NORMAL – When we were in grade school, we all sought to be considered part of the group of kids we had classes with. For some students, fitting right in happened almost immediately. But for kids with developmental disabilities, sometimes, those youngsters find fitting in difficult because other kids aren’t able to relate or made fun of them. But youngsters at Parkside Elementary School, through programs at Parkside Elementary School, are finding themselves fitting right in thanks to Special Olympics.

Parkside Elementary was named one of just four National Unified Champion Schools in the State of Illinois, celebrating the honor at an assembly in the school gym on Oct. 24. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is an all-ages based program supported by the Federal Department of Education. A primary goal of the program is to motivate young people and give them tools, skills, and opportunities to help change their schools to have a genuine culture of inclusiveness, according to the national office of Special Olympics.

Unified schools have three main goals as set by Special Olympics: Inclusive sports; Youth leadership and advocacy; And Engagement in the program on the part of the whole school. At this assembly, Parkside Elementary was awarded a banner signifying the school’s commitment toward those goals.

In addition to the school’s 290 students, a number of former staff members and students who were part of the program in the past were invited to return to cerebrate receiving the honor. Also, a group of students who now attend neighboring Parkside Junior High School and were part of the program at the grade school in the past were invited to attend the celebration.

“It’s a tremendous honor for Parkside and we’re really proud of them,” stated Marty Hickman, Chief Operating Officer for Special Olympics Illinois, who represented the organization at this function. “They have exhibited all the things you would want a school to exhibit with regard to inclusion and helping students with intellectual disabilities to be part of their school community.”

A total of four schools in Illinois were receiving this honor and Parkside is the only elementary school in the State to claim the honor. The others are two high schools and a junior high school. There are a total of 400 schools Statewide which participate in the Young Athletes Program. Schools applied for the honor and needed to meet 10 excellence standards to qualify to be awarded the national recognition.

The program has been in place for 11 years, Hickman said, adding, “It creates an environment in this school where students with intellectual disabilities are more accepted, more included, and can have a richer and more full elementary school experience because of how they’re treated here.”

Fifth graders serve as peer coaches for students in Special Olympics’ Young Athletes Program, a program that involves students who are younger than age 8, explained Kathy O’Connell, Special Education physical education teacher at both the grade school and PJHS. The next step for athletes once they become 8-years-old is to be eligible to participate in Special Olympics programs and events. The Young Athletes Program has been available at the school for 13 years, O’Connell added.

O’Connell said students are taught lessons in the importance of respect toward people with disabilities. Because she teaches at PJHS, O’Connell sees the lessons at the grade school sticking with kids once they move on to secondary education. “They just grow up with it,” she said. “It just flows from one school to the other.”

To celebrate the accomplishment, the assembly’s audience included current and former students who have been involved in the Unified Sports Programs established at the school through Special Olympics, as well as hearing from some of those people.

Among the speakers were former athletes in both the Young Athletes or Unified Sports Program at the grade school. Eighteen year old Brandon Lake and his mother, Heather. Heather recounted for the audience that her son was a participant in the Young Athletes program starting at age five, and she has kept the first shirt he ever got when he entered the program at that time.

She admitted she was “an overwhelmed mama who was new to the world of disabilities” at the time she and her son came to see O’Connell about Brandon getting to be part of the program. For the Lake family, “Young Athletes Program line of Special Olympics events that Brandon participated over the years,” Heather Lake said. “But for me, personally, it marked a point in time where we were actually empowered to embrace our son’s strengths rather than his deficits.”

The assembly also heard from other parents and teammates in the Unified program who say they have learned from the experience.

Sean Foster, principal of Bloomington Central Catholic High School, also addressed the gathering, saying, “We are here to congratulate you on your accomplishment. It’s really important to have schools and organizations that partner together to help one another and serve one another. He noted that seniors at his school spend one of the last days of their high school career helping with the Young Athletes program. “By helping with this program, our students receive so much more in return.”

Before the program closed, Hickman spoke just before the banner with the national honor was presented. “I want you to understand not every school is able to be a national banner Unified Champion School,” he told the gathering. “A Special Olympics Unified Champion School has an inclusive school climate and exudes a sense of collaboration, engagement, and respect for all members of the student body and staff. “

With that, and after the presentation, school employees, members of the school’s Young Athletes Program, Special Olympics athletes, and coaches gathered around the banner as family and friends closed out the proceedings taking pictures with the newly-attained banner.

