On Religion, The Media and Life as a 20-something in Chicago

Posts Tagged ‘SearsEDA’

Here’s a look back at how I spent my 2011: Covering Community Unit School District 300’s protest against Sears EDA legislation, from start to finish.

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Sears EDA legislation, from start to finish (Between the Bylines)


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries?list=PL81A45E893538CD70&hl=en_US] This was my pick for the Courier’s year-end “Faces of 2011” series. Certainly the biggest story I covered this past year was the battle against legislation to extend the Sears EDA in Community Unit School District 300, part of Superintendent Michael Bregy’s first year at the head of the suburban Chicago school district. Here are some of the videos I took at board meetings and rallies, as well as videos posted by District 300 and the Village of Hoffman Estates, that helped tell that story. To watch this playlist in its entirety (more than an hour-and-a-half!), visit my YouTube channel.

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm

PLAYLIST: D300 protests Sears EDA legislation

This was my pick for the Courier’s year-end “Faces of 2011” series. Certainly the biggest story I covered this past year was the teacher layoffs (363 in one meeting!) and battle against legislation to extend the Sears EDA in Community Unit School District 300 — all part of Superintendent Michael Bregy’s first year at the head of the suburban Chicago school district. CARPENTERSVILLE – In a marked departure from his predecessor, Michael Bregy painted the white walls of the superintendent’s office tan. He pulled up the blinds and hung curtains, usually open. He covered the walls with shelves full of photos — all 26 building principals on one wall, central office staff on another. He displayed memorabilia from his six years as principal at Jacobs High School in Algonquin and six months heading up Community Unit School District 300 next to books, or next to potted plants on windowsills. In the middle of the principal photos — on top of a box labeled “happy,” a gift from his assistant Linda Keyes — is a framed drawing by a student at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville. The colorful artwork shows all seven members of the Dstrict 300 Board of Education, sitting in front of a group of teachers numbered one through 363. In the foreground, a student addresses the board from a microphone that’s been unplugged, a pair of wire cutters behind his back — “to free the teachers, cut the chains,” Bregy said. It’s a student rendering of the contentious March 2011 school board meeting in which board members _ in the middle of contract negotiations and facing reduced and delayed payments from the state — voted to release 363 teachers. Those teachers later were recalled after District 300 reached nearly $5 million in concessions with its unions, but not before student protests at all three district high schools. Bregy was superintendent-elect at the time, taking on decision-making responsibility even as longtime superintendent Ken Arndt remained at the helm. “I wanted it to be a reminder that this was the most difficult time in my entire professional life,” Bregy said. “I believe experience is the best teacher, and I wanted this to be a reminder — there are always options, and there are always different ways to look at situations.” Bregy’s gotten plenty of his experience in his first year on the job, from the layoffs at the end of last school year to the legislative fight that ended this year and has attracted District 300 national attention. “I think it’s a real trial-by-fire first year for him,” said Nancy Zettler, chair of community group Advance 300. “I think he’s gone through some things this year other superintendents don’t go through in decades-long experience.” No way, EDA Zettler, a District 300 parent and retired lawyer, has been part of the School District since 1999 and first became “heavily involved” with Advance 300 during the district’s 2006 referendum, she said. Most of her work with the new superintendent, she said, has been on “the Sears issue.” As “awful” as pink-slipping 363 teachers was, Bregy said, he had an “even more difficult time with Sears.” This spring, just two weeks into the job, he said, District 300 CFO Cheryl Crates alerted him: “We have a problem.” That “problem” was an amendment to Senate Bill 540 that would extend the economic development area around the Sears Holdings corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates. That EDA, which the district has said has brought about $14 million in property tax dollars from the district to the EDA each year, was set to expire in 2012. As the amendment to Senate Bill 540 became amendments to House Bill 1883 and finally Senate Bill 397, Bregy led more than 1,000 students, staff and district residents to Springfield to protest the legislation outside the Illinois State Capitol. He testified at committee hearings, sat in on sessions in