By Steve Robinson | January 13, 2019 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, Lexington, The Normalite

It’s Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament time again. The 108th annual event starts Saturday at El Paso Gridley High School with opening round action and runs through to a girls’ championship game and a boys’ championship game, both at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus on Saturday, Jan. 26. The tourney will take its customary break on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Former local broadcaster L. A. Decker has served as public address announcer for the entire tourney at Shirk for a number of years now and has taken the pulse of the event for some time, predicting which teams will get furthest. The one thing Decker does not do, however, is predict who will win championship games. He said upholding that personal policy helps him maintain objectivity. He does, however, almost sound like a pro scout at times in his analysis which helps novice fans and students of the game know what is going on with local teams.

Lexington Girls Seeded Third: Decker points to the girls’ teams seeded first and second in the tournament as being “head and shoulders above” the remaining teams in the field. Those would be top seed Eureka (19-2 overall and 10-0 HOIC) and second seed Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (17-4 overall and 8-1 HOIC). But coming right behind them are the Lexington Lady Minutemen (13-2 overall and 7-1 HOIC), earning the third seed. The key to Eureka is, according to Decker, “They don’t rebuild when they have new players. They retool.”

“Lexington could surprise some people,” Decker said, adding they would not be the only team to do so, saying the same about fourth seeded Ridgeview. Lexington has only lost a conference game and a non-conference game so far. “The Minutemen girls are definitely the surprise team from what I have seen in the records,” Decker said. The Ridgeview Mustangs were 15-4 overall and 7-1 Conference at this writing.

The Lady Minutemen recently lost to Dwight, a loss which halted a 9-game winning streak for head coach Bill Elias’ crew.

“Tremont beat LeRoy Jan. 8,” Decker reminded. “That vaulted the Turks ahead of LeRoy in the standings.

Decker said he sees Elias’ team in the final four of the tournament, along with the other top three seeds, but cautions either Deer Creek-Mackinaw or El Paso Gridley could sneak in to disrupt the scenario. With all the first round games at EPG Saturday, eighth seed Flanagan-Cornell will face ninth seed Heyworth to open the tournament on Saturday at 11:30a.m. Fourth seed Ridgeview hosts 13th seed Fisher at 1p.m. Fifth seed Dee-Mack hosts 12th seed Tri-Valley at 2:30p.m. Seventh seed EPG hosts 10th seed LeRoy at 4p.m. Sixth seed Fieldcrest takes on 11th seed Tremont to close out the day at 5:30p.m.

Decker said he “sees the chalk holding up” meaning the top four seeds survive their challenges, with Eureka facing GCMS for the title.

LeRoy Boys Seeded Fifth: GCMS is the top seed in the Boys’ Tournament bracket, with the Falcons owning a 15-2 record as of Sunday, including a perfect 7-0 conference mark. Deer Creek-Mackinaw is seeded second at 15-3 and 4-0 conference, and Tremont is seeded third. The Turks have a 15-4 overall record which includes being 4-2 in conference play. LeRoy, the fifth seed, has the highest seed in the Boys’ bracket of county schools, just below fourth seed Fieldcrest. While that won’t be seen as encouraging to some readers of this column, Decker said LeRoy (9-4 overall and 6-1 Conference as of this writing) should not be overlooked or counted out once play begins.

Head coach Rodney Kellar’s Ridgeview Mustangs are 10-8 overall and 3-4 in conference, and seeded ninth in the tournament. They are slated to take on eight seed Downs Tri-Valley to start the day Saturday at 11:30a.m. Lexington boys, seeded 13th, will open the tournament against fourth seed Fieldcrest Saturday at 1p.m. LeRoy’s fifth seed puts them against 12th seed Fisher in a 2:30p.m. matchup. Seventh seed Eureka meets 10th seed Flanagan-Cornell in a 4p.m. contest. Sixth seed EPG finishes the day at 5:30p.m. against 11th seed Heyworth.

Although they are the last single-digit seed, Decker said, he doesn’t know if that makes the Mustangs a longshot or the wild card in the race. He added Tremont is likely the team to watch because the Turks “have spoiled a few parties for teams” when on the court this year.

Lexington’s boys’ team has struggled in the early season, Decker said. The Minutemen as of Sunday were 7-11 overall and winless in six tries in conference play. Last season, the Minutemen “held their own,” as Decker explained it, against HOIC opponents but have yet to demonstrate that skill this season. Decker predicts GCMS and Tremont will square off for the championship.

Regardless of who wins, there will be bragging rights attained for the winners, disappointment and possibly a few tears shed by the defeated, but the games and their outcomes will at least give us a week where we can try to take our minds off of any winter blahs we may be encountering and give us time to enjoy the competition.

