April 2005

State's attorney advocates help victims navigate system

URBANA – Within days of the near death of their 11-month-old grandson on Aug. 26, 1999, Rod and Janet Warfield were reeling from the news that their former daughter-in-law had been criminally charged with poisoning him.

For the next five months, as Theresa Heater's criminal case wound through the Champaign County court system, advocates in the Champaign County state's attorney's office kept the Warfields informed.

Danville's feeling good about west downtown neighborhood

DANVILLE – A decade ago, Toula Vrentas felt unsafe in her west downtown neighborhood. That began to change a few years ago, when she saw flowers replace beer bottles and garbage, freshly painted houses replace dilapidated ones and responsible homeowners replace absentee landlords and untidy renters.

"It's cleaner and safer," said Vrentas, who lives in her childhood home on East Harrison Street.

Airport authority, UI oversight up for discussion

SAVOY – Twenty years from now, will the University of Illinois still be operating Willard Airport? Or will it be run by a separate authority supported by local tax dollars?

That's likely to be one of many issues discussed by a strategic planning group being formed to help chart the future of the Savoy airport.

Who''s that Illini?

I finished my Illini career in spring 2004 as the winningest women''s tennis player in school history. I top the all-time UI victory lists in both singles and doubles. I am the only player in the program''s history to be selected to the All-Big Ten team four times and remain the only Illini to win the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. That same school year (2000-01), I was selected UI Female Newcomer of the Year for all sports. I also excelled in the classroom, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors three times. In 2004, I was the UI''s female winner of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, an award the recognizes extraordinary achievement in academics and athletes.

Illini Spring captures parallel bars crown

Illinois'' Justin Spring scored a 9.737 to capture the parallel bars championship Saturday at the NCAA meet in West Point, N.Y.

It was Spring''s second national title. He won the high bar last year.

Progress report

Unlike last year, Illinois'' future roster is uncertain. News-Gazette staff writer Brett Dawson takes a look at the returning – and potentially departing – Illini:

Thornhill helps Illinois defense get offensive at scrimmage

CHAMPAIGN – The learning process continued Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The subject: timeouts.

Illinois linebacker Anthony Thornhill learned his lesson the hard way, drawing the wrath of coach Ron Zook when he called a timeout during Saturday''s scrimmage.

Illini''s battery changes have been positive

URBANA – For the past two weeks, a pitching change has also meant a catching change for the Illinois softball team.

UI coach Terri Sullivan has senior Julie Balicki behind the plate when left-hander Mary Miller is pitching but summons sophomore Brittany Koester when right-hander Claire DeVreese enters the game.

Schools help teaching assistants meet competency requirement

At 58 years old, Julia Parker's favorite job has come later in life, working as a teaching assistant at Meade Park Elementary School in Danville.

She briefly considered walking away though, when the federal government's No Child Left Behind legislation required assistants be "highly qualified," directing them either to further their education or take exams proving their competency.

Re-elected Champaign official plans to resign seat

CHAMPAIGN – Veteran city council member Jim Green – who was re-elected to the council Tuesday – plans to resign his District 4 seat.

And Champaign County Board member Deb Frank Feinen said she'd like to replace him.