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Stratton placed on watch list

CHAMPAIGN – Even as its test scores have improved more than at any time in its brief history, Champaign's Stratton Elementary is the only school in East Central Illinois to appear on the State Board of Education's watch list.

The school, which opened in 1998, is one of nearly 600 schools in the state to appear on that list, and state officials say that means districts where the named schools are located must give students a chance to switch to better performing schools in the district.

Urbana hospitals offer new radiation therapy

URBANA – A new kind of radiation therapy that gives cancer patients a better chance of survival and reduces side effects is now being offered at both Urbana hospitals.

Carle Foundation Hospital and Provena Covenant Medical Center have both added "Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy," which improves cure rates by delivering more powerful, precisely-targeted doses of radiation to a tumor while sparing the healthy tissue around it.

Officials identify sky diver killed

RANTOUL – Rantoul Police Chief Paul Dollins and Champaign County Deputy Coroner Duane Northrup on Thursday afternoon identified the victim of Wednesday's sky-diving crash as Frank Ludvik, 59, of Ypsilanti, Mich.

Mr. Ludvik died after his primary parachute malfunctioned during a solo sky dive Wednesday evening at the World Free Fall Convention.

Urbana woman loses money in scam

URBANA – An elderly Urbana woman was apparently defrauded in another example of a lottery or sweepstakes scam, according to Urbana police.

The 84-year-old woman, who lives at the Clark Lindsey Village, received a phone call Monday from a man who convinced her that she had won second prize in a sweepstakes, according to Urbana police Lt. Michael Metzler.

$6 million released for UI facility

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently thawed a $6 million grant to the University of Illinois to help move the Illinois Natural History Survey into more spacious facilities at the UI Research Park.

The survey, which is part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, has been seeking relief from its cramped quarters on the UI campus for more than a decade now, said Chief David Thomas.

Grants will help kids prepare for school

For the first time, agencies in the region have been awarded state grant money to help preschool children prepare for school – a mission that historically has been left to school districts in Illinois.

In Champaign County, Provena Behavioral Health's Mental Health Center was awarded a $135,000 grant and the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission was awarded a $90,000 grant.

Michigan sky diver dies in Rantoul

RANTOUL – A 59-year-old Michigan man died following a sky-dive Wednesday at the World Free Fall Convention when his parachute malfunctioned.

Champaign County Deputy Coroner Duane Northrup said the man was pronounced dead at 6:09 p.m. near the north end of a runway at the Rantoul airport. The man's name was being withheld pending notification of his family.

'Sesame Street' makes changes to boost learning

URBANA – Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert and other "Sesame Street" characters this year will step up their low-key campaign to improve youngsters' reading skills.

And that new emphasis will help the 17 teachers and representatives of area agencies who met at WILL's University of Illinois studios Wednesday teach the children, parents and guardians they serve how to work together to prepare students to master skills they need to succeed in school, said Holly Downs, coordinator of WILL's Ready to Learn program.

Winkel will donate cash from Ryan fund

SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, resisted political pressure during his last campaign to give up the $24,500 in donations he had taken over the years from former Gov. George Ryan's campaign fund.

"I am going to wait and see what the prosecutors and the courts do," he said at the time. "If the George Ryan campaign is found guilty as charged, then my campaign committee will donate a sum to charity equal to the amount that it received."

Governor signs bills easing UI unionization

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed two bills Tuesday that will make it easier for faculty at the University of Illinois to gain union representation.

The bills were signed at a meeting of the AFL-CIO Executive Council in Chicago. One bill (SB1360) reverses a 1995 amendment to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act that required faculty at the University of Illinois' three campuses to organize as a single unit. Another (HB3396) provides automatic recognition of a union for public and educational employees if a majority of workers sign cards indicating a desire to be represented by a union, eliminating the need for an election.