November 2006

Both sides needed In the September issue, Mick Dumke wrote an article entitled, "Back to Fumes - Illinois school buses engulf kids in harmful diesel smoke." In this article Mr. Dumke states, "Ac each Illinois school bus produces far more soot than it should-an average of about 15 pounds a year, more than twice the amount of a semi-trailer truck." Most school buses use smaller, more efficient engines than the average semi-trailer truck. The school bus in the photograph in the article is a fine example of a bus which uses a six-cylinder engine, as opposed to an eight or 10 as most over-the-road trucks are now using on the highway.

Mr. Dumke also cites a statistic from an analysis stating that "40 percent of its 19,000 school buses are more than a decade old." This is also not true. For instance, most of the current fleets in and around the city of Chicago do not allow buses over eight years old. In fact, the Chicago Public School System has had a clause in their contracts for the last six years that specifically states no school bus over 10 years old will be allowed for use in the city. In addition to the age restriction, CPS has mandated that all school buses must be retrofitted with some type of pollution-reducing equipment. Such retrofitting has already started. Further, most suburban contracts have an average maximum bus age of eight years old specifically written into their contracts.

School buses have been transporting children to and from school for more than 50 years. Mr. Dumke failed to state a simple fact. School buses are 62 times safer for transporting students to and from school than an automobile according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Here is another fact: School buses are the safest form of transportation in the world. Yes, "safer than walking," a government study shows. The most dangerous way to school: Riding in a car with a teenager behind the wheel. Each year about 800 children are killed in motor vehicle crashes during school commutes. Of those, on average, five are riding on a school bus.

I believe your article should have given both sides of the school bus transportation industry, not just one. Instead of attempting to scare parents and students off of school buses, you should be trying to scare them back on. In the future, I would stick to the facts.

JOHN BENISH JR. Chief operating officer, Cook-Illinois Corporation

Costuming stereotypes I loved the great ideas for simple costumes-especially the tip of utilizing the thrift stores. The "little Indian" outfit inspired me to try, instead of a boring green dinosaur, either a little Jew, a little Mexican or a little Black. I"ll have to choose which one based on what items I can find, I guess. With some luck I"ll find a yarmulka, serape or kente outfit! I look forward to more ideas next year from Chicago Parent, that is unless my son and I have outgrown perpetuating racial stereotypes and the objectification of one's cultural identity. (Although a "little Irish Catholic" could be sooo adorable, or maybe a little Korean.)


Tricks for treats Dear Piepers, Excellent answer to the mom whose 3-year-old doesn't want to dress up (Smart Love, October 2006). He's only 3, he shouldn't have to dress up. My son didn't want to either (I'd made him a minimalist scarecrow costume, no straw!), nor to go trick-or-treating.

Until our doorbell rang a few times. Then he wanted to go out, but no costume. Well, it was chilly, so we did pull out his rain slicker ("Hey look, this is like what firemen wear.") and the rubber puddle-jumper boots ("Say, firemen wear boots, too."), and there was a helmet from the firefighter's visit to preschool. When we rang doorbells and people would say, "Oh, look, a fireman," my son replied very seriously but politely, "No, I'm just DRESSED like a fireman."

By the way, for years, he trick-or-treated only at the houses on our side of the block before announcing, "That's enough, let's go home." He's very pragmatic.

I would have gladly taken him trick-or-treating without a costume; it just "fell together" when the time came.

And come on, who would deny a little tot candy because he's not in costume? My requirement is, the older kids must say "trick or treat."

Thanks for a great column.

Barb Piechota Lake Forest

Denying community I'm a resident who lives in the area of the Disney Magnet School on Marine Drive and am a former member of the local school counsel.

A couple years ago, the school started discussions with the Chicago Park District to obtain funding to renovate the 11-acre Disney property to a Campus Park (many have already been done at other CPS facilities). The park would have added a jogging track, soccer field and dog-friendly area to the existing property. All discussions seemed to be going well, which also included our alderman, Helen Shiller. The planning process went as far as funding approval and Disney was added to the list of schools to be on the Park District's schedule to begin construction.

I contacted school principal, Dr. Kathy Hagstrom, to find out the status of the park's construction. She told me that the school's counsel has decided not to accept the $1 million in funding from the park district for the Disney campus park. Of course, I was shocked. I asked her why and she said renovation of the property would create more of a 'use' interest by the community of which Disney would be responsible for managing. Odd, considering Disney is currently collecting funds from the community for rental of parking spots, teams, programs and events.

Additionally, Dr. Hagstrom told me she is seeking funding to fence in the property to prevent community use of Disney's gigantic 11-acre property.

What a shame-the addition of a campus park would clearly benefit the Disney students and community. The community already has little connection to the school (yet we pay for it) as a majority of the Disney students do not live in the surrounding community.


Missing resources I enjoyed reading "Comparing Pushing to Paperwork" by Michelle Sussman in your October 2006 issue. I was glad to see that the article was accompanied by adoption resources but was disappointed to see that it did not recommend local adoption support groups. Chicago Area Families for Adoption, Children of Eastern European Regions, Adoptive Families Today and Families with Children from China are all local adoptive support groups. (See their Web sites for additional information.) These groups offer education, networking, playgroups, support and regular social outings. Obtaining information from books and the Internet is a great source of information but nothing beats the kinship that is to be shared and treasured among adoptive families. It is especially important that children of adoption are given an opportunity to socialize and establish friendships with other children of adoption.


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