By Steve Robinson | March 15, 2018 - 12:00 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Members of Normal-based Unit 5 School District unanimously approved the forthcoming school year calendar at the governing body’s scheduled meeting March 11, held at Chiddix Junior High School. But just because the calendar got an official blessing with that vote doesn’t mean at least one holiday marked on the calendar won’t get its named changed if Board members themselves grant the change.

During the public comment section of the meeting, four students asked the district board to consider changing the name of the holiday held every second Monday in October from Columbus Day to “Indigenous People’s Day.” That triggered a request from Board Member David W. Fortner to ask the district to have a resolution making the change in the name ready for a vote at the Board’s next meeting April 11.

During a discussion on the matter, Curt Richardson, the district’s attorney, told Fortner State school code allows different options on certain holidays like Columbus Day ad Veterans’ Day. Board Member Barry Hitchins said some calendar adjustments have been made even after the school calendar for the upcoming school year has been approved.

The Board did approve the calendar as part of its omnibus agenda, while the district researches making the change. Board President Jim Hayek, Jr. recommended, as part of that research, bringing the subject before the district’s Citizens Advisory Council. District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel added the Board will, as part of that research check with the Illinois State Board of Education to see if such a proposed change is possible.

Daniel Comments On National Student Walkout At NCHS: On the same day as this meeting, a month to the day of the shooting deaths of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., students at Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School and 300 students at Kingsley Junior High School participated in National School Walkout Day which began at 10a.m. and lasted 17 minutes – one minute for each of the 17 lives lost at the Florida school on Valentine’s Day. Daniel spoke to reporters after the meeting about what he witnessed observing the rally that took place at Normal Community High School.

When speakers spoke to their fellow students at the event he attended, Daniel said, there was “silence.” He added the rally was “very peaceful but very poignant, very meaningful.” Another similar event, “Rally For Our Lives,” is slated to take place Saturday, March 24 at the Courthouse square in Downtown Bloomington starting at 11a.m.

Multiple Life Safety Projects Approved: Board members unanimously approved work to begin on 10 Life Safety projects at a number of district schools. Springfield-based Henson-Robinson Co. submitted a base bid of $147,117 for a reroofing project at Glenn Elementary School. The section of the school that will be worked on was originally constructed in 1967. At Grove Elementary, workers from Peoria-based O’Brien Brothers will be working to replace a chiller and related equipment after submitting a winning base bid of $113,870.

At Hudson Elementary, after their bid of $96,700 was approved by Board members, Mt. Zion, Ill.-based Top Quality Roofing Co. will be handling a reroofing project on that school’s 1954 building addition. At Towanda Elementary, a contract has been awarded to low bidder

At Pepper Ridge Elementary, Peoria-based Bishop Brothers, Inc. submitted a winning bid of $143,000 for the contract with the district to replace exterior doors. The district also accepted a bid of $464,700 from Chenoa-based Union Roofing Co., Inc. to do a reroofing project. The district also accepted a bid from Union Roofing of $306,970 for a reroofing assignment at Towanda Elementary.

Board members also approved a pair of work assignment bids each at two separate schools. Board members approved a reroofing project on the 1967 building addition at Oakdale Elementary, awarding it to Henson-Robinson which submitted a low base bid of $153,980. In addition, Board members approved two alternate bids to the company, as well: The first for $20,470 for additional drainage control at the north end of the building, and for $5,350 for additional work to provide safer access to the roof for maintenance on the roof above the school kitchen.

Two projects at Normal Community West High School were approved to round out the work approved. First, Board members approved a contract to McLean County Asphalt Co. for the base bid amount of $338,233.04 for resurfacing of the school’s tennis court. Board members also approved three alternate bids work bids to the company. The first was for $5,713 for additional work to repair and repave the west edge of loop drive along the tennis courts; the second was alternative work bid was for $19,154 for additional work to provide new posts and fence fabric; and the third bid, in the amount of $8,274.72 for additional work to replace fence fabric using existing postings at the north, west, and south sides of the courts.

Evans Jr. High And Chiddix Jr. High School’s “Good News” From State Chess: Two of Unit 5’s junior high schools appear to have some real pros when it comes to the game of chess – at least that appears to be the message the principals of George L. Evans Junior High School and Chiddix Junior High School is trying to get across in the their “good news” reports to Board members.

