By Steve Robinson | September 26, 2009 - 4:55 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – For at least three quarters, the game between Unit 5 rivals Normal Community High and Normal Community West High was one of the closer contests fans at Ironmen Stadium have seen in 15 seasons between the two Big 12 Conference combatants.

But in the end, a 10-point spurt by NCHS in the fourth quarter handed the Ironmen their 13th victory in the series, 23-13 before 3,000 fans packed into the stands for the annual rivalry.

NCHS (4-1 overall and in conference) scored early on a 9-play, 80-yard march which ended in a 17-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Tre’ Jones to junior receiver Kyle Rutledge at 8:18 in the first quarter. As a result of a botched extra point, and sophomore kicker Spencer Smith failing to complete an impromptu two-point attempt NCHS only had a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Normal West (1-4 overall and in conference) cut the Ironmen’s lead, 6-3, on a 20-yard field goal by junior kicker Matthew Barnet with 6:37 in the second quarter. The field goal was the end result of a Wildcats drive that covered 67 yards in 10 plays. The two sides entered halftime with NCHS holding that three-point lead.

NCHS FootballWest received the ball after halftime, having deferred the opportunity to receive when the game started, and took their second half-opening drive 75 yards on 13 plays. The Wildcats used primarily running plays featuring junior quarterback Tyler Marcordes and sophomore running back Cory Ortiz to get to NCHS’ 24-yard line before a delay of game penalty pushed West back to NCHS’ 29-yard line, forcing the Wildcats to send Barnet out to try a 48-yard field goal.

With 5:15 left in the third, Barnet thrilled the Wildcats fans in the crowd by sending the ball through the uprights, tying the game at 6-all.

NCHS increased their score, 13-6, on the ensuing drive, going 65 yards on seven plays, keeping the ball on the ground with runs by Jones, and two running backs, senior Travis Mullen and junior Keegan McIntosh. McIntosh’s 14 yard touchdown, followed by Smith’s point-after, increased the Ironmen’s lead.

NCHS entered the fourth quarter with the 13-6 lead, but Smith added a 23-yard field goal at 9:08 in the fourth quarter, increasing NCHS’ lead, 16-6. Smith’s kicked capped a 9-play, 41-yard drive for the Ironmen.

West closed the gap for a final time on the night, 16-13, on a 4-yard run by Ortiz with 4:19 left in the game. Ortiz’s run capped off an 8-play, 55 yard drive that was helped along by a personal foul call against the Ironmen.

NCHS arrived at the final score on an interception by junior defensive back Brent Turner at West’s 37-yard line, being run back for a touchdown with 3:08 left in the contest. Smith added a successful point-after to arrive at the final score.

Normal West FootballAs a result of the NCHS victory, the Ironmen hold a commanding 13-2 lead in the series between the two teams.

“It’s always a battle,” NCHS head coach Wes Temples said of the rivalry game. “Records go out the window. We were hard on (our players) at halftime, and they came back.”

Concerning the role field goals may have played in the contest, Temples said, “We knew (Normal West) had a good kicker, and (field goals are) one of the things that wins games for you.”

“We’re real happy with our kicker,” West head coach Darren Hess said. “I know (NCHS) is with theirs.”

But Hess said, for his seniors, while they may consider this game a moral victory for how hard the team fought to stay close to the Ironmen, in reality, “moral victories are not okay. It’s not fair to our seniors – they deserve more. They worked so hard.”

By Steve Robinson | September 24, 2009 - 10:44 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL –As anticipated, members of Normal’s Unit 5 School Board passed attendance exceptions for all students attending in the district. The passage of the exceptions was a measure that would assure that students who begin their high school careers in one of the district’s two high schools would be able to complete their four-year careers where they started.

At the Board’s regular meeting at District headquarters on Sept. 23, Board members reinforced that message and discussed how requests for attendance exceptions would be handled.

Students entering either Normal Community High or Normal Community West High School during the 2009-2010 school year would be eligible to request an exception. However, the exception would not be an option for older siblings of the incoming freshman class of 2009-2010.

At the elementary school level, exceptions will be granted based on the enrollment numbers at both the requested and the assigned schools. The exception lasts just one year, and if parents wish for the exception to continue beyond that, they must reapply every year. Once the exception has been granted, there is no guarantee that it will continue to be granted in subsequent years.

