You’re wrong on South Loop I want to comment on the quote Haydn Bush used from me in the March 2006 article on recess, "No time to play." It was taken out of context and used in an article bemoaning the lack of opportunity for physical exercise during the school day. To imply that South Loop Elementary students do not get a recess period or that they have no opportunity for physical recreation and exercise is an inaccurate depiction.

We offer 22 physical activity opportunities at South Loop Elementary. Students have 15 minutes a day of indoor recess along with a variety of exercise activities.

At South Loop Elementary School the administration, staff and parents all recognize that our students need physical activity as part of their daily life.

In addition to the above activities, South Loop is one of 12 Chicago schools participating in Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures, a pilot program that educates children and families about nutrition and choices.

PAT BACCELLIERI, principal South Loop Elementary School

Editor’s note: Chicago Parent regrets any misunderstanding.

Missing the preschool point Your March editorial correctly points out why the governor’s proposal to provide voluntary preschool for all Illinois 3- and 4-year-olds is so important. Quality preschool has lifelong benefits for children and for all of us. Kids are better prepared for learning, they’re more likely to graduate and get good jobs, and less likely to be involved in crime.

But suggesting that parents who can afford it should pay for preschool misses the larger point of the "Preschool for All" vision—having all our kids ready to learn even before they cross the threshold of a school classroom. The more relevant questions are what is education, when should it begin, and how do we provide it.

Parents want what’s best for their children, but too many are unable to access or afford quality preschool. Many middle-class families struggle to pay for early education. They earn too much to qualify for the current state-funded preschool program, but too little to afford private programs.

A voluntary, universal preschool program is necessary because problems with school readiness are not confined to low-income children alone. "Preschool for All" sets a bold vision for what is best for all our children. Anything less is not in the best interest of all Illinois children.

JERRY STERMER president, Voices for Illinois Children MARIA WHELAN president, Action for Children HARRIET MEYER president, Ounce of Prevention Fund

Thanks for speaking out Thank you Larry McIntyre for your essay, "Testing irregularities" (March 2006). My oldest child, now 26, was in special education from ages 3 to 18. The district made sure to graduate him by 18 so the state would not have to do more. Thank goodness for parents who speak out.


It’s time to change testing I read, with much interest, Larry McIntyre’s essay, "Testing irregularities." I had no idea it was so difficult to get a child excused from mandated state testing.

Ironically, my three older children fall into three different testing categories: One is severely autistic and mentally retarded, falling into the 1 percent of children in our district that require alternative assessment; one is gifted and takes test with ease and scores incredibly high, and the third has a severe learning disability, is at least two grade levels behind and requires special accommodations and longer testing times.

When my learning-disabled son goes to school on test days I encourage him to do the best he can and not to worry if he does not know the answers—assuring him that the test will not affect his grades or his success in school. As he gets older the tests are getting harder and he is more anxious about the whole situation.

I absolutely support McIntyre in his quest to change the mandate.

It is incredibly unfair to children such as McIntyre’s and my own, who must toil over tests that are above their performance level while missing valuable instructional minutes at school.

Thank you for voicing the opinions of parents who are trying to make a difference in the lives of their children. I wish success to McIntyre in his campaign to make a change in state and federal mandates.


A touching tribute I wanted to comment on Susy Schultz’s article "Lead by example" (March 2006).

In most parents’ lives you are paid the highest compliment if you are told that you are a good parent. I was so touched by reading your article. Cindy is lucky to have had such a close relationship with her mother. Cindy’s family sounds like one that people should model themselves after.



Thanks E-News Update Thank you for the review of the Chicago Rush football game that I received in the March 2 E-News Update. It gave me the idea to take my son, who’s turning 11 this month, for his birthday. We went to the Friday, March 10 game against the Colorado Crush and had a great time. It was a perfect evening and really not that expensive. I took my son and three of his friends (ages 10-11) and bought the $10 tickets in the end zone, second balcony. Our view was great, the people around us were great and the boys had a spectacular time. We attended the Family Fest party before the game in the Skyline Room and the kids had a ball playing football, getting their faces painted with Rush tattoos. We also stayed late after the game so the boys could collect the autographs of the football players and the cheerleaders. This night was nonstop action and we had a great time. I would never have known about this or considered it without your review, so thank you very much from a very pleased mom and her very happy son!


Editor’s note: Sign up for Chicago Parent E-News Update at www.chicagoparent.com, for weekly theater and movie reviews as well as other weekend activity suggestions.