By Steve Robinson | January 7, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Developers unveiled what they have in mind for the proposed five-story building on the east side of the Roundabout during the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal Town Council Monday night. During the meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, representatives from Iowa-based Bush Construction laid out their vision for what that section of Uptown could look like once construction is completed, a project they have dubbed Trail East. They also laid out a proposed time table of when work on the project would begin.

Jerrod Engler, vice president of construction for the construction firm told Council members the five-story structure would be a 120 sq. ft. mix of brick and paneling, and that second and third floors already had companies already interested in becoming tenants. Private residences would make up the fifth floor, he added.

Engler explained the developers envision the building having a food mart located where it faces the corner of College Ave. and Constitution Blvd. Another tenant showing an interest and being added to the project is Windy City Wieners restaurant, currently located at 108 E. Beaufort St. Windy City Wieners, Slingshot Cowork at 106 E. Beaufort St., and the building which formally housed The Pod art center at 104 E. Beaufort St. would all come down to make way for the proposed development.

Town Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich told Council members all utilities for the new building would go underground along E. Beaufort St. and the Town will foot the bill for making that possible. He added construction could result in some street closures. He added the Town has been in contact with and will stay in contact with property and building owners in the area throughout the construction period.

John E. Bishop, senior architectural manager for The Farnsworth Group, told Council members structural design on the project would begin in May and implementing the design would begin in June. Anticipated completion for the roughly $30 million project would be August of 2020.

The proposed development had residents both in support of it and against it speak to Council members prior to the developers’ presentation. Resident Stan Nord in telling Council members he opposed the project, adding, “The Town should subsidize $4,200 per month rents. Normal is more than Uptown. Other parts of Town have needs.”

Resident Mike Matejka told Council members he supported the project and added he hoped the developers would use local union workers in the construction process.

In voicing his objection to the project, former Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli told Council members, “Preserving artwork was mentioned when this project was brought up. Let’s shift to keep the artwork. There are ways to preserve the historic nature of this town.”

Mural Relocation Discussed: Concerning artwork located at 104 E. Beaufort St., Council members unanimously approved a resolution to waive the formal bid process and authorized City Manager Pam Reece to enter into an agreement with Bloomington-based The Farnsworth Group for removal and relocation of the mural there in anticipation of that location becoming part of the future development in Uptown discussed earlier in the meeting. In 2011, an art business, The Pod, located at that address, began giving access to artists to create a mural on the building’s west side which was visible from the Roundabout.

But the business closed in January 2017 and the store has been vacant since. During public comments to Council members at the start of the meeting, current Town Council candidate Karyn Smith registered objections to the destruction of the mural as being part of what would happen in order for the proposed five-story building to go up on that site. Smith said the change in the cost of construction of the five story building is all due to a change made by the developer.

Although not part of the original plan when Council members approved the plan in October, 106 E. Beaufort St., too, along with 104 and 108 were slated to be torn down for the building site. That change moved the project’s cost up by $800,000, from $29.2 million to $30 million. The Town’s contribution, too, has jumped as a result, from $8 million in future property taxes to $8.65 million in property and sales taxes.

Reece told Council members the cost involved in removing the mural from the building and relocating was researched by the Town and found to run between $56,200 and $81,560. She added the Town may seek to recover costs incurred in the project from the building’s previous tenants.

Council Approves Special Use For Rooming House: Council members unanimously approved a special use permit for a building in a residential neighborhood. A two-story home at 405 Normal Ave. is being considered as a rooming house for use by Alpha Omicron sorority. The sorority would like to use the building to house 23 students and a house mother. Normal’s Zoning Board of Appeals gave conditional approval to the project at their Dec. 18 meeting.

James Knightright lives a couple doors down from the building and told Council members he wasn’t concerned about the students who would be coming into his neighborhood, but rather that the process used by the Town “excluded locals” to give their say on the matter. In addition, he told Council members a parking ban on that street in force from 6a.m.-9a.m. was “inconvenient and treats students disrespectfully.”

Widmer Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Board: Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen announced to the gathering the appointment of Rob Widmer to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board. Recently retired as President of Heartland Community College, Widmer, a grandfather of 11 children, has had opportunities to experience first-hand. He is filling an open seat of the Board and his term expires July 30, 2021.

Two Omnibus Items Approved: Council unanimously approved two omnibus items: Approval of minutes from the Council’s regular meeting of Dec. 17, 2018, and payment of Town expenditures as of Jan. 3, 2019.

