Bob Rakow's B-Side: Yes there may be some flaws, but Filan shouldn’t be judged

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The motto at Brother Rice High School is “Act Manfully in Christ Jesus.”
  I suppose you could argue veteran teacher Al Filan did not live up to that motto. If you doubt me, I’d be happy to share with you some of the Facebook posts I’ve read regarding his unfortunate death.
  Sadly, some couldn’t wait to cast judgment on the man, while others (former students) were quick to recall what a bad guy he was, supporting their claims by recalling some incident or another that happened at the school 30 years ago.
  Filan’s demise has been covered by every media outlet imaginable, including one of the New York dailies, which feasts on sensationalistic headlines. Filan, 61, was allegedly murdered Jan. 18 by a 20-year-old woman he contacted via an escort service, police said.
  The family of the woman, Alisha Walker, of Akron, Ohio, maintains that she acted in self-defense when she allegedly stabbed Filan following an argument over services rendered. Walker was arrested a few days later and is in Cook County Jail where she’ll await trial. We’ll know more details soon enough.
  Police say Filan contacted the woman on a, a website that includes an adult section featuring escort services, massage parlors, phone sex and a variety of other salacious items not often mentioned in polite company. He had seen the woman on previous occasions, they say.
  Soon after Filan’s death was reported, Facebook blew up.
  One post said, in part, “…this reeks of hypocrisy to the point of being offensive. Come on. Catholic teachings/prostitution. Those things don’t really mesh.”
  I understand that people are shocked, disappointed, saddened. We don’t expect dedicated educators who’ve given four decades of their lives to teaching and coaching to have a sordid past. After all, teachers are supposed to serve as role models and offer guidance to our children. That’s the hope. It’s not always reality.
  I’m shocked that anyone—especially those who knew him—would criticize Filan. He died a horrible death, the result of some poor decisions. It’s sad, but we do not know all the circumstances, the entire story. Maybe the better course would be to back off and simply mourn the death of man who made a difference. Remember that he has a family who is struggling over the death of a loved one.
  Others Facebook posters have not focused on Filan’s actions or character, but how his misdeeds may affect the reputation and future of Brother Rice High School. The school is the victim, one Facebook poster argued.
  But another Facebook poster retorted: “I guess my main point is that an individual’s indiscretions don’t automatically prove the values they promote as unworthy (and by extension the organizations they represent), but there seems little disagreement there.”
  That’s spot on. Al Filan went into the classroom every day for 40 years and spent after-school hours on the soccer field or basketball court. He, like many other long-tenured teachers at Brother Rice, was dedicated and committed—but not perfect. Was he alone? I doubt it. Schools are full of fine educators who have a failing, a weakness, an episode in their private lives they’d prefer not to reveal. Unlike Filan, however, they weren’t killed as a consequence.
  Another Facebook post I came across summarizes my feelings on this whole tragic incident. “If we got a hidden camera view into your lives, any time you might have mistreated someone, any time you were not consistent with values you promoted, every deep dark secret, would it paint a picture of a morally flawless person, one who can cast judgment yet cannot be judged, or would it be a picture of another flawed human being?”
  Say a prayer for Al Filan and his family.



District 230 and Cook County at odds about pension and health insurance figures

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne


Photo by Jeff Vorva. District 230 Assistant Superintendent Steve Langert said there were discrepancies in financial figures between District 230 and Cook County.

It’s been a confusing five-day period for District 230 and its financial status.

District officials are disputing figures reported in a daily newspaper and that their finances are a “mess” as alleged by an anonymous writer to the district whose letter was read aloud at last Thursday’s school board meeting.

The letter contained a copy of the individual’s tax bill, which highlighted the district’s pension and other post-employment benefits debt with a note stating, “your pensions are breaking the taxpayers in Illinois, keep up the great work!? What a mess!?” District 230 Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Steve Langert read at the meeting.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Emotions run high at at two all-girls schools

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

It was quite an emotional Monday night at two all-girls schools that are not physically in our area, but have students from the area attending them.

The emotions ranged from hope and despair at one school to unbelievable triumph at the other.

On the same night that the Mt. Assisi community held a vigil to try to keep its school alive, the girls basketball team at Queen of Peace won its first game of the season after a long losing skid.

A few weeks ago, news broke that Mt. Assisi in Lemont was closing after 63 years of service. Lack of money and a declining enrollment were the death knells for the school on the hill.

On a cold night, hundreds of students, parents and former students put on their warmest clothes and lit candles for the cause. Multi Chicago TV camera crews were also on hand for the event in which a few tears were shed.

But tears won’t prevent the school from closing – money will.

And effort is underway to save the school with a Facebook page called Save Mt. Assisi. So far, they raised $7,000, which is a nice start, but there is a long way to go.

“This is only the beginning!” posted and boasted Beverly resident Peggy Shukstor Healy, who is the president of the school’s parents association. “Like I said [at the vigil] we all need to work together – parents, students and most important, the faculty. The attendance at the vigil showed how important this cause is and we will not give up without a fight.

“The best lesson we can teach our children is that if you are passionate about something, do all you can to make it happen. Never say never!’’