NORMAL – On the field, Chiddix Junior High School’s 8th grade Baseball team may have finished second at Illinois Elementary School Association State Tournament earlier this month, but appeared to hit it out of the park with how they carried themselves throughout the tourney away from the diamond. That was the message CJHS Associate Principal Wendy Davis had as she introduced the team members to Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members at the Board’s regularly-scheduled meeting Oct. 24. The meeting was held in the cafeteria of Normal Community West High School.

CJHS’ team was recognized by Board members for having placed 2nd in the Class 3A State Championship game on October 7, dropping a 3-2 decision to defending champion Edwardsville Liberty Junior High School. Davis introduced team members to the Board. The last game result gave CJHS a final record of 18 wins and 3 losses on the season. But the team had to wait through two days of rain delays to get to their big moment, Davis said. The team defeated Pekin Edison and Shorewood Troy junior highs to get their championship shot.

Davis began by praising her administrative assistant, Sandy Kohlhase, for her efforts in trying to get scheduling, arranging of team and fan buses, and handling the organizational matter involved with the team this season.

This team was only the second team in the last 50 years to reach getting to being runner up at State, Davis added. “That makes this team the highest-placing team that we know of in IESA. It’s a very, very big accomplishment.”

Davis gave praise to players’ parents and siblings, too. She explained there were quite a few posts on Facebook by parents keeping fans updated.

Davis also had praise for the team, saying, “This is a group of young gentlemen that are so on and off the field in terms of how they handle themselves, both at Chiddix and at other schools. We’re extremely proud of how they handle themselves and how they carry themselves. They have moral character in all situations. They remain very relaxed before a State final game. They are a group that will persevere and is committed.” She said their teamwork showed on the diamond during practices and games and away from them. She added the goals coaches and players had added to expectations by all concerned helped the team get as far as they did.

Team members are: Aidan Archibald, Kyle Beaty, Brandy Bengtson, Leif Blair, Owen Cavanaugh, Caden Correll, Christopher Courier, Lucas Drengwitz, Kaileb Hackman, Dane Harbert, Riley Hendren, Blake Potts, Jonah Roper, Drew Stevens, Ryan Theile, Devan Tupper, Charlie Vercruysse, and team manager Tucker Carlock. Charlie Shempf is the team’s head coach with assistant coach Ryan Short, and volunteer assistant coach Ben Smith, and volunteer coach Sean Shook. The head coach for CJHS’ 7th grade team is Brandon Knapp.

“Those Who Excel” Honorees Recognized: Board members were informed about groups and individuals within the district who were recently honored at the annual Illinois State Board of Education “Those Who Excel” Dinner held Oct. 19 at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel in Uptown.

Honorees from the district included: Unit 5’s Middle School English as Second Language (ESL) team; Early Career Educator Brock Keller; Leslie Davenport for receiving a Meritorious School Administrator Award; April Schermann for her work as a Classroom Teacher; Elizabeth Kelley for her work in Educational Service; and Naomi Kosier for her work for her role serving as Student Support Personnel.

Charlie Crabtree, who volunteered with Normal Community West High School girls’ basketball teams and was killed in an accident involving a Unit 5 bus and a truck last December, was also honored for his volunteerism by ISBE at the dinner. His wife, Kathy, and two adult daughters were present for the meeting.

Audit Report Presented: Board members heard a brief report on an audit conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP, represented by Lindsey Samp and Tommy Hoerr. The firm had only one major finding to report to Board members related to payroll expenditures. They discovered one instance of costs claimed for reimbursement in reality were exceeding costs actually incurred by the district. Board members unanimously voted to approve the audit report.

Academic Growth And Achievement Report Presented: Board members heard an update on how student academic growth and achievement is progressing in the district based on figures compiled in the 2018-19 school year. It was presented by Mo Backe, director of elementary education, Dan Lamboley, director of secondary education; and Darrin Cooper, director of teaching and learning. Among the highlights presented were that the district is exceeding the State when it comes to the percentage of high school students on track to graduate in four years.

