By Steve Robinson | March 12, 2019 - 10:39 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – The improving weather temperatures apparently aren’t the only indication spring is close at hand. Members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board voted unanimously to approve bids on six construction projects at their regularly-scheduled meeting at district headquarters March 13.

Life-Safety matters were addressed when Board members awarded a tennis court resurfacing project at Normal Community High School was awarded to Bloomington-based McLean County Asphalt Co., Inc. which submitted the only bid for the project. The company submitted a bid of $293,254 for the project. In previous sessions, Board members had been shown photos of cracked and crevassed concrete at those courts.

A reroofing and wall repair project to the athletic buildings at Normal Community West High School was awarded to Springfield-based Henson-Robinson Co. for the lowest of five bids submitted for the project, $153,370.

A partial reroof project at Parkside Junior High School was awarded to Mt. Zion, Ill.-based Top Quality Roofing for the lowest of three bids submitted for the project, $545,400. Adelman verified Top Quality Roofing has done previous work for the district in the past.

A reroofing project at Colene Hoose Elementary School on the section of the building constructed in 1968 was awarded to Henson-Robinson Co. for $194,532, the lowest bid among five companies which submitted bids.

A reroofing project at Fox Creek Elementary School was awarded to Henson-Robinson Co. for their bid of $433,488. Henson Robinson’s bid was the lowest of seven companies which submitted bids.

The bid for an electrical subcontracting project at Northpoint Elementary School was awarded to Normal-based Wilcox Electrical And Services. The company submitted a bid of $53,250 and that bid was the lowest among five companies which submitted bids for the project.

Joe Adelman, operations director for the district, told Board members all of these projects are paid for using bonds the district has sold and were budgeted for. With regard to the Hoose reroofing project, he said this last phase will help make sure it would be good for at least 30 years.

With regard to the NCHS Tennis Court project, Board Member Dr. Kelly Pyle asked Adelman how long the court’s surface, which had not been treated for a number of years, will last once the repair is completed. Adelman said after the repair is completed, a maintenance checkup will be performed on the court every three years.

Adelman said all projects would begin right after school ends for the year and he anticipates completion by sometime this fall. As part of the meeting’s omnibus agenda, with numerous items being handled with one Board vote, Board members unanimously approved all bids submitted for boilers for Kingsley Junior High School the district received March 7 due to an error in bidding documents.

Last Day Of School Announced: In comments to the meeting, Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, told the meeting, “I want to thank everyone for their support during this unusual winter we’ve had. Our amazing staff has gone out of its way to ensure the schools were ready for everyone. We are especially grateful to the Town of Normal for loaning us salt to get through the winter.” Daniel explained that became necessary because the shipment the district was expecting got held up on a barge on the Illinois River which had frozen over.

Daniel said the district’s anticipated last day of school will be Friday, May 31, adding Board members will make that official at their next meeting in April.

Parkside Junior High School’s “Good News”: Darrin Cooper, principal at Parkside Junior High School, used a “good news report to recognize a group of students who have been selected to be part of the All-Illinois Junior Band. Cooper explained that all junior high band students in Illinois were encouraged to audition for this State Band, but only the top 84 musicians were chosen for this honor. Six of the 84 selected are attending PJHS, as well as one alternate. These PJHS band members also serve as the only representatives not just from Unit 5, but from all Twin City junior high schools selected for this honor.

“This is the highest accomplishment that any junior high band member can receive,” Cooper explained, adding much of the credit goes to the band’s director, Jennifer Greif Bolton. Illinois State University student teacher Chuck Willard was also acknowledged for his work with the students, as well.

The seven musicians (and the instruments they play) are: Ethan Snyder (trombone), Rolen Schlipmann (euphonium), Jonas Techmanski (percussion), Sam Albertson (percussion), Jenna Klokkenga (Clarinet), Ernst Nkangu (contra clarinet), with Jake Kellermann (trumpet) serving as the alternate.

New Food Service And Nutrition Director Introduced: The district has known for roughly over a year that Pat Powers, director of Food Service and Nutrition will be retiring next year after a 28 year career with the district. At this meeting, Board members were introduced to her successor. Daniel introduced Hudson resident Joanna Rewerts would succeed Powers. Although Rewerts will begin working for Unit 5 July 1, she will be learning the ropes from Powers until then. A registered dietician, Rewerts has worked as a nursing home administrator, as well.

