NORMAL – At their June 17 meeting, members of Normal Town Council members called for an explanation of a decision by Connect Transit to eliminate one route that goes through Normal and a scheduled rate increase from $1 per ride to $1.25 per ride scheduled to take effect Oct. 1. Ahead of that, however, the transit company has proposed ending the Olive Route, which, in part, serves residents on low incomes. That route is slated to cease running July 1.

Prior to the transit officials’ presentation, Council members heard from members of the community concerning the affect an increase in fares, among other concerns, had on their minds.

“To change routes and fares will negatively impact our community,” Angie Rich, Bloomington, told Council members. Her disabled son, a Normal resident, uses Connect Transit, she told Board members. She then added her concern about Connect Transit’s plan to eliminate the Olive route entirely. “To eliminate the Olive route, I believe, will negatively impact our community,” she said. The Olive route extends from across north Normal from OSF PromptCare on Fort Jesse Road to Walmart to Shelbourne Drive and Linden Street to the Orlando Northbrook neighborhood. She added that many disabled riders who use the Connect Mobility service, which takes those riders from door-to-door pay $65 for a pass for that service, and that many are on fixed incomes.

Mary Wuhrmann told Council members she has asked Connect Transit board members, among other things, what had the transit service done to try to increase Olive route ridership. She pointed out that there are 37,000 riders who depend on using that route, and she asked Council members, “What is your solution to help those riders?” Rich and Wuhrmann were among five citizens who stated similar remarks to Council members.

The Transit Board has seven members on it, 4 from Bloomington and 3 from Normal, but Normal’s panel has a vacancy as one member has left. Mayor Chris Koos said he is looking to hear from interested individuals who would like to fill the slot. In her public comment to Council members, Deborah Hutchins said, “I’m available.”

During the presentation to Council members, Isaac Thorne, Connect Transit’s general manager, said, “We are not a perfect transit system. We are a good transit system and we are always seeking to become better.”

Glaze told Council members Connect Transit did surveys to determine where riders wanted to get to. He said the transit company continues to hear from riders seeking improvements such as more frequent buses, better on-time performance, and extended hours of operation.

Hile told Council members the transit system “is a living and breathing system” which is seeking a “concept plan for a community-wide transit system. We begin with our ridership. The more riders we have, the more stable we will be.”

Among comments from Council members following Connect’s presentation, Council Member Karyn Smith sought support to negate the amount of funding the Town provides the transit provider before July 1, but did not find any assistance with that suggestion.

Council Member Chemberly Cummings addressed the gathering, asking those who spoke to be patient with the Town as it tries to find ways to help them.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy said he was encouraged a solution could be found for those who addressed the Council regarding their concerns. “I’m nothing but encouraged that people came and shared and told us what concerned them. We need to continue to address disability access.” He encouraged other municipal entities to look into how to raise funding for the transit operator.

But the transit system is also facing an end to Federal funding it receives. Thorne explained Connect Transit faces running out of Federal funding by 2024, adding it uses 65 percent of what funding it gets from the government on operating expenses. “Our funding is leveling out and our expenses are increasing. Therefore, we will be out of Federal funding by 2024,” he explained.

He said the company has been using its local reserve fund to offset the costs that Federal funds would pay for. “You can only do that for so many years,” he said.

Addressing the need to fill the vacancy on the Transit Board, Koos said following the session there is a link on the Town’s website which will guide people to information for those persons interested in applying to become a Board member.

Easterseals Honored With Proclamation: Prior to the start of Monday’s Council session, the Town issued a proclamation honoring Easterseals on the organization’s 100th anniversary. Locally, Easterseals does work with children with disabilities, including at its camp located at Camp Heffernan on Lake Bloomington, which began in 1948. Along with a few of the youngsters who benefit from Easterseals’ work, Cathy Oloffson, vice president for development for the organization in its Bloomington office, accepted the plaque on Easterseals’ behalf.

Harmon Arts Grants Distributed: Also prior to the start of the meeting, organizations who applied for Harmon Arts Grants received their checks. As former Mayor Paul Harmon introduced each organization which was receiving money, current Mayor Chris Koos handed each check to a representative from the group receiving money.

Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a motion to approve recommended Harmon Arts Grant Awards at their June 3 meeting. A total of $25,000 in grants were awarded to local groups, the money for the grants earmarked from the Town’s general fund. A total of 28 groups applied for grants from the program, with the projects seeking money totaling $71,827. That amount of money to be distributed is down from the $74,000 in grants distributed last year. The maximum amount a group could receive is $5,000, and the programs or projects receiving the money would need to take place between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

Winners, and their grant dollar amounts awarded, are: Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, $2,000; Illinois Symphony Orchestra, $2,000; Illinois Prairie Theatre, $2,000; ISU – Gelli Printing at Sugar Creek, $1,565; Twin City Ballet, $1,500; USA Ballet, $1,500; McLean County Arts Center, $1,500; ISU’s University Galleries Field Trip Program, $1,500; Shakespeare Festival at ISU, $1,500; Further Jazz, $1,500; Illinois Chamber Music Festival at Illinois Wesleyan University, $1,400; Heartland Theatre Company, $1,200; ISU for 2019 Concerts On The Quad, $1,200; Brass Band of Central Illinois, $1,100; ISU-PUB.UNUT Presents Aditi Machado, $1,000; Crossroads Area Student Theatre. $875; Share The Music, $660; McLean County India Association, $500; and Orpheus Mandolin Orchestra, $500.

The grant program is named for former Normal Mayor Paul Harmon and his dedication to the arts and was created in 1993 to help promote various art forms in the community. Among the criteria used to determine which applicants are awarded are: Programs takes place in the Town of Normal; Programs are administered by non-profit groups; and programs are administered by organizations with a stated purpose to promote the arts.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting held June 3, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of June 12, 2019.

• A resolution approving an amended final development plan for Constitution Trail Centre PUD – Jiffy Lube.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat for the eighth addition to Constitution Trail Centre Subdivision – Jiffy Lube.

Rebekah Hagberg, a 2018 graduate of Normal Community West High School, said that, since she was almost to junior high, she became interested being a hairdresser and working in the beauty industry. Come mid-July, she will take the world stage in Russia to show her skills.

That’s because Rebekah, 18, will compete as a member of the WorldSkills USA team, selected and trained by SkillsUSA in the category of Hairdressing at the biennial WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia. The 45th international event will be held Aug. 22-27. At WorldSkills, Rebekah will be with 39 other contestants vying for the top prize in her vocation’s competition.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators, public policymakers, employers, teachers, trainers, technical experts and government officials from around the world will attend this competition.

This wasn’t just some notion of a job she was curious about, either. With an aunt who owned a salon, Rebekah’s interest started early, as she was able to get a jump on learning about the business.

Through Normal West, Rebekah became involved with Bloomington Area Career Center (BACC), which has a chapter of SkillsUSA, giving students an opportunity to learn a skill which will help them become productive members of the community. They hold national and international competitions in a variety of vocations. Rebekah has become fluent in competitions having done so at State level last summer finishing first, and getting as far as nationals at Louisville, Ky. in 2017, where she finished third.

Her finishing third at that time, she explained, left her thinking she was through with competitions. But then over Christmas that year, she received a letter asking her to submit an entry for the international event. She had to submit an entry because there were, she said, “about 15 people” applying to be on the hairdressing competition team. Needless to say, she applied.

That application led to a phone interview with applicants, Rebekah said. In spring of 2018, the applicants then were given a series of test projects to complete and turn in photographic evidence of their completion, which would be judged to see which contestants complied with instructions given to see if they would advance further. Advancing further turned out to take place on a national stage at Louisville.

Concerning Rebekah’s turn at Nationals last year, she wasn’t the only contestant from the Twin Cities to finish high when the competition ended. Laura Coronel, then a student at Bloomington High School, was also trying to win that event, and finished second behind Rebekah.

Keep in mind Rebekah was doing these test projects all while still going through her senior year of high school. “It was a lot of commitment,” Rebekah said of the time she needed to devote to trying to complete the projects given while still going to class at Normal West and fulfill any family obligations, as well. In addition to that, during her junior and senior year at Normal West, she was taking night classes in cosmetology to turn her dream of working toward being a working member in that field into a reality.

“After the test projects were turned in, it was a little bit of a waiting game,” Rebekah said. Finding out she finished as one of the two finalists who would be going to Russia to compete at the WorldSkills Competition came in an email.

The entire WorldSkills team met in Leesburg, Va. last year to get to know each other, she said. Rebekah’s coach is Michigan resident Linda Ward. Locally, Rebekah’s boss at the salon she works at, Bloomington-based Station 710 Salon, Megan Jenkins-Anderson, has been mentoring and monitoring her protégé’s progress. Rebekah said Jenkins-Anderson has sent her to the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Chicago and even to Finland with Jenkins-Anderson to another beauty academy to extend her training.

Of the experience, Rebekah, daughter of Dan and Jody Hagberg, Bloomington, said, “It was definitely worth it because it was something I really wanted to do, so I put in all the effort I could.”

