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We have several concerns with the referendum that the Barrington School Board chose to place on the March 17 ballot, but for the sake of time, we’ll forego listing them all and get down to our primary objection, which happens to be our most timely one.

A few short months ago, District 220 issued the following press release:

“Barrington 220 is proud to announce it has been named one of the 2019 Top Workplaces in the Chicago area by the Chicago Tribune. The list is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by research partner, Energage, LLC. The anonymous survey measures several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution, and connection. Click here to see the full list.”

Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of Schools, wrote the following of 220’s top workplace distinction:

“I am very proud of our staff for making Barrington 220 a great place to work. Their dedication and passion are reflected each day in the outstanding education we provide to our students.”

In fact, District 220 is the only school district listed on the Chicago Tribune’s list of Top 150 Workplaces in the Chicago area. We think that’s admirable, but the reality sets in all too quickly for parents, students, teachers, staff and, above all, taxpayers when considering another list.

In the most recent ranking of best high schools in Illinois by U.S. News and World Report, Barrington High School ranked 35th.

Those high schools ahead of Barrington in the Chicago area were: Adlai E Stevenson HS (6), Libertyville HS (10), Hinsdale Central HS (12), John Hersey HS (13), Deerfield HS (14), New Trier Township HS Winnetka 15), Glenbrook North HS (16), Lincoln Park HS (17), Prospect HS (18), Neuqua Valley HS (19), Buffalo Grove HS (20), Glenbard West HS (21), William Fremd HS (22), Vernon Hills HS (23), Glenbrook South HS (24), Lake Forest HS (25), Highland Park HS (26), Evanston Township HS (27), Westinghouse HS (28), Metea Valley HS (29), York Community HS (30), Naperville Central HS (31), Naperville North HS (32) and St. Charles North HS (34).

When considering the two lists we’ve shared, we must ask why District 220’s board and, more specifically, Dr. Brian Harris, can be so pleased with Barrington’s lackluster rank among other high schools.

There was a time when New Trier and Barrington High Schools were the gold standards to be considered when families were relocating to the Chicago area. As one can see, New Trier is still well respected, and we challenge our Board of Education to commit to trying to improve the Barrington High School that we once enjoyed and was so widely envied.

Passing the proposed referendum will not accomplish this. Perhaps when the Board begins such initiatives, we’ll look forward to endorsing them.

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From District 220

“Based on the rapidly evolving situation of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and recommendations from public health officials to limit public gatherings, Barrington 220 is closing all school buildings to students the week of March 16. In addition, all activities and events at the buildings are canceled through spring break.

However, students will be “in school” virtually and we will implement our Distance Learning Plan (click here to see FAQs) on Monday, March 16 through Thursday, March 19. This means students will be learning from home next week and these days will not have to be made up at the end of the school year. As you are aware, Friday, March 20 was a previously scheduled day off for students.

Spring Break will run as scheduled March 20-March 29. As a precautionary measure, next week Barrington 220 will request in a separate communication that families and staff voluntarily complete an online form, if you have plans for international travel over spring break, or during the month of April. Students and staff will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time they leave an area with widespread or ongoing community spread (CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice).

We will make sure students bring home all their devices, chargers and any materials they would need to complete assignments TODAY. All K-12 students, including kindergarten students, will use their devices for Distance Learning next week. In the event a student forgets learning materials/devices at school, please contact the school next week.

As required by Board Policy 4:180 Pandemic Preparedness, Barrington 220 has created this Pandemic Preparedness Plan. This document is subject to change, as the situation develops. In addition, I encourage you to visit our Coronavirus web page for the latest information: www.barrington220.org/coronavirus

Thank you in advance for your support as we implement what is best for our students and staff during this unprecedented time. We understand this may cause challenges for some families, however we believe this is in the best interest for our school community at this time. We will consult with our local health officials over spring break to evaluate when it is safe for our students and staff to return to our facilities. If necessary, Barrington 220 is prepared to continue the Distance Learning Plan after spring break. We will continue sending out regular updates as needed.”

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A rendering of how the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge over the Fox River will look when completed. (Kane County / HANDOUT)

The Kane County Board has added insult to injury by voting to charge drivers 95 cents to cross the Longmeadow Parkway Corridor Bridge, a contentious project from the beginning.

