Unit 5NORMAL – Teamwork between drivers for Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co. and Normal-based Unit 5 School District is improving, explained the bus company’s location manager. Mark Bohl updated School Board members on progress being made to make sure this fall’s busing of students will be improved over difficulties experienced by parents, students, and the district at the start of the school year last year.

“We’ve seen teamwork improved over the past school year,” said Bohl. Bohl, a military veteran, was hired last October to attempt to improve the situation that was experienced at the start of last school year. “Everyone is doing a good job and attendance by drivers changed 100 percent from last fall. About 130 drivers are on First Student’s payroll, and the company, as required by agreement with the school district, is attempting to maintain a substitute driver pool of around 15 percent, he said.

Bohl said two people have been designated to answer phone calls for First Student from parents when the school year starts, explaining “communication is the key.”

Regarding what transpired at the beginning of last school year, Bohl said First Student had a “false calm” about the start of school. He said an increase in drivers last December helped improve the situation.

Having heard this report, Board President Jim Hayek, Jr. suggested to Bohl that “it would be helpful to the Board if you and Dr. Daniel reported to us inf the first few days of school” concerning how matters were progressing. Dr. Mark Daniel is Unit 5 Superintendent.

Unit 5 mapSome Districts In State Considering Not Opening In Fall: But before buses can even begin to roll to a school, the school has to be open, ready to receive students. For some district superintendents, Daniel said after the meeting, there are concerns about and even contemplation of not opening schoolhouse doors if State funding isn’t there. Board members unanimously approved amending the district’s 2016-17 school year budget which closes out at the end of the month. Combined, the district’s Transportation and Education budgets show a $5.5 million deficit, the majority of monies due would be coming from Springfield.

The State owes Unit 5 payments totaling $8.1 million for Transportation and Special Education reimbursement The State has, so far, only provided Unit 5 with one payment toward that debt. The district is hoping to receive another State payment by June 30.

Following the meeting, Daniel told reporters, “We’re facing a difficult year ahead.”

Transportation and Special Education reimbursements from the State are referred to by educators as categoricals. “Without categoricals, we have enough money to get through 75 percent of the school year,” explained Board Member Joe Cleary following the meeting.

Daniel said a State-wide group which addresses issues of large school districts, Springfield-based Large Unit District Association, is encouraging its member district superintendents to get the public to write their legislators to push them to pass a budget in time to begin the 2017-18 school year.

He added parents need to begin writing letters to State Representatives and State Senators with their concerns about the consequences of what a potential third year with no State budget would mean for Unit 5. He said 60 percent of the State’s students go to school in 58 districts in the State.

As of the end of that meeting, Daniel said, “We’re not at the point of saying ‘don’t open.’”

Unit 5 Getting Virtual Classrooms: Board member unanimously approved a $170,880 contract with Normal-based Zdi Audio Visual for a virtual classroom project to be installed for use at both Normal Community West High School and Normal Community High School beginning this fall. Unit 5 will use capital projects fund dollars to pay for project. Zdi will install and maintain high-resolution screens, as well as visual equipment and sound equipment in one classroom per high school. The visual and sound equipment at both schools will have motion-detecting capabilities.

Board Approves Renewal Of Insurance, Workers’ Comp. : Board members unanimously voted to renew district insurance policies through various insurers including AIG;; Allied World National Assurance; ACE; Travelers; and Wright Specialty Insurance. The insurance paid for covers auto; property; general liability; crime; and boiler and machinery. In addition, the District pays for an umbrella policy, and several individual liability policies.

The district’s premium for the policy this coming school year totals $1.2 million, an increase of 7.42 percent, or $83,857, from what the district previously paid.

In addition, a workers’ compensation coverage plan with Safety National Insurance was approved, its premium totaling $92,169 annually. That amount is 1.9 percent less, or $1,765 less being paid by the district from what they paid for coverage last year. Also, Unit 5 will pay Cannon Cochran Management Services to serve as a third party administrator for claims. That firm will receive $13,000 for their services.

Next Board Meeting July 12: There will be no second Board meeting in June. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 12 at District headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave.

By Steve Robinson | May 25, 2017 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School District received an update concerning its financial status and the latest update from a local legislator as the clock continues to tick toward what both educators and legislators hope will not be a third consecutive year without a State budget. State Sen. Jason Barickman (R – 53rd) sat before members of the Board of Education and pointed the finger for why Springfield hasn’t produced a budget currently in the direction of Chicago Public Schools.

