District 150 teachers continue to work without a new contract while union and administration representatives meet in negotiation sessions. It was close, but a planned strike by teachers after Labor Day was averted. My sources tell me the union had even set the date. The strike was averted when District 150 pulled back on some 34 concessions
they were demanding from teachers.
One teacher said, “We know the district is in financial trouble, so we’re prepared to withdraw salary demands, but we’re not going to back down on such issues as teacher transfers and contract language.” She added, “The district is making too many demands of teachers. A strike is still possible.”
DON’T BE TOO SURE!
Despite the recommendation from Superintendent Ken Hinton that Woodruff High School should be closed after this school year, don’t be too sure it will happen. Remember when District 150 administrators thought they had a slam dunk with plans to build a new Glen Oak School in Glen Oak Park? Hinton even gave the green light to purchase houses on Prospect Road costing the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It didn’t happen.
I’m hearing that some on the District 150 board are not too sure it’s wise to close Woodruff or any high school. And for good reasons. For one thing, Woodruff has some 1,000 students while Manual reportedly has only 500 and that number includes 7th and 8th graders.
Secondly, it doesn’t make sense to close Woodruff and then turn around and open a charter high school. And a third reason for keeping Woodruff open is based on the unwise, if not inappropriate, effort to retro- fit a high school into a grade school. As one retired architect told me, “It’s a ludicrous idea and could prove to be very expensive in the end.”
There’s another dynamic or two that could keep Woodruff open. Look for changes on the board. Rachel Parker is apparently going to run for Peoria County Board. If so, she will resign from the school board, sooner than later. There’s also a rumor Ken Hinton will resign before the end of the year. There’s even a rumor another board member may also quit. And there’s a belief more board members are not so eager to accept Hinton’s recommendation. After all, Woodruff is a viable high school with a great student body and faculty. It’s a very modern building with a fantastic swimming pool and other amenities suitable for high school students, but not for grade school. The northside of Peoria has lost Kingman and the impact of the closing of its high school could be devastating economically and culturally.
Meanwhile, teachers and others are wondering why there’s been little action in seeking a replacement for Hinton. He’ll be gone by June of next year, if not sooner. The school district cannot afford a lengthy search process. Too much is at stake. Hinton’s leaving is another reason any plans for a high school closing should be delayed.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PETE!
Pete Vonachen turned 84 the last day of August. Minus part of his left leg due to diabetes, this affable guy still manages to get around at the Peoria Chiefs ballpark in between having breakfast, lunch or dinner with friends. He even winds up in Chicago now and then for dinner with “Dutchie” Caray and other Chicago friends who cherish his friendship as we do in Peoria.
For six years, Pete was a regular on WOAM’s “Breakfast with Royce and Roger” program. Listeners loved him, especially his stories. And he has plenty of them. Recently, while having breakfast at Louie’s Sterling Family Restaurant, Pete told about one of his many pranks. Seems like a family friend was planning a big women’s luncheon at her house. The morning of the luncheon day, Pete, using a disguised voice, called the woman and told her he was a water company worker who was going to shut-off her water in two hours due to a water main break. She, of course, strongly protested and passionately explained the need for water to host a large luncheon. Pete apologized but said the shut-off would take place. Later, Pete called the woman’s husband and learned his wife had filled two bath tubs and many buckets with water in anticipation of the shut-off. Feeling sorry for the woman, Pete finally called and explained the prank to her. After a few blunt expletives, she hung up. Pete still laughs today about his successful prank. Yes, the prankster and his victim remain dear friends. Pete should write a book about his life and the people he knew, including Harry Caray.
Pete Vonachen, we wish you a Happy 84th Birthday.
GET OVER IT!
As a Bradley graduate, a sports fan and a former baseball announcer in Europe for the Armed Forces Radio Network, I want to put my two cents in about Bradley University president Joanne Glasser’s rejection of the request to retire Gene “Squeaky” Melchiorre’s jersey.
Here are the facts. Almost 60 years ago, “Squeaky” and others were found guilty of shaving points. He was fined $250.00 for a misdemeanor. Another Bradley player also received money in the point shaving scandal according to my reliable sources. His teammates refused to name him to authorities. His jersey has been retired, but those who know, say he’s as guilty as “Squeaky.”
