By Steve Robinson | May 31, 2009 - 7:19 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – The costs of two items offered to parents that are paid with student fees will be going up when the 2009-2010 school year begins in August.

The increases for the two items — Student Insurance and School Lunches – were approved as part of an omnibus agenda at the regular meeting of Normal’s Unit 5 School Board at District headquarters May 27.

The insurance, which is an optional item to parents, will now cost parents of K-12 students during school hours $20, an increase of $2 from past years.

Jim Gillmeister, Unit 5’s Chief Financial Officer, said the costs of around-the-clock coverage and coverage for football players will be unchanged. Around-the-clock coverage will remain $90, and coverage for football players will remain $145.

Student insurance premiums are established by National Student Accident Insurance, and the policies are written and serviced by Normal-based Van Gundy Insurance Agency.

Lunches will also cost more starting next school year. Lunch fees at both elementary and secondary school levels will go up five cents – Student lunches up to $1.65, and adult lunches up to $2.15 at the elementary schools, while student lunches will go up to $1.70, and adult lunches will go up to $2.20 at the secondary schools.

In a memo to District Superintendent Gary Niehaus, Gillmeister said the lunch cost increases were recommended in light of increased cost of both food and compensation of food service personnel.

New Principal For Towanda Elementary: Board members approved and announced that Karrah Jensen has been named the new principal at Towanda Elementary School, effective July 1. A nine-year Unit 5 veteran, she currently is a fourth grade teacher at Pepper Ridge Elementary School. Jensen, married and mother of one, was one of nine educators who were in the running for the job.

NCHS’ “Good News”: Normal Community High School officials shared two items during the meeting’s “good news” segment with the Board. First, NCHS senior Sara Roper was recognized for her attendance at the State Skills USA Conference. She received a Presidential Scholarship. She will use that scholarship toward her attending Heartland Community College. She told Board members she was interested in going into Nursing. She will also attend a National Conference in Kansas City later this month.

NCHS also recognized four students for their performance on their Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) tests. WYSE exams were administered on April 6 at Wheaton College.

The following students were recognized for getting top scores in specific subjects: Alexander Schlehuber, a junior, in Chemistry; Chris Baldwin, a senior, in Graphics; David Thompson, a senior, in Physics; and Matthew Ware, a senior, in Physics.

Two other NCHS students received honors for winning certificates for their scores in the “WYSE SMART Challenge.” Those students were sophomore Esha Wang, for earning the highest score in Chemistry; and sophomore Blake Cecil, for earning the highest score in Consumer Education and General Business.

Cecil and Wang were also among nine students to win certificates in Math. In addition to Cecil and Wang, certificates went to sophomores Raj Kadiyala, Sukumar Lagadapati, Sam Lee, Grace Leighton, Shoba Sridhar, and Sam Wylde, as well as to freshman Mahendra Reddy.

Fairview Elementary’s “Good News”: Mr. Lotus Hershberger and Mrs. Chris Culbertson were recognized for the work they do with the “Math Club” at Fairview Elementary School.

James Shaw, Principal at Fairview Elementary, explained that the help volunteers like Hershberger and Culbertson “helps enhance the education of Fairview students.”

Unit 5 mapDisposal Of District Records Discussed: Record keeping in a district as large as Unit 5 has proven to be a big job. Properly disposing of those records, depending on their age has become a task for the district. Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Jim Braksick updated Board members on how the disposal process was going.

Braksick began by explaining that there were records found for the schools in the outlying areas of the county, dating back to late 1800s. He said that sometime this Summer, “some 700 boxes of records” will be disposed of.

He said that under the Illinois Records Act, permanent records must be kept for 60 years, while temporary records must be kept for five years.

Braksick said the district discovered that it had personnel records of employees dating back to 1948, which had been filed alphabetically. He said before the District can dispose of the records it desires to, it must receive a certificate from the State of Illinois. Once the certificate is received, Unit 5 can destroy those records.

