By Steve Robinson | January 18, 2021 - 3:00 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Following a public hearing required by the State, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board discussed considering a motion to submit a request to Illinois State Board of Education to renew a waiver allowing the district to maintain the fee the district charges for driver’s education courses. The hearing was part of the regularly-scheduled meeting of school board members who met in the cafeteria of Normal Community West High School on Jan. 13.

The Board’s vote on the waiver renewal will take place at a future meeting. If approved by the Board at that time, it would be sent on to Illinois General Assembly for approval, and should that governing body approve it, would last five years, expiring in spring 2026.

During discussion regarding the waiver, Board President Amy Roser explained the district wished to maintain the fee the district charges for those courses to stay at a rate not to exceed $450. By State law, Illinois school districts can charge a “reasonable fee” not to exceed $50, which can be increased to up to $250 after a public hearing. Unit 5 charges $250.

The district originally applied for the waiver five years ago, said Curt Richardson, attorney for the district, in his explanation to Board members. He said this request is different because the earlier request involved asking for a modification to the application whereas the current request was for a waiver. He said once the waiver request is received by ISBE, that body forwards such requests on to Illinois General Assembly which will vote whether or not to approve it.

The waiver, Richardson said, if passed, would allow Unit 5 to maintain the increased fee. State Statute 27-24.2 of the State School Code, allows districts to charge “a reasonable fee of up to $250” after a public hearing is held. “We don’t, actually, right now charge the total $450,” Richardson explained. “It just gives us a little room if we need to.”

In fact, Richardson said, personnel costs to operate it is what takes up 90 percent of the program’s cost. He added the requested increase “allows us to provide a quality program.” As a result, he said, the district can provide more in-car training. Without it, he said, students would have to wait longer for such training and the district would have to pay an outside firm for such training.

He said if the district had to pay extra money for the training, which might affect other courses the district could offer students. Richardson added once the five-year period ends, the district wants to be able to end it with a goal of telling the State that 85 percent of students who took the course came away with a grade of “B” or better. There were no public comments, either written or in person, before Board members voted.

Available COVID Testing Among Items In Superintendent’s Comments: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weichel reported to Board members students returned to school buildings on Jan.11. Dr. Weikle said she “was pleased with how well our students have acclimated getting back into the buildings and into a routine with their teachers” after months of remote learning from home via computer.

She added Unit 5 schools will receive $1 million in on-site COVID testing, thanks to two local businesses. Rivian Automotive and Reditus Laboratories have partnered to provide the service to the district. Rivian donated $500,000 to Pekin-based Reditus Laboratories for COVID testing and Reditus matched that amount. That will provide for 9,000 tests. The tests will be available specifically for Unit 5 students and staff at no cost to the district.

The logistics of the testing will be determined in the coming weeks and will be shared with district families when finalized. Dr. Weikle explained no one will be required to take a test. Testing will be done on a completely voluntary basis for students and district staff. “Such convenience and timeliness of providing on-site testing for our staff and students will help the district better monitor and control the spread of COVID in the schools,” she said.

Board Gets First Look At 2021-22 School Year Calendar: Michelle Lamboley, assistant superintendent, provided Board members with a first glance at the district’s 2021-22 school year calendar. She added the committee forming the next school year’s calendar tried to model the upcoming calendar after the one the district would have had this school year had the COVID-19 pandemic not disrupted matters. Wednesday, Aug. 18 is scheduled as the first full day of classes for the new school year.

Lamboley said, typically, a school improvement day would be scheduled for a Friday in April at the end of the month. But for the coming year, the committee opted to move it up to mid-April. Other than that, she explained, there are no major changes to the coming year.

Board Member Barry Hitchins asked that the upcoming calendar include a note that late start dates, those used by district teachers for in-service events, not apply to the district’s early learning program participants.

Board Member Alan Kalitzky said news about an upcoming calendar “is a great sign of progress that the district is planning to move forward with, what is hopefully, a traditional school year. And I am hopeful that we will see it to fruition.”

Next Board Meeting Scheduled For Feb. 10 At Normal Community West High School: This was the only meeting scheduled for the Board this month. The next Board meeting is slated for Wednesday, Feb. 10 in the cafeteria of Normal Community West High School starting at 6:30p.m.

