By Steve Robinson | February 27, 2010 - 10:17 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal’s Unit 5 School Board members heard four “Good News” reports at their regular meeting Feb. 24, held at Sugar Creek Elementary School. Members of the Normal Rotary Club, and three Unit 5 instructors received recognition for recent achievements.

Normal Rotary Coat Drive: Unit 5 recognized members of Normal Rotary Club for their efforts to help some elementary and middle school students in need so that they would have coats for the winter. Normal Rotary Club President Ed Tanton and Coat Drive Committee Co-Chair Connie Gentry attended the meeting. Ron Timmerman is the other Coat Drive Co-Chair.

“We had approximately 126 donated as well as received money donations,” Gentry explained. She said Normal Rotary also received donations of hats and gloves, in addition to coats.

The need for coats became apparent to the district when schools discovered there were students staying home from school because they did not have coats to wear, Gentry said.

The drive ran during November and December, Gentry said. She said Normal Rotary also took monetary donations from people who wanted to help the project, as well as receiving the needed items. She said they raised about $1,100.

NCHS Technology Instructor Receives Grant From WHOI-TV: Normal Community High School technology instructor Don Whitman received a $1,000 Grant from Peoria’s WHOI-TV as part of the station’s on-going “One Class At A Time” program.

NCHS teacher Michelle Byers wrote WHOI-TV to nominate Whitman because of his work with students who are part of his Personal Computer Hardware class and a computer club Whitman oversees during after school hours. The computer club and PC hardware class works on rebuilding and updating computers for families of NCHS students who may not be able to afford new or updated computers.

WHOI-TV and CEFCU Credit Union give the award out on a bi-weekly basis to area teachers who are nominated by co-workers or students. The money can be used for supplies, classroom tools, or other necessities.

Unit 5 mapNCHS Band Director Serves As Guest Conductor: Josh Masterman, NCHS Band director, was recognized by Board members for being invited to be guest conductor for the Springfield Public Schools All-City Music Festival, which was held on Feb. 23.

Normal West Consumer Sciences Teacher Honored: Teri Wilson, a teacher at Normal Community West High School, has been named Teacher of the Year for 2009-2010 by Illinois Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (IAFCS). IAFCS presented Wilson with the honor at the group’s annual conference on Feb. 26, held at the Par-A-Dice Hotel in East Peoria.

The award recognizes outstanding educational programs, methods, techniques, and activities in the field of family and consumer sciences. West Principal Tom Eder, in a memo to Board members about Wilson’s accomplishments, explained she “restructured a playschool into an Early Childhood Education Program as part of the Family and Consumer Science program at (West).”

Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, students will be able to earn dual credit at Heartland Community College through this high school curriculum.

As winner of the IAFCS Teacher of the year award, Wilson’s name will be submitted to the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences 2010 National Teacher of the Year award program. Winning entries from each state are submitted to AAFCS for national competition. From this group, the top teachers of the year are selected, and will be announced at AAFCS’ 2010 Annual Conference. This year’s conference will be held on June 24 in Cleveland, Ohio.

By Steve Robinson | February 25, 2010 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – At their first meeting in February, Normal’s Unit 5 School Board sought ways to reduce its budget, looking to make between $6 million-$10 million in cuts.

At their meeting on Feb. 24, held at Sugar Creek Elementary School, District Superintendent Gary Niehaus said district officials found areas and personnel to cut, managing to make $7.5 million in budget reductions. The budget cuts manage to touch nearly all areas affected by the district.

The breakdown of the total areas where cuts will be to be made looks like this:

• A total of $779,700 will be reduced from the budget that pays for Unit 5’s central office and administration.

• A total of $3,047,300 will be cut from District-wide programs, including State programs, Gifted Education, staff development, library services throughout the district, and assessment and testing.

• A total of $1,737,900 will be cut from the district’s Elementary Education budget, which includes six full-time teachers’ salaries, 51 teaching assistants’ salaries, and budgets for supplies and equipment. It also includes eliminating on full-time school administrative manager.

• A total of $807,900 will be cut from the district’s middle school budget, including eliminating one full-time school administrative manager, and six full-time teachers. Also, there will be a reduction in how much will be spent on textbooks, supplies, and equipment.

• A total of $1,114,200 will be cut from the district’s budget for high school expenses, including eliminating 1 school administrative manager’s position, and 13 full-time teaching positions, 10 full time teaching assistant positions. In addition, money available for a driver’s education vehicle, textbooks, supplies, and equipment have also been slashed.