Braksick said Unit 5 is also setting some long-range goals with regard to record-keeping. Those include:

• Develop a procedure to annually seek a records disposal certificate from the State.

• Establish a process for disposing of records annually.

• Provide annual training of administrators, administrative assistants, nurses, and other staff members responsible for student records.

• Centralize current records of students no longer attending Unit 5 schools.

• Determine a need for procedures regarding other district records in the areas of transportation, finance and business, and food service

“Executive On Loan” Recognized: Niehaus and Board members honored Tom Laxton, an executive with State Farm Insurance who has been on loan to the district for the past year. Laxton, who works in the Executive Leadership Section of State Farm’s Public Affairs Division, has been working on projects with the District.

“(Tom) opened a level of conversation, not just between Unit 5 and State Farm, but also between Unit 5 and (Bloomington’s) District 87,” Niehaus said.

Part of Laxton’s assignment while with Unit 5 was to figure out how the insurance company could help the individual schools, Niehaus said.

Niehaus explained that from Laxton, the district learned “that State Farm is interested in what Unit 5 is doing, from (State Farm President) Ed Rust’s office down, and we’ll miss him.”

“This is a tremendous district,” Laxton told Board members. “You have some tremendous advocates for kids.”

Laxton, a 30-year State Farm employee, started his “on-loan” assignment with Unit 5 last April.

By Steve Robinson | May 30, 2009 - 9:20 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Tremont

BaseballBLOOMINGTON – Tremont High School head baseball coach Jim Workman said after his team’s IHSA Class 1A Sectional Final that he had hoped his Turks, who were in the midst of winning the last 10 of 13 games they have played, would manage to get to play one more game this season.

Doing so would get the Turks an appearance at the Champaign Super-Sectional. Saturday’s was the fifth appearance the Turks have made in a Regional.

But a four-run fifth inning by North Fulton added to a failed last inning Turks rally, gave North Fulton a 6-3 victory, closing out Workman’s last season as Turks baseball coach. He’ll remain at Tremont as Athletic Director.

A crowd of roughly 400 people crowded into Jack Horenberger Stadium on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus to watch what started out as a pitchers’ duel for three innings between the starting pitchers, Tremont’s Blake Uhlman and North Fulton’s Brandon Shaw.

Shortstop Joe Ellsworth drove a home run over the left center field fence in the bottom of the fourth inning, earning an RBI for scoring pitcher Brandon Shaw, who led off the inning with a single. That gave North Fulton (24-4) a 2-0 lead.

North Fulton put Tremont batters down in order in the top of the fifth inning. Up to that point, Wildcats starter Brandon Shaw set down 13 Turks batters on the day.

Tremont TurksWildcats’ center fielder Caleb Shaw singled, stole second, and advanced to third on an error to lead off in the fifth inning.

As the inning progressed, a double by first baseman Beau Lehnhausen was followed by two straight walks to winning pitcher Shaw and shortstop Joe Ellsworth, increasing North Fulton’s lead, 4-0.

Catcher Jeremy Ellsworth’s single into deep center field brought home Shaw and Joe Ellsworth, giving North Fulton a 6-0 cushion going into the seventh inning.

Tremont mounted a rally attempt in the top of the seventh inning, beginning with a double by catcher Matt Workman, which scored Turks center fielder Bo VanRheden who led off the inning with a walk, and shortstop Brad Dunlap, who followed with a double. That cut North Fulton’s lead to 6-2.

Tremont had men on first and second after Turks pitcher Blake Uhlman was hit by a Shaw pitch.

North Fulton head coach Todd Killian yanked his starting pitcher with Uhlman on third, in favor of reliever Josh Ellsworth. But Ellsworth’s fourth pitch hit Tremont shortstop Kai Pflederer, walking him, which scored Uhlman, giving Tremont what would be their final run of the season.

