By Steve Robinson | April 30, 2010 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal’s Unit 5 School Board has hired the Chief Financial Officer of Peoria County to be its next Business Manager, effective July 1.

Board members approved the hiring of Erik Bush as the new Business Manager, replacing outgoing interim Chief Financial Officer Martin Getty. Getty, who had experience working with the Decatur School District, has been serving as Unit 5’s interim CFO since December, following the resignation of Jim Gillmeister.

As CFO for Peoria County, Bush is responsible for a $125 million operating and capital budget, and orchestrated a balanced 2010 fiscal year spending plan which included avoiding any layoffs or tax increases. Prior to his job in Peoria, Bush served as City Administrator for the City of Flora, Ill., and director of finance for the City of Warrenville, Ill.

Married with four children, Bush served in the U. S. Navy, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Workforce, Education and Development from Southern Illinois University, as well as a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Northern Illinois University.

“(Bush) brings the confidence and competence we need in a Business Manager,” District Superintendent Gary Niehaus told Board members. “We will get him into position to get this (financial) ship righted.”

“I want to extend my appreciation to Dr. Niehaus and the Board for considering me,” Bush said when addressing the group. Bush’s contract runs for three years at an annual salary of $125,000.

Student Population Increase Expected: Board members heard from Niehaus about the proposed student population increase Unit 5 is planning to see in the coming years.

With two schools, Cedar Ridge Elementary and Benjamin Elementary, opening at the start of the 2010-11 school year, by the end of September, Unit 5 estimates to have 13,405 students in its 17 elementary schools, three junior high schools, and two high schools. A fourth junior high, George L. Evans Junior High in Bloomington, is slated to open in the fall of 2011.

When the two new elementary schools are open for business, Unit 5 estimates its total population will jump to 13,847 students.

As had been suspected when the district pushed for a referendum to build new schools in 2008, by the time students start school in August 2015, student population in the district will be just shy the expected 15,000 student mark – with 14,804 students anticipated attending school in the district.

By 2013, Niehaus told Board members, Unit 5 will be looking at an anticipated 1,300 students starting kindergarten.

Board, Rep. Brady Discuss State Re-imbursement: Unit 5, like many other school districts in the State, continues to wait for funds still due to it from the State. Getty informed Board members Unit 5 has submitted another set of vouchers to the State totaling $1.2 million, but that those funds will probably not arrive before the end of fiscal year 2010, on June 30. In total, the State of Illinois owes Unit 5 around $6 million. Niehaus said the State is between 4-6 months behind in doling out payments.

Board member John Puzauskas asked Getty if money for which vouchers were submitted to the State on Feb. 1 would arrive by the end of fiscal year 2010. Getty replied, “Maybe.”

Getty said everything depends on how the State sets its budget for fiscal year 2011.

State Rep. Dan Brady (R-88th Dist.) was present for the meeting, and told Board members, “the fact of the matter remains (Unit 5) is in limbo, just like (Bloomington’s School) District 87.” Brady said he has heard the State could announce a fiscal year 2011 budget as early as May 7 and as late as May 15.

“We could vote on some kind of budget on one of those two days,” Brady said.

Unit 5 will hold a public hearing concerning its proposed fiscal year 2011 budget as part of its June 9 meeting.

Unit 5 mapJunior High School Start Time Change Proposed: Board members heard a report from Chris Donnan, Safety Coordinator for the district, who proposed, as part of a three-tier busing plan, that junior high school students begin their school days 15 minutes earlier than they do currently.

Presently, the 3,000 students at Kingsley Junior High School, Chiddix Junior High School, and Parkside Junior High School start their school day at 7:45a.m., being dismissed at 3p.m. Under the proposed change suggested by Donnan, junior highs would begin the school day 15 minutes sooner – at 7:30a.m., and being dismissed at 2:45p.m.

The primary reason for wanting the change, Donnan explained, was because it would give bus drivers enough time to get elementary school students to class by the start of their school day at 8:30a.m.