By Steve Robinson | December 17, 2018 - 10:17 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Regardless of a community’s political climate, any notion of a mayor and city council granting themselves a pay hike will strike residents of the community in one of two ways: One side will see it as a necessary step to continue to help those elected continue to do their job, even if a cash incentive isn’t why those elected serve, while another side will decry its necessity while pointing out a potential financial burden to the community.

And with an election coming for Normal Town Council members in April, some might think it dicey to try to pass any such action now. Yet, at Monday’s regularly-scheduled session held in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Council members did approve two ordinances – one granting a raise to Normal’s mayor beginning after being elected in 2021, and one granting a raise for those persons elected to Council after being elected in 2023.

Currently, Mayor Chris Koos earns $18,000 annually for the job. That amount was approved in 2009, boosting the pay up from $10,000 annually. As a result of the vote on the ordinance Monday, whoever runs and wins the mayoral post will be paid an annual sum of $32,000, effective May 1, 2021. The second ordinance passed would see Council members’ annual pay jump from $4,800 to $6,800, effective May 1, 2023.

In fact, the final figures approved by Council members for both Mayoral and Council pay saw amendments proposed by one Council member who is not seeking re-election in the spring. Prior to voting on the ordinances, Jeff Fritzen proposed an amendment to each ordinance lowering the amount of annual pay proposed. In the case of Mayoral pay, he proposed only bumping it to $25,000, and lowering the Council offering to $6,000.

Both of those suggested amendments were defeated – the mayoral pay reduction by a 4-2 count, with Council Members Kevin McCarthy and Fritzen voting for its passage, while Koos, and Council Members R. C. McBride, Kathleen Lorenz, and Chemberly Cummings voted it down. Council Member Scott Preston was not present at the meeting. Fritzen’s other suggested amendment, to cap an increase in Council members’ pay at an annual $6,000, failed on a 5-1 vote, with Fritzen being the only member favoring it.

Voting on the original Mayoral pay raise to $32,000 annually passed by a 4-2 vote, with Fritzen and Lorenz voting against it. Voting on the original Council members’ pay hike also passed by a 4-2 count, with Lorenz and McBride voting against it.

Both the public and Council members had their say during the session. Andy Shirk, president of Beer Nuts, Inc., told Council members he supported the increase because “I believe the Mayor and the Council are under-compensated due to the time commitment and personal financial burdens placed on each of you for you to serve our town.”

Former Council candidate Ron Ulmer expressed the opinion the Council should consider passing term limits laws for all of its elected offices and appointed boards. Doing that, he said, would reduce any financial burden on the Town. “I do not any longer vote for anyone who has held the same elected office for 12 years or more. I urge Normal to lead the way to vote for term limits.”

Former Normal Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli told Council members some citizens do not see all of the functions Council members attend as being defined as essential to the post, citing marching in parades as an example. “If we can justify that there has been a significant step-by-step increase in duties, then great,” Tiritilli said, adding, “Personally, I haven’t seen it. If this is a 40-hour plus position, then let’s make it a full-time job. But I need to see the justification for why the pay has to go up so much.”

New Fire Station Land Rezoned: Council members unanimously and without discussion voted to approve rezoning land at the corner of N. Main St. and S. University on which the Town’s new fire station and headquarters is located. As a result of the vote, the land will now be rezoned S-2 Public Lands and Institutions from its previous designation of B-1 General Business.

In 2017, the Town and Illinois State University used a land swap so the new fire station could be build on properties previously addressed as 602, 604, 606, and 608 S. Main St., and portions of 601 and 603 S. University St. On Dec. 6, a public hearing was held by Normal Planning Commission but no one spoke at that hearing. Commission members voted 6-0 to pass the rezoning request which was sent to the Council to receive final approval.

Community Investment Plan Approved: Council members unanimously approved a motion approving the Fiscal Year 2018-19 to Fiscal Year 2023-24 Community Investment Plan. Presented in a review to Council members by Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn, CIP is used by Town Council members prioritize capital investments.

CIP for FY 2018-19 through FY 2023-24 includes a total of 124 capital projects with an approximate cost spent on them of roughly $88.3 million. CIP also flags potential additional projects with a total cost to complete them during the period of $111.8 million. Those additional projects, however, are not being recommended during the six year period, Huhn explained.

Five categories CIP is spent on are public facilities, capital assets, developing transportation, development of parks and open space, and utility service. The amount of money sought to be spent during the five year period ending in 2024 is over $6 million less than was planned by the Town to be spent during 2018-2023 CIP.

Committee Appointments Announced: Fritzen announced a number of recommended appointments to a Board and a Committee before the session ended. He announced that Tracie Henry has been appointed to the Children’s Discovery Museum Board of Directors. Henry is an assistant executive director at Illinois High School Association. Henry is filling an open seat on the Board for a term that will expire on June 30, 2022.

