Straight Talk | The “Honeymoon” Is Over?



Whenever a new executive comes on the scene, whether in business or government, there’s always a period of time when everyone is supportive. Some refer to that period as a “honeymoon.” Criticism is muffled in order to create a positive environment for the new leader. Everyone knows Peoria Public Schools needed it due to poor past administration and a board that had a history of bad decisions and indecisions. When Dr. Sharon Kherat came on board, she was enthusiastically welcomed with open arms. Well, the honeymoon is over, and it’s due to the continuing fights at primarily Peoria High School.

The latest school fight was videotaped, and it has gone viral on the Internet. City Councilman Chuck Grayeb let Superintendent Kherat know he’s unhappy about how administrators have handled it, or more accurately, mishandled it. He sent her an email complaining that the district has allowed alleged instigators and participants to return to the classroom without punishment and pointed out there has been a 360 percent increase in school assaults. Dr. Kherat didn’t take the criticism kindly and fired back, saying, “I’m proud of my efforts to change our City of Peoria. Review comprehensively all of the progress of the board of education and all of the staff of PPS. I would say pretty impressive!!! What about you?”

Grayeb responded by reminding her that he spent 33 years in Peoria Public Schools as a teacher and administrator. Grayeb has more experience in education than Dr. Kherat and should have known that before sending an unwarranted verbal attack that failed to deal with the issues raised by the Peoria councilman. To add fuel to the fire, Kherat, the same weekend, was praising the suggestion that students causing problems for Peoria’s learning environment have “brains that need to be rewired,” according to a story in the Peoria Journal by reporter Pam Adams. Grayeb concluded his comments by recommending city council members and district officials meet to discuss ways to deal with issues.

Speaking of Pam Adams, Terry Knapp, past president of the Peoria Federation of Teachers, and long-time teacher and coach, spoke before the school board opposing changing the name of Woodrow Wilson School to Dr. Maude Saunders. And then community activist, Jackie Petty, offered support for the change, calling President Wilson a racist. Well, Adams quoted Petty, but not Knapp.

Hot Water!

Judging from some recent letters in the Peoria newspaper, supporters of the purchase of Illinois American Water are getting “watered off.” It seems they don’t like how the water folks are defending the company in opposition to a buy out. I know enough about the issue to make me dangerous, but not enough to take sides. Not taking sides is unusual for me. However, what I do know is the proposal for the City of Peoria to purchase the water company is far too expensive and too inclusive to move forward without having at least an advisory referendum. Supporters of the buy out are opposed as is the Peoria Journal’s only editorial writer, Mike “Beatle” Bailey. “Beatle” criticized the water company’s 400 person survey as flawed in the same issue the newspaper was promoting it’s “Best of 2018” campaign as an accurate survey. That’s about as scientific as CNN’s assessment of dirty sex performer Stormy Daniels. The newspaper thinks voters are currently too dumb to know how to vote on a referendum and yet apparently wise enough to vote in favor of a library tax, tax increases for the county nursing home, and support for the museum. One supporter of the water company purchase said, “Now is not the time.” The city is facing financial challenges over the Pere Marquette Hotel, it has to deal with a repayment on a previous due diligence study, and has a challenge with CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) costs ranging as high as $250 million with fees starting June 1 for residents and businesses. Oh, yes, the city has a budget deficit that might total $8 million. If all that doesn’t give a city CPA a headache, nothing will.

Small World

The Peoria Journal had a nice story about World War II veteran William Hellstern who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. The Spalding graduate was serving on the USS Oklahoma when he was killed but was buried, like many, as unidentified in Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery. Recent DNA developments have made it possible to begin identifying the “unknowns” thanks to the undying efforts of former Peorian Ray Emory. Emory was on the USS Honolulu manning a machine gun during the attack. After he retired from the Navy, Emory started trying in 1985 to identify the remains of the unknowns.

In a recent conversation with Emory, he said 100 crew members of the Oklahoma have been identified. Credit Ray Emory for helping. During his initial review of the Navy’s 1941 burial records, he identified the remains of 17-year-old Navy apprentice Thomas Hembree killed on the USS Curtiss. Hembree’s body was exhumed and he was given a military funeral with honors in 2002. Over the years, Emory has been analyzing personnel deceased files, dental records and family information and then provides his reports to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. It’s estimated 330 of those killed in the Japanese attack were buried as unknown. Hellstern is no longer unknown and will be buried in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Fellow Peorian Ray Emory helped make that possible.

Now 97, Emory isn’t doing much of his detective work anymore, but he’s proud of what he’s accomplished. He just lost his wife, Virginia Dargil, formerly of Kickapoo. They both went to Peoria High. Emory later went to Bradley, but graduated from the University of Washington where he’s been honored twice. He’s promised to be on our morning show again, so stay tuned.

Quote of the Month

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” –– George Washington Carver

Roger Monroe

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