Friday, June 26, 2015

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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By Nancy Thorner – 

George Orwell more than 30 years ago, coined the term “doublethink” in his novel, 1984. “Doublethink” is still very much alive today in discussing and debating Climate Change.

From a featured slide at Hearthland Institute’s recent International Climate Change Conference 10:

  • Doublethink means holding two contradictory beliefs in mind simultaneously (cooling is warming) and accepting both as true.  We thereby become unaware of any discrepancy between true and false.
  • Doublethink mostly stems from total belief in an ideology as in any kind of ISM, like Communism.  The ISM holds the “truth”, as embedded in the language of climatism, the subject of a book by Steve Goreham, “The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism.”
  • Contrived language (C means CO2 can distort and corrupt our thinking, make us stupidly unaware of lies, and fail to question our leaders.  Control the language and you control the people, and hence the society — which is the route to dystopia.

Following are examples of doublethink that are inherent in the Climate Change lexicon:  The immediate intent is to deceive, but the ultimate aim is always to control (a featured slide at ICCC-10):

  • Carbon Dioxide is soot
  • Extremely likely is 95%
  • Climate is Weather
  • Denier is Liar
  • Skeptic is Septic
  • Social License is Green Approval
  • Mitigation is Prevention

The present time as a “pile of filth”?

Despite the doublethink inherent in climate change with its intent to deceive, such as when deniers are called liars, it is amazing that the American people ranked climate change dead last among eight other listed concerns in a recent Gallop poll .  But will public opinion change in lieu of the Vatican’s recently released encyclical by Pope Francis in which the pope blames climate change on human activity and subsequently refers to the present time as a “pile of filth”?

This brash terminology seems to fly in the face of history and reason and more of less redefines the best of all possible times as a living hell-hole.  Granted, many still live in squalor without electricity and even denied electricity, yet we live in luxury that even kings a few centuries ago could only dream about.  One only needs to look at the filth and squalor in which previous generations lived to know that most people in the past would have given anything to be born now.  How is it possible to promote fossil fuel as somehow evil, when it created and made possible the fantastic modern world we live in today?

Although it’s impossible to determine how the Pope’s encyclical will influence the attitude (concerns) of the American people over Climate Change, the Pope, performing much like a lobbyist, is urging prayers for passage of the UN Climate treaty, even telling his faithful “to ask God for a positive outcome” at the upcoming December Paris UN conference.

Heartland goes to Italy

In late April, the Heartland Institute sent a delegation to the Vatican “hoping to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global warming crisis!”  Seven scientists and other experts gave speeches at a Heartland event held near the Vatican, raising doubts about various aspects of the scientific consensus on climate change, and further urging the pope not to take sides.

The conclusion reached by the Heartland delegation was that Pope Francis had already made up his mind on the question of global warming. A French doubter, Philippe de Larminat, after achieving a spot at the Pope’s climate summit, was told there were no spaces left for him. As de Larminat said, “They did not want to hear an off note.” Philippe de Larminat authored a book arguing that solar activity, not greenhouse gases, was driving global warming.

The U.N.’s role in climate change remains paramount as it continues to move full steam ahead with a major December international climate conference in Paris.  At the December climate conference 196 countries will meet to sign an agreement to be adopted that will take the form of a protocol — a legal instrument or “an agreed outcome with legal force”– that will be applicable to all parties, and which will reflect ambitious outcomes that will have a real impact on tackling climate change.

Any U.N. agreement would not be grounded in sound science.  Its established protocol would impose economic burdens greatly affecting living standards, not only on the American people, but on individuals whose nations are signed signatories to the protocol.  Most certainly a U.N adopted protocol would be a slap in the face of the many renowned scientists who gathered recently at the The Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-10) in Washington, D.C. on June 11 and 12, who are in agreement that CO2 is not a pollutant, nor does it cause global warming.  Fred Singer and Willie Soon, as noted in Article 2, predicted how a Little Ice Age could be on the horizon as a consequence of natural climate cycles and the influence of the sun on the climate, most certainly not CO2 induced!

Relevant questions not subject to review

The three questions noted below, although topics of discussion at the Heartland-sponsored ICCC-10 conference in Washington, D.C. on June 11 – 12, were not subject for review by the Pope. The questions were likewise ignored by the U.N. and others who believe and advocate that climate change is settled science caused by man and that the continued use of fossil fuels will result in horrendous, although unsubstantiated future calamities for Mother Earth.