Donnan reported to Board members that the principals of three elementary schools – Fox Creek, Grove, and Brigham – have all registered complaints about buses arriving at their schools 15 minutes late. At the beginning of the year, Donnan admits, the delay is caused by drivers not knowing their routes, but that the time delay decreases as the school year progresses.

Still, Donnan proposed the change for middle school students in an effort to get elementary students to class on time.

Board member Wendy Maulson said she would like to see data on test scores and student performance in relation to an earlier start time. Maulson, and other Board members, may get an indication of how the start time change will affect students this summer when results of PSAT tests students take in class come out in July, Niehaus said.

Niehaus had originally proposed looking at a three-tier busing program to Board members in February 2009.

Renovations approved for Hoose: Board members approved work to be done at Colene Hoose Elementary School. First, they approved work to be done by Oglesby, Ill.-based John’s Service and Sales to the school’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system at a cost of $25,163. They also approved a bid from Roanoke-based Lifts of Illinois to install a wheelchair lift at Colene Hoose at a cost of $13,405.

Board members also approved a second bid submitted by Lifts of Illinois, of $24,498 to install a wheelchair lift at Carlock Elementary School.

Contract With New Auditing Firm: Board members approved a three-year agreement for auditing services with Clifton Gunderson. The agreement between the district and the firm is for three years, with Unit 5 paying a total of $108,400 over that period. Unit 5 had previously received audit services from Peoria-based Gorenz and Associates.

Unit 5NORMAL – Three separate groups from three different Unit 5 schools were recognized by Normal’s Unit 5 School Board as part of “Good News” reports heard at the Board’s April 28 meeting.

Parkside Junior High Chess Club Honored: Members of the Parkside Junior High Chess Club were recognized by the Board for having received high honors recently. The team of eighth graders Justin DeBo; and sixth graders Trevin Kafer, Conor Kennedy, and Timmy O’Brien recently placed second at the Junior High National Chess Tournament in Minneapolis, Minn.

O’Brien and Kennedy also received individual honors at the same tournament, as well, with O’Brien claiming a third place finish and Kennedy coming in 11th.

Also recognized was Benjamin Nielsen, a PJHS seventh grade student, tied for second out of hundreds of students who participated at the U. S. Junior Chess Congress in February in Indianapolis, Ind.

Unit 5 mapNCHS Science & Engineering Students Recognized: Normal Community High School Principal Dr. Jeanette Nuckolls reported on an honor given to the school’s Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) team, as that group of students have won their third consecutive Sectional Championship, held at Bradley University, Peoria. The State Championship was held at the University of Illinois in Champaign on April 22.

NCHS’ WYSE Team’s sponsor is Dr. Jon Scott, a Physics teacher.

The competition involves students taking exams in seven subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math, English, Engineering Graphics, and Computer Science. The team’s total score is composed of the top two scores in five of the seven subjects. In addition to team awards, some participants received individual honors.

Here are the students who participated and how they finished in both the Sectional and Regional competitions (and how they placed in some of the subjects) are: Sarah Block (2nd in English at Sectional; 1st in Biology at Regional); Blake Cecil (1st in Chemistry and 1st in English at Sectional; 1st in English at Regional); Aaron Frank (1st in Physics at Sectional; 3rd in Physics at Regional); Jordan Fischer (2nd in Engineering Graphics at Regional); Raj Kadiyala (1st in Math at Sectional, 3rd in Math and 2nd in Biology at Regional); Tarush Khurana (2nd in Biology at Sectional); Greg Schwarz (1st in Physics at Sectional); Esha Wang (1st in Math and 1st in Chemistry, at both Sectional and Regional); and Helen Zhang (2nd in Math and 3rd in English at Regional).

Nuckolls reported NCHS’ WYSE Team placed 13th overall in their division – a division that included Chicago-based schools — at the State Championship.

