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District 124 schools to get new security cams

By Jessie Molloy
Correspondent

Evergreen Park School District 124 will install new surveillance cameras at all five of its buildings, and as another security measure is considering reconfiguring the main entrance at Central Junior High School.

The District 124 board of education on Dec. 19 voted to approve the installation of the new cameras, awarding the winning bid of $44,800 to Precision Control Systems of Chicago. Most of the work will be finished this week while students are on winter break, and the fine tuning of the cameras and the accompanying computer system will be finished by Jan. 30, district officials said.

The new cameras are intended to provide better security in all the schools' high traffic areas, and footage will be recorded to a central computer system rather than to videotapes or DVDs.

The board also heard a proposal from FGM Architects' representative Mike Eichhorn for the reconstruction of the entrance-way at Central Junior High, 9400 Sawyer Ave. The district has for three years been considering ways to reconfigure the school's entrance to make access to student areas more difficult. Work is anticipated to begin planning this summer in conjunction with pipe replacement and roofing projects at Central and Northeast and Northwest elementary schools.

Board members agree the project is necessary, but there is some concern about the nearly $500,000 price tag - significantly more than the original estimate of about $300,000. A less streamlined version of the reconfiguration could be a cheaper alternative, but was not as well-received by board members. Another possibility is postponing the roof work at Northeast for another year or two to free up funds for the work at Central.

The board plans to review more detailed designs this month to get a better idea of the project's cost and scope. The board hopes to reach a decision this month so the project can go out to bid in February.

District 117 says new junior high would be cheaper than addition

Conrady could be rebuilt for $36.8 million

(From Oct. 4, 2012)

Several hundred residents of Palos Hills and Hickory Hills came through the doors of Conrady Junior High last Saturday and sent a clear message to North Palos School District 117's Conrady Citizens Advisory Committee.

Tear the building down.

District 117 is considering renovating and expanding Conrady, 7950 W. 97th St. in Hickory Hills, and held open houses Saturday and again Tuesday to let people see for themselves the condition of the 47-year-old building. The Citizens Advisory Committee was created in May to examine ways to improve the school.

Open house attendees saw hanging electrical wires, mismatched and cracked floor tiles, uncovered fluorescent lights, and overcrowded classrooms and faculty spaces. The school's faculty lounge cannot accommodate all its teachers at once, which makes it futile to hold staff meetings, according to District 117 officials. Some classrooms are so overcrowded teachers have to conduct group work in hallways because it is impossible to put the students' desks in a configuration that would allow for collaboration, district officials claim. Some classes are taught in converted storage spaces near Conrady's music rooms. A school psychologist began working in an office this year - for three years before that she was working in a closet-sized space that was connected to a school bathroom, district officials said.

Advisory Committee spokeswoman Shari Schmidt, the parent of twin third-grade girls who will eventually attend Conrady, said the event provided an interesting opportunity to talk with members of the community, and that most attendees "couldn't believe kids went to school here."

"We need everything from a new roof, to changes with the lighting, because the lighting is so old, we can't find parts for it anymore," Schmidt said. "We hope they were able to see firsthand some of the concerns that have been raised about Conrady as they relate to educating our students."

District 117 has renovated other schools but not Conrady, which was built in 1965, Schmidt said.

"We have ladders that hold up the wiring, because our ceiling is our roof," said Conrady Assistant Principal Sia Albans said.

The lack of an adequate science lab is also a concern, according to Conrady Principal Andrew Anderson.

"In our science lab, we have the minimum code requirements - eye wash stations and tables, and some towels, but no space for experiments," Anderson said. "We need to make the transition to 21st century learning, and we have to deal with our space constraints. We are competing on a global stage, and we have concerns about the opportunities and options available for our students."

The state of Conrady's science lab leaves students unprepared once they get to high school, Albans said.

"Serious" changes to the school's electrical system have to be made - there are electrical cords running along the ceilings of some of the classrooms because there is no other space for the wires, and the building's electricity is so old the building cannot support computers.

"We had some people who went to Conrady who are grandparents now, who said they didn't have a computer when they went to school, so the kids don't need computers," Schmidt said.

Dist. 230 reviews security after Sandy Hook tragedy


By Jeff Vorva

The tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14 followed by the manhunt in Tinley Park for two men who escaped from a prison in Chicago four days later have High School District 230 board members re-examining their safety procedures.

The board discussed some of the procedures that they implemented earlier in the year during last Thursday's meeting. The three schools - Andrew in Tinley Park, Sandburg in Orland Park and Stagg in Palos Hills went into a soft lockdown on Dec. 18 when two bank robbers escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago and were considered dangerous.

A soft lockdown is limited movement in the hallways during class time and no outside activities are allowed, including driver's education classes.

District 230 Superintendent James Gay told the board that the shootings in the Connecticut school and the manhunt in Tinley Park are reasons to look at safety procedures, but added that the district was already beefing up its security long before these events happened.

"First and foremost, providing a safe environment is our top priority," Gay said. "District 230 has followed the guidance provided by safety exports nationally and locally in order to keep our schools safe. We have a strong relationship with local law enforcement, who regularly review our safety plans. Earlier this year, we did a comprehensive safety audit with local law enforcement and an outside consultant."

Through those audits, the district received recommendations that have been implemented, including improved security cameras both outside in inside the buildings at the three campuses. The outside access to all three schools has also been tightened up, Gay noted.

"We have one point of entry where visitors buzz in and must show an ID and it is run through a police data base prior to receiving access," Gay said.

