With less than a week left of 2011, here are our candidates for the most important Mokena story of the year.
Vote in our poll for the most important story and suggest stories we missed in the comments section below.
NOTE: Rather than tackle all of the issues Mokena School District 159 has faced over the year in one fell swoop, we broke the district's troubles down into three categories. Be sure to read all the options before voting for "the schools" as the year's biggest story.
Mokena 159 referendum fails a third time
Despite rallies by supporters and staff and extracurricular cuts at the schools, supporters of a Mokena 159 school referendum were unable to get voters behind their cause for the third time. The April 2011 referendum vote might have been the last hurrah for the issue that so divided the town in 2010, as the levy the board approved in the fall left no room for any referendum money.
Teen gets 40 years for killing sister
Keith Randulich, of Mokena, will be 58 years old when he is released from prison for the 2009 murder of his 4-year-old sister. In Randulich's chilling testimony, the sister he described as his best friend asked, "Why are you killing me?" Randulich, who was 19 at the time of his sentencing in April, received 40 years in prison.
Superintendent Karen Perry ousted
Mokena 159 Superintendent Karen Perry, one of the driving forces behind the district's three referenum bids, was replaced as superintendent in August by Mokena Elementary School Principal Steve Stein. Stein, originally named interim superintendent, was officially made full-time superintendent in December. Perry is still in Mokena 159, acting as Stein's assistant but receiving her superintendent salary. State records for the 2009-10 school year listed Perry’s salary as $140,728.51.
Mokena man Shane Kreke, 37, was coming back from helping his brother on a catering job in June when a driver crashed into the motorcycle Kreke was driving and fled the scene. He died in an Olympia Fields hospital three days later. A week before the hit-and-run that led to Kreke's death, James “Rocky” Siciliano, 52, also of Mokena, was killed in a three-motorcycle pile-up that cut short his life of motorcycles and charity.
Teacher contract negotiations continue into new year
Mokena 159 school board meetings in the fall were filled with protesting parents and teachers angry that the school year started without a new teacher contract. Although the teachers union originally revealed their anger but no specifics of the hold-up, eventually the district confirmed health insurance and salaries were the sticking points. There is still no contract, but threats of strike have been allayed after talks the union called "health and productive."
Snowmageddon (with Snow Shark)
The Blizzard of 2011, aka the Snowmageddon or the Snowpocalypse, closed schools, brought back memories of the Blizzard of '67, collapsed a golf dome in Frankfort, brought out Mokena's helpful spirit, took more than a week to clean up and, most importantly, brought into existence the Mokena Snow Shark snow sculpture. Take a look at some of our readers' photos from the 2011 blizzard to remember the storm you'll tell your kids about when they whine about shoveling the drive.