February 23 and 24, the team traveled to Peoria to compete in the IESA State Chess Tournament. EJHS’ 6th grade team came in first place and had the state record for points and the individual overall state champion. Competitors play seven games where, at the end of the day, if they win all their games, a player earns seven points. EJHS’ 8th grade team earned a 3rd place trophy for their efforts. Along with our team winnings, there were several personal accomplishments as well.

EJHS’ 6th Grade Team members are: Rahul Bammidi, Shlok Kinikar, Anish Deshpande, Likith Kancharlapalli, Nathan Lee, Rishith Vanguru, and James Douglas. Eighth Grade Team members are: Sujay Prakash, Marcus Lee, Lalit Kudikala, Umika Kuricheti, Yatin Gupta, Yashu Singhai, and Rishi Badhari. The team’s coach is Jill Burroughs

Jim Allen, principal of Chiddix Junior High School, introduced the Board to members of the school’s Chess team who made a good showing at the Illinois Elementary School Association State Chess Tournament. CJHS’ team placed among top ten finishers, placing 3rd with 25 points, wedged between top team George L. Evans Junior High School which tallied 31 points and 3rd place finisher Parkside Junior High School which registered a 24.5 point finish.

Having played on seven boards during the tourney, a number of CJHS students did well enough to be recognized for their efforts. Team members John Burras, Adtiya Chalasani, Moksha Dave, Andrew Spies, and Syed Zain Zaidi all registered scores of 5.0 out of 7 points possible. The school’s 7th grade team took first place overall defending their title from last year, while CJHS’ 6th grade team placed 2nd overall, earning a medal.

Kingsley Jr. High School’s “Good News” From State Volleyball: Kingsley Junior High School also earned State honors for Volleyball, as principal Shelley Erickson told Board members. KJHS ‘7th grade 4A Lady Cavaliers ended their regular season with a fantastic 26-2 record and a State Championship. They got to the top first by beating Macomb Junior High School 25-19 and 29-27 in the opening round to advance to the semifinals.

In the semifinals, the Lady Cavs bested Homer Glen Homer in three games, 26-24, 21-25 and 25-23. After battling to get to the championship match, CJHS disposed of Manteno in two quick games, 25-6 and 25-8, to bring home a State title.

The 7th grade volleyball team is coached by Maxine Quakenbush, along with Liz Heideman and Kerry Myers. Team members are: Sophia Feeney, Delaney Hammons, Jocelyn Gale, Alyssa Brown, Ella Lloyd, Jaycee Adams, Morgan Bunn, Ashley Wilcox, Jeeya Patel, Anna Dunne, Kate Poehlman, Morgan Sutter, Lizzy Horton and Katelyn Wilson.

Normal Community High School’s “Good News”: Trevor Chapman, principal of Normal Community High School, introduced Board members to four students who participated in a competition call the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge which took place on March 2.

The four students — Sudesh Sahu, Krithik Rao, Yuktesh Kalidindi, and Annika Hiredesai — competed in this annual Internet-based applied math competition which awards $100,000 in scholarship prizes ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 to teams of high school juniors and seniors.

The Challenge helps to spotlight applied math as a powerful problem-solving tool and helps students see its value and importance. During the competition, students work in teams of 3-5 to solve an open-ended, realistic, math-modeling problem with a 14 hour deadline.

This year’s assignment for the students was to create a mathematical model that a state could use to determine if it could feed its food-insecure population using the wasted food generated in the state. Their goal was to create a mathematical model to address the opportunities associated with repurposing potentially wasted food. They had to apply their model given some parameters from the State of Texas. Additionally, the teams had to come up with a plan to repurpose wasted food both in their community and in their school.

The end product was a 25 page proposal, complete with their solution, which was due at the conclusion of the 14 hour time allotment.

New Administrator, New NCHS Head Football Coach Introduced: A new administrator for the district and the new football coach at Normal Community High School were introduced to the audience by Daniel during the meeting. Maureen Backe was introduced as the new director of elementary education, succeeding Carmen Bergmann. The audience of about 40 people were also introduced to Jason Drengwitz, the new football coach at Normal Community High School. Drengwitz succeeds Wes Temples who resigned in December.