The report presented showed Normal Community High School had 562 freshmen, 90.4 percent of them were on track to graduate. At Normal Community West High School, there were 417 freshmen, 89.8 percent were on track to graduate. Overall, that showed that 90 percent of the district’s freshmen were in this position, as opposed to the percentage of students statewide in that position. The State’s percentage of students in that position was 86.6 percent.

In terms of where students opted to go after getting their diploma from Unit 5 at the end of the last school year, the team’s research showed, of NCHS students, 57 percent attended a four-year college or university; 33 percent attended community college; 3 percent entered the military; and 7 percent entered the workforce.

Of Normal West students tracked, 44 percent attended a four-year college or university; 35 percent attended community college; 3 percent entered the military; and 4 percent entered the workforce.

Public Hearing Held Regarding Life Safety Projects: Prior to looking into allocating funds for life safety projects concerning parking lots and driveways at Normal Community West High School and Pepper Ridge Elementary, a public hearing was held for input from community members. No members of the public spoke. The district will now seek bids from contractors for the projects. Those bids will be opened with one bid presented to Board members for a vote at a future meeting.

New Human Resources Director Introduced: This meeting was the first for the district’s new human resources director. Roger Baldwin, 49, was introduced to audience members by District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel. He began his new job Oct. 21. He previously worked in the telecommunications field for 25 years, his previous job being with Frontier Communications and its predecessors for 26 years. The last nine of those years spend working in human resources. A Navy veteran, he received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Illinois State University. Explaining he had always been drawn to working with labor, and the more research he did on Unit 5, “the more it made sense to apply here.

Dates Announced For Music Parents Spaghetti Suppers: Jennifer Speirer, a parent representing the Unit 5 Music Parents Association, invited Board members to attend the two annual Spaghetti Supper events which will be held in November. The supper held at Normal Community West High School will be held Monday, Nov. 4. The supper held at Normal Community High School will be held Monday, Nov. 11. Both events will run from 5p.m.9p.m. She invited Board members to attend to the function. Tickets are available for cost at the door.

By Steve Robinson | October 10, 2019 - 10:36 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL — Board members of Normal-based Unit 5 School District unanimously approved renewing its contract with YouthBuild Charter School for five years. In doing so, the district will continue providing help to YouthBuild so that the organization can increase learning opportunities for students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for at-risk pupils. The vote took place at the Board’s regularly-scheduled meeting at district headquarters on Oct. 9. The district signed its first contract with YouthBuild in 2008.

In explaining the contract agreement between the district and YouthBuild, which expires in 2024, Curt Richardson, attorney for the district, informed Board members YouthBuild “is constantly working and changing and adding new programs to their curriculum. In addition to Unit 5’s Board approving this, YouthBuild’s Board of Directors needs to approve it. Once those two votes take place, the agreement is submitted to Illinois State Board of Education. If ISBE has anything they believe needs changing, the agreement would be brought back to Unit 5’s Board to vote on, Richardson said.

Tracey Polson, the local organization’s executive director, and Michelle Klatt, local chief financial officer for YouthBuild were both present at the session and thanked Board members for approving Unit 5’s portion of the contract.

Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker asked Richardson about the kinds of major changes which would be made to the contract before ISBE would give its approval. Richardson responded updates made to the contract would be related to new laws passed by the State which once didn’t apply to charter schools which now do so.

“In the last four years, we’ve looked at diversifying our vocational offerings,” Polson explained to Board members. She said while construction work had become a focus for placing students in jobs, not all of her students are gearing themselves toward that field. To address other fields of study, she explained, YouthBuild added an information technology track, which upon completion would give students a certification they can use once they get to secondary education.

Polson added YouthBuild has added a Certified Nursing Assistant training program, something she said will aid any of students who want to expand into the healthcare career field in the future. She said YouthBuild’s CNA program has begun a partnership with Heritage Senior Care Center. She said the CNA program will aid students wishing to expand their studies in the healthcare field.

Polison said YouthBuild is looking at expanding its culinary arts program, as well.

Resolutions Concerning School Safety Discussed: Board members engaged in a discussion related to items to be discussed at the IASB Resolutions Committee meeting in Chicago next month. Among the items to be discussed is whether or not to allow teachers in some districts to be armed, in light of the phenomenon of school shootings that have happened across the country over the years.