Although the artist’s rendering of the bridge shows a lovely structure over the Fox River, it is truly an intrusion to the Brunner Forest Preserve and to residents of several nearby subdivisions.

Approximately 8,000 Dundee Township residents — including me — voted against the bridge in a nonbinding referendum. I opposed it because it’s too close to homes.

County Board member Chris Kious said the toll represents an unfair cost to his constituents. He pointed out that the Stearns Road and Fabyan Parkway bridges constructed in recent years do not have tolls.

Read the full letter to the editors of the Elgin Courier-News here.

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Pritzker’s plan would replace Illinois’ flat tax with a graduated income tax projected to increase revenue by $3.6 billion a year, chiefly by hiking tax rates on the top 3% of all earners.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s speech Wednesday was billed as his annual budget address. But it was much more than that.

The budget part of the speech held few surprises and was far less ambitious than last year’s agenda. After a first year in which Pritzker passed gambling and cannabis legislation and a $45 billion infrastructure plan, the governor is taking a breather this year, relatively speaking.

The key part of Pritzker’s address was the governor’s pitch for a constitutional amendment that would enable him to change the state’s tax structure and make wealthy people pay more.

“This budget is a bridge to the future,” Pritzker said. And from there, he went on to lay out the benefits, as he sees them, from the graduated income tax.

Read more of Friday’s Tribune op-ed here if you missed it.

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A Barrington High School student addresses the 220 Board of Education February 18, 2020

The Barrington District 220 Board of Education met earlier this week, and as is the custom, the board opened their meeting to public comment. They received only one, but it was a good one:

Well, hi, my name is (student), and I am a junior at Barrington High School, and why I’m up here right now is because I’m aware that the staff members with Barrington two two-twenty are not drug tested and there has been a lot of rumors going around about teachers that have been doing illegal drugs, not like marijuana, like cocaine and meth and stuff like that.

I mean, I been hearing it going around, and there’s been a lot of rumors and most districts drug test their staff members, and I think that’s very important because these/they’re the ones supervising the children, especially in the elementary school. That’s all I have to say.”

Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of District 220, was asked if he had any comment before moving on. After rather long (and perhaps uncomfortable) pause, Harris stated:

Um…, Quickly…, you know there is no statutory retirement, um requirements of drug test staff, uh, except for buss drivers, AND we do drug tests on certain employees in the district that do drive our district vehicles. So, um, and it’s random, and it’s administered, so just so you’re aware.”

To view recording of the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, click here.

We don’t know if District 220 is prohibited from conducting drug testing due to the current teacher’s union contract(s). We don’t know if such testing is cost prohibitive (though it’s unlikely).

Whatever the reason, it’s inexcusable. We believe anyone employed by District 220 be subject to some form of drug testing, and the sooner this occurs, the better for all concerned.

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Detective Lana LeMons, of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, leads a rescue team down a hallway during a mass-shooting drill at Barrington High School on March 20, 2015. (Brian OMahoney / Pioneer Press)

Here’s a memory from my school days that I just can’t seem to forget.

From first grade on we were taught so-called air raid drills. We were told to duck under our desks, sit cross-legged on the floor, bend our heads down and cover our knees with our hands.

Sometimes we were told we could be in the hallway, and the older students — eighth-graders — would cover us.

This was the Atomic Age when the threat of nuclear war was a real possibility. My mother often recalled watching President Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis speech, claiming when he finished she said, “We’re with you.”

Some adults had their own bomb shelters back then. But most were like my mom, willing to go up in a flash for the idea of America.

Read the rest of Randy Blaser’s column here.

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Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District Chief James Kreher

Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District officials say some businesses have been tricked into paying for inspection services by someone improperly claiming to be with the department.

In issuing a community advisory Friday, officials at the Lake Barrington-based department said they first learned about the fire inspector scam after being contacted by unidentified business owners Wednesday. An investigation continues, officials said.

“The (department) conducts annual fire inspections at no charge to businesses, and our inspectors will always be in uniform and carry proper identification,” Fire Chief James Kreher said in a statement. “Local business professionals are welcome to contact us any time to verify scheduled fire inspections or confirm visits by on-duty personnel.”

Impersonating a firefighter is a Class 4 felony in Illinois, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Kreher said any suspicious activity should be reported to 911.

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