Next Meeting Set For April 11: Unit 5 Schools will be on spring break the week of March 26-30, so there will be no Board meeting March 28. The next scheduled Board meeting will be Wednesday, April 11 at district headquarters beginning at 7p.m.

By Steve Robinson | February 28, 2018 - 10:55 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – During what he called “an ad-lib” presentation, Jim Hayek, Jr., president of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board, announced that a job transfer to Arizona would be causing him to step down from the Board either at the end of May or early June. Hayek, employed by State Farm Insurance, has been president this current school year, and a Board member for three years.

One thing Hayek said he is proud of was “providing students a number of ways to connect with the district, whether it’s in extra curricular activities or in the classroom or co-curricular activities.” Such opportunities provide students a way to connect to their school, Hayek said. From such connections, students find goals and a direction for their lives, Hayek added.

Providing such things “is one thing I’m proud of the district for in many different ways,” Hayek said. But for Hayek, such opportunities also have him fearful, he said, because “we are in times where, if our budget doesn’t improve, there are programs that might be at risk.” He said the district is going “to have to spend additional dollars on mental health issues” for students, the recent shootings at a high school in Parkland, Fla. on Valentine’s Day where 17 people were shot to death by a gunman.

He said the needs which the district must address would come from a district budget which currently “is not growing at a pace that we need it to grow to keep up with these demands.”

Hayek said he made the comments so that the “community will have an awareness I want it to have,” and that the district’s “ability to great things for kids” was, in his words, “at risk.”

Following the meeting, Hayek told reporters his new job “will be a new adventure, but it’s going to be hard to leave Unit 5 behind.” Hayek said he would have wanted to wait until after next year to make any kind of move, as his son will be a senior in high school next year, but, he added, “The timing is just right for that move. Our family is excited.”

He said “keeping the strategic plan for the district alive” was what he considered his greatest accomplishment since being on the Board.

Under State law, the district will have 45 days from the date Hayek’s resignation takes effect to appoint a successor. That person, after taking office, will have to formally run for the seat in a primary election next spring.

In addition to approving a resolution to issue $13 million in taxable education warrants, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board heard a trio of “good news” reports to start their meeting off on March 28 at district headquarters.

Public Comment Concerns Normal Community West Coaching Change: Board members approved the hiring of Nathan Fincham as the new head coach of Normal Community West High School’s varsity football team. Fincham was an assistant to Darren Hess, who resigned from the post in December. While approval of Fincham to the job was unanimous, a resident with concerns addressed Board members during the meeting’s public comments segment.

David Cobb told Board members making such a change “wasn’t something to be taken lightly,” and added he believed neither the school’s principal, David Johnson, or Athletic Director Stan Lewis have displayed “the leadership or concern for our African American students.” Cobb added.

Cobb said hiring Fincham would run the risk of repeating issues faced by black teammates under Hess. “By placing the current candidate as your new head coach, whom was part of the former varsity football staff, we are running the risk of the same nepotism and systemic bias as before,” Cobb explained. “It is my recommendation that we select a coach, not from the staff of a head coach who was recently terminated.” He also pointed out that neither Normal West’s football or boys’ basketball teams have ever been led by black coaches.

In an impromptu interview session with reporters following his remarks to the Board, Cobb said boys were transferring out of Normal West’s football program for various reasons. When pressed by reporters for specific reasons, he stated, “I’ll let you figure out why that is.”

In January, several Normal West football families and booster club members attended a Board meeting seeking information about Hess’ departure from the football team. At the time, district officials admitted having concerns regarding how Normal West’s Gridiron Club boosters group spent its money. At issue was whether booster dollars improperly went to Hess’ assistant coaches. Those same parents and boosters also sought an explanation for a closed door session two months earlier, asked for by Cobb and others. The state’s Open Meetings law allows public bodies to go into closed session to discuss specific employees.

Wednesday’s Unit 5 meeting agenda indicated Hess himself sought to the closed session’s minutes using a Freedom of Information Act request, which the district denied.