“The State is on autopilot,” Barickman told Board members. He said something that most people sitting at kitchen tables know full well: When spending exceeds money coming in, then a payment delay is the result. The State is behind on Transportation and Special Education reimbursements to Unit 5.

Before Barickman spoke to Board members, the Board heard from District Business Manager Marty Hickman, who informed them Springfield owes the district debt totaling $8.1 million for those two kinds of payments, also sometimes referred to as categioricals. Hickman said if the fourth of the five payments due the district were to arrive on or before the June 30 deadline, the last day of the current fiscal year, Unit 5 would have a balanced budget in both transportation and Special Education. If the district were to receive a fifth payment from Springfield, the district would have surplus funds when fiscal year 2017-18 began.

Hickman said there are two variables which the district needs to concern itself as the new fiscal year approaches: If actual property tax payment amounts turn out to be different than anticipated and If categorical payments arrive from the capitol.

Board Member Mike Trask said special needs students, their families, and the staff who work with them are the ones the budget problems have had the most effect on. He said the situation may prompt the district to borrow from its working cash fund, but there isn’t a great amount to work with there. Barickman chimed in on this discussion saying, “We need to help and I don’t know where we go from here.”

Barickman said Chicago Public Schools receive 30 to 40 percent in mandated categoricals because of a block grant.

Multiple “Good News” Items Were Presented: As far as good news reports the Board heard, they were plentiful, starting with the “Not In Our School” initiative and concluding with details on winners of a trip to the nation’s capitol for two students who attend Bloomington Area Career Center.

“Good News” From Not In Our Schools”: Camille Taylor, a retired Unit 5 teacher, now co-chairs the “Not In Our Schools” initiative and presented Board members an update on what the schools involved in the initiative have done as the school year progressed to promote inclusiveness. Currently seven of the 18 schools in the district are involved with “Not In Our School.” Among those items mentioned were: At Cedar Ridge Elementary, fifth grade students have a “Leave A Positive Footprint” program; At Eugene Field Elementary, Principal Jane Collins held an in-service with all staff that centered on diversity, cooperation, and acceptance; Fox Creek Elementary kicked off this school year with an all-school assembly revolving around the subject; At Hudson Elementary, students designed bulletin boards and wrote and made announcements: Glenn Elementary Schools students all took a pledge against bullying; Normal Community West High students held a cultural showcase showing the diversity of the student body; Normal Community High School students held a cultural fair and held a post-election unity discussion.

Fairview Elementary’s “Good News: Board members heard from Amy McKuhen, Youth Market Director for the local office of the American Heart Association, who introduced Joan Everson, a teacher at Fairview Elementary School, who, for the 35 years she has taught there, has tried to keep kids active. Everson has made keeping kids healthy a priority in all her time at the school. AHA, through McKuhen, wanted to make sure Everson was honored as she prepares to retire from teaching after 35 years. McKuhen credited Everson for her efforts in trying to keep kids healthy, which included reinforcing the message to kids they should get 60 minutes of exercise daily, and to make sure they eat a fruit and a vegetable at every meal, and to resist using tobacco.

This year, Fairview students responded by donating $7,500 to the American Heart Association. As a result of doing that, Fairview Elementary received $500 in certificates good for the purchase of physical education equipment from US Games. As a result of Everson’s efforts over the years, McKuhen told Board members, Fairview students are responsible for raising a total of $116,731.87 for AHA in those years. Of Everson, McKuhen said, “Her commitment to our mission has changed the lives of so many. Thank you doesn’t seem like nearly enough.”

Parkside Junior High School’s “Good News”: Jennifer McCoy, athletic director at Parkside Junior High School announced to Board members that 11 girls qualified for the 7th Grade 33rd AA Series Illinois Elementary School Association Track and Field State Championship held on May 19 and 20, 2017. The athletes, their events, and how they finished were:

Averie Hernandez placed 2nd in the High Jump, and 39th in the 100 meter run; as well as participated in both the 4 x 100; and 4 x 400 relays. Lilian Lay finished 40th in the 100 meter dash, and was part of both 4 x 100; and 4 x 400 relays. Taylor Yaklich placed 6th in the 800 meter run, — missing setting a school record by less than two seconds; and placed 5th in the 1600meter run, and served as an alternate for the school’s 4×400 team. Sixth grader Alex Reinhart placed fifth in the 400 meter run, and was part of the school team that ran both the 4 x 100; and 4 x 400.

