Three Illinois newspapers and their reporters earned top honors for coverage of school governance issues at the 2016 Illinois Press Association's "Best of the Press" presentations on June 8. Each received the Robert M. Cole Award, sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards, which recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community's connection with its local public school district.
Will Brumleve of the Paxton Record took first place in the small newspaper category for his coverage of several important issues surrounding the fate of an older school facility in in east central Illinois, and the board's work with its community while facing a possible referendum. Second place in this category went to Ann Gill of the Coal City Courant. Third went to Justin A. Cobb of the Scott County Times.
In the mid-sized newspaper category, the Galena Gazette earned the top prize for Hilary Dickerson's complete coverage of the Galena Board of Education's options for facilities improvement and reducing overcrowding. Other award winners in this category were Ivor Studentkov of the Niles Bugle and team coverage from the Prairie Press.
Among the larger Illinois newspapers, the first place Cole Award went to Allison Goodrich of the Northwest Herald for her extensive, informative, and clear coverage leading up to and during the McHenry teachers strike. Runners-up in this category were Emily K. Coleman of the Northwest Herald and Jason Nevel of the Springfield State Journal-Register.
The Cole Award is named for Robert M. Cole, the first executive director of IASB. The award requirements emphasize contribution to public understanding of local school governance and support for effective dialogue that helps the community and the school board define major public policy issues. The 2016 contest had 24 entries in three categories and marked the 36th year of Cole Award presentations.