Students attending a junior high school on an attendance exception must be declared eligible by the Illinois Elementary School Association to participate in sponsored activities. Parents and guardians will become responsible for transporting children to and from school if their child is attending school on the basis of an attendance exception.

At the high school level, exceptions will be granted only for documented health or psychological problems. The exception, if granted, would last for the duration of a student’s high school career. Parents and guardians of high school students will become responsible for transporting children to and from school if their child is attending school on the basis of an attendance exception.

District 2009-2010 Budget Passed: After a public hearing on the proposed budget for the District for the 2009-2010 school year, Board members agreed to adopt the budget.

The District has an estimated balance for fiscal year 2009-10 of $116 million, explained Jim Gillmeister, Unit 5’s Chief Financial Officer. Of the $116 million, $82 million is held in the District’s construction fund, as the District continues construction work on two new elementary schools and a new junior high school.

The $116 million is up from $80 million Unit 5 had as a balance in fiscal year 2008. Gillmeister said $82 million of the current $116 million balance is in the District’s construction fund.

Gillmeister explained that, excluding construction, Unit 5 spends 53.1 percent of its total budget on instruction, including regular education, special education, gifted education, bilingual education, and curriculum services.

Unit 5 mapPepper Ridge Must Offer “School Choice”: For the second straight year, Pepper Ridge Elementary did not make adequate yearly progress in student testing students in the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. As a consequence, under Federal “No Child Left Behind” regulations, must offer parents the choice of opting to go to another school.

Pepper Ridge Elementary was identified because a subgroup of third, fourth, and fifth graders did not meet adequate yearly progress standards under NCLB for a second straight year.

Jim Braksick, Unit 5’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told Board members a meeting was held with parents wishing to take advantage of the choice option during which 25 parents attended. Of those 25, the parents of 8 students opted to move their child to another school.

“Good News” About Nurses: In the first of two “good news” reports to the Board, the District recognized the 12 school nurses that serve the district’s 15 elementary schools, three junior highs, and two high schools, for their efforts to make sure students had their immunization shots completed before the start of the school year.

District Superintendent Gary Niehaus commended the nurses for their efforts to getting the students immunized.

“We’re hoping for the healthiest year in Unit 5,” Niehaus said. He added that the H1N1 virus, commonly called Swine Flu, is a concern, but that reminders of hand-washing, as well as having the nurses “on the front line” of the matter are appreciated.

Some nurses serve more than one school. The nurses honored (and the schools they serve) are: Paula Jean Birsa (Parkside Elementary & Carlock Elementary); Kelly Cole (Brigham Elementary & Fox Creek Elementary); Cheryl Corbitt (Chiddix Jr. High School); Ann E. Hamer (Normal Community West High School); Janice Knollenberg (Normal Community High School); Susann Marcum (Grove Elementary & Prairieland Elementary); Julie May (Colene Hoose Elementary & Sugar Creek Elementary); Jan Murray (Northpoint Elementary, Hudson Elementary, & Towanda Elementary); Jennifer Anne O’Brien (Kingsley Junior High School); Susan Schwingle (Parkside Junior High School); Catherine L. Troyer (Oakdale Elementary & Glenn Elementary); and Mary Jane Tucker (Pepper Ridge Elementary & Fairview Elementary).

Glenn Elementary’s “Good News”: Board members recognized Glenn Elementary School, and its principal, Carmen Bergmann, for the school’s having benefited from the “Boring vs. Normal Competition,” put on by Toshiba. Toshiba spent part of the summer in Normal auditioning residents for web ads. They also auditioned people in the town of Boring, Oregon, and asked people to vote for one of the two towns, with the winning community receiving Toshiba laptops.

After it was announced that Normal had won the contest, Glenn Elementary was awarded 45 mini-laptops that will be used by the school’s fifth grade students.

By Steve Robinson | September 22, 2009 - 7:38 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members found out about the financial health of the community at the group’s regular meeting on Sept. 21 at City Hall. Overall, the Town has faired better than some other communities its size Town officials indicated, but still needs to find ways to brace for a deepening recession.

Finance Director Ron Hill and City Manager Mark Peterson helped the Council absorb the details of the report with a Powerpoint presentation.

