Metro East Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Metro East Coverage

Head Start teacher Chea Wyatt guides Kennydi Harris through an exercise June 23, 2017 at the East St. Louis Kindergarten readiness camp.
File Photo |Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time this school year, Illinois public schools statewide are required to measure and report how prepared their kindergartners were for school.

The state board of education is collecting the data to better understand what regions are lacking preschool access.

However, area school districts are concerned the reporting process is time consuming. Several expressed doubt that the information will be useful.

Sparta Public Schools Superintendent Gabe Schwemmer said her district doesn't have bonding authority, so it's borrowing from banks in order to open this year. Aug. 11, 2017
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Dozens of Metro East school superintendents made one thing clear Friday: They need state money, and they need it now.

Illinois’ new school funding formula is tied up in another political battle, one that could end next week when lawmakers have a chance to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s partial veto.

Drummers lead participants through East St. Louis to remember the 1917 race riot on July 2, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 100 people marked the 100th anniversary of a deadly race riot in East St. Louis Sunday by crossing the Eads Bridge into St. Louis.

About 6,000 African-Americans fled the violence by the same route on July 3, 1917, when mobs of white men, and some women, attacked black people following months of tension over jobs.

Historian Anne Walker is surrounded by family photos in the living room of her home in East St. Louis. June 2017
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of East St. Louis will gather on Sunday to remember the victims of the bloody 1917 race riot with a solemn processional to the Eads Bridge.

On July 2-3, 1917, mobs of white people, angered over labor issues, roved through the city, assaulting African-Americans and burning their homes and businesses.

Although the official death toll was 48 — 39 blacks and 9 whites — historians believe more than 100 people died and hundreds were injured, including women and children.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

For years, Granite City had some of the worst air quality in Illinois. But a new effort to track greenhouse gases could help reduce the city’s air pollution and improve public health.

For 18 months, Washington University researchers tracked levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from Granite City municipal operations. The area has historically dealt with high levels of particulate matter pollution, largely from the local U.S. Steel plant. The plant idled temporarily at the end of 2015 but began operating again this year.

Head Start teaching assistant Shavonda Willis helps Jemez Jackson Harris IV close a bracelet he made to practice patterns June 23, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Ordinarily Head Start teaching assistant Shavonda Willis would be on vacation during the summer. But this year she is spending six weeks at an East St. Louis elementary school teaching 5 and 6 year olds who’ve never been to preschool.

Andrea Purnell and Gregory Carr discussed "Tinderbox," Carr's play based on the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917, on St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

July 2, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of one of the bloodiest race riots in the 20th century: the East St. Louis Race Riots of 1917

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Gregory Carr, an instructor of speech and theater at Harris-Stowe State University, and actress Andrea Purnell joined the program to discuss “Tinderbox,” his play based on the history of the event. 

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis Avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Andrew Theising was sitting behind the steering wheel of his car, pointing out the pathways of city streets that vanished long ago beneath a parking lot in downtown East St. Louis.

“This is where the homes were burned,’’ he said, solemnly. “This is where African-Americans were hung from the streetlights. This was the height of the violence and the bloodshed.’’

A family flees violence in East St. Louis following the 1917 race riots.
Courtesy of East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission and Cultural Initiative

The social, economic and political factors that led to the deadly East St. Louis race riots 100 years ago will be examined at a conference that begins Friday. 

The point is to educate people about the riots while beginning an ongoing conversation about what the region still faces today, said the Rev. Joseph Brown, chairman of the East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission.

A mob stops a street car during the East St. Louis race riots, which started on July 2, 1917.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Libraries

The East St. Louis race riots have gone down in history as some of the worst examples of race relations in the St. Louis region. This Sunday, May 28, is the 100-year anniversary of the first, smaller riot. July 2 is the 100-year anniversary of one of the bloodiest race riots in the 1900s.

Related: St. Louis History in Black and White: East St. Louis Race Riot

Collinsville pitcher Ryan Siverly tries to apply a tag on O'Fallon's Jacob Dryer in a high school baseball game Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Collinsville, Illinois. Players at both schools have to pay a fee to play sports.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Several Metro East school superintendents are among the 413 public school leaders who are calling on Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-majority legislature to pass a budget after nearly two years of disagreements, and fully fund public education.

Moyan Brenn | Flickr

The concept of a library is over 5,000 years old, but that doesn’t mean these community institutions are stuck in the Stone Age. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from librarians from two different communities in the region, in Ferguson, Mo., and Fairmont City, Ill., and how they are innovating exactly what the concept of a library is.

Tiffany Lee and Reginald Petty recently published "Legendary East St. Louisans."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Miles Davis. Katherine Dunham. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. These are three household names you may know who have connections to East St. Louis. But they are not the only African-American East St.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio

In a region as fragmented as St. Louis, there’s one commonality uniting scores of towns and cities: high sales taxes.

Metro East schools sue Illinois over inadequate funding

Apr 5, 2017
Flickr | alkruse24

Hours after measures to increase the sales tax for schools failed in both Madison and St. Clair counties, two school districts from each county sued the state.

Bethalto, Cahokia, Grant and Wood River-Hartford schools joined more than a dozen other southern Illinois districts in the suit. They want the state to provide enough funding so districts can meet the state's new learning standards.

Lebanese photographer Fadi BouKaram is traveling across the U.S. visiting every town that shares the name of homeland. Here he is pictured in front of his 21-foot RV.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Fadi BouKaram, a photographer from the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon, is on a mission in the United States. He’s attempting to visit all of the 40-plus communities in the U.S. that share the name of his homeland.

