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Mayor Sexton wants Saint Bernadette’s school to stay open

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  News of the closing of St. Bernadette Catholic Academy came as a shock to parents, teachers and students, but Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton isn’t ready to throw in the towel.

  Sexton hoped to meet this week with Principal Arlene Baumann and the Rev. Benedykt Pazdan, St. Bernadette’s pastor, to discuss options for keeping the school open.
  “I think we deserve to sit down and talk,” Sexton said Monday.
  School parents were informed Friday of the decision by the Archdiocese of Chicago to close the 64-year-old school. The news was delivered by Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese.
  Sexton, who attended the meeting, said the parish community must at least try to save the school, which he described as “a tremendous part of the community.” He said he has not met with parents, as he does not want to raise their hopes. He attended Friday’s meeting at a parent’s request.
  “Nothing is promised at this time,” said Sexton, who added that he needed more information before discussing specific solutions.
  “I’m wondering if there’s an alternative (to closing),” he said. “The kids deserve us to discuss it.”
  Baumann said Monday that parents responded to the news with a mix of shock and resignation.
  “It’s a very close community. The school is truly like a family,” Baumann said Monday morning before visiting classrooms to discuss the news.
  Baumann, principal for the past 14 years, said the decision to close was solely a financial one—a disappointment because the school consistently has high test scores, a diverse student body and uses advanced technology tools.
  Baumann said she did receive advanced news of the decision, adding that she attended a meeting with diocesan officials in December during which plans for next school year were discussed.
  She said that the school will not grieve the decision throughout the remainder of the year.
  “We’re going to have a celebration,” she said. “We have great plans for the next five months.”

  Over the past five years, the Chicago Archdiocese has contributed more than $100 million to operate its school system over and above what local parishes contributed. Continued support at that level is unsustainable, the diocese said in a statement.
  The families of the 775 children affected by the closures of St. Bernadette and five other elementary schools will be encouraged to transfer their children to nearby Catholic schools and offered tuition discounts to offset any inconvenience, the diocese said.
  Evergreen Park also is served by Most Holy Redeemer, Queen of Martyrs and St. John Fisher schools.
  “We are committed to providing a high-quality educational and faith formation experience to every child in our schools,” McCaughey said in a statement. “By focusing our resources on schools that are well positioned to attract an optimum enrollment level and equipped to meet the needs of a modern curriculum we can help ensure this network will remain sustainable over the long term.”
  Pazdan said St. Bernadette parish will remain “vibrant” despite the school’s closing.
  “Though our school is closing, our church and parish will remain open and continue to be a vibrant place where we gather together as a community to profess our faith. Even though we are joining the ranks of Catholic parishes that do not operate a school, St. Bernadette will continue to provide religious education to our children,” Pazdan said in a statement. “Catholic schools will continue to fulfill the mission of nourishing our children both intellectually and spiritually, but, sadly, not here in our parish.”

Oak Lawn cops arrest 12 drunk drivers during the holidays

  Results are in from the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over holiday crackdown on drunk drivers.
  During the holiday season, reducing the deadly dangers from drunk drivers was a top priority as Oak Lawn Police was out in force to arrest those who put themselves and others on the road at risk.
  From December 20, 2013, to January 5, 2014, Oak Lawn Police stopped and arrested 12 drunk drivers who had blood alcohol concentrations over the legal limit of 0.08 grams per deciliter.
  “We warned party-goers not to drink and drive, and we backed it up with aggressive enforcement,” said Sgt. Robert Brewer. “These offenders needed to realize their actions have serious and potentially fatal consequences, and hopefully, now that they have been arrested, they will not put themselves and others at risk by driving drunk again.”
  “Drunk driving is deadly dangerous and people can get too wrapped up in the excitement of the holidays and make bad decisions,” said Brewer. “The bottom line is if you have been celebrating the holidays with alcohol, you don’t belong behind the wheel. Never drink and drive.”
  The recent law enforcement crackdown was funded by federal traffic safety funds through the Illinois Department of Transportation and is part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and Click It or Ticket campaigns.
— Submitted by the Oak Lawn Police Department

