NORMAL – A vigorous and sometimes contentious campaign on matters such as use of the State Open Meetings Act at Normal Town Council meetings and continuing work on Town streets ended Tuesday night with Mayor Chris Koos and three incumbent Town Council members retaining their seats for another four-year term.

Normal Mayoral Race: When 100 percent of votes were reported counted by the McLean County Clerk’s office, the numbers showed for a second time that Koos had defeated challenged Marc Tiritilli to earn a fifth term at Normal City Hall. A total of 4,396 ballots, or 52.31 percent, were counted for Koos versus 4,008 ballots, or 43.69 percent for Tiritilli. Four years ago, a recount the day after the election showed Koos had narrowly won his current term by just seven votes.

“We did the right thing, we have done everything we can do, and we ran a very, very good campaign,” Koos said as he waited for the final results.

Tiritilli ran on a platform which included what he saw was further opening of public access to government in the form of using public comment policy during Town Council meetings. He had explained he believed under Koos, that policy had become too restrictive as to what subjects citizens could bring up at Normal Town Council sessions.

Town Council Candidates Race: Three incumbent Normal Town Council candidates – Kevin McCarthy, Chemberly Cummings, and Scott Preston — faced six challengers in order to hold on to their seats in Tuesday’s election, accomplishing that task. McCarthy and Preston will each begin third terms on the Council dais and Cummings was elected to a second term.

McCarthy was the top ballot recipient, with 3,712 votes or 17.07 percent of the vote, while Cummings and Preston earned identical voting numbers, each of them with 2,941 votes, or 13.53 percent. They were followed by David Paul Blumenshine placing third with 2,803 votes or 12.89 percent, Albert Zimmerman, Chair of Normal Planning Commission placing fourth with 2,639 votes or 12.14 percent; Steve Harsh placing fifth with 1,949 votes or 8.97 percent; Karl Sila placing sixth with 1,867 votes or 8.59 percent; Brad McMillan placing seventh with 1,743 votes or 8.02 percent; and Donna M. Toney placing eighth with 1,145 votes or 5.27 percent.

Coleman, DeHaai, Gozur Win Unit 5 School Board Race: Three new faces will join Normal-based Unit 5 School Board later this month as a result of Tuesday’s election. A total of six candidate ran for open seats on the Board with Kentrica Coleman receiving the most ballots, 6,261, or 21.1 percent of the vote. She was followed and will be joined on the Board by Jeremy DeHaai who received 5,370 votes or 18.1 percent of the vote, and Stan E. Gozur who received 5,089 votes or 17.1 percent of the vote.

Of the other three candidates in the race, Ericka Ralston finished fourth with 4,506 votes or 15.2 percent of the vote, Janelle Czapar finished fifth with 4,422 votes or 14.9 percent, and Gavin Cunningham placed sixth with 4,084 votes or 13.7 percent.

Normal Township Supervisor Race: Democrat Sarah Grammer, the current Normal Township Supervisor, faced write-in Republican challenger Amy Conklin in their race. Despite their being 1,392 write-in votes tallied, Conklin didn’t receive any of them.

Normal Township Clerk Race: Democrat Pat Turner won the race to be the next Normal Township Clerk when she defeated Republican challenger Judy Hanks. Turner garnered 4,112 votes or 51.04 percent of the vote to 3,944 votes or 48.96 percent for Hanks.

Normal Township Trustee Race: Democrat Sally Pyne was the top voter winner among seven declared candidates and one write-in candidate when ballots were totaled for serving as Normal Township Trustees. Pyne garnered 4,293 votes or 15.43 percent of the vote. Democrat Arlene Hosea came in second with 3,917 votes or 14.08 percent. Republican Floyd Aper placed third with 3,742 votes or 13.45 percent, and Republican Art Rodriguez placed fourth with 3,736 votes or 13.43 percent. Republican Carl Haney placed fifth with 3,610 votes or 12.98 percent, Democrat Dayna Schickedanz placed sixth with 3,550 votes or 12.76 percent, and Democrat Mary Wuhrmann placed seventh with 3,491 votes or 12.55 percent. A write-in candidate, Ray Ropp, received no votes.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a resolution to award the bid for Oakdale, Ruston, Grove, and Margaret Sts. Water main replacement project to Gibson City, Ill.-based SNC Construction, Inc. at a total cost of $610,764.92 plus a potential $7,500 bonus for early completion. The meeting was held Monday and remotely as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Prior to the Council vote, Normal resident Jerry Logan, saying he was representing the membership of Local 99 of Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, told Council members that specific union had been laying water main in the Town for 74 years, and said he and his fellow union members were concerned about a water main replacement project being awarded to a company not from the area. “What I would ask of the Committee is to consider tabling this until we get more research on this.” He said awarding the project to out-of-town contractor takes dollars away from the local area for such a project.