Parkside Elementary’s “Unify Program” Recognized: Parkside Elementary School fifth graders were honored for their serving as mentors to younger students in the school’s “Young Athletes” Program, through the school’s Project Unify program. The Young Athletes Program is an introductory sports skills program that was developed by Special Olympics to help children, ages 2-7, with and without disabilities. This current school year was the third year Parkside Elementary students were involved with the program.

In addition to Project Unify, fifth graders became involved in taking leading roles in trying to remove one specific word for their own and their classmates’ vocabulary: Retard. Special Olympics began a crusade against the word that has been used in harmful ways by children for years, usually against children with disabilities. Special Olympics began a campaign known as “Spread The Word To End The Word,” in an effort to eradicate that specific word from students’ and people’s vocabularies.

Students participated in an assembly on April 8 to learn about how hurtful the word “retarded” can be to disabled students and their families.

Kathleen O’Connell, an adaptive physical education teacher for Unit 5 was recognized for her efforts to get the campaign started at Parkside Elementary, as well as for her efforts in organizing Project Unity. About a dozen students joined her at the Board meeting, all wearing “Spread The Word To End The Word” T-shirts.

By Steve Robinson | April 29, 2010 - 10:21 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times

Cal RipkenNORMAL – Given his choice of people he most would like to have a one-on-one dinner with, former Baltimore Orioles third baseman and Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken said he would like to sit across a table from the man whose record for consecutive games played he broke: New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig.

“I never set out to break Gehrig’s record,” admitted the 49-year-old former slugger. “My job was just to go out there and play. (Breaking Gehrig’s record) just kind of happened.

“But everything I heard and read about Gehrig was that he was a man of character,” Ripken said in response to an opening question at a meeting with Illinois State University Baseball and Softball players, fans, and the media in ISU’s Redbird Arena Thursday.

Ripken said he would like to see what common approaches to the game he would have with Gehrig.

Gehrig played 17 seasons, from 1923 until 1939, after contracting the condition known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. ALS is now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In 1995, Ripken broke Gehrig’s consecutive games played record of 2,130 games, and voluntarily ended his streak on Sept. 20, 1998, after appearing in 2,632 straight games. Although he may be best known for being a third baseman, many will recall his prowess at shortstop, as well.

Ripken said sports gave him an appreciation for developing a good work ethic so that he could apply himself – not just while he played baseball, but after his career ended and he began working as a businessman. Currently, Ripken is president and CEO of Ripken Baseball, Inc. which hosts tournaments in the spring, summer, and fall.

“I played baseball for 21 years in the big leagues (retiring in 1998),” Ripken told the student athletes. “Prior to that, I spent a lot of that time in preparation for that in trying to fulfill a dream. But now that I’m out, I apply that work ethic to continue to get better.”

His company, Ripken Baseball, owns three minor league teams, including one in his hometown of Aberdeen, Md. “In order to have to have success in your operations, you have to know how to outwork your competition.”

“Try to find something you really enjoy,” was Ripken’s advice for anybody seeking their way in the world. “Don’t be satisfied with just trying and then settling. Look for something that is your passion that will drive you to want to keep coming back.”

He added “the love of what you do will push you toward wanting to find answers in bad times, and will keep bringing you back.”

American Red CrossRed Cross Benefit Headliner: Ripken was in town to be the keynote speaker at the 17th annual “Evening With The Stars” fundraiser benefiting Bloomington-based Red Cross of the Heartland. This year’s annual event was held at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Normal.

Overly windy conditions caused the afternoon news conference leading up to the event to be moved from Illinois State’s baseball home, Duffy Bass Field, to Redbird Arena, where nearly 200 people gathered to hear the Hall of Famer, inducted in 2007, take questions from Redbird Baseball and Softball players, fans, and the media.

6th Sports Figure Appearing At Benefit: Ripken is the sixth sports figure in the event’s 17-year history this annual event’s previous keynote speakers. Basketball commentator Dick Vitale was the first sports figure to speak at the event, in 2003. Others have (and the years they spoke) included: NBC Sports host Bob Costas (2005), Indianapolis Colts quarterback Payton Manning (2006), former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka (2008), and Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (2009).

