Ice cream-like soil not sweet to Shepard HS construction

  • Written by Jessie Molloy

  The slow progress of the Alan B. Shepard science wing construction was an issue of concern at the Community High School District 218 board meeting Monday. 

  The project, originally planned for completion in early fall, hit a major delay this summer and may not be complete until spring due to poor soil conditions which were discovered when digging began for the new foundation. Superintendent John Byrne said initial soil samples indicated that the ground would have problems and funds were allotted for it in the budget but the extent of the problem was not foreseen.
  “It looks like chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream,” Byrne said. “There is a silty, clay-like material that runs through the good soil on the property. We weren’t sure how much of it there was and we happened to hit a giant swirl of it when we started digging.”
  Board members described the material as spongy clay, which absorbed and held the ground water, making the area difficult to build on. This situation caused a six-week delay in construction. Sump pumps and the sun were used to dewater and dry out the clay-filled soil
  Byrne said he was happy that in the last two weeks the progress was “multiples better” than in previous weeks.
  The main entrance and office reconstruction on the building’s first floor were not subject to as many delays and are still scheduled to be completed sometime in October.

Code of conduct tabled
  The board voted to table the approval of the district’s new athletic code of conduct after receiving parental complaints that the document was not representative enough of the students it applies to.
  The proposed code was penned this summer by the athletic directors from Shepard, Richards, and Eisenhower and lays out specific punishments to be given to athletes who fail to keep grades up or who are caught breaking the law or school rules. Some parents however, felt the writers of the policy did not have enough appreciation for the situations of some of the student athletes, particularly those of Hispanic and African American backgrounds, and requested the policy be reviewed and possibly amended with parental input.
  This suggestion was supported by board member Johnny Holmes, who said “It’s common sense that people making rules for a diverse group should have to represent all the people they are serving.”
  In addition to a select group of parents contributing to a revised document, Holmes suggested that one of the board members should be on the committee so the board would have more of a say than just voting to approve someone else’s ideas.
  Among the other issues Holmes had with the proposed code was the possibility of students being subjected to “double jeopardy” because certain legal and behavioral offenses would fall under guidelines for punishment in both the student code of conduct and the athletic code of conduct.
  Hypothetically, Holmes offered the example of a student caught stealing. Like all students he or she would receive a week-long suspension which would include the inability to participate in any school activities in that time, including athletic competitions.
  However, if the student was an athlete, the athletic code of conduct might also require a three-game suspension for the same offense in which case both punishments would be carried out and the student would be forced to miss the week of school and three games (though would be required to attend practice once they returned to class). This, Holmes argued was putting more weight on athletes than other students and could be seen as unfair.
  Other perceived problems of the proposed code were the ambiguity on if students would be held to it year round or only during their athletic season and the issue of coach accountability. Since a student could be punished for an ejection or unsportsmanlike conduct during a competition under the new code, it was suggested that some form of punishment also be laid out for coaches who are removed from a game since they are supposed to be role models for their athletes.

Gavin honored

  The board approved a request from Richards high school to place a plaque by the tennis courts in memory of Matthew Gavin. Gavin, who taught social studies and coached tennis and scholastic bowl for Richards, died in of cancer in the spring at the age of 32.

Disorder on the courts

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Hoops art To hoop, or not to hoop? Two of the six area communities have eliminated public outdoor basketball courts and some Oak Lawn residents are clamoring that their village do the same. Photo by Jeff Vorva        Removing basketball hoops from Little Wolfe Park in Oak Lawn hasn’t garnered significant support from park district officials, but it’s a move other area communities have made to combat unsavory behavior.

