By Steve Robinson | February 28, 2008 - 3:57 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal’s Unit 5 School Board approved a proposed restructuring of administrative staff at its regular meeting at the district office on Feb. 27.

The district will add four new positions: Director of Operations, New Construction Coordinator, Director of Human Resources For Training, and Financial Analyst.

The new positions came at the suggestion of consultants from Bloomington-based Custom Training Services, who conducted interviews with 55 district staff members in November.

In addition to findings presented to the district by CTS, sexual misconduct allegations brought against a former Unit 5 teacher, Jon White, prompted the review of how the district screens new hires.

White has pleaded guilty to abusing two girls while teaching at Unit 5 in 2004 and 2005. He has also pleaded guilty to abusing nine more girls after he left Unit 5 to teach in Urbana until he was arrested in January 2007.

Unit 5 District Superintendent Gary Niehaus brought the proposed staff changes to the board after he received CTS’ findings.

“We have an obligation to students, staff, parents, and, in light of the Jon White situation, (an obligation to) faculty,” Niehaus said. “We have to work harder on screening (potential new employees).”

The board voted 6-1 to approve the administrative changes proposed with board member Mark Pritchett voted against the recommendation.

Pritchett said that while he was throwing his support behind Unit 5’s need to make such changes, he was concerned about whether the district could handle the financial costs involved.

“I struggle with where the finances (to pay for the changes) are going to come from,” Pritchett said after the meeting.

Pritchett said Unit 5 could potentially need to hire new teachers as well as new hires for the four proposed new jobs. He said he “does not totally understand” where revenue for hiring new teachers and making the new administrative positions a reality will come from.

Contract With Insurance Consultant Approved: Board members unanimously approved a three-year contract worth $58,800 with Bushue Human Resources, Inc., based in Effingham. The firm will handle bids for insurance needs of the district, explained Niehaus.

Bushue’s first assignment will be to accept and analyze bids from insurance companies for the district’s property and casualty insurance needs. That bill will be due on July 1.

Van Gundy Insurance, based in Normal, handles Unit 5’s workers’ compensation claims. Niehaus said money to pay Bushue Human Resources, Inc. will come out of the district’s Education fund.

Unit 5 mapPreparations For Portable Classrooms Approved: With portable classrooms coming to Grove, Northpoint, and Prairieland Elementary Schools, board members approved electrical and other needed work to be done to get the temporary facilities ready.

Board members unanimously approved paying $52,650 to Bloomington-based Illinois Prairie Electric, Inc. and $102,110 to Peoria-based Bishop Brothers Construction for installation of the temporary facilities.

In January, the board unanimously approved the purchase of four modular classroom units for Grove, Northpoint, and Prairieland Elementary Schools. Each structure has two classrooms per unit. At that time, John Pye, Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Human Resources, told the board the lease agreed to with Jim’s Mobile Offices, based in Marion, Ill., will run for three years at a cost to Unit 5 of $28,000.

Board Member Briggs Thanked: Board members thanked veteran board member Gail Ann Briggs for her efforts in getting the district’s $96.7 million construction referendum passed in early February.

Three of the four members of the committee which spearheaded a campaign to get the referendum passed – Catherine Bean, Steve Watts, and Carl Teichman – thanking her for her efforts, presenting her with a plaque commemorating her efforts. The fourth member of the committee, Sally Pyne, was unable to attend the meeting.

Briggs was, at first, speechless, but emotional as she accepted the honor. She first mouthed a “thank you” then publicly thanked the committee for the honor.

Briggs told board members she based the success of the referendum’s passage on being “a superb effort on the part of a lot of people. I appreciate the confidence people had in my working with an outstanding team.”

Briggs, who has been a board member since first being elected in 1977, was visibly moved with the presentation.

Following the meeting, Briggs said that, as results of the vote were coming in on election night, she got wind of the possibility of her being honored for her efforts regarding the campaign.

She said she told Niehaus that her participation on behalf of the referendum was done in a volunteer capacity, and not as an official school board member.

Unit 5 Approaching A Milestone: During the meeting’s closing comments, Briggs announced that Unit 5 would be approaching a milestone on July 1, by turning 60 years old.

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal’s residents realize that those who work for the Normal Police Department and the Normal Fire Department do so to protect the citizenry.