First, the good news, Hill said, was that the community has positives to be proud of in terms of property tax rates, utility tax revenue, and monies made from food and beverage taxes.

But Hill said revenue from state income tax dollars was down from past years. He indicated that amount of money the Town received from utility tax revenues in fiscal year 2008-09 was unchanged from the previous fiscal year.

“We need to rebuild our reserves that have been depleted,” Hill said. Like anyone on a budget, Hill explained, Normal will have to put off any equipment replacement until reserves have been rebuilt.

“We’re a little better off than some cities, but it’s still painful,” Hill told Council members. He reminded them that Standard & Poor’s has given the Town a bond rating just one notch below a perfect Triple-A rating.

Hill indicated that the cost of the average home in Normal has gone up during the period, too. The average cost of a home in Normal in fiscal year 2008-09 was $288,000, up 4.7 percent from a cost of $275,000 the previous fiscal year.

Hill forecast a 6 percent increase in the money taken in from food and beverage taxes for the town in the coming fiscal year.

Peterson told Council members there should not be any surprises in the report, and that the Town is likely to live with recession and it effects for a couple of years. “We’re well equipped for what’s ahead,” he said.

“We’re looking at every nook and cranny to save money,” he said. “We’ve underestimated the impact of the recession. We didn’t want to preach doom and gloom. We’ll bounce back with a sound and robust economy when the national economy bounces back.”

Looking ahead 18-24 months, Peterson said Normal is “a house in good order but there are some challenges. Things will get better. Things will return to normalcy in Normal.”

No Skateboarding Allowed In Uptown: As a means to keep the Uptown area from incurring damage, as improvements continue, Council members unanimously passed an ordinance, amending the Town Municipal Code, prohibiting skateboarding in the Uptown area.

The borders of the Uptown area which this ordinance addresses are from Mulberry St. on the north, Fell Ave. on the west, the Union Pacific railroad tracks on the south, and Linden St. on the east. Within this area, skateboarding will be prohibited, and would carry a fine of not less than $25 and not greater than $500. This area would be the only area within the Town where skateboarding would be prohibited.

Skateboarding would still be allowed on Constitution Trail and in all Town parks, including the skating facility at Fairview Park.

Daycare Site Conditionally Approved: Council members unanimously passed two resolutions related to a new daycare facility which is part of a partnership between BroMenn Healthcare, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Illinois State University. First, Council members passed an ordinance rezoning the property at the daycare’s proposed location, 708 Harris St., from Single Family Residential to General Business.

Council members then unanimously passed a resolution conditionally approving a site plan for the Harris St. location, as well as 1110 S. Main St. and 1200 S. Main St.

Planned Unit Development Request Denied: Council members unanimously voted to reject a resolution conditionally approving a conceptual preliminary Planned Unit Development at 601 ½ Main St. Developer Adebayo Adanri had sought the property to build a five-unit townhouse complex on the lot. The land is surrounded by single family residences.

Town Planner Mercy Davison explained the density of Adanari’s proposed development would be 11 units per acre, whereas Town Code only allows 8 units per acre. Davison said the Normal Zoning Board of Appeals voted against Adanari’s plan.

Bruce A. Thacker, 601 N. Main St., spoke to Council members in opposing the plan. “We’re not opposed to single occupation (in the area), but this is just (for Adanri) to make money,” Thacker said.

“It’s a nice project, but there’s not enough land for it,” Mayor Chris Koos told Adanri in explaining his opposition to it.

Council member Adam Nielsen asked why this was being brought to the Council table if it was only a concept. City Manager Mark Peterson answered Nielsen, explaining that developers have brought concepts for building projects to the Council before.

City Manager Mark Peterson said Town Staff thought the Council and the Planning Commission might see things differently from what the staff thought.

“(Town staff) wanted to get Council feedback over this before (Adanri) undertook his plans,” Peterson said.

Off-Street Parking Regs Amended: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance amending off-street parking regulations. Among the amendments was a requirement of the use of “Best Management Practices, or BMPs, for parking lots with 300 or more parking spaces.

BMPs utilize design features, including engineered structures, to include the quality of stormwater runoff.

Council Approves Regional Comprehensive Plan: Council members unanimously approved the McLean County Regional Comprehensive Plan. The plan was last updated in 2000. Among initiatives to be given priority in the newly-updated plan are:

• Investigation of the creation of a transit district and expanded transit service.