By Steve Robinson | December 11, 2020 - 10:32 pm
Posted in Category: News, The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School Board voted unanimously approved an increase in the tax levy for 2021 at their Dec. 9 regularly-scheduled session held in the cafeteria of Normal Community West High School. The cafeteria was used to help participants maintain social distancing during the pandemic.

The levy increase would mean a tax levy of more than $130 million for taxes payable next year. That would be an increase of the levy to $121 million, or of 7.85 percent. As a result, anyone owning a $150,000 home would see their property tax bill increase by $141.

The vote was taken in time to meet the deadline for submitting it to the McLean County Clerk’s Office for filing. The County Clerk’s Office will verify the levy in March or April and begin collecting the tax in May or June.

While Board members approved the increase, it led to some audience members expressing their objections to it.

“Seriously, Unit 5, you want to raise our property taxes again in the middle of a pandemic?” parent Marc Judd inquired during the meeting’s public comment section. “Perhaps you haven’t heard businesses are closing for good numbering 12,000 plus so far in Illinois. There are people losing their jobs. Are you really that tone deaf?” Judd inquired to Board members as to whether the district had considered cutting spending rather than tax increases to solve the financial difficulty. Board members do not typically engage with public commenters during meeting, and therefore, did not respond to Judd’s question.

Board Votes To Fire Teacher Accused Of Abuse: Board members unanimously approved the firing of a teacher accused of sexually abusing his students. Jonathan Hovey was charged with sexually abusing two students, but those charges were later dismissed. Hovey was charged in 2019 with sexually abusing those students while employed as a first-grade teacher at Glenn Elementary School.

Hovey hasn’t been in the classroom since April of 2019. Unit 5 placed him on administrative leave one day after the district received information from a mother whose child reported being abused during the 2017-18 school year.

Broadcast radio reports indicated that during the ensuing investigation, Normal police learned of a second, similar allegation against Hovey during the 2004-05 school year. But no charges were filed in that case, and Hovey continued teaching in the district.

Superintendent Comments: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle told meeting attendees the district has sent out a survey to parents to see if they wanted to change their students’ learning environment from school to home or from home to school. The change would be from the second quarter of the spring semester through the end of the 2020-21 school year in May. Dr. Weikle said the responses the district has received from parents are currently under review so that the district can plan for potential staffing changes.

Dr. Weikle also informed that the district’s pandemic advisory committee has met to look ahead toward the spring semester. But first, she said, the committee has checked to see how the second quarter of the first semester has gone to see what aspects went well and which could be improved upon. With families gathering for holiday, she said, the committee has discussed whether a short quarantining period should be employed for safety reasons after winter break concludes.

In a group call with McLean County Health Department staffers, Dr. Weikle explained, the department representatives reported they can’t explain the recent spike in COVID-19 cases which the county has experienced. She said school-aged children may not have been tested for the disease until after they returned to school for the fall.

Dr. Weikle concluded her comments with, “I know a lot of us are probably feeling that COVID fatigue, but I ask, and even plead, for everyone to take extra precautions over winter break, not only to protect yourself and your loved ones to keep them safe and healthy, but so we can get students back in the buildings.” Doing that, she said, will reduce the disease’s spread and help allow getting students and staff back in classrooms.

“Lastly, I just want to thank all of our Unit 5 families for all you are doing to support your school students this school year,” Dr. Weikle concluded. “I know the year is not what you had hoped as far as how your students might be learning and it’s definitely different than you have probably ever experienced. But I really do appreciate all that you’re doing to support your students and your teachers.”

Dr. Weikle also expressed appreciation to District teachers and staff, saying “They’re working harder than they have probably ever experienced in their careers.” She said their efforts “are recognized and noted, so thank you.”

Life Safety Recap Presented: Board members received an update from District Operations Manager Joe Adelman concerning life safety projects expected to be completed by the district in the current school year. A total of 30 projects are on tap for the school year to be completed for 10 schools and the district office. They include items such as: asbestos abatement, roof repairs, parking lot repairs, work related to energy efficiency, pool pump repairs, installation of exterior lighting, and chiller replacement.