“If you think about it, when we are feeding over 13,000 students a day, this is a major position,” Daniel said about the work Rewerts will be stepping into. “The time needed to understand the duties, responsibilities, the management processes that Joanna will be involved in means we want for there to be an absolutely seamless transition, and I think we’ll have that.” Rewerts said she is “excited for the opportunity to work with Pat over the next year.”

Infinite Campus Update: Board members were provided with updates concerning new information systems which are soon to be implemented by the district. The two new systems are known as Infinite Campus and Tyler iVisions. Infinite Campus would replace the current information system the district has used over the past decade, known as Skyward. Tyler iVisions relates to software for human resources and payroll functions for the district.

Michelle Lamboley, Unit 5’s director of director of special education gave a presentation concerning next steps in the implementation of these new systems.

Lamboley explained the district is putting some of its teachers in the role of trainers to help fellow employees with the training. She said those trainers would receive 300 hours of training to best do their jobs. That training will be a mix of in-person and using web-accessible programs. In February, she explained, district teachers received an overview of Infinite Campus. Another such overview was given to Parent-Teacher Organization leaders last month.

She added it’s hoped the portal for Infinite Campus will be available by spring break giving staff time to get used to working with in prior to using it next school year. District families will get their first look at the system in May so that they can review information relevant to them just prior to participating in registration in July.

A series of trainings for human resources, payroll, and related departments are scheduled to take place later this month and on varying dates throughout April.

Next Board Meeting April 10: Because the district’s spring break will start March 24, this is the only Board meeting scheduled for this month. The next scheduled Board meeting will be Wednesday, April 10 at district headquarters, beginning at 7p.m.

By Steve Robinson | March 1, 2019 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – What money amounts the State has sent Normal-based Unit 5 School District has not changed, according to an update provided district Board members during their regularly-scheduled meeting at district headquarters Feb. 27.

Marty Hickman, business manager for the district, explained the district has received all current fiscal year payments that were anticipated for FY 2019. He added that in terms of any incoming Federal revenue Unit 5 was going to receive from Washington, there was a slight decrease in terms of dollars received.

During a brief presentation to Board members, Hickman also provided an update on the budget, covering between now and the end of the current fiscal year which ends June 30. In March, he said, the district anticipates receiving reports back from McLean County confirming what property tax dollars the district will receive.

Around May or June, Hickman said, the district will receive the first half of the money incoming from 2018 tax levy. He reported that, in terms of revenue assumptions before money starts coming in, real estate earned assessed valuation of property in the Town of Normal is expected to increase by .5 percent for levy year 2018.

Touting a $30,000 surplus in the district’s operations and maintenance budget, Hickman explained the majority of the revenue in that budget is from local property tax dollars. He cautioned utility costs remain the largest risk to that particular fund, and reminded energy conservation projects, such as updating heating and cooling systems, help hold off such risks.

Hickman said the district transportation fund has a “small surplus” currently, and that the district is due three more payments from the State to put into that fund totaling $4.5 million. He added increases in salary and benefits so that the district can be more competitive in hiring teachers will be an issue which will affect how the district’s education fund dollars will get spent.

Superintendent Addresses E-Learning: Severe winter weather used to mean a day home from school. But with the advent of Electronic Learning, or E-Learning, some school districts are sending kids home with work that can be done on home computers. Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, addressed this subject in his comments to Board members. He started by saying the district has been watching the e-learning trend closely. He added students could access coursework either online or by having take-home packets.

He said e-learning means students would be in class one fewer day, and as a result, have “one less day in the classroom with a teacher, one less day having access to breakfast or lunch, and one less day interacting with their peers.” He added the district is concerned about how e-learning days would affect students who have learning issues and are therefore part of an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. Daniel told Board members he has distributed a memo to them concerning how E-Learning would need to work to benefit students with learning disabilities.

Board Approves 2019-20 School Year Calendar: Board members unanimously approved the school year calendar for the 2019-20 school year. But the calendar has had to be worked so that it could include two additional days which would be used for instructional purposes. That’s because public school funding in Illinois is now based on student enrollment rather than attendance. The 2019-20 school year will begin for students on Friday, Aug. 16. Graduations for both Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School will be held Saturday, May 23, 2020. Although not assigned as yet, homecoming dance dates are set for Sept. 21 and Oct. 5.