At their regular meeting Monday in City Hall, Normal Town Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to protect the financial futures of those who spend their careers protecting others.

Council members passed a two-fold resolution urging the Illinois General Assembly to stop making costly benefit enhancements to Police and Fire Pension Programs and to adopt reforms that protect Police and Fire Pensions.

Between 18- 25 members of both Normal’s Police and Fire departments were on hand as the council discussed the resolution before voting.

During the discussion, Council member Jason Chambers said there was a concern on the part of the Firefighters’ Union that the pension issue would be tied to an increase in property taxes.

“It behooves us as a community to be an advocate for (the Pensions of these officers),” said Council member Sonja Reece. “It’s a benefit to taxpayers to know how that money is managed.”

Council Member Jeff Fritzen weighed in by saying he did not consider the resolution to be controversial in nature. “We’d like the General Assembly (to take action), and adopt reforms that protect (these pensions).”

“To maintain the existing Fire and Police pension system is critical,” Council Member Chuck Scott added.

Mayor Chris Koos explained that newly hired police and fire workers would benefit from the legislature taking action on this matter now. “We have to impress upon the legislature to work with municipalities on this,” he said.

City Manager Mark Peterson reported he has met with the pension boards which serve both NPD and NFD.

“(Those boards) are interested in protecting the solvency of those funds,” he said. “We don’t want to be in a position in 25 or 30 years of not being able to (pay those retirees).”

Heartland Athletic Site Plan Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution conditionally approving an amended site plan for Heartland Community College’s Athletic Complex.

Since 2002, improvements have been made to HCC’s property as the institution has continued to grow, including construction of a Commons building, expanded parking, and construction of five new buildings, and a building addition.

Earlier this month, civil engineer Don Adams went before the Normal Planning Commission about the project, saying HCC did not want lights at the field at this time.

HCC President Jon Astroth, addressing the council, said a facility where HCC’s new Soccer, Softball and Baseball teams could practice or play would require much less than anything needed by any minor league team. Most games, he said, would start at 3p.m. He said the field would be used, most often, from mid-March through May for Softball and Baseball, and from roughly Sept. 1 through Mid-October for Soccer.

HCC began competing in Men’s and Women’s Soccer for the first time last fall. Their Baseball and Softball teams begin competing next month.

Liquor At Museum Private Events OK’d: Council members approved amending the Town Liquor Code to allow for the sale of alcohol at private events held at both Ironwood Golf Course and the Children’s Discovery Museum.

Prior to Monday’s vote, only events sanctioned by the Town of Normal have been held at the Children’s Museum in Uptown Normal. With passage of the amended part of the code, functions unrelated to the Town can be held there, but private catering must be used. Also, a Town staff member would be present at the private functions.

Council members took two votes on the measure after Council Member Fritzen, in discussion on the amendment, stated an objection. “It’s a children’s museum,” he stressed, wondering about the use of alcohol at functions at that location.

He asked if the council would object to voting on the amendment to the ordinance by separating the golf course and the museum. No objection to separating the two facilities in votes was raised.

Council members unanimously approved the amendment as it applied to Ironwood Golf Course. They also approved the amendment as it applied to the Children’s Discovery Museum by a 6-1 vote, with Fritzen casting the lone objecting vote.

Council member Adam Nielsen suggested to Peterson that he would like to see a report regarding how effective the ordinance change was after one year, with which Peterson agreed.

Bicycle/Pedestrian Ad Hoc Committee Reports: Council members heard from members of an ad hoc committee established last fall at Koos’ request to study transportation options open to those who ride bicycles and who are frequent pedestrians.

Committee Chair Doug Oehler presented a report to the council, saying that one of his committee’s goals was “to promote bicycle and pedestrian trails as a viable, convenient, and safe environment.”

He said the community has “an obligation to provide complete streets” for those who have wish to travel by means other than car. He said that included disabled people and schoolchildren.

Among the suggestions his committee made was:

• For the Town to create “safe routes” for kids to go to and from school.

• For the Town to create “shared roadways” for both vehicles and cyclists.

• For the Town to create signage tailored to bike users, particularly in indicated areas where bike-centered routes are available.

Making such changes would, Oehler said, “let people know it’s okay to ride a bike.

“We need to promote this kind of travel for all kinds of reasons,” Oehler said. “We want to include Normal as being one of the bicycle-friendly communities in the U. S.”