Amended Special Use Permit Approved For Local Business: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance granting a special use permit giving the owners of Beyond Hello, a medical cannabis sales business at 501 W. Northtown Rd. approval to expand its parking lot from 20 spaces it started with when the business opened to 40 spaces. In their report to Council members, Town staff indicated support for approving the permit because the proposed lot only occupied one-third of the property.

When the request went before the Town Zoning Board of Appeals on March 18, only the applicant addressed the Board, which was followed by unanimous approval vote by Board members.

Uptown Outdoor Dining Is Back: Among miscellaneous items Council members brought up were that Uptown outdoor dining returned on April 1, according to Council Member Scott Preston. He said that will continue through summer into the fall.

Lauren Lurkins Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board: During the session, it was announced Lauren Lurkins, director for environmental policy for Illinois Farm Bureau, has been appointed to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board. Lurkins and her family have been Museum members since 2013. Lurkins is a graduate of Saint Louis University and Southern Illinois University School of Law. Lurkins replaces Gina Mandros who had to leave the Board prior to completing her last year serving on it. Lurkins’ term expires June 30, 2022.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting of March 15, 2021.

• Approval of the minutes of the special Council meeting of March 29, 2021

• Report and receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 31, 2021.

• A resolution reapproving the third preliminary subdivision plan for The Vineyards subdivision (southeast corner of Airport Rd. and Raab Rd.).

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Peoria-based Hoerr Construction, Inc. for the 2021 sanitary sewer lining contract in the amount of $963,472.80 and authorizing an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Mitchell, Ill.-based Erb Turf Equipment, Inc, for Ironwood Golf Course reel and bedknife grinders in the amount of $40,195.

NORMAL – Prior to the regularly-scheduled Normal Town Council session Monday night, Council members, meeting in their capacity as Normal Local Liquor Commission, unanimously approved licenses for two establishments who, under previous owners, found themselves facing penalties imposed by Commissioners.

A Class C (Beer and Wine) liquor license for two Marie’s Place locations. One, located at 115 Susan Dr., Suite H, where a license was issued for 35 YEARS, LLC PATRIOT CENTER, doing business as Marie’s Place. Liquor Commissioners also approved a Class C license for 35 YEARS, LLC LANDMARK, doing business as Marie’s Place, 1520 E. College Ave. The licenses were necessary because both establishments are now under new ownership.

Because both establishments have the same owner, approval of the licenses was done with a single vote by Commissioners. Commissioners also approved for each establishment to possess a video gaming license. Each establishment has video terminals. In January, Commissioners were informed by Liquor Commissioner Chris Koos the prior owners of the establishments have paid all fees and all settlement costs to the Town, and new owners of the businesses were seeking liquor licenses for the establishments. He also said the prior owners “no longer have any interest in this business.”

Besides those two “Marie’s” locations, Commissioners approved issuance of video gaming licenses to a dozen other establishments.

In addition, Commissioners approved liquor licenses for 73 establishments ranging from hotels to liquor stores to restaurants and bars; Four establishments which carry Class F Catering licenses; 11 businesses which carry Class H Outdoor Gardens and Sidewalk Cafes; 11 businesses which carry Class I Annual Tasting; and 1 Class L Pari-mutuel Betting Parlor. In addition to businesses fitting in those classes, and a total of 12 businesses were issued Business Permits.

Koos reminded that businesses “which actually serve or pour liquor in their establishments this year have had their license fees waived as a result of the impact of COVID on them.” He added that applied to businesses which “upheld the Governor’s guidelines” for businesses since the pandemic began a year ago.

Commission members also approved minutes of a special meeting held Feb. 1.

Reappointments To Three Town Commissions Announced: Four people were recommended by Koos for reappointment to three Town commissions. David Burnison and Dennis French both were reappointed to the Uptown Design Review Commission. Nancy Armstrong was reappointed to the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission. R. C. McBride was reappointed to Normal Planning Commission. Each person’s term on their respective Commission was due to expire at the end of this month but will now expire March 31, 2024.

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

• Approval of minutes of the public hearing held March 1, 2021.

• Approval of minutes of the regular Council meeting held March 1, 2021.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 10, 2021.

• An ordinance authorizing publication of a zoning map.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based George Gildner Inc. for the 2021 sump pump discharge and storm sewer improvement project in the amount of $356,662.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Mr. Craig Onsrud for the operation of Ironwood Golf Course Pro Shop and private golf lessons.