• Identification of areas targeted for revitalization.

• Consideration of cost- and revenue-sharing alternatives among local governments.

• Review of development fees.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 8, 2009.

• Approval of Town expenditures for payment as of Sept. 16, 2009.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding procedure to allow the purchase of waste collection containers from Charlotte, N. C.-based Schaefer Systems International, Inc. at a total cost of $19,207.50.

• A motion authorizing a change order with Bloomington-based Felmley Dickenson Co. for improvements to the east façade of 111 W. North St in an amount not to exceed $12,430.

• A motion authorizing a change order with Morton-based CORE Construction in the amount of $22,400 for additional work on the College Ave. Parking Deck and approval of an associated budget adjustment.

• A motion to accept the audited Town of Normal financial statements and report of Certified Public Accountants for the year ending March 31, 2009.

• A motion to accept the Federal Compliance Audit for the year ending March 31, 2009.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an Intergovernment Agreement with Illinois State University pertaining to fire protection service.

• A resolution conditionally authorizing execution of an agreement for program management services with Fishers, Ind.-based Bowen Engineering Corporation pertaining to water treatment plant filter rehabilitation and Clearwell piping, baffles, and pump projects.

• A resolution conditionally authorizing execution of an amended redevelopment agreement pertaining to the property at 701 Broadway Ave.

• A resolution reapproving a preliminary subdivision plan for Parkside East Subdivision First Addition.

• A conditional resolution partially reapproving the final plat of Parkside East Subdivision – First Addition.

• A resolution conditionally approving a preliminary subdivision plan for Blackstone Trails Subdivision.

• An ordinance adopting the McLean County Regional Greenways Plan for areas within the Town of Normal planning jurisdiction.

• An ordinance annexing property to the Town of Normal – Calvary United Methodist Church.

• An ordinance annexing property to the Town of Normal – Tiehack Development Corporation.

• An ordinance ratifying and reapproving Ordinance 5286 (Zoning Map Amendment for Tiehack Development Corporation.

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

Town of NormalNORMAL – Prior to the Normal Town Council session, Mayor Chris Koos honored 17 community members who were honored for participating in the Town’s Annual Beautification Awards.

This year’s winners included:

• Carolyn Evans, 603 N. Linden St.;

• Glenn Miller, 605 Pine St., Lot #16;

• Jessica Chambers, ISU Horticulture Center;

• Mr. & Mrs. Michael Francisco, 614 Normal Ave.;

• Grace Church, 1311 Hovey Ave.;

• Quentin Rabideau, 1003 University St.;

• Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Herald, 1105 Broadway;

• Commercial Packaging, 1 Paperchase Lane.

The Town of Normal won two Beautification awards as well. The first went to the Town for its work at the CDM Gardens at the Children’s Discovery Museum. The second award went for the Town’s work at the Parkinson Street parking lot.

There were 11 residents that received honorable mention. They were:

• Mary Ann Pullin, 402 N. Linden Ave.;

• Stan Valley, 908 N. Oak;

• Mr. & Mrs. Tim Richie, 1003 W. Ironwood;

• Mr. & Mrs. Allan Feltner, 1900 Claremont;

• Mr. & Mrs. Terry Dennis, 505 Whispering Pines;

• Ms. Marilyn Braught, 306 Orlando Ave.;

• Mr. & Mrs. Stephen Flynn, 900 N. School St.;

• Mr. John Poole, 505 Normal Ave.;

• Mr. Duane Smith, 1504 W. Hovey Ave.; and

• Ms. Elizabeth Balser, 717 N. Hester.

The Town earned an honorable mention for the work done on the southeast corner of Florence St. and Fell Ave.

By Steve Robinson | September 15, 2009 - 5:12 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal’s Unit 5 students starting their high school careers in 2010 received assurances from School Board members that the students would be able to finish at the same school during the four year period.

At the Board’s regular meeting at District headquarters on Sept. 9, Board members reinforced that message and discussed how requests for attendance exceptions would be handled.

John Pye, assistant superintendent for human resources for Unit 5, told Board members requests for exceptions based on health reasons would be granted for secondary and high school students, and that those exceptions would be valid for one year.

