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'The right thing to do': Man appointed to Zeigler Council also made the FOIA leading to Thorpe investigation

ZEIGLER — Jamie Moyers doesn’t see himself as becoming one of Zeigler’s political elites.

The man tapped to take over for the late Dick McReacken, who died March 20, in the position of public property commissioner said after his one-year partial term is up, he has no intentions of running for office again.

At this point, Moyers said he feels like he thinks he “will be heard in a more sincere way” since he’s not trying to be a long-term candidate. He also said he is coming to the post with no political agenda.

“My biggest goal is to be a voice of the people of this town,” Moyers said.

Moyers teaches government at Zeigler-Royalton High School and said after last summer’s dust up with former Zeigler treasurer Ryan Thorpe being indicted on federal embezzlement charges — he was charged with stealing more than a$300,000 from the city — he thought he needed to be more involved.

“I didn’t want to just be one of those people who come up there just to gripe,” he said. “I wanted to be someone that’s positive and gets positive input.”

The fact is, though, he had been doing his due diligence before this — it was his Freedom of Information Act request last year that sparked the FBI investigation in the first place.

“I knew just from living here that our city was struggling financially, I knew that,” Moyers said of what got him interested in the city’s finances.

He also said he knew the treasurer was making only about $30,000 a year. However, something about Thorpe’s lifestyle didn’t add up to him.

“I saw our treasurer spending money like he’d won the lottery,” he said. Moyers said he saw Thorpe buy building materials, motorcycles and even a new car.

“On a salary of around $30,000 a year and a one-income home, because I knew the family, you can’t make those kind of purchases without something,” he said.

So, Moyers asked around to see if Thorpe had received a windfall of cash and no one he talked to could think of anything. So, he decided to do what he tells his government students any taxpayer has the right to do — go to your government and ask questions.

Moyers went in during the summer of 2017 to Zeigler’s city hall and requested bank statements and treasurer reports from January 2016 to end of July of 2017.

“We could look at the bank statements and ... you could tell they had been whited out,” he said, adding that the way payments were being made and the way finances were being handled “just didn’t look right.”

Moyers said he had mixed emotions at what he saw — a lot of it was anxiety though. He wasn’t sure what it meant for him and for the people in city hall, but he said he “could not, not do it.”

“But yet, you knew you had to do it. It was the right thing to do,” he said.

He shared the findings with his son, Braden Moyers, who is a deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Jaime said his son had connections and got their findings passed on to the FBI.

After being questioned a few times by authorities, Moyers said things went quiet until agents descended upon Zeigler’s city hall and Thorpe’s residence.

“This shows the value of the FOIA,” said Zeigler Mayor Dennis Mitchell.

Moyers said he was not able to speak about Thorpe’s case for a while but after criminal proceedings began, he opened up to his class about it — in fact, he said one class took three or four days to discuss the process and how it relates to their rights as residents of a community.

“Some of the greatest lesson plans I ever had,” Moyers said of the experience.

Though he is happy to have helped, Moyers said he doesn’t feel proud. Mostly he just feels sad. “I just feel sorrowful,” he said.

His experience with the Thorpe case and his sense of duty to his community are what made Moyers reach out to city officials to say he would be willing to step up to fill McReacken’s vacancy — if that is what was needed. He was seated in the position Tuesday.

First on his list of to-dos is to help make the best of the city’s poor financial situation. Zeigler wasn’t well off before Thorpe’s theft, but this has put a new set of burdens on the city.

“The ramifications may last for years,” Mitchell said.

Because of what Thorpe did, Mitchell said the city’s ability to be awarded grant funding — something it relied on in the past to complete projects — is now diminished.

“This makes the difference of you winning or you losing,” he said.

Moyers said his biggest goal is to help the city he’s called home his entire life start to mend its wounds.

“I feel like I have a role to play in this next year in trying to bring some financial healing and even some personal healing,” Moyers said.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Gary Brown, pastor of the Faith Assembly Fellowship, starts off the annual Good Friday Cross Carry on Friday morning in West Frankfort. Participants took turns carrying the 12-foot cedar cross along Main Street to commemorate Jesus' walk to be crucified.

Heaven sent: Chat with Sister Jean brightens up Final Four

SAN ANTONIO — Who needs "One Shining Moment" when you've got Sister Jean?

The 98-year-old nun who has become the face of this most-inspiring NCAA Tournament held court on Good Friday in one of the best-attended news conferences ever held at the Final Four.

Hundreds of reporters and cameramen jammed in, elbow-to-elbow, in an interview room that would normally draw two dozen journalists for a player.

"I walked by, and I thought it looked like Tom Brady at the Super Bowl," Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser said.

It was more monumental than that.

This was the No. 1 fan of Moser and the Ramblers — the 11th-seeded team whose magical, miraculous run to the cusp of the title would've made for great theater, even without a nun.

Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt has added a completely new, unexpected and, yes, wonderful twist to the proceedings. Her 15-minute Q&A on the eve of Loyola's game against Michigan illustrated precisely why.

She fielded questions about everything from whether God cares about basketball — "more the NCAA than the NBA" — some light trash talk with former Michigan star Jalen Rose's 100-year-old grandma — "Somebody said, 'Maybe you need a pair of boxing gloves' and I said, 'Well, we'll see what happens'" — and what it takes to really have your prayer heard — "God always hears, but maybe He thinks it's better for us to do the 'L' instead of the 'W,' and we have to accept that."

