Leaving EP Bethless

  • Written by Bob Rakow

pge-1-3-col-hartBeth Hart bursts out of the Evergreen Park High School banner before Friday’s homecoming game. The school’s superintendent will retire in June. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Longtime super Hart to retire in June

Beth Hart does not know what it’s like to sleep in.

“I’ve just always been an early riser. I get up early,” Hart said Tuesday morning, five hours after rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m.
The superintendent of Evergreen Park High School District 231, Hart recalls sitting alone in her college cafeteria early on Saturday mornings while classmates slept in.
Hart checks her email in the early morning hours—her first task in a typical day filled with myriad responsibilities.
“It’s a 24/7 job,” she said of overseeing the school at 99th Street and Kedzie Avenue.
But come June, Hart will call it career after 35 years in education as both a teacher and administrator.
“It just felt right,” said Hart, 63.
But retirement doesn’t mean Hart will start sleeping until noon.
She plans to teach or use her Spanish-speaking abilities in some capacity. In fact she’s often called on at the high school when Spanish-speaking parents stop to voice a concern.
“I hope that I’ll find something to do,” said Hart, who also plans to spend more time with her young grandchildren, who live in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
Hart, who was honored at halftime of last Friday’s homecoming game, spent her entire career in the Southland after growing up in St. Thomas More parish in Chicago’s south side.
She taught Spanish at Quigley South, Brother Rice, Marist and Bremen high schools over a 16-year-period before becoming an assistant principal at Bremen.
Her path as an administrator ultimately led her to Evergreen Park High School in 2001, where she’s served as both principal and superintendent—a post she was named to in 2008.
“I feel like it went by unbelievably fast,” said Hart, who lives in Chicago’s Morgan Park community.
Hart described Evergreen Park an “unbelievable community” that is home to an “an all-American high school.”
She added that the school’s 850 students represent all aspect of the teen years. The school is home to a wide spectrum of students, including those who have gotten perfect ACT scores to others who excelled in sports or drama.
Hart oversaw renovations to the football field, science labs and theatre during her tenure at the school, but she’s most proud of her ongoing interaction with students.
“The thing I hope I’m known for is being student-centered,” Hart said. “I would describe myself as a democratic leader.”
Leading a small school and having her office in the same building makes that task a little easier, but Hart said that empowering students is a lesson she learned from her days at Queen of Peace High School and throughout her college days.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Mundelein College and did post-graduate work at the University of Illinois and Loyola University. All along she learned that giving students responsibility and a voice was important.
That message was not lost on the School District 231, which has four members who attended the high school. In fact, board president Christopher Trzeciak was a student at the school when Hart was principal.
“Now he’s my boss,” she said.
Hart’s secretary, Sheri Sochacki, said Hart has always promoted teamwork and encouraged staff and faculty to make suggestions.
“I think she has the natural ability to bring people together,” Sochacki said. “She always promotes team effort. I’m definitely going to miss working for Beth.”
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton lauded Hart for her accomplishments at the school.
“Beth has a done a wonderful job,” Sexton said. “She’s been very good to this community. She’s very involved. The school has made a lot of improvements since she’s been there.”
Principal Bill Sanderson calls Hart a mentor.
“She allows you to do your job,” Sanderson said. “She allowed me to put my own personality on the position. I’ll be forever indebted to her.”
Sanderson credited Hart for connecting with students. As principal, she would go through the yearbook to learn students’ names. She also started the senior exit interview as means of getting students’ honest assessment of the school
The district has already taking steps to find Hart’s replacement having hired a search firm that surveyed the community members, parents, faculty and staff before bringing finalists to the school board for consideration.

Fighting for the Knights

  • Written by Claudia Parker


Oak Lawn author ruffles some feathers with

book about African-American pilots

J. Marcellus Burke, a 15 year resident of Oak Lawn, Page-1-3-col-color-authorJ. Marcellus Burke and his wife, Gloria, thumb through his controversial book “The Black Knights” before he spoke at a Tilden Tech alumni meeting last Wednesday at the Chicago Ridge American Legion hall. Photo by Jeff a World War II veteran and retired Chicago Police Detective, who can now add ‘author’ to his list of accolades. 

