By Steve Robinson | April 27, 2011 - 10:39 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School Board formally certified the results of April 5’s election, and swore in a Board newcomer and three incumbents as part of the group’s regular meeting on April 26 at District headquarters.

Mike Trask, Normal, running for the Board seat vacated by Scott Lay, was sworn in along with three incumbents: Gail Ann Briggs, Towanda; and Wendy Maulson, and Mark Pritchett, both Bloomington. Two-term Board member Scott Lay opted not to seek re-election after serving two terms on the Board.

Following the swearing-in, Board elections were held. John Puzauskas was elected to serve as Board President; Jay Reece was elected to serve as Board Vice President; and Mark Pritchett was elected to serve as Board Secretary.

Prior to the swearing-in, Board members honored Lay, addressing his time and contributions to the Board, as well as giving welcome statements to Trask as he joins the group.

“I truly appreciated your insights,” Puzauskas told Lay. “You were a great helmsman when I was on the Board my first two years.”

Board member Jay Reece lauded Lay’s ability to “cut to the chase” on matters before the Board.

Lay opened his closing thoughts to the Board, joking when his microphone did not work properly as he was about to speak. “You know it’s time to go when the battery on your mic is dead,” he said, generating laughter from those in attendance. “The last four years have been positive. We didn’t always agree, but that’s the nature of a good Board.

Addressing Trask before the swearing-in, Lay told the Board’s newest member, “Mike, you’ll recognize this isn’t a popularity contest. You’ll gather facts. You’ll make decisions. You do the best you can. Recognize your job is to make decisions that are in the best interest of the District.”

Board members then turned their attention to Trask as he prepared for the job at hand.

“Mike, you will be a wonderful addition to the Board,” Reece said.

“Mike is very well prepared to come on the Board,” Board member Gail Ann Briggs said.

District To Join Energy Consortium: Once the new Board was seated, the group voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of District Business Manager Erik Bush to join the Illinois Energy Consortium, and to buy energy at a discount. That discount would come as a result of Unit 5 entering into an agreement with Blue Star Energy Solutions. Doing so would lock in the prices the district would pay for energy in the future. Together, entering into the two agreements would have a cost savings of between $100,000-$200,000. The agreement between Unit 5 and both Illinois Energy Consortium and Blue Star Energy Solutions will last for two years.

Prairieland Elementary’s “Good News”: Board members were introduced to John Burton, a custodian at Prairieland Elementary School. Burton was honored for having received formal recognition by Normal Fire Department for saving the life of a Prairieland student who was choking.

On March 28, Burton performed the life-saving Heimlich Maneuver on first grader Hope Mikala Knoerle. During the school’s lunch hour, Burton noticed that Knoerle was unable to breathe or speak. Knoerle lost consciousness and was turning blue as a result.

Burton carried Knoerle to the school office to call for an ambulance. While carrying the girl, the obstruction in her airway became dislodged and she began breathing again. She did not require further medical attention.

“John went above and beyond in this situation,” explained Prairieland Elementary Principal Carmen Bergmann to Board members. Burton received a standing ovation from the roughly 40 people attending the meeting.

Unit 5 mapDistrict’s “Good News”: Board members heard from Dayna Brown, assistant to the superintendent, about the partnership between the district and the Normal Rotary Club to help Unit 5 students in need to receive coats, gloves and hats so that they would be properly prepared to come to school during the winter months.

Brown said Normal Rotary members approached Unit 5 asking to help the district collect those items to help students. Brown said the project started out just collecting gloves. She said she was informed by Club President John Bishop and Club Community Service Director Ron Timmerman the Club wanted to do more. Brown said that is when she informed them about some students in need needing coats.

“The Club helped us with all of those items,” Brown told Board members. “In the past two years, Normal Rotary has purchased enough coats to ensure that every student in Unit 5 who needs a coat has one.”

Brown said Normal Rotary Club has already purchased the coats that might be needed by students next winter. They are currently in District storage, Brown said.

“We are very glad to do this,” Bishop told Board members. “But it would not have been possible had it not been for Dayna identifying the problem to us. We really didn’t know the need existed until we were informed of it. We’re just happy and privileged to be able to solve that particular problem.”

