Metro East Area News Briefs

Susan Converse, a special education teacher at Edwardsville High School, poses with her students after being named the Illinois Teacher of the Year for 2019.
(Photo courtesy of Edwardsville H.S. Facebook)

Edwardsville educator named Illinois Teacher of the Year

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) named Edwardsville High School (EHS) special education teacher Susan Converse is 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year, during the board’s 44th annual “Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year Banquet,” Oc. 23, in Normal.

Converse, who teaches special education for students in grades 9-12, has drawn praise for the Tiger Den, student-run coffee and pastry shop on the EHS campus. Students with disabilities carry out all aspects of Tiger Den’s operations under Converse’s guidance.

In addition to helping students develop skills they can later use to secure employment lead more independent lives after high school, the coffee shop generates profits which are donated to school projects or local charitable organizations.

It has also become a fixture in the day-to-day lives of students at the school, according to EHS Principal Dennis Cramsey.

“The impact that the Tiger Den has had on the confidence of students can’t be expressed in words,” said Edwardsville Principal Dr. Dennis Cramsey in his letter of recommendation for Converse. “Students feel like they are a part of a team that adds to the climate and culture of the entire school building.”

Members of various EHS student organizations often work alongside special education students in the coffee shop — and under their direction — in exchange for donations of shop profits to their projects of groups.

The shop also offers coffee to other EHS teachers.

Converse, who also helps students build their resumés and prepare for job interviews, holds a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a master of science in educational leadership, both from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She holds certifications in both administration and teaching.

As the 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year, Converse qualifies for the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Converse will have an opportunity to share her knowledge and expertise with an even larger audience. She will also represent Illinois at the 2019 NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

Beginning in the spring of next year, she is slated to educators around the nation at a series of teaching workshops, education conferences, and community meetings.

In all, ISBE honored some 214 classroom teachers, educational leaders, and support personnel with Those Who Excel awards at this year’s banquet.

Riders, residents invited to MetroLink security meeting

Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT), the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the East-West Gateway Council of Governments are inviting MetroLink light rail riders and other interested area residents to take part in a special “Talking Transit” event on light rail security.

The presentation will focus on security practices used by transit systems in other major metropolitan cities and how they might be applied here.

The meeting is being held in conjunction with a MetroLink Security Assessment, undertaken by the Bi-State Development at the request of St. Clair County, the City of St. Louis, and St. Louis County; following series of violent incident on MetroLink trains and boarding platforms – including those in Fairview Heights and Washington Park.

Panelists will include representatives of TriMet in Portland, Ore.; SacRT in Sacramento, Calif.; Metro Transit in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., and WMATA in Washington, D.C.

Lurae Stuart, project manager of WSP USA, Inc., which is leading the MetroLink Security Assessment, will provide a brief overview of the peer-review assessment process, which is set to wrap up in December.

The event is being held on Friday, Nov. 16, at 8:30 a.m. at the St. Louis Regional Chamber Collaboration Center, located at One Metropolitan Square, Ste. 1300, in downtown St. Louis. is accessible via the MetroLink or MetroBus.

Registration for the Talking Transit event can be completed online at or by arriving early to the event.

The cost is free for CMT members and $10 for non-members. For non-members who would like to attend but may have personal financial constraints, CMT offers a limited number of scholarships for the event.

For more information on Citizens for Modern Transit and its efforts to further transit development in the St. Louis region, call (314) 231-7272

Judge Hylla appointed to new Illinois Judicial Conference

The Supreme Court of Illinois has named Third Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David Hylla to the newly reconstituted Illinois Judicial Conference (IJC).

The new 29-member committee is charged with formulating and implementing a first-ever “Strategic Agenda” for the Illinois Judicial Branch, according to an announcement from Illinois Supreme County Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier.

“Strategic planning is critical to the health and vitality of any large organization — and the judicial branch is no exception,” Chief Justice Karmeier said. “The courts operate in a world of ever-advancing technology, rapidly changing social and political norms, shifting demographics and economic uncertainty. If the judicial branch is to deliver on its promise of equal justice under the law, it is critical that we move forward as well. This Strategic Agenda will help us anticipate and prepare for the future.”    

Conference members will include judges, attorneys, trial court administrators, court clerks, and members of the public.

The IJC was initially established State Supreme Court in 1971 “to consider the work of the courts, to suggest improvements in the administration of justice, and to make recommendations for the improvement of the courts,” according to State Supreme Court documents.

The new IJC is intended to be “smaller, more active and engaged” than its predecessor.

Members of the new conferences have been specifically directed to analyze the advances in technology along with economic needs and other shifting demographics to anticipate and prepare for the future.

“Their assignment is to frame the goals of the judicial system and recommend a plan to achieve those goals to better serve the public,” the court documents state.

Working with the new committee will be Dr. Brenda Wagenknecht-Ivey, who has similary consulted with court systems across the country. The initial meeting will be a two-day conference in November.

Chief Justice Karmeier will serve as conference chair.

Judge Hylla will serve as Chair of the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges, according to state supreme court documents.

Hon. David A. Hylla Chief Judge Third Judicial Circuit Madison County Courthouse 155 N. Main St., #405 Edwardsville, IL 62025

The IJC’s initial meeting will be a two-day conference this month.

The Third Judicial Circuit covers Madison and Bond counties.

Mitchell Hearns, aka ‘DJ Gabriel’ died Oct. 19.

Radio says good-bye to legendary “Gabriel”

“Ladies and gentlemen! Here’s ‘The Man!’ I mean ‘The Man!’ The dynamic, the incomparable….,” an edited version of James Brown’s famous concert introduction would nightly proclaim on St. Louis soul music powerhouse KATZ AM through much of the 1960s —followed in anticlimactic comic fashion by the understated self-introduction: “Gabriel.”

Hundreds of St. Louis-area broadcasters, music lovers, and aging Baby Boomers mourned the long-time blues disc jockey, Nov.  4, during a memorial service at Officer Funeral Home in East St. Louis.

Over a 50-plus-year-period, Gabriel (real name Mitchell Hearns) first amassed a dedicated audience of both black and white youths, listening as far away as Arkansas, as an evening prime time air personality during the early ‘60s heyday of AM music radio.

Central to his popularity, a mix of “The Three Bs: Boogie, Barrel house and Blues,” often self-deprecating disc-jockey style jokes and comedy, and by a friendly, relatively soft-spoken tenor voice — rare in a period dominated by booming baritones in echo chambers.

By the ‘70s, Gabriel had become an overnight mainstay on pioneering St. Louis progressive FM station, KDNA.  For the last 30 years, the veteran broadcaster has been a fixture at community radio station, KDHX.

After initially establishing himself as popular East St. Louis bandleader, Gabriel launched his broadcast career at WOKZ in Alton and WMTM in East St. Louis. Remaining on a first-name basis with music business figures from Chuck Berry to Muddy Water through much of his life, Gabrielle worked for a time as right-hand-man to Ike Turner.

A near-lifelong East St. Louis resident, Hearns died Oct. 19 at the age of 88 of multiple organ failure at a St. Louis hospital.



–Metro East Area News Briefs–