The school’s relay teams put up a good showing, too, with the school’s 4 x 200 meter team of Carly Donalson, Sophie Kurdys, Miya Webb, Brianna Wright, and alternate, Ashleigh Horton finishing 27th in the event.

In the 4 x 100 meter, PJHS’ team of Averie Hernandez, Lilian Lay, Alex Reinhart, and Naomi Elliott with Sydnee Scott as the alternate) took 2nd Place. This was the same relay team that broke the school record at sectionals two weeks ago with an amazing time of 53:12. While they did not break this time at State, they came close, finishing with a time of 53:23.

In the 4 x 400 relay, PJHS’ team of Hernandez, Lay, Reinhart, and Elliott with Yaklich as the alternate, learned that they would need to shave an additional 6 seconds off of their previous record to contend for first or second place in the event, and they did, with a time of 4:19:03, they shattered their previous record.

PJHS doubled up on good news as the school’s principal, Ryan Weichman, presented a report to Board members concerning a project the school had been working on which finally was dedicated earlier this month. With the help of school parent Ryan Scritchlow and his company, Scritchlow Enterprises, the school now has a walkway which makes the grounds accessible to all of its students. The school had a workday where a number of the school’s parents pitched in complete the job. The pathway around the school will mean increased participation for the school’s disabled students, Weichman explained in his memo to district superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel and Board members. Weichman’s report included a slideshow of the parents in action as the walkway came together.

Unit 5 mapKingsley Junior High’s “Good News”: Board members were introduced to Janel Sebeny, who is the English Language Arts building chair at the school. Prinicipal Shelly J. Erickson credited Sebeny for activities she participated in numerous organizations that help students. Sebeny is president-elect of the Illinois Reading Council and is Grants Committee Chair for MID-State Reading Council. “Janel is a valuable resource for other teachers,” Erickson reported. She also mentioned Sebeny is also past president of the Illinois Reading Conference, a function at which 3,500 people were present. “We just want to say thank you for all you do,” Erickson told Sebeny.

Normal Community West High School Doubles “Good News” Items: Like PJHS, Normal Community West High School presented two “good news” items in its presentation to the Board, with Principal Dave Johnson making the presentation. First, senior Ben Zinn, a cross country and track athlete was recognized, as he was recently named the State of Illinois’ male recipient of the National Intercollegiate Athletic Administrators Association’s Scholar Athlete Essay Award at the Illinois Athletic Directors Association state conference on Sunday, May 7, where Zinn read his award-winning essay at the state conference. He also read his essay to Board members and those assembled for the meeting, and it was well-received. Zinn is a three-year letter winner in both cross country and track and a member of the National English, Spanish, Math, and Social Studies Honor Societies. He will be attending the University of Illinois next fall and majoring in computer science.

The school also honored four Biological Engineering students, presenting to the Board Emily Johnson, Madison Miko, John Sherman, and Nick Watson. This quartet, while being in the school’s Biological Engineering Class, participated in EnergizeME Infographic Challenge, sponsored by U. S. Department of Energy. The purpose of the challenge is to enhance knowledge and foundational knowledge of Bioenergy. The Challenge is also designed to encourage creativity and engagement through arts-based learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or STEM.

During the program, students conducted a laboratory investigation to study ways to optimize producing biodiesel fuels from algae. A project Sherman and Watson collaborated on, “Hydrothermal Liquidification of Algae” was selected as the competition’s overall winner. Sherman and Watson will make a presentation concerning their project at a conference at the Department of Energy in Washington, D. C. and receive a tour there of various facilities.

Bloomington Area Career Center’s “Good News”: Nikki Meyer, a coordinator at Bloomington Area Career Center, introduced Board members to five students who were among 72 students who competed at the SkillUSA State Competition in April. There were over 2,000 competitors who took part from Illinois. BACC had 11 students who qualified and five of them placed in their specific category. The student, their school, their category, and how they placed are: Cara Logan, Normal Community High School, 1st place in Emergency Medical Technician; Emma Brown, NCHS, 2nd place in Nurse Assisting; Bryce Carlisle, NCHS, 2nd place in Technical Computer Applications; Cheyenne Broquarsd, NCHS, 3rd place in Job Skill Demonstration; and Michaela Goodman, Normal West, 3rd place in Nurse Assisting.

By Steve Robinson | May 21, 2017 - 10:10 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – At a reception in the hall outside the auditorium at Normal Community West High School, Unit 5 School District employees, and current and former Board members got the chance to honor two former Board members for their service.