Previous speakers at the event have included: Actors Tony Randall (1996) and Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H) (1998); former Kansas Sen. Robert Dole (1999); astronaut James Lovell (2000), and Scott O’Grady (2001).

A total of 760 people were expected to attend the dinner at which Krzyzewski would be speaking, held at Bloomington’s DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center, with the event expecting to net $160,000 to benefit the Bloomington-based Heartland Red Cross.

Relay For LifeBloomington, Illinois – April 29, 2010 – Members of numerous Relay For Life of McLean County teams are currently out in the community raising money for their individual relay teams by selling tickets to the Frontier League Baseball game between the expansion Normal CornBelters and the Evansville Otters. The game will be on Friday, June 18, 2010, starting with the 7p.m. first pitch. Gates open at 6p.m.

There are two deadlines for Relay Team members to turn in Ticket orders and money collected from those orders. The First Deadline for Team members to turn money in to Relay Committee is May 11. Ticket orders will continue to be taken until the second deadline, which is on June 8.

“The Normal CornBelters are very excited to provide a new and unique avenue of fundraising for Relay For Life of McLean County,” said Joe Rejc,Ticket Sales Manager for the new Normal CornBelters franchise. “By bringing a group of over 300 Relay participants and supporters to the ballpark on Friday, June 18, we can help the American Cancer Society save lives in our community and around the globe.

“This promises to be a great evening with a representative of the Relay For Life team that sells the most tickets throwing out the first pitch and then, during the CornBelters game, Relay For Life will be running the 50/50 raffle to raise additional funds for cancer research,” Rejc added. “Finally, this wonderful evening will conclude with a brilliant post-game fireworks display.”

“We’re thrilled to be working with The Normal CornBelters in their first year,” said Dede Verplaetse (VER-plates), Co-Chair for this year’s Relay For Life event, along with Co-Chair Fran Massie. “Relay is all about a community taking up the fight against cancer together, and this is a great way for the community to get together and have an evening of fun while supporting Relay.”

About Relay For Life: Goals that Relay For Life of McLean County has set for 2010 are to have 170 teams of up to 15 people each at this year’s event. This year’s Relay For Life of McLean County will be held from noon to noon on June 25-26, 2010, at Normal Community West High School. Other goals for 2010 include seeing 500 survivors attend our event, and to raise $630,000. This year’s theme is “Celebrate More Birthdays.”

In 2009, Relay For Life of McLean County raised over $624,000. Since it began in McLean County in 1994, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $5 Million to fight Cancer. We are looking for more teams to help us join in the fight!

More information may be obtained by contacting either of our Event Co-chairs, Fran Massie at 309-664-1612 or Dede Verplaetse (VER-plates) 309-662-4890.

By Steve Robinson | April 19, 2010 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members voted 5-2 to table, until next month, a resolution authorizing an amendment to an annexation agreement the Town had with the developers of The Vineyards subdivision. Developer Ed Brady wants to convert 79 of the 91 remaining lots and convert roughly eight acres of land on the southeast section of the property into 70 detached single family units and 30 attached single family units.

To do this, Brady was seeking a zoning classification change, which would involve first holding a public hearing. That hearing took place prior to Monday’s regular Normal Town Council session Monday night at Normal City Hall.

Oral Smaling, 1086 Canyon Creek Rd., addressed Council members, said residents of the condos were notified in late March by Brady of his intentions to change the development of the property.

“If they do this, we all feel our condo values will go down,” Smaling told Council members. “I have doubts seniors will want to move in.“ Smaling said Ed Brady originally told him a condo association would be formed if the subdivision was 45 percent occupied. But, Smaling told Council members he recently had another conversation with Brady in which Brady changed the needed number of occupied homes to 75 percent being needed for an association to be established.