In beginning the conversation on the subject, Board President Barry Hitchins mentioned smaller school districts in the State don’t have the ability to afford resource officers – police officers whose primary beat is a school during the school year, and as a result, would consider training teachers to use guns to protect students.

Board Member Mike Trask addressed the subject by saying he doesn’t feel a need to arm teachers. He said arming teachers puts teachers in the position of having to taking on that responsibility. Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker had the same feeling about arming teachers, she said. She said she didn’t want to have to put teachers “in the position of being judge and jury” by carrying the weapon.

Richardson added a resource officer wouldn’t know which teachers would be armed in a shooting circumstance, adding to the concerns such situation present.

In a situation where a shooter is involved, explained Deputy Superintendent Dr. Ray Epperson, “Police are trained to neutralize a threat. If they see a third grade teacher with a gun, they don’t know if the teacher is the threat.”

Superintendent Search Survey Available, Forums Scheduled: Daniel announced at a news conference Sept. 9 his intention to exit Unit 5 at the end of the current school year, on June 30, when his current contract with the district expires. He explained at that news conference his decision was based on his and his wife’s desire to be closer to family who just had the Daniel’s first grandchild. He has been Superintendent since July 1, 2014.

At the Board’s Sept. 11 meeting, Board members heard a pitch from and voted to hire Oak Park-based School Exec Connect to help in the search for the district’s superintendent.

On Oct. 7, the district put out a memo addressed to “District Staff, Students, Parents, & Community Members” seeking input about what they would like to see in the next superintendent. The survey is available on the district website and went up Oct. 14 and will be up until Oct. 25.

Two forums on the subject will also take place, both at Sugar Creek Elementary School, on Tuesday, Oct. 22. The first forum is for Unit 5 staff members only beginning at 4:30 p.m. The second forum for students, parents, and community members will be held at 6:30 p.m. Findings from the survey, open forums, and several focus group conversations will be used to develop a new superintendent profile that will be reported to School Board members at a special meeting at on Wednesday, October 30, held at the district office. The public is invited to that meeting.

In a memo announcing the dates of the forums, Board President Barry Hitchins added, “As we move forward, our most important consideration is securing the strongest candidate pool, and ultimately the best person to lead our District. To that end, the Board of Education has decided to conduct a confidential search and only the final candidate’s name will be announced publicly.”

By Steve Robinson | September 26, 2019 - 10:54 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Players and parents associated with the local lacrosse team in the Twin Cities must have felt as though they scored a goal at the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board on Sept. 25. That’s because Board members unanimously approved adding the sport to the spring schedules of both Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School starting in 2020.

With their vote, Board members agreed for the district to enter into an agreement with Friends Of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse to assemble two varsity teams — one boys’, one girls’ – for competition beginning next spring. The teams will incorporate players from Bloomington High School into their teams

The students representing the organization and their parents listened as Nic Kearfoot, athletic director at NCHS, and Stan Lewis, athletic director at Normal West offered to address any issues Board members may have had. The teams will practice at the practice field at Kingsley Junior High School, the former home of NCHS, and games will take place at Ironmen Field at NCHS and Wildcat Field at Normal West. The ADs explained boys’ games will be played at NCHS while girls’ games will be played at Normal West. Lewis said the reason for that is because fields for girls’ games are marked differently than they are for boys’ games.

Lewis said since the schools got a bit of a late start in getting the organizational matters taken care of, more than likely the teams would travel to Chicago suburban schools for some games rather than playing host to those schools this time around.

Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker asked about what amount of class time would students be absent from if they are playing on the road. Lewis said that is a “valid concern for any of our sports,” adding if games are in the Chicago suburbs or St. Louis, he envisioned doing those games on Saturdays to prevent any class time from suffering as a result.

He said the teams’ options for local contests are a little more limited, but would be looking to play “during as many Saturdays as we could get within the confines of the season. The regular season runs from mid-March through mid-May followed by playoffs which run through May and part of June.

Bloomington-based District 87’s School Board was to have a presentation given to them to consider related to this venture. That meeting took place the same time Unit 5 met in the cafeteria of Normal Community West High School for their Board meeting Wednesday.

