By Steve Robinson | July 12, 2018 - 10:41 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – At what will be the only meeting scheduled this month for members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board, two new Board members were sworn in to replace two who had resigned in the last couple months, and a third who will leave the Board at the end of this month said his public goodbye.

Amy Roser and Alan J. Kalitzky were sworn in at the start of the 45-minute session to fill vacancies created by the resignations of Jim Hayek Jr. and David W. Fortner, respectfully. They were both appointed to fill the seats and will need to run for election to full terms in next spring’s primary elections in April. Fortner’s unexpired term ends in April 2021, and Hayek’s term remaining will be for four years.

Both Hayek and Fortner have both experienced job transfers – Hayek to Arizona, Fortner to Chicago – which prompted their need to step down. Hayek’s resignation became effective at the end of May after announcing his intentions three months earlier, while Fortner’s became effective June 22.

Roser is employed at Illinois State University as an Associate Director for University College. University College supports students as they adjust to university life, providing programs and services to make a successful transition. She and her husband, Randy, have two daughters who will be going into 3rd and 5th grade this fall, respectfully.

Kalitzky is employed by State Farm Insurance as a Relationship Manager in the company’s Technology Vendor Management Office. He and his wife, Alexis, have four children – three girls and a boy — who are in schools in the district.

A press release from the district indicated a total of six applications for the two positions were received. Board members received six applications for the position. Both appointees have been involved with Unit 5’s Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), which serves as a liaison between the district and its community. Kalitzky, held the title of CAC president when he applied for the Board post He resigned from CAC as a result of his appointment to the Board.

Cleary Departs: Cleary made a public announcement concerning his intention to step down at the Board’s June 13 session. His resignation becomes effective July 31. Under State law, Unit 5 will have 45 days from that date to appoint a successor. That person, after taking office, like Roser and Kalitzky, will have to formally run for the seat in the primary elections next spring.

“It’s been a pleasure,” Cleary said, adding he hoped Roser and Kalitzky would improve it while they serve so that they leave the district “in better shape” when their time to exit the Board comes. “We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple years, and we had financial challenges though we’re financially stable.” Board President Jim Hitchins presented Cleary with a gift from Board members of a small glass vase. Each of the remaining Board members thanked Cleary for his service and wished him well in his new position. Cleary was appointed to a Board seat in late April 2016, replacing Denise Schuster, a State Farm employee, who moved to Texas as a result of a job transfer for her husband. He was elected to the seat outright in spring elections in 2017.

New Sugar Creek Elementary Principal Introduced: Kristina Peifer was introduced by Deputy Superintendent Ray Epperson to Board members as the new principal at Sugar Creek Elementary School, effective July 31. She last worked in Morton School District 709, starting as a special education teacher and worked her way up to a principal’s position in that district. She earned an undergraduate degree at Illinois State University and her master’s degree at Olivet Nazarene University. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity and honored to be part of this community and looking forward to bring my experiences to working with staff and students in the community,” Peifer told Board members.

New Clerk For The Board: Kim Stewart began her new job as administrative assistant to district superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel. Her duties will also include serving as clerk to the Board. She replaces LaNell Greenberg who took a job as assistant to Normal Community High School Associate Principal Nikki Maurer.

Two-Year Contracts Approved With Custodians, Support Personnel: Board members approved two-year contracts for custodians and maintenance personnel represented by Laborers Local 362, and with members of Unit Five Support Professionals Association which represents district office staff and paraprofessionals.

Construction For Hoose BEST Program Gets Approval: Prior to their May 11 meeting, Board members were given a tour of rooms which house the Behavioral Emotion Support Team, or BEST, at Colene Hoose Elementary School on Vernon Ave. in Normal. BEST provides intensive behavioral and emotional support for students who have such difficulties. During that tour, Hoose Principal Dr. Adam Zbrozek explained Hoose has become Unit 5’s hub for dealing with students who deal with this issue.

