Illinois

Yvonne Boose

Some northern Illinois poets had to write outside the lines for a unique Woodstock art exhibition. 

“As It Happens” is an art show on display at Woodstock’s Old Courthouse Art Center. Various poets wrote pieces at different stages of visual artists’ works but the poems are much more than words on paper. 

Artist Carol Hamilton worked with the Woodstock poetry group Atrocious Poets to come up with the concept for the exhibit. She shared her observation.  

Spencer Tritt

Illinois is in the middle of a severe teacher shortage, which also extends to substitute teachers. That problem has gotten much worse during the pandemic.

Amanda Christensen is the DeKalb County Regional Superintendent. Her office is the hub for subs, helping with background checks and licenses.

“I think that there's a greater drain on the system, and we certainly are not keeping up with the need,” she said.

https://unsplash.com

The pandemic has caused lost sales in several industries across northern Illinois, but one turkey farmer said sales are on track for his business. He admitted he’s seeing changes in other areas.

Robert Kauffman is the president of Kauffman Turkey Farms in Waterman. He said he wasn’t sure how the pandemic would impact his business. 

“I didn't know what to expect,” he admitted. “But I do know we're doing much more over-the-counter sales right now. More people are coming in buying products.”

Susan Stephens

The Kishwaukee College Board voted to extend its president’s contract through 2024. It gives Laurie Borowicz a $10,000 base salary increase to $200,000 per year. The college also upped her employer contribution retirement match from 1-1 to 2-1.

Bob Johnson is the president of the Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees. He said she deserved the upgrades.

The Illinois Municipal League wants the State to form a working group of mayors and other local officials to better coordinate coronavirus response. 

The League says local leaders are being asked to enforce coronavirus measures without necessarily having enough assistance from state government to back their authority. IML Executive Director Brad Cole said on their own, these officials may have difficulty addressing violations from residents and businesses.

NIU Researcher Developing Potential New COVID-19 Test

Nov 16, 2020
Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University researcher is working on a less uncomfortable way to test for COVID-19. 

The standard test for COVID-19 involves shoving a long swab deep up a patient’s nose and analyzing the resulting sample. Chemistry Professor Beth Gailliard’s method would instead have a patient gargle a bottle of water and spit it back into a tube. NIU Chief of Staff to the President Matt Streb said the test is still in development, but could make the testing process less unpleasant. 

You don’t have to get out of your car to get a flu shot on Wednesday. That's because Mercyhealth and Molina Healthcare of Illinois are hosting a free, drive-thru community flu clinic at the Javon Bea Hospital on Rockton Avenue in Rockford.

 

Kelly Sprayberry is a nurse and spokesperson for the event. She said the process is quick.

"Should only be two to three minutes," she said, "however the wait may be longer depending on the line."

Anyone who is 18 or older may get the vaccine, as long as supplies last. Sprayberry said you do not need insurance.

Winnebago High School Athletics

For the first time in over 20 years, cross country coaches Janet and Joe Erb were nowhere to be seen at the regional meet for the Winnebago High School girls team. Then again, some of their runners weren’t there either.

Just days before regionals, members of the team and coaching staff came in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University will be offering free COVID testing Monday through Wednesday to students, employees, and the community. 

NIU Chief of Staff to the President Matt Streb said it’s particularly timely with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Yvonne Boose

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems from northern Illinois poets. This week's poem is by Bear Wolf. 

Wolf is a Shawnee Gypsy Jew social justice humanist who lost count of his tattoos somewhere around 20. This world makes no sense to him, so he makes music and poetry.

Here's his poem "Wake Up Call, (Blue Horizons Are Just the Beginning.)"

Blue may have won 

But America is still lost 

 

The cost of living 

Is making a killing 

Rampant racism 

Races through our veins 

The stains of red 

Goodly Creatures, LLC

This week’s episode is with Katrina Syrris. She leads a double life. By day, Katrina is a high school theater teacher at St. Edward Central Catholic. By night and weekends, she owns and operates Goodly Creatures -- her theater production company.

She’s a producer, a director, a playwright -- the list goes on and on. 

Host Peter Medlin talked to Katrina about being an artist during the pandemic. Goodly Creatures lost their studio space during COVID so she’s had to pivot online both for her theater company and her high school classes.

Underwood Wins 14th

Nov 12, 2020
underwood.house.gov

The Associated Press on Thursday called the race for the seat in Illinois' 14th Congressional District for incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood. She defeated Republican Illinois state senator Jim Oberweis. 

In response to the AP call, Underwood issued the following statement: "I am honored to be reelected to represent Illinois' beautiful 14th District in Congress. This was a tough race under some very difficult circumstances, and I want to say thank you to my supporters, the voters, and our elections officials for their diligent work."    

Chase Cavanaugh

A newly proposed scholarship would give Rockford Public School students an opportunity for free tuition and fees at Northern Illinois University.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said the impact of the Rockford Promise scholarship program for the Rockford community is beyond just education.

“We know that educational attainment is an education in and of itself is directly tied to public safety. It is directly tied to neighborhoods; it is directly tied to economic development,” he said.

https://kishwaukeeunitedway.com/

A local chapter of a worldwide community organization is finishing up its annual fundraising event with a virtual celebration on Thursday Nov. 12.

Kishwaukee United Way’s fundraising event “Taste: Bottles & Brews” went online this year.  

The silent auction started Nov. 5. Gretchen Sprinkle is the executive director of Kishwaukee United Way. She explained that more bidders joined the online format than had for in-person auctions held in past years, but said fundraising this year hasn’t been easy.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Due to the climbing positivity rate of COVID-19 in Winnebago County, this week the Rockford Mass Transit District is implementing restriction on some of its services.

