Capitol Briefs / Capitol News Illinois staff

from the Illinois Press Association


Veterans homes get $11 

in construction funds

CHICAGO — Nearly $11 million in state funding was released for construction at a pair of Illinois veterans homes this month, according to Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

A payment of more than $7 million was released Friday for renovations at the Quincy Veterans’ Home, the location which has seen several residents stricken with Legionnaires ’ disease in recent years. 

Earlier this month, the Chicago Veterans’ Home received $3.8 million for construction work which began under Gov. Pat Quinn, then was halted by the previous administration, Mendoza’s release said.  

Both payments come from funding approved for the current fiscal year.

Shortly after taking office, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order that requires the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs to deliver a report to the governor containing a comprehensive review of weaknesses, strengths and opportunities for improvement at Illinois Veterans’ Homes.

Gov. Pritzker appoints new members 

of Illinois State Board of Education

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his appointments to the nine-member Illinois State Board of Education this week.

The state school board sets educational policies and guidelines for public and private schools, preschool through grade 12, as well as vocational education. It also recommends legislation to the General Assembly and governor. Members serve four-year terms, and Pritzker’s appointees await approval in the Senate.

Darren Reisberg will serve as the board’s chair, having previously served as ISBE’s general counsel and deputy superintendent.

Reisberg currently serves as the vice president for strategic initiatives and deputy provost at the University of Chicago and previously served as its vice president and secretary. He was also the first executive director of the university’s Institute of Politics, where he serves on the board of advisors.

He also was an employment and labor attorney at the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin LLP and worked as a judicial law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer.

Other members include Christine Benson, Cynthia Latimer, Donna Simpson Leak, David Lett, Susan Morrison, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Jane Quinlan and Jacqueline Robbins.

Benson has 35 years of teaching and administrative experience in Illinois public schools and has served as central office administrator for seven years, focusing on budget management, curriculum development and grants.

Benson served as superintendent for six years at Mendota High School, five years at Ottawa Elementary School District and six years at Streator Elementary School District.

Latimer has more than 33 years of administrative and classroom experience in Aurora school districts.

She began her career as a special education teacher at Aurora schools, and went on to serve as principal of W.S. Beaupre Elementary School from 1990 to 1993 and Abraham Lincoln Elementary School from 1993 to 2000. 

In 2006, Latimer was promoted to assistant superintendent in the Division of Student Services, and in 2008, she became the assistant superintendent in the Division of Teaching & Learning, which included oversight of all aspects of PK-12 instruction, including those of the former Student Services Division. She held this role until her retirement in 2014.

Leak serves as superintendent of Community Consolidated Schools District 168 and has trained thousands of teachers and presented at more than 200 conferences worldwide.

She has superintendent experience in Rich Township High School District 227, which received the distinction among Best High Schools in America from U.S. News & World Report during her tenure.

Leak has been a member of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics Board and the American Association of School Administrators. She is a lead instructor with the Professional Learning Community academies and recently received her National Certification Certificate.

Lett has spent more than 35 years of experience teaching and leadership in K-12 schools and higher education. He is an adjunct professor on the Education Leadership Department at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

He served 16 years as superintendent for Pana Community Unit School District 8, and was middle school principal at Seneca Grade School and assistant principal at Ottawa Township High School.

Morrison retired as deputy superintendent and chief education officer at ISBE in June 2015, and was appointed to the Illinois State Board of Education in July 2017 by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

She has 40 years of education experience as a teacher and administrator. She was the first state director for AdvancED at the University of Illinois and her statewide leadership responsibilities have included positions as state director of School Improvement, state director of Gifted Education, state director of Education to Careers, and program director for many state and federal programs.

Pacione-Zayas  serves as the director of policy at Erikson Institute.

She has more than a decade of experience leading education policy and community education initiatives in Illinois’s Latino communities. Previously, she led the Latino Policy Forum’s Education Department with a focus on improving education policy in the birth-to-third-grade continuum.

She served as the culture of calm coordinator for Roberto Clemente Community Academy, a public high school in Chicago, and as community schools director at Enlace Chicago.

Quinlan serves as regional superintendent for the Champaign-Ford Regional Office of Education 9. She served as the vice president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools from 2011 to 2013.

Quinlan also has worked as a reading and language arts specialist at Education Service Center 13, where she later became assistant director and director. 

Robbins served as UniServ director for Region 53 and 35 at Illinois Education Association from 2007 to 2017. She previously taught at Dunlap High School, served as community relations manager and instructor of 28 programs at Hult Health Education Center, and as program coordinator and instructor at Illinois Central College.

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