The program began over 30 years ago and needs the space it occupies to be reconfigured to better serve students. That would include construction of a 5.200 sq. ft. addition to the building at its east side which would be used primarily by the BEST Program. During the Board meeting this month, Board members gave unanimous approval to awarding a bid of $959,000 for the project to Peoria-based Bishop Brothers, Inc. In addition, the contract calls for Florida-based Marathon Engineering Corp. to serve as a subcontractor under Bishop Brothers for installation of padded walls at a cost of $49,180. That would bring the total bid presented by Bishop Brothers, Inc. for the project to $1,009,180. Bishop Brothers, Inc.’s bid was lowest among six firms who placed bids for the project.

But the project’s funding will also be paid for in part by school land dedication fees collected from developers. The additional space will have a common area and four classrooms. The current space will be redesigned into a large calming room. There will also be a conference area and a sensory room. An additional bus lane closest to the entrance to the room will be constructed.

Construction on the project will start immediately and is expected to be completed by around Thanksgiving.

By Steve Robinson | June 13, 2018 - 10:19 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Having lost Jim Hayek, Jr. off Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board as of the end of last month, the district is currently in search of his replacement. The procedure for finding someone to replace him should cause Board members to become quick studies with the procedure after hearing that Joseph Cleary will step down soon as a Board member, as well.

During the Board member comments section toward the end of the meeting, Cleary, who teaches construction management at Illinois State University, announced he had been offered a similar position at California Polytechnic State University, known as Cal-Poly, in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Cleary did not state when he would submit his resignation from the Board.

But when Cleary formally turns in his resignation, under State law, the Board will have 45 days from the date the resignation takes effect to appoint a successor. Also, that person would have to run for election the spring of the next election cycle. The Board is currently going through applications from citizens wishing to replace Hayek.

Cleary was appointed to the Board following the resignation of Denise Schuster in spring 2016. Schuster, an employee of State Farm Insurance, as is Hayek, exited the Board because of a job transfer to Dallas, Texas for her husband. In April 2016, Cleary was sworn in to complete Schuster’s term, and successfully ran for a term of his own the following spring.

“Unit 5 is still a great district,” Cleary said in answer to a media question as to whether the State’s witnessing an exodus of residents partly because its financial status, had anything to do with his own departure. He said the State’s situation had nothing to do with his own exit, and that “I was presented with a teaching opportunity on the west coast. My family loves it here. We have family here, so we will visit as often as we can.” Cleary and his wife, Karmon, have a boy who will enter 4th grade and a girl who will enter 6th grade in the fall.

Amended Budget Approved: Prior to Cleary’s announcement, Board members conducted business which included unanimously approving an amended budget for the coming school year. The district will have $169 million with which to operate. The district is looking at each of the operating funds the district has – Education, Operations and Maintenance, Transportation, and Working Cash – having some surplus money on hand to the tune of $2.3 million, according to the report presented to Board members by Business Manager Marty Hickman.

There is still some money yet to come in, Hickman told Board members, as Unit 5 is expecting roughly $2.7 million in payments for Special Education and Transportation due the district from the State.

Board Votes For District To Join Insurance Co-Op: In addition, Board members unanimously approved a resolution agreeing to become part of Suburban School Cooperative Insurance Pool (SSCIP) for its insurance needs. SSCIP operates financially on an annual calendar whereas the district operates on a fiscal calendar. As a result, Hickman said, Unit 5 would need to pay for its membership for the second half of this calendar year as well as for all of 2019 to start that relationship. After that, beginning with the start of 2020, Unit 5 would pay an annual amount to SSCIP.

By Steve Robinson | May 23, 2018 - 10:06 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

In February, he announced his intentions to resign from Normal-based Unit 5 School Board due to a job transfer through his employer, State Farm Insurance. At that governing body’s meeting May 23 at district headquarters, Jim Hayek, who had been a Board member for three years, formally announced he was stepping down at the end of the evening. The Board held a closed door one-hour session, followed by the public meeting which lasted 45-minutes, followed by another closed door session.

