financial Report

As a public entity, the financial records of Illinois Public Media are available for review by the public. 

The documents that are available are:

  1. Annual financial reports filed with CPB;
  2. Audited statements or other financial statements filed with CPB.  These include the reports from CPB-required audits conducted by independent certified public accountants or state-certified independent public accountants, according to CPB adopted audit standards, and the financial statements that CPB may permit to be submitted in lieu of such audit reports under certain circumstances; and
  3. Other information regarding finances submitted to CPB related to any funding agreement with CPB that requires a financial report.

WILL is licensed to the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois and is not required to file IRS form 990 and has not equal information to report for the current fiscal year.

Use the link below to obtain the latest annual financial report.


Noncurrent financial documents are available for review by appointment only, or you may obtain a copy of any of these documents by contacting:

            Illinois Public Media

            Business Office

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            Urbana IL 61801

            Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Copies of all documents are available for a copy fee of 25 cents per single-sided page and 50 cents per two-sided page.

Station Activity Surveys (SAS)

(see PDF documents below)

IPM Diversity Policy

Policy: https://will.illinois.edu/about/diversity

Report: https://will.illinois.edu/about/diversityreports


Illinois Public Media is licensed to the University of Illinois and receives gifts through the University of Illinois Foundation.  The University of Illinois Foundation acknowledges and accepts responsibility for the fiduciary commitment to be good stewards of all donor gifts.  The Foundation pledges the following commitments, developed to reflect the highest standards of integrity and accountability.  http://www.uif.uillinois.edu/AboutUIF/Stewardship.php

Listening Index or Community Financial Support Index

Join the June Jumpstart!

Our June Jumpstart Drive made a quick start out of the blocks! In just a few short hours on Monday, our radio donors were able to match the challenge offered by a local couple, getting our drive off to a great start with $60,000 raised. Our TV drive is also off to a successful beginning. Thank you to everyone who has made a gift so far.

If you have not yet made a gift, please know that it is very important to continue our tremendous start during the final fundraising month of our current fiscal year. Our overall goal for the month is $350,000, so your contribution will still make a huge impact on our fundraising goal and on the range of fantastic programming we're able to offer you.

To make your June Jumpstart gift now, visit our secure online giving page.

Have lunch with Garrison Keillor at Frasca Field!

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

11:30 am Wednesday, May 7
Frasca Field, 1402 Airport Rd. Urbana

Come have a box lunch and listen to Garrison Keillor, who will read from his new book and answer your questions during his stop at Frasca Field. Make a $50 gift to WILL to get a ticket to the event, plus lunch!

He'll be signing his book, The Keillor Reader, and you'll be able to purchase a copy at the event, which takes place inside a hangar full of vintage airplanes and cars.The Keillor Reader brings together the full range of his work: monologues from A Prairie Home Companion, stories from The New Yorker and The Atlantic, excerpts from novels, and newspaper columns. With an extensive introduction and headnotes, photographs, and memorabilia, the book also presents pieces never before published, including the essays “Cheerfulness” and “What We Have Learned So Far.”

Keillor—a storyteller, sometime comedian, essayist, newspaper columnist, screenwriter, poet— has hosted A Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul, Minn., since 1974. Today, some 4 million listeners on more than 600 public radio stations coast to coast and beyond tune in to the show each week. Keillor has been honored with Grammy, ACE, and George Foster Peabody awards, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In addition to The Keillor Reader, his many books include Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance, and Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny. He is the host of the daily program The Writer's Almanac and the editor of several anthologies of poetry.

Tickets purchased after May 2 will be emailed, or if necessary, provided for pick up with a photo ID at Will Call at the event. Tickets can also be picked up Monday or Tuesday at WILL's Campbell Hall. Tickets must be purchased with a credit card. 

Reading ‘The Address’

Illinois Public Media staff joined with our Community Advisory Committee members and University of Illinois College of Media staff to remember the Gettysburg Address by reading the speech ahead of the PBS presentation of Ken Burns’ The Address at 8 pm Tuesday, April 15, on WILL-TV.

The Gettysburg Address: A Reading from WILL

In The Address, Burns tells the story of the Greenwood School in Putney, Vermont, where each year the students are encouraged to memorize, practice and recite the Gettysburg Address in front of their classmates and teachers.

Students at Greenwood  prepare for delivering The Gettysburg Address
In its exploration of Greenwood—whose students, boys ages 11-17, all face a range of complex learning differences—the film also unlocks the history, context and importance of President Lincoln’s most powerful address.

Ken Burns and PBS are challenging people across the country, especially students, to create a video of themselves reading or reciting the Gettysburg Address. Join the project by sharing your Gettysburg Address at learntheaddress.org.