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Murphysboro educators awarded for curriculum work on Trail of Tears

MURPHYSBORO — On her classroom smart board, Murphysboro High School teacher Stacie Tefft traced the dark line, running west to east, through some Southern Illinois counties.

The line marked the path that thousands of Cherokee men, women and children walked after they were forced to leave their ancestral homes headed some place west of the Mississippi River. The outlines of huts and fires — indicating trading posts or campsites at which some Cherokee might have stopped — were also visible along the line on the map.

Those notations are from the journal entries of a missionary minister who traveled with the Cherokee, cited from research done by Tefft and a colleague, Rachel Bottje Chamness. The two Murphysboro High School teachers completed the curriculum project, documenting the Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois, as part of master's class work at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Their curriculum work was honored Monday by members of the Trail of Tears Association, whose representatives presented each educator with a certificate and a stipend check. Funding for the stipend came from the Joe Crabb Memorial Fund, created in honor of Crabb, a former member of the Trail of Tears Association and Pope County historian who died in December 2015.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Sandy Boaz (left), president of the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, recognizes Murphysboro High School history teachers Stacie Tefft (center) and Rachel Chamness for their work on developing a Trail of Tears curriculum on Monday in Murphysboro. Tefft and Chamness developed the curriculum as part of Grant Miller's (right) curriculum course at SIU this past summer.

"For a lot of our kids, we give them a history book, and they're like whatever," Tefft said. "This … it's a lot of our kids' backyard."

"And it's their history … some of them, this is some of their ancestry," Chamness said.

Their work

The teachers' curriculum integrates work from the 1838-1839 journal of Daniel Butrick, a minister who traveled with the Cherokee across Southern Illinois, with a Geographic Information System (or GIS) map that notes the locations of the Cherokees' campsites along the trail. The curriculum and map are available online at

The trail, Tefft noted, forked through Pope, Johnson and Union counties.

The curriculum project developed from master's level work the women were pursuing and was part of a collaboration with SIU's Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Center for Archaeological Investigations and the Trail Of Tears Association, said SIU professor Grant Miller.

Those involved with the curriculum development noted that it involves students on many levels and is not memorization and recitation of history facts.

"This is good for our diverse learners, too, because it's hands-on," Tefft said. "It's not a book, and it's in their backyard, especially a lot of our populations from The Bottoms, and that demographic relates to this.

"It means something to them, and they relate to it and they get into it. It's not reading a history book, or someone's version of history. They're coming up with their opinion of what happened from different sources."

The women's work grew out of their master's level classes at Southern Illinois University, their professor, Miller, said.

Work applauded

For years, members of the Trail of Tears Association had hoped some educators might develop a curriculum for teaching about the Trail of Tears in Southern Illinois, Sandra Boaz, president of the Illinois Chapter of the National Trail of Tears, said after the award presentation.

The name for the trail reportedly came from a Choctaw leader who told an Alabama newspaper that the forced removal was a “trail of tears and death," according to

"(We) would like to say 'thank you' for your hard work — Dr. (Grant) Miller, Rachel and Stacie," Harvey Henson, treasurer of the Trail of Tears Association and an SIU professor, told the three on Monday. "You have helped us accomplish something that is very important to the mission of the Trail of Tears, and that is to educate the local Southern Illinois region, especially our students, on the importance of this significant historical event, and its relevance, even today."

Those involved with the project explained it on Monday.

The Library of Congress funded the project, and its curriculum can be used and accessed across the nation, Miller said.

"What's so exciting about this is this really gets into the kinds of literacy skills that we're asking history teachers to be teaching with their students, as far as analyzing primary sources, comparing those primary sources to maps, as you have here," he said. "It's pretty exciting … even on the new SAT, the PARCC exam the middle school students are taking, so this is not just memorization of names and dates …"

For Boaz, it was an assignment finally completed.

"It's been a dream for 13 years," Boaz said. "To see it reach its culmination, we're very excited."

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SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
New SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute director hopes to increase center's visibility nationwide

CARBONDALE — The incoming director of the Southern Illinois University Paul Simon Public Policy Institute says he hopes to magnify the institute’s visibility across the country while finding ways to foster statesmanship in the political sphere.

Appearing before reporters Monday morning inside the institute on the SIUC campus, journalist and author John T. Shaw outlined his priorities as leader of the non-partisan public service center.

SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno welcomed Shaw and commended him for undergoing a “grueling” national search, which was chaired by visiting professor John Jackson.

“It’s strong testimony to his quality, his knowledge and his ability that he was selected for this incredible position,” Montemagno said.

Originally from Peoria, Shaw earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Knox College in Galesburg and his master’s in history from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He began his career as an executive fellow for Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson in Springfield.