According to the website,, Chicago and one of its suburbs, Schaumburg, were the only Illinois communities ranked as bicycle-friendly.

Oehler said his group has debuted a website for area residents which can be found at

Omnibus Agenda Approved: Among the omnibus agenda items the council approved at Monday’s meeting were:

• Approval of the minutes of the council’s regular meeting of Feb. 4, 2008.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Feb. 13, 2008.

• A motion to accept bids, authorize the purchase of three new Knuckleboom trash loader trucks from Normal-based Central Illinois Trucks, Inc. in the amount of $334,449 for the Public Works Department and sell three used trucks to Clinton, Ill.-based Schmidy’s Machinery Co. for the total amount of $96,800.

• A motion to accept a bid and award the purchase of a replacement SCBA (Breathing Air) compressor system from Freeburg, Ill.-based Towers Fire Apparatus Co., Inc. for the Normal Fire Department in the amount of $27,884.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and approve the purchase and installation of a Solar Bee Tank Mixing Unit for the West Reservoir from Dickenson, N. D.-based Solar Bee, Inc. at a total cost of $54,865.

• A motion to accept a bid and award a contract to Champaign-based AmPride Communications for the printing of the Normal Parks & Recreation Department’s Fall/Winter/Spring and Summer activity guides for 2008-09 in the amount of $26,108.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and approve the purchase of backwash pump repair parts from Sellersville, PA-based Harris Pump Repair and Tool Co, in the amount of $14,468.

• A motion to accept a bid from Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $1,188,248 and award a contract for replacement of the College Ave. bridge over the North branch of Sugar Creek.

• A resolution authorizing agreement for construction materials testing services for the 2008 construction season with Normal-based Terracon and Testing Service Corporation.

• A resolution for the use of Motor Fuel Tax funds to finance General Obligation Bonds to be used for roadway improvements in Uptown Normal.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving an amended final development plan for the Omni Sports PUD.

• A resolution accepting dedication of easements at Heartland Community College.

• An ordinance vacating a portion of an easement for utility purposes at Heartland Community College.

• An ordinance amending the Town of Normal Comprehensive Plan.

• An ordinance adopting the 2008 National Electric Code, with amendments, and amending Section 11.3 Division 4 Electrical Code of the Municipal Code of the Town of Normal.

• A resolution conditionally approving a resubdivision of Lot 3 in the subdivision of Lot 3 in the Omni Sports Center Subdivision.

By Steve Robinson | February 14, 2008 - 10:10 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Thanks to a contract approved unanimously by Normal’s Unit 5 School Board at its regular meeting Wednesday, Feb. 13, two more schools in the community will soon be able to rely on having underground based heat to keep students warm in winters to come.

Bloomington-based Mid-Illinois Mechanical, Inc. submitted the winning bids for each school project. The total cost of converting both schools will be $1,144,000.

Contractors have made suggestions as to how to complete the job more efficiently, explained Jim Gillmeister, Unit 5’s Chief Financial Officer.

By making improvements, Gillmeister said a total of $31,000 in additional savings in building costs can be done.

Referendum Voters Thanked: With the campaigning done, and the voting to pass the $96.7 million referendum on Feb. 5 complete, board members thanked voters for their passing the referendum.

“My heartfelt thanks to the referendum committee for telling our story and telling the truth about what is being faced by the district where growth is concerned,” said board member John Puzauskas.

Board members Gail Ann Briggs and Mark Pritchett thanked those involved on the committee that organized the campaign that got the referendum passed as well as gave a nod to voters who helped the measure pass.

Voters passed the referendum to issue $96.7 million in building bonds by a count of 12,049 to 8,543, or about 59 percent to 41 percent.

The property taxes increase proposal that was the second part of the referendum measure – increasing property tax rates by 10 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation — passed 10,625 to 10,118, or about 51 percent to about 49 percent.

Unit 5, District 87 Sign Data Center Agreement: The board unanimously approved entering into an agreement for data storage with Bloomington District #87. The school boards were scheduled to meet on the same evening and approve the agreement at that time.

The contract calls for Unit 5 to pay District 87 $1,200 per month. The contract expires in August.