The sports conference both NCHS and Normal West belong to, Big 12 Conference, has no schools competing in lacrosse, Lewis said, but there are a couple coop teams within driving distance of the Twin Cities, including in Washington and Dunlap.

During public comments Mike Buelow, president of Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse, told Board members the group began in 2011 and only had 15 kids when it started and now has ten times that number now. “The dream of these athletes to play for their school is real, and with your help, it can become a reality.”

Layne Scheck, an NCHS sophomore and a member of the girls’ team associated with Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse, told Board members playing the sport has been beneficial to her in a number of ways including gaining close friends in the six years she has played the sport. She said the sport has taught her, among other things, perseverance, hard work, teamwork, and leadership skills.

After the meeting, Dr. Ray Epperson, assistant superintendent, explained Lewis and Kearfoot will next turn in a cooperative agreement with Illinois High School Association to have this team added to IHSA’s ranks in this sport. Epperson added the schools will post ads to seek coaches for the teams. There will be a varsity team and a junior varsity team for each of the schools being combined in this effort, he added.

Lewis and Kearfoot submitted applications with IHSA to have a two-year agreement for both boys’ and girls’ co-op teams once District 87’s Board approves the agreement.

Epperson said costs involved with this sport will include transportation, equipment, and coaches’ pay. Friends of Lacrosse, he added, will do fundraising and will turn proceeds from that over to the schools. The schools, in turn, will pay for officials, uniforms, and other related expenses.

Taking this approach, Epperson added, going forward should any other group wish to add a sport, a similar process for how it financially gets started could be used.

Normal West Girls Junior Varsity Basketball Team Honored In “Good News”: The resilience of Normal Community West High School’s girls’ junior varsity freshmen basketball team was honored in a ‘good news” item presented by the team’s head coach, Corey Ostling. On December 5, 2018, the school’s junior varsity “B” girls’ team was heading home from a game against Champaign Central when the bus was struck by a semi-truck heading the wrong way, resulting in a loss of life for two of the individuals, the driver of the truck that hit the bus and the team’s scorekeeper, Charlie Crabtree. The team’s head coach, Steve Price, and bus driver, Mark Kuhn, were injured in the accident and were both hospitalized.

“I cannot express enough gratitude to the counselors and the resources that Unit 5 have put into social emotional learning into understanding the importance of it,” explained Ostling. Explaining there is no test the girls could take in handling this, that this was an event which tested the girls’ character. In explaining how the girls handled the circumstances, Ostling added, “Time and time again, these girls rose above their challenge.”

“They showed strength not to give in to pain,” Ostling added in his addressing Board members. “They could have gone into a really dark place, but instead, were selfless and kept each other going. They also showed great self-awareness when they needed to reach out for help, and they did.”

The girls on the team are: Jori Bishoff, Abby Hoeft, Moni Howard, Kirsten Lellelid, Jess O’Brien, Olivia Reed, Grace Storm, and Haley Willan.

To honor Crabtree, the school has redecorated the entrance to the school’s large gym to honor the 72-year-old. The doors to the gym have been given a shiny new coat of black. Above the doors are draped the words “Westside Wildcats…Eat ‘Em Up, Eat ‘Em Up.” On the adjoining wall is a full-size black and white photo of the gym. In the upper right corner of the photo can be found the words, “In Memory Of Charlie Crabtree.”

Budget For 2019-20 School Year Approved: Board members unanimously approved a budget for the 2019-20 school year. It was the same budget shown them during a Board session in August. The district has a budget of $192 million but shows a deficit of $12.8 million. The district’s education fund from which most dollars used come from has a small surplus.

By Steve Robinson | September 12, 2019 - 10:46 pm
Posted in Category: Unit 5

NORMAL – At Wednesday, Sept. 11’s regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board, two days had gone by since Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel made his intentions known that he would be leaving at the end of the school year, on June 30, the result of a decision to take a job to be closer to family in the Chicago area. At the Board meeting held at Parkside Junior High School, Board members received details on how the search firm the district was considering hiring in aiding in the search for the new leader would proceed.