By Steve Robinson | February 15, 2019 - 10:52 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – To look at the pictures taken of both the tennis courts at Normal Community High School and the parking lot at Parkside Junior High School, one gets the feeling time has not helped, and that both surfaces are in need of immediate repairs. In fact, during at least one previous meeting before their regularly-scheduled session Feb. 13, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board had seen photos of the conditions of both locations as the district considered tackling life safety projects.

At both locations, running cracks and deep gaps between those cracks abound.

As part of the Feb. 13 session, Board members held a public hearing to determine concerns by the public before board members voted to agree to spend Life Safety dollars to repair those locations. Meta Mickens-Baker was the only Board member who to addressed the issue before the Board took a vote to seek bids for the repairs, stating that looking at photos taken of both surfaces, “In looking at the photos, they definitely need repair, and are a potential hazard.” She said that was particularly true of the tennis court at NCHS. If it wasn’t repaired soon, she told Board members, “I’m afraid we’d have to close it because of the likelihood of students having a real injury” while playing there.

Joe Adelman, operations manager for the district added to the Board’s conversation on such repairs, explaining two other schools, Parkside Elementary and Hudson Elementary, are being looked at for potential future repairs to their parking lots, as well. He added he and his staff are aware that parking surfaces at “all 30 of our building sites, including all 22 of our schools, need attention.”

Before the hearing closed, Board President Barry Hitchins reminded Board members that at a future meeting, they will get a chance to approve bids for the projects once they come in. The district must first publish a request for proposals, or RFPs, giving contractors an opportunity to submit bids to receive the work.

Staff Commended For Presentations Given: During comments he made during the meeting, Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, commended district staff members who recently gave presentations at conferences. The first teacher commended by the superintendent for a presentation given was Parkside Junior High School teacher Naomi Kosier, She recently gave a presentation called “Reading Aloud Refreshed” at the 2019 Comprehensive Literacy and Reading Recovery Conference in Downtown Chicago Jan. 23-25. The Conference was sponsored by National Louis University. Kosier is the district’s middle school intervention coach for the district. She has taught for 23 years.

Daniel also mentioned a team of four other district staff members who jointly gave a presentation called “Sink Or Swim: Throwing A Life Preserver To English Learners In An English Emersion Setting.” That presentation was done by Amanda Armstrong of George L. Evans Junior High School, Janelle Learned of Normal Community High School, and Leslie Romagnoli from the district office, during the annual Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Conference in Chicago.

Signed into law by President Barack Obama, the Every Student Succeeds Act is a U.S. law passed in December 2015 which governs the United States K–12 public education policy. The law replaced its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, and modified but did not eliminate provisions relating to the periodic standardized tests given to students.

Energy Efficiency Projects Discussed: The session ended with a presentation concerning energy efficiency projects past and future which the district has been planning for. Board members heard from Jason Vogelbaugh, a representative of Rockford-based Alpha Controls And Services, LLC who works with the district to update its buildings, and Adelman. The company is paid by the district on a contract basis working on numerous projects, Vogelbaugh explained.

To date, Vogelbaugh and Adelman explained to Board members, the projects which have been completed thus far throughout the district include geothermal projects at PJHS and EJHS, and Energy efficiency projects undertaken at both of the district’s high schools. An energy efficiency project is slated to begin at Kingsley Junior High School in May, while a geothermal project slated for Chiddix Junior High School is in the planning stages, Adelman explained.

KJHS will present an interesting challenge for converting to geothermal, Vogelbaugh and Adelman explained, for numerous reasons. Those include the building’s age, having been opened in 1957, and undergone numerous remodeling projects over the years. The building had previously been used as NCHS, and remodeled when it was converted into a junior high school in the mid-1990s.

Among issues needing tackled are failed roof top units, failed boilers, and significant safety issues when work on the over-156,000 sq. ft. facility begins. Vogelbaugh said the geothermal project would save the district money because the current tab to heat and cool the building annually is around $282,000.

Adelman told Board members Eugene Field School remains the only “boiler operation” within the district.