For Rebekah, if she wins the World title, “It will be a huge honor and very exciting.” She said there is no trophy or trinkets winners receive if they take first. But rather, winners receive the honor of being able to add the title to their resumes, and share the pride of accomplishment on the world stage.

She said the past year has been a “jump start” on her career and she has learned a great deal about herself through the experience. When this experience is completed, regardless of where she places, Rebekah said she will resume her education in cosmetology and continuing on to get her barbering license. Next spring, she said, she plans to take some business classes at Heartland Community College. “That will help me in case I get the opportunity to own a salon in the future,” she explained.

“The BACC, as a whole is very proud of Rebekah, for all of her work, effort, and time she has put in for this event,” stated Tom Frazer, BACC Director. “She has had tremendous support from her family and employer, and from her instructors at Hairmasters.” He said there are only 25 students going from America, and Frazier said he thinks she is the only one going from Illinois. “She is a very dedicated and intelligent young lady.” He added participating in this event “is a huge win” for her as she pursues her future career goals.

“I’m very excited for this to happen,” Rebekah said. “I’m excited and nervous, both equally. It’s healthy to have a little bit of nerves because that keeps you on your ‘A” game. But I’m very excited because this whole year has been leading up to this. I’m ready for this.”

Here’s hoping Rebekah comes back with a finish among the competitors she will be proud of. But the truth is, it sounds like we can all be proud of her now, and wish her the best in her future.

NORMAL – Everyone knows teachers do not do their job for the money, although many people believe they should be paid more for what they do for kids every day. And they certainly do not do it for any type of glory or recognition. Yet, at the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board members held June 12 at District headquarters, one teacher from Colene Hoose Elementary, was recognized for an honor he received from Illinois Education Association.

Colene Hoose Elementary School teacher Shawn Mann received the Bob Haisman Teacher of the Year Award. Mann has been a special education teacher at Hoose for four years. IEA award recipients were nominated and chosen for their awards by their peers. Shawn’s nomination came from UFEA President Lindsey Dickinson. Mann is part of the school’s Behavioral Emotion Support Team, or BEST. BEST provides intensive behavioral and emotional support for students who have such difficulties.

The school sought recently to expand the building at its eastern end to accommodate students and concentrate services toward one end of the building. That expansion of the building, including an additional driveway leading to the area where BEST students are educated, was completed last fall.

Hearing On Approving Amended 2018-19 Budget Held: By a unanimous vote, Board members approved adopting amending the budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2018-19. Marty Hickman, business manager for the district, said the Board does this annually, reviewing the remaining budget in May and approving in June. In addition, following the meeting, Hickman said it was his understanding the state legislature has added more money for Pre-K through 12th grade education going into the next school year. However, Hickman said, the extra money “will help our budget going into next year, but the new funds will not move the needle on what is our structural deficit in our education fund.”

The structural deficit the district faces is roughly $6.4 million. The district will use working cash bonds to cover some of the deficit for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, Hickman added. He said the district has received three categorical payments from the State for the current fiscal year with one still due to the district for the current fiscal year. “We’re not sure if the last categorical payment will come before the fiscal year ends at the end of June,” Hickman said.

Infinite Campus Coming In July: In his “Superintendent Comments” section of the meeting, Dr. Mark Daniel reminded that the district will be transitioning from Skyward information system to the Infinite Campus information system. Parents will be able to use Infinite Campus in July to register their children for the fall doing so online.

Enrollment For 2018-19 Broken Down: Dr. Ray Epperson, assistant superintendent, presented a breakdown of students per grade level throughout the district to Board members. As of the end of school year 2018-19, the district had 13,034 students attending classes in Pre-K through 12th grade. Board Member Mike Trask, after looking over the graphic showing class sizes, said he could only find one class size of 30 students and asked the district to continue to find ways to continue to keep class sizes low.

“We want to keep these sizes low, and we’re at a very good spot where we’re at, but I want to keep them there,” he said. “But it’s a conversation we’ll have to continue to have to impact what we do going forward.”

Trask brought forward his concern that the district needs to keep an eye on incoming numbers of students going from junior high school to high school, stating the district just graduated 834 students but that Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School will be seeing incoming freshmen numbering 975 students. Trask added those numbers don’t moderate much in coming years.

“I would call this a tsunami effect,” Trask said when looking at the numbers. “We just have to keep monitoring our population and keep an eye on it.” Such high numbers will have an effect on facilities, Trask added.

Epperson said school principals are already monitoring numbers in terms of incoming kindergarten students because the numbers of those students are “already at the top range of where we want them to be.”

Update On Dual Credit For Students Given: A discussion about dual credit classes for students followed. Dan Lamboley, director of secondary education, introduced Board members to Alauna Akins, associate director of secondary education partnerships at Heartland Community College.