IHSABut Ellsworth gained his composure, forcing Tremont’s last three batters – first baseman Kyle Anderson, left fielder Tyler Risinger, and right fielder Andrew Morris – to hit fly balls into the outfield to end the Turks’ season.

Uhlman took the loss for Tremont (16-14), finishing the season with a 3-5 pitching record.

“Our last inning here is very indicative of how we played the whole last third of the season,” said Tremont head coach Jim Workman. “They pulled it together, and (although the school did not have success in other sports this season), it’s been a tough athletic year for them.

“For them to hang (in there) and come back and do what we did, I respect each and every one of them.”

“We had a close balls-and-strikes situation there, and credit (Tremont) with coming out and swinging the sticks in the seventh, and finding the holes (in our defense),” said North Fulton head coach Todd Killian.

By Steve Robinson | May 21, 2009 - 10:33 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal’s Zoning Board of Appeals members unanimously approved plans submitted by the First Assembly of God Church for a renovation project.

Mike Carothers, representing the developer on the project, Normal-based P. J. Hoerr, Inc., told Zoning Board members the church will be looking to add two more additions to the structure, including a new sanctuary, and space for classrooms.

Normal Town Council will find this matter on their June 1 meeting agenda.

Drainage problems were among principal concerns neighbors of the church had when they addresses the Board. Zoning Board member Gary Blakney said, he too, had concerns about the drainage problem after reading staff reports related to the church’s plans.

Town Planner Mercy Davison said the church is addressing drainage issues.

James Newman, 807 Spear Dr., was one of six residents in the church’s backyard who has experienced water runoff in his yard. In addressing the Zoning Board, Newman said water runoff from the church parking lot gets into his yard. He expressed the hope that the runoff would not continue throughout the church’s construction process.

Carothers said a berm would be installed to redirect water runoff. He said engineers would determine the location of the berm. Gary Cimbura, 502 Wittenberg Ct.

Mike Leahy, 907 Spear Dr., said he hopes future landscaping would be done on the church property to stop water runoff from going into neighboring yards. Carothers said new landscaping is scheduled for Spring 2010.

“As a neighbor, we welcome the project,” Paul Kowerko, 905 Spear Dr., told Board members. “I just want reassurance that the City will supervise the development the church is doing.”

“I see nothing wrong with the parking variation,” Blakney said before the meeting was adjourned. “Drainage (issues) will be addressed as (the renovation) continues.”

Chad Reinhart, a member of the church’s Building Committee, said after the meeting that the development is needed because the current facility “is just too small.”

“We’re lacking nursery space, we’re lacking child development space,” Reinhart said. “We need more room.”

On May 4, Normal Town Council passed a resolution by omnibus vote, also involving the church. That resolution approved a special use permit for the have fewer parking spaces than are allowed by code.

Per Town Code, the existing church facility had to have 326 parking spaces. The church has 303 spaces. Construction would eliminate some parking spaces.

The resolution the Council passed earlier this month granted the church a variance allowing it to have 269 spaces.

By Steve Robinson | May 18, 2009 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved four separate resolutions relating to a new development aimed at retirees.

Council members approved plans presented by the Apostolic Christian Church and the Meadows Mennonite Retirement Association to begin building a development to be known as Communities of Mercy Creek.

Communities at Mercy Creek will sit on 102 acres Raab Rd. and Towanda Barnes Rd. There will be a mix of single family homes and assisted living housing at the new development.

Stadium Site Conditionally Approved: Council members unanimously conditionally approved a site plan for a baseball stadium on Heartland Community College property. The stadium is to be located at 1500 W. Raab Rd.

The new ballpark will have stadium seating for 4,000 people. Another 3,000 will be able to enjoy lawn seating. The ballpark project has a $12 million price tag.

HCC would use the new facility for its baseball and softball teams. In addition, Normal will get an independent minor league team operated by Normal Professional Baseball, LLC. The team will be in the independent Frontier League and begin play in May 2010. The team received an official nickname, as voted on by fans over the past month. The new name is the Normal CornBelters.