Schools that have already been worked on are showing decreases in amounts of energy used to heat and power them, Vogelbaugh told Board members. Normal West, for example, he said, has reduced the amount of gas used by 10 percent. PJHS has seen the reduction in gas used come down by 99 percent, he added.

By Steve Robinson | January 18, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – If you looked out your window or just managed to get outside, it was apparent winter weather, with snow, winds, and bad conditions has hit the area with full force so far this season. District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel addressed how the district will decide on closing schools due to the conditions during this session.

Daniel said several different factors play into his decision to close schools. Those include road conditions, especially in rural areas; varying forms and amount of precipitation, and predicted changes in weather conditions.

Daniel said he and the district management team begin receiving feedback from crews which maintain school properties. In addition, he monitors what other superintendents throughout the county are hearing and seeing and receiving reports on to help decide whether closing schools is called for. Unit 5 covers 214 square miles in the county, Daniel explained.

“We want First Student, our busing provider, to let our parents know when buses are going to be running behind at least 15 minutes behind schedule,” Daniel explained.

Daniel said although the team gathers early, they have seen the weather pattern threatened which could close schools for a day usually hits around 5 or 5:30a.m. “I usually have to make a decision around 5:30,” Daniel explained. He said he needs to make the decision to close school by then because bus drivers are beginning to report to the bus depot to begin routes. He added making the decision by then also allows parents to arrange child care and for teachers who live outside the Twin Cities to plan their trip to work accordingly.

When it comes to winter weather, Daniel said, “Safety is first and foremost.” He further admitted that having worked in Michigan before coming to Unit 5, ice is a bigger factor in his thinking than snow.

When the storm that hit the area on Saturday, Jan. 12 came, “I was very pleased that we shut down almost all of our activities,” Daniel told the gathering. “The bottom line is safety – safety for our students, safety for our families, and safety for our staff.”

Pay Raise For Substitutes Approved: Substitute teachers will see a raise in pay thanks to a unanimous Board vote at the meeting. As a result of the vote, daily rates of pay, based on the number of days a substitute works. Substitutes will see their pay increase based on the number of days they are called in. Substitutes who work between 1-15 days will be paid $85 per day; Substitutes working 16-30 days will be paid $90 per day; Substitutes working 31-60 days will earn $95 per day, and those working 61 days or more will earn $100 per day. Using that same scale, retired Unit 5 teachers who substitute will earn in a range between $105 and $120 depending on the number of days worked.

In a memo to Daniel, Marty Hickman, business manager for the district, laid out the updated pay scale for substitutes. Long-term substitutes would earn $80 daily in the first 10 days worked and $100 daily from the 11th day of work going forward in the school year. Retired Unit 5 teachers on extended assignments would start at $100 per day pay for the first 10 days and see the pay go up to $115 daily from the 11th day onward.

The last pay increase for substitutes took place in 2001, Hickman told Board members. The issue of substitutes’ pay arose in public comments during a Board meeting in August. Pay wasn’t the only issue at the time, either, as maintaining communications with the district was among other matters other than pay substitute teachers wanted to see addressed by the district. In September, the district formed a work group for substitute teachers to address their concerns.

Hickman said as a result of the change in the pay scale, the district will likely spend over $64,000 to pay those subs, and the pay increase takes effect retroactive to Jan. 16. Regular communication with the district, in email, for example, was another concern for substitute teachers. Board Member Mike Trask informed Board members substitutes will soon be getting their own individual district email accounts.

Board Member Amy Roser called Unit 5’s actions in this area “a great start for recognizing subs.”

Chiddix Junior High’s “Good News”: Board members were introduced to Carson Damery, a seventh grader at Chiddix Junior High School who recently approached administrators at her school about raising funds for a good cause which she knew would not only have an impact on a relative of hers who was dealing with a medical condition but did it to make her fellow students aware, as well.

The condition, known as peroxisome biogenesis disorder, or PBD, is a rare condition which causes those afflicted with it to lose eyesight, hearing, and motor function. People who are afflicted with it usually see it develop between ages 5-10. Having a cousin with the condition, Demery wanted to do something to help. She approached CJHS teacher Jenny Snyder and together the pair developed a plan and timeline for helping raise funds as well as find ways to involve other students.