  Oak Lawn Trustee Carol Quinlan has called on the Oak Lawn Park Board to remove the basketball hoops at the park, 107th Street and Laramie Avenue, following an Aug. 14 fight that led to two arrests.
  She said the fight was not an isolated incident. Instead, it’s not uncommon for large groups of older teens and adults to use the court and park their cars along both sides of Laramie Avenue. The activity has deterred area residents from using the park, which also features a playground, she said.
  Basketball courts were removed several years ago in Evergreen Park and Palos Hills. The Chicago Ridge Park District, meanwhile, is considering moving courts out of Freedom Park—the home of a splash pad—and relocating them in another park in the community, said director Kevin King.
  The Chicago Ridge Park District has received occasional complaints regarding conduct at the Freedom Park basketball courts, but nothing too serious, King said. Plans call for hoops to be added to Menard Park where an existing court is frequently used, he said.
  The Freedom Park courts are in bad shape and repairing them is not a worthwhile move, King said.
  Basketball courts were removed 20 years ago from all Evergreen Park parks after residents cried foul over the behavior of those using the courts, Mayor Jim Sexton said. Parks in Evergreen Park are located close to residential areas, and homeowners complained about the foul language, littering and public urination that occurred near the courts, Sexton said.
  The courts were transformed into sand volleyball courts, the mayor said.
  Basketball courts were removed in Palos Hills several years ago as well after some residents complained about after-hours use and the conduct of some players, said Palos Hills Ald. Pauline Stratton. The courts, which were located on 103rd Street, were the only ones in the city.
  “I did want them to stay. I was definitely in the minority,” Stratton said. “I’m of the opinion, let the kids be occupied.”
  Basketball courts still can be found in Worth and Hickory Hills parks.
  The Worth Park District has a scaled-down basketball court at Penny Park, Home and Normandy avenues, and has experienced only minor problems, Director Carlo Capalbo said.
  “We don’t see too many problems with it,” Capalbo said. “We get heavy usage. At the same time, the park is respected.”
  Quinlan was one of approximately 30 residents who live near the Little Wolfe Park to attend last week’s park board meeting to request the removal of the basketball court. Her comments that many of the players are from outside the community have led some to brand her a racist, she said. Several of her neighbors, however, support the move, Quinlan said.
  Quinlan is directing anyone who contacts her about the issue to call the park district.
  That’s what residents should have done when they first recognized a problem at Little Wolfe, Oak Lawn Park Board President Sue Murphy said.
  The district was unaware of problems at the park other than the Aug. 14 fight until Quinlan raised the issue at the park board meeting, Murphy said.
  “This is the first time we’ve heard of incidents over there,” Murphy said.
  There have not been additional incidents at the park since the Aug. 14 fight. Police have significantly stepped up patrols at the park since the melee, Police Chief Mike Murray said.
  Murphy added that the district cannot prevent people from using its facilities.
  “Parks are not private property,” she said. “This is not a gated community. People can play where they want in public places.”
  Murphy reiterated that safety is the district’s primary goal.
  “We do need to monitor the situation,” she said.
  Murphy said the park board will consider the request to remove the hoops at Little Wolfe.
  “We’re open to it. It’s not fallen on deaf ears,” she said.
  She added that she expects residents to address the issue at the board’s Oct. 21 meeting. She said residents should present a petition to the park board calling for the removal of the basketball court.
  The Aug. 14 fight took place near a foot bridge that connects Little Wolfe Park with walking trails that stretch to the rear of Richards High School. Stephen Hyde, 18, of Oak Lawn, and Hexadore Randall, 19, of Chicago, were arrested and charged with battery after they were picked out of a lineup by teenagers injured in the melee, police said.
  The duo said the fight was racially motivated and broke out after a group of white teens used racial slurs, according to police. They said they were walking the trails adjacent to the park when they encountered the white teens, who shouted racial slurs before hitting them, police said.
  The white teens offered a different version of events. Two teens told police they were punched in the face while another said he was jumped, according to reports.


Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook - Meth-ology: Cult show ‘Breaking Bad’ toys now on the market

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


COLOR - Jeff There are just two episodes left in the cult classic “Breaking Bad” television series.
  This is a dark series about a boring science teacher — Walter White — who has cancer and turns into a badass meth cooker. Because of his science background, he makes some of the best meth around that the hopheads absolutely love. White is in cahoots with a former student of his — Jesse Pinkman — in dealing the product. What a duo these guys make.
  I’ve only seen the first season and it was dark and twisted. I hear tell it gets darker and more twisted in the seasons after that and there are plenty of surprises. According to experts here in the office, the less hair the character has, the more violent he is.
  Anyway, those who get into this series really love it. It’s not exactly “Father Knows Best” or anything remotely close to PAGE-3-1-col-JVCOL“Breaking Bad” plush figures — and other toys from the show— are available.wholesome, but it is intriguing and edgy.
  At first glance it doesn’t seem like a show that would morph into the toy market but boy, oh, boy, you should see the junk out there that spawned from this show.
  There is a Lego toy meth set that is not created or endorsed by the Lego folks. It is created by a company in Chicago called Citizen Brick. Since the cost for this 500-piece bad boy is $250, it’s doubtful a lot of parents will be putting it under the Christmas tree for Junior in December.
  “In the show, the underground laboratory is this major set piece in the storyline,” Joe Trupia, who runs Citizen Brick told a Wall Street Journal blog. “It felt like another character. It seemed like a great subject for a custom kit.”
  As you might expect, he is taking some squeak about it.
  “Some people object to the price, and a small minority thinks I’m trying to rally kids to manufacture methamphetamine themselves,” he said to the WSJ. “The kit itself never mentions drugs, or violence, or specifics of the show directly. You’d have to be a pretty precocious kid to build your own meth lab after playing with our set.”
  Oh, that makes it OK.
  It would be easy to pile on Joe and his toy, but he’s not alone. is selling a Walter White bobblehead, a Walter White figure in a blue hazmet suit (although that delight is currently sold out), a plush set featuring Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, a smaller plush set of the dynamic duo for keychains (oops, that’s sold out, too) and a Walter White action figure dressed in black with a gun in his hand (oh, no — that’s sold out, too).
  These items come from MezkoToyz. You know that company is cool because it spells toys with a “z”. I think they stole that idea from the Reporter’s “Whatizit”? but we’re too busy to sue.
  So enjoy the final couple of episodes and if you can’t get enough “Breaking Bad” after that, at least you will have some toys to play with.