Renewal of E-Learning Program Approved: Board members unanimously approved renewal of a researched based program for e-learning days district wide. This would allow for students to learn remotely when students are not physically present in lieu of the district using emergency days.

Students Comment On Standards Based Grading In Public Comments: In addition to Judd, Board members also heard from a couple district students concerning Standards Based Grading currently being used in the district. Conner McClelland, a senior at Normal Community High School, addressed Board members, saying he had concerns surrounding Standards Based Grading, currently being used by the district. He was one of two NCHS seniors who expressed duplicate views concerning SBG. McClelland said use of SBG was shown to have lowered ACT test scores in the subjects of Math and English when a survey was taken. “Standards Based Grading is not adequately preparing students for Standardized testing and instills the opposite work ethic needed to do well,” he said.

He added, “Being in the midst of a pandemic, we should shift our focus to the urgent issue of students’ mental health and the effects of remote learning.” He added that “myself, other students, alumni, parents, teachers, and the teachers union all have expressed our doubts about Standards Based Grading.”

Standards-Based Grading uses a system which evaluates the student using a model that evaluates the student using a scale based on proficiency, and ranges from 1-to-4. The students who spoke to Board members argue the scale does not fit for all classes and teachers do not use it consistently across the board regardless of the subject.

Insurance Renewals Approved: Board members also unanimously approved renewal of insurance policies for the district. Those include property and general liability insurance, school board liability insurance, workman’s compensation, automobile, and group medical.

Next Board Meeting Jan. 13: With the Christmas holiday coming, there will be no second Board meeting this month. The next scheduled Board meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 13 in the cafeteria of Normal Community West High School, where social distancing can be employed, beginning at 6:30p.m. It will be the only Board meeting held that month.

By Steve Robinson | November 12, 2020 - 10:17 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Concerns over a Covid-created teacher shortage, passage of an annual tax levy, honoring those who have served our country on Veteran’s Day, giving annual recognition of Board Members for their efforts on the district, and even hearing about a new extracurricular activity were all part of the mix that made up the contents of what was the only Unit 5 School Board meeting held Nov. 11 at Normal Community West High School.

Superintendent Informs About Sub Teacher Shortage: COVID-!9 has put “the district dangerously close to not being able to staff all of our buildings,” District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle informed a small audience who sat far apart for safety reasons due to the pandemic. “What that means is, we may not be able to keep all of our buildings open if we don’t get more subs.”

Dr. Weikle said Unit 5 already had a shortage of substitute teachers before the pandemic hit a year ago, and if teachers contract the disease, they must quarantine for 10 days before they can return to classrooms, or 14 days if they have been in close contact with others. That timing “definitely put a lot of stress on being able to staff our buildings,” Dr. Weikle added.

As a result, the district will be adding employees to serve in the position of Classroom Supervisor to lighten the load, she explained. In the week preceding the meeting, the district needed to fill but could not find people to fill 44 classroom positions. In terms of teaching positions, the district found itself short between 12 and 28 positions in the previous four school days.

For the work teachers who have covered another teachers classrooms on a short-term basis, Dr. Weikle said, “I am extremely and beyond grateful for our staff who have stepped up and offered to cover one another’s classrooms.” To do that, Dr. Weikle said that often meant the teachers stepping in were often giving up preparation time for their own classes in order to oversee an absent teacher’s class. She added even building administrators have stepped into classrooms when need arose.

But Dr. Weikle cautioned, “We can only do this so long because when teachers are covering for other teachers, that means they aren’t answering emails and help students in a timely manner.” She said anyone interested in becoming either a sub or classroom supervisor should apply for either of those posts at the district website, www.unit5.org.

Dr. Weikle also reminded the district is using metrics provided by Illinois Department of Public Health concerning whether in-person learning can and should continue versus needing to revert back to remote learning. She added that in the previous 10 school days, “students have done a great job wearing masks, and our staff are doing a great job.”

Tax Levy Decision Coming At December Board Meeting: Board members heard from District Business Manager Marty Hickman concerning filing the tax levy by the Dec. 31 deadline. Board members, at their next meeting Dec. 11, will consider adopting the levy. The County Clerk’s office will verify the levy in March or April and collecting the tax will begin in May or June.