Niehaus said as yet unknown teacher resignations and retirements could help Unit 5 return some of the six full-time elementary teachers affected by the cuts.

Martin Getty, Unit 5’s interim Chief Financial Officer, told Board members the district is still owed $6 million by the State of Illinois. Getty said that, should Unit 5 receive all the cash the state owes it, the district would be able to have a balanced budget.

Niehaus told Board members he met with all of Unit 5’s school principals in January, asking them to look into their budgets to see where they could make reductions, in relation to their schools’ needs for the 2010-2011 school year.

For the past two months, until Feb. 19, school principals have been under a spending freeze. Niehaus added principals were also asked to submit a list of needs for their schools for the next school year.

Niehaus said Unit 5 officials are now waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn’s “State of the State Address,” which Quinn has postponed once already, but has rescheduled for Mar. 10, to see what Quinn will announce about education funding.

“This (situation) is not a fix that will happen in one action by our legislature,” Niehaus told Board members. “It could be a 2- or 3-year endurance test for Unit 5 (once cuts are made).”

Board member Scott Lay commented that reductions made by the district “need to spread equally (throughout the district). We need to make things equal. It’s painful to reduce (our) certified teaching staff.”

Answering a question from Board Vice President John Puzauskas, Getty said he expects Unit 5 will have an end balance of $3.3 million in its education fund at the end of fiscal 2010. Unit 5’s fiscal year ends on June 30.

Unit 5 mapBenjamin School Chooses “Bears” Nickname: The nicknames of the teams represented by Unit 5’s 15 elementary schools go almost from A to Z. Specifically, they go from Bobcats (at Brigham Elementary) to Pumas (at Pepper Ridge Elementary). Prospective future students of the new Benjamin Elementary School chose “Bears” for their school nickname in a telephone survey.

In the coming weeks, future students of Cedar Ridge Elementary will get to choose the team nickname for their school. The choices have been narrowed down to either Rockets, Raptors, or Rhinos.

Superintendent Gets New Contract, Raise: Board members discussed and approved a 1 percent raise for Niehaus at the meeting. The new contract is for five years, and Niehaus will receive a 1 percent raise next year, followed by salary increases that would be between 1 percent and 4 percent per year, based on performance. Niehaus currently makes $188,260. The first raise would hike that to $190,142.

The vote to approve the raise was 6-1, with Board member Mark Pritchett voting against the raise, but not because of Niehaus’ job performance.

Pritchett said his vote would be based upon “compensatory funds,” – in other words, the amount being paid out, and had nothing to do with Niehaus personally or the job Niehaus was doing as superintendent.

Board member Gail Ann Briggs pointed out that factors that went into approving the raise included responses to questionnaires evaluating Niehaus’ performance that went to Unit 5 employees.

Sugar Creek’s New Look Gets Toured, Appreciated: A second floor addition, including classrooms with Smartboards, and a common area where large groups of students from more than one class can be taught at one time, were part of a school tour given to about 20 former Sugar Creek students who themselves are now parents. The tour took place prior to the start of the School Board meeting. The Board’s meeting was held in a common study area on the school’s second floor.

Among the areas seen on the tour were the newly designed library with lower shelving, and a new gym that is larger than the one that was built when the building first was constructed.

The school’s old gym is now doubles as the school cafeteria/general assembly area. The building now has a new, larger kitchen area which allows staff to be able to cook on site, rather than have food trucked in, which could only be reheated before serving.

Unit 5 Board President Meta Mickens-Baker joined the tour, and during the meeting, publicly thanked those responsible, which included representatives from Perkins & Will Architects; Peoria-based LZT Associates; Chicago-based Turner Construction; and Jeff Monahan, construction manager for Unit 5.

Bill Legett, president of Sugar Creek’s Parent-Teacher Organization, addressed Board members, expressing thanks for all their support in making the building upgrade possible.

By Steve Robinson | February 24, 2010 - 7:15 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

BasketballNORMAL – A slow offensive start did not help Normal West’s girls basketball team as they tangled with Moline in the Class 4A Sectional held on the Wildcats’ home floor Tuesday night.

Moline got off to a quick 12-3 start after one quarter on their way to a 53-31 final, ending the season for the Wildcats, and their coach, Angie Codron.

Moline faced Edwardsville, the winner of the other Class 4A Sectional between East St. Louis Senior High and Edwardsville, held at Normal West on Thursday.

Moline (31-1) jumped out to a fast 6-0 lead on a basket each from Emily Kauzlarich and Amanda Smith, and two free throws by Marquisha Harris.

