Thursday, January 31, 2008

Waiting for St. Mary's

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Three-year-old Sophie Finn-Davis of Sycamore nibbles on a marshmallow Tuesday evening as she looks up at her grandmother Maggie Finn (not pictured), who was waiting for the opening of registration for Sophie’s preschool class at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Sycamore. Finn sent her three children to the school but never had to wait in line to ensure their enrollment. “It’s just amazing how people come early to wait,” she said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Parents were assigned numbers upon arrival at the school. There were 18 spots for three-year old pre-kindergarten and 20 positions for four-year-old's in the six year old program.

PRISim in Sycamore

Chronicle photos ERIC SUMBERG Sycamore Police Detective Jeff Wig, left, holds a modified Glock 17 handgun as he awaits the start of a simulation in which he will be asked to make decisions about the use of force. The gun shoots lasers onto a screen on which a situation is unfolding, and computers using the Professional Range Instruction Simulator, or PRISim, track how the officer moves his weapon throughout the simulation, center. Each officer receives 3-5 rounds of training, many of which are monitored by Sycamore Police Sgt. Michael Anderson. Sgt. Anderson describes it as the "Force on force training we're looking for."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Spend a Day at DeKalb High School

See DeKalb High School in Sight and Sound by James Bowey and Eric Sumberg

Read A Day in the Life by Kate Schott and Carrie Frillman

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Freshman Cody Weidner, 15, walks across Rich Road to catch Bus No. 30 en route to DeKalb High School.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Junior Steven Williams, 16, rides bus No. 30 as it approaches DeKalb High School.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School students, who are allowed to wear coats, walk from the school to a physical eduation class in the Park District's Sports and Recreation Center.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School choral director Travis Erikson directs his third-period concert choir class in singing "To Make You Feel My Love."

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School senior Sam Battista, 18, plans to study violin performance when he attends college next year but is forced to practice in a stairwell adjacent to the high school's music wing.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Scott Williams has taught chemistry at DeKalb High School for 23 years. As the area coordinator for science, he has done some sacrificing despite his senior position because space is tight. He did his prep work sitting at his desk while Marsha Caton taught General Science 1 in his room during sixth period. "This is the worst it's been," he said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Freshman Veronica Lopez, 14, walks in a crowd of students on the first floor of DeKalb High School after fourth period. "It's very crowded," Lopez said as she gathered books from her locker, which she said she visits twice daily because of its inconvenient location. "I think that it has a big thing to do with tardiness."

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School principal Lindsey Hall laughs with students in the school's yearbook room between sixth and seventh periods.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School sophomore Teri-Lee O'Connell, 15, works on a project for her AP European history class on a computer in the high school's library. She has found that the number of functioning workstations in the library rarely meets the demands of students who want to use them.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School forensics team captain Kendalle Tanner (right), 17, a senior, and Gabe Kalal, 16, a junior, rehearse the one-act play "Evening Education" by Jeffrey Scott Elwell for team co-leader Greg Solomon after school.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School track members Greg Sanders, 15, (left), a sophomore, and Aaron Davis, 16, laugh as they race after practice in the commons.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Soaring to Victory

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb-Sycamore swimming co-op sophomore Chad Thompson barrels home on the return butterfly leg of the 200 IM event in the squad’s dual meet against Algonquin on Tuesday. Thompson won the event in a time of 2:10.73 and the home team took the meet by a final score of 88-82.

Once More Around the Ballpark

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Greg Perian, 25, of DeKalb smiles as a member of his softball squad, Cabana Charley’s, cracks a joke Tuesday before the start of a game. The team — composed mainly of Northern Illinois University chemistry graduate students — took the field at the DeKalb Park District’s Sports and Recreation Center on Tuesday night for a game against the Midwest Tree Service Beavers.

Play Ball

Story and Photographs by Eric Sumberg

In the friendly confines of the DeKalb Park District's Sports and Recreation Center, two teams took the field Tuesday night for a game of softball.

One team sported hats turned backward, sweatshirts and the occasional cardigan. The other team wore cleats, high socks and retro two-tone softball T-shirts. Both teams play in the Tuesday Men's League offered by the park district.

Cabana Charley's (0-9) took on the Midwest Tree Service Beavers (8-1) at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday - and it wasn't pretty.

The two had met just weeks before when the Beavers won 25-2.

“They're going to beat us badly,” 25-year-old Greg Perian said.