Hickman said tax levy dollars account for nearly 65 percent of money used by the district, with State and Federal revenue, as well as other sources making up the rest of the money used by the district. The percentage taken in using property taxes for Unit 5 is $71.4 million. Federal revenue accounts for 7.54 percent, or over $8.3 million; State revenue accounts for 21.52 percent of what the district gets, or over $23.9 million, and 6.64 percent comes from other local sources, or over $7.3 million.

Veterans Day Remembered: This year’s November Board meeting, having been held on Veteran’s Day, and in the wake of the Coronavirus causing problems for large gatherings, meant the district could only mention and honor any veterans in attendance during the meeting. Normal Community West Principal Dave Johnson introduced meeting attendees to Normal West junior Hope Knoerle, and Art teacher Ali Akyuz and Technology teacher Bob Scormavacco who joined forces to produce a video which honors veterans. Akyuz establishes a theme for projects to be displayed in the school’s main corridor.

Akyuz said because students needed to meet digitally, the project became a video featuring students and veterans. Knoerle, who has been involved in the school’s technology program also addressed the meeting, saying during her three years at Normal West, she “has worked her way up in the digital media realm.”

In past years, Social Studies Teacher John Bierbaum and a number of his students would host a dinner for area veterans in the school cafeteria. But the Covid-19 pandemic prevented that from taking place this year.

Normal Community High School’s Doubles It’s “Good News”: Normal Community High School had two “Good News” items to present at the session, the first one being about a young lady seemingly always on the go, and winning awards in the process. Ali Ince may only be in the middle of her freshman year at Normal Community High School, but, thus far, she has proven when it comes to Cross Country, she can’t be slowed down.

NCHS Principal Trevor Chapman introduced the 9th grader to Board members who, as a member of the school’s girls’ cross country team, managed to win at recent meets including Intercity Cross Country, Illinois High School Association Class 3A Regional Championship, Big 12 Conference Cross Country Championship, and IHSA Class 3A Sectional Championship.

“She has been running like somebody’s chasing her everywhere she goes,” joked Chapman, in mentioning Ali, the daughter of Tony and Addie Ince of Bloomington. She has even managed to break a record in a 3 mile race with a time of 16:58:19.

“She’s involved in many other activities at school,” Chapman told Board members. Those would include Student Council, Best Buddies, and is also active with the school’s basketball and track teams.

“I want to say thank you to the school board for making Cross Country possible,” Ince said, addressing its members.

For the other item, Chapman introduced Board members to members of Normal-based Future Farmers of America chapter. He said that chapter has been named National Premier Chapter in Building Communities by the national organization during its 93rd annual convention and expo on Oct. 28. Students Madelyn Hubble and Kelsey Kern were among the presenters at this function. In addition to current FFA students, three NCHS graduates were honored for having received the highest honor FFA bestows on members, an American FFA Degree. He said it has been over a decade since such a recipient came from the district.

Those three and the year they graduated NCHS are: Makayla Kelley and Becca Merrill (Class of 2017), and Kenzie Kraft (Class of 2019). Of the honor the trio has received, Chapman explained the award is the highest recognition an individual can receive from National FFA and less than 0.05 percent of its members attain it.

Board Members Honored On Their Day: The State has set aside a day to honor school board members for the work do and hours they put in. This year, Illinois Association of School Boards designated Sunday, Nov. 15 as Illinois School Board Members Day. Honored this year were Board President Amy Roser, Vice President Alan Kalitzky, Secretary Dr. Kelly Pyle, and Board members Mike Trask, Meta Mickens-Baker, Barry Hitchins, and Taunia Leffler.

Roser, Kalitzky, and Dr. Pyle were recognized for having completed IASB courses related to Board membership. They all completed work related to earning a Board Member Level II designation while Leffler completed work related to earning a Master Board Member Level I designation.

Next Board Meeting Dec. 9: Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no second Board meeting in November. The Board’s next meeting will be on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Normal Community West High School beginning at 6:30p.m. The district has been using Normal West for meetings to help attendees maintain distance during the Coronavirus situation.

