Lester: Suburban advice for the archdiocese's new school superintendent

Updated 10/5/2015 10:40 AM
New Archdiocese of Chicago School Superintendent Jim Rigg
New Archdiocese of Chicago School Superintendent Jim Rigg - Daily Herald File Photo

What advice does Principal Mary Hemmelman of St. Emily Catholic School in Mount Prospect have for new Catholic schools superintendent Jim Rigg?

"I would just ask him to not try to fix something that's not broken," she said.

Rigg steps in today to oversee the Archdiocese of Chicago's roughly 83,000 students in 230 Catholic schools in Cook and Lake counties.

He comes from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, where he helped stabilize attendance numbers with a series of changes, such as expanding financial aid for students and devising ways to even out distribution between schools that had long waiting lists and others that had low student counts.

Enrollment down here, too

Locally, Catholic school attendance is down 7.2 percent the past four years in suburban Cook County, from 35,994 in 2011-12 to 33,415 in the most recent head count, Stephanie Hari of the archdiocese's data department tells me. Enrollment in Lake County schools has dropped 7 percent in the same period, from 7,926 to 7,370.

Across the entire archdiocese, which includes the city of Chicago, there are 25 fewer Catholic schools than in 2011-12.

'Not just data'

Hemmelman says St. Emily is "holding its own" with 335 students this year after an enrollment boost from Our Lady of Destiny School in Des Plaines closing last year.

Hemmelman asks Rigg make a point to tour school campuses to get a real understanding of their needs, and to be "looking toward the future, but to be more concerned with our Catholic identity than just data."


Dorothy Farrell
Dorothy Farrell - Associated Press

Some of you know her by name and others ... just know her. Dorothy Farrell, mother of Mount Prospect Realtor Bill Farrell, is a fixture in the front row on the third base side at Cubs games. Wearing her glittery team regalia, she's known for her enthusiastic moves when Village People's "Y.M.C.A." is played. Bill tells me his mom, 89, got hit by a fly ball over the summer and a fellow fan gave her a set of catcher's gear.

She'll be at the wild card game Wednesday evening, he says.

Divine blessings

Kane County Judge Tom Stanfa tells me the 16th Judicial Circuit's annual "Red Mass" is scheduled for Thursday at St. Peter Parish in Geneva.

What is it, exactly?

The celebration dates back to the 13th century and signifies the "official" opening of the court term in most European countries, with attendees gathering to ask for divine blessings, strength and enlightenment.

In Kane County, Stanfa says, attendance usually surges in even-numbered election years with elected officials courting votes, but drops off in other years.

The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago is also scheduled to hold a Red Mass Tuesday at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

Change of guard

State Sen. Dan Kotowski leaves office Monday.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski leaves office Monday. -

Tonight's the swearing-in of former Des Plaines Alderman Laura Murphy as state senator to replace departing officeholder Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge.

I found Kotowski, a moderate lawmaker and Loyola Academy graduate who liked to rib me about my St. Viator roots, to be a reliable tipster with a huge heart.

We wish him luck in his new role leading nonprofit ChildServ, which focuses on at-risk children and families. And best of luck to Murphy, as well, who takes office at a challenging time for the state.

The other McSweeney

The McSweeney name might be synonymous with politics in the Barrington area, but it's also developing a foodie reputation. Margaret McSweeney, wife of Republican State Rep. David, is the author of Kitchen Chat, an interactive cooking blog that takes you inside her Barrington Hills kitchen so vividly you can almost smell the butter.

Check out kitchenchat.info for an interview with renowned French chef Claudine Pepin, who also lives in Barrington -- Barrington, Rhode Island, that is.

Negative outlook

Wealthy investors in Illinois are bullish on the national economy but seriously concerned about the prospects for Illinois' economy, Steven Esposito, a Riverwoods-based senior vice president for Morgan Stanley, tells me.

He says a survey commissioned by the firm included interviews with 300 Illinois investors with $100,000 or more in investable household financial assets.

While he says more than 80 percent of those Illinois investors felt the national economy will remain the same or get better in the next year, 47 percent believe the state's economy will worsen by the end of this year.


Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders poses with Spiderman and the Energizer Bunny during spirit week at Streamwood High School.
Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders poses with Spiderman and the Energizer Bunny during spirit week at Streamwood High School.

Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders poses with Spiderman and the Energizer Bunny during spirit week at Streamwood High School.

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