Tony award
  Even though he works for one of the enemy newspapers, I have to give kudos to Worth resident Tony Baranek, a longtime sportswriter who is one of the first recipients of the Illinois High School Association’s Distinguished Media Service Award.
  He is one of four men to win this award and will be honored Friday at halftime of and Andrew-Lincoln-Way Central football game. That is all well and good, but this guy has been such a huge force in covering girls sports over the years that it would have more appropriate to have him honored before Tuesday night’s packed Marist-McAuley volleyball match.
  Either way, he is one of the good guys in the business who has impacted so many lives with his coverage and outstanding features and columns since the mid-1970s and this award is well deserved. After all of these years, he still loves what he is doing and is still spinning out some great stories.
  I know he has written about current athletes whose mothers that he covered back in the day. I wonder if he has yet written about any athletes whose grandmothers that he covered.

Bras and bagels
  One of the many e-mails we received last week was this ditty. With a few edits — mostly taking out about 1,000 exclamation points — I will let it speak for itself:
  “Come one, come all! The event everyone is still talking about a year later has returned!
  “Bras and Bagels for Breast Cancer Awareness will take place on Oct. 12! The Sorors of Eta Xi Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. will turn Carson Pirie Scott in Evergreen Park into Blue and Gold while wearing our pink ribbons! Please join us from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as we commemorate the life of our Soror Hattie McDaniel and Breast Cancer Awareness month!
  “Please plan to attend and bring a friend because breast cancer does not differentiate and all should be educated about this devastating disease — we just have fun doing so! For further information please contact our Community Service co-chairs, Rachel Deen or Yolanda Edwards at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by email or 708-320-1922 by phone or text. We cannot wait to see you!”
  Now that’s some enthusiastic writing. I don’t know about you, but that release has me fired up!


Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Cube could be melting attendance at high school sporting events

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Editor's Notebook

COLOR - Jeff  The sweaty people crammed in the stands probably didn’t notice.
  The folks watching all along the fences likely didn’t notice either.
  Oh, and those people who had to walk what seemed like endless miles from their car to the stadium probably weren’t aware either.
  Last Friday’s huge non-conference football tilt between Brother Rice and Marist drew about 4,000 fans at Marist. Not a bad crowd. One guy parking cars on the campus called it a “zoo.’’
  But the zoo was missing some animals.
  Marist officials said that two years ago, they put a limit of 5,000 tickets on sale for the game and thousands of more people who wanted to see the game were angry they were shut out. This year, 1,000 tickets were unsold.
  Some in Redhawk Nation say that High School Cube is the reason for the dropoff.
  High School Cube is a website that broadcasts sporting events and other high school happenings on the internet and has become a major player in broadband circles. It’s been around for a couple of years and has made an impact.
  When the broadcasts are done right, it’s a brilliant concept. When they aren’t…well…watching someone else’s home movies might be more thrilling.
  On a given night, a football or basketball fan can stay home with a computer or phone and have the choice of watching dozens of games either in Illinois or other parts of the nation. If your kid is playing football at Stagg and the game is on the Cube, Uncle Elmer in Idaho, grandpa in Florida or a cousin in the military stationed in the Middle East can watch the kid run for touchdowns live or watch a broadcast later.
  And that’s very cool.
  However, some of the concern I heard at Marist Friday night is stuff I started to hear from folks during the football playoffs last year and during the basketball season. People are staying home and watching the Cube rather than coming out to the games.
  High school sports attendance dropoff has been a topic for decades. In the 1960s and 70s, the blame was that more kids were getting jobs and cars and didn’t have time to watch their school’s sports. In recent years, kids’ addictions to video games received the blame.
  Now, it’s the Cube.
  I don’t think the Cube went into this venture saying “Let’s take attendance away from live games’’ but it appears that the technology is causing some of the downturn. Technology is also blamed for hurting pro sports including NASCAR and Major League Baseball. People buy high-definition TVs that make you feel like you are right on the field and may not want the hassle of actually being at the game, paying for parking and 10 bucks for a cup of beer.
  Look, 4,000 people at a Marist/Rice game isn’t a small figure, but if a thousand more fans stayed away, that’s some significant money that is not coming its way.
  And whether it’s Cube or any of the other reasons attendance is taking a hit, the ball is in the schools’ court to try to drum up some more interest to get those people out of their houses and back into the stadiums and gyms.
  It’s a tough war technology is presenting. Just ask anyone in the newspaper business.