By Steve Robinson | October 31, 2020 - 10:07 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – With one abstention in voting, Board members unanimously approved a contract between the district and employees who are member of the union representing the district’s support professionals. The contract expires in 2023. Due to restrictions caused by the Covid pandemic, a number of the bargaining sessions between the district and Union representatives for these employees were done using Zoom video technology. Board Member Barry Hitchins cast the abstaining vote as he is married to a member of the union representing these district employees.

Curt Richardson, attorney for the district, informed Board members, “We had some virtual sessions and that kind of made it challenging because we had never done it that way before.” Through a number of sessions, the number of which he didn’t specify, Richardson characterized the negotiations as “good discussions which resulted in a contract with not a lot of substantive changes.”

Among the highlights of the contract for school office personnel working under this contract represented by Unit Five Support Professionals Association (UFSPA) will benefit from are that full-time employees who have been with the district for 20 years will receive an added week of vacation. He added the district, over the term of the full contract will see an increase in cost of 4.32 percent. UFSPA represents 265 administrative assistants, secretaries, and paraprofessionals in the district.

The State will raise the amount of minimum wage to be paid to employees to $15 per hour by 2025. Hitchins asked Richardson how that raise factored into these negotiations. Richardson said that did factor into negotiating the increase, adding that by the end of school year 2022-23, Unit 5 will still be paying above the minimum wage educational office personnel and others represented by their union during the contract period.

During that third year, per hour pay for UFSPA members will range from $14.07 an hour to $14.67 an hour, Richardson explained. Hitchins clarified and Richardson confirmed the district is still not where it needs to be in terms of paying the minimum that the State will begin to expect districts to pay by 2025 and that the State will not be adding funding to what it already receives from Springfield currently.

Board Member Alan Kalitzky complimented Richardson on his work during negotiations, adding, “This is an opportunity to show the level of value or attempt to show the level of value we have for these resources in our schools.” Board Member Mike Trask added his appreciation to both sides in the negotiations as they tried to complete the task virtually during the pandemic.

Students’ Return To Class, Covid, Part of Superintendent Comments: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle announced that in the past couple weeks of October the three-quarters of district students from various grade levels who planned on returning to school during the pandemic were filing back into classrooms after having begun the semester participating in district learning. There are still about one-quarter of district students whose parents are opting for students to remain home continuing distance learning. The return began with Pre-Kindergarten through 2nd grade, 6th grade, and 9th grade students, followed a week later by students in grades 3, 4, and 5, followed by 7th and 8th graders, and high school sophomores through seniors.

Dr. Weikle said she had been visiting “a number of buildings, and a building is just not a building without the kids in it. I’ve seen so many smiles and students who have expressed their gratitude and pleasure and happiness to be back with their teachers. I saw a lot of smiling faces from the teachers, too.”

“I really just want to thank our students and families,” Dr. Weikle added. “I know, that for a lot of our families, this was a tough decision.” She added students are “doing a great job of wearing their masks and trying to follow social distancing.” She credited all staffers for their efforts for their efforts under these circumstances, acknowledging, “It’s not an easy task to do what our teachers are doing by trying to teach in-person learners,” as well as putting together “really engaging lessons” for students who are still learning remotely.

In terms of remote learning, Dr. Weikle said the district is using between 6-8 teachers per grade level in Kindergarten through 5th grade using teachers who either volunteered for the assignment or were reassigned to remote classes. Remote class sizes, she said range in size from between 12 and 35 students.

She said there are still some parents who desire for their students to switch from in-person to remote. But, Dr. Weikle said, “as sympathetic as we are to families changing their minds, we can’t have that constant back-and-forth because, as I said, some of the classes have 35 students in them for remote.” As a result, she said, the options open to the district are adding more students in the remote classes, or reassign additional teachers to teach remotely.

Dr. Weikle said adding more students to remote learning “isn’t a good idea, and adding more teachers to remote classes would also be disruptive.” As a result, she said, the district has ceased allowing students to go from in-person learning to remote learning.

The district conducted a survey over the summer concerning options concerning district versus in person learning. Dr. Weikle said stopping such changes from becoming an option “will make some parents really unhappy.” She added that from the options available to the district, Unit 5 is trying to make the best decision working with what she characterized as “really not great options.”