Normal Community West’s “Good News”: Diane Turek, director of orchestras at Normal Community West High School, was featured in the first of four “good news” reports presented to the Board at the meeting. Turek, a 29-year teaching veteran, has been awarded the 2007-08 “Outstanding School Teacher Award,” as presented by the Illinois American String Teachers Association.

Turek teaches Concert, Chamber, and Symphony Orchestras at Normal West. “She is a fabulous, fabulous teacher,” Normal West Principal Tom Eder said in introducing Turek to the Board at the meeting.

In turn, Turek thanked the Board, both its current members and past members for keeping orchestra on the school curriculum.

Unit 5 mapNormal Community High’s “Good News”: Normal Community High School had three pieces of “good news” to share with the board at Wednesday’s meeting.

First, NCHS recognized guidance counselor Camille Taylor for becoming the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Adult Human Relations Award, an honor presented by the City of Bloomington. Taylor received the award last month at the 12th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Luncheon, held at the Interstate Center in Bloomington.

In addition to being a guidance counselor for nearly 500 students at Normal West, Taylor also teaches a class offered to both Unit 5 students and Illinois State University students called “Introduction To Multiple Cultures Education.” The class is meant to help teachers understand and teach students of diverse backgrounds.

Two NCHS seniors, Ryan Smoot and Molly Sender, were recognized by the Board for also being honored by the City of Bloomington at the King Award Luncheon. Smoot and Sender were nominated for the award by Taylor for their efforts to fight discrimination and demonstrating leadership as members of NCHS’ Embracing Diversity Club.

NCHS’ recent mention in a national publication was the school’s last item of “good news” for the evening. NCHS was recognized as being among the best high schools in the country in a recent article in U. S. News & World Report magazine.

The article analyzed over 18,000 public high schools in the country.

In a memo to Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus about the recognition, NCHS Principal Dr. Jeanette Nuckolls wrote, “This recognition is due to the hard work of committed and talented NCHS teachers. Most deserving of this recognition are the students who put forth their best efforts to perform well academically and the support of their parents.”

Temples Named New NCHS Football Coach: It was announced at the meeting that Wes Temples will become the new football coach at NCHS this fall, replacing Hud Venerable who retired from the position at the end of last season. As defensive coordinator under Venerable, Temples’ experienced the Ironmen’s two-season 26-1 run, including winning the Illinois High School Association Class 6A Championship in 2006.

Same Day Enrollment Update: With the public voting to approve a tax increase to help build two new elementary schools and a new middle school, as well as pay for renovations for eight existing elementary schools, getting a same day enrollment comparison report shortly afterward had little surprises.

Enrollment numbers taken on Jan. 31 confirmed the growth of the population of Unit 5 schools from the same day a year ago. Unit 5 has a total of 12,498 students in its 15 Elementary, three junior highs, and two high schools. That is an increase of 377 schools – a 3.11 percent increase – over the same day last year.

The grade level with the largest population is one that has been anticipated by district officials in recent years – On Jan. 31, there were 1,001 children in Kindergarten classes. It is the first time there has been 1,000 children in Kindergarten across the district. That is an average of 22.8 children per 44 class sections.

By Steve Robinson | February 10, 2008 - 10:43 pm
Posted in Category: Morton HS, Pekin Daily Times

IHSANORMAL – Times-Area grapplers at the IHSA Class AA Individual Wrestling Sectional proved that only the strongest survive, as five wrestlers from three separate schools advanced to compete to place on Saturday at Normal Community West High School.

The big winner, in the 215 pound competition was Morton High standout Preston Poyner, who scored a 10-0 major decision over Caleb Blaney of Urbana High, to come in first in his division.

Morton head coach Ed Henderson said he was pleased with Poyner’s win over his Saturday opponent Minooka High’s Brandon Haase, especially since it was not the first victory over Haase that Poyner has had this season.

But, Henderson said, “at this time of year, it’s not about what has taken place in previous meetings, it’s about what is happening right now.”

Henderson said his wrestlers “beat up on Haase the previous times during the season,” but those victories, while important, are history. Henderson said every win in the playoffs is what is important to his team now as they head to State Finals in Champaign next weekend.

“We’ve already qualified for State,” Henderson said. “Now we’re looking for that first-round bye.”