Rotary Club members have also been serving as tutors at Unit 5 Schools to help student prepare for their ISAT testing, Brown added. As a result, students at Oakdale Elementary achieved the State benchmark of Adequate Yearly Progress, Brown explained.

HS Credit Recovery Program Discussed: Board members heard from Sandy Wilson, Unit 5’s director of secondary education, concerning a credit recovery program available to students at the district’s two high schools. The program helps students who fail classes to try to recoup credit hours by doing so online.

The program is done through an online program called APEX. Wilson said APEX has a vast amount of curriculum options for credit recovery, honors, and Advanced Placement courses for students, giving students an opportunity to obtain credits for classes students have failed.

Students needing APEX go to a lab at their respective schools, which is available for an hour a day, four days a week. In the lab, students work individually on lessons in courses specific to their needs. The courses range from Introductory Algebra to Geometry to Chemistry to History to various English courses to Reading Skills.

Should a student not master the information through the APEX Program, remediation will be provided through the course content, Wilson explained.

The program began in March. Previous to the use of the APEX program, students needed to attend Summer School.

Wilson said the APEX program will be offered in the Summer for the first time, beginning June 6. It will run through June 30, and be available to students Monday-Thursday from 8a.m.-10a.m. The Summer Program has a fee of $100.

Student Fees To Increase: An item on the Board’s consent agenda which was approved was an increase in fees. Among the fees going up is student insurance. Around-the-clock school insurance is going up $5, from $90 last year to $95 beginning in 2011-12.

Lunches are going up a dime – from $1.70 to $1.80 at the elementary schools and from $1.75 to $1.85 at the secondary schools. Adult lunches at both elementary and secondary schools are going up in price as well. Adults will pay $2.30 at the elementary schools, while paying $2.35 at the secondary schools – a jump in price of 10 cents at both levels.

Student breakfast prices are going up at both elementary and secondary levels, too. Elementary and secondary level students will pay a dime more for breakfast beginning next fall, paying $1.20 per meal. Reduced price breakfast meals will remain at 30 cents.

May 11 Board Meeting At Evans Junior High: The next Unit 5 School Board meeting will be on Wednesday, May 11 at the new George L. Evans Junior High School, 2901 Morrissey Dr., Bloomington. The meeting will begin at 7p.m.

By Steve Robinson | April 22, 2011 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonWithin the last year or so, the Board of Trustees of Illinois State University voted to allocate money to be used for a move of its two lab schools, Thomas Metcalf Elementary School and University High School. The schools would be moved to land formerly occupied by the University Farm, at the west end of Normal.

Now I hope I have not sent parents and students into a panic over a move of their schools. That was not my intention. But ISU’s BOT did vote to set the money aside for the likelihood that, in the future, it would become necessary for the schools to move to larger facilities.

At University High, any discussion of the move “might be premature,” explained Dr. Jeff Hill, U-High Principal. “That’s because we continue to renovate and do considerable maintenance whenever it’s needed here at our present location.”

Hill said renovations and maintenance to the current building have been on-going for as long as he has been at the school’s helm for the past six years, having come from Stanford Olympia High School.

There has been a lot of renovation during Hill’s tenure: Most recently, Ruth A. Stroud Auditorium; the school’s library; and the school’s technology classrooms, including adding additional space, have been updated. Also during that period, U-High has added a new security system, which included exterior doors that had electronic locks on them.

“I would say we have had what I consider to be a number of facility upgrades, which leads me to believe me that a move would be sometime in the future,” Hill said.

But Hill does admit moving Metcalf and U-High is part of ISU’s official Master Plan, a blueprint for the future of ISU and its facilities. The current Master Plan looks at what the University wants to do with current facilities from 2010-2030. This would be the second volume of the Master Plan because ISU put out its outlook for its future in the late 1990s or early 2000 called The Master Plan 2000-2020: Achieving Distinctiveness and Excellence in Form, Function, and Design. The latest version of the Master Plan is titled, Master Plan 2010-2030: Looking to the Future.

In an email to me, Robert Dean, Superintendent of ISU’s Lab Schools, explained ISU’s current outlook toward the Lab Schools in terms of where they fit into ISU’s Master Plan.

“The relocation of the Lab Schools – University High School and Thomas Metcalf School – are included in the University’s 20-year plan,” Dean confirmed. “I don’t have a specific location other than the University’s Gregory Street property (the old ISU farm).