1.  Is the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere a net positive or net negative for plant life, animals, and human prosperity?

2.  What is the cost of restrictions on energy generation and consumption imposed by the Obama administration and the United Nations?

3.  It is moral to withhold affordable and reliable energy from the impoverished living in the United States and those in developing countries?

What happens if the global warming theory doesn’t fit the data?  Just change the data, as was done by NASA.

Having been documented and verified to be so, global atmospheric temperature had not risen since 1998 (18 years and four months to be exact), despite human carbon dioxide emissions over that period representing 25 percent of all emissions since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution some150 years ago. So it was in early 2013 that a number of scientific and public commentators began to suggest that the phenomena was merely a “pause,” a “slowdown,” and a “hiatus.”  After another analysis of the temperature data since 1998, and through “adjusting” (fudging data) the numbers, NASA reported magically that there was no plateau after all, that the warming actually continued.

Climate change as biggest environmental challenge of our time? Really!

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy remarked at a White House summit on climate change and health on Tuesday, June 23: “Climate change is not just the biggest environmental challenge of our time, it is the biggest public health challenge of our time.” Accordingly, President Obama has moved climate change to the top of his agenda, both domestically and internationally, for the rest of his term. Really!

Perhaps it would behoove the White House to read how Global Warming was described by Robert Tracinski in his “Federalist” article on June 8th: “The Theory that Predicts Nothing and Explains Everything.”

Articles by Thorner about  the June 11-12 ICCC-10 conference in Washington, D.C.:

Heartland Institute Honors Sen. Inhofe for Challenging Climate Change Myths 

What if the Pope’s Encyclical Destroys Rather Than Save Humanity 

Part 4:  Positive results of modest global warming through eyes of leading scientists and speakers at ICCC-10.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

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Saturday, June 20, 2015


 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

By Nancy Thorner – 

Chicago Tribune headline of Wednesday, April, 20, 2015, “Study:  Exelon Aid Could Cost $1.6B”, told of an Exelon-backed bill, framed as supporting clean energy production, that could benefit Exelon’s nuclear plants, while costing ratepayers an additional $1.6 billion on their electric bills through 2021.  The bill was cited as “a corporate bailout” by critics.

Although the article was of concern to me given my interest in nuclear energy as a clean, reliable source of energy, offering the biggest bang for the buck, it was put on the back burner, that is, until I read a related article by H. Sterling Burnett, published on May 26 at The Heartland Institute’s “Somewhat Reasonable” site, “Illinois Shouldn’t Bail Out Profitable Exelon’s Nuclear Plants.”  Burnett’s article goes on to say:

Exelon, a huge utility with the largest fleet of nuclear plants in the U.S. is trying to extort increased subsidies from ratepayers and taxpayers in Illinois, threatening to close three under-performing nuclear power plants serving the state if the state government doesn’t throw some more money.

But what really caught my attention was the following paragraph which pointed to Exelon’s perchance for secrecy.

In fairness, it’s hard to assess whether Exelon’s three plants are actually losing money since, though the company is asking for additional subsidies, it refuses to open its financial records to public scrutiny. Despite Exelon’s claimed financial woes, the energy company recorded a net profit of more than $2 billion in 2014. Even if these plants aren’t profitable at current electric prices, it doesn’t mean they won’t be if prices rise as expected in the future.

Consider one of Exelon’s revenue-losing nuclear plants, its Clinton Plant, that Exelon is threatening to close.  As reported on Thursday, April 16, 2015, by Steve Daniels of Crain’s Chicago Business, Clinton was to receive a windfall worth $50 million resulting from a revenue increase from a spike in downstate Illinois electricity bills.  Although another article on April 22 by Daniels in Crain’s Chicago Business reduced the windfall to the Clinton nuclear plant to $13 million, an amount that wouldn’t solve Clinton financial problem, this still raises the question whether Illinois lawmakers should grand special favors to Exelon when it’s demonstrating success in persuading regional grid operators and their federal regulators to alter capacity markets in order to funnel more cash to nuclear plants and other generators.

