By Steve Robinson | September 29, 2007 - 7:10 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal’s Unit 5 School Board, at its Sept. 25 regular meeting, discussed a next step with regard to a referendum for building a new middle school for the district in addition to committing money for renovations at other facilities.

Board members heard from Rod Wright, president and CEO of The Unicom Group, a St.Louis-based research firm, regarding how his company would conduct a survey of local residents on the subject of a proposed building referendum.

The board has set a Dec. 3 deadline for itself to determine whether to put a referendum on the Feb. 5 election ballot to help it pay for expanding by one school and upgrading other facilities.

In a letter to the district dated Sept. 20, 2007, The Unicom Group indicates it can conduct sample telephone surveys with either a pool of 400 or 500 residents to gauge the public’s interest in the referendum.

A 400-resident survey would cost Unit 5 $17,550. A 500-resident survey would cost the district $21,750.

No decision was reached concerning which survey the board wanted done on Wednesday. Wright was present simply to introduce his company and its services to board members.

“Good News” From Eagle Road: Three members of the Eagle Road Resource Center were honored in one of two “Good News” reports presented to the board at Wednesday’s meeting. The report honored Resource Center staff members Vickie West, Josh Layden, and Ryan Young for their efforts to keep schools stocked with the proper textbooks and other materials.

Over the course of the summer, thanks to the efforts of West, Layden, and Young and their student staffs, they processed over 33,000 new textbooks.

Unit 5 map“Good News” For Board Member Briggs: Unit 5 board member Gail Ann Briggs was honored as part of another “good news” item at this meeting. Briggs received a designation from the Illinois Association of School Boards for being a IASB Leadership Academy member.

To earn this achievement, Briggs completed at least three IASB workshops. She will receive recognition by IASB at a fall dinner meeting of IASB’s Corn Belt Division later this year.

Contract Extension With Insurer OK’d: The board unanimously approved extending the district’s client service agreement with Normal-based Van Gundy Insurance for one more year. The two sides entered into an agreement at the beginning of the 2006-07 school year.

John W. Pye, Unit 5’s assistant superintendent of operations and human resources, told the board the district continues to work with its employees to educate them on safety issues.

Board Approves Hiring Consultants: The board unanimously approved the hiring of two consultants.

The board approved the hiring of Martin Getty, the retired chief financial officer of the Decatur school district. Getty will work for Unit 5 for up to 100 days, assisting with matters of budget, tax levy, and referendum issues.

Getty will also serve as a mentor for Jim Gillmeister, Unit 5’s new chief financial officer. Gillmeister, became Unit 5 CFO on July 1.

The board also approved hiring a consultant to look at the district’s special education program. Margie Jobe, a retired special-education director, formerly with the Champaign school district, was hired to do an evaluation of Unit 5’s special education programs.

Getty and Jobe will each be hired on 100-day contracts with each person earning $500 per day.

Board members have received negative feedback at the idea of hiring consultants for jobs current employees had been hired to do. But in public comments, board members explained what they saw as positives to hiring outside help.

“We’re such a large district and we cannot continue to struggle with areas we do not have expertise in,” Briggs said.

Because the majority of Gillmeister’s experience as a CFO has been in the private sector, hiring a consultant would help Gillmeister “receive some experience in the business of schools,” explained board member Mark Pritchett.

By Steve Robinson | September 25, 2007 - 1:36 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Fairview FalconsTo look at it from the outside, with children either playing or waiting patiently for a bus home at the end of their school day, you might say Fairview School doesn’t look its age. Yet, one of Unit 5’s long established schools had a birthday Sept. 25, complete with a school assembly and former teachers and administrators as honored guests.

Fairview School turned 50-years-old.

Staff — both past and present–, the school’s 450 students, and district administrators marked the milestone with entertainment by one of their former staffers, teacher-turned-storyteller Dr. Mike Lockett, during an all-school assembly, followed by a reception.

Lockett, who has been retired a few years from a job as a school administrator in Peoria, told the gathering of how then-principal Ray Temple hired him as a new teacher, and how he went on to teach fourth and fifth graders – including one of his two sons – while at Fairview from 1972-1985.

Before the celebration began, Temple recalled how an 11p. m. phone call one night after a board of education meeting led to his being Fairview’s third principal, beginning in 1961.

Temple said he received a late-night call from the board’s superintendent after the board had met looking for a new principal for Fairview.

Temple, at the time, was already the principal at Hudson Elementary, and said he told the administrator he would like to discuss the offer with his wife first before arriving at a final decision.

Unit 5Temple recalls the administrator replying, “go ahead. I’ll call you back in 30 minutes.”