Cabana Charley's, sponsored by the Sycamore restaurant of the same name, is composed primarily of Northern Illinois University chemistry graduate students.

Perhaps if the academics were physicists, they would have had a sporting chance.

“You try throwing a grounder, it bounces halfway up,” 23-year-old Robert Hoey said.

The men representing Midwest Tree Service, a DeKalb business, chatted among themselves and tossed relaxed warm-up pitches to each other before the game.

“This should be quick and painless,” said Victor Wogen, 37, team member and DeKalb's 3rd Ward alderman.

It's not as though Cabana Charley's doesn't practice - the players just haven't practiced much since it got cold.

“We should spend less time in the lab and more time on the diamond,” Hoey said.

The Midwest Tree Service Beavers made quick work of the NIU students in the first inning, surrendering no runs on a series of weak infield hits. When it was their turn to bat, there was a certain ferocity to their assault.

Batter after batter ricocheted hits off the back walls and fielders' legs as they tested the 10-run slaughter rule, which is not applicable until the fifth inning, in just the first. The score after one inning of play: 9-0.

“We could possibly change pitchers,” pondered 26-year-old Cabana Charley's member Mike Zickus. “That could maybe be it, but it's not the pitching.”

Hope springs eternal.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Midwest Tree Service Beavers right fielder Adam Kownacki, 23, pops up for an out in the nine-run first inning of a game against Cabana Charley’s on Tuesday night at the DeKalb Park District’s Sports and Recreation Center.

Home at Our Place

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Our Place student Marcus Boyd, 18, of DeKalb reads from a language arts textbook Friday morning at Kishwaukee College in Malta. Since 1987, Our Place has helped youths ages 16-21 who are no longer in high school get a high school equivalency degree. To qualify to take the GED test, a person must be 18 or 17 and have been out of school for a full year. “It’s more of a relief because you get breaks,” Boyd said. “I’m really getting it (a degree) because I want it.”

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Our Place students Antonio Rugerio (left), 20, and Luis Marquez, 16, laugh with Nancy West. West has been running the Our Place program at Kishwaukee College since 1993. “These are cool kids, they just haven’t had a chance anywhere else,” West said.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pair of Barbs

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High School junior 6-foot center Emily Murphy is doing double-duty in the post after former Barb teammate Kristen Judson left DeKalb over the summer. Murphy is scoring 10.3 points a game while grabbing 5.4 rebounds a contest.
Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb High senior forward Tyler Smith’s game has improved by leaps and bounds this year as he has taken over as the leading scorer in his final season with the Barbs.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tiny Dancers

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Dynamic Dance Studio students (from left) Lily Castillo, 9, Ashley Kelly, 9, and Briana Pizano, 8, dance to the song “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” on Wednesday at Chesebro Elementary School in DeKalb. “It’s really fun and exciting to learn how to dance,” Ashley said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBER Mario Montoya, 6, points and swivels in sync to "Like a Boy" by the hip-hop artist Ciara during a dance class with about 45 fellow students after school on Wednesday afternoon. Dynamic Dance Studio runs classes on Monday and Wednesday after school and during lunch on Tuesday and Thursday said director Jessica Lyons. "My goal is to have them expand," she said of growing their dance repetoire. "Hip-hop is in and we're new and we're trying to build their trust."

The Growing Place

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG C.J. Boyd (left), 2, and Aliren Mays, 22 months, explore the new toy and new person Wednesday afternoon at The Growing Place on South Fourth Street in DeKalb. One of the pair’s teachers, Erika Felix, 22, said that as an instructor, one has to get used to the rigors of grappling with the exploring youngsters. “It’s fun. It’s very tiring, though. You get a lot of bruises on you from the climbing,” she said with a laugh.


Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

Plastic keys, balls, chairs and all the attention a toddler can handle. As a 2-year old, it probably doesn't get much better.

For a few lucky toddlers, The Growing Place in DeKalb - which will mark its 35th anniversary of day care services in the DeKalb community in February - is the place to be. The 54-employee company is a hub of activity on weekdays at any of its four sites: one on South Fourth Street, Wright Elementary School in Malta and DeKalb schools Chesebro Elementary and Tyler Elementary.

“We believe that children learn through play,” executive director Susan Petersen said. “We strive for consistency so the children have a safe environment.”

The area in the facility's older-toddler room was abuzz with activity Wednesday afternoon as 2-year-old C.J. Boyd, 2-year-old Dorian Addison and 22-month-old Aliren Mays played with their instructors, 22-year-old Erika Felix, 20-year-old Erica Wilson and 28-year-old Sonya Rice.