She added the district is keeping track of how many students may have or have contracted the Coronavirus and posted those details on the district’s website. “Our plan is to make parents and staff members aware of when we are made aware of a positive case,” she said, letting them know when a person with the virus has been in a school building at some point. Dr. Weikle said it is a procedure the district has been using since late August. She added the district has a team which monitors Coronavirus cases once they are made aware of them, and works with the McLean County Health Department to research contacts infected persons have had since contracting the virus.

The district’s website, www.unit5.org, indicates metrics, and that would include where students and staff have reported contracting a positive case of the disease.

Dr. Weikle reminded Unit 5 schools would not be open on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Normal Community West High School’s “Good News”: Dr. Weikle also introduced Board members and the small distantly spaced audience in Normal Community West High School’s cafeteria to Jasmyn Jordan, a senior at Normal West. Jordan is the winner of the Harry Hightower Award presented by the Bloomington-Normal NAACP. Dr. Weikle explained the award is given to a student who “embraces the spirit of diversity while being energetically and enthusiastically engaged in community service, community projects, and other community-based activities.”

Jordan is the founder of the Black Student Union at her school, which she accomplished toward the end of her sophomore year. She has been part of Normal West’s Freshmen Mentoring Program, as well. She is the daughter of Gail and Lyle Jordan. After being introduced, Jordan told the meeting, “Thank you to everyone who came out here tonight, and thank you to everyone who supported me throughout my years at high school, middle school, and elementary school when I was home schooled.” Of the Black Student Union, Jordan said, “I’m really proud of how far it has come and I’m really excited to see how far it goes next year.”

IASB Proposed Resolutions Recap Given: Board Member Dr. Kelly Pyle gave a report on virtual meetings due to the Coronavirus that were held or are scheduled to be held by Illinois Association of School Boards. IASB held one meeting Oct. 21 with the second session to be held Nov. 5. Pyle explained a final vote on the resolutions will take place on Nov. 14. IASB has submitted 12 resolutions for membership consideration. Topics ranged from gun storage to licensing of Pre-K teachers to E-Learning on Election Day to Pandemic Control for districts.

Dr. Pyle said the resolution on gun storage prompted “lengthy discussion, as did Pre-K teacher licensing.” With regard to gun storage, IASB’s resolution reads, “Be it resolved that the Illinois Association of School Boards shall support and advocate for legislation which strengthens child safe gun storage laws in the State of Illinois, requiring gun owners to store firearms, whether they are loaded or unloaded, in a securely locked container, if a person under the age of 18 is likely to gain access to the weapon without permission.”

Unit 5 experienced a shooting incident on Sept. 7, 2012 at Normal Community High School when a 14-year-old student brought a gun into a classroom and was subdued by his teacher. During a struggle between the student and the teacher, the gun went off with the bullet being fired into the classroom ceiling. There were no injuries. Students evacuated the building and went to nearby Eastview Christian Church, where students waited until they could be released to their parents.

By Steve Robinson | October 17, 2020 - 10:14 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – When Unit 5 set a date for remote learning to come to an end with students returning to class this past Monday, the district not only anticipated but knew about 76 percent of the students would return to class. The district learned through a survey it conducted late last month parents of the remaining 24 percent still had concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic enough they wanted to maintain their children continuing schooling through remote learning.

Because of that division between students attending and not attending in person, “we had to reassign some classroom teachers at the elementary level from Pre-K to grade 5, to be fully remote instructors,” explained District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle to Board members and a small socially distanced audience at Normal Community West High School during the Board’s Oct. 14 session.

The scheduling for students’ return will work this way: Students in Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten through 2nd grade, 6th grade, and 9th grade returned to classrooms this week. The week of Oct. 26-30, students in grades 3 through 5, 7 and 8, and 10 through 12 will return to in-person classes.

Shifting the teachers around meant students, regardless of whether they were general education, bilingual students, and special education students, would be affected by the rearrangement, in an attempt to meet students’ needs, Dr. Weikle explained.

When district officials estimated how many parents might opt to continue their children to learn remotely, Dr. Weikle said they anticipated between 20 to 25 percent might still want to continue remote learning.

Concerning the students participating remotely, Dr. Weikle said, “They are still getting instruction from a Unit 5 teacher, it is just happening in a remote environment so they have, with them learning remotely, they have daily attendance, and that attendance is taken by logging in, participating in the instruction by the teacher, and turning in work.”

