Editorial: Give us a Green knowledge choice

December 12, 2012

By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher

Editor’s note: The following article was to be given as testimony at a public appeals hearing held by the Illinois State Charter School Commission at the Rockford Public Library Thursday, Dec. 6. The appeals hearing was held at the request of Comprehensive Community Solutions because of the repeated rejection of the proposed GreenTek Career Academy Charter School by Rockford School District 205. While the following was my prepared remarks, other testimony prompted me to submit this as written testimony because assertions made by attorneys for District 205 had to be answered, as did other negative testimony against the Green Tek proposal.

Prepared remarks

The Rock River Times has been an enthusiastic supporter of CCS YouthBuild for 20 years because of its unique approach to help youths in poverty enter the workforce and the mainstream of society as educated and contributors of quality to society.

CCS YouthBuild students have worked side by side with me as superb volunteers setting up and closing the Winnebago County Green Business Awards, painting and refurbishing the offices of The Rock River Times, and I have observed them act as fine ambassadors for CCS YouthBuild in their vendor’s booth at many of the yearly state Illinois Renewable Energy Fairs. I am a board member and sponsor of the IREA. Their students are wonderful and give me hope in a world that breeds cynicism much more stridently than optimism.

The Rock River Times is also a sponsor of CCS YouthBuild, contributing approximately $10,000 per year in staff editorial and advertising space each year. And YouthBuild has been good to The Rock River Times, with its expertise, in-kind material support, community support and personal friendships. The organization offers real value in all of its operations.

As CCS YouthBuild has noted: “Southern Illinois University study (October 2010) found a ‘population at risk’ consisting of 46,916 individuals in Boone and Winnebago counties aged 16 and older who were not enrolled in school and had not attained a high school diploma or a GED.” That number now must be at least 50,000 kids who need your, our, help.

CCS YouthBuild needs your support and approval to reach these 50,000 kids. While some area programs do reach out to this population, our rising crime figures show more hands are needed to offer an alternative.

CCS YouthBuild has been on the cutting edge of the Green Jobs effort in Rockford, by uniquely offering positions in sustainability to the underserved and disadvantaged youth in the Rockford area for many years. Educating those in poverty by empowering them to learn positive environmental skills is a remarkable vision.

Locally, most recently, they have partnered with Tinker Swiss Cottage in creating prairie in the middle of an urban setting, and they are studying urban farming.

They have national connections through the USA YouthBuild organizations to bring unique opportunities, training and resources to enrich our challenged children’s lives. Not so long ago, I personally sat in CCS YouthBuild seminars with Green Builders and experts from Houston, Texas, and other areas around the country as they have imparted their knowledge to our local youth, about energy-efficient insulation, windows, roofing, heating, cooling and other green building techniques.

CCS YouthBuild Executive Director Mr. Kerry Knodle is constantly trying to get me out of the quicksand of my newspaper to attend some kind of Green Energy symposium in Chicago or in a nearby state. His depth of knowledge in all things Green has become very impressive. Help him and the excellent staff he has assembled. He has access to more assistance, and many will help him, but only if the opportunity is created by your approval.

This request is aligned with Rockford School District 205’s plans for Career Academies, and despite the cynics will meet state standards and requirements.

Help give our kids something more than gangs as an educational opportunity and clear economic benefit. Their future and the future of our environment need the new approach offered by GreenTek Career Academy Charter School.

I now pledge another $10,000 of support if you give your approval to GreenTek Career Academy Charter School. You have my information, and I will be glad to bring any resources I am aware of to bear for this Charter School our community and area really needs. Please help us. Thank You.

Rebuttal remarks

Rockford School District 205 has a credibility problem. For more than two decades, our schools suffered under a desegregation ruling, the Illinois Press Association was forced to sue the district on behalf of this newspaper (and won) to get compliance with a FOIA request, and the last superintendent resigned under public pressure.

All the district’s testimony against Green Tek has been given by two attorneys, as many administrators attending these hearings are silent. Except one, he emitted a loud stage yawn to the audible amusement of his peers before the hearing. I said to him, “I’m glad to see your enthusiasm.”

Ironically, several past and present district administrators and teachers testified in support of Green Tek.

We are so proud of the YouthBuild students who have testified so well and passionately. Their character shows not only what CCS YouthBuild can do, but also what GreenTek Career Academy Charter School could accomplish.

The district is unfair in its lack of faith in Mr. Knodle’s ability to keep separate budgets in all good fiduciary responsibility. They’re not very intelligent in that assertion either, when one considers he administers millions of dollars in federal grants for CCS YouthBuild — yes, he is under the aegis of a federal program, as in being responsible to Washington, D.C.!

District 205 just doesn’t get Green. The need for knowledge about renewable energy and our environment has never been more crucial. Look at our weather! Kerry Knodle and his staff do know Green and are looking out for the disadvantaged’s future and our future. Give them a chance!

From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue

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