Both kids and teachers get something out of the interactions at The Growing Place.

“They're at that age that they get really interested in things like crafts,” said Wilson, an undergraduate student studying early childhood studies and special education at Northern Illinois University. “I love kids, so it just seemed like a perfect job to learn and be around a diverse bunch of kids.”

Felix is also at NIU, but as a graduate student in early childhood education. She enjoys how her young pupils develop and adapt to their environment. She laughed Wednesday as her fellow teachers pointed out who among the group were divas, easygoing, sensitive.

“It's really rewarding when kids learn new words, like how to say your name,” she said with a smile. “They know our routine pretty well. But when it's free play, it's pretty much chaos.”

More than 200 families send their children to The Growing Place throughout the year, Petersen said.

“We work with children and families to be good citizens and neighbors,” she said. “We're all about safety and making sure kids are nurtured.”

There are approximately 75 children on a waiting list to get into the day care center, which shares a playground with neighboring day care center The Children's Learning Center. The Growing Place is one of 41 accredited day care centers in Illinois by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, an organization that promotes excellence in early childhood education.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes. We want to make sure those children feel safe with their caregivers,” Petersen said. “We don't see our staff as baby sitters. We see them as professional educators.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two Nights at the Convo

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Huskie cheerleaders (from left) Emily Gryglak, Kelsey Sharer, Laura Juzeszyn, Joselyn Huynh, Kim Lach, Nicole Jazo, Alison Hill and Jackie Maxwell relax behind the baseline at the Convocation Center before the women’s basketball game between Northern Illinois University and Central Michigan University on Tuesday. “We think the band cares about us the most,” said Jazo of spectators at Huskie basketball games.

Loud 'n' Proud

Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

About 615 paying spectators came to the Convocation Center on Tuesday to watch the Northern Illinois University women's basketball game against Central Michigan University.

With eight Huskie cheerleaders on hand - or one for every 77 Huskie fans - it could be considered a favorable ratio of cheerleader-to-fan. But the activities of the women in black don't always generate the excitement one might assume they could.

“As much as they're under-appreciated, people would miss them if they weren't at the game,” 29-year-old cheerleading coach Trisha Rodeghero said.

“They probably wouldn't care if the guys weren't there, but they'd care if the girls weren't,” 20-year-old cheerleader Eric Scholting said.

But don't think of Rodeghero - or anyone in the 30-person squad, which includes three men besides Scholting - as a cynic. They love what they do.

“For a lot of them, it's the competition part of it,” Rodeghero said. “A lot of it is just getting out there.”

The Huskie cheerleaders work year-round to pump up fans at home games for NIU athletes. The season begins in May and ends at the national championships in April. The group practices together one weekend a month in the summer and spends 12 hours each week practicing during the school year.

Cheerleaders attend games based on seniority, with seniors and juniors getting first pick for road trips and certain home games.

“We do this out of the goodness of our heart,” said Nicole Jazo, 19, though she added that the amount of dedication college cheerleaders must have is significantly higher than what was needed when she cheered during high school.

Despite the step up in talent that the collegiate ranks bring, acrobatic cheerleading on the hardwood has been curtailed in recent years. A 2006 NCAA policy limited twisting, basket tosses and pyramids after a Southern Illinois University cheerleader was injured after falling in March of that year. In 2007, all of those maneuvers became prohibited.

“For basketball games, we don't get to show off our top stunts,” Jazo said.

The women and men of the cheerleading squad must raise money to be able to afford the trips they take. They raise about $20,000 to take a 20-person squad with four alternates to the national competition, and each pays $300 to be on the squad.

“If you really like something, you'd do it if you don't get paid,” 19-year-old Kim Lach said.

Or they may just like to be around the games.