New Athletic Director Coming To NCHS July 1: NCHS will have a new athletic director effective July 1. Nic Kearfott comes to NCHS from Dekalb High School where he serves as the Athletic Director. Prior to DHS, he opened the athletic department at Woodstock North High School and was the Athletic Director there for seven years. Kearfoot has held an Athletic Director position for 14 years, and has held a seat on the Illinois Athletic Directors Association Executive Board of Directors since 2009. He is married to Stephanie Kearfott and has three boys Connor, Collin, and Cooper, ages 12, 9, and 6, respectfully. Kearfoot is an El Paso native. He and his wife have family in the Bloomington-Normal area.

He is replacing Mike Clark who is retiring. Clark has been A.D. at NCHS twice, first when the school’s new building opened in 2003, and later serving as A.D. at Parkside Junior High School for seven years before returning to NCHS as A.D. two years ago to replace Andy Turner who took a similar post at Maine South High School.

Darren Cooper Named Principal At Parkside Junior High School: With Dan Lamboley having been promoted from being a principal to director of secondary education at the district office, the school he oversaw, Parkside Junior High School, was going to need a new principal. District officials tabbed Darrin Cooper, principal at Oakdale Elementary to succeed Lamboley effective July 1. Lamboley assumes his new duties that day as well.

In addition, Shane Hill, assistant principal at Normal West will become Associate Principal at Kingsley Junior High School. Stacie France, assistant principal at Chiddix Junior High School will become principal at KJHS. All of these moves become effective July 1.

Evans Jr. High School’s “Good News”: Gina Tenuta, associate principal and athletic director at George L. Evans Junior High School, presented the school’s latest champions to Board members during a Good News report, as she introduced them to the school’s Class 8-4A Boys Basketball team. On Feb. 15, the team traveled to Urbana Middle School to compete in the Illinois Elementary School Association 8-4A State Championship Game where they faced an undefeated Urbana Middle School squad on their home court.

The EJHS Eagles held off Urbana the entire game, never letting the lead get away from them on their way to a final score of 45-37. As a result of the win, the Eagles finished the season with a 22-5 record to earn the first boys’ basketball State Championship in EJHS’ history.

EJHS entered the championship quest with a first round 42-39 win over University Park Crete Monee, which advanced them to a semifinal victory over Bolingbrook’s Jane Addams Junior High, which the Eagles won, 45-38. From there, EJHS advanced to the showdown against Urbana.

Members of the team are: Shea Zbrozek, Dax Yosten, Titan Virgil, Chase Adams, D.J. Starr, Jamarcus Webb, Aaron Eiker, Carson Beal, Jono Edmonson, Tyler Dwinal, Camden Maas, Ian Bliss, Ben Bittner, Joe Zeman, and Kaden Stork. Team managers were Parker Michels and Ohm Patel. The team’s head coach is Nate Sefton. Brian Duggins, and Alex Kepuraitis are the assistant coaches.

Kingsley Jr. High School Doubles Its “Good News”: Kingsley Junior High School doubled up on its good news reports to the Board at this meeting, as Principal Shelley Erickson introduced Board members to Diavion Smith, a seventh grader. Diavion was selected to be one of a number of keynote speakers at the annual “Be Great” Breakfast. Diavion has been a Club member since he was six-years-old. He and the other keynote speakers addressed an audience of more than 500 people who attended the breakfast, a fundraiser for the organization.

During his presentation, Diavion shared the benefits of participating in the Boys & Girls Club, including mentoring, learning leadership skills, and making lifelong friends. Diavion received a standing ovation at the end of his talk.

Erickson’s next introduction was for Board members to meet KJHS seventh grader Froylan Racey. In January, Froylan was selected to play the euphonium for the All-Illinois Junior Band at the University of Illinois. During the competition, judges were not informed which school students attended, and students were required to submit recordings of two solos and a chromatic scale in the full range of the instrument.

Froylan practiced before school with KJHS Music Teacher Becky Meadows as well as investing many hours practicing on his own. Approximately 80 students representing over 70 schools were selected to participate.

By Steve Robinson | February 14, 2018 - 10:38 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – The current school year isn’t quite three-quarters done and members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board got a sneak peek at the school year calendar for the next school year during their regularly-scheduled meeting Feb. 14 at district headquarters.

For openers, the next school year is tentatively scheduled to begin with a full day of classes on Thursday, Aug. 16. Before their students arrive for that first day, the teachers will spend the two days prior in Teacher Institute sessions.