“I’ve learned a lot from you and I just want to wish you the best,” said Board Member Taunia Leffler. Board Member Joe Cleary told Hayek he was envious because he was moving to a constantly warmer climate in Arizona.

“I’ll just always remember you for having a strategic mind and a general calmness that you brought to the table,” said Board President Barry Hitchins. “We had heated meetings over the three years here. You just always seemed calm, cool, and collected.”

“You moved us forward with our strategic plan,” Board Member Mike Trask said in beginning his tribute. Calling Hayek “a great mentor,” Trask added, “I’ve enjoyed conversations with you, and although we haven’t always agreed with each other, we’ve respected each other’s opinions.”

“Thank you for your leadership, thank you for your mentoring,” District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel extended to Hayek. “I think I’ve learned many things from you, and I know Phoenix is going to be a better place because you and your family are going to be there.”

Hayek’s resignation becomes effective May 30. Under State law, Unit 5 will have 45 days from that date to appoint a successor. That person, after taking office, will have to formally run for the seat in the primary elections next spring.

In addition to Hayek’s departure, the Board will need a new clerk due to LaNell Greenberg, who has held the job for four years, moving on to become assistant to Nikki Maurer, associate principal at Normal Community High School. Greenberg has held numerous positions throughout the district during a14-year career with the district.

Normal Community High’s “Good News”: On May 10, the Normal Community High School’s Chapter of Best Buddies was named the Illinois Chapter of the Year by the national organization. Currently, more than 100 Best Buddies chapters in the State of Illinois. Earlier this semester, NCHS’ chapter named the Regional Chapter of the Year at the Annual Best Buddies Walk.

Best Buddies is an organization founded in 1989 with a mission to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. NCHS’ has grown over the years, with about 50 general education students and 25 students with disabilities who are paired through the program to bond at school during classroom and other weekly activities. This occurs by simply spending time together at school or out in the community. The teachers who serve as sponsors for the Best Buddies program at NCHS are Erin Sanders, Angie Cardiff, Brandy Sherrick and Amy Veselak.

NCHS assistant principal Natalie Shumaker and Addie Smith, an NCHS junior who has served as the president of the group this year, addressed Board members. “Our club has changed so many lives,” Smith told Board members. “It has changed my life, as well. We’re causing a ripple affect and we look forward to having a better year next year.”

In an emotional response to the presentation, Trask said his daughter has been “a beneficiary” of being part of the group. “I can’t tell you what its done for her.”

Parkside Elementary’s “Good News”: Team building was the goal of a program which took place in May at Parkside Elementary School. Assistant Principal Beth Goken explained Principal Ryan Weichman had team building in mind, and each day for a week earlier this month, seven teams competed in a unique team building event. Among the personal aspects of this were committing acts of kindness and showing team spirit among other challenges. Parkside students were included in many of the activities the program involved.

District’s “Good News”: Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, brought to the attention of those attending the meeting news about the Tales of English Language Learners, or TELL exhibit. This exhibit, which was created collaboratively by Illinois State University students enrolled in School of Teaching and Learning, and School of Art Graphic Design courses, features stories of English Language Learners in Bloomington-Normal schools and at ISU.

TELL displays the journeys of students through their stories, cultural traditions, challenges, and dreams for the future. The exhibit seeks to reduce misconceptions and prejudice about the faces and voices of English Language Learners, or ELLs, in our community, and aspires to raise public awareness and create positive dialogue.

Each ELL story is a combination of determination, hope, and challenges. It is more important than ever to share the stories of ELLs through which we can understand better and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.

Dr. Rabia Hos has been instrumental in forging a partnership between ISU and Unit 5 English Learners Programs.

By Steve Robinson | May 10, 2018 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board voted unanimously at their regularly-scheduled meeting on May 9 to approve a two-year contract with the union which represents its teaching staff. The pact with Unit Five Education Association (UFEA) members increases salaries for beginning teachers to $37,000 annually. That boosts their pay from the prior starting salary of just over $34,000, explained Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, in explaining what prompted the increase. Salaries for second year teachers will start at $37,600.