“The Black Knights,’’ published by Path Press, is a fictionalized account of four fighter pilots of African descent who served in the Luftwaffe German air force during WWII.
While the book is listed as fiction, Burke said it’s based on actual events. It was released two months ago and it’s said to be ruffling feathers among people of color.
“Some of my black critics are upset,’’ Bruke said. “They’re saying that African Americans, specifically the Tuskegee Airmen, were the first military aviators.”
He demonstrated a raised fist being pumped into the air to signify how passionate one of his critics became during their conversation.
Burke said his five years of research revealed that Germany had the first aviators of African descent, claiming they went into combat in 1939, while the United States Tuskegee Airmen didn’t see combat until April of 1943.
Some feel The Black Knights portrayal of history is an insult and is discrediting African American history many worked hard to have acknowledged.
Burke however disputes that claim.
“I wrote this book because of the scarcity of information about the role people of color played during WWII in and beyond the US,’’ Burke said. “My research proved we weren’t adequately credited for our contributions in Germany, Russia or even Great Britain.”
He said many of his first-hand experiences are indicators of accuracy in his findings.
His 70-year old military discharge papers are kept wrapped in a protective covering. A vibrant, 87-year-old, Burke, proudly showed off his proof of service.
But it’s bittersweet.

Two Stagg alums die in motorcycle mishaps

  • Written by Jeff Vorva and Bob Rakow


Stagg math teacher John Daniels came to school Monday and found out the bad news that one of his former geometry students, Amy Reed, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Joliet the night before.

His day was about to get worse.
Daniels, who is also coach of the boys basketball team, found out that night that a former player of his, Giedrius Lisnicenka, was driving a motorcycle Monday night in Palos Hills and was killed in an accident.
“This is sad, man,” Daniels said on Tuesday. “These were two good kids. It’s crazy. Two Stagg kids in two days killed in motorcycle accidents. It’s tough being on a motorcycle.’’
The accidents capped off a six-day stretch of death, destruction and arrests affecting several people from the communities in the Reporter coverage area.
Lisnicenka’s accident happened in the late afternoon on Monday on La Grange Road near 111th Street. Police said he hit the back of a stopped vehicle on southbound La Grange Road at around 5 p.m. and was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn early Monday night.
The accident closed a portion of La Grange Road for approximately four hours, according to police.
Daniels said that Lisnicenka, 22, “lived at a different speed” than other students. He said his former player would always make him laugh. The coach also remembered having a heart-to-heart talk with Lisnicenka when the player opted to leave the basketball team in December, 2010 for family reasons.
“I offered to let him come back in a few weeks to get ready for the regionals,” Daniels said. “He said that he didn’t want to do that because it wouldn’t be fair to the other players. That’s the kind of kid he was.”
Less than 24 hours before that fatality, Reed was killed in Joliet on Sunday night when the motorcycle on which she was a passenger crashed through the brick wall of a building, Joliet police said.
Reed, 24, and Patrick Ortiz, 34, of Channahon, were killed when Ortiz’s Harley-Davidson jumped a curb and collided with the building, police said.
The motorcycle was traveling at a high-rate of speed on Barney Drive and jumped the curb at a T intersection at Glenwood Avenue.
Reed died in the emergency room at 9:27 p.m. and Ortiz died in the emergency room at 9:54 p.m. at Saint Joseph Medical Center, according to the Will County Coroner’s office.
Police do not believe Ortiz had been drinking.
In other news:
• Leah Wright of Palos Hills was found asleep while she was at the drive-thru of the Palos Hills Taco Bell, 7601 W. 111th Street last Thursday.

WHATIZIT? for 9-18-14

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

A lot of right answers. A lot of wrong answers.WHATIZIT-9-18b
It was kind of like watching a Bears game.
Last week’s guest photo taken by Oak Lawn’s Robin Fullarton was of Dippin’ Dots. A lot of folks got it right early, causing the weasels on the Board of Directors to fret if they would have to research to see if this would be a Whatizit? world record for correct guesses. But later in the game, we received a bevy of guesses for Pop Rocks candy (and one of Trix Cereal), which were incorrect. And the directors happily went back to their naps.
And who says that kids don’t read the newspaper? Chicago Ridge’s Casey Barker, 12, was the first to chomp up the right answer and added “Dippin Dots are one of my most favorite treats! Yum!’’
Other Dot dandies were Oak Lawn’s Steve Rosenbaum, Dan and Laura Heneghan and Cynthia Foulkes,Evergreen Park’s Amanda Callas and Henrietta Mysliwiec, plus Worth’s Mary Kurdziel, Theresa and George Rebersky and Sandy Joiner
Also dipping in with the right answer were Chicago Ridge’s Dana Oswald, Kathy Higgins and Patty Vandenberg, Orland Park’s Lisa Keysboe, Palos Heights’ Janet Lombard, the Friday Poker Ladies and Ice Cream Connoisseur Club from the O-Towns and Jim Cap from parts unknown.
The clue for this week is that this thing was mentioned in a Bruce Springsteen song.
Send those guesses by Monday night to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with WHATIZIT in the subject line. Don’t forget your name and hometown.