Understandably, Temple took the job, transferring from Hudson. He became Fairview’s third principal, succeeding Benjamin Cottone, who followed the school’s first principal, Russell Zimmerman.

The school’s current principal, James Shaw, has been at the controls since 2003 and has been working on a modernization effort for the building, which has included a relocating the school office closer to the public parking lot, and installation of a permanent air conditioning system.

One Volunteer’s Story: Julie Gordon’s four children – all boys – came up through the Unit 5 system because when she and her husband were looking for a new home a few years back, they found out from prospective neighbors what kind of a school Fairview was.

That was key in Gordon’s family moving into the neighborhood.

Two of the boys are, respectfully, a senior and a sophomore at Normal Community High. The younger two are, respectfully, a seventh grader and an eighth grader at Kingsley Junior High.

But although the boys have moved on, Julie continues to volunteer in Fairview’s library.

“I like the teachers and I know they need the help,” Gordon said as her reason for continuing her association with Fairview School.

Unit 5 map“What’s special about it is that it has been here for 50 years and in the neighborhood for 50 years, being a beacon of light for the kids.

“The teachers and the staff really care about the kids, and want the best for the kids,” Gordon said. “They really help the kids reach their potential.”

30-Year Fairview Veteran: Betty Smith spent nearly 30 years teaching at Fairview before retiring 20 years ago. At some point during that time, she taught all subjects that first, second, and third graders were required to learn to advance to the next grade.

Before the age of specialized classes, that meant Smith also sometimes taught subjects like art and music to her students.

Considering how Unit 5 has expanded over the years, “It’s one of the few neighborhood schools we have,” explained Mark Pritchett, a Unit 5 board member who attended the ceremony.

By Steve Robinson | September 20, 2007 - 1:25 pm

golfDanny Gillespie and Colin Carroll will both tell you golf is a game that requires plenty of patience. While Carroll has been playing since he was a pre-teen, Danny took up the gentlemen’s game just five years ago, the last three with help from Sunshine Through Golf.

Danny was one of about two dozen athletes who have access to the Sunshine Golf Center, who participated in the Special Olympics Illinois Outdoor Sports Festival on Sept. 8 and 9. The Special Olympics Illinois Outdoor Sports Festival included athletes participating in softball, equestrian events, and of course, golf.

“The people at the (Sunshine Through Golf Center) showed me what I was doing wrong and I learned from that,” a seemingly always smiling Danny Gillespie said.

Knowing that he would learn a little more about the game from someone who has been playing longer than he, Gillespie asked Carroll to become his partner in Unified competition.

Gillespie, who works at a department store at the Golf Mill Mall in Niles, and Carroll, a Des Plaines firefighter, have been burning up the course ever since while representing Main-Niles Special Recreation Association.

“Sunshine Through Golf has, perhaps, taught Danny the patience this game requires,” Carroll said. “After he’s hit the ball – whether it ended in a good or bad lie – he calmly walks up to the ball, hits it and moves on. For him, that shot is done.”

From Danny’s point-of-view, there’s also an appreciation for the fact that, as Carroll states it, “golf is forever. With other sports, they can take their toll on the body. But Danny knows he can play when he’s 80-years-old. So Danny knows as long as he’s around, he can play golf.”

To an outsider, Gillespie and Carroll look to make quite a team as they practiced putts just prior to teeing off on the tournament’s first day. Their scores at the end of the two-day session showed the chemistry was working, as Danny shot a two-day total of 76 while Carroll shot a 125 total – good enough for the pair to earn first place.

Hickory Point Golf Course in Forsyth, near downstate Decatur, was the site for a spirited two-day golf outing, which included events which Sunshine Golfers like Danny* *were well prepared for.

Among the events each of these two days was a round of 9-hole golf for both individuals and unified teams, and a skills competition. All of the golfers, whether on the course or on the practice range for the skills competition, could attribute their success to spending time participating at one or more of the over 60 camps Sunshine Through Golf provides at a number of locations, including its home course, the three-hole Sunshine Course.

To compete in the Special Olympics event at the state level, athletes must have trained for at least eight weeks and qualified through one of 17 Areas competitions in the state. From there, athletes were placed in divisions based on age and skill level.

Sunshine Through GolfGolf Skills Tested, Too: Sometimes, it isn’t about the game itself, but rather, demonstrating you have the /skills /involved in playing the game.

While Gillespie and Carroll were burning up the links, a fellow M-NASR athlete, Kathy Maloney, was showing that appreciation for those skills, too, in this competition.

The Skills Competition involves six specific game skills which each athlete must show they can master: the short putt; the long putt; the chip shot; the pitch shot; and the iron shot.

