Town of NormalNORMAL – There may not have been any items on the agenda for Normal Town Council members at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday in Council Chambers in Uptown Station, but that opening gave Council members an opportunity to be introduced to Shelleigh Birlingmair, who became executive director of the Children’s Discovery Museum. The Town conducted an intensive search over the spring and summer, and Monday was Birlingmair’s first day on the job.

City Manager Mark Peterson formally introduced Birlingmair to Council members just before the Council’s brief meeting concluded. In addition to her duties at the Museum, Birlingmair will also have oversight of the Normal Theater, serving as supervisor to Theater Manager Adam Fox.

Birlingmair has been a vice president and wealth management consultant for the Commerce Trust Company since 2004. She is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal, and incoming Chair of the Board of Directors of the Advocate BroMenn Philanthropy Council.

Meeting with the media following the meeting, Birlingmair said she plans to spend her first couple of months with the Town reviewing the operations of both CDM and the theater. In a shift which took effect over the summer, oversight of the 79-year-old historic movie house transferred from Normal Parks and Recreation to Town Administration.

Peterson said Birlingmair was hired for a number of skills including, as he explained, “being very well connected throughout the community. I think she will help to raise the overall profile of the museum.”

Peterson said a large part of Birlingmair’s job will be fundraising. He said that will be key “because Children’s Discovery Museum relies heavily on external funding donations, contributions, grants, and other things for its exhibits and some of the museum’s programs.”

“I think she will be really good at that external fundraising component,” Peterson added.

Liquor License Second Installments Paid To Town: Council members, serving as Normal Local Liquor Commission, met for a scheduled meeting prior the Council’s regular meeting. Mayor Chris Koos reported the second installments paid by six licensees who opt to pay their annual fees in two parts have been paid to the Town. All six made their payments in time to meet a Sept. 30 deadline, and thus avoid late fees.

In addition, Commissioners unanimously approved minutes from two previous Commission meetings – a regularly-scheduled meeting held July 18, and a special meeting called on Oct. 3.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting on Oct. 3, 2016.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures as of Sept. 28, 2016.

• A resolution accepting bids and authorizing the replacement of perimeter fencing at Savannah Park by Bloomington-based Ifft Quality Fencing, Inc. in the amount of $33,988.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and accept quotes totaling $85,003.37 from Dell for the purchase of computer equipment.

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a license agreement with Morton-based CORE Construction for use of three Town-owned properties for operations and staging related to the construction of Phase II of the One Uptown On The Circle Project.

• An ordinance conditionally approving the final plat of the 403 Vernon Subdivision by expedited process (403 E. Vernon Ave.).

• An ordinance conditionally approving an easement vacation on Outlot 15 of the Rolling Meadows Subdivision at 403 E. Vernon Ave.

• An ordinance approving an easement grant to Evansville, Ind.-based Metro Fibernet, LLC in connection with the license agreement for the installation of a fiber optic hut on Town property at 700 Pine St.

By Steve Robinson | October 16, 2016 - 10:21 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

golfNORMAL – University High School claimed first place at Illinois High School Association Class 2A State Golf Tournament, held at Weibring Golf Course on the Illinois State University campus Oct. 14 and 15. As a team, the Pioneers finished with a two-day total of 624, six strokes ahead of second place finisher Aurora Marmion’s 630. Vernon Hills captured third in the 12-team field with 634.

The win was U-High’s 10th victory in team history. This year, IHSA is celebrating 100 years of competitive golf.

Individually, U-High junior Dallas Koth finished in a three-way tie for second place with a two-day total of 148, six over par. In Friday’s opening round, he shot 37 each on both halves of his 18 holes, and then duplicated that score on Saturday. Tyler Anderson from Mundelein Carmel High School and Morton High’s Tommy Kuhl also finished second with Koth.

Luke Armbrust from Wheaton St. Francis High School finished in first place with a two-day total of 147.

Koth admitted to “scrambling a lot on a couple holes and sometimes, it went well and sometimes, it didn’t,” he said, adding, “When I had bad shots, I recovered pretty well.”

U-High PioneersFinishing first on their own home course at State “means the world,” Koth said. He added that’s because the team will get its picture placed on the wall of the school’s large gym permanently. He said his brother, who also played golf at U-High, was on teams that finished first all four years he played, but that was a few years ago.

As for Koth’s teammates and their two-day totals, junior Tony Palumbo finished with a 13 over par 155; senior Dylan Panizo finished with 17 over par 159, junior Alex Kullman finished with a 20 over par 162, junior Ben Bazan finished with a 24 over par 166, and sophomore Ethan Huynh finished with a 29 over par 171.

“Our guys did a nice job keeping themselves in play,” said U-High head coach Darrin York. “They shot to put themselves in a position to win today and they played a terrific back 9. I mean, when the chips were on the table and they had to have shots, they had the shots.”

“Of Koth’s accomplishment, York said, “He’s a gutsy kid with an uncanny ability to hit big shots in big moments.”