To raise awareness, Damery addressed all 650 students in her grade level to inform them of the condition and why she wanted to raise funds. Her reason for wanting to do this was personal because her cousin, Max, is affected by this condition. She calls her effort “Mission For Max.” Recently, the school had a week-long fundraiser. In the fundraiser, they raised pennies one day, nickels the next, and so on through to the end of a week, hoping to earn $500. But as a result of her efforts, she and Snyder told Board members, they actually raised double what was hoped for. She said there are other fundraisers planned, as well.

Grove Elementary Doubles Its “Good News”: Some people learn the game of chess at an early age. That can be said of members of Grove Elementary School’s Chess Team, coached by teacher Tiffany Borne, explained the school’s principal Sarah Edwards, in sharing with Board members and those in attendance at this meeting, sharing a “good news” segment about the success the club has had.

In the past year and a half the team’s instructors have worked with students, Edwards explained, each member of the teaching staff involved with it has helped make the chess club a positive in the lives of students. Borne was recognized by Edwards in a second “good news” item presented to Board members in relation to the Chess Team’s success. Under Borne, Edwards told District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel and Board members, the club has experienced their success. Edwards said Borne dedicates a great amount of her personal time to the Club, including working to make certain that the club has coaches and materials necessary for the students to add to their skill level each year. In addition, Borne planned, organized, and oversaw a chess tournament at Grove in December.

2019-20 School Calendar On Hold Until February: A change in State School Code is holding up Unit 5’s Board from voting on and releasing the 2019-20 school calendar. The district is waiting to see what legislation will be passed in Springfield concerning school attendance. House Bill 247 amends State School Code, having students in class for a five hour period. A Senate bill, Senate Bill 28 is also being mulled. It will take being in committee to get the elements of both into one bill before legislators can vote on anything. That’s why Unit 5 is waiting to vote on finalizing the calendar.

Next Board Meeting Feb. 13: This is the only Board meeting scheduled for this month. The next scheduled Board meeting will be Wednesday, Feb. 13 at district headquarters, beginning at 7p.m.

By Steve Robinson | December 13, 2018 - 10:07 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – After no public comments were made to Board members of Normal-based Unit 5 School District during a public hearing at the Board’s regularly-scheduled meeting on Dec. 12, Board members unanimously approved levying taxes and authorizing a certificate for a tax levy for 2018. Unit 5’s tax levy is about $121 million, up 9.2 percent from this year’s levy, largely due to the board’s decision to borrow $16.5 million over the next two years to overcome an education fund deficit.

Unit 5 estimated the owner of a $175,000 home will pay an extra $210 next year because of the bond sale, according to the district. The district is increasing taxes to help create an increase in pay for teachers. Other purposes the levy money goes toward include operations, transportation, and working cash.

Charlie Crabtree Remembered: As the meeting started, Board members and those attending held a moment of silence for Charlie Crabtree, the volunteer scorekeeper for Normal Community West High School’s girls’ junior varsity basketball team who was killed when a semi struck a Normal West team bus as the team returned from a game in Champaign Dec. 5. An Iowa man driving the semi which hit the bus was also killed. Freshmen team head coach Steve Price and bus driver Mark Kuhn, a Heyworth resident, were hospitalized. .

“While we are so thankful our eight players on board only had minor injuries, we grieve for those who suffered severe injuries and those who lost their lives in the crash,” said Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, in a statement read to spectators and Board members. “Our hearts go out to the family of volunteer Charlie Crabtree. Charlie was a devoted fan and volunteer for many teams at Normal West. His memory will live on with the Normal West girls’ “Charlie Crabtree Award” which is given annually to a varsity girls’ basketball player who exhibits Charlie’s love of the game, sportsmanship, and selfliessness.”

“I also want to thank the community for their amazing support of our students, staff, and families at Normal West during this tragedy,” Daniel concluded.

Board Member Mike Trask added a tribute to Crabtree, remembering how the 72-year-old would sometimes bring candies to players. Trask brought peppermint patties to the meeting to distribute to all in attendance, as well as another of Crabtree’s favorite treats, bags of a candy called Circus Peanuts, to distribute to each Board member.