By Steve Robinson | March 14, 2021 - 5:52 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – One might say the students who addressed Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members at the governing body’s regularly-scheduled meeting March 10 had fun and games on their minds. Specifically, fun they get out of games they play being part of e-sports competition. E-sports are video games which have become an organized function and serious business for high school students.

When the public comments section of the Board meeting began, Board members heard from two students who are E-sports enthusiasts and a parent who explained the educational value he believes are tied to them. E-sports is a form of sport competition using video games. They can often be organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams, according to a definition given by the website yellowbrick.co.

Normal Community West junior Luke Sherman informed Board members the team he belongs to, part of a game league call the Rocket League, won the State Championship, allowing them to advance to national competition, where the team placed 2nd. Such advances have earned players in the league scholarships, he explained. Those earning the scholarships are Quinn Gifford and Karen Ellis. Gifford has earned scholarships from Illinois Wesleyan University and St. Ambrose University. Sherman said Ellis was offered full tuition to Lincoln Land Community College.

Sherman said the group he belongs to is struggling to find funding to enter tournaments, hindering their ability to compete.

Normal West senior Tyler Van Draska added to the subject saying the team needs funding to compete. He said what funding they have – around $500 – “isn’t enough for the competitions we have been entering.”

Normal West Parent Ralph Whitsitt told Board members that after he did some research, he discovered a total of 175 colleges and universities have varsity E-sports teams. He characterized E-sports as “the next big thing,” re-emphasizing the information concerning scholarships offered for those who participate in such an activity. “Just because it doesn’t fit into a nice neat little box doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value,” Whitsitt added.

When he researched it, Whitsitt, a teacher himself, explained, he discovered it gave students “a sense of building community, a sense of offering something” to students. In seeking financial aid for this, he added, “I just at it as an opportunity to be at the forefront of something new.” He added it may be new, but explained Illinois High School Association is looking into adding it to its activities list.

Hearing Concerning Bonds Sale Held: The meeting began with a public hearing required by law concerning the district’s desire to sell School Fire Prevention and Safety Bonds in an amount not to exceed $5,150,000. Board President Amy Roser explained the bonds were being sold to provide funds to the district to use for various health/safety projects including an HVAC update at Chiddix Junior High School. No members of the public, either spoken or in writing, came forward or were presented at the hearing. A formal vote by Board members on the matter will take place at a Board meeting next month.

6th-12th Graders Headed Back To Class Four Days Per Week: In her comments to the session, District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle explained sixth-12th grade students would be returning to the classroom beginning Monday, March 29 for four days a week, with Wednesdays serving as a solely remote day for students. Keeping Wednesday remote, Dr. Weikle said, allows teachers to connect with remote learners and answer any questions those students might have concerning assignments.

Beginning March 29, Dr. Weikle said, Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade students will be at school. That day, also, sixth-12th graders will not be in class so that teachers can use that time as a planning period, Dr. Weikle explained. On March 30, 6th graders will be attending daily at their junior high schools. On Tuesday, 7th-12th graders students with last names beginning L-Z will be in attendance following their hybrid schedule. On Thursday, that week, 7th-12th graders students with last names beginning A-K will be in attendance following their hybrid schedule. Schools will be closed Friday, April 2, Dr. Weikle said, observing a school board-based holiday established by the State.

Dr. Weikle said surveys went out to parents on the subject of sending students back into classrooms. She said the decision to have students back in class was made based on “a variety of factors but were not limited to “feedback from our families and staff, surveys the district put out earlier, union leadership, discussions with the McLean County Health Department, conversations with other districts, as well as looking at our own community metrics.”

Acknowledging district teachers have been teaching students both in a class and students who are fully remote, Dr. Weikle said teachers doing that are demonstrating “a unique talent that our whole staff has stepped up and done all year.

A survey Unit 5 sent out to all District families resulted in receiving 2,800 responses, with around 1,300 coming back with the first four hours after the survey was posted, Dr. Weikle said. “We had a great response,” she said. “I’m really appreciative of all the families who took the time to give us their feedback, as well as staff who completed surveys.

She added registration has begun for families who have students who will be attending in Unit 5 during the 2021-22 school year. On the Unit 5 webpage, there are pages for parents needing to register students, whether for kindergarten, current returning students, or for students brand new to the district. She added no fees are due at this time. Parents will be able to pay fees after July 1, she added.

“It’s really important families complete the registration process in March,” Dr. Weikle said, adding, “That helps us identify how many staff members we need at various grade levels.” She said with a teacher shortage in progress in the country, Unit 5 “wants to be in the forefront and not competing with other districts.”

Dr. Weikle also encouraged parents to complete a survey called the “5 Essentials” survey, created and overseen by Urban Education Institute at University of Chicago. Dr. Weikle explained, “This survey is a way for parents, teachers, and students across Illinois to send feedback not only to the district but also to the State regard your feelings school environment.”