Scoring is determined by how close the ball came to specified targets set in the skills section of the practice range at the course.

Maloney, 45, who has been with Sunshine Through Golf for three years, admits the iron and putter shots are her strong suit, but that her experience with a wood is weak, but getting worked on.

Much like Gillespie, golf has taught Maloney something about herself, she admitted. “I didn’t realize I could /actually /play golf because I never really got into this before (Sunshine Through Golf).”

Unlike basketball or softball, the other sports she plays in Special Olympics competition, Maloney knows from her golf experience that there is a little more self-imposed pressure when it’s just you versus the course.

Finishing the Skills Competition with 48 total points earned Maloney a gold medal, proving she could handle that type of pressure easily.

Other Lessons Learned, Too: For some golfers, like 27-year-old Greg Wettour, a golfer connected with Lincolnway Special Recreation Association, based in Frankfort, Ill., it is not just a game with built-in life-lessons such as what Gillespie* *discovered, it also inserts a session on public etiquette while on the course, which he said he finds helpful.

“I’ve learned to respect my coaches,” Wettour said. “I’ve loved meeting other people and to have a fun time.” His score was respectable, too: A two-day total of 175 – scoring 90 on day one and 85 on day two – good enough for a second place finish in his division.

Maloney, too, has discovered something that golf has taught her which she can carry away from the course.

Being in Sunshine Through Golf hasn’t just improved her game, Maloney said. It has improved her life. “I’m a little more calm,” she said. “I don’t get as frustrated as I used to.”

Special OlympicsJohn Fajdich, a 43-year-old golfer who represents Chicago Special Olympics, competes in the 9-hole competition, but like Maloney, has an appreciation for the simple aspect of putting one’s self to the test without keeping score. “I like getting in practice (at the Golf Center),” he said. “(Doing that) teaches you the fundamentals of the game.”

The fundamentals are working for Fajdich, as he shot 67 on day one, and followed it up with 71 the second day for a third place finishing score of 138.

Tips From A Pro: It isn’t everyone who can brag they shot a round with a PGA pro. Yet, Joann Adamski, a 32-year-old athlete representing Downers Grove-based Southeast Association for Special Parks , or SESPAR, can.

Although Joann has only been golfing for two years, she received what any golfer would consider the opportunity of a lifetime recently through her involvement with Sunshine Through Golf and its three-hole golf center — to shoot a 9-hole round with one of the PGA’s newest champions – Brandt Snedeker, who captured his first career tour win at the Wyndham Championship in August.

Joann’s father, Al Adamski, said his daughter did not squander her opportunity, especially as the game began. Joann said she met Snedeker stroke for stroke, even 2-putting the first hole – something that impressed three-year PGA pro.

Not bad for a young woman who had not picked up a club before two years ago when she joined SESPAR’s golf team.

She said along the way during the session, Snedeker even gave her insights on playing, including a putting tip: To remember to stand sideways slightly on sloping greens so the ball will instinctively roll toward the hole. Those kinds of tips must have stayed with her, as Joann earned a silver medal thanks to a two-day total of 168.

By Steve Robinson | September 18, 2007 - 8:57 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Are the Twin Cities ready to add minor league baseball to their sports resume?

An ad hoc committee has been doing some research and presented its answer at Monday’s regular meeting of the Normal Town Council at Normal City Hall.

Alan Sender and Jeff Kowalczyk, two of the 16 members on the ad hoc committee studying building a baseball stadium in which, not just a Class A or AA minor league franchise would play, but so would Heartland Community College’s baseball and softball teams.

“What gave us this idea was Heartland’s offering sports,” explained Sender. Heartland debuted Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams in August.

Sender said the stadium and any minor league team that would call it home would need to be funded by a private investor. Also, he explained, that in addition to contributing some dollars for the project, HCC would make land available for the stadium

HCC’s baseball and softball teams will make their debuts next spring.

Sender said that if the town council were asked for any money, it would be to help support infrastructure surrounding the new stadium for things such as safety items like turn signals.

Sender said the stadium could also serve as an educational venue, in a way, because HCC students would learn skills involved in operating a stadium, such as food service operations and technical operations.

Sender said the ad hoc group has “had fairly serious conversations” with the Frontier Baseball League about any local team joining that league.

The Frontier League has 12 teams stretching from Pennsylvania to Michigan to Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri, including four teams in Illinois, located in Sauget, near St. Louis; Crestwood; Loves Park, near Rockford; and Marion.

Frontier League teams play 96 regular season games from May-September. Four teams enter the playoffs from there for a best-of-7, with the top two teams going on to play a best-of-7 championship.