the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives and visited legislators’ offices. And just before the final legislation was drafted in December, the superintendent finally was invited to negotiate with representatives of Sears and Hoffman Estates. The trio agreed to — and the Illinois General Assembly passed — concessions that doubled the amount of money District 300 will receive from the EDA from about $3 million each year to $6 million. “I think Michael was uniquely suited in his personality and drive to make sure the district was well off. He didn’t hesitate in getting involved,” Zettler said. “The whole thing was awful, and he kept his head. He was treated badly over and over again by people in Hoffman Estates and Sears and Springfield, and he just persevered and kept going.” And he’s still going: Bregy said he’s gotten calls from organizations and school districts all over the U.S., even Japan, to “present the District 300 story.” He’s accepted several invitations, including one in Phoenix, he said, not only to “celebrate our efforts, but also to teach other school districts that we need to become legislatively active.” “That’s the next chapter for the school system in Illinois — the leaders of our districts need to come together and work together,” he said. ‘Head teacher’ After a yearlong transition, first as associate superintendent, then superintendent-elect, Bregy said, “This year, I love my job. I walk into this building like I walked into Jacobs. Like being a high school principal, you never know what your next challenge will be. I learned about myself: I thrive on those challenges.” Not all the challenges the new superintendent has tackled have been so publicly visible as the layoffs and legislation. One of his first priorities was to make the District 300 central office in Carpentersville function more like its 26 school buildings, he said. Previously, each department had acted independently; the special education department had been at Hampshire High School before he brought them all under one roof, now overcrowded like much of the district, he said. “This building really should be the heart of the School District. The blood should be pumping out of here to the other buildings,” he said. “The people in this building needed to get a sense of what it’s like to work together as a school building.” Bregy also created a teaching and learning team with assistant superintendents for preschool and elementary school, middle school, high school and education services. He also created a “teacher swap” program, so far swapping places with four elementary school teachers, teaching their classes while they observe classrooms in a different building. All that is focused on instruction, he said. “I don’t want it to be weird when I walk into a classroom and the kids say, ‘Who is that? The president?’ I want to walk into a classroom and have it not be a big deal that the superintendent is there,” he said. “The superintendent is a teacher. He’s the head teacher, but he’s a teacher.” Growing up in nearby Mount Prospect, Bregy said he wanted to be a teacher from the time he was in elementary school. “I was the teacher’s pet. I loved everything about getting to know the teacher and helping the teacher and sitting in front,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to teach school. Always.” After graduating from he University of Texas, he taught elementary school, then middle and high school math in Coppell Independent School District, an “affluent” district in a suburb of Dallas, he said. Meantime, he learned he loved everything about getting to know the principal and helping the principal and making decisions for the building, he said. Bregy moved back to Illinois 11 years ago and originally applied for a job as dean at Dundee-Crown, he said. Bob Whitehouse, then principal of Dundee-Crown, recommended him instead for a job as dean at Jacobs. After a year in that role, his eye on the principalship, he moved into the role of associate principal. When he took the principal job not long after, he said, he met criticism he was too young (then 37) and too inexperienced — the same criticism he heard when he was named Arndt’s successor in May 2010. Both times, Bregy said, he told his detractors, “Just give me six months.” “I’ve fought this same thing from the day I started in the school district — I had to prove myself. I had to open myself up and put myself out there and say, ‘This is who I am.’ I’ve been doing that for 11 years, and I’m still doing it,” he said. Six months into his first school year as superintendent, Zettler, for one, said, “I’m proud of him. He’s done a great job, and he can only get better with more experience.” Copyright 2011, Sun-Times Media. All rights reserved. To read the original story, visit The Courier-News. Photo: Emily McFarlan for Sun-Times Media.

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2012 at 10:37 am

New Dist. 300 superintendent has trial by teacher layoffs, Sears deal (Sun-Times Media)