The Marian kind

  Also over the weekend, St. Xavier’s football team, ranked fourth in the nation, erased a 14-point deficit and beat defending NAIA champion Marian 31-24 in overtime.
  The second half was thrilling.
  It was nail-biting.
  The overtime was dramatic.
  The postgame emotions after the OT were running wild.
  It lived up to the hype as a battle between the past two national champions.
  Marian played one of the dumbest games I have seen in a long time. The squad from Indiana was whistled 16 times for 139 penalty yard. These guys took themselves out of drives and kept St. X drives going with late hits, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, leading with their helmets and a huge facemask penalty that hurt them during St. Xavier’s game-tying drive late in regulation.
  That team has a lot of talent but didn’t deserve to win the game.
  But in the long run, that might not hurt. In 2011, Marian won the regular-season meeting and St. Xavier won the national championship. In 2012, St. X won the regular-season hookup and Marian went on to win the national title.

‘Worth’ while winners

  The last of our winners from a drawing in August during our subscription drive in Worth were presented with tickets to “Next to Normal.”
  Winners were Robert Wagner, Mary Ann Aldrich, Edward Zajac, Elaine Johnson, Sharon Reinheimer, S.J. Gloede, Rose Marie Kunz, William Nilles, Joan E. Zoel and Patricia J. Schultz.

  In last week’s column on area tollway scofflaws, I forgot to mention that the state’s No. 11 company on the list, Excel Waterproofing, is from Chicago Ridge.


Citizen urges Palos Hills to bring Carson & Barnes Circus back

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne


  Carson & Barnes Circus was3-col-color-elephantsPETA says that the Carson & Barnes Circus abuses elephants but some Palos Hills officials say that wasn’t the case in August when the circus was in town. Photo by Kevin M. Coyne under immense fire after animal rights group PETA urged city officials to cancel the circus last month.

  Carson & Barnes Circus rolled through Palos Hills last month despite an uproar from animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleging that circus animals are being abused during training sessions.
  Carson & Barnes was criticized for a 15-year-old video posted by PETA that featured an elephant trainer abusing one of the circus’s many elephants during a private training session. The video is published on PETA’s website and is used to persuade city officials to cancel negotiations with Carson & Barnes Circus.
  Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said he has no recollection of the circus abusing its animals and in the six years the circus has come to Palos Hills there have been no reports of animal abuse. Carson & Barnes held its shows for three nights in Palos Hills in August without incident.
  Despite the incident-free shows performed by Carson & Barnes reports have spread that city officials will pull the plug on Carson & Barnes for next year.
  Claudia Pasek, of Palos Hills, spoke during last Thursday’s city council meeting and urged elected officials to reconsider canceling the circus for next year. Pasek and her husband Palos Hills, Alderman AJ Pasek, have both attended the Carson & Barnes Circus and have found no wrongdoing.

  “There has been a lot of push back about the circus from the PETA organization and I think PETA is a very good organization that has raised a lot of awareness for animal abuse but I don’t think they’ve ever been to the circus,” Pasek said.

  PETA has alleged that abuse is the only way to get circus animals to perform painful and unnatural tricks. Pasek referenced the Carson & Barnes website for elephant training and how the circus has donated funds to benefit Asian elephants.
  “This circus is 80 percent people acts and these people are awesome, they are like Cirque du Soleil or like the people you see in Vegas and they are incredibly talented people,” Pasek said. “They’re doing most of the work and the animals are there for 20 percent of the time.”

  PETA posted on Facebook that the Carson & Barnes performers are trashy who beat and exploit animals, Pasek said.
  “Everything there is inexpensive and family-orientated and that is why there are so many people there from Worth, Hickory Hills, Palos Hills, Tinley Park and Orland Park,” she said. “I want to emphasize that the circus is mostly extremely talented people and the animals are not exploited during the circus act.”