A lot has changed, Sister Jean says, since the Ramblers last made history — back in 1963 when they completed an equally unexpected run by knocking off Cincinnati for the national championship.

"I watched it on a little 11-inch black-and-white TV, and the game was (tape) delayed," she said. "And then everybody got out of the house and walked down the line on Sheridan Road, men and women together."

Sister Jean has been on a whirlwind since the Ramblers started this unexpected return to the college basketball promised land.

That this is all happening on Easter weekend makes it that much more hectic. But, as she has shown time and again over the past three weeks, sports and religion really can mix, so long as you keep everything in perspective.

"We're having a university Mass together on Easter Sunday," she said. "You know, I said Easter Sunday because we hope to stay, and we're confident enough we will."

Sister Jean is far from the only Catholic going for glory at this Final Four. On the other side of the bracket, the Catholic school, Villanova, is represented by Rev. Rob Hagan — aka Father Rob — who told The Associated Press the matchup is "kind of like fighting with your brothers and sisters. We're all in the same family."

Michigan coach John Beilein used a question posed to him about Sister Jean to remind folks that he, like the Loyola-Chicago players, is a product of a Jesuit education.

"And I had a priest, not even at my own parish, stop Mass and say, 'They have Sister Jean, you have everybody here praying for you,'" Beilein said. "It's been a lot of fun and it's great."

Not that this mix of sports and religion is particularly groundbreaking. Players thank God all the time, and more often than not, their prayers and thanks go largely ignored by the mainstream media and the fans.

But college basketball is going through some rough times these days, filled with dirty coaches and agents, payoffs to players and an FBI investigation that has unmasked corruption in many corners of the game.

Change is coming.

Sister Jean's presence has reminded everyone that the game is about more than slam dunks, busted brackets, big money and the glossy "One Shining Moment" video that wraps things up at the end.

"It's just cool that everybody in the world knows who she is now, and they're starting to get to see how cool she is and how amazing she is," Ramblers guard Clayton Custer said.

On Friday, Sister Jean's 15 minutes of fame was just that: 15 minutes, and then it was time to move onto the day's regularly scheduled menu of interviews with coaches and players.

But she was having a grand time.

"I could stay for an hour," she said.

Spending an hour talking hoops with a nun?

Nary a soul objected.

David J. Phillip 


Villanova looks for another national title in San Antonio. Loyola, Michigan and Kansas have other plans. Check out our Final Four previews in Sports, Page B1.

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Carbondale Elementary School 95 to cut its Two-Way Immersion Program

CARBONDALE — Carbondale Elementary School District No. 95 will implement a few changes in the fall of 2018 when it comes to teaching languages to a certain population of the district, according to Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Lewin.

Lewis said there was a recommendation made to the Board of Education to change the way the district’s “English-learners,” or Spanish-speaking students learning to speak English, are served. She said the test data for the past five years indicate that students learning English in the district’s Two-Way Immersion Program were not making the academic gains as the English speakers in its Sheltered English Program.

The Two-Way Immersion program is a framework on bilingual education, teaching children from a majority-language background and a minority-language background together in one class. According to the district’s website, the students are immersed for at least half of the teaching time in the minority language and the other half in the majority language.

The students were taught their regular curriculum, but in the two languages.

The Sheltered English Program is designed to increase English language proficiency skills of those learning English in an environment with a teacher who is successful at teaching the curriculum, and with support from an individual who can speak the student’s language.

Lewin said the decision to change was based on two factors — English learners were not learning at the rate they should and the participation of Spanish-speaking students has significantly dropped.

She said the proposal for next year is to have the students learning English placed in a sheltered classroom. The students wanting to learn Spanish will continue to be served by an immersion teacher who is a native Spanish speaker.

“We will have an immersion class, but it is an immersion class for those English-speaking children who were in TWI to continue their exposure to Spanish,” Lewin said.

She said the decision to change is completely reflective of examining test data.

“When I came here, I looked at all test data and examined all programs to make sure they are working, and this is one that is not,” Lewin said.

Angela Watters, a CES 95 parent, said more communication about program changes before they are actually implemented would be appreciated in the future.

“Dr. Lewin’s upcoming TWI recommendations were decided without parent input or involvement from either the English or Spanish-speaking parents,” she said at the most recent board meeting. “The information was leaked, and that’s the only reason parents even knew about it. This is not a new problem, it’s a continuing one.”

District 95 hired a new superintendent in January to take over starting July 1 — Carbondale Community High School Principal Daniel Booth. Lewin said Booth has been involved in all the district's decisions.

“I wouldn’t propose a change that he would consider problematic,” Lewin said.

She said if the district would have waited to make changes to things that weren’t working until Booth assumed the post, he would have spent half the year figuring out what to do.

“If they are already have things figured out, then having somebody to help him get started benefits the district,” Lewin said.

In addition to the TWI program, the Strings Program at Thomas School will be eliminated. The program currently allows students in second grade to participate in a strings class once a week for 30 minutes. The class teaches those students the skills they would need to play in the orchestra starting in fourth grade.

Lewin said those students will know start learning in fourth grade. She said when looking at data, few students move from the program into the orchestra.

“The percentage of children is less than 10 percent that end up in the program,” she said.

She said it was decided instead to the increase the reading time for those second and third graders because those are crucial years for learning those skills.