Another player who’s jersey hangs from the rafters, allegedly came to town and borrowed a large amount of money from Bradley “friends.” The money reportedly has never been repaid. So shall we revisit those mean letter writers who threw the word “integrity” around likethey’re Jimmy Swaggert?
I guess we should listen to the unforgiving self-righteous people who piously worte, “Melchiorre’s actions then are not forgivable.” The same writer added in his diatribe to the paper that people like Pete Vonachen, Harry Whitaker, Jim Maloof, Eddie King, Ron Ferguson and other Melchiorre supporters “are nothing.”
Then there was the retired minster who quoted scripture to justify his attack on the great Bradley basketball player. Apparently, he missed the seminary class on “Judge not…” and the next class that discussed scripture regarding the stoning of the woman where Jesus suggested, those without sin be the first to cast his stone.
What is so sad about all of these personal attacks is the lack of compassion, forgiveness and love for a man who paid his debt many times over. Considered by many to have been one of the greatest small players ever in college basketball, “Squeaky” did more to put Bradley on the map than anyone or anything in the history of Bradley University. He deserves to have his jersey retired and preventing that will not erase the NCAA penalties Bradley has received, or the memory of the recent and terrible tragedy by the university’s soccer players, or the arrest of a Bradley basketball player who was allowed to then play in a crucial league game.
Finally, what would be the harm in retiring “Squeaky’s” uniform? I submit 20 years from now when a young boy or girl points to the jersey and asks about it, the father will say, “That player led Bradley to play for the championship of both the NCAA and the NIT the same year. No other school in the history of college basketball can say the same thing other than CCNY, the team that beat the Braves in both title games.”
In the meantime, to the pious Peorians and President Glasser, “get over it.” The man deserves his jersey to be retired and then we can all have a drink at a bar on Farmington Road.
It sounds like Comcast cable is back to an old trick. Consumers report the return of cable’s bad habit of boosting the volume when airing commercials. It’s so irritating. What to do? Hit the mute button. End of problem.
Switching to radio, Chicago AM station WLS is scraping the bottom of the program barrel by hiring disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod (the indicted) Blogevich to host his own Sunday afternoon show. He spends much of the program talking about himself and his alleged political enemies. Talk about boring. Whew.
Locally, PJS media reporter Steve Tarter pointed out the latest ratings gave high marks for most of the stations owned by JMP Media. WSWT is the #1 FM station. WMBD, despite a surprising dip from the last survey, is #1 among AM stations and remains #1 among local Conservatives. The really big surprise was the entry in the Peoria survey of Canton FM station, WCDD at 107.9. Though it was at the bottom of the ratings with ESPN’s WZPN and religious station WPEO, it is, after all, coming this way from Canton.
Years ago, the local media exploited the competition between Methodist Medical Center and Saint Francis Medical Center as “hospital wars.” To be sure, the competition, fierce competition, is still there. Well, today we have “weather wars” between the conglomerate of WEEK, WHOI and WAOE and WMBD-TV.
It really started when WEEK dumped its local weather forecasters on weekends for a Granite Broadcasting weatherman at its Ft. Wayne, Indiana, sister station. Jason is the weekend anchor and his reports are recorded. WMBD makes a point of promoting its “live” weather reports. Channel 31 also touts its staff of three meteorologists while WEEK has just two. So Channel 25 countered with a network of “live” cameras in Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Canton showing the sky. They recruited sponsors to pay for the cameras. WMBD simply developed cooperative arrangements with IDOT, Bradley and other sources with public cameras. WMBD also purchased the latest sophisticated weather technology unmatched in this part of Illinois, says 31’s chief meteorologist, Chuck Collins. It’s called 3D X-vision and is “live” street level radar. “With it,” states Collins, “we can tell how tall a storm is and also determine how much rain has fallen in a given area. We know the arrival times of a storm, the number of lightning strikes and other key storm characteristics.”
A BIT OF HUMOR
Royce Elliott called his attorney and asked, “How much do you charge to answer three questions?” The attorney said, “Four hundred dollars.” Royce responded, “That’s kind of
high isn’t it?” To that the attorney said, “It might be. What’s your third question?”
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” —Thomas Jefferson