Three new members were appointed to the Sister Cities Committee and were announced at this meeting. Patrick Clapper of Normal will join the committee. An employee of State Farm Insurance, Clapper formerly lived and worked in Japan and has been active in the Sister Cities Program. Hudson resident Sally Modine is employed by Normal-based Unit 5 School District, assigned to Kingsley Junior High School. In addition to her own involvement with Sister Cities, Modine’s son, Nicholas, participated in the Program’s Junior Ambassador exchange to Asahikawa. Ryan Apple, the third appointee to the committee, was himself an exchange student in the Junior Ambassador program. His grandmother also had served on the Sister Cities Committee. One of these three will fill a vacancy on the committee created by the departure of Toyoka Nishikara.

Convention And Visitors Bureau Bylaws Change Allows Appointments: As a result of Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau adopting a revised and updated set of bylaws, part of those bylaws allow for Normal’s mayor to appoint four board members to CVB. The four Koos appointed are: Migidi Tembo, general manager of Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel; Beth Whisman, cultural director for the Town; and Council Members Kathleen Lorenz and Kevin McCarthy.

Liquor Commission Approves License, Levies Fines: Serving in their capacity as Normal Local Liquor Commission, Council members approved a liquor license application for Kam Liquors, Inc., doing business as Budget Liquors at 200 S. Linden St . The establishment applied for a Class A (All Liquor – Off-Premises Consumption — Package).

Commission members voted unanimously to approve settlements with six establishments, the managers of which have all submitted guilty pleas and paid fines to the Town. Normal Catering, doing business as Bloomington-Normal Marriott, 201 Broadway, was fined $500 for what was a second offense in two years. The Town discovered the violation during a liquor audit on Sept. 20.

Also fined $500 for a second offense was also levied against Freedom Oil Co., 601 S. Main St . , for selling alcohol to a person under age 21, the result of a liquor audit on Nov. 5. This business has paid the fine.

Three other establishments saw settlements with the Town of their cases, as well. All three were fined $250, which as been paid. Highland Management Group LLC, doing business as Diamonds, furnished liquor to a person under age 21 during a liquor audit Sept. 20. This was the first offense for this establishment.

Freedom Oil Co., doing business as Freedom Oil Co., 601 S. Main St ., furnished liquor to a person under age 21 during that same audit. The Town fined the business $250 for what was a first offense in the last four years, and the fine has been paid.

Also fined as a result of the Sept. 20 audit was Schnuck’s Markets, Inc., doing business as Schnuck’s, 1750 Bradford Lane . The business sold alcohol to a person under age 21. Schnuck’s management was fined $250 which it has paid to the Town. This was a first offense for this store in 11 years.

Two other establishments were in the midst of negotiating a settlement with the Town when the Council agenda was released Dec. 14. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., doing business as Chipotle Mexican Grill #1633, 701 S. Main St., was found to have furnished alcohol to a person under age 21. Settlement arrangements with the Town are in progress. The other establishment is Bradford Lane Italian Foods, LLC, doing business as Rosati’s Pizza of Normal, 1720 Bradford Lane , which was found to have furnished alcohol to a person under age 21. Rosati’s is also in working out settlement arrangements with the Town.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Council members used an omnibus vote to approve the following agenda items:

• Approve the minutes of the Strategic Planning Session Oct. 18, 2018.

• Approve the minutes of the Strategic Planning Session Oct. 19, 2018.

• Approve the minutes of the Special Meeting Nov. 2, 2018.

• Approve the minutes of the Public Hearing Dec. 3, 2018.

• Approve the minutes of the Regular meeting Dec.3, 2018.

• A resolution waiving the formal bid process and authorizing the purchase of a 2018 Ford Explorer in the amount of $25,380 from Greenfield, Ill.-based Morrow Brothers Ford, Inc., an authorized vendor for the State of Illinois Joint Purchasing Program.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an intergovernmental agreement with McLean County for centralized booking services.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and executing an agreement with Chicago-based Redbox Workshop for design, fabrication, and installation of the ImagineAir exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum in an amount not to exceed $127,500.

• A motion extending the Diabetes Management Program for one year.

By Steve Robinson | December 15, 2018 - 9:30 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite

As I write this, the clock winds down on a number of events upcoming: Christmas shopping, the Christmas holiday itself, and the days toward the first big basketball event of the season, the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic, known to many in these parts as simply “The Classic.”