Explaining the decision to make the increase, Daniel said, “We want to be competitive. We know that with the national teacher shortage, we have to be competitive, and if we’re going to bring young educators to Unit 5 and Bloomington-Normal.”

Daniel said this increase moves where the district stands on paying teachers to “at about mid-range. We’d love to do more, but, again, we do have budget constraints.” He thanked UFEA members for what he called “one of the most amicable negotiations I’ve ever been a part of.” He said that was because both sides were “like-minded and had a common goal.”

Newly-elected UFEA President Lindsey Dickenson said the teachers’ union vote on the contract “passed with flying colors.”

Hoose Expansion To Be On Docket: At their lone meeting in July, Board members will vote to decide whether to approve construction at Colene Hoose Elementary School which would expand the space used by the school’s Behavioral Emotion Support Team, or BEST. BEST provides intensive behavioral and emotional support for students who have such difficulties. The school has sought to expand the building at its eastern end to accommodate students and concentrate services toward one end of the building.

The school would hope to put a bus lane near that end once the expansion is complete so that BEST students and teachers would have of an individual entrance and exit to serve those students’ needs, explained Hoose Principal Dr. Adam Zbrozek. Colene Hoose Elementary is Unit 5’s hub for students who have such difficulties. The program was started over 30 years ago and originally served 2nd through 5th grade students. In 2011, Kindergarten and 1st grade students were added to the program.

The BEST program has grown to need to service 30 students by the beginning of next school year without there having been any changes in the size of the original space for which it was established when the program began, Zbrozek explained.

The proposed addition for the program would be at the building’s east end and be 5,200-square-foot. That would allow the school to add a quartet of 900-square-foot classrooms and a common learning area. The current space used by the BEST program will get redesigned to provide a larger student calming room, and a sensory room which offers interactive equipment. A conference room would also be added.

A current playground area outside the east side of the building would need to be moved as a result of the expansion. The total cost of the project would be $1.2 million, $725,000 of which will come from school land dedication fees developers pay when plats are recorded by the county. The remainder would come from the district’s working cash fund.

School Bus Acquisitions Approved: As part of the Board’s omnibus agenda, the governing body approved the bus replacement cost schedule, which includes purchase of 11 new 2019 model year 42-seat vehicles at a cost of $806,761. Also as part of the group of vehicles the district will purchase are 10 77-passenger buses, either 2017 or 2018 model year, and four transit vans. In all, a total of 32 vehicles will cost Unit 5 over $2.3 million.

Another omnibus agenda item approved was a five-year agreement for the lease and purchase of additional transportation vehicles in an amount not to exceed $2,325,000 at an interest rate not to exceed 3.5 percent.

New Administrators Coming To Schools In Fall: When school resumes in August, some Unit 5 schools will have new administrators in the corner office. The announcements concerning these changes were announced during the meeting. Cari Oester, a 13-year veteran educator, will be the new principal at Glenn Elementary. She taught in Naperville for two years and eight years in the Olympia School District in Stanford before joining Unit 5 in 2015. She has been an Assistant Principal with Pepper Ridge Elementary and Cedar Ridge Elementary. This summer she will be completing her Superintendent Certificate through ISU.

At Oakdale Elementary this fall, Elizabeth Holtz will become that school’s principal after having served as assistant principal there. She has also had experience as an assistant principal at Parkside Elementary.

Leslie Davenport will become principal at Fox Creek Elementary this fall. She is currently that school’s assistant principal. She spent nine years teaching Science and Language Arts at Parkside Junior High School along with coaching girls’ basketball. Previously, she taught for two years in Chicago Public Schools and three at a private school in Hinsdale, IL.