Thanksgiving break for students and staff will be Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 21-23. The last day before Christmas Break will be Friday, Dec. 21, with the break running from Monday, Dec. 24 through Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. After a teacher institute day set for Monday, Jan. 7, students return to class Tuesday, Jan. 8 to start the spring semester.

Ray Epperson, deputy superintendent, and Dr. James Hardin, executive director of human resources and student services for the district, jointly chaired the committee which put the calendar together. Epperson told Board members the coming year’s calendar “most closely mirrors” the calendar used to put assemble the schedule Unit 5 used this school year.

Epperson explained that the district took a survey of teachers and staff finding that two-thirds of those polled wanted to have a full-day of teacher conferences in November without having to also have classes on the same day. That will take place on Oct. 19. Epperson said doing conferences in that matter, according to teacher responses, “helps with concerns needing to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

Board member David W. Fortner asked administrators if the district could look into trying to have Unit 5 align its yearly calendar with other school districts in the area. Fortner said that was a request he has been asked about by constituents. Epperson said that can be put forth in the form of a resolution which the Board would need to vote on at a future meeting.

Valentine’s Day Bus-Car Crash Injures 3 Students: Three students and the drivers of a McLean County Unit 5 school bus and a car were injured when a bus collided with a car and overturned the afternoon of Feb. 14 on U.S. 150 at Abraham Road between Bloomington and Downs. Published reports indicated Unit 5 school bus carrying 47 students from Evans Junior High School collided with the car about 4 p.m. traveling in thick fog. The bus rolled on its side as a result of the collision. Three students and the bus driver were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, told reporters following the meeting students who were uninjured in the crash were transported by a second bus back to EJHS where their parents were requested to pick them up.

Published reports indicated the driver of the car also was injured, according to initial reports from police at the scene, but additional information was not available.

State police handled the accident because it happened on a U.S. highway, and was under investigation as of that night.

Published reports also indicated Unit 5 officials said their initial report of the crash indicated the bus driver was not at fault.

As a matter of procedure, Daniel said, both Unit 5 and First Student Bus Co., the district’s busing provider, send administrators to the scene to conduct a formal investigation. Police officials are asked to help the district and First Student do their research into the accident, as well.

Lamboley Tapped To Become Director of Secondary Education: Daniel announced that Dan Lamboley, Principal at Parkside Junior High School, will be moving into the administration office as director of secondary education. Lamboley succeeds Laura O’Donnell, who is leaving Unit 5 to take a position in the administration of the Olympia School District in Stanford.

Kingsley And Parkside Junior High Have Three Students With “Good News”: Three PJHS students qualified for All-State Music. These students auditioned and were selected as the top musicians in the State. A total 82 students in the entire state were selected for this honor. This is the highest honor that junior high musicians can achieve. Auditions were open to anyone in the state of Illinois, and they were selected based upon their own individual talent, not as part of the larger band talent. Four of them from Unit 5, with three from PJHS and one from KJHS. They were the only musicians to be selected from the Twin Cities.

The three students from PJHS are Ernst Kangu, Anna Poncin, and Jonah Techmanski. The KJHS student who qualified is Froylan Racey.

Normal Community West High’s “Good News”: While at Normal Community West High School, Xavier Higgins has volunteered with the Best Buddies Program, working his way to serving on the group’s Board. According to the group’s website, the organization was founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver which has grown from one original chapter at Georgetown University to more than 2,300 chapters worldwide, positively impacting the lives of over 1.1 million people with and without intellectual disabilities. Higgins works with other students involved in the program to help foster meaningful friendships between students and assist students who have physical and intellectual disabilities.

In doing so, the program helps those students Best Buddies benefit from by being able to develop life skills. As a leader within the program, Higgins has dedicated himself to increasing student participation and volunteerism in the program among the students at Normal West. Higgins was recognized by Board members for his efforts at the meeting in another “good news” presentation.

Eugene Field School’s “Good News”: Jane M. Collins, administrator for Eugene Field School, which currently services students with, among other things, vocational training, presented a report about how a team of parents have worked together to create a sensory room which helps students afflicted with Aspurger’s Syndrome maintain calm and concentration. Aspurger’s Syndrome is a form of Autism.