Throughout his childhood in Peoria, Shaw said, Paul Simon was a “large and compelling figure, who combined civility and substance, big-picture interests and laser-focused intrigue with local and state government.”

Like all his predecessors at the institute, Shaw is an esteemed journalist: He covered congressional politics for the global news service Market News International for 26 years and served as a contributing writer for the monthly magazine The Washington Diplomat for the past 20 years.

“I think the one thing that a journalist brings is just a curiosity, an ability to ask questions to try to understand how things work, and as I look at the first couple weeks, I especially want to spend time talking to people who built this institute and trying to understand why programs were created, and what their initial mission was and how maybe they’ve evolved over time and how they can be strengthened and sharpened,” Shaw said.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno (left) looks on as John Shaw, new director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, speaks on Monday in Carbondale.

Shaw has authored five books, including “Richard G. Lugar: Statesman of the Senate” and “JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency.”

As for his agenda, Shaw said he hopes to honor the institute’s roots in Southern Illinois but also expand its work on the national level. He highlighted the possibility of establishing a statesmanship initiative.

“The essence would be to educate and to honor and to focus on statesmanship, on leadership that is both strong and visionary. I want to find ways to explore successful statesmen, both at the state level … as well as on a Washington level,” Shaw said.

Shaw said he intends to draw international leaders to SIUC to give public remarks, offering them a view of American life beyond the Beltway. He also hopes to develop partnerships with other congressional research institutes to give the public service center more of a national profile, and he plans to teach a course on political journalism.

Asked how he has seen technology and social media shape journalism over the course of his career, Shaw said there is an increased emphasis on conflict.

“I do think that one of the problems of modern journalism is that there is such a battle for listeners, viewers, clicks, et cetera, that there is this focus on conflict that I think is distorting,” Shaw said. “I think it wears down the citizens, it makes everyone just sort of say, ‘What difference does it make?’ So that’s why I think an institute like this can focus on constructive solutions, perhaps bring people together from different parties to work on problems, look at issues and … also send the public a message that it’s not all trench warfare 24/7.”

Shaw replaces David Yepsen, who retired in 2016. Jak Tichenor has been serving as interim director since that time.

Shaw’s appointment was approved Dec. 14 by the SIU Board of Trustees. He will begin his duties Jan. 16.

Rauner: Allegations against top HUD official while he held state post 'serious'; no wrongdoing found to date

CAIRO — Gov. Bruce Rauner said the allegations made to his office against his one-time nominee to chair the board of Illinois’ housing finance agency that resulting him pulling the nomination of Joseph Galvan in the spring of 2016 “seemed very serious and credible.”

But of Housing and Urban Development’s decision to name Galvan the regional administrator of the HUD Midwest Regional Office, charged with oversight in six states, including Illinois, Rauner said he “believes in the American system of justice where you’re innocent until proven guilty.” Rauner noted that the allegations shared with his office were forwarded to Illinois’ Executive Office of Inspector General, and in the 18 months since, no further information has been shared publicly about the matter.

A spokesman for the state's Executive Office Inspector General has not returned a phone call to the newspaper seeking comment. HUD also has declined to comment on the circumstances that resulted in Galvan's nomination being pulled for chairman of the IHDA board. On Monday, HUD spokesman Jereon Brown also said the agency declines comments on Rauner's remarks in Cairo on Saturday about Galvan. 

The governor appointed Galvan to chair the board of the Illinois Housing Development Authority in May 2015. Just shy of a year later, before the nomination was confirmed by the Senate, Rauner’s administration ousted Galvan from the post he held awaiting Senate confirmation, and rescinded his nomination.

The decision came after the administration received an anonymous letter, claimed to be written by a longtime developer, alleging that Galvan had engaged in misconduct related to his post as IHDA chairman, according to a March 2016 Chicago Sun-Times article authored by the Better Government Association’s Casey Toner titled "Rauner ousts clout-heavy board chair after anonymous allegations."

Last week, in a news release, HUD announced President Donald Trump’s appointment of Galvan, who is one of 10 HUD regional administrators across the country. The Region V Midwest Regional Office headquartered in Chicago oversees the administration of HUD programs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

According to the Better Government Association/Sun-Times article, the anonymous letter was sent to the Better Government Association, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog organization, and to the governor’s office. The article quoted then-Rauner spokesman Lance Trover as saying, in an emailed statement, that the office reviewed the accusations and “out of an abundance of caution” withdrew Galvan’s nomination and forwarded the information to Illinois’ Office of Executive Inspector General.

In Cairo on Saturday, Rauner sat down for an interview with The Southern Illinoisan for a discussion on a number of topics, including the housing crisis in Cairo, concerns about economic and affordable housing challenges facing the region, and the oversight of housing authorities in Illinois.