“Our bottom line is, no private investor, no project,” Sender assured council members.

Council member Jeff Fritzen is a member of the ad hoc committee studying the baseball issue. Following the meeting, he said expenses for a baseball stadium are “considerably less than they would be for the community’s other professional sports venue, the U. S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, which has lost $2.75 million since opening 18 months ago.

“We have stressed the private ownership aspect of the situation (to the Frontier League),” Fritzen said.

Fritzen said the next step is seeking out an investor for the project.

Omnibus Agenda Approved: Among the omnibus agenda items the council approved were:

• Accepting a motion authorizing an expenditure of $149,940 to One Main Development for Phase One of the Alley B Construction and Approval of an associated budget adjustment.

• Accepting a motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept a quote from Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $176,525 to replace a water main on Mulberry St. from Fell Ave. to the Constitution Trail and approval of an associated budget adjustment.

• Accepting a resolution authorizing execution of an intergovernmental agreement for Solid Waste Management Services. The town has entered into such an agreement with both the City of Bloomington and McLean County since 1998. The current agreement expires on Dec. 31. Renewing the agreement would allow it to continue from Jan. 1, 2008-Dec. 31, 2010.

• Approving a resolution accepting a dedication of easement and temporary easement grant for sanitary sewer purposes for the property located at 201 and 203 W. North St., owned by Stewart P. Marty.

• Approving a resolution accepting a dedication of easement and temporary easement grant for sanitary sewer purposes for the property located at 205 and 207 W. North St., owned by Rhodes and Crabtree, LLC.

• Approved a resolution for a two-year contract with Bloomington-based Joe’s Towing and Recovery for police department towing services.

Kiwanis Solicitation Routes Approved: Three other omnibus items were approved, which were somewhat detailed. The first was to amend the Town Municipal Code which permits solicitations.

At the Council’s Sept. 4 meeting, members of Normal’s Kiwanis Club sought Council approval to change a couple of four-way intersection locations where their members stand to collect donations.

Two streets where traffic has increased to the point of no longer being considered safe for Kiwanis members to do their collecting are the intersections of Vernon Ave. and Fell Ave., and the intersection of Hovey Ave. and Cottage Ave. These two streets, by omnibus vote have been removed from the approved list of streets.

Council Approves Redevelopment Agreement: Also approved in the omnibus agenda was for the council to approve a resolution authorizing execution of a consent and non-disturbance agreement and related amendment to the Town of Normal/Hammons Redevelopment Agreement.

John Q. Hammons is a Springfield, Mo.-based hotel developer responsible for bringing a Hyatt Hotel, currently under construction, to Uptown Normal.

As city staff defines it to the council, consent and non-disturbance agreement provides that, in the event of a default by the hotel/conference center developer, the town would be obligated to notify the mortgagee of the default and to give the mortgagee an opportunity to cure such a default.

The mortgagee is Little Rock, Ark.-based Metropolitan National Bank.

Parking Restrictions OK’d: A final item approved on the omnibus agenda concerned approving an ordinance allowing parking restrictions. A total of 17 streets where parking restrictions will be enforced are on the list.

Those streets include:

• School St. (northbound) at McKnight Dr.;

• Canyon Creek Rd at Napa Lane;

• Chardonnay Ct. at Canyon Creek Rd.;

• Geyser Peak at Silverado Trail;

• Tannins Ct. at Mondavi Lane;

• Mondavi Lane at Shepard Rd.;

• Duck Horn Lane (both northbound and southbound) at Napa Dr.;

• Cake Bread Rd. at Napa Lane;

• Napa Lane at Airport Rd.;

• Silver Oak Lane at Raab Rd.;

• Buffalo Lane at North Pointe Dr.;

• Wolf Creek Lane and North Pointe Dr.;

• Grey Hawk Dr. at North Pointe Dr.;

• Healing Stone Ct. at Raab Rd.;

• Custer Ct. (northbound) at Vernon Ave.; and

• Putnam Ave. (westbound) at Parkside Rd.

For the same item, city staff three other street segments where prohibiting parking is being recommended. Those three streets segments are:

• Both sides of Bradford Lane from Alden Dr. to McKnight Dr.;

• Both sides of McKnight Dr. from Bradford Lane to Rockingham Dr.; and

• Both sides of School St. from Northfield Dr. to McKnight Dr.

Community Beautification Awards Given: The town gave out its 2007

Community Beautification Awards prior to the start of the council meeting.

Awards were given in four categories: Single family residential, Neighborhood, Government/Institutional, and Business.