During the match that got Poyner to the championship round, spectators were amazed by one move Poyner, who is ranked third in the State in Class AA, in a match put on Haase, grabbing Haase by an ankle and a wrist and flipping him over onto his back in one motion. It contributed to the 14-4 major decision Poyner scored to win the match.

“I was trying to stay aggressive,” Poyner said of the tactic he used. “It’s getting to a point in the season where the matches are getting really important. You have to make sure you stay in a good position (against opponents).”

Henderson said his team received a surprise in the effort put forth by Kyle McMurtry in the 285 pound weight class. Henderson said McMurtry entered regional competition with a 12-10 record, and then turned around and defeated two other wrestlers at regionals who had won 60 matches total between them.

Henderson admitted he thought McMurtry was a year away from competing at the level he showed at Regionals.

“He has really matured in the last two or three weeks,” Henderson said, complimenting McMurtry. He said he thought McMurtry having been in practices with Poyner has helped in McMurtry’s maturity as a wrestler.

Pekin Community High’s Frank Sciortino lost to Haase just before Haase won the third place match over Canton High’s Vinnie Franzoni in the 215 pound weight class.

Washington’s Jaszarowski Earns 4th: Although 135 pound Pat Jaszarowski from Washington Community High was defeated in an effort to take third in his weight class, someone should laud an honor on him for having his first match Saturday against the State’s fifth ranked wrestler in Class AA, Providence New Lennox’s Brian Walsh.Jaszarowski scrapped hard in that match but came up short in 7-2 decision.

Later in the day, Jaszarowski lost a 5-3 count to eventual third place winner Cam Pickett of Champaign Centennial.

Going into his match with Walsh, Jaszrowski said he concentrated on controlling getting tangled up by his opponent. Jaszrowski said Walsh tried to do leg-ties to his opponents, giving him an advantage.

“For the most part, I did what I thought I was supposed to do,” Jaszrowski said. “I avoided (Walsh’s) leg-ties very well…, a lot better than I thought I would.

Other Results: Washington’s Brandon Rice finished fourth in the 112 pound division, losing a 5-4 decision to Tom Ambrose of Providence New Lenox….East Peoria High’s Lidell Wright fell one match short of being able to compete for third place finish in the 140 pound weight class, losing to eventual third place finisher Jeremy Cmich of Providence New Lenox.

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Without opening his computer to check his stats following his team’s game here, Olympia head coach Gerry Thornton said the Spartans had “close to 20” turnovers against Bloomington Central Catholic here Friday night.

Understandably, that was just too many to his liking, giving the Saints an advantage, beating Olympia, 54-44 in a Corn Belt Conference matchup.

BCC (21-3, 10-2 Corn Belt) jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead as the game began, with 5:34 left in the first quarter, on the strength of treys by junior guard Tom Norton and senior guard Jeffry Collier. Oly regrouped during a time-out and came within four, 14-10 at the end of the first quarter, on the strength of six points scored by junior center Trevor Strubhar.

Oly came from behind for its only lead of the game with 6:53 left in second quarter, on a trey by junior forward Matt Frahm, putting the Spartans up 15-14. But back-to-back unanswered deuces by BCC junior forward Adam Rebholz put the Saints in front for good, 18-15, with 4:19 until halftime

Central CatholicBCC owned a convincing 41-29 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Frahm’s 14 points led Olympia in scoring, followed by 12 from Strubhar, and 10 from junior forward Matt Flynn.

Senior guard Aaron Garriott was the only BCC player to achieve double-figures against the Saints defense, scoring 21 points.

“We just need to smooth some things out offensively,” Thornton said after Olympia dropped to 14-8 overall, including a 5-6 conference mark.

Olympia“There’s no defense for a breakaway layup,” Thornton said, referring to the way the Saints offense scored on them throughout most of the game. “We turned the ball over too much. Even though we did not have a good offensive game, we turned the ball over way to much and gave (BCC) too many baskets off of turnovers. That was the key to the game.”

The clock became an added opponent for BCC, according to their head coach, Jason Welch. With Olympia closing in, 51-40 with 1:38 in the game, Welch said he tried impressing upon his team that they should not take on the clock while taking on the Spartans.

Despite that, Welch said he was proud of his team’s effort on the night. “I’m real proud of our team defensively,” he said. “We did some things right. We made it difficult on (Olympia) and they’re a good ball club, so we feel very fortunate.”