Akins said HCC’s goal is to provide early access to college for high school students within the education district of the state HCC serves, District 540. HCC took its first steps to become part of District 540 in the early 1990s.

Akins said the dual credit program has four primary goals for serving high schools: Increase access to college; Develop pathways to completing college; enhance partnerships and faculty connections; and increase curricular alignment.

Lamboley said Unit 5 high schools entry in dual credit classes is based on work done by national initiative launched by the National School Superintendents Association to introduce new benchmarks to more appropriately assess that students are prepared for college and careers.

Next Board Meeting Scheduled For July 10: There will be no second meeting of the Board in June. The next scheduled Board meeting will be on Wednesday, July 10 at district headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., starting at 7p.m.

NORMAL – Twin brothers Luke and Brett Hanson discovered early on in life that they liked running. Whether it was for fun or in competitions, the two boys who will be seniors next year at Normal Community High School found they had an affinity for the sport. They further discovered that when they were an age they could become part of Special Olympics, they could show they had a skill which would potentially win medals for doing so.

And they’ve been doing it for a number of years now. This past weekend at Special Olympics State Summer Games on Illinois State University’s campus was no different. Luke took home a 6th place ribbon in mini-javelin, and gold in the 3,000 meter run. Brett took third place in the 1,500 meter run and third place in the running long jump. Together, the pair earned silver medals in the 4×400 Relay, where Brett led off the race for his team from Bloomington-based Special Opportunities Available in Recreation (SOAR), and Luke served as the team’s anchor man, running fourth.

Teams receiving gold medals at Area G Special Olympic Spring Games in April, held in East Peoria, qualified to compete at State Summer Games.

“It helps that I start because I’m fast,” Brett Hanson explained. And running as the last part of the relay helps him, Luke added.

“It’s so exciting to watch them run,” said the twins’ mother, Lori Hanson, who along with husband, Greg Hanson, appear to enjoy watching their sons compete. “This is just an extension of another track activity the boys have.”

That extension is that Brett and Luke are members of the cross country team at their high school, Normal Community High School. They were also on the track team for the three years they were at their junior high school, George L. Evans Junior High School, as well. In fact, at NCHS, they have a set of twins coaching the track team. That would be brothers Tom and Dennis Patten.

The guys say they also enjoy being part of NCHS’ “Run Club,” a type of warmup to getting ready for the track season. In cross country, their mother added, her boys finish at around the 20 minute mark.

Lori Hanson said she hopes her boys, who have been involved with Special Olympics since they were 8-year-olds, will be able after high school to join a run club within the community to be able to continue their pursuit of running for just the enjoyment of it.

When the twins got involved in Special Olympics, they took to running competitions almost immediately, their mother said. “It’s always been running,” Lori Hanson said. “They put them in just doing the short distance runs, and as they got older and stronger, and got more stamina, they just started running long distance races.”

The Hanson boys say they have gotten numerous compliments from runners from other schools for how well they compete. “It makes my brother and I feel good inside,” Brett Hanson said.

“They have a lot of energy and a lot of endurance,” said the Hansons’ track coach, Julie Smith, who is a volunteer track coach for SOAR. SOAR is funded jointly by the Parks and Recreation Departments of the City of Bloomington and the Town of Normal.

Smith said the twins’ cross country activity and their parents’ encouraging being active have contributed to why the boys do as well as they do on the track. “Plus, they are naturally athletic, being lean muscular runners.”

Track events are but one of the events more than 4,000 athletes and Unified Partners competing in 6 different sports were able to participate in. They were joined by 1,600 coaches and 2,000 volunteers to make to make the event a success, as roughly 3,300 family members cheered for their athletes. Competition was offered in athletics, bocce, Unified bocce, gymnastics, football (soccer), powerlifting and swimming (aquatics).

By Steve Robinson | June 7, 2019 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

The young people graduating from Heyworth High School who have received the “Win For Wiseman” Scholarships these last few years have had varying interests and ventured off to different colleges to start their adult lives. Some have stayed in state. I can think of at least one who went out of state to start their young life as a college student. The two young women who were named recipients of this year’s two $5,000 prizes appear to be no different.

Kara Monteggia and Kara Martens, from HHS’ Class of 2019, each received a $5,000 “Win For Wiseman” scholarship based on how they answered the essay question put before them and their other Class of ’19 members by the committee. This year’s question was: “What have you done or tried to do to make Heyworth High School a better place for future students?”