Dr. Jill Hawk and former school administrator Diane Robertson, representing Oak Park-based search firm School Exec Connect, gave Board members insight into how the firm works to help the district find the most qualified candidates for the position Daniel has held since July 2014.

Robertson explained that using focus groups and interviews with district staff, parents, students and other interested parties, the firm “will be looking for a good fit for your community. The only way to do that is to come in for a couple of days and talk to people.” Such community input, Robertson explained would give the firm an idea from those talks an answer to the question “what kind of skills does the superintendent need to possess?”

Robertson added the group would also produce and post an online survey for residents of the district to complete, as well as host “a couple of open forums.” “We don’t want you to settle,” Robertson told Board members. “We don’t want to bring you candidates number 8, 9, or 10.”

This next search for a new Unit 5 Superintendent would be the third consecutive one for the district using School Exec Connect, the previous two resulting in the hirings of Niehaus and Daniel. The cost for finding a new superintendent through School Exec Connect breaks down as $23,500 for consulting services; travel expenses not to exceed $5,000; and costs for advertising the opening, based on options chosen by the Board. The Board also has a background check option available from the company, which if the district opts to use it would cost $750.

Robertson said the firm generally begins with a planning meeting with Board members shortly after the firm is hired. She told Board members that during that meeting is the Board’s opportunity to tell the firm how they want the search to be done.

School Exec Connect’s reach stretches to not just Illinois but also Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Board members will take up whether to hire the firm at their Sept. 25 meeting.

Transportation Issues Continue: The issue of transporting students continues vexing the district. In his Superintendent Comments segment, Daniel said he understands parents are frustrated by issue of buses not getting students to their schools on time. Daniel told the audience he is frustrated about the situation, too. “The service we are receiving is not acceptable,” Daniel said in referring to the district’s transportation provider, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co.

“We understand most buses are running on time, but most is not enough,” Daniel said. He added he and Board members expect a quick solution from the provider. In addition to Daniel’s remarks, there were two public comments on the subject from Lindsey Dickinson, president of Unit Five Education Association and Tony Cole, a parent with two students in school in the district.

Dickenson pointed out that as a result of buses arriving late to some schools, those students miss out on between 30-45 minutes of class time at the start of the day. Cole added it sounded to him as though Unit 5 was attempting to solve the issue which he saw as primarily a communication breakdown between the district and First Student.

LaCrosse Co-Op Proposal Presented: Illinois Wesleyan University has both men’s and women’s lacrosse. There is a club lacrosse team, comprised of high school age players, both boys and girls, known as the Bloomington-Normal Warriors. Board members were presented with a proposal by Normal Community High School Athletic Director Nic Kearfoot which he and Normal Community West High School Athletic Director Stan Lewis have worked on which Kearfoot presented to start a lacrosse program at those two schools.

Currently, there is only a practice field for the club team – the field at Kingsley Junior High School, known as Truman Keys Field when the school was used by NCHS, Kearfoot explained. Kearfoot said in order for Lacrosse teams to use that field once more would require getting the field into shape as though it would be used for football. It has been over a decade since high school teams played football on that field, when it was a high school facility.

Being a spring sport, Kearfoot said he and Lewis have approached Illinois Wesleyan University Lacrosse coach Zach Iannucci about using Tucci Stadium, which is used for football and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Board Member Alan Kalitzky asked about how much money it would take to add the sport to its roster of athletic activities. District Operations Director Joe Adelman told Kalitzky answers to questions like that are being researched presently.

To get the sport approved by Board members and thus get set things in motion for the work needing to be done so that the sport can debut, potentially by next year, Board President Barry Hitchins informed Kearfoot that for the item to appear on the agenda of the Board’s next meeting on Sept. 25, Kearfoot would have to have the item submitted to the district office by Sept. 20.

Benjamin Elementary 4th Grader Recognized For District 70th Anniv. Art Contest Entry: When Board members met for their Aug. 28 session, they were introduced to a group of seven students from varying grade levels who won an art contest, the goal of which was to honor the district celebrating the milestone of its 70th anniversary. While she was not able to attend the prior session, Benjamin Elementary student Kaitlyn Call was recognized for her effort. At this latest meeting, Call’s art work displayed with her present by her principal, Marlys Bennington doing the honors.