The district recommends if parents taking part in the survey have students in more than one school, a survey should be completed per school. Names of participants and responses to the survey are kept confidential, she added. A link to the survey is on Unit 5’s website and surveys are due by Friday, April 2.

Board Approves Contract Extension With First Student Bus Co.: Board members unanimously approved a one-year extension with Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co. Without the extension, the district’s contract with the busing provider was set to expire June 30. The contract is now set to expire June 30, 2022. First Student’s first contract with the district was approved by Board members in 2012.

Next Board Meeting Set For April 14 At Normal Community West High School: District schools will observe Spring Break the week of March 22-26. The Board’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, April 14 at Normal Community West High School, beginning at 6:30p.m.

NORMAL – Typically, we hear the word Olympics and our minds immediately conjure pictures of events we may have seen on television, read about, or perhaps, even seen by being at such events in person. At Parkside Junior High School, roughly 100 students, whether learning while at the school or remotely learning as a result of the pandemic, have been learning about Ancient Greece.

For those sixth grade students present at the school, the experience gave the kids an Olympics-sized experience as they participated in Olympics-style events, giving them an understanding of what it must have been like, mixed with use of updated technology allowing them to record their successes.

PJHS Social Studies Teacher Beth Topping led 100 students in four sections, whether the kids were at school or learning from home as a result of the pandemic, having them take part in the event Thursday, March 4. Depending on the letter of the alphabet their last names started with, students either attended classes two days per week with everybody learning from home on Wednesdays, Topping said. Only about 13 students were home throughout the event while the rest followed the district school scheduling for home and in-person.

Up to the day of the event, Topping said, the students’ lessons included Greece’s geography, literature, drama, ancient Greece’s government system; political differences between Athens and Sparta, with the former concentrating on using war as a tool whereas the latter focused on cultural matters; and Greek culture.

To emphasize the competition, the students were divided into two teams, Athenians and Spartans. Determining which students were on each team was strictly by alphabetical order in her grade book, Topping explained. Team members could also be identified by magnets signifying which team each student belonged to. The teams also competed to see which hour’s class between the two sides was the best team, heightening the competition a little further, Topping said.

Topping said the events the students participated in were: Discus using a paper plate thrown like a Frisbee; Javelin using an unsharpened pencil; Standing Long Jump; and Shot Put using a crumpled half page of paper which they flung off their knee.

While they may have gotten a feel for an ancient culture by learning about Greece, students who participated also got a feel for technology of the future, using survey administration software called Google Forms to record how they did in competition, Topping said. From there, results could be transferred to an Excel spreadsheet, she added.

Students Had Fun Competing: The students were excited about learning their lessons, especially when taking part in a friendly competition was involved. For Emma Groves, throwing a piece of paper plate as though it were a discus in hopes of experiencing what it felt to be an Olympian was exciting for her, she said.

Halen Huett said he enjoyed the javelin competition, where an unsharpened pencil served as the object being hurled for posterity. Huett sent his javelin 26 feet, 5 inches, earning him a silver medal. “I wanted to see how far I could throw it,” he explained.

A wadded up piece of paper played the role of a shot put for Chloe DeMatteo who took first place in her event. She said also enjoyed doing the javelin competition, tossing it 16 feet 1 inch. Discus was also Christopher Bishop’s specialty, as he hurled his furthest throw 11 feet, 3 inches, earning him a first place award.

Chloe Cruthis was absent during the Olympics competition but said she found what she learned about Greek civilization interesting because it was the first time she had become aware of the subject.

For Hoyt Carter, learning about the history of the events in the Olympics interested him, he said. Some of what he learned appeared to rub off on him because he tossed a javelin 37 feet.

Prior experience in the long jump competition had Carson Frankeberger feeling confident about how he would do at that same competition. While learning about the Olympics, he said he was impressed by how creative the organizers were in coming up with various competitions for the athletes.

Erica House said she also enjoyed the event, and competed in the javelin throw, getting her pencil to sail 24 feet, 2 inches.

Winning Teams Received Prizes: The games may have been fun for the kids, but they also needed to take a final test including multiple choice and short answer questions on what they learned about Greece on March 5. Winning Olympics teams receive prizes, Topping said.

Topping said she had everything ready to go for last year’s lesson and competition, but last year, on March 13, Unit 5 School District shut down as a result of the pandemic, preventing any prizes from being given out, she added.

Topping said students in Unit 5 receive lessons which emphasize American history up until they reach sixth grade. As a result, for these kids, such lessons Topping teaches, she said, “are a first look at ancient cultures. The one thing they have heard about is Greek Mythology. They do get excited about how these ancient civilizations lived.”