Gail Ann Briggs and John Puzauskas were honored for their years of service on the Board – 41 years for Briggs, 12 for Puzauskas. Neither of them opted to run for another term in the April election.

Calling Briggs and Puzauskas “servant leaders,” Board President Jim Hayek, Jr. credited the pair with “dedicating countless hours of their livers with their mission of helping students achieve personal excellence.”

Turning to Briggs and Puzauskas as those gathered watched, Hayek said, “Thanks for your legacy, thanks for your example, and for being role models for me and the other Board members.” There were between 60-70 people who came through to wish the duo well during the two-hour event.

Unit 5 mapCurrent and former Board members, and former District Superintendent Dr. Gary Niehaus, and current superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel were on hand, as well.

The pair each received a certificate of recognition from Matt James, representing State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-53rd Dist.), and a certificate of recognition from the Illinois House of Representatives, each presented to them by Rep. Dan Brady (R-105th Dist.).

Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker reminded the gathering that Briggs was the second of 10 women to serve on the Board, and that in 41 years as a Board member, she served with 42 Board members.

“As I’ve said before, I’ve gained much more than I’ve given,” Puzauskas told the gathering.

Briggs admitted, “I almost didn’t run for a second term. The first term was a little awesome.” She credited friends like Peg Kirk for encouraging her to seek that second term which lasted three years until a State law changing the length of service by Board members changed. From 1982 on, Board members went from serving three-year terms to four-year terms.

Puzauskas Nominated For “Those Who Excel” Community Volunteer Award: Mickens-Baker announced to the gathering that Puzauskas has been nominated by the district for an award to be given out by Illinois State Board of Education later this year. He is in the running to receive a “Those Who Excel” Award from ISBE in the category of Community Volunteer. The winner of the award will be announced at ISBE’s annual dinner this fall.

Puzauskas was quick to spread the credit for the honor when asked about it. “It’s an honor to be recognized at the State level for what I’ve done,” he said. “But, really, it’s what all of us on the Board have done. I’m honored. I feel no expectation and will be deeply honored to receive it if I am named.”

By Steve Robinson | May 11, 2017 - 10:11 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members unanimously approved a resolution honoring U. S. Army Ranger Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, who grew up attending Unit 5 Schools, and was killed in action on Thursday, April 27 in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan during a joint operation with Afghan forces. Rodgers was assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. At the time of his death, Rodgers was experiencing his third deployment to Afghanistan.

As a Unit 5 student and prior to his high school graduation, Rodgers attended Northpoint Elementary School and Kingsley Junior High School. Following his high school graduation in May 2013, Rodgers enlisted in the U.S. Army and completed One Station Unit Training as an infantryman at the Georgia post.

Following completion of the Basic Airborne Course, Rodgers was assigned to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1, or RASP 1, also at Fort Benning. From there, he was assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, with his first assignment being as a machine gunner.

District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel and Board President Jim Hayek, Jr. presented Rodgers’ mother, Vondra Rodgers, with a plaque and folded U. S. flag. The flag was flown over the State Capitol in Springfield, according to Daniel, who had received that information from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office. Rodgers mother spoke with a hushed tone as she told Board members, “He was a product of the community, whether through sports or growing up in Unit 5 schools. We want to personally reach out to all gym teachers because they are what carried Josh through. I really, deeply appreciate this.”

Roughly 80 people attended the ceremony concerning Rodgers at the meeting, which took place in the cafeteria of Parkside Junior High School.

Unit 5 mapCedar Ridge Elementary Triples Its “Good News”: In terms of positive information being presented to Board members at this session, Cedar Ridge Elementary School proved to be a triple treat. Cedar Ridge Spanish Club’s leadership, teachers Meaghan Pantaleone and Patricia Valente, were recognized for their efforts. The pair have provided an after school opportunity to the students there. In a memo to the district superintendent and Board members, Cedar Ridge Principal Karrah Jensen explained the two teachers began the club as a way to share a love of the school’s diversity and promote a positive school culture. She added that Pantaleone and Valente have dedicated time and effort to plan each of the club’s weekly meetings, bringing presenters and writing grants to fund the program.

The Spanish club at Cedar Ridge Elementary was opened to all 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students both monolingual and bilingual. Bilingual students were given leadership opportunities to share their culture and language with other club members. When starting the club, the leadership team took into account the population and student makeup to make sure that this would be an opportunity to all students.