West (22-7) could only muster a free throw and a deuce by Lauren Berry in separate plays to get started, while Moline, cutting the lead to 6-3. after that, the Maroons went on a 6-0 run on two free throws each from Harris and Kauzlarich, on the way to a 12-3 lead with which to open the second quarter.

West gained momentum in the second quarter, getting a three-point basket from Kauzlarich, while Moline charged forward from their starting point. Moline owned a 25-13 halftime lead.

Moline went on a 9-0 rush in the third quarter which featured a pair of buckets by Brittany Bush, pushing the Maroons toward the 40-18 lead they held against the Wildcats going into the fourth quarter.

Normal WestEach team scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, but Moline was jolted by and the home crowd was pleased by the Wildcats’ play in the last two minutes as Sara Motsinger and Brandi Reed outscored Moline during that time block 7-1, with Reed sinking two baskets and a free throw, and Motsinger downing a deuce and a free throw toward the game’s close.

Bush led all scorers with 16 points. She was followed by Harris, who scored an additional 12 for Moline. Reed was West’s lone player in double-figures, with 13 points.

Codron said her seniors played with the mindset that they would play every game as though it was their last game. “When it comes right down to it, it’s the seniors that will take over and try to do the things it takes to win the game. I think she was just being a senior.”

Regarding the Wildcats’ first quarter sputter, Codron said her players found themselves “in a situation this program hasn’t been in for a while. We went a step further this year. Last year, we made it to the Regional Championship and lost. So this year is a situation that these kids haven’t been in before, and I think the way we played in the first quarter was due to being in an unfamiliar situation. But they came out of it in the second quarter.”

“We were just proud of the girls’ effort tonight,” said Moline head coach Steve Ford. “Our defense stepped up and limited (West’s) opportunities, then, we just did enough offensively to handle the game.”

Ford said his team was looking for “a little more drive to the rim from West’s players, (but) they didn’t seem to do that early on.

By Steve Robinson | February 18, 2010 - 10:06 pm
Posted in Category: Morton HS, Pekin Daily Times, U-High

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Head coach Bob Becker and his Morton High basketball team will find out Monday night if 5 wins at Regionals out of 6 tries will be a reality come Monday night in Champaign.

Prior to his team’s game against Normal University High, Becker said someone brought to his attention that U-High was playing to try to play in their fifth regional in seven years.

Becker said he heard that and pointed out his Potters were trying for their fifth trip to Regionals in six years time. Winning Monday night’s Class 3A Sectional Championship in a 36-34 nail-biter over the Pioneers at Bloomington High helped the Potters get one step closer to the State Tournament late next week in Normal.

The victory sets up a showdown against the winner of the Rantoul Regional at the Sectional at Champaign Centennial High. That game is set for Monday starting with a 6p.m. tipoff.

Normal U-High (19-9) pulled in front early in the first quarter after the game had been tied at 5-all. Jordan Steinbrueck hit two threes in the first quarter, first to achieve the tie at 5:26 in the first quarter, then to help propel the Pioneers to a 10-7 lead at the 1:27 mark.

Morton (17-15) closed the gap, trailing 12-11 going into the second quarter, thanks to first quarter baskets by Erin Tisdale and Miriah Nimmo.

Although Morton was able to stay close in the second quarter, achieving ties at 12-all and 16-all, U-High pulled away to a 24-22 halftime lead on deuces by Sarah Telling, Alyssa Palmer, and Haley Cook. Nimmo’s trey at 5:22 before the half gave the Lady Potters a brief 16-14 lead before that, however.

Morton High SchoolMorton opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run, starting the quarter with deuces from Sarah Livingston and Gabby Closner, and closing out the quarter with a pair of threes from Nimmo, increasing Morton’s lead, 32-24. Only Tatyana Peck and Tiffany Masters scored for U-High, both shots coming at the close of the third quarter.

Nimmo scored just four points in the fourth quarter. In fact, they were the only points Morton scored in the last stanza, while U-High bounced back to tie the game at 34-all on baskets by Taylor Widdell and Peck.

Peck had the chance to tie the game at the free throw line using a one-and-one with 17.6 seconds left in the game after being fouled by Morton’s Nimmo, but missed the first shot, in effect, allowing the Potters’ season to continue.

Nimmo led Morton with 19 points, including three threes.

“Obviously, we came out in the third quarter and played really well,” Morton head coach Bob Becker said. “I mean we only had four points the fourth quarter, and how you win when you do that, I don’t know.

