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Thomas Clatterbuck



How active was the Springfield African American community in the days of Abraham Lincoln? According to some national scholars, they were “passive” and took little role in local politics. But local historians Elizabeth Alexander and Patricia James Davis are challenging this perception with their new exhibit, “Early African American Pioneers of Springfield and Central Illinois” at the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum. They found a community that was far more engaged in both business and politics than many outsiders believe.

The exhibit looks at seven African American families who settled in Springfield: the Houston, Murrell, Donnegan, Yokem, Wilson Scott, Walker, and Ford families. Their contributions in business, the churches, and politics are discussed. Some of their ancestors almost certainly were known to Abraham Lincoln, despite what some historians claim.

In addition to the displays set up for the exhibit itself, the opening was an opportunity to share some family histories. Many speakers talked about their journeys to learn about their own genealogies, and the importance of keeping those stories alive. You can see all of those remarks in the video.

Some members from all of the families in the exhibit were present in the nearly 125 person crowd.

To see this exhibit and the others for yourself, you can visit the museum at 1440 Monument Ave, just outside of Oak Ridge Cemetery. Admission is free (but donations are appreciated). You can also find them online at or on Facebook at .

Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.


District 186 School Board discusses paying for facility improvements and teachers

Thomas Clatterbuck



Last night the school board discussed how it was going to pay for all of the improvements it needs. Over the next decade, the district will need $98 million to keep up with the “Health Life Safety” needs of its current facilities. But district leaders have bigger plans than just keeping up to code. The long-range facility plan adopted this year calls for major renovations across the district. Superintendent Gill encouraged focusing on the “preferred future,” and not sinking money into buildings that may be replaced soon.

Although Health Life Safety bonds can cover some of those costs, the district will need other sources of funding to cover the gaps. Even with all the bond options available, the district will still need substantially more money to implement its “preferred future” over the next 25 years.

The district is also bracing for other new expenses. A bill in the General Assembly would raise the starting salary of teachers to a minimum of $40,000 per year. The bill has already passed the Senate. This would be a $3,400 increase a first year teacher. Based on the number of new teachers with no prior experience, the total cost would be at least $250,000 for the district. However, this pay bump may also impact the salary ladder for other teachers, leading to other unexpected costs.

School Board President Mike Zimmers proposed a one percent sales tax increase via referendum to help fund the improvements and cover other costs. The tax would be county wide, and so would assist the other school districts in Sangamon County. Zimmers said that other districts in the county are in favor of the move, and have been waiting for 186 to take the lead on the issue.

No action was taken last night. The board would have to vote to approve the referendum, and another district would also need to do so. Then it would be on the ballot in November to be voted up or down by the public.


In other board action, the board recognized the Franklin Middle School scholastic bowl team. The team took second place at state. Track athletes from around the district were also commended for their successes at their state contents as well.

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Layne Zimmers to present on Galápagos expedition

Staff Contributor



Lincoln Magnet School teacher Layne Zimmers will be giving a presentation on her experience in the Galápagos Islands as a National Geographic and Lindblad Grosvenor Fellow 2017. Her talk, 10 Astonishing Days in the Galápagos Islands, details her time on the islands and how it has enhanced her teaching.

The talk will be held at 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23, at Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation Auditorium, Floor 1, 228 W. Miller Street, and is free and open to the public.

The 2017 Fellows, a group of 35 highly respected educators from the United States and Canada, embarked on global expeditions onboard the Lindblad expedition ships—National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Endeavour ll and National Geographic Sea Lion—for a hands-on experience for professional development.

Each year, pre-K–12 educators are encouraged to apply for this one-of-a-kind professional development opportunity. Fellows enhance their geographic learning through direct, hands-on field experience and bring that knowledge back to their classrooms and professional communities. Before their voyages, the Fellows traveled to National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they participated in hands-on, pre-expedition workshops covering photography and outreach planning and had the opportunity to network with Lindblad Expeditions naturalists and past Fellows.

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SIU-E faculty senate pushing trustees for ‘distinct and equal’ campuses



An entry sign at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (Tyler Warren | Wikimedia via Creative Commons)

Faculty members at Southern Illinois University’s Edwardsville campus aren’t making any demands, but they are making the case for equality in the SIU system.

Southern Illinois University trustees will meet again in July. And SIU-E professors will once again make a push to be recognized. The school’s faculty senate approved a resolution earlier this month that makes the case for Edwardsville to be recognized as a “distinct and equal” campus.

Faculty Senate chief Marcus Agustin on Wednesday said the case is simple: SIU-E’s enrollment is growing, while enrollment at SIU’s Carbdondale campus is falling.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s enrollment decreased from 24,869 total students in the fall of 1991 to 14,554 in the fall of 2017. That’s a 41.5 percent decline. Enrollment at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has increased steadily from 11,808 total students in 1991 to 13,796 in 2017. That’s a 16.8 percent increase.

“As a faculty member, I understand the challenges that SIU-C is facing right now,” Agustin said. “But at the same time we cannot wait for Carbondale to, shall we say, get their act together.”

SIU trustees last month voted against a plan to shift about $5 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville, to in essence follow the students.

There is a growing appetite in Edwardsville to split the campus from the SIU system. Lawmakers could vote any day on a plan, HB 1292, that would break apart SIU’s campuses and create new universities.

Agustin said faculty members in Edwardsville are not asking for money at July’s trustee meeting. He said they just want trustees to acknowledge their success.

“There has to be more of a recognition that we are now equal partners, we are equal universities,” Agustin said. “It’s not like 25 years ago when we were a small, commuter campus.”

Agustin said a formal campus split, and a shift in funding would come after that. He said he hopes to get a hearing on the faculty resolution at the July meeting.

Article by the Benjamin Yount, for more INN News visit

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