“I love football, that's why I do it,” 19-year-old Joselyn Huynh said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois forward Shari' Welton hauls in a rebound, one of four she had on the night, in the first half of the Huskies' 87-60 victory over Central Michigan on Tuesday night at the Convocation Center.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois forward Mauvolyene Adams lunges for a loose ball corralled by Central Michigan's Shonda Long in the first half of the Huskies' 87-60 win over the Chippewas on Tuesday night at the Convocation Center.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Eastern Michigan's Justin Dobbins extends to complete, unsuccessfully, a dunk over Northern Illinois center Egan Grafel in the first half of the Eagles' 65-61 victory on Wednesday night at the Convocation Center.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois forward Michael Hart slams down the final two points of the first half on Wednesday night as the Huskies took on Eastern Michigan at the Convocation Center. Hart scored seven points on the night but it was not enough as the Eagles won 65-61.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois University men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton keeps an eye on his Huskies during the second half of their 65-61 loss to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday night at the Convocation Center. “I'm disappointed,” Patton said in his postgame news conference. “I thought that was the softest exhibition of play we've had all season long. You should never allow a team to come in and play more aggressive.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pattons Shaping Program

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG True freshman Michael Patton listens to his father, Northern Illinois men’s basketball coach Ricardo Patton, speak to the team during practice on Wednesday. Averaging 7.3 points and taking over the starting point guard following Ryan Paradise's career-ending nose injury, Michael has become a regular contributor for the Huskies in his father's first season as head coach.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois University true freshman Michael Patton is shouldering the load for the Huskies this season, and also literally carrying teammates, as Bristan Kelley, top, found out in practice on Wednesday.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Schepler on the Mat

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Sycamore senior heavyweight wrestler Jason Schepler is 23-3 as the Spartans head into dual meets with Rochelle on Thursday and rival DeKalb on Friday night in Sycamore.

NI Farm Show

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Tyler Richardson (top), 19, of Stillman Valley chats with Ed Cowan of AgriGold Hybrids at the annual Northern Illinois Farm Show on Wednesday afternoon at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center. Cowan has been hard at work finalizing orders, making seed recommendations and meeting new clients at the 2008 show. “It’s been a good show so far,” he said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Gene Blake of McHenry is framed by a piece of ornamental ironwork featuring a barn and a cow as he looks at the wares at the Ace Welding/Cutting Edge Designs booth at the annual Northern Illinois Farm Show on Wednesday afternoon at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center.

Pioneering Equality

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Icilda Flournory, a native of Jamaica, was one of the first black faculty members at Northern Illinois University. She and her husband, Richard, were one of the first black couples to live in DeKalb after they moved to a home on Normal Road in 1959. “It is like God sent us here as missionaries to save DeKalb,” Flournory said of her role as one of the city’s pioneers of racial equality.

NIU Professor Broke Racial Boundaries

Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

Store clerks wouldn't look at Icilda Flournory when she went shopping in DeKalb in 1959.

“It was a lily-white town,” Flournory said Wednesday in an interview at her DeKalb home. “It was very racist.”

Flournory is a trailblazer in DeKalb history. She and her husband, Richard Flournory, were among the first black families to live in the city after World War II.

One of 10 children, Flournory was born before World War II near Montego Bay, Jamaica. After graduating in 1952 from Shortwood Teachers' College in Kingston, Jamaica, she taught in rural schools and noticed that many Jamaican children were undernourished - starting her lifelong passion for learning and teaching about nutrition.

While teaching, she met an Englishman named Capt. Peter Blagrove, who decided to pay for her education upon hearing of Icilda's dreams and ambitions.

Flournory enrolled in 1954 at historically black Tuskegee College in Tuskegee, Ala., to study nutrition. She graduated in 1957 and received a fellowship at the University of Massachusetts to study for a master's degree in nutrition.

She married Richard Flournory - whom she met at Tuskegee College - in 1958 while visiting him in Alabama en route to a trip home to Jamaica.

“I guess he was afraid I wouldn't come back, so we got married right there,” she said.

After earning her graduate degree, she got a job in the Home Economics Department of Northern Illinois University in 1959 for what she intended to be a one-year stay. NIU had made the transition from a college to a university in 1957 and had about 6,000 students.

“I didn't know where I was in this cornfield,” she recalled, laughing.

Flournory was NIU's first female minority professor, and along with a black professor of sociology as well as two black students in the Home Economics Department one of the few minorities at the school.

She left after a year to study for her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison but returned to DeKalb after a car accident to teach part time. She was hired full time in 1966.

In the late 1960s, Rhoten Smith, who became the president of NIU in 1967, asked Flournory and other minority faculty members to help black students adjust to campus life. At the time, black students often lived in off-campus housing and the Flournorys would usually board a few at their home.

When Icilda Flournory, shown here with her husband and son, moved to DeKalb in 1959 to teach at Northern Illinois University, she was one of two black employees at the school. Flournory was joined by her husband, Richard, in 1960. By December of that year, she had a son, Michael, who was 3 months old in this picture, taken in DeKalb in 1961.