U-High“But we played really well in the second half defensively,” Becker added. He said he noticed an improved rebounding scheme from his players in the second half than from when the game began. “In the second half, (we) got our baskets on second opportunities.”

Becker said he cautioned his team to defend U-High’s Alyssa Palmer closely. “We didn’t want (Palmer) to go nuts and give help so often that she’s (passing) inside and (getting defensive) rebounds.” The Lady Potters contained Palmer to the point that she and Cook each scored just 7 points on the night, and keeping any Pioneers from reaching double-figures.

“Morton continues to change defenses and keep you off guard,” Pioneers head coach Laura Sellers said. “They did a good job with that. We got a little out of sync with a couple of our starters getting fouls early, but, you know, that’s the way it goes. I’m not going to blame the fouls.

“I knew (Morton) was going to switch defenses,” Sellers said. “I knew their best player was Nimmo. Our team knew that. She works to get the ball (and) her team sets her up (and) she hit some big shots. That’s what good players do. Big players rise to the occasion, and she definitely did.”

By Steve Robinson | February 15, 2010 - 10:43 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members sent up a sign of their own at their regular meeting Monday in voting to rescind the Main Street Corridor Guidelines. The vote was a means of deciding what method will be used by the Town to determine the sorts of development and signage will be permitted by the Town.

The Main Street Corridor Guidelines have been a source of concern for business and property owners throughout the corridor since they were formalized roughly two years ago.

Council member Cheryl Gaines’ vote to scrap the guidelines came after a brief pause. Previous to the vote, she said, “Some folks have followed (these guidelines), but now, we’re saying (to them), ‘yes, you have, but now, oh well…’”

She asked if there were some guidelines that Normal could keep while discarding others. She said she wants to “enhance the properties these owners have.”

Mayor Chris Koos said Main Street Commission members will meet Friday to discuss setting up a task force whose job will be to examine form-based code.

Council member Jason Chambers said developers aren’t sure what they need to be catering to in order for their projects to fit into the community. “We still have Community Design Standards, which gives us assurance that things will not just pop up.”

Trails On Sunset Lake Rezoning Approved: Council members unanimously approved the rezoning of an 83 acre development located at the southeast corner of Airport Rd. and Shepard Rd. just south of the development known as the Vineyards. Council members approved both an annexation agreement and a preliminary subdivision plan for the Trails in 2007.

Council members also passed a related resolution, as well, conditionally and partially approving an amended preliminary development plan for the Trails on Sunset Lake. Developer Jim O’Neal is seeking to build housing geared toward “active adults,” and will have accessibility features required by the Federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Meeting Becomes Civics Lesson For Scouts: Normal’s Council Chamber was uncharacteristically packed for this meeting, with roughly 30 members of Normal’s Boy Scout Troop 19, which is based at United Methodist Church. The number of Scouts attending is roughly half the boys in the troop, explained assistant Scoutmaster Tim Hall. Troop 19’s Scoutmaster is Fred Hoyt.

The boys were present to earn a “Citizenship In The Community” Merit Badge, as well as to fulfill a requirement toward earning a merit badge in Communication, Hall said.

These merit badges are requirements for boys to become Eagle Scouts, which they must do before they turn 18, according to Jordan Gonzalez, a freshman at Normal Community West High School, who had the idea to have troop members attend the meeting to earn the badges.

The boys attending range in school age from sixth graders to high school seniors, Gonzalez said.

Following the 40-minute meeting, Council member Sonja Reece spoke to troop members, dissecting the meeting’s various parts to help them understand what was done and why.

“I think (attending this meeting) is going to sink in with (us) because we will have learned about civics in school and this will give (us) an idea of how government works,” Gonzalez said.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the Public Hearing of Feb.1, 2010.

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting of Feb.1, 2010.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Feb.10, 2010.

• A resolution authorizing an agreement with Comstock Park, Mich.-based Valley City Sign Co. in the amount of $58,000 for fabrication of street name signs and district map signs associated with the Uptown Normal Wayfinding Signage Project.

• A resolution accepting a proposal to purchase an emergency standby pump for the Ironwood Sanitary Lift Station from Tinley Park, Ill.-based ITT Water & Waste Water Co. in the amount of $94,526.11 and authorize a budget adjustment.

• A resolution accepting Audit Report #71 from the Illinois Department of Transportation pertaining to the receipt and distribution of funds from the Town’s Motor Fuel Tax Fund for the period of Jan. 1, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2008.

• An ordinance abating the Levy of 2009 Property Taxes for Special Service Area Number One.