“They are what teaching looks like when you go above and beyond,” Jensen said of Pantaleone and Valente.

Board members were next introduced to Anne Bare and her commitment to the school’s learning garden. In 2013, Bare was recognized at a Board Meeting for being awarded $500 from the Pantagraph to enhance the school’s learning garden. This year, Bare has started a Garden Club. Students of all grade levels participate in this afterschool, free club. Bare spends time teaching students about plants, gardening and the environment. She has involved parents in the club as volunteers as well as enlisting their assistance with a plant sale. Students have been able to plant seeds and watch them grow in the school’s greenhouse.

Next, Board members were introduced to the leaders of a fitness initiative at the school known as Girls On The Run, headed by Cedar Ridge teachers Rachel Enomoto and Leslie Kokotek. Girls on the Run is a physical activity program based on a positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-8th grade. Jensen said the girls are looking forward to participating in a 5K Run event in Springfield on May 20.

In Girls On The Run, or GOTR, lessons taught revolve around life skills through dynamic interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete the Springfield event. The goal of the program is to build confidence while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. Recently, the coaches were spotlighted in GOTR’s monthly newsletter. The entire Cedar Ridge presentation was done, not only in English, but also in Spanish, as 30 percent of the school’s student population speaks the language.

“I’m proud to be principal of Cedar Ridge and be able to honor these organizations,” Jensen concluded.

Fairview Elementary Kitchen Remodel Approved: Board members unanimously approved granting a contract to Peoria-based Bishop Brothers, Inc., which submitted a bid of $314,500, to renovate the kitchen at Fairview Elementary School. Bishop Brothers, Inc. submitted the lowest bid of four companies who submitted bids for a project which will double the size of the school kitchen from 250 sq. ft. to 500 sq. ft., allowing for cooking to take place on site, Joe Adelman, Operations Manager for the district, told Board members. Currently, meals served at the school are heated at one of the high schools and then transported to the elementary school.

Adelman reminded Board members, that, in addition to Fairview, Glenn Elementary and Oakdale Elementary were the last of the district’s 18 elementary schools to undergo a kitchen renovation which would allow for hot meals to be served on site. He added the project was completely funded with Federal dollars specifically earmarked for food service projects. He said the project should be done by July 30.

Lease Agreement For ChromeBooks Approved: Board members approved a 36-month leasing agreement with St. Paul, Minn.-based Dell Computers so that the district can distribute the computers to students. The cost to the district in the first year is $260,000. Currently, according to Marty Hickman, district business manager, the district plans to phase out use of the laptops it currently distributes to students for a fee, which are Windows laptops in order to phase in using ChromeBooks. Hickman said students will still be able to exercise a “Bring Your Own Device” option open to them even after the district has completely switched laptop brands.

Lease Agreement For Buses Approved:
Board members approved a lease agreement with Kankakee, Ill.-based Midwest Transit Equipment, Inc., to lease five buses at a cost of $59,500. Hickman told Board members the money used for the agreement was part of the $3.5 million in bonds the district planned on using to buy new buses. Board members agreed to use the bonds last April.

Public Speakers’ Subjects Wide-Ranging: The concerns of public speakers who addressed Board members were wide-ranging at this session. The majority of the eight parents who spoke registered their frustration to Board members with a dress code policy. That matter developed following an email sent to parents by KJHS Principal Shelly Erickson, requesting students comply with district dress code or face being sent home to change into a gym uniform.

One KJHS parent, Wendy Roberts, spoke to the Board about the Netflix program 13 Reasons Why, stating she believes consent between a boy and a girl is something that needs to be taught.

Another speaker, Jackie Gunderson, wanted to know why KJHS was denied the chance to start a Gay Straight Alliance organization at the school.

eugene field tigersNORMAL – For many of us, the elementary school we attended holds and continues to hold special memories, particularly as we get older – memories of making friends and having numerous learning experiences. And when a school celebrates a milestone, it’s also something worth noting, and to recall gentler times.

In the case of Normal-based Unit 5 School District’s Eugene Field Elementary School, as it reaches its 80th anniversary, the building hasn’t really changed. It still gets seen as the neighborhood school many remember it as, even though it has had a couple of function changes over the years.

Those who went to or sent their kids off to the school and know of its history gathered for a picnic and formal ceremony to mark the occasion on the school grounds, located at 412 E. Cypress St. in what would become Normal’s first neighborhood after the Town was founded. Former students, teachers, administrators, and current students gathered for the celebration.