The students who will be attending in person will do it in shifts, Dr. Weikle said, with half of the students attending on Mondays and Thursdays, and half doing remote instruction on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are neutral with everybody taking in remote instruction from home, Dr. Weikle said.

Where families have children with multiple last names, attendance schedule will be determined based upon the last name of the oldest child will apply for all students in that family.

Public Comments To The Board Regarding Returning Students To Classrooms: Lindsay Mitchell, parent of a son who is a freshman and a daughter in her junior year at Normal Community High School, registered her concern that her daughter was experiencing some stress as a result of needing to do school work remotely. “Our children need to be in school five days a week and that this really does impact their future,” she told Board members. “I just, honestly, in my heart, feel that we need to return to full five days a week instruction is necessary and imperative.”

Board members also heard from three separate parents whose children attend the bilingual students program at Cedar Ridge Elementary School. Through an interpreter, the parents raised questions concerning, among other things, whether there would be enough space given to keep students safe from coronavirus.

“Good News” Concerns Susy Marcum Named “Best School Nurse”: Board members met and were informed that Registered Nurse Susann “Suzy” Marcum, who serves as school nurse at both Fairview Elementary School and Grove Elementary School, was named “Best School Nurse” in the State by Illinois Association of School Nurses. The association represents 900 nurses statewide.

Normal Community High School’s “Good News” About Honor For AD Nic Kearfoot: Board members learned from Normal Community High School Principal Trevor Chapman that NCHS athletic director Nic Kearfoot has been named Illinois High School Association Division 5 Athletic Director of the Year for school year 2019-2020. Chapman, in his memo to Board members, credited Kearfoot with “setting up for athletic events, ensuring that all logistics have been organized, and making sure events themselves go off without a hitch.”

Chapman also acknowledged Kearfoot’s work with the Great Plains Foundation, which assists young men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping those young people to continue their educations and be able to contribute to their communities. Kearfoot has been AD at NCHS since 2018, when he replaced Mike Clark who retired.

UFEA Contract Approved: By a 6-1 vote with one Board member abstaining, Board members approved a three-year contract between the district and members of Unit Five Education Association members, which would expire in 2023. Because he is married to a UFEA member, Board Member Mike Trask abstained from voting on the contract.

Contract With Kelly Education For Hiring Substitute Teachers Approved: Board members unanimously approved a contract with Michigan-based Kelly Education for hiring of substitute teachers. From their offices out-of-state, Joseph Kelley, vice president for business development and strategic partnerships, and Stefani Neumann, strategic sales manager, introduced Board members to how their company, a division of Kelly Services which has been in existence for seven years, functions.

Kelley said the first thing Kelly Education will do is hire all current substitutes and would lift any pension restrictions regarding work with relation to the Affordable Care Act. He said new members to their program would receive professional development, as well.

Kelley told Board members while Kelly Education would be operating the substitute teaching program, it is the district who would have control of it. “You have the final say as to who is hired in this program,” he said. He said the company has a hiring pool ratio of 3-to-1, so that for every absent employee, three substitutes would need to be available.

He added that if there are retired district teachers who wish to continue teaching, Kelly Education encourages “wanting to keep as many people who want to work within your schools working once they retire.”

Board Receives, Unanimously Approves Annual Audit Report: Board members received, and voted unanimously to accept, an annual audit report from Hope Wheeler, a principal with Champaign-based audit firm of CliftonLarsenAllenLLP, reported to Board members they had no modifications or no issues found during the course of the audit.

Board Member Mike Trask reminded that there was one finding the district needed to address last year, and compared having a clean audit this time to a baseball pitcher throwing a perfect game, and added, “Collectively, across the district, it is, quite frankly, a team effort – not only with our finance department, but anybody who deals with any sort of transactions, whether it’s building principals, staff members, and to get an absolutely clean audit is phenomenal.”

The result of the audit “shows what an exempleary staff in every facet in every building our leadership has provided financially,” Board Member Dr. Kelly Pyle added. Wheeler returned the compliment to the district explaining the district has acted quickly to correct issues when discovered in previous audits.