A Unit 5 student named Jon Miskulin was the inspiration for the creation of a local support and advocacy group for parents of Aspurger’s Syndrome. Miskulin’s maternal grandparents, Richard and Bernadine Ploch, founded HEAL Foundation, Inc. to honor their grandson. HEAL is an acronym for Heroes Embracing Autistic Lives.

In her memo to Board members and Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, Collins explained a team effort has been employed to turn the former storage room into the space where students can feel calm.

Among the efforts put into the project, Collins explained in her memo, were Valerie Leichtenberg and her brother, Eric Leichtenberg came in during the evenings and weekends last spring “to paint the former storage room with beautiful pastel colors of blue and green.” As an added bonus, additional shelving for the room has been provided.

One of the school’s teachers, Kacy Stark, shopped with her students and donated several items of her own for the room such as lighting, pillows, mirrors, toys and various fidget spinners. Collins said Angie Mier donated several stress balls which come in handy throughout the day. Collins pointed out Jennifer Pearl, the school’s Health Care Provider and her husband, Loren Pearl, donated and installed carpet squares during after school hours. Jennifer Pearl, Collins wrote in her memo to the superintendent, has also donated additional furniture and paint touch-ups for the room.

By Steve Robinson | January 25, 2018 - 8:01 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board voted unanimously to extend the district’s contract with Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co. at the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday at district headquarters. The current contract, due to expire at the end of the current school year, was signed in 2015 and was amended in 2016. The contract extension would see First Student providing services to the district for the next two school years, expiring on June 30, 2020. Unit 5 originally began its contract with First Student in 2012.

In addition to providing timely service getting students to and from their school “in a timely manner,” First Student agreed to a contract which has within it “penalties for non-performance.”

Among the infractions which could bring on those penalties: Not having bus service on any scheduled route; Drivers failing to show for a charter route; and failure to provide a “properly licensed/trained driver.” Those last two come with penalties of $250 per occurrence and $150 per occurrence, respectfully.

As a few Board members spoke after the vote, Mark Bohl, location manager, and Chris Coyle, area general manager for the transportation company, sat and listened. “I want to say that with regard to the services they have provided this year, particularly, their accuracy, their timeliness, Mark Bohl and his crew and the drivers did a heck of a job,” said Mark Daniel, district superintendent, referred to the days when below freezing temperatures were the norm earlier in the new semester.

Coyle will be replacing Bob Rutkowski, who had been dealing with the district’s issues previously and is retiring at the end of the school year.

“I think there’s a new culture with us with First Student with the services they are providing Unit 5,” Daniel said, adding it was a culture “that was saying they wanted to know how do we help our kids first and foremost.” Communication between the district and the busing provider has been improved, Daniel said, including establishing a committee made up of both district and bus company officials.

After the vote, Board Member Mike Trask said that after the issues that arose on Aug. 17, 2016 with late buses among the problems experienced that first day of that school year, he didn’t think the two sides would be sitting together to pass the extension at this meeting. He credited Bohl with turning the situation around in terms of helping get dependable drivers and working on routes among the items the district insisted First Student fix if the contract was to continue at that time.

“Doing this re-instilled my faith in your organization,” Trask told Bohl and Coyle. “There’s been a lot of understanding and a lot of change on the part of people,” Trask added.” I appreciate where we are today.”

Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker thanked Bohl and Coyle for the efforts employed in training drivers because she said the Board has not heard of as many issues as they had at the time of the problems a year and a half ago.

Board Member David W. Fortner suggested that First Student continue working to tighten its ties with the district’s Skyward information system to be able to keep information about bus routes as current as possible.

“We’ve come a long way, and to be able to be sitting here looking at an extension is a result of your hard work and, hopefully, that will continue within your organization,” Board Member Joe Cleary told the men.

Unit 5 mapAgreement Nearly Terminated In 2016: At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, parents and students alike experienced frustration with late buses among other issues. The end result was the resignation of First Student’s location manager within days of the school year starting. He was replaced roughly a month later by Bohl, a former military man and former Caterpillar employee. When the current school year began, Bohl and his team made sure routes were covered and there were enough drivers for the roughly 128 routes the company started with.

In addition, in September 2016 after the problems emerged and the district saw little improvement, Board members gave First Student a Nov. 1 deadline to correct the issues that resulted or risk the Board voting to terminate the contract ahead of the anticipated expiration date.