This will be the 40th annual event for boys’ basketball for this event, although not consecutively. Dave Oloffson, vice president of the group that operates the tournament, reminded me the tourney didn’t run for a few years in the mid-1980s. Be that as it may, we have arrived at a milestone year and the anticipation is building.

This year’s Classic will run from Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 26-29 at a number of locations throughout Bloomington-Normal. Those locations include Normal Community High School, Normal Community West High School, Bloomington High School, and of course, Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus. It has become the event of the season after we have all had time with family and want more time to continue having fun while watching high school athletes attempt to add a few Ws to their team records.

In the Small School Boys Division, Aurora Christian was given the top seed by the Tournament committee. Three teams from within town and the county join them to try to reach the championship, and in the process, two of them will have to face each other in the opening round. El Paso Gridley is seeded fifth and will face 12th seed Winnebago on Dec. 26 at 5p.m. at Shirk. Bloomington Central Catholic is seeded seventh and will square off against 10th seed Downs Tri-Valley for a 10:30a.m.session at Shirk. It would take making it to the championship game or the 5th place game for two of these local teams to face one another.

Normal Community High School is seeded 7th in the Large School Boys Bracket and will face 10th seed Mahomet-Seymour in their opening round contest Dec. 26 at Normal West starting with a 5p.m. tipoff. University High is the only other local or county team in this bracket. The 12th seeded Pioneers will face 5th seed Zion-Benton at 1:30p.m. that first day at Normal West.

Bloomington Central Catholic is the highest seed among local schools, seeded fifth, in the Girls Small School Bracket. The Saints will be the home team when they take on 12th seed Rockford Lutheran Dec. 26 in a 9:30p.m. nightcap at Normal West. El Paso Gridley is seeded 13th in this bracket and will try for an upset of 4th seed Annawan, at 8p.m., also at Normal West.

U-High’s girls’ team drew one of the toughest assignments when it drew one of the highest seeds in this year’s tourney in the Large School Girls Bracket. The Pioneers are seeded 16th and will face top seed Peoria Richwoods on opening day at 12 Noon at Bloomington High School. BHS, incidentally, is returning as a host site for the first time for this tournament since 1999, according to Oloffson. The Purple Raiders girls squad will have challenges of their own to meet, being seeded 13th and opening the tournament on their own hardwood against 4th seed Rock Island on day one beginning at 3p.m. Tenth seed NCHS will face off against 7th seed Chicago St. Ignatius on opening night at 8p.m. at BHS. If the Iron squad gets to the second round, they could face the only out-of-state team, Union, Kentucky-based Ryle High School in the second round. Ryle High is seeded second.

“In the Large School Girls bracket, there are 11 girls who have committed to a Division I Scholarship,” Oloffson said. “There’s a lot of great individual talent in that.”

He added he thinks both of the boys brackets are “two of the best brackets we’ve had in a number of years. All four brackets should be really competitive.”

Normal West Boys To Pekin, BHS To Pontiac For Tournament Action: Some of us might have to travel for the holidays, but not to worry about missing any of the basketball this time of year if you find yourself in either Tazewell County, Pontiac, or vicinity. The 54th Annual Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament will run for three days starting Thursday, Dec. 27 at Hawkins Gym on the Pekin Community High School campus. Normal West’s Boys’ team is the only local team competing there, joined by host Pekin, Springfield Lanphier, Washington, Peoria Richwoods, Plainfield East, Moline, Limestone, Hersey, Rockford Boylan, United Township, Freeport, Lake Zurich, Morton, Pattonville, and Mount Carmel.

Only the top four teams in the tourney get seeded at Pekin. While Normal West wasn’t seeded, they could face one seeded team if they win their first game and advance to the second round. In round one, head coach Brian Cupples’ troops will take on Mount Carmel in the last game on day one starting with a 9:30p.m. tipoff. Should the Wildcats win that match, they would play the winner of the first round game between second seed Morton and Pattonville.

Normal West isn’t the only local team hitting the road for competition, either, as BHS’ boys’ team will compete in the 88th Annual Pontiac Holiday Tournament. Only the top four teams get seeded in Pontiac, but luckily, head coach Micheal Mosley’s Purple Raiders were seeded fourth. Chicago Heights-based Bloom Township claims top seed here, with Chicago-based Curie Metropolitan High School being seeded second and Big 12 rival Danville seeded third among this tourney’s 16-team field. It’s a field which includes Chicago Simeon, Lockport, St. Charles North, Joliet West, New Trier, Plainfield North, Warren, Lisle-based Benet Academy, Peoria Manual, Oak Park-River Forest, Pontiac, and West Aurora.

I look forward to bringing you action from games and hope there’s time for some cheer to be spread along the way regardless of who wins or loses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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