“All About Normal” Participants Recognized: Prior to the start of the meeting, Mayor Koos honored the 18 most recent members of the eight-week educational course taught by various Town staff called “All About Normal.” The latest group includes 14 individuals and two couples.

During each weekly 2 1/2 session, class members learn about particular aspects of local government, including public safety, finance, parks and recreation and other areas. Facility tours, interactive exercises or other field demonstrations are also part of the curriculum in this class, for which there is no cost.

The Town offers the “All About Normal” program once a year in the late winter and early spring.

The Spring 2009 Class members honored at Monday’s meeting were: Chris Hunt, Liz Hoisington, Renee Lewis, Diane Anderson, Albert Turner, Michelle Ratcliff, Gary Braun, Jason Riddle, Dawn Wilson, Cyndee Brown, Andrew Crist, Patrick O’Gara, Michael Jensen, and Allison Graham. The two couples in the group receiving recognition were Andy and Melissa Litwiller, and Ed and Bonnie Bulthuis.

NPD Chief Crutcher Honored: Normal Police Chief Kent Crutcher has been honored with the Illinois State Bar Association’s “Law Enforcement Award,” City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members. The award recognizes Crutcher’s efforts to create a tool for his officers responding to calls where there are children or adults with special needs.

For example, if a parent has a child with autism, they can have their name and child’s name put on a confidential database in the Town’s emergency response records. Should an emergency occur at the home of a registrant, officers would be alerted to the fact that a person with special needs in at that location.

Further, Peterson said, Crutcher has also arranged training in McLean County which instructs officers on how to deal with people with special needs, with a focus on mental health issues.

Peterson said that Elizabeth Robb, Chief Judge of the 11th Circuit Court, nominated Crutcher for the honor.

Town-AmerenIP Agreement Amended: Council members unanimously approved an amendment a franchise agreement between the Town and electricity provider AmerenIP. The two parties had had an agreement which ran from 1944 to 1997. Annual renewals have been used from then until now, Peterson said.

The new agreement, once put into effect by AmerenIP, and approved by the Town, would last for 20 years.

Museum Board Appointee Announced: It was announced that Larry Nolan has been named to the Board of Directors of the Children’s Discovery Museum. Bloomington resident Nolan is employed as a director in the Customer Services Training Division of Country Financial.

His term on the board expires June 30, 2012. A 1988 graduate of Illinois State University, Nolan is married and has two daughters.Marriott’s New Manager Introduced: Council members were introduced to the new manager of the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Uptown Normal, slated to open this fall. The manager is Jeff Pritts, who currently works for JQH Hotels, which will operate the new hotel. Pritts is transferring to the Uptown location from Phoenix, Ariz., where he was manager of the Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the inauguration and seating of the President and Board of Trustees of the Town of Normal on May 4, 2009.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of May 4, 2009.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 13, 2009.

• A motion to approve an expenditure of $11,025 to Twinstar Productions, Inc. for the City Vision Cable Television Show.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept a proposal from Bloomington-based McLean County Asphalt Co., Inc. in the amount of $86,550.85 for asphalt resurfacing in Uptown Normal and the approval of a budget adjustment in the amount of $25,050.85.

• A resolution authorizing a lease agreement with Plainfield, Ill.-based Recovery Solutions I, LLC for a modular bank facility to be located at 102-104 Broadway in Uptown Normal and approving an expense in the amount of $14,750 for the removal of the existing modular facility.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with Chicago-based Cotter Consulting, Inc. for owner representative services on the Normal multi-modal transportation center construction project.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of a mutual aid agreement with the Illinois Water and Wastewater Response Network.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a limited short-term extension of an Intergovernmental Agreement with McLean County for animal control warden services.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a limited short-term extension of an Intergovernmental Agreement with McLean County for animal control shelter services.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a ground lease and stadium project agreement with Heartland Community College District No. 540, the Town of Normal, and Normal Professional Baseball, LLC for the design, construction and operation of a sports stadium with related amenities and baseball team.

