Column

Styf: Our reporters try to be experts on everything

Jon Styf
Jon Styf

Some days we’re trying to be experts on plowing. Others, school finance.

Some days we’re digging into the details of lawyer bills. Other times, it’s tax levies or timecards or ballot referendums.

There are plenty of things we know. There are plenty more we don’t. So we look into it for you, our readers, and report back after calling many of those directly involved.

It’s not easy being a jack of all trades, as our reporters need to be, and it’s not always easy to get calls returned promptly. It’s also pretty easy for things to be taken in a way they weren’t intended. Remember, our goal is to inform – not the opposite.

Some examples from the past few weeks include stories on snowplowing jurisdiction, a fire department referendum and the arrest of a high school teacher.

In all cases, I asked a lot of questions about the concerns.

In the case of the high school teacher who was arrested, former Crystal Lake Central football coach Matt Fralick, we’re doing our best to narrow down the timeline of when the school found out, whether he has been actively teaching throughout the school year and details about the investigation.

So far, Community High School District 155 has refused to answer those questions – questions that parents should demand answers about from the district, with a response beyond a short statement saying that it didn’t believe District 155 students were “in any danger.”

The school also would not confirm whether the “administrative leave” for Fralick is paid or unpaid.

What I can tell you is that both spokeswoman Shannon Podzimek and Superintendent Steve Olson were at the Crystal Lake State of the Community speech Friday, sitting behind the Northwest Herald group, before they abruptly departed about 1 p.m. as Mayor Aaron Shepley’s speech began.

Our reporters tried to contact them Friday afternoon and into the evening before receiving a statement Saturday morning that certainly did not answer all of the questions pertaining to Fralick’s leave. It also did not include the statement sent to families.

So if you have information on Fralick’s teaching status this school year, or the statement sent to Crystal Lake Central families Friday, please send it along.

We’ll keep asking questions and seeking information because we believe those details are important to the public and parents of students at the school. In whatever we’re covering, we continue to strive to explain what’s going on to the public as best as we can. And we often rely on you and experts in each area to guide us there.

Sometimes we know those people. Sometimes we don’t.

One example that comes to mind from the past week is a story on the Illinois State Board of Education’s Property Tax Relief Grants. No area school was one of the 28 awarded the grants, although District 155 was No. 29 on the list, and that could mean they will get one in the future if the program is extended.

The list and which schools were awarded grants relied on a relatively confusing formula. So I reached out to someone who had applied for one and knew how it was calculated. He sent me an ISBE slideshow on the formula, and I hope I was able to explain the process better to you.

Thank you for your help. We’re always looking for that type of guidance when it comes to the many areas of expertise we try to attain each week. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with your thoughts.

• Northwest Herald Editor Jon Styf can be reached at jstyf@shawmedia.com or 815-526-4630.

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