As the house population grew - Icilda and Richard have three children, 47-year-old Michael, 44-year-old Martin and 42-year-old Mary - the Flournorys quickly became known as the people to whom students in need could turn. They also began a tradition that continues today - a welcome reception for new minority faculty members.

“People would be sent here to help,” she said. “We were the backbone for all the black people who came to DeKalb.”

Because Flournory had grown up in British-controlled Jamaica, race issues that were second nature for American blacks were new for her.

“I didn't know anything about segregation when I came,” she said. “You're just a person.”

She recalls a bus ride from Miami to Tuskegee, taken in 1954 on her first day in America. She sat in the front of the bus, despite the de facto Jim Crow laws that said blacks sat in the back.

“So naive I was! I just sat there. I didn't know what was going on,” she said. “I guess they kind of figured I was crazy.”

Flournory's race consciousness grew when she moved to DeKalb. A member of First United Methodist Church, Flournory was approached at a church dinner and asked where her children would be going to school. The questioner intimated they couldn't enroll in DeKalb schools.

“Lady, I am a citizen of DeKalb and they are going in the DeKalb school system,” she replied.

Tension between minority students and the town of DeKalb peaked in 1970 after students rallied in outrage following the May 4 massacre of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. That night, NIU President Rhoten Smith met students at the Lincoln Highway bridge to prevent them from confronting a waiting phalanx of police, National Guardsmen and hostile DeKalb residents.

In the wake of these developments, a town/gown committee was formed to help prevent violence in the coming years.

In the following decades, the Flournorys continued to be a resource for black students who came to town to study at NIU. She recalled telling her students their weapon in life was to study, not fight.

Sally Stevens, the secretary to NIU presidents from 1964-1996, remembers the Flournorys as a positive influence.

“Certainly (the Flournorys) were good, upstanding citizens, and people respected them,” Stevens said. “It did help the cultural and racial initiatives that NIU took to have them there.”

More recently, a bomb threat last December that was directed at black students at NIU has made Flournory wary.

“I want to say to (NIU President) Dr. (John) Peters that we who helped clean it up in the 1960s, we want any student to walk free without fear or intimidation,” she said. “All that crime, we want to clean it up. We don't want it to exist.”

Flournory retired from NIU in 1987 after 25 years of teaching. Through part-time work and volunteering, she has continued to give to the community.

“Our job has been very rewarding because we were helping people, not just black people,” Flournory said of how she and her husband, who died in 2004, continued to help new students get on their feet in DeKalb. “Whoever comes and needs help, they come to the campus, they know my name.”

She has also decided to pay Capt. Blagrove's favor forward by helping to pay for the education of her oldest granddaughter, 18-year-old Jolecia Flournory, who is now in her second semester at the University of Pennsylvania.

“It's only fair to do so to someone else,” Flournory said with a smile.

Icilda Flournory made this cooking scrapbook while studying in the mid-1950s for her undergraduate degree in food and nutrition at what was then Tuskegee College in Tuskegee, Ala.

Oh, What a Night!

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Genoa-Kingston fans cheer sophomore guard Scott Suchy after he drained a three-pointer in the second quarter of the Cogs' game against the undefeated Winnebago Indians on Tuesday night in Genoa. Suchy finished the game with a team-high 23 points.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Genoa-Kingston senior guard Martin Dwyer, right, battles for a loose ball with Winnebago's Steve Mulrooney in the fourth quarter.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Sixth-year Genoa-Kingston coach Corey Jenkins leaps with excitement in the fourth quarter as his Cogs pull ahead from the Winnebago Indians on Tuesday night in Genoa.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Genoa-Kingston senior guard Jimmy Lopez breaks away from a mob of Cog fans after they put the finishing touches on a 64-58 victory over the previously undefeated Winnebago Indians. Lopez finished the game with 21 points.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Job Value

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Third-year Northern Illinois University student worker Travis Pierce, 21, talks on his cell phone on the second floor of Barsema Hall on Monday afternoon. The operations management and information systems student was working at his job in the Accountancy Department of the College of Business, a position he holds year-round. While Pierce has found he values his education more because of his job, he also enjoys having more contact with professors in what he calls “one of the best business schools around.”

NIU Students Work Through Winter Break

Story and Photography by Eric Sumberg

There is value in any job, but some jobs have added value.