 

 

Last month Rockford city bus drivers went down to City Hall to call for improved safety precautions on the buses. This month RMTD responded with some slight changes, but Jodi Williams, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1333, said she’s still worried. 

 

https://www.thewssr.org/

A Rockford poet is showing fellow writers how to bring their words to life in a new poetry workshop series.

Christopher D. Sims said he’s done spoken word poetry for over 20 years. He’s now partnering with Rockford performing arts venue The West Side Show Room in a workshop series called Graffiti Flow: Write and Perform Spoken Word Poetry. He mentioned that a friend introduced him to the venue's artistic director Mike Werckle.  

In Youth We Trust 2021 Grant Cycle Is Open

Nov 11, 2020

The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has a unique program that teaches high school students in Boone, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties about the grantmaking process and how philanthropy works. It’s called In Youth We Trust.

Jennifer Smith is the engagement director for CFNIL. She said the kids look at all aspects of grantmaking and then award grants to adults and youth alike. 

Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

Many races in Illinois won’t see results until next Tuesday. 

Winnebago County received many more mail-in ballots than previous years due to the coronavirus. The backlog of ballots is keeping election authorities busy trying to clear it. Winnebago County Clerk Lori Gummow said it’s important to not fall for fake reports since final election results aren’t out yet. 

https://www.facebook.com/TheNextPictureShow

A northern Illinois arts center kept creativity flowing by challenging artists to ponder a basic technique  for a new art exhibition. 

Mike Glenn is the executive director of The Next Picture Show in Dixon. Glenn said he’s a writer so he likes to make the artists dig deeper when they create for exhibitions.  

Rep. Jeff Keicher

Illinois residents voted down the proposed graduated income tax plan. Some education experts were hopeful those extra funds could help restore a portion of funds lost due to pandemic revenue shortfalls.

State Representative Jeff Keicher wasn’t surprised the graduated income tax amendment failed. The Sycamore Republican says it was a matter of a lack of trust in the legislature and Governor J.B. Pritzker to spend that money wisely. He sits on the higher-ed finance committee.

City Of Sycamore Faces Water System Neglect Lawsuit

Nov 9, 2020
Steve Johnson / Flickr/Creative Commons

Several Sycamore residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the City claiming a polluted local water supply. 

The suit alleges the City neglected an aging local water system. In turn, that allegedly led to toxic metals, such as lead leeching into the water supply, along with the proliferation of bacteria. Attorney Mark Vasquez said these cases can take a while to litigate. That’s due to factors such as when the court decides to rule on it.

Connie Kuntz

Rockford health care facilities are feeling the strain of COVID-19 related hospitalizations. 

 

 

Officials at all of the local health care systems say that they have been seeing significant increases in COVID-19 admissions.  Dr. Sandra Martell from the Winnebago County Health Department said the region could see cascading consequences.

 

NIU Faculty Weigh In On Post-Election Ponderings

Nov 6, 2020
Northern Illinois University

Election Day may be over, but there is plenty to talk about before the inauguration. 

Voters are still glued to their screens to find out who will lead the nation…and what the final vote has to say about how a politically divided country will move forward.

That’s behind the timing of a virtual panel Thursday night. Experts from Northern Illinois University’s colleges of Law and Political Science took questions from the community about different election-related subjects. 

Photo provided by Paige Monét Wright.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases northern Illinois poets. This week's poem is by Paige Monét Wright, a member of FourPoets, OneMic. 

Wright was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia but moved to Illinois at the age of 14. She and her older sister were raised mainly by their mother.

Wright is a sophomore at Northern Illinois University studying biological sciences. She said she wants to be a pediatrician so that she can help children stay healthy and safe. 

Peter Medlin

Illinois voters said “no” to the graduated income tax on Tuesday. 

 

More than 100 labor groups including the Illinois Education Association came out in favor of the proposed amendment. Kathi Griffin is president of the IEA. She said Illinois needed the tax proposal to pass to continue paying for Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) of K-12 schools.

 

One of the closest races is in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. Incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood faces challenger Republican Jim Oberweis.

On Wednesday, the Oberweis campaign issued a statement declaring victory. But in a virtual news conference on Thursday afternoon, Underwood said that the race is not over and that there are thousands of vote-by-mail ballots outstanding.

Yvonne Boose

The pandemic has forced numerous faith leaders out of the pulpit and into the homes of many via computer screens and other devices. But for some worshipers, internet sermons just aren’t enough.

The King James version of the Bible said, “And he said unto them, ‘Go ye unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’” That’s Mark 16:15. 

Connie Kuntz

The warm weather has been great for humans, but it's hard on those post-Halloween pumpkins. Fortunately, Rockford's Discovery Center has a solution.

Grab -- carefully -- your rotting jack-o'-lantern and bring it to the parking lot of the Riverfront Museum Park on Sunday. Ann Marie Walker is the director of marketing for the center and said they'll have a giant catapult called a trebuchet.

Peter Medlin

DeKalb County -- like many counties across the country -- shattered early voting and vote-by-mail records. But that doesn’t mean the polls have slowed down on Election Day, amid COVID-19 safety measures.

Election judges at some precincts said that by noon they were closing in on full-day totals from the 2016 election.

“This is actually one of my first times voting,” said LeShawn Jackson. He was a part of protests in DeKalb this summer.

The movement for racial justice and police reform was a major reason he needed to cast his ballot. 

https://www.facebook.com/PlayForTheVote

This year’s first presidential debate created lots of buzz but it also birthed a new idea. A Boston musician solicited performers across the country to play the stress away as voters wait in line this Election Day. 

Mike Block is the director of Play For The Vote, an organization designed to increase voter turnout. Block is also a composer, singer and cello player. He said the morning after the debate he found himself practicing his craft.  

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