”Twenty year plans provide an articulated vision for the future,” Dean wrote. “But they do not include much in the way of details. Given the economic realities of the State and Nation, I suspect it will be many years before the relocation becomes reality as new University buildings become part of the State’s capital projects list.”

Dean concluded by writing: “Likewise, I’m not aware of any plans for the use of the current U-High building once relocation does occur.”

“It’s great to be considered as part of the Master Plan,” Hill added. “We’re fortunate that we are always highly considered by the University. At the same time, from a realistic standpoint, we continue to put money in this current facility with the idea that it’ll be a while before there’s a move.”

Two things did occur to me and one did not as I did research for this column. What items did occur to me were: 1) Let’s say U-High did move but there was no concrete use for the current building once it was vacated. The cost of maintaining buildings falls to ISU. I am certain ISU would want to find a use for it before vacating it; and 2) Springfield’s pockets seem nearly empty, and the State of Illinois seemingly owes everybody money. If you have read some of my Unit 5 articles, you have heard that school board talk about the money owed them by the State. The one thing that did not occur to me, which Hill pointed out is: There isn’t the infrastructure in place at the former farm site to put a school on. The plumbing, for instance, would need to be increased for something like a high school. That takes some time to put in place for a proposed site of that size.

For all these reasons and others that were not discussed in my conversations with U-High and ISU officials, I have the feeling I might not see the move of U-High for a decade or so, at least. It is, as Hill said, nice to know that the school is being considered in the Master Plan.

Town of NormalNORMAL –Love them or hate them, since Normal’s two main Uptown streets were redone two years ago, Town Council members have heard plenty about the bump-out concrete barriers between parallel parking spaces.

Bump-outs are pre-cast concrete planter curb extensions, and were designed to serve as additional planting areas while also adding a decorative touch to the revamped Uptown. But for varying reasons, motorists found bump-outs to be obstructions that were not helping them park their vehicles with ease.

Council members have heard strong reaction against bump-outs since they were installed, and at Monday’s regular meeting at City Hall, unanimously approved a contract to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co. for the removal of the bump-outs. The project will cost the Town $72,847.83.

“There’s no luke warm about these,” Mayor Chris Koos told Council members in beginning the group’s discussion before voting on the matter. “People either want them in or out.”

Council member Adam Nielsen said the concrete planters that went with the bump-outs were not part of the original concept for Uptown in the design phase. Koos disagreed, saying bump-outs were part of the original design for Uptown.

Responding to a question from Council member Chuck Scott, City Manager Mark Peterson said once the bump-outs are removed, parallel parking spaces will be slightly longer than normal because the planters will have been subtracted.

Comcast Cable Rates Discussed: One item on the Council’s omnibus agenda – items handled collectively – was an ordinance regulating rates for basic cable TV and cable equipment and installation. Comcast Cable was seeking Council approval to increase its rate for basic service from the current $15.99 to $17.74. The proposed rate increase falls within guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission.

A public hearing was held on the subject of the rate increase prior to the beginning of the Council session. At the hearing, Deborah Piscola, regional director for government affairs and franchising for Comcast Cable, based in Schaumburg, told Council members asking for the rate increase was a “predominately procedural” action on the part of the cable operator. Other than Piscola, no members of the public addressed the hearing.

Following the hearing, Council members discussed the proposed increase. Peterson, in response to a question from Council member Jason Chambers, explained that were the Council to vote against the increase, Comcast could go directly to FCC to ask to increase the rates. Peterson said the Town does have the option of bowing out of participating in the rate-setting process.

Peterson told Chambers Comcast “wants the ability to go to the maximum rate available if they choose to. We don’t know that that’s going to happen.”

Council member Sonja Reece said she likes the fact the Town is still a part of the process. The ordinance passed by a 5-1 vote, with Chambers voting against it. Council member Cheryl Gaines was absent from Monday’s meeting.

High Speed Rail Improvements Coming Within Weeks: Residents will soon see evidence of work being done on local railroad tracks as part of the preparation for the Twin Cities foray into high speed rail. Uptown Development Director Wayne Aldrich told Council members work to be done includes collecting old ties and rail, and laying down new ties and rail.

The work will be done by a machine called a Track Renewal Train, and will be working through town from south to north. That work is slated to begin at the beginning of May, Aldrich said.