He acquired an RV and began the five-month trip on Oct. 15, 2016. The first Lebanon he visited in the United States was in Oregon.

The industrial park in Illinois covers 2,300 acres. Developers say it is within 1,500 miles of 90 percent of the people in North America.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Leaders in a Metro East County are taking a proactive approach to anticipated changes by the new administration in Washington, D.C. Massive infrastructure investments and re-working international trade deals are key parts of President Donald Trump’s blueprint and Madison County officials are trying position the area for growth under the potential new economic realities.

The Milburn campus of O'Fallon Township High School, where the district's ninth-graders attend class.
O'Fallon Township High School via Facebook

Updated March 3, 2017 with results of an emergency meeting — A Metro East high school has reversed the severity of its planned teacher cuts for next school year.

At an emergency meeting Thursday, the O’Fallon Township High School board of education unanimously approved a new budget deficit reduction plan. The new plan eliminates four classroom teaching positions instead of six full-time and one part-time teacher.  Guidance counseling and library services are no longer impacted by the cuts.

Much of Monroe County bordering the Mississippi River is in a flood plain. This view of the plain is from the bluffs near Valmeyer in 2013.
File Photo | Mary Leonard | St. Louis Beacon

Only 14 counties nationwide have a lower poverty rate than Monroe County, Illinois, located directly south of St. Louis, according to a new census report.

The mostly agricultural area located across the Mississippi River from Jefferson County had a median household income of just under $80,000 in 2015, and about 5 percent of the population was considered low-income.

The pilot program only covers the City of East St. Louis, not unincorporated areas.
Heather Anne Campbell | Flickr

A pilot program between East St. Louis and the state of Illinois is expected to streamline the inspection process for more than 50 retailers in the city who hold liquor licenses. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is training local officials to make sure the businesses are following state and local laws.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says St. Clair County's proposal for the NGA's relocation to Scott Air Force Base is better than those for three Missouri sites.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are honored to welcome U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to the program.

The Illinois Democrat serves as the Senate minority whip, making him the second most powerful member of his party next to the minority leader. He recently won another term in office in the 2014 election cycle.

Hannah Westerman | St. Louis Public Radio

Nine people were arrested Monday in the Metro East as part of a state and federal public corruption task force operation.

Known as Operation Watchtower, the joint task force began this spring.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly announced the arrests at a press conference at the Illinois State Police Headquarters in Collinsville.

Kelly says his office has prosecuted a large number of public integrity cases but they still present a unique challenge.

A mob stops a street car during the East St. Louis race riots, which started on July 2, 1917.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Libraries

One hundred years after the 1917 East St. Louis race riots a permanent monument to victims will be dedicated, and educational programs, musical and theatrical presentation, and other events will be held.

The East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission and Cultural Initiative announced its plans Wednesday. Commission vice chairman Edmond Brown, president of ELB Enterprises, said the monument will “commemorate those lost during that time, to act as a point of education as well as for healing of the community.” Commission chairman, the Rev. Joseph Brown, a professor of Africana studies at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said there will also be “rituals taking place around East St. Louis to respect the places where we know people were murdered.”

Miles Davis' childhood home is without siding. Workers are installing a new roof.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Inside the shell of a modest house in East St. Louis, there is nothing to let a visitor know that one of the nation’s most noted musicians once called it home.

The interior of the one-story structure is skeletal — all bare studs and dust. But when Lauren Parks and Jasper Gery Pearson are inside, they can see the space where a young Miles Davis got his start in life, years before creating the music that would make him one of the biggest names in jazz. They hope to turn the trumpeter’s childhood home into a museum and educational space that will inspire children.

East St. Louis gun buyback takes 100 guns off streets

Aug 7, 2016
Four hand guns on a red cloth.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Facebook

The St. Clair County Sheriff’s office is melting down at least a hundred illegal firearms it collected over the weekend at a gun buyback in East St. Louis.

$10,000 in Wal-Mart gift cards were handed out in 39 minutes Saturday in exchange for the guns.

Cahokia Power Plant from The American Bottom
Provided by Jennifer Colton

Driving down Interstate 70, headed west toward St. Louis, Jesse Vogler looked out the window and was shocked to see a giant mound rising from the earth. Excited, he mistook a large landfill for The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, which preserves the remains of a prehistoric civilization.

A jockey rides a horse back past the finish line after a race on opening day at Fairmount Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There were 30 minutes until the first race of the day and the locker room at Fairmount Park Racetrack buzzed with activity. Jockeys flipped through race programs and flicked their whips through the air. Television sets perched on cluttered shelves flashed scenes of the track outside, where fans filled the stands for opening day of the Collinsville racetrack's 91st season.

As announcers counted down in anticipation, the jockeys helped each other tape up aching joints and teased each other playfully. Some said a quick prayer.

A view of the outside of the United Steelworkers office in Granite City.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 12:30 p.m., April 27,  with CEO comments — There is still no firm timeline for production to resume at the U.S. Steel plant in Granite City.  The company continues to describe the shutdown as temporary and operations will not start again until demand picks up. 

I Am EStL

Charmaine Savage spent years away from her hometown of East St. Louis as an officer in the U.S. Navy. After living away with her husband Lorenzo, also from East St. Louis, in places like Virginia, San Diego, Tennessee and even Iraq, she returned to the area after retiring following several battles with cancer.

Savage said that she and her husband, who she met at Lincoln High School, had always wanted to return. Over the years, she had continually heard bad publicity about her hometown. She knew she wanted to combat that.

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