Board member Carol Baker suggested a type of "panic button" could be placed in the entrance areas.

"If someone comes in and looks angry or doesn't provide the right information, or there is a concern, there is a way for people at the security desk can notify the main office or the police," she said. "I don't know if it's possible to do that. It would be a way of slowing that person down."

Gay said that similar technology is being placed in the three schools. A police officer is already assigned to each of the three buildings during school hours.

Board member Richard Nogal said that in 2013, committees should review the security procedures because he has concerns over some potential problem areas, including the night entrance at Sandburg. Visitors enter the building from the west side and there is no security in the immediate area and they could go down two hallways.

"There is security after walking a long pathway," Nogal said. "But you have students who are opening the door for everybody."

Board member Kathy Quilty suggested that students should have a say in security policies.

"When we give them student surveys we should ask them what they are afraid of and what they would suggest," she said. "Are they afraid of bullying? Are they afraid of what happened [in Connecticut]?

They might have some great ideas and could be a part of the process."

The board voted for a 1.5 percent increase on its tax levy from 2011. The district is seeking a $100.5 million levy in which more than $80 million will go toward the education fund. The board voted 5-0. Board President Frank Grabowski was absent and board member Mike Hastings had resigned before the vote to pursue his career as a state senator.

Duty, Honor, Country


Navy Seaman Recruit Michael Luevano has completed Navy basic training at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes.

During the eight-week program, Luevano completed training that included classroom study and practical instruction on naval customs, first aid, firefighting, water safety and survival, and shipboard and aircraft safety. An emphasis was also placed on physical fitness. The capstone event of boot camp is "Battle Stations," in which recruits are tested on basic warrior attributes such as sacrifice, dedication, teamwork and endurance through a practical application of basic Navy skills and core values.

Luevano is the son of Delia and Arnoldo P. Luevano of Oak Lawn. He is a 2010 graduate of Oak Lawn High School.

***

Air National Guard Airman Daniel C. Duda has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Duda completed an eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills. Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Duda is the son of Thomas Duda of Orland Park, and the grandson of Marge Duda of Hickory Hills. He is a 2008 graduate of Lockport Township High School and earned a bachelor's degree in 2012 from Governors State University in University Park.

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Navy Seaman Recruit Cassidy S. Mizzi has completed Navy basic training at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes.

During the eight-week program, Mizzi completed training that included classroom study and practical instruction on naval customs, first aid, firefighting, water safety and survival, and shipboard and aircraft safety. An emphasis was also placed on physical fitness. The capstone event of boot camp is "Battle Stations," in which recruits are tested on basic warrior attributes such as sacrifice, dedication, teamwork and endurance through a practical application of basic Navy skills and core values.

Mizzi is the daughter of Brian M. Mizzi of Chicago Ridge. She is a 2012 graduate of Richards High School in Oak Lawn.

***

Navy Seaman Jordan A. Costabile has completed Navy basic training at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill.

During the eight-week program, Constabile completed training that included classroom study and practical instruction on naval customs, first aid, firefighting, water safety and survival, and shipboard and aircraft safety. An emphasis was also placed on physical fitness. The capstone event of boot camp is "Battle Stations," in which recruits are tested on basic warrior attributes such as sacrifice, dedication, teamwork and endurance through a practical application of basic Navy skills and core values.

Constabile is the son of Paula G. Carlson-Reza and stepson of Abbas S. Reza of Evergreen Park. He is a 2006 graduate of Brother Rice High School in Chicago.

A first for Stagg cheerleaders


After win at Shepard, team 'Charging to State'

By Jeff Vorva

Stagg's competitive cheerleading team made history on Dec. 16 when the Chargers won the Illinois Cheerleading Coaches Association Invitational at Shepard High School.

First-year coach Bridget Guzior, a former cheerleader at Sandburg High School, said the Chargers have been going to this invitational for some 10 years and never won it. Not only did the Chargers win the large-school division this time, they were designated Grand Champions as their 90.89 score was the best in any division during the competition.

The charged-up Chargers celebrated.

"They were crying and tackling each other on the floor and hugging when they found out they won," Guzior said. "One of the people at Shepard said 'you guys have been coming here a long time and this is the best you have done.'"

Guzior said she likes the makeup of this team.

"I think the potential was always there," Guzior said. "They needed to make sure they knew how good they were. We attended camp over the summer. We bonded as a team. Now these girls could call each other any day of the week. They are all friends. We took the drama out of the sport."

The coach added that the 90.89 is not far off from some of the elite scores in the state tournament.

Members of the squad are Delaney Harty, Alexa Kruszynski, Maggie Hynes, Paige Pierson, Brittany Klimas, Melina Sapokaite, Danielle Klimas, Morgan Minik, Vanessa Minik, Gabbi Zeimitis, Madison Busch, Heather Watson, Kayla Hass, Tiara Patterson, Attia Huizinga, Brittany Fane, McKenzie Busch, Kimberly Williams and Marissa Campbell.

The Chargers qualified for the ICCA State Championships, which will be held Feb. 9-10 in Springfield.

The Chargers are also hoping to make some noise in the Illinois High School Association postseason as Guzior said the school has never qualified for state in that affiliation.

"We say we're charging to state," Guzior said. "We're doing well. We're one of the smaller schools in the large division and we're keeping up with the big dogs."

Chicago Christian also qualified for the ICCA state meet after a third-place finish in the small division at an event in Pontiac on Dec. 15. Worth's Savanna Wawrzyniak is on the team.