Normal Community High School Triples Its “Good News”: Trevor Chapman, principal at Normal Community High School, had plenty to talk about from his school during the “good news” portion of the meeting, and he brought some company with him to share three stories with Board members. First, he was joined by several students and staff members from the NCHS We Dine Together program. The student leaders for We Dine Together include Kaylyn Beyer, Jessica Fuentez, Anthony Nguyen, Karla Ontiveros, and Nadje Spencer. The teachers sponsoring the program are Kaitlyn Baez, LaTishia Baker, Chris Belt, Lauren Chessare, Dave Feeney, Jordan Newton-Gonzalez, Catie Peyton, Stefen Robinson, and Kevin Shackley. We Dine Together is a national program started by high school students in an effort to provide welcoming spaces for students who might not be comfortable in the large cafeteria to eat lunch at school. The group has a Facebook page, too. During second semester last school year, a few teachers and students at NCHS started a small pilot version of the program. These individuals then recruited other teachers and students to implement a full program this year during all three lunch hours.

Not only have the student leaders taken the initiative to invite a variety of students to come and try We Dine Together, but they have also partnered with the school’s Promise Council to provide food for students who are unable to afford lunch items in the cafeteria. In addition to the lunchtime meetings, these student leaders and teachers have planned other extracurricular activities, such as attending a dinner and the Homecoming dance together as a group.

Chapman also introduced Richard B Percy, a 1965 graduate of NCHS, to Board members, and explained Percy, a former Unit 5 Board member, NCHS teacher Liz Harris, and her NCHS agriculture program have enlisted help to keep White Oak in Carlock maintained. Percy and Chapman explained the cemetery like many small, rural cemeteries has limited funds and in order to manage the upkeep solicits volunteers and community support to accomplish the task.

Percy said he contacted Harris to ask her if she and her students would be willing to assist us with the endeavor. Harris and 18 students agreed to help and did so on October 19. They were joined by Harris’ grandparents and other family members, and a cemetery association volunteer to remove trash, weed around headstones, remove bushes and saplings, remove overgrown flower beds and cut limbs on the border of the property. The students who attended were: Bobby Bicknell, Courtney Boring, Mollie Brothers, Alyssa Churchey, Branden Donnell, Paige Kalaher, Kennedy Keim, Maddie Kraft, Emily Krawyck, Georgia Merkle, Gwenyth Parks, Addyson Peasley, Amanda Quigley, Anika Quinn, Jose Serna, Jordan Viles, Lexi Whalen, and Reed Wilson.

Finally, Chapman introduced Board members to NCHS student Christiana Wang. She is one of 20 students chosen to serve on this year’s Student Advisory Council to the Illinois State Board of Education. The Student Advisory Council is composed of motivated high school students who have been selected from a very competitive group of applicants. The Student Advisory Council was formed in 1975 to bring student concerns to the attention of the Illinois State Board of Education. Students from across the State serve on the Council, and each member brings a unique perspective to the diverse group. Wang is involved in Speech Team, Scholastic Bowl, Interact Club, Orchestra and works part-time at Kohl’s. In her spare time, she volunteers at OSF St. Francis Medical Center.

Rebekah Hagberg, Bloomington Area Career Center Cosmetology graduate, will represent `United States in August, 2019, at the WorldSkills competition in Russia. She was introduced to Board members by Tom Frazier, BACC’s director. The rigorous pre selection process to find a finalist to take part in that competition started with over 35 students across the United States. The final two were both BACC Cosmetology graduates. Laura Coronel, a Bloomington High School student turned out to be the other finalist. and Hagberg. The pair were chosen to compete for a spot on the SkillsUSA Worlds Team in the Hairdressing Competition.

After two days of head-to-head competition in June, 2018, which included demonstrating men’s hair and facial hair cuts, women’s haircuts, formal up dos and coloring techniques Hagberg was chosen to represent the United States in the Hairdressing Competition in Kazan, Russia, in August, 2019. She will spend the next year along with 19 other young competitors chosen from all over the country, training for the WorldSkills event with various industry professionals. For the 2019 WorldSkills competition 76 countries and regions will compete in more than 50 different career and technical based events.

Parkside Junior High School’s “Good News”: Parkside Junior High School Principal Darrin Cooper presented information to Board members concerning the school having recently hosted the IESA Area 11 State Speech Contest. A total of 13 area schools participated in this contest, competing in six different events with 106 entries in all of the events. Not only was the event a success, but for six PJHS Speech Team members, the event was pleasing for six of the school’s students who received high honors for the day in the form of the Judge’s Choice Award.