Brooke Hayne, for instance, is a 22-year-old graduate student in accounting at Northern Illinois University who has worked in the NIU Foundation Financial Services Team for about a year. Hayne, who is from Elgin and graduates this year, has already landed a job with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago.

“I think the reason I got the job that I did is because of this job,” Hayne said Monday afternoon at her desk in the area of Altgeld Hall that houses the NIU Foundation, a nonprofit organization that secures and manages private gifts made to NIU.

Her co-worker Giorgio Tsiagalis, 20, a third-year accountancy and computer programming double-major from DeKalb, has been in the office for almost two years. He enjoys working in an office where he is treated as an adult and gets hands-on experience in his chosen field.

“I'd say it helps a lot for business courses,” Tsiagalis said. “School helps you with the job, and the job helps you, too.”

NIU students may work a maximum of 20 hours per week in a campus job, according to the school's human resources department.

Tanuja Singh, chair of the Department of Marketing in the NIU College of Business, employs two students most of the year in her office. They do tasks such as database management and survey design.

“They're not just doing routine things,” Singh said. “It is a learning experience in more ways than one.”

Betsy Hull, assistant controller for the NIU Foundation, oversees four students who work in her office. A 1994 NIU graduate, Hull worked in campus cafeterias while a Huskie undergraduate. While she sees value in doing work outside one's academic interest, Hull would have jumped at the opportunity to work in that office had the chance been available while she was in school.

For her employees, the bar is set high because they're getting real-world experience.

“Our students are actually doing real accounting work,” Hull said. “It's on campus and it's the best of both worlds.”

Tsiagalis said getting hands-on experience has helped him know what needs to be learned and what can be skipped. He estimates he spends 10 percent of his time at the job doing busy work while the rest of his day is more substantive.

“Learning it from the books is one way, and knowing how to do it in real life is important,” he said.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

In the Hunt

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Indian Creek senior guards Jake Swanson, left, and Freddy Assell have led the Timberwolves to a 8-5 record this year by combining for an average of 30 points per game. Swanson leads the team with 20.2 points-per-contest while Assell has contributed 9.8 points a game.

New Digs

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG With the seal of the state of Illinois behind her, legislative aide Kathy Vance Siebrasse, 53, sorts the contents of moving boxes Thursday afternoon in state Sen. Brad Burzynski’s new office at 1101 DeKalb Ave. in Sycamore. Burzynski, a Republican senator from Clare, has been making preparations to move since November. While there is still a lot of work to do, “if people come in now, I’ll try to help them as best I can,” Vance Siebrasse said.

Moving Day

Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

Like an empty-nester, state Sen. Brad Burzynski found he just doesn't need as much space as he once did.

The Clare Republican - whose legislative district, the 35th, includes DeKalb and Boone counties and parts of Winnebago, Ogle and LaSalle counties - has moved his office. His new digs are a 1,168-square-foot space at 1101 DeKalb Ave. in Sycamore, a few blocks away from his former office at 505 DeKalb Ave.

“To be quite honest, we're just trying to downsize a little bit and become a little bit more efficient,” the 52-year-old Burzynski said in a phone interview Thursday evening.

The last two months have been a hectic time for the state senator as he has packed the files accumulated from 17 years of public service. This will be the senator's third office on DeKalb Avenue. He spent three years in his first office - on the other side of Salem Lutheran Church from the site of his current office - and 10 years at 505 DeKalb Ave.

“When we moved to the location we just left, we really did not get rid of too much,” Burzynski said. “We've had 17 years' worth of files that we're moving, 17 years' worth of accumulation. Anybody who has moved their homes after living in the same place for 17 years knows what that means.”

Burzynski was not in his new office Thursday because he was attending a funeral in southern Illinois, but his legislative aide, Kathy Vance Siebrasse, was hard at work dealing with the ceiling-high stacks of boxes. The moving process started two months ago after the new space was secured.

“Because he's been in office so long, he has files we needed to go through thoroughly,” Vance Siebrasse said. “He's got a lot of souvenirs from his years in office.”

Those souvenirs include multiple elephant statues - both for good luck and as a reminder of Burzynski's membership in the Grand Old Party. Burzynski took the fiscal conservatism he practices in Springfield to heart as he spent as little money - and no taxpayer money - as possible on the move.

“We did most of the moving ourselves,” Vance Siebrasse said. “He's always interested in saving money.”