Summer School, Autism Camp Get Approval: Among the items on the meeting’s consent agenda which was unanimously approved, was a summer session which will run Mondays through Thursdays, as will a camp session for autistic students. Both programs will run June 18-July 12, with no sessions on July 4 and 5 for the Independence Day holiday.

Unit 5 Withdrawing From CIRBN: Also as part of the omnibus agenda, Board members approved the district withdrawing from participation as members of the board of the Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network, also known as CIRBN. The district’s reason for withdrawing is because E-Rate, a telecommunication service, and CIRBN are both vendors which service the district. Marty Hickman, business manager for the district, explained Unit 5 was withdrawing from CIRBN to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest resulting from the district currently receiving partial reimbursement for internet costs from E-Rate. E-Rate provides internet use at district schools, Hickman explained.

“We thought people could perceive a conflict,” Hickman said. “We felt if other vendors were to see that relationship, they might not feel the bidding process would be fair and competitive.” He said eliminating Unit 5 being perceived as having an advantage over other groups in bidding for services was the main cause for the withdrawal. Hickman said Unit 5 doesn’t benefit from the relationship with CIRBN and withdrawing from the group would cement that notion.

Hickman said Unit 5 receives roughly $100,000 from E-Rate.

Closed Session Followed Meeting: The Board’s meeting began at 5:30p.m.and lasted 14 minutes and was followed by a closed door session permitted by law to discuss, as stated in the agenda, “Self evaluation, practices and procedures or professional ethics, when meeting with a representative of a statewide association of which the public body is a member.”

By Steve Robinson | December 14, 2017 - 10:19 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – 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. 13, Board members unanimously approved levying taxes and authorizing a certificate for a tax levy for 2017. The amount the levy will bring in is nearly $113 million, taxes residents will pay next spring upon receiving their annual tax bills. The amount to come in is up from taxes due last spring by 2.97 percent. The tax levy for 2016 brought in around $109 million.

Board Members Approve Settlement With Apartment Owners: Board members unanimously approved a settlement agreement with owners of student apartment building owners which would establish the earned assessed valuation of certain buildings to be set for tax years 2015 through 2022. Under the agreement, Unit 5 will see an increase in the amount of money from property taxes received by building owners. That total increase in revenue means Unit 5 will take in roughly $141,000 more than in past years.

Both High Schools’ “Good News” From State Swimming: Representatives from both Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School took a deep dive to inform Board members of their individual school’s athletes’ successes at Illinois High School Association State Swimming and Diving Competition held Nov. 17 and 18 in Winnetka.

Unit 5 mapNCHS high school reported the following results: Grace Ariola placed 1st in both the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter backstroke; Julia Heimstead finished 2nd in the 100 meter butterfly and 9th in the 200 Individual Medley; Claire Koh placed 9th in the 500 meter freestyle while Julia Oostman finished 12th in the same event.

As a team, NCHS’ quartet of Ariola, Koh, Heimstead, and Ashley Bengtson placed 2nd in their heat of the 400 meter freestyle relay. In the 200 meter relay, Ariola, Oostman, Heimstead, and Bengtson came in 3rd.

Their crosstown counterparts from Normal West were able to glow over the successes Melissa Pish accomplished in a pair of freestyle events she participated in.

George L. Evans Junior High School’s “Good News”: Whenever Board members hear a “good news” item from administrators, it has to do with events that have already taken place. But in the case of the presentation brought before Board members at the meeting by Christopher McGraw, principal at the school located at Bloomington’s south end, it had to do with students preparing for an upcoming event.

McGraw introduced Board members to seventh graders, Anne Dameron and Megan Siegrist, both of Bloomington, who will compete in a National Leadership Competition in Atlanta, Ga. Feb. 9-11. The competition Dameron and Siegrist will participate in is the American called the Amazing Shake, a competition which puts an emphasis on student leadership skills, manners, and professional conduct. Before the competition, the pair were educated in skills related to professional human interaction, and practiced these skills.

The skills included giving a proper handshake, how to “work a room,” and how to give a successful interview, with the goal of this competition to prepare students to present themselves for future opportunities. Dameron is the daughter of Jeffrey and Jennifer Dameron, of Towanda, and Siegrist, daughter of Dave and Sarah Siegrist, of Bloomington.