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OUR VIEW: Truancy grant shows SHS truly committed to lasting student success

THUMBS UP TO… targeting truancy. Last week Streator High School officials made the exciting announcement they’d secured more than $200,000 in grant funding to help fight chronic student absence. The school now can spend $68,000 annually over the next three years in a targeted effort to not only keep kids in school, but more importantly to help them make up for lost time and prepare for job and life skills in order to succeed after graduation.

The grant funding, which the school can seek to have renewed after the first three years, will let the school use a social worker specializing in truancy as well as a classroom teacher to do much more than simply chase kids back into the front door. Assistant Principal Nick McGurk explained the understanding that chronic truancy tends to be a symptom of larger problems beyond mere motivation, and seeing the school being willing to try big-picture solutions shows a willingness to truly commit to a student’s success far beyond a grade-point average.

THUMBS DOWN TO… a perplexing policy. There is an awful lot to discuss about last week’s stunning news of two La Salle County Auditor’s Office employees facing criminal charges for official misconduct, theft and conspiracy, but one of the most confusing aspects is that the people in question continued to show up at the office after posting bond and being released from their initial detention.

We must be abundantly clear here that we’re preserving the presumption of innocence and not arguing these workers should be terminated simply because of the allegations. However, we do find it odd that state law specifically grants only county elected officials the power to fire, suspend or take other action against the employees in their office. We find placing workers in such positions on administrative leave to be a reasonable step — ensuring them pay and benefits while the justice system gets to work — and suggest the law empower the County Board to make that move via majority vote, or perhaps have it first come up through the committee overseeing the county office in question for a recommendation to the full board. Such a policy would better serve the common interest than the current approach.

THUMBS UP TO… a restorative resurrection. Last week marked the culmination of a lengthy process for the members of Ottawa’s Christ Episcopal Church, who finally got the chance to return to their house of worship 16 months after a fire rendered the church unusable. Things changed in an instant for the venerable faith community when lightning struck the church in May 2017, starting a fire that severely damaged the building, in terms of fire and smoke as well as the water used to keep things from getting worse.

Initial optimism quickly soured as members realized saving the church would require completely gutting the building, stripping walls and floors, rebuilding characteristic wooden beams and restoring the basement from floor to ceiling. Part of the restoration included a water remediation system and air conditioning. It actually was the second time lightning struck the church — but only the first this century — proving again the people of Christ Episcopal are nothing if not resilient. Congratulations on a successful rebuild.

THUMBS DOWN TO… closing time. It’s not the end of the line for Streator Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1492, but Sunday did mark the final day of operation for the bar and hall in the 300 block of East Hickory Street. Long known for its chicken and tenderloin fundraising dinners, the hall also was a home away from home for the many VFW members who proudly served their country and then came back to Streator, just looking for a place to connect with brothers who could truly understand the unique experience of a foreign deployment.

The silver lining is that all is not lost. The state commander put the post on a 60-day suspension for not complying with organizational bylaws, which should be the first step toward a course correction that will allow the VFW to continue in some form for years to come. Veterans organizations fill a special role in our communities, and we hope Post 1492 will find its way into renewed vitality for both the immediate future as well as the long term.

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