Homes winning in the single family residential were:

• 606 N. Linden St. (owned by David and Stacie Moeller);

• 705 N. School St. (owned by Terri O’Brien); and

• 3 Grandview Dr. (owned by Anthony Stolfa)

The Habitat For Humanity Subdivision won in the Neighborhood category. The

Heartland Community College Workforce Development Center won in the Government/Institutional category.

Normal Commons, home to First Site Rentals and the Cosi restaurant, along Beaufort Ave., and owned by Beaufort Partners, headed by Jeff Tinervin, won in the Business category.

An honorable mention went to the Stratford Estates Homeowners Association in Single Family Residential category.

By Steve Robinson | September 15, 2007 - 7:30 am
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Normal Community High’s football team stretched its season winning streak to 4-0 Friday night by sending the Mattoon High home with a first defeat, punishing the Green Wave in a Big 12 Conference game, 47-6, before a sellout crowd at Ironmen Stadium.

The victory also extends NCHS’ current winning streak, begun last season to 18 straight victories.

There was plenty of credit to go around for the Ironmen’s scores, too, starting with two first quarter touchdowns by senior running back Dan Moore. Moore’s first points on the night came on a 4-yard run with 9:56 left in the first quarter. Junior kicker Chad Hinshaw’s extra point gave the Ironmen a 7-0 lead.

Moore found the end zone again, on a 22-yard dash, with 38.6 seconds left in the quarter, followed by another successful Hinshaw point after. That gave the Ironmen a 14-0 lead going into the second quarter.

NCHS’ defense assisted in providing the Ironmen’s next points, as junior linebacker Andrew Hamer intercepted Mattoon senior quarterback Jeremy Jordan, opening the door for the Ironmen’s next score – a 2-yard run by senior running back Joey Anderson, with 9:05 left in the second quarter. Hinshaw’s successful extra point increased the Ironmen lead to 21-0.

The score increased to 28-0 when, after Mattoon had the ball on their own 20 following the next kickoff, the Ironmen defense landed on the Green Wave’s only fumble on the night, giving Head Coach Hud Venerable’s team another chance to increase their lead, starting this time from inside the 1-yard line.

Senior running back Austin Davis ran in NCHS’ next score from there, and along with another kick by Hinshaw, upped the lead to 28-0 with 8:51 in the second quarter.

The Ironmen defense contributed to NCHS’ next score, as the front defensive line blocked a Mattoon punt. Senior linebacker Austin Davis recovered the ball after the block at the Mattoon 8-yard line and scored, increasing the lead to 35-0 at half, following the extra point by Hinshaw.

NCHSHinshaw did more than just kick extra points on the night. Defensively, he tipped a Mattoon pass by Jordan so that it landed in the arms of Ironmen senior defensive back Kennedy Freeman, who helped put the Ironmen on the Green Wave’s 16 yard line for their next possession.

Davis concluded a 5-play drive from there with a 3-yard touchdown run, with 7:44 in the third quarter, putting the Ironmen up, 41-0, after Hinshaw’s extra point.

With Mattoon now down by 40 plus points from there, Illinois High School Association rules for keeping a continuously running clock when one team had a 40-point advantage, went into effect from there.

Mattoon, ranked seventh in Class 5A going into this game, did assemble 14-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter – their longest of the night – ending in an 11-yard running touchdown by Jordan. NCHS blockers foiled the extra point.

Backup quarterback Zach Johnson, a junior, capped the Ironmen’s scoring on the night with a 50-yard scoring dash. Hinshaw’s point after was no good, but NCHS’ streak was able to roll on from there.

Moore said he and Davis and the other running backs have good front offensive line supporting them. “The line gets better and better, and I can’t wait to see what happens for us at the end of the season,” he said.

“We have a pretty good stable of backs here,” Venerable told reporters afterward. “Our offensive line is really starting to come together now.”

“We’ve got a lot of contributors (on the field),” Venerable said of the players’ efforts in general. “No one (on the team) is into statistics. They’re into team play and what’s best for the team. Our kids understand that, and it’s nice to have very unselfish players.”

On the Mattoon sideline, Green Wave head coach Gerald Temples said two things disappointed him about his team’s performance against NCHS.

“We weren’t competitive, and I thought we would come up here and be competitive,” Temples said. “I expected us to come up here and be competitive.

The second thing that bothered Temples were, as he called them, the “gifts” of turnovers and interceptions that NCHS were able to capitalize on to maintain their lead.

“You can’t do things like that against a good football team, and Normal is a darn good football team,” Temples said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

The Ironmen will take their record on the road to Champaign Centennial for a game Friday night.