Stronger school food rules American children and adolescents today are less physically active as a group than they were in previous generations. Less active children are more likely to be overweight and have higher blood pressure, insulin and cholesterol concentrations. As pediatricians, we worry about the toll this is taking on children’s current and long-term health, as well as the psychological burden it places on children and their parents.

Sports and vigorous recreation are important for physical and psychological well being. Children need to turn off TV and computers, and get moving. But in our schools, where we should set an example and teach children healthy nutrition, these relatively simple recommendations are undermined, because "junk food" is readily available for eight to 10 hours a day, and regular exercise is infrequent.

I applaud the Illinios State Board of Education (ISBE) for trying to address at least one part of this problem. The board is currently deliberating new statewide standards preventing the sale of soda, other sugary drinks, candy, chips and other non-nutritive foods in school vending machines, cafeteria snack lines, fundraisers and school stores. Schools have to set an example and send the correct message.

However, to make any significant progress against childhood obesity, schools, parents and healthcare professionals must work at the local level to build on these minimal standards. Nearly every school in Illinois is required to adopt a local wellness policy by June 30, 2006 that addresses school food, as well as physical activity and nutrition education. These policies offer an opportunity for schools to build on the basic standards to create a program that targets all aspects of the problem. It’s a chance for doctors, parents, teachers and others who care about these issues to influence the health of everyone involved in the school.

I urge the board to vote for strong and comprehensive school food rules when they meet March 15-16. While many advocates feel stronger, more comprehensive steps are needed, this effort is an important building block towards the comprehensive health promotion and education that schools should provide. I hope other healthcare professionals and parents will contact ISBE to let them know that they support this change—for the sake of our children’s health now and in the future.

CYNTHIA J. MEARS Adolescent Medicine Specialist, Children’s Memorial Hospital Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University Chairperson, Committee on School Health Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

Not in our gym I am the director and a coach for Cheer Spirit All-Stars located in St. Charles, Ill. Cheer Spirit is a competitive cheerleading organization. You really caught my attention with the Extreme Cheerleading article featured in your paper, not just because cheerleading is a passion of mine, but also because the picture of one of our stunt groups was used alongside of it. While your paper did an excellent job on the picture, the story needed some work, or at the very least, some accuracy.

The cheerleader featured in the article is our very own Brittany. Brittany is a flyer (the top person in stunts or pyramids) at our gym. However, Brittany did not receive a concussion at our all-star gym.

The constant focus on injuries, whether actual or fictional, does a disservice to all the competitive all-star organizations that run safe programs. Cheerleading is not dangerous; the way it is taught, or shall we say not taught, is the problem.

There is a distinction between all-star cheerleading, high school cheerleading and recreational cheerleading. Unfortunately all-star gyms are being lumped with the others. Most high school cheerleaders practice on a gym floor and may not have an experienced coach. The cheerleaders are often learning their stunting from each other on unsafe surfaces. Recreational cheerleading is typically taught by untrained mom volunteers who coach our sport out in the grass in the summer heat.

Our all-star program has spared no expense and has worked side by side with our parents to be sure that our cheerleaders have safe surfaces to learn their tumbling and stunting by building two spring floors. We also offer a tumble track and foam pit so the cheerleaders can learn tumbling in safe progressions, until they are finally ready to try it on our spring floors. And our facility is air conditioned so heat exhaustion doesn’t come into play while training in the summer. Our coaches are required to become certified through the USASF coaches’ credentialing program where they must pass a written and hands-on test demonstrating their knowledge of our sport.

That, my friend, is all-star cheerleading. A sport where through conditioning and safe stunting and tumbling practices, our cheerleaders train to become the best they can be. This isn’t your mother’s cheerleading, it has progressed into a sport that is in many ways safer than when I cheered in high school over 20 years ago. Though the tricks get more difficult, the safety standards have increased along the way.

Though the focus of late has been injuries associated with cheerleading, most are minor. We had a cheerleader show up for practice with a broken tail bone from sliding down a banister in her home, another with a broken finger from her trip to a batting cage, and yet another sprained an ankle by simply jumping on a trampoline, so one might conclude that injuries can happen anywhere, so I guess why not at cheerleading?

Part of the reason for all the attention to injuries in our sport may be that people aren’t used to "girls" getting hurt. Boys have been getting injured in their sports for years. You might say we’re unfazed by it. Women have long fought the fight for equality, so I say, "Let’em cheer!"

SANDY GILLESPIE director and coach Cheer Spirit All-Stars St. Charles

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