The six Judge’s Choice Award Winners: Isabelle Carlson Erin Jenkins Gabby Montgomery Abby Morse Madison Schweizer Katie Van Heuklon.

As part of the contest, each judge is allowed to select one exceptional performance from all of those they judged. The PJHS Speech Team meets during the fall semester to practice and prepare for the November IESA Speech Contest. Students work throughout September and October to memorize a solo, duet, or small group skit which they perform for a judge at contest. They practice before school to memorize, add blocking and actions as well as make sure performance pieces meet the time requirements. Students are not allowed to use props or wear cost. or wear costumes for performances, so they have to make sure that the characters and their conflicts are portrayed clearly through facial and vocal expressions.

Cedar Ridge Elementary’s “Good News”: Also submitting a Good News Report was Cedar Ridge Elementary School Principal Karrah Jensen, to acknowledge community support the school has received from Roger Aschbrenner, Manager of Main Street McDonald’s. Aschbrenner has dedicated himself to Cedar Ridge Elementary School. Aschbrenner, in recent years, has shown support for the school and its students, Jensen told Board members. He takes a vested interest in each student’s success and well-being. Each year, through his efforts, the school is able to partner with McDonald’s through their educational program. This gives school staff the opportunity to have “McTeacher Nights,” she explained. On McTeacher Night students can visit McDonald’s and see their teachers work in the restaurant. At Cedar Ridge, this is highly attended because of the reasonable price point and teacher dedication. The partnership also allows student artwork to be displayed within the restaurant. This provides our students an opportunity to see their schoolwork within the community.

This year, Jensen told Board members, Aschbrenner approached Jensen about a new opportunity for the students at Cedar Ridge, asking to partner with the school during its “Student of the Week” program. Jensen said Aschbrenner presented her with certificates for free Happy Meals, which are awarded each week at each grade level. He also attended a recent early morning assembly to share the news about our partnership to the students.

2019-20 School Calendar Draft Presented: Dr. Ray Epperson, assistant superintendent, presented a draft of the 2019-20 school calendar to Board members. The school year will consist of 176 days as required by the State. Built into that period, Epperson said, are five emergency days, such as snow days, and four Teacher Institute Days. The finalized version of the calendar will be brought to Board members for approval sometime during next semester.

Payment Approved For New District Information System: Board members unanimously approved spending over $393,000 for a new information system known as Infinite Campus, manufacturer by Greeley, Colo.-based Computer Information Concepts, Inc. Infinite Campus would replace the current information system the district has used over the past decade, known as Skyward. Unit 5’s first payment of $206,000 is scheduled to be made a few days before Christmas, according to the copy of the agreement between the company and the district provided to the media.

A second payment of $88,883 would be due in March, followed by a third payment of $64,326 would be made July 1. A fourth and final payment of $34,550 would be made in mid-August.

District Addressing Substitute Teachers’ Concerns: At a September Board meeting, the issue of helping substitute teachers being able to receive their pay in a timely manner was among a handful of issues presented before Board members by substitutes who were concerned about the matter. In an effort to address substitutes’ concerns, Unit 5 established a work group for those persons employed by the district. At this meeting, the district explained what else will be done to help those employees.

Dr. James Harden, the district’s executive director of human resources and student services, told Board members that a proposal slated to be presented at the January Board meeting would the amount of money subs receive for work on day one on the job. This would apply to regular, retired, or long-term substitutes. An additional daily rate increase based on the number of days worked annually is also going to be proposed. Should the rates be approved by the Board, the pay increase would be retroactive to Jan. 8.

In addition, Harden said, the district would grant subs access to grant access to email and Skyward beginning Jan. 7, and work to improve its regular communications with substitutes.

November Conference Update Presented: Board members attended a two-day conference in Chicago co-organized by Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators, and Illinois Association of School Business Managers. It is commonly known to educators as “The Triple-I Conference.”

During discussion of the conference, each Board members spoke of what sessions they attended and what they came away from the sessions with for district use. Among the session topics mentioned were school security and engaging culturally diverse families.

Next Board Meeting Jan. 16: With the Christmas holiday coming, there will be no second Board meeting this month. The next scheduled Board meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 16 at district headquarters, beginning at 7p.m.