Thursday was the first day the phones, which had been routed to the senator's Rockford office, were ringing in the new office. Internet is expected to be operating by Monday, but the office is open for any constituent who wants to stop by.

“We're really fully operational now,” Burzynski said. “We've always had an open-door policy, always accepted walk-ins when we could. We certainly hope people will stop by and visit us.”

Going Up

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG A cloud of sawdust is thrown into the air Thursday afternoon as 47-year-old Steve Fick of Swedberg and Associates of Sycamore cuts boards for insulation stops. The stops will be used in the attic of the Sycamore Fire Department’s new fire station that is being built at Peace and Frantum roads.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Trifecta: Babies, Gas, and Smoking

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Malta resident and proud father Matthew George, left, looks over as his father-in-law Charlie Stanley gives a kiss to his daughter Sarah who is holding the couple's new born son Joseph Ivan George who was, by virtue of being born at 6:07 a.m. New Year's Day at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, became the first baby born in DeKalb County in 2008. "I may have to have one of your beers," Stanley said to his son-in-law as he left to take care of the George's 2-year-old daughter Isabella.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Jane Toms, 44, of Sycamore fills up her tank Wednesday afternoon at the Clark gas station on DeKalb Avenue in Sycamore. Toms, who works for AmeriGas, a propane company, feels the spike in the cost of oil, which will translate into higher prices at the pump in the coming weeks, will hurt those on fixed and low incomes the most. “It would really be nice if there was some relief in the near future,” she said. “Sometimes you wonder if it’s really a valid reason or just an excuse to make some money.”

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Sycamore resident George Hoffman, 68, sits at a table near the bowling lanes at Four Seasons Sports in Sycamore without a cigarette in hand before the start of a game in the Wednesday night men’s handicap league. Hoffman has had to give up smoking at the lanes due to a statewide ban on smoking in public places. “It’s something we’ve had for so many years, why change it now?” Hoffman asked. “But everybody has their rights,” he added.

New Year, New Rules

Story and Photographs by Eric Sumberg

On a cold night, what's to stop them from just getting into their cars and heading home?

That's the question on the mind of 52-year-old Marsha Royalty, co-owner of Four Seasons Sports in Sycamore. She wonders if her patrons, once outside to have a smoke, will decide it's too cold, get into their vehicles and drive away.

A new state law that went into effect Jan. 1 bans smoking in all restaurants, bars, sports stadiums and public buildings. It also prohibits state residents from smoking within 15 feet of building entrances or open windows.

Royalty attempted to put a positive spin on the potential effect of the law on her business.

“I don't think it's going to have a negative effect,” she said. “We may have picked up open bowlers and will now have bowlers who prefer nonsmoking.”

Perhaps the results of the ban on smoking at bowling alleys will be similar to how people reacted to smoking on airplanes in that “it made them (people) realize that you could make it,” she said.

Some of her leagues have been proactive about the ban and have passed rules saying that teams will forfeit games if their smokers leave to go have a cigarette during play, a move that seeks to curb excessively long games.

A smoker herself, Royalty is using this milestone to attempt to quit smoking for the “umpteenth time” by using Chantix, a prescription pill. Since she now has to go outdoors to smoke, Royalty is finding herself without the time to have a quick break for a cigarette.

“Hopefully it will help a lot of people who smoke,” she said. “When I accomplish this, I'm going to feel pretty good.”

Sycamore High School girls bowling coach Keith Keutzer, 54, was in the bar at Four Seasons on Wednesday evening without his customary cigarette.

“Definitely in the bowling alleys and the restaurants, but in the bar, people have got their choice,” Keutzer said. “If a person wants to go out and drink and have a cigarette, let them.”

Four Seasons co-owner Dennis “Doc” Royalty, 58, smokes infrequently but dislikes the new law. A common complaint of opponents of smoking bans as well as other attempts by local, state and federal governments to regulate society is that there is the underlying feeling that the government is “trying to run your business.”

“The government's running in the red and they're trying to tell you how to run your business,” Doc Royalty said. “It's smoking this year, five years from now it'll be drinking.”

Moments later, though, Doc Royalty seemed less angry about the law.

“Hopefully, five years down the line, people will say what a great thing, people stopped smoking,” he said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG The ash trays that used to dot the interior of Four Seasons Sports in Sycamore are now useful only for their geometric shapes because of a smoking ban that prohibits lighting up in any restaurant, bar, nightclub, workplace and all public buildings as of January 1.