Unit 5Proposed Walkway To Honor Former Fifth Grade Student Whittaker: At a ceremony attended by roughly 50 people, some sharing memories of their days spent at the school, whether they were a student, teacher, or administrator, Jane Collins, the current administrator to the school, honored 92-year old Reggie Whittaker, who went the school first opened in the school year of 1936-37, as a fifth grade student. Collins is seeking permission from the district to build a concrete walkway around the parameter of the school property within its fencing, and wants the walkway to be named in Whittaker’s honor.

Also joining Whittaker at the front of the classroom where the ceremony was held was Ernie Harrison, Jr. Harrison’s father, Ernie Harrison, Sr. was one of the workers who laid the building’s foundation as construction began for the school. Federal funding, in the form of the Works Progress Administration, established during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, made funding for the construction of the school possible.

The celebration was the kickoff for the walkway project, Collins said, adding she has proposed the idea to Unit 5 School District’s Facilities Committee. She said she has gotten cost estimates from architects for the project. It would be done in phases with completion in three or four years. She said should the District Facilities Committee give its approval, and then approval is received by the district Board of Education, it would be hoped the first phase would be completed by sometime next year.

As for Whittaker, he said the idea of having his name immortalized with this project “is a good thing. It’s an honor. I don’t know if I’m deserving of such a lovely thing.”

School Alumni Have Facebook Page: Those folks who attended and sent their kids to school at Eugene Field Elementary have a Facebook page with a title that says it all. The page is called, “Eugene Field Elementary Alumni…Where No One Rode The Bus (Normal, Illinois).” And literally, it served as the local neighborhood school from its inception until 2004. Unit 5 Board members voted to close the school and use it to house special services personnel such as school psychologists, special education personnel, or other professionals, after that. That meant the kids who were walking to the neighborhood school now needed to be bused to other schools, primarily Fairview Elementary and Glenn Elementary. It was a maneuver that, taken when Dr. Gary Niehaus was district superintendent at the time, was not popular with neighbors of the school.

By 2008, when Occupational Development Center, a facility that assisted people with learning disabilities to learn job skills and assist with social needs, closed, Unit 5, under Niehaus, allowed part of the Field building to be used to step in with that similar kind of activity. By 2011, the entire building housed the district’s Adaptive Learning Program, which it began in 1987; The Eugene Field Vocational Center, which began in 2010; and, in 2013, a transition program for disabled students who were high school graduates and could learn job skills.

Unit 5 mapMemories Recalled: Twila Eickhorst attended school at Eugene Field Elementary as did her kids. She was even employed as a school secretary, too. When the school was originally closed to move district personnel in, many parents whose kids attended the school were upset because it was the only school in the district whose students didn’t need to be bused to it. All the kids walked to school. When Eickhorst attend the school, she said one of the few times she recalled kids being bused to there were when students living in Normal’s northeast end attended the school. That section of town was not as developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s as it is today.

Eickhorst also recalled getting “an early start,” she said jokingly, about her secretarial career in fifth grade. That was because she sat in the back of the second floor classroom which was then next to then-Principal Margaret Davidson’s office. At that time, Davidson not only served as administrator but also taught class in the afternoons. Eickhorst said when the phone in the neighboring office would ring, she was go into the principal’s office to answer it by saying, “Mrs. Davidson’s Office, student speaking….” Eickhorst said she took a call for Davidson from the district office informing Davidson President John F. Kennedy had been shot on Nov. 22, 1963. Eickhorst recalled taking the message, walking back into the classroom to whisper the news to Davidson. School was dismissed at some point for the remainder of that day afterward, Eickhorst recalled.

Melba Jean Frink taught half-day kindergarten at Eugene Field Elementary in part of the 1960s and then again from 1970 until she retired in 1990. She said the teaching staff at the school were united concerning the standards they expected kids to live by while there, and the parents abided by and encouraged their children to understand and follow those standards. She said that atmosphere fostered “a nice place to work.”

Dave Reynolds was a student at Eugene Field for 3rd, 5th, and 6th grade in the 1960s, attending Fairview School when his was in 4th grade. During that time, it was family moving that caused him to exit from but also to return to Field. He recalled the now-grassy yard just outside the building was mostly dirt back when he attended there. He recalled playing dodgeball with his friends around the school’s breezeway.

“People just hated that they were closing the school,” Eickhorst said, recalling the emotional period in 2004. “It was a community place. This was the heart of the neighborhood.”