Below is Rauner’s full comment concerning his decision to pull Galvan's nomination to the state post in early 2016, and his thoughts on HUD’s decision to hire him to a top administrative position within the federal housing agency.

“So here’s the background of what I can say publicly. Joe Galvan is someone we knew and we recommended him; we nominated him for a position.

"While that nomination was underway, there were some allegations made against him that seemed very serious and credible. So our administration became concerned; so we withdrew his nomination and we forwarded the allegations to the inspector general.

"The inspector general has had the — and again, they don’t tell us what they’re doing — but they’ve had it for 18 months. There have been no findings of any wrongdoing on his part that has been brought forth. And so, HUD was comfortable, they made their own analysis and conclusion that they were comfortable with him working for them, because he does have expertise, there’s no question.

"All we know of is of an allegation. And so, there’s a process. We advocated for the process. And there’s been no finding of wrongdoing ever brought forth. So, you know what, I do believe (in) an American system of justice where you’re innocent until proven guilty and no one should be guilty until proven innocent. We were uncomfortable.

"There’s a difference between terminating someone or whatever, versus (rescinding) a nomination. We wanted to be cautious and be prudent, and when an allegation, a serious allegation comes out about someone, maybe a nomination should be delayed. I think that was a prudent thing to do.”

Following state statute, Christopher adopts 'detailed' sexual harassment ordinance

CHRISTOPHER — Following statute mandated by the state in November, Christopher has adopted a sexual harassment ordinance that City Attorney Jeff Trout says is very “explicit” in its terms and definitions.

Christopher Mayor Gary Bartolotti said he and the council were already working on a harassment policy when the Nov. 16 implementation of Public Act 100-0554 took effect.

Trout said when they saw just how specific the language had to be according to statute, he knew they didn’t have enough time before the Jan. 1 deadline to draft their own language. He said they adopted language used by the Illinois Municipal League, which he anticipated many communities in the state were also using.

Bartolotti has been mayor in Christopher for more than 30 years and said in that time he does not recall having to navigate a complaint of sexual harassment in the city.

“I think if there was something like that, our employees that we had would have stood up and stopped it,” he said.

Bartolotti said the new ordinance provides protections for city employees and helps them do their best work.

“Whether they are male of female we want them to have a work environment where they can do their job and not be harassed, sexually or otherwise,” Bartolotti said.

“I think because of the environment in this country today that’s going on I think everyone’s aware of the sexual harassment charges at the government level,” he said of the recent increase in high-profile allegations against members of government, as well as in Hollywood. He added that this fueled the council’s “united” vote on the matter.

He also said it was a unanimous vote to implement the new ordinance.

Bartolotti admitted they didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter — the law said they had to comply by January — however, he explained that this doesn’t usually stop some people from complaining. However, he said the council had no discussions questioning the new ordinance or the decision in Springfield.

Bartolotti said the ordinance contains all of the state-required language.

The language of the ordinance uses the Illinois Human Rights Act to define sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature …” It includes verbal, nonverbal, visual, physical and “textual/electronic” actions within the umbrella of sexual harassment.

The ordinance also lays out ways of reporting abuses as well as punishment for confirmed violations.

“... any person who violates this policy … may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 per offense, applicable discipline or discharge by the municipality and any applicable fines and penalties established pursuant to local ordinance, State law or Federal law,” the ordinance reads. It also indicates that each violation may be subject to these actions.

Trout said the report was thorough in its approach to the subject and could change the way day-to-day work is done in the city.

“It’s going to be a change, I’m sure, in the way businesses is conducted,” he said, adding that this was not meant to imply sexual harassment had been routine before.

Trout said as a lawyer, specificity, to a point, is a good thing in his eyes. But, he thinks this ordinance may go too far.

“I question the way the statute reads. A person could use that very easily and claim (something) was sexual harassment when none was intended and previously none would have been taken,” he said.

“Just a casual reference of some kind in general conversation can be interpreted to be sexual harassment. If someone tells an off color joke that someone doesn’t like that can be considered sexual harassment.”

He provided an example.

“I’m not condoning whistling at a lady,” he said explaining that this was something that previously, may have been looked at differently.

Trout was clear, though, that he was in favor of eliminating the types of predatory behaviors that have been brought to light recently, bringing the downfall of high-profile politicians and entertainment figureheads.

“We don’t condone sexual harassment or otherwise,” Trout said.

He said he wants to see how the ordnance works in implementation. He said there may be changes that can be made in the future while still keeping within state guidelines.

“... we will see how it plays out,” he said.

Bartolotti said the city will have a meeting for its employees in January to explain the new policy.

“Everyone will have a copy and be aware of what the policy details,” he said.