Developer Bob Brady represented his brother at the Council session that followed the public hearing. Brady said he and his brother “have been analyzing every property we are developing. Unfortunately, market conditions have led us to change our marketing and our layout (of this property).”

Brady said his company wants to “visit with the neighbors” about their concerns, and suggested the possibility of using evergreens as a buffer between the condos in the new configuration.

Council member Adam Nielsen asked why residents were not given more notice about the developer’s proposed changes. “We dropped the ball,” was Brady’s short answer to the question.

Nielsen asked if the proposed changes would give Brady a sellable product. Brady said yes, noting the new homes would come with a price tag between $195,000-$200,000 for the new lots.

Nielsen said the Council’s approving the measure ought to be on the condition that the developer and the residents can work out a maintenance schedule for the property, something Smaling said was lacking currently.

There were three resolutions concerning The Vineyards, all contingent on passing at one time. Because of the situation as explained by both Brady and Smaling, City Manager Mark Peterson said the matter could be tabled until the residents and the developer get a chance to come to terms.

In discussion prior to the vote, Mayor Chris Koos, and Council members Cheryl Gaines and Jason Chambers all stated they favored tabling the issue until their next meeting May 3. Mayor Koos, along with Council members Gaines, Chambers, Sonja Reece, and Chuck Scott voted in favor of tabling the measure, while Council members Nielsen and Jeff Fritzen voted against tabling the matter.

Firepits Require Permits: With outdoor activities getting started back up this spring, Reece reminded citizens that the use backyard firepits and fireboxes require permits from Normal Fire Department. Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer told Council members charcoal grills and smoker grills, used primarily for cooking, do not need such permits.

Humer said permits for using firepits can be picked up during normal business hours from any fire station. He said there must be a 48-hour wait between firepit use permit requests.

“CampusTown” Redevelopment Agreement Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing executing a redevelopment agreement with William Frautschi and Paul Bartlett, owners of CampusTown Supply, 121 W. North St., for façade renovations to the building.

The Town’s Legal Department drew up a proposed redevelopment agreement which would have the Town serving as an agent for Frautschi and Bartlett, the redevelopers. Also under the agreement, the Town would pick up 60 percent of the cost of the renovation, totaling $62,502, with the developers paying the remaining 40 percent, or $41,668.

Electricity Purchase Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Town Staff to enter into a two-year agreement to purchase electricity from Ameren Energy Marketing at a rate of $.04585.

Private Activity Bonds Issued: Council members voted for the Town to issue Solid Waste Disposal Revenue Bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $4,686,040 to finance the acquisition, construction, equipping, and improvement of a solid waste recycling facility. The request for the Council to do this came from Robert O. Lakin, president of Commerce Bank.

Once the facility, called Midwest Fiber, is completed, it will serve as a hub for single stream residential and commercial recycling, receiving materials from Decatur, Springfield, and Peoria. Peterson told Council members it’s anticipated Midwest Fiber will open with 20 employees, and expand to a maximum of 40.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting of April 5, 2010.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 14, 2010.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Peoria-based Maurer-Stutz, Inc. in an amount not to exceed $14,000 for the design of a temporary shoring system for the Multimodal Transportation Center.

• A resolution authorizing service agreements with Normal-based Wilcox Electric and Service, Inc. for Energy Efficient Lighting Enhancements at five public facilities in accordance with the Federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.

• A resolution retaining the Town’s 2010 Private Activity Bond Allocation for qualified projects within the Town of Normal.

• A resolution to appropriate $525,000 of Motor Fuel Tax Funds for the improvement of Willow St. from Linden St. to Beech St.

• A resolution providing for a proposed amendment to the redevelopment plan and project for the Town of Normal Uptown Redevelopment Project Area.

• A resolution accepting easement dedication from Tracy M. Shepard – Shepard Park.

• An ordinance amending Section 4.10 Classification and Fees of the Town Municipal Code of the Town of Normal to add a classification of Stadium License to the Liquor Code.