If Exelon is demanding taxpayers guarantee solid profits from ever individual component of it nuclear power plant fleet, shouldn’t taxpayers reasonably demand in return that Exelon not keep excessive profits from an individual component of its fleet?  On the contrary, Exelon has not offered to return excessive profits from its other power plants.

Fate of Exelon-owned Dual Zion Nuclear Plant in Zion, IL

Exelon’s method of operation has not changed.  Secrecy is still present which results in the fleecing of rate payers.  Secrecy was also involved in the premature closing of the Exelon-owned Dual Zion Nuclear Plants in Zion, IL, in the mid-90’s for repairs, followed by a decision not to restart the units on February 13, 1998, with reasons at the time that did not meet the smell test

In the 1990s, Commonwealth Edison, the monopoly electric utility that built and operated many of the nuclear plants that are now owned and operated by Exelon as a merchant plant operator, was having difficulty managing and maintaining its nuclear plants. They were achieving low capacity factors, appearing on Nuclear Regulatory Commission watch lists, and suffering from power struggles between labor unions and management.

Zion, like many of the other Commonwealth Edison units, had issues that culminated in a group of operators resisting management orders and taking off their shirts in the control room. There were some other complicating circumstances, but the bottom line was that the company shut down both units of the plant and decided to keep them shut down. The decision allowed the company to fire or reassign the recalcitrant union members and to establish a more powerful position over the behavior of employees. At the time, replacement power was cheap since natural gas was selling for less than $2.00 per million BTU and since the midwest was shedding much of its manufacturing base, reducing the overall electricity demand.

In other words, the Zion Nuclear Facility, which was entirely paid for in full by charges to ratepayers, had the appearance of being intentionally shut down by the owner and kept shut down by the owner to reduce the amount of low-cost supply of electricity into the market to jack up the market prices for Exelon’s remaining fleet of generation units.  As a taxpayer who helped pay to have the Zion plants built, and who would likely experience higher electric costs, this was a double whammy for me. Isn’t this type of market manipulation illegal under the Federal Power Act.

It was in 2010 that Thorner’s involvement in the fate of Exelon-owned Dual Zion Nuclear Plants became a crusade. At the time Thorner implored Exelon to reconsider its1998 decision to shutter the Zion nuclear power stations, ensuring the reactors never again produced electricity. My attempts to convince Exelon that times had changed and that a 2,200 mWe emission-free nuclear power station would be worth fixing up, fell on deaf ears.

Troubling was when on September 1, 2010, Exelon transferred the possession only license to ZionSolutions, LLC for a 10 year, one billion dollar decommissioning project. The $800 million decommissioning trust fund was likewise handed over to ZionSolutions, LLC to spend without the ability for any customer oversight to assure that if money were left after the decommissioning, it would be returned to ratepayers. Companies involved would simply inflate their bills, attribute unrelated expenses, and assert outsized profit margins that will combine to make the vanishing act seem legitimate.

I also hit a brick wall when communicating with members of the Illinois House and Senate, who seemed hesitate to tackle such a powerful and influential Chicago corporation which freely doles out campaign donations.

Result of lawsuits filed to ascertain the spending of Zion’s decommissioning trust fund

A new tack was called for.  A lawsuit was filed on July 14, 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District by a Pennsylvania-based lawyer asking that a court-appointed third party manage the trust fund which Commonwealth Edison customers paid into from 1998 to 2006.  Thorner was one of four citizen plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  Following is a quote from an August 10, 2011 article by Julie Wernau of the Chicago Tribune titled, Lawsuit filed over Zion plant :                         :                  “No qualified person or entity has been appointed to act as a trustee with respect to the trust funds to fully protect the rights of ComEd’s customers … or to review the withdrawals,” the suit asserts.

The case could have been a significant one in determining how decommissioning costs are handled, therefore setting a precedent for other Illinois nuclear reactors that ultimately are mothballed. Each plant has a similar decommissioning fund that in total amounts to $4 billion—money paid by Illinois consumers.

For sake of brevity, the decision made by the district court judge was not favorable. This was followed by an appeal of the decision to the court of appeals at which time the group of judges affirmed the original court’s decision in a written opinion in late January of 2014.  A further request was made for the judges to “reconsider” their January decision because of errors, but they refused in a one phrase order which then ended the case.  The final decision:  The public had no right to know how the Zion decommissioning funds were being spent

Will Exelon again be successful in extort increased subsidies from ratepayers? 