• A resolution authorizing a lease agreement with Illinois State University for office space located at 305 S. Linden St.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of the resubdivision of Lot 27 First Addition to Hanover Heights Subdivision by expedited process.

• A conditional resolution re-approving the final plat of Evergreen Village PUD subdivision.

• An ordinance prohibiting parking on a portion of School St., between Vernon Ave. and Beaufort St.

• An ordinance amending Section 15.17-14 of the Town Municipal Code – LEED Certification.

• An ordinance amending Chapter 8 of the Town Municipal Code – Newspaper Dispensing Devices.

• An ordinance amending Section 18.1-10 of the Town Municipal Code – Residence Requirements.

• An ordinance amending Ordinance 5256.

• An ordinance amending Division 6 of Chapter 16 of the Municipal Code – Public Land Dedication and Reservation Requirements.

BaseballNORMAL, Ill. – Phoenix College’s reign as champions of NJCAA Division II Softball came to an end in the midst of brisk conditions at the hands of a team from this local area – the Hawks of Heartland Community College, a school that has only had athletics for two years.

But after just over an hour after it began, in a game played in 30 mile-per hour winds, Heartland had won its first NJCAA Division Championship, dethroning the current five-time champion Bears, 4-1.

Pitcher Hannah Dow’s first inning single with two on scored center fielder Lizzie Andrews, giving HCC (50-8) a fast 1-0 lead. Aggressive defensive fielding by the Hawks kept Phoenix College scoreless for six straight innings.

The winds had baserunners for Phoenix College (57-10) wearing jackets to keep out the cold.

Phoenix BearsIn the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bears scored their lone run, with two out. Catcher Lacy Goodman led off with a single. After shortstop Ashlie Rosenberg and right fielder Alyssa Goldsmith struck out and hit into an out, respectfully, giving Phoenix College a last chance to extend their season, first baseman Dana Goguen reached first on an error by HCC center fielder Andrews. Goodman scored when Goguen advanced to second.

Dow was the winning pitcher for HCC. Brianna Robles took the loss for Phoenix College.

“It was just insane (to be playing) with 30 miles-per-hour winds,” Phoenix College head coach Heinz Mueller said. “(The conditions) took our home run ball away from us. I mean, it really did.

“We’re a home run-hitting team,” Mueller said, pointing to the Bears’ 120 round-trip shots his team has had this season.

NJCAA National Championships“You have to give (Heartland) credit,” Mueller said. “They were hot, they were on (their game). He said had the game been played at the originally-scheduled 2p.m (Pacific) on Friday, even if Heartland had beat them then, the Bears would not have had to play as many games in one day as they did Saturday.

“When they cancelled the game on Friday, we knew that if we lost that game that there would be a long road to haul,” Mueller said.

Mueller said his comments about the cancellations and game stacking should not be thought of as complaining about losing a title his team has held for five years running.

“I don’t want to take anything away from (Heartland),” Mueller said. “But you had to beat us to take us away from that. We weren’t going to lay down. We’ve got a lot of pride. We’ve got a lot of character.”

NJCAAA near day-long rain Friday caused Phoenix College (57-10) to have to play five games on Saturday, starting the day with a win over Kansas’ Johnson County Community College, but then dropping the day’s second game to the Hawks, 13-1. The Bears recovered after that, with Mueller’s Bears blanking Kansas-based Cowley Community College, 5-0, and defeating Kankakee Community College, 4-1.

All-Tournament Team Members: Outfielder Melissa Goldsmith was named to the All-Tournament Team by organizers at the conclusion of the event.

Bears infielder Ashlie Rosenberg earned recognition by tournament organizers, too, being named the tournament’s designated player, while Goodwin was named the tourney’s Best Offensive Player.