September 25, 2018 – – – For Public Notice and Board Correspondence – – –
I have had the pleasure to serve as the Superintendent of Schools for Gower School District 62 since 2013. Throughout my tenure, I have included the strength of our parent and community engagement among the reasons for our continued success. Today is no different. As educators, we are charged with the world’s most precious and valuable resource – our children. Given that massive responsibility, it is comforting to know that when we post or send a message to parents, it is not only read but is typically acted on. I can tell you that we do not take this level of parent engagement for granted. In fact, it is precisely the reason why we took immediate action, beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 26th, to post a Community Notice on our district website related to the Sterigenics issue. It is clear that our series of updates helped, even if in some small part, to bring more attention to this issue. But our action did not stop there. By attending the August 27th Village of Willowbrook meeting and offering public comment for their official record, I believe the following was accomplished on behalf of the school district:
1) We demonstrated an active level of concern and a commitment to be directly involved in this issue.
2) We delivered a clear message to Village officials that their commitment to providing clear and ongoing communication was appreciated and was the expectation moving forward to keep our community informed.
3) We formally requested that area school campuses be included in any future/ongoing testing related to this issue as recommended in the ATSDR report.
a) This request was reiterated in the Sept. 10th letter sent by High School District 86 to the ATSDR and IL-EPA calling for expedited testing.
b) This request was approved for action during the Sept 24th Village Board meeting for our schools to be included in the local Task Force response/testing in addition to the recommended EPA testing.
We have maintained regular attendance at Village meetings to ensure direct participation and direct access to information being shared in an effort to keep our school community informed. We have also served as a resource to a number of our neighboring districts and helped make them more aware of this issue. Gower may be a relatively small school district, but I can assure you that our voice has been represented and acknowledged since this issue emerged – much like that of the rest of our school community. We have taken action and thousands of others in and around our community have as well. As stated in the updated Community Notice posted on Aug. 31st , Gower School District officials will remain engaged in this situation until satisfied with the efforts made and the actions taken to bring about a resolution that ensures a safe learning environment in our community.
With respect and appreciation,
Victor Simon III
Children at their Best!
We were also present at the Public Forum held on Aug. 29th to listen to every comment, every question, and every answer delivered as a direct effort to better understand the situation and position ourselves to make informed decisions. We have maintained contact with Willowbrook village officials throughout this situation and are pleased with their commitment to providing direct and ongoing communication through their website.
It has been made clear to the Mayor and other locally elected officials that Gower and other area schools are held to high expectations and work hard to exceed them. Schools are expected to operate according to the highest standards of safety, performance, accountability, immediacy, and transparency and we expect nothing less from each of the agencies involved in this issue. Gower School District officials will remain engaged in this situation until satisfied with the efforts made and actions taken to bring about a resolution that ensures a safe learning learning environment in our community.
In addition, Gower School District officials have maintained regular and ongoing communication with other area school district officials to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to protect and advocate for our children in the most productive way and will continue to do so. We all understand that safety for our students is the top priority and the area school district partnership demonstrates a clear commitment to ensure a safe learning environment across all of our schools.
Mayor Trilla and other elected officials have heard our concerns and have shown a willingness to take action. The most recent letter requesting that Sterigenics ‘cease operations until further testing can be conducted regarding Ethylene Oxide’ – posted on the Willowbrook website today – represents a collaborative effort and a response that only comes from the type of community that places public interest above all others.
This situation is a multi-faceted, community-wide issue and will likely require a multi-faceted, community-wide response before it is fully resolved. It is also a stark reminder of how much we depend on local, state, and federal agencies to provide basic services, to keep the public interest at the core of their actions, and if nothing else, to simply do no harm. Again, Gower School District will remain engaged until satisfied with the end results.
It is important to note that the Village of Willowbrook is currently positioned as the best source of information as all relevant federal and state agencies are in direct contact with the Mayor and his team. If you haven’t visited the village website at www.willowbrook.il.org, you are encouraged to do so in order to learn more about this situation and to sign up for updates directly from the Village.
With respect and continued concern,
Superintendent of Schools
School district officials have been closely monitoring a situation related to the Sterigenics, Inc., located 7775 S. Quincy St., Willowbrook, IL 60527. The school district began updating the www.gower62.com website early Sunday evening in an effort to share information from the Village of Willowbrook with the Gower Community. The Willowbrook website can be found at www.willowbrook.il.org and includes a detailed report related to the emissions from the Sterigenics facility. It was reported at the regularly scheduled Willowbrook Village Board Meeting held last night (8/27) that the situation “is not an immediate threat to public health and is not considered to be an emergency”. The full statement read at the meeting can be found here.
Gower School District Superintendent, Victor Simon, was in attendance at the village hall meeting to request that any future ambient air testing and/or monitoring conducted by or for the Sterigenics facility in Willowbrook include both Gower school district campuses and shared accordingly. Dr. Simon also thanked Mayor Trilla and his team for providing regular and updated communication related to this issue.
The Village of Willowbrook is hosting a Public Forum related to this topic on Wednesday, August 29th at 7:00 p.m. at Ashton Place located at 341 75th St., Willowbrook, IL 60527.
In addition, U.S. Congressman Bill Foster, Illinois Representative Jim Durkin and Illinois State Senator John Curran, along with Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla and the Village Trustees will be present.
WHEN: Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 7 P.M.
Please check the village website for updates www.willowbrookil.org.
Community Notice August 26, 2018 5:00 pm: A federal agency report recently posted on the Village of Willowbrook website provides notification and detail of specific hazardous emissions from Sterigenics International, Inc., located in the Willowbrook Municipal Complex. Additional information and updates can be found at www.willowbrookil.org. School district administrators will continue to monitor this situation and share information with the Gower Community accordingly.