Pye said that at middle school level, exceptions will be based on enrollment. He said doing that would help the exception for middle school students to be the same as it currently is at the elementary school level.

District Superintendent Gary Niehaus added that students entering either Normal Community High or Normal Community West High School during the 2009-2010 school year would be eligible to request an exception. However, Niehaus said, the exception would not be an option for older siblings of the incoming freshman class of 2009-2010.

Niehaus said the reason the policy is set up this way is because the number of students could impact the number of class sections. Also, Niehaus said, Unit 5 wants to avoid arbitrary movement of students from school to school.

Should parents move from Unit 5 to another district, their child would be allowed to stay in Unit 5 until the end of the school year, Niehaus said.

CAC Topics Announced: Unit 5’s Citizens Advisory Council will again tackle six subjects of interest as the subjects relate to the district. The subjects CAC will be researching and filing reports about are:

• Information Security;

• Dropouts: Subjects would include approaches to dealing with them; researching programs for those students at risk;

• Going Green: Looking at recycling at the elementary school level, looking at what other districts and universities are doing.

• Best Practices of Parent Organizations.

• Co-Curricular Activities and Elementary Students.

• Literacy.

TIF District Support OK’d: Board members unanimously approved a resolution for a Tax Increment Financing District in support of the establishment of the One Normal Plaza redevelopment plan.

Unit 5 mapBid For Improvements At Evans Jr. High OK’d: Board members also unanimously approved a bid for work to be done on the Route 150 entrance to the new George L. Evans Junior High School. Board members unanimously voted to accept the bid for the work submitted by Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co. in the amount of $655,900.51. The work Rowe will be doing will include adding turn lanes and traffic signals at the site.

Construction Update: Richard Ach of Turner Construction gave Board members an update on the building of two new elementary and one new junior high school, as well as updates on renovation to other schools in the district. The construction/renovation projects are all part of a $96.7 million construction and renovation referendum approved in February 2008 by Unit 5 voters.

At the site of the new Cedar Ridge Elementary, Ach said, gym walls, and walls for administrative areas and cafeteria are up. He said work on construction of the building’s second floor would be starting around the week of Sept. 21.

At the site of the new Benjamin Elementary, masonry and gym walls have gone up. At Evans Junior High, rainy weather over the spring and summer has caused the work to get behind schedule, Ach explained. He estimated the work is a month-and-a-half behind schedule at Evans.

Expected scheduled completion dates for all of the projects is being set for early January at Sugar Creek Elementary; mid-April at Cedar Ridge Elementary; early May at Benjamin Elementary; and mid-August at George L. Evans Junior High.

Ach said classroom renovations at Sugar Creek Elementary have been completed.

Breakfast Program Expands: The District’s breakfast program added two more schools to its ranks this school year, according to Pat Powers, Unit 5’s director of food service. The additions of Kingsley Junior High School and Parkside Junior High School into the breakfast program bring the number of schools in the program to 12.

“We’ve had a great start (with the new schools added to the program),” Powers told Board members. She said the breakfast program meets goals set for schools established by the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Powers said her program’s next goals include reducing sodium, and increasing grains, in foods served.

Same Day Enrollment Up: Overall enrollment in the district went up when compared with the numbers from one year ago.

When the same-day enrollment report came out for Aug. 31, 2009, as compared with the same day in 2008, there were 12,874 students in the District’s 15 elementary schools, three junior highs, and two high schools – an increase of 220 students, or 1.74 percent, from the same day last year.

The District’s 15 elementary schools had a total of 6,445 students in class, an increase of 205 students, or 3.3 percent. NCHS and Normal West had a total of 3,540 students in class, an increase of 102 students, or 2.88 percent, from the same day last year.

Only the three junior high schools – Chiddix, Kingsley, and Parkside — saw a dip in enrollment, each school losing students. There were a total of 2,787 students enrolled in the three schools. Compared to the 2,874 students enrolled at the three schools on Aug. 31, 2008, that is a loss of 87 students, or 3.03 percent.

Chiddix’s population saw the largest drop – 60 students – from 905 students in August 2008 to 845 in August 2009. During the same period, Kingsley lost 43 students, with 1,028 students in August 2009, compared with 1,071 a year ago. Parkside Junior High was the only junior high to gain in population – by 16 students from the same day a year ago. PJHS’ enrollment stood at 914 students.