Added Mandy Burke: “I was there with my 3 1-2 (year-old) daughter, who asked me when we were walking from the car to the front of the building, ‘when do I get to come here?’ I hope and pray she has the chance to.’’





Mt. Assisi students (left photo) pose during better times a few years ago but Monday night the community hosted a vigil to try to keep the school open. On the same night, Queen of Peace’s basketball team (right photo) won its first basketball game this season after 23 losses.

Photo by Jeff Vorva



On the same night as the vigil, the Queen of Peace girls basketball team made a trip to Chicago’s De La Salle High School and snapped a 23-game losing streak with a 48-30 victory over St. Benedict in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference tournament.

For anyone who played on, or had kids on, a team that loses all their games, this is a big deal.

My son, T.J., played on a school team that was headed in that direction. The boys found every way to lose, including an overtime loss in which one of our guards put the ball in the wrong basket, which was two points for the other team. I was in Tempe, Ariz., when they finally won their first game late in the season and when I heard the news, I shouted so loudly, I think they heard me back home. And that was just a third-grade game.

Queen of Peace opened the season with 22 turnovers against Oak Lawn. All in the first quarter.

The team also lost a holiday tournament game 53-3 to Bolingbrook.

But Monday, they experienced the sweet taste of victory and did not commit a single turnover.  Everyone played at least three minutes and Jelyn Chua had 12 points and six assists, Maggie Bennett added 11 points and Allie Herman had 10 points.

At the end of Monday night’s game, there wasn’t a lot of emotion displayed because of a coach’s mandate.

“I know how excited they were,” Pride coach George Shimko said. “But I told the girls to act like we’ve been there before even though we hadn’t been there before. So there was no running around the court and going crazy.’’

But once the Pride got behind closed doors, things changed.

“When you beat a team, you don’t want to gloat,” Shimko said. “But in the locker room and on the bus ride home, it was a little crazy. We’ve been through more this season than anyone else, but we are still together and no one has quit. This win was a testament to their hard work.’’




WHATIZIT? 1-30-14

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 You folks were certainly wizards last week and dr-color-2-col-waz-1-30I don’t mean Washington Wizards.

  Speaking of the Washington Wizards, last week’s Whatizit was a photo of the leg and foot of the statue of Washington Wizard Michael Jordan outside the United Center. Oh, yeah, he played for the Bulls, too.
  Many of you Whatizit wizards guess right and a few guessed wrong. Once again, Harrison Debre of Willow Springs was the first to ring in with the correct answer.
  Other six-time world champions were Chicago Ridge’s Kelly Peterson, Patty Vandenberg, Dan Higgins, and Bill Ivers, Hickory Hills’ Jack and Griffin Burke Faddis, Oak Lawn’s Bob Foley, Worth’s German Cordova, Russ Martin, Theresa and George Rebersky and Robert Solner, Evergreen Park’s Vince Vizza, and John Schikora and Palos Park’s Michael Staron.
  An MVP award goes out to Henrietta Mysliwiec of Evergreen Park, who added this tidbit: “I did not know this, but this statue is attached only in one place at the knee.”
  Those who shot airballs were those who guessed a leg and foot from the little girl on the bench statue outside of the Palos Heights library and a left-handed pitcher.
  This week’s clue is that it’s been handy to have around for the past couple of weeks.
  Send those guesses to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with WHATIZIT? on the subject line. Don’t forget your name and hometown. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

Stagg adds carbon monoxide sensors after Dec. evacuation

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Students, faculty and staff at Stagg High School may breathe a little easier now that carbon monoxide detectors are being installed at the school, 8015 W. 111th St., Palos Hills.
The action is in response to a Dec. 4 incident at the school, in which a strange odor led to a mass evacuation, with about a dozen students and teachers transported to local hospitals as a precaution.
School officials have said they believe that unusual weather conditions on that day caused a high amount of motor vehicle exhaust to be pulled into the building’s fresh-air intake vents.
“School staff have performed air quality checks multiple times per day since the initial incident and have found no issues,” High School District 230 Director of Communications Carla Erdey told The Regional News. “Carbon monoxide sensors are being installed on the fresh-air intakes throughout the school. Three sensors have been installed, and eight more are in process. If these sensors detect an issue, they will shut down the air intakes and notify maintenance staff.”
According to a statement released by the district last month, “emergency first responders determined that there was no hazardous condition in the school building [on Dec. 4] and released the building back to the school district late in the afternoon. This determination was based upon analysis of air quality in the building and thorough checks of the school’s mechanical systems. In addition, Nicor checked the building twice and determined that there was no natural gas leak.
“At the hospital, some students and staff were shown to have had carbon monoxide exposure, according to medical personnel,” the statement continued. “However, first responders determined that there was no evidence that the carbon monoxide was generated from systems within the building and at the time of their response, no carbon monoxide was present in the air in the school building.”
“We tested before school, during school, after school, outside, inside, in spaces near the boiler,” stated district Superintendent James M. Gay at a district meeting late last month. “We had an outside contractor--White Environmental—come in to help.”
The additional steps are expected to be a topic of discussion at tonight’s District 230 meeting, set for 7 p.m. at Sandburg High School, 13300 S. La Grange Road, Orland Park.