Funding for the work on the track is part of a $1.1 billion Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant, also referred to as a TIGER Grant, Aldrich said.

Aldrich explained that numerous rail upgrades were being made with TIGER Grant funding, including track removal and replacement; train station improvements; and signal and safety improvements.

He said work will be done with the Illinois Department of Transportation closing two railroad crossings at a time throughout the Twin Cities.

There will be one area of track in town where the more typical method of laying track will be applied. That construction will run from Fell Ave. to Beech St., and will be done that way due to the track grade needing to be lower, in part because of construction of the Multimodal Transportation Center.

Aldrich said residents can keep track of progress by checking the website www.idothsr.com, and suggested Amtrak passengers consult with amtrak.com concerning train travel during the time of the rail work being done.

Final Plat For “The Lodge On Willow” Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of The Lodge On Willow subdivision. Developer Ralph Endress will tear down 10 older model rental properties and construct a 79-unit apartment building, which will have 306 bedrooms. The older properties are at the northeast corner of School and Willow Streets – 400, 402, 404, 404 ½, 406, 408, and 410 N. School St., and 210 and 214 W. Willow St.

Council Approves Resolutions Concerning Public Comments At Meetings: Council members approved a pair of resolutions regarding conduct of audience members at Town Council meetings. The first resolution passed was to adopt a public comment policy in accordance with the State of Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Up until the resolution was passed, the Town had no formal written rules for comment during public meetings. A number of guidelines were proposed by Town staff for public comment at meetings. Among the guidelines:

• The individual public comment period for any single meeting shall not exceed 10 minutes.

• No individual speaker shall speak for more than two minutes at any single meeting.

• No individual representing a group shall speak for more than five minutes at a single meeting.

• The meeting’s chair shall determine the order of speakers.

• Individuals wishing to address a public body shall provide the City Manager’s office one week’s advance notice of intent to speak.

While researching the topic of public comments, Town staff discovered that other cities had specific ordinances penalizing persons who disrupt public meetings. To that end, Council members unanimously passed an ordinance that would make it an offense for any person to knowingly “disrupt, disturb or interrupt” any meeting of the Town of Normal.

The ordinance would apply to meetings of Town Council, Zoning Board of Appeals, Normal Planning Commission, and other Town boards and committees. The ordinance provides authority to the chair of the meeting to have the disruptive person removed from the meeting location. Use of this ordinance will be up to meeting chairs, so long as free speech is not restricted, but so that order and decorum are observed.

Liquor Commission Levies Fines Against Two Stores: A special meeting of the Normal Liquor Commission was held prior to the Council session. As a result of a Town liquor audit conducted March 30, two businesses had fines levied against them. This was the first offense for both businesses.

The businesses cited as a result of the audit were: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., doing business as Wal-Mart Supercenter #1125, 300 N. Greenbriar Dr., Normal; and Casey’s Retail Company, doing business as Casey’s General Store#2934, 1301 S. Main St., Normal.

It was a first offense for each business. Casey’s #2934 paid a $250 fine for their first offense, but it was discovered during the audit that the Wal-Mart employee who sold the liquor was only 19-years-old. The legal age in Illinois for either selling or consuming liquor is 21. Because of the seller also being underage, Wal-Mart incurred the stiffer fine.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Meeting of April 4, 2011.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 13, 2011.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and approve the purchase from Evergreen FS, Inc. for diesel fuel in the amount of $317,948.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and purchase turf maintenance equipment through the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Purchasing Program for a total cost of $277,087.87.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept a quote in the amount of $20,848 from Normal-based Frontier Communications for the maintenance of the phone system.

• A resolution executing an agreement with Columbus, Ohio-based Boss Display Corporation for the construction and installation of a new water table exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum in the amount of $85,000.

• A resolution approving an agreement with Manhattan, Kan.-based CivicPlus for website redesign services associated with www.normal.org and various sub-sites.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for the use of Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds in the amount of $112,000 for the Gateway Plaza Construction Project.

• An ordinance regulating Comcast basic cable rates and cable equipment and installation rates.

By Steve Robinson | April 17, 2011 - 10:45 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonIf you’re a teenager, and you need something organized in a hurry, I suggest contacting Cassi Kubiak, a student at Normal Community West High School.