Although the Zion lawsuit might be in the past, it does give insight into Exelon’s mode of operation.  The real story that affects rate payers today is how Exelon is withholding power from two or three of its Illinois nukes, which have jacked up prices recently, yet is refusing to open its books to the public to show whether the plants can be run profitably.  At the same time Exelon Corp. wants electricity users to pay about $2 more a month to help fund what the company says are several struggling nuclear plants.

As with the dual Zion reactors located in Zion, IL now undergoing decommissioning, secrecy remains prevalent at Exelon as the Corporation angles with other players for an edge in Illinois’ multi-billion-dollar electricity economy.  Will Exelon’s power, money and political influence result in the “corporate bailout” Exelon insists it needs, while ratepayers are left on the hook?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Thorner: Powerful veteran stories reveal post-war mental and physical afflictions

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By Nancy Thorner – 

Yesterday’s Part 1 set the stage for sharing in today’s Part 2 veteran stories collected from real veterans through audio-recorded interviews, as presented at an event sponsored by Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation on May 29th at Gorton Center in Lake Forest. “Veterans Voices” had its world premiere at the Filament Theatre in November of 2013.

In each of the five stories as presented by actors at “Erasing The Distance,” war experiences created mental and physical anguish which resulted in Post-Traumatic Stress.  The stories however do not in any way represent isolated experiences but are indicative of what thousands of veterans are experiencing post service in the military.

  • Ashley (played by Jaclyn Hennell) loses 26 men in her unit during service in Iraq. She comes back punching holes in walls and recklessly driving her motorcycle before realizing that something is terribly wrong.
  • Thomas (played by Tom McElroy) comes home from the Vietnam War and builds a fruitful corporate career. 30 years later as he retires, his PTSD finally gets the better of him.
  • David (played by Charles Stransky) sees tremendous loss of those close to him during his time in Vietnam. He struggles to make sense of it all for almost 40 years, until the right therapist opens the door and David finally begins to get help.
  • Vanessa (played by Alice da Cunha) deals with her brother when he comes home with PTSD after his third tour in Afghanistan, and his struggle for support is blocked by bureaucratic red tape.
  • Emily (played by Amy J. Carle) travels the world with the Navy and finds professional success over a decade of service, but is disturbed to witness abuses of power within the ranks. Personally devastated by the effects of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she ultimately leaves the military and uses art to ignite dialogue around her experiences.

Before viewing “Veterans Voices”, hearing much talk about PTS, I had never given it much thought.  I must even confess that the condition sounded a bit phony, never having personally known a veteran suffering from PTS.  How wrong I was!  It is real and debilitating for those who are coping with it.

Kudos to Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation for offering a community of support and help, not bound by legal or traditional military restrictions, to veterans, military personnel and their families suffering from the effects of war or deployment.

Erasing the Distance productions are available for engagement at your organization.  Call Artistic Director, Brighid O’Shaughnessy at 872-529-1383 to see how your group might arrange for a performance.
Related articles

Thorner: Help close at hand for war-weary veterans in Lake County

Published initially on Tuesday, 6/2:http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2015/06/thorner-help-close-at-hand-for-war-weary-veterans-in-lake-county.html#more

Slightly edited version below as posted on website of County Veterans and Family Services Foundation on 6/2: http://lakevetsfound.org/news/item/lake-forest-erasing-the-distance-performance-a-stunner

“Veterans Voices” Performance In Lake Forest a Stunner

By Nancy Thorner –  writes for Illinois Review

Local cable-TV celebrity Bev Cooper, hostess of “Cooper’s Corner” was in attendance at the special presentation of Veterans Voices at Gorton Community Theater in Lake Forest during Memorial Week

With the celebration of Memorial Day in May, it is all together fitting to designate May as Military Appreciation Month as a time to turn remembrances into action. An event filling the criteria was presented by Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation at the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest, in front of a captivated, pensive, and reflective audience.

The foundation has as its motto: “Help from Those Who Have Been There.” The organization serves all service members in Lake County by advancing trauma-informed care to veterans, reservists, guardsmen and their families while transforming the way services are delivered. Some of the special needs addressed are post-traumatic stress; domestic violence, substance abuse; mood issues such as suicidal thoughts; re-deployment, discharge or reintegration; grief; education employment and vocation support; financial support; and homelessness.