Kara Monteggia: For Kara Monteggia, 18, daughter of Jim and Kendra Monteggia, said she sought to make a change at HHS. That change she sought applied to dual credit classes HHS took through Heartland Community College. The problem she saw was the grading for the two institutions don’t match. At HCC, the grading scale had getting 90 and above on tests and projects to get an A, 80 and above for a B, and so on.

Heyworth High graded slightly higher, she said, with a score of 92 being where getting an A started. She said she felt both institutions she adhere to the same grading scale so both the high school and HCC agreed on the grade the student should receive. She said HHS’ grading scale would have an effect on students when grade point averages get looked at as they started looking at colleges – and colleges started looking at them.

The district school board changed the grading scale to match HCC’s prior to this recently-completed school year started. She said not all the students agreed, however, for varying reasons, with the change, while others appreciated her efforts. Kara is off to the University of Missouri to major in nursing. After college, she said, getting a job in the nursing field is tops on her list, but she quickly adds, “To be able to do something fulfilling for someone other than yourself” is what interested her about working in that field.

Claire Martens: For Claire Martens, 17, daughter of Clint and Judy Martens, looks forward to having a future which she believes her desired major of Criminal Justice will help be successful in. She will start her college career, first, by attending HCC and will transfer to Bradley University in Peoria. She spent time learning about Criminal Justice as part of a group of kids from HHS who attended classes at Bloomington Area Career Center. Martens wrote in her essay about belonging to HHS’ Key Club, among its organizations which she belonged, and how being part of such groups she believed helped her help the school.

Eventually, Martens wants to use her skills from college to go into social work to help others, she said. She said being part of BACC helped her to meet new people.

Winners Talked About What They Were Involved In: Monteggia and Martens were among 17 students who submitted essays for the scholarship, Clay Wiseman said. Each student submitting their essay, turned it into the School Counseling Office. That office tagged each essay with a number so that the writers would remain unidentified to the selection committee, which consisted of the Wisemans, their son, Kyle, and his wife, Jill, and Jeff and Julie Day.

“It was a very difficult decision choosing the winners,” Clay Wiseman said. “The two winners were very articulate in their papers. They read very well because they were precise, straight to the point, the subject matter was dead on, and their conclusions were outstanding.”

“They talked about what they were involved in, not only in the school, but also in the community, and they brought up things to the school board and the school and made some outstanding presentations to the school board to get some things changed.” Clay is speaking specifically about the matter concerning grade point average.

Previous “Wiseman” Winners: Monteggia and Martens join 2016 recipients Jacob Day and Cole Sinn; 2017 recipients Saegan Snow and Jackson Bradshaw; and 2018 recipients Riley Ryburn and Amber Tomlin. In their own individual way, they answered the question frankly and tried to put forth an idea for change that could be used at HHS. Gives you the feeling that once they enter the workforce they could possibly continue doing that, doesn’t it?

How “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship Began: Noah Wiseman, a 16-year-old student at Heyworth High School, who lost his life in June 2014. Wiseman family friend Julie Day, approached Noah’s parents, Clay and Sue Wiseman, with the idea for a scholarship to honor Noah.

The Wisemans, wanting to keep their son’s memory alive while wanting to do something for someone else agreed. The campaign to raise funds for the scholarship became known as the “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship.

After receiving the approval of the local school board, fundraising for the scholarship began.

When they conceived of the scholarship, the Wiseman family’s goal was to raise enough money to give out one $5,000 scholarship. But the outpouring of support that first year allowed there to be two scholarships totaling $5,000 each to be awarded.

When the Wisemans agreed to establish the scholarship, Sue Wiseman explained, she and her husband had a few conditions before setting about honoring their son in this manner, one of which was that the contest be closed to senior members of HHS’ football team in its first year, 2015, because Noah was a football team member at the time of his passing. Since then, it has been awarded to any member of the school’s senior class.

Day, later joined by her husband, Jeff, stepped up to help make good to the Wiseman’s request regarding cash handling.

The Wisemans helped establish the committee that first year in 2015 but did not judge the essays which were turned into HHS’ counseling office and renumbered so as to keep the writer’s identity a secret until it was time to select a winner. Wiseman family members did not serve as judges that first year because of their familiarity with the boys on the team. An independent panel judged the essays. The Wisemans, their son and daughter-in law served as judges starting with essays submitted for 2016.

When they began raising funds for the scholarship, the Wisemans thought $5,000 from friends, neighbors, and strangers would be a nice start for the first year. To their delight, they raised $10,000 – enough for two scholarships. Heyworth’s school board approved the scholarship, and HHS’ guidance office collects the essays and assigns a number to each essay to protect the writer’s anonymity so the judges have no idea which students have written them.