Terry Gliege will be a new assistant principal at Normal Community West High School this fall. He’s currently teaching there. Gliege has been an educator for 14 years, 10 of those in Unit 5. He started his career in the Chicago Public Schools and has served on building and district leadership teams in Unit 5, and has worked as n Academic Assistance Program Co-coordinator, Credit Recovery Teacher, Assistant Speech Team Coach, and previously served as the JV Soccer coach at West.

Glenn Elementary’s “Good News”: Maureen Backe, principal of Glenn Elementary School, reported to Board members that The students of the 3W Unit at Glenn held an all-school talent show on the evening of April 4 to support St. Jude Children’s Hospital, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and Home Sweet Home Ministries. In total, the talent show raised over $280 for the charities, Backe reported.

The idea for the talent show began when their teacher challenged a small group of the kids to come up with an idea for a community service project in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Earlier in the year, the class read an article in their Scholastic News magazines explaining that events would be held across the country in recognition of the 50th anniversary of King’s death. The team began organizing tryouts and developing a rubric that the adult judges could use to select the talent for the show. Soon the entire class was involved planning various activities for each of the selected charity organizations. The activities the children took part in included a clothing/food/book drive which was organized for Home Sweet Home Ministries. Also, Origami and drawing lessons were planned to support PETA, and friendship bracelets were crafted to be sold in support St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Students also spent time publicizing the event by making posters and writing announcements. Members of the school’s third grade hosts for the event developed the order of the acts and wrote their own scripts. Students also made up the stage crew for the show. A total of 20 acts ranging from dancers to roller skaters to instrumentalists performed for a crowd of well over 200 people.

District’s “Good News”: Academic Cultural Technological Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) Program is a yearlong enrichment program designed to recruit, stimulate, improve and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among high school students. It was developed in 1978 to enhance and showcase the academic and artistic achievement of primarily African-American high school students by mobilizing the adult community to serve as mentors and coaches for students in the areas of the STEM, humanities, performing arts, visual arts and business.

The 8th Annual Bloomington-Normal ACT-SO “Olympics of the Mind” Competition was on Saturday, April 28 consisting of 19 students. A total of 25 medals were awarded during the awards ceremony Sunday, April 29, at Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center. All medalists also receive a small scholarship. The gold medalists will travel to San Antonio, Texas, to compete in the National NAACP ACT-SO Competition on July 12 – 15 for national medals and scholarship awards. Unit 5’s gold medalists and their school and event they qualified in are: Jessica Bynum, Normal Community High School – Filmmaking (2017 National Gold Medalist – Filmmaking); Keajia “Keke” Hardin – NCHS and Bloomington Area Career Center, Culinary Arts; Alexis Starks, NCHS – Photography (2017 National Gold Medalist – Photography). Silver Medalists named are: Ambria Maddox, NCHS and BACC – Sculpture. Bronze Medalists and their category: Faith Jones, NCHS – Dramatics; and Rebekah Nielsen, Normal Community West High School and, BACC – Culinary.

Bloomington Area Career Center’s “Good News”: SkillsUSA is a national partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel. We provide educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE) in the nation’s classrooms.

Each year SkillsUSA Illinois heads to Springfield, IL in April for the annual State Leadership and Skills Conference (SLSC), a showcase of career and technical education students. More than 2,000 people — including students, teachers, and business partners — attended the multi-day event. At the event students compete hands-on in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields. Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts.

This year’s winners from within Unit 5 include: From NCHS, Health Knowledge Bowl participants Taylor Whetsell, Chloe Wright, Jade Carlock who finished with a silver medal;·in Job Interview Skills, Chloe Wright, who earned a Silver medal; In Nurse Assisting, Elizabeth Richards who finished with a silver medal; In Job Demo, Bailey Branham, who finished with a Silver medal. From Normal Community West High School, Matthew Manzella earned a gold medal in TeamWorks competition; Kayla Jones earned a gold medal in Medical Terminology competition; and Rebekah Hagberg earned a gold medal in the Cosmetology competition.

In addition, the district’s speech language pathologists were recognized for the work they do with students at all grade levels throughout the year.