Founded by Vietnam veteran Paul A. Baffico, MJ Hodgins serves as LCVFSF Director of Community Development. If you are a military/veteran and/or family provider, just one of the many programs offered is the opportunity to apply through the Foundation for Gestalt Equine Psychotherapy at Horsefeathers Therpeutic Riding Center. Check here to donate or to volunteer.

Given that many veterans suffering from PTS, stress, depression and others medical conditions experience difficulty relating and adjusting to society as productive citizens, even with their wives and families, a recent addition to the Grayslake facility is the DryHootch Coffee Room Drop-in Center where veterans can feel comfortable, protected and accepted in the company of other former or active service members.

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The Self-Service Coffee Bar at the DryHootch Drop-In Center

Of note is that Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation founder Paul Baffico is also an author and has his own story to tell in his book, “Last Mission for a Reluctant Patriot”, which takes the reader through crucial moments of the experience that defined his life and emotional state and that eventually motivated him to be healed by a most unforeseen encounter with a buried past.

The nature of the May event sponsored by Midwest Palliative and Hospice CareCenter, Lake Forest Bank and Trust, and the Koziol Family Foundation was a powerful theatrical production titled “Veterans Voices”, produced by “Erasing the Distance.” Founded in 2005, “Erasing the Distance” is a nonprofit organization that sheds light on mental health issues through theatre. Brighid O’Shaughnessy is the Founder/Artistic Director.

Veterans Voices” had its world premiere at the Filament Theatre in Chicago in November of 2013. It was originally created with students from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. As such the theatrical production offers an impactful way to learn about the personal and mental health issues facing servicemen and service women, veterans, and their families, from all eras and all branches of the military.

The five veteran voice stories presented at the Lake Forest event were collected from real people via audio-recorded interviews. The stories were transcribed, edited and shaped into theatrical monologues for performance by professional actors. The actors although accustomed to performing on a stage, at Gorton Center they were at eye level, making for a very thrilling, close-up presentation.

Observe here the “Veterans Voices” story of development.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

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By Nancy Thorner –

The upscale community of Lake Forest remains in a turmoil over what was to be a fast-track approval at a hurriedly arranged 7:00 a.m. Special Meeting of Lake Forest Board of Education District 115 on Tuesday, May 26, to discuss the hiring of Dr. Chala Holland, an African American administrator now serving as assistant principal at Oak Park and River Forest High School, as the sole candidate for the position of principal at Lake Forest High School. Ms. Holland was picked from a pool of 25 candidates. Eight were interviewed, culling the pool down to three. Through interviews conducted by teachers and administrators, Holland was chosen as the finalist.

The LFHS principal search began in March of this year to replace Barry Rogers (LFHS also has an assistant principal) who resigned from his LFHS position after only two years of what had been a successful tenure. Roger’s resignation was followed in short order with his appointment to another administrative position, that of an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, a shared position in Lake Forest Districts 67 and 115.

Although the administration tried to keep Dr. Holland’s name a secret, even stating in an email to parents on May 25 that “it remains by necessity and law a personnel matter required to be confidential”, this was not to be. The leaking of Holland’s name as the administration’s #1 choice for principal happened on Friday, May 15.  It didn’t take long until concerned citizens in Lake Forest, wanting to know more about the administration’s #1 candidate for principal, used Google as their search engine. Links to Dr. Holland’s Facebook page, her website’s consulting firm of Holland Educational Consulting Group (HECG), and other social media accounts were found and examined.  Most disconcerting is that less than 24 hours after the Google search began all of Ms. Holland’s information had been scrubbed from the Internet.

Among the more inflammatory remarks on a recovered cache of erased Holland posts, doubly offensive because of the job Holland is seeking, purports that “tracking is a beacon of white privilege and institutionalized racism.” Regarding tracking, it separates children into various groups backed on their ability in coursework specific to AP honors, college prep and remedial.  A February 22, 2014 post on the HECG Facebook page showed an image of Malcolm X with this overlay quote in white letters: “Only a FOOL Would Let His Enemy Teach his Children.” Another HECG website post of January 1, 2013, focused on academic tracking, how it perpetrates racism in schools, and about white privilege and internalized racism.

