Thumbs-up: To a new principal for DeKalb High School. On Thursday, the DeKalb School District 428 Board approved a one-year contract with James Horne, assistant principal for academic programs at DeKalb High School, to become the school’s next principal. The board decided months ago not to renew the contract of Principal Michele Albano, and the decision, this time, to promote from within should hopefully bring some continuity to a school in need of it. Although at least one incoming school board member objected to the decision coming before new board members took office, we are pleased to see someone will be ready to take leadership of the building on a long-term basis. We congratulate Horne and wish him success in his new and important role in the community.
Thumbs-down: To the Illinois House who approved a bill Wednesday to require that cursive writing be taught in elementary and high schools. While the state remains stuck in myriad problems without solutions, they continue to find solutions without problems. Justification for this mandate is so that students can learn to write signatures, which should take about five minutes, and be able to interpret historical documents, in case we somehow lose the text of the Constitution. The Bible originally was written in ancient Hebrew and Greek, but we all manage to understand what’s in it. This should be a local issue for local school boards to determine.
Thumbs-up: To the launch of a mental health court in DeKalb County. This week, the county’s court system began a mental health court program designed to intervene when residents suffering from mental illness wind up in the criminal justice system. People who are breaking the law because their actions are being driven by a mental health problem can consume a lot of resources and not get the help they need. The county’s grant-funded program will have to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders sentenced to prison by 25 percent; if they meet that goal, they will save taxpayers thousands of dollars. This is a sensible approach we hope will result in more people getting the help they need, rather than jail and prison sentences.
Thumbs-down: To DeKalb’s gas-station-packed intersection at Hillcrest Drive and North First Street. We’re pleased to see redevelopment occurring on one of the lots near that intersection, where a plan for an unattended gas station on an abandoned lot was approved this week. But the intersection already has an operating gas station across the street and an abandoned station at another corner. Gas stations are good sales and other tax generators while they’re operating, but once they close down, they’re difficult to redevelop because the underground infrastructure is expensive to remove, and leaks have to be cleaned up. We hope the new, virtually employee-free gas station generates revenue for the city, but are also resigned to the fact that one of the three gas stations at that area will be abandoned for years to come.