By Steve Robinson | April 26, 2018 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – At their regularly-scheduled meeting April 25, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board elected officers for the next year. Barry Hitchins is the new Board president succeeding outgoing president Jim Hayek, Jr. Mike Trask is the new Board vice president, and Taunia Leffler was elected the new secretary. Hayek was not at the meeting and had announced to Board members at the governing body’s last meeting in February he would be resigning from the Board as a result of a job transfer to Phoenix, Ariz.

The new Board members were elected by acclamation.

Increased School Lunch Prices Approved: When the school year revs up again in August, parents and students, and district employees will be paying more as a result of a unanimous omnibus vote once the new officers were seated. Lunch prices will go up by five cents for both students and adults as a result of rising costs and requirements set by Federal Paid Lunch Equity rules. That would boost lunch costs to between $2.15 and $3.35. The change will not affect breakfast prices or the cost of reduced price lunches.

In addition, it will cost students more to attend sports events, with the price of a ticket going up $5, to $20. Instructional fees will not see an increase in cost this year.

Normal West High Doubles Its “Good News”: Prior to the Board elections, Board members heard a pair of “good news” reports from the district’s high schools. From Normal Community West, Associate Principal Angie Codron introduced Board members to teacher Dave Weber who was awarded a $1,000 grant which he will use to purchase additional sensors and “Go Links” which students can use in Psychics classes to conduct inquiry-based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or STEM investigations centering on acceleration and friction.

Weber will also use the funds to upgrade a 3D printer he has been using in class. Students belonging to the school’s STEM Club have been designing a variety of objects science teachers need to replace equipment which has been misplaced or worn out.

Codron also introduced Board members to senior Andrea Irving who has won a $1,000 scholarship as one of two Outstanding STEM students in McLean County for 2018. Irving is active in the Normal West group “Girls Who Code” is a national non-profit group dedicated to helping increase and support the number of women who enter the computer science field.

Normal Community High And Normal West High Team Up For “Good News”: Normal Community West and Normal Community High School joined forces for the other item of good news as Codron and NCHS associate principal Nikki Maurer introduced Board members two top finalists, one from each school, from the 2017-2018 Celebrating High School Innovators (CHSI) competition which was held on Illinois State University’s campus on April 7 and 8. This year’s event was the third annual event which recognized ninth through 12th grade students who were eligible to apply in five areas including Arts, Media and Literature, Technology, Engineering and Math, and Health and Nutrition.

The team of Becca Nally from Normal West and Lexi Showalter from NCHS were selected as one of the competition’s five finalists for their project which involved using smart phones for communication. The pair were awarded $1,000 as well as a scholarship.

Standards-Based Grading Discussed: Carmen Bergmann, director of elementary education, and Laura O’Donnell, director of secondary education for the district, presented information to Board members concerning an update concerning how the district will assess grading students beginning over the next two school years. Unit 5 is going to introduce a concept called Standards Based Grading (SBG) to all grade levels over the next two years, the pair explained. They said a partial rollout of SBG took place during this school year with nearly 90 percent of teachers using the method. They said a full rollout of SBG will begin at all elementary grade levels next school year.

At the middle school level, Bergmann and O’Donnell explained, students have a hand in their education from the standpoint of being able to talk to their teachers about and learn about the education process. At the high school level, they explained, characteristics for learning, such as showing respect, being part of a collaborative effort, and showing responsibility are separate matters apart graded on their own merits in addition to grading the finished work for each student.

Chemical Spraying Near Fox Creek Elementary Alarms Parents: Parents of one Fox Creek student in south Bloomington addressed Board members concerned about nearby farmers having recently sprayed chemicals on farmland near the school at a time when students were playing on the school playground. The parent indicated school officials were told by the farmer the herbicide was not harmful, but Board members told the parents the matter would be investigated.

May 9 Meeting To Be At Hoose Elementary: The Board’s next meeting on Wednesday, May 9 will be held at Colene Hoose Elementary School starting at 7p.m.