The initial secrecy over principal candidate Chala Holland (pronounced Shay-la, who was in the audience at the Tuesday morning special board meeting), was further compounded by what the Internet search revealed.  As would be expected, the information spread quickly through social media. Accordingly, the stage was set for a standing room only, vocal crowd that filled the District 115 Board of Education meeting room at its Lake Forest West Campus on Tuesday, May 26.   Public interest was further enlisted through the initiative and courage of a LFHS Freshman who started an online petition late on Saturday, May 23rd, requesting signatures of those protesting the hiring of Holland.  By the morning of the special board of education meeting, Tuesday, May 26, over 546 signatures had been collected.  A bright, posed and well-spoken young man offered these comments during the time of public comments on Tuesday, May 26.

As to why the Special Board of Education meeting was set at 7:00 a.m. the day after Memorial Day, school board president, Reese Marcusson, explained:  “The candidate had been selected [interview process was complete] and action was called for.”  Continuing: “It is only at a school board meeting where business can be discussed outside of an executive meeting. Finding a time suitable for all board members to attend is difficult.  Schedules have to be rearranged.”

Remarks by Superintendent Michael Simeck informed the standing room only crowd about the very talented Dr. Chala Holland, who, by the way, is a step about Simeck in having earned her doctorate degree. As is indicative of the process used in the highly competitive school districts here in northern Illinois, and why salaries are so astronomical in comparison to the rest of Illinois, Simeck went on to say, “The more talented the candidate is, the more likely the candidate will be snapped up by another school district. Time is rarely your friend, so we had to move quickly.”

According to information received from “Open The Books” (A Project of American Transparency), following are the 2014 base salaries for 1) Superintendent Michael Simeck ($204,598); 2) Barry Rogers when principal at LFHS ($206,945); and the present assistant LFHS principal ($204,598).  Forty percent of teachers and administrators at LFHS receive salaries at the $100,000 to $100,125 level, while 21% are compensated at the $125,000+ level. These salaries represent only “pensionable” salary — the annual amount that figures into the eventual calculation of the employees retirement annuity and are not total cost which includes perks and pension benefits.

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The board and superintendent Michael Simeck listened to more than two dozen comments from residents of the community, as well as colleagues and neighbors of the candidate.  Comments were limited to three minutes; audience members were requested to hold their applause.  Some booing did erupt, which the board president nipped in its bud, when non-residents used the podium to speak in defense of Ms. Holland.  Despite rhetoric relating how successful Ms. Holland was when employed in Evanston and now at Oak Park High School, it was  concurred that Lake Forest residents should be given the priority in speaking.  As one Lake Forest resident remarked, “Outsiders need not preach to us, for how can they know what is best for the community of Lake Forest?

One non-resident even suggested that Lake Forest, as part of a Global Community, must adapt to what is a changing society.

Residents offering comments were respectful in how they addressed the board, often expressing gratitude for the work of school board members.  Two resident speakers did suggest that Superintendent Simeck resign from his position.

Major concerns and questions expressed as public comments:

  •  “Why did Ms. Holland scrub her Internet sites to hide her opinions from the community?”
  • “Who told Ms. Holland to scrub her website and why?  It’s now down for maintenance?”
  • “Take a deep breath and delay hiring.  An interim principal can be named at Lake Forest High School (There is already an assistant principal in place.).”
  • “Superintendent Simeck seems to have his own agenda for Lake Forest High School.  If any administration has an agenda it wishes to put in place, it should start its own school.  I don’t want my children to be an experiment of some future idea that might not work.”
  • “The ideas and core values of the students must be considered and those of the community.  Does Superintendent Simeck believe he knows the core values of Lake Forest resident better than the residents themselves do?  An agenda is being pushed that is not in keeping with the core values of this community. Truth is like a lion.  You don’t have to defend it. Truth needs no explanation.”
  • In a tongue and cheek comment: “Could it be that all of Holland’s websites were removed for maintenance at the same time?”
  • “Superintendent Simeck’s action represents a hostile takeover of the Lake Forest School System.  Just say ‘no’ when it comes to renewing Simeck’s contract.”
  • “Were the views held by Ms. Holland known by Simeck when he recommended Holland?  What could Simeck have been thinking in hiring someone so obsessed with race?”
  • “You can see that I am brown.  It takes hard work to succeed.  My children fit into Lake Forest School System.  I don’t want compassion from anyone because of the color of my skin.”
  • As stated by an educated black Lake Forest resident and parent:  “My children are doing well.  I found Holland’s posts very divisive.”
  • “It’s about Holland’s character — end of story.  About scrubbing her social media — or who told her to do so — is proof of her character.”
  • “Ms. Holland may be brilliant, but she would be more effective in another situation given the right setting and circumstance.  Hiring Ms. Holland would be a disservice to the children.  It’s all about kids at the end of the day.”