Other Teams’ Results: At Prairie Vista Golf Course, site of IHSA Class 1A Boys competition, El Paso Gridley finished 9th in a 12-team field with a score of 698. In Girls Class 1A at Red Tail Run Golf Club in Decatur, U-High finished 7th with a two-day total of 729, Bloomington Central Catholic finished 10th with a total of 746, EPG placed 11th with a total of 782. In Girls’ Class 2A at Hickory Point Golf Club in Forsyth, Normal Community High School finished 11th in a 12-team field with a total score of 66.

By Steve Robinson | October 14, 2016 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

Steve RobinsonAs a big screen TV in the Pro Shop at Weibring Golf Club scrolled updates on the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Boys State Tournament being held there, Yem Huynh, grandmother of University High School Golf Team member Ethan Huyanh, stood directly in front of it, watching names scroll by with updates.

She was holding a smartphone and trying to be ready for an opportunity to snap a picture, potentially, of her grandson’s name on that board as a moment to remember his efforts on the first day of the tournament.

But at that point in the tourney, Ethan’s name didn’t get singled out for recognition. But that doesn’t mean his days on the course in the future won’t come soon. Ethan competed in Illinois Elementary School Association State Golf Tournament as an Evans Junior High School Association eighth grader, and has been on the Pioneers Golf team, coached by Darrin York, since his freshman year last year.

He’s held a golf club in his hand since he was 4, his mom Kelly Huynh said. She added she and her husband, Loi, have been nurturing his love of golf with her husband offering his perspective on the game to the 15-year-old.

Ethan plays on the Pioneers’ basketball and baseball teams, but is more at home on the golf course, his mother said. And even though he is comfortable and loves being on the course, for this tournament, at least, Kelly Huynh said her son was nervous going into it. It wasn’t an individual issue, she said, but rather, her son wanted to see the Pioneers do well here as a group this year.

Mother and grandmother used a shuttle provided by the Illinois State University-operated golf course to see Ethan’s first few holes and reported back he made par on a couple of them at the beginning of Friday’s opening round. That was something the ladies took as an encouraging sign.

Ethan’s second day went well until the last five holes, as he was not feeling well as he finished out the day. He shot 44 each on the front and back nine Friday for a 17 over par 88, then added a slightly better 83 on Saturday for a two-day total of 171, 29 over par for the tourney. “I was playing really, really well before I started feeling sick today,” he said as he ended his day Saturday.

Ethan said he got his driver fixed between rounds which he said seemed to help him going into Saturday action. He said that helped him to achieve many straight shots. “I felt I did my part in Regionals and Sectionals, but State is awesome,” he said. “I’m going to try my best to get back here next year.”

Once his high school career is over, Ethan has his eye on going on to pro golfing career someday, but does seem to have the maturity to know his education takes priority, saying he would like to get his college degree and try out for golf in college.

“He’s a great kid who has been part of our varsity squad since he walked through the door his freshman year,” explained U-High head golf coach Darrin York. “Even when he was feeling ill in the last part of the second round, he gutted it out and did a good job.”

When U-High teams finish first at a State event, they get their group picture taken and that picture is blown up, framed and placed along the walls of the school’s big gym. York told me about that and knows about that firsthand as a member of a championship basketball team from nearly 20 years ago playing for his coach, Cal Hubbard. Now, as part of U-High’s golf team, Ethan Huynh knows that honor, too.

After Saturday’s second round finish, Kelly Huynh probably stopped feeling nervous as the Pioneers took first place, winning the tournament.

And the great thing for Ethan, his family, his teammates, and his coaches is he still has two years in which to try to get back to that “awesome” experience and then, hopefully, do much more after he graduates. Here’s to hoping we’ll all get to picture that in the future.

Unit 5NORMAL – The new man hired to carry out the task of making sure First Student Bus Co. school buses run on time and without difficulties was formally introduced to members of Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board of Education at the Board’s regular meeting at district headquarters Oct. 12. Mark Bohl, a U. S. Navy veteran, reported for duty for the Cincinnati, Ohio-based transportation company on just two days earlier and was introduced to roughly 20 people who attended the session by Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent.

Bohl has previously worked at Peoria-based Caterpillar, and his wife, Karen, is a teacher at Evans Junior High School. They have seen two children graduate from Unit 5 schools. Daniel informed the gathering that he has already begun hearing positive reports about Bohl’s efforts with regard to responding to parents’ concerns.

Daniel said that, from the reports he had gotten in Bohl’s first two days on the job, Bohl’s responses “were very prompt and detailed in description.” Bohl succeeds Jim Stonecipher who resigned on Aug. 22 as a result of the difficulties which began the school year when it opened up five days earlier.

The district is due to decide at the Board’s Oct. 26 meeting whether to give notice of its intention to opt out of its contract with First Student effective Nov. 1 as a result of issues with getting students to and from school despite numerous incidents including late buses and temporarily not being able to locate students. If the Board decides to opt out, First Student would continue as the district’s transportation carrier until the end of the current school year. The original expiration date of the district contract with First Student is the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Should the Board to void the contract, First Student would remain the district transportation provider until the end of the current school year in June.

During the public comments segment of the meeting, Renee Nestler, staff representative for Council 31 of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), told Board members that were Unit 5 were to switch to another bus company, that would be “an action which would create a significant disruption which would create more problems.”