Bond set at $1 million for Palos Hills man

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  A Cook County judge set bail at $1 million last Friday for a Palos Hills man charged with attempted murder and aggravated domestic battery after allegedly stabbing his wife and daughter Jan. 7, police said.
  Waldemar Dzbik, 50, stabbed his wife with a collector’s keepsake knife multiple times in the bathroom of their home in the 9700 block of Maple Crest Drive, police said. He stabbed his 19-year-old daughter once in the chest when she tried to pull him off her mother, police said.
  Both victims were taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where Dzbik’s wife underwent surgery, police said. His daughter was treated and released, officials said.
  The incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. When police arrived, they located the victim and her daughter at a neighbor’s house. Dzbik, meanwhile, fled in his Volkswagen Jetta. Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan found Dzbik sitting in his car at 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of a McCook trucking company, police said.
  Dzbik drove away when he saw Madigan approach his car, but he was later arrested by Madigan near 47th Street and Harlem Avenue, according to reports.
  Police have responded in the past to domestic disturbances at the house, they said.

Worth woman found dead in snow

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  A Worth woman died last Thursday as a result of exposure to the cold, police said. She was the 12th reported cold-related death in Cook County this winter.
  Lynda K. Eads, 57, was found lying in the snow at 8:25 a.m. in the 7200 of Southwest Highway, near the mobile home park where she lived, according to reports.
  The Cook County Medical Examiner on Friday ruled that Eads died of hypothermia due to extreme cold, alcohol intoxication and hypertension, police said.
  Record cold temperatures dipped into the negative teens last week.

Here’s some of the 411 on OL’s 911

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Village and MAP work morning, noon and night to make headway in dispatcher mess

  The dispute between Oak Lawn and the union that represents the emergency dispatchers, whose jobs were outsourced in December, was settled Tuesday following a marathon mediation session.
  “Any and all disputes have been resolved as part of this agreement,” village manager Larry Deetjen said at Tuesday’s village board meeting. “Today was a very productive meeting.”
  Terms of the agreement were not available Tuesday night. Representatives from the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union that represents the 911 dispatchers, did not attend the village board meeting.
  “We were prepared to issue a joint statement but it requires the executive council of the (Metropolitan Alliance of Police) to approve that statement. They were not prepared between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to sign off on that agreement and we agreed. They needed some time.”

  The mediation session started at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m., one hour before the village board meeting, Deetjen said.
  He said it was likely that some of the village’s dispatchers would be hired by Norcomm Public Safety Communications, the company that is taking over emergency dispatching services for the village and the towns it serves. Norcomm will begin operations out of the village’s dispatch center Wednesday.

  The union in December filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board against the village following the village board’s controversial decision to privatize the service. It stated that the village has no right to terminate the dispatchers because they have an existing contract with the village. The contact was not set to expire until December, 2014.
  The labor board recommended that the village and union consider mediation, Deetjen said. The village accepted the recommendation followed by the union, he said.
  “I’m a strong believer in mediation,” Deetjen said. “I think both parties talking together is a proper way to conduct labor management.”

  Deetjen described the agreement, which requires village board approval, as “fair and just.”

  The agreement covers the Nov. 27 administrative leave and pending disciplinary action involving emergency operator Lori Gromala. Gromala was the subject of an investigation into behavior disrupting call center operations during her shift, according to a village press release. Gromala also received a three-day suspension in 2012 for misconduct, according to the village.
  The village board voted 4-2 to privatize 911 call center dispatch services, a move that could save the village $1 million over two years, Deetjen said.
  Trustees Robert Streit and Carol Quinlan voted against the proposal.
  At that meeting, union attorney Ron Cicinelli pleaded with the board to continue negotiations with the union to reach an accord.
  He added that he blamed elected officials, not Deetjen, for the decision.
  Deetjen in August received authority from the village board to negotiate with two national dispatching firms to operate the emergency dispatch center, which handles fire, police and ambulance calls for Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Burbank and Bridgeview. The center also handles fire department calls for Bedford Park and a portion of the Central Stickney Fire Protection District.

  Deetjen said the move was not a reflection on the performance of the current dispatchers.
  The Metropolitan Alliance of Police in late 2012 approved a contract with the village after a lengthy negotiation, Cicinelli said. The union was hopeful it could extend the contract through at least 2016, he said.

  One month after the current contract was ratified, the village asked the union to consider cost-saving measures, including deferring the 2.5 percent wage increase included in the contract, regular pay for overtime hours, hiring part-time dispatchers and changing the wage scale for new employees, Cicinelli said.