Following the public comments the board and the administration went into executive session. Announced after the meeting was reconvened was that the discussion about Chala Holland’s candidacy would extend for several more days. Another public meeting will be held sometime between the evening of June 1 and the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 9th.

What happened in Lake Forest is an example of what grassroots activism can do through social media to rally individuals together for a common cause.  Although the saga continues in Lake Forest, it remains troubling that Chala Holland seems to view tracking as some kind of a white supremacy thing.  She might even be described as a revolutionary intellectual if her views weren’t in sync with what is so prevalent in today’s society by those on the Left:  an obsession by white supremacy and racism as a reflection of the ills of society.

Although offensive, this thought process does not describe Lake Forest High School, or the community as a whole, with its mostly white population.  It would not be impertinent to inquire whether Superintendent Michael Simeck is attempting to implement a major culture shift at Lake Forest High School?

Cultural shifts through experimentation that propose to bring fairness to all, especially to those perceived to be poor and less fortunate, are taking place across the spectrum of American society.  Public schools are not excluded from the perceived leftist philosophy that white students must be made to understand that being white is not a sign of privilege.  It is through hard work and effort that LFHS students do well academically, not because most of them are white.

Superintendent Simeck seems eager to jump on the band wagon for social reform. The question remains how to fit a square peg in a round hole if the board and Superintendent go their own way and hire Dr. Chala Holland as principal of Lake Forest High School.

The author would like to hear how other school districts in Illinois are dealing with the issues of white supremacy and racism.

Technorati Tags: Illinois Review, Lake Forest Schools, Nancy Thorner

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thorner: Vouchers in Waukegan? It’s a real possibility

Sagrado-Corazon-families
Waukegan families learn about the possibility of school choice for their kids | Image Source

By Nancy Thorner –

Last weekend in Chicago, Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, spoke at a conference hosted by the Franklin Center about his efforts to initiate a voucher program in northwest suburban Waukegan.

Dabrowksi, a passionate supporter of school choice, described the power of school choice as “allowing parents and students to decide which school choice option is the best fit for them.” Milwaukee, Wisconsin was cited as having a long standing voucher program with good results.

Dabrowski rightly referred to the Waukegan public schools an educational tragedy with low-performing schools, also prevalent in other Illinois cities, especially in Chicago. Chicago is home to 45% of the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools and high schools.

Accordingly, half of the state’s lowest-performing schools are located outside of Chicago’s borders in Aurora, East St. Louis, Rockford, Springfield, and Waukegan. Surely the family members of students in these districts want the option to have their loved one attend a higher-quality school, realizing just how important a quality education is for their child’s future.

About Waukegan: With a population of more than 90,000, the depressed city of Waukegan sits on the shores of Lake Michigan just minutes away from the prosperous communities of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, yet Waukegan is as different as night and day. The collapse of manufacturing led to a massive shift in the city’s demographics. Houses can be bought for almost nothing.  As such, low income families have moved in. Hispanics now make up more than half of Waukegan’s total population, representing nearly 77% students in Waukegan schools.

With the above facts in mind, Dabrowski, in concert with the Illinois Policy Institute, perceived Waukegan — about 40 miles north of Chicago — to be fertile ground to introduce a voucher program.

With $12,000 spent per pupil, only 18% of the students graduate college ready. Additionally, because of the low performance of Waukegan Community Unit School District #60, the Illinois State Board of Education, or lSBE, had designated the school district for a possible takeover.