Nestler added Unit 5, First Student, and the union should work together to fix the problems rather than the district deciding to go looking for another carrier. Looking for a replacement to First Student, she said, “would exacerbate the problem.” She said the union hopes for the district to see progress necessary to maintain the contract with First Student.

Unit 5 mapPepper Ridge Elementary’s “Good News”: Board members were informed one of the district’s schools has been granted recognition for its efforts in helping children succeed on a wider scale by a national agency. Pepper Ridge Elementary School Principal Carmen Bergmann explained to Board members her school’s staff members have been selected by Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) for the school staff’s efforts to develop curriculum which moves from a narrow definition of student achievement to one that had an all-inclusive of student success.

According to Alexandria, Va.-based ASCD’s website, there are five tenets to this approach:

• Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.

• Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.

• Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.

• Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.

• Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

Specifically to the subject of challenging students academically, Bergmann told Board members, “Pepper Ridge was selected for the way it met that goal. The way the school staff does that “is amazing,” she said, because “that’s what we truly try to do. It’s exciting for us to hear that news about Pepper Ridge.

In a memo to Daniel and Board members, Bergmann said while the school provides an educational environment provides strong support for all five of those priorities, staffers were being honored specifically for their efforts in challenging students for success in college and careers. Her memo went on to explain the staff at Pepper Ridge have worked to create an educational environment that sets students up to succeed daily. Bergmann also wrote that the school’s Promise Council has also developed a college and career based program called Opening Doors.

Board Approves Contract For Energy Efficiency Project At Normal West: Board members unanimously approved a contract for work to proceed on an energy efficiency project to get under way at Normal Community West High School. The contract was awarded to Bartonville, Ill.-based Central Illinois Electrical Services for a base bid of $1,047,500. Central Illinois Electrical Services was one of two firms who submitted bids for the project.

Joe Adelman, operations manager for the district, told Board members the work on this project which will include upgrading two chiller pumps will be conducted around the clock and done around the school’s regular schedule.

By Steve Robinson | October 10, 2016 - 12:04 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonGetting into a Hall of Fame implies the person honored did tremendous things or made tremendous accomplishments that everyone who hears the honoree’s name will remember. But in life, sometimes it is the things that go unseen or unknown that get people recognition, too. Since it was created a few years ago, the Wall Of Fame at Normal Community West High School has tried to honor some of its more notable but sometimes less recognized staff and students. The school held its annual Wall Of Fame ceremony at Lakeside Country Club on Sunday and there is only one person going in this year.

This year’s honoree is Kathy Smalley, who served as a student counselor from when the school opened in 1995 through 2006.

According to a bio provided to me by John Bierbaum, a social studies teacher at the school, who came up with the idea for the Wall Of Fame, Smalley was recognized for having “natural leadership ability, passion for the welfare of students, boundless energy, and extraordinary interpersonal skills, she was a driving force behind the creation of a ‘student first, solutions oriented’ counseling department at the school.

Smalley was recognized for her supporting students who found themselves in crisis, and was seen as a “go-to resource to her colleagues who found themselves in need of support or assistance. Her colleagues found her to have the right organizational skills and a creative spirit which helped administrators and faculty solve school problems.

Normal West is instituting a “Wall Of Fame,” honoring those persons who have made great achievements while at the school and beyond their time there.

Normal West’s Wall of Fame, located between the school office and library, shows current students and faculty that the school has housed folks who can be seen as points of pride. Wall Of Fame honorees are remembered with an individual plaque with their picture and list of their accomplishments while they were West Wildcats. Each honoree is given a duplicate plaque to keep. The honor also comes with something today’s students probably wish they could get their hands on: A lifetime hall pass.

In order to get the “Wall Of Fame” established in time for its debut in 2013, Bierbaum approached West Principal David Johnson with the idea of honoring former students and staffers with a permanent setting within the school. Johnson approved the idea and a committee comprised of between 25-30 people, including current students, was formed. Committee members gave input on who they thought should be the first members to have their plaques on the wall.

Previous honorees have included Dr. Jerry Crabtree, West’s first principal from 1995-2003: Tom Eder, who followed Crabtree as principal from 2003-2012; Taylor Kirby, a 2011 West graduate who starred in Track, becoming both a two-time Intercity Pole Vault champion and a two-time Big 12 Conference Pole Vault champion among her honors, as well as having the distinction of earning West’s very first individual State Champion honor winning IHSA Class 3A Pole Vault title; U. S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a 1996 West graduate; Steve Mintus, an administrator and teacher from 1995-2005; Nathan Stark, a 2008 West graduate who has gone on to a theatrical career; and Tyler Ross, Class of 2013, who holds the distinction of being Normal West’s most decorated Speech Team member earning numerous awards for the school.

Normal West is not, as it turns out the only school that either has or is beginning to form a “Wall Of Fame” to honor folks from its history. I will try to do a little research on other area schools that have them and will be happy to share that information through this column. Anyone with information about their school beginning to put together or progressing toward beginning their own “Wall Of Fame” is welcomed to contact me by email at: Please be sure to leave me a contact phone number of the person overseeing your school’s project.