In introducing his voucher program to Waukegan residents, Ted Dabrowski and his team knocked on 13,000 doors with a petition in hand to educate residents.  Realizing the program had to be packaged in different ways to Hispanics, blacks, and a white minority, his petition advocating school choice was printed in both English and Spanish.

An important observation to make is that the Waukegan voucher does not involve fighting for change at the legislative level, but instead at the grassroots level.  Although the Waukegan voucher initiative is still in its infancy, a recent change in the Waukegan School Board could move the project along.  In the recent 2015 election, several incumbent members were defeated by pro-reform candidates, increasing the potential for school choice.

Givemechoice.org, a delightful short video by the Illinois Policy Institute, can be viewed by clicking on the right side of this link page under the title, “School Choice in Waukegan.” This promotional video has been utilized in Waukegan and other venues to educate the public about the benefits of a voucher program.  The video was likewise shown by Dabrowski to the assembled conference participants to begin his presentation.

Featured in this whimsical, cartoon-designed video is Erica, a freshman at Waukegan High School, which, the video says, is not the best fit for her.  Because her parents lack the money to send Erica to a school where she might blossom, she remains stuck in a school that is determined by her address.  Givemechoice.org conveys a positive messaging of school choice without bashing traditional public schools, for who can oppose giving parents the right to choose?

As far as school choice becoming a legislative reality here in Illinois, it doesn’t look all that promising in the near future.

It was in 2010 when Rev. Meeks, a black minister and an elected representative from Chicago’s inner city, sponsored a Chicago School Choice bill which called for a voucher program. The bill passed in the IL Senate but not the House.  Although many current legislators do believe in school choice, after Meeks’ failure the legislation was never revived to be acted upon.

In expressing how virtual schools  are not for everyone,  Dabrowski described his experience in trying to start a digital learning charter school in January of 2012.  It was to cover eighteen school districts with its aim of getting 1,000 kids to be part of the system under K12 Inc (The  K12 International Academy is a fully accredited, private online K-12 school that liberates students from rigid schedules, classes that move too fast or too slow, bullying, and other factors that stand in the way of success.). Not only did Dabrowski’s proposal fail, but a one-year moratorium was issued against establishing a virtual learning charter school.

The following two arguments were proposed by Dabrowski to consider when confronted by individuals who object to vouchers.

1.  Pubic education is the education of the pubic, no matter what form it takes.
2.  It’s not about what we teach, but how we educate.
The efforts being made by Ted Dabrowski on behalf of Chicago’s Illinois Policy Institute could help students succeed in Waukegan without excuses being made for low income or illegal immigrant students.
As Dabrowski remarked, “Going the grassroots way, engaging families and children hoping for a better education, is the best way to compliment a lobbying effort in Springfield.”
About the conference
 
“Amplify School Choice Chicago” was held May 15-16 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. Sponsored by Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a non-profit organization that promotes a well-informed electorate and a more transparent government, Franklin Center’s new project, “Watchdog Arena”, headquartered in Alexander, Virginia, spearheaded the Chicago event coordinated and led by Josh Kaib.  Mary Ellen Beatty, the Director of Journalism Operations for the Franklin Center, accompanied Mr.Kaib to Chicago.  WatchdogArena.org is a news site powered by informed writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists. It will serve as a national publishing platform for articles that expose waste, fraud and abuse as well as examine a plethora of policy issues at all levels of government.  Other Watchdog Arena events held this year were in Washington, D.C.; Phoenix, Arizona; Denver Colorado; and Atlanta, Georgia.

Speakers heard during Chicago’s two-day Amplify School Choice conference included: Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute; Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools; Bruno Behend, Senior Fellow for Education Policy at the Heartland Institute; Myles Mendoza, Executive Director of One Chance Illinois; and Illinois Representative Jeanne Ives.

The following School Choice options were presented during the conference as alternatives to the traditional “brick and mortar” public schools, especially to serve the needs of children living in poor neighborhood.

  • Traditional public schools
  • Charter schools (publicly-funded, privately run
  • Vouchers (“Scholarships”)
  • Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)
  • Homeschooling
  • Private schools

Participants also participated in a tour of Leo High School led by its president, Patrick Hickey. Leo High School has been providing quality Catholic eduction to young men from Chicago’s South Side since 1926.  100% of its seniors have graduated in the last six years, and more than 96% of them have gone on to college.