Cassi put together a team for the first teen Relay For Life event, in about a day. That’s because she did not realize when the deadline for signing up was and by the time she learned of the deadline, she had to work fast.

The first teen Relay For Life event was held April 1 at Bloomington High School. Because there was rain in the forecast for that night, the 12-hour event, which ran from 6p.m.Friday, April 1-6a.m. Saturday, April 2, was held in the gym of BHS’ Robert Frank Sports Complex.

“When I heard about this, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I need to do this.’ I put together a team in about two hours with the help of my friend Jeremy Vahn.

“We just sat down and sent out a mass text message, and everyone who texted back said, ‘yeah, we’ll do it,’ and ‘I’ll do it,’ and ‘sure, I will too.’ That’s just how we communicate.”

Now, I have to stop here, in case this explanation seems foreign to you who might not know many kids, that anymore, kids do most of their communicating using the text feature on their cell phones. That is how Kubiak and Vahn got the word out about Relay and organized their team in such a short amount of time.

Vahn said University High student Anna Fritz, a member of the organizing committee for this event, sent out a message on the social networking site Facebook about the event. But Kubiak and Vahn did not see it until just two days before the event’s registration deadline. When Vahn contacted Fritz about meeting the deadline, Fritz told him on the Wednesday before the deadline that he and Kubiak had two days to get their team registered. After talking to Fritz, “I texted everybody in one night, we planned it out, and we got the registration stuff to them the next day.”

There were 37 teams total at this event, each with between 8-12 students on a team. They came from Normal Community High and Normal Community West High, University High, and Bloomington High. Sad to say, Bloomington Central Catholic High did not organize any teams. But organizing committee member Laura Verplaetse said she is hoping that won’t be the case in 2012. She even wants to get a BCC student or two to serve on this event’s organizing committee to help plan it.

Myra Hornibrook Income Development Representative for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Peoria, said ACS was looking for between 20-25 teams, so this inaugural event already exceeded expectations in that department.

The initial grand total when the event ended was $20,154. But even though the event has come and gone, it is still possible to donate money to a teen team because Relay For Life’s fiscal year does not end until Aug. 31. That means if you did not think to donate to help in this event, you would still have time to do so and have your dollars count toward it.

This new event came about because organizers for the Relay For Life of McLean County event, held on the last Friday and Saturday of June, noticed not many students were active in that event, explained Hornibrook.

The teen event has five co-chairs, representing three of the five local high schools, who are planning this year’s event. The Co-Chairs (and their schools) are: Verplaetse (BHS); Kyle O’Daniel (BHS); Fritz (University High); and Erin Coppersmith and Adam Woodside (NCHS). Hornibrook said she hopes Normal Community West High and Bloomington Central Catholic will have a representative on the organizing committee for 2012’s Teen Relay.

“I just think I’m very impressed with how passionate they are about the fight against cancer,” Hornibrook said. “I kind of assumed they wouldn’t have a tie to the fight quite yet, maybe they didn’t know anybody quite yet. But a lot of them, unfortunately, have had grandparents, parents, or neighbors impacted.”

For Coppersmith, a junior at NCHS, she had plans to join the Relay For Life of McLean County event in June, but after talking to Hornibrook, changed plans and became involved with the teen event. The teen event was her first contact with Relay For Life, and she became involved because her maternal grandmother died from the disease in May 2010.

Alec Bacon is a junior at Normal West who organized a team called “Birthday Club” with her friends. She said members of her team, including herself, have had relatives who have had cancer. Members of each Relay team must raise $100 minimum. Anything beyond that is gravy.

“We had our team members go around neighborhoods and collect money,” Bacon said. “A lot of people have been really generous about donating, especially when going to neighbors and asking family members.”

Bacon’s team raised $1,789 by the time the Relay came, and she was still hoping to make a few dollars more at the event. It sounds like Bacon and her team were well on their way to adding to their final total when I ran into her.

Hornibrook said ACS will start pitching getting involved with next year’s Teen event this summer. She wants to get every Twin City high school involved with the event next year. It would be nice to have that happen. Next year, I will be there and will let you know.

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School Board voted unanimously to accept a report by the District’s Citizen Advisory Committee on the subject of “Career and College Readiness” at the group’s regular meeting on April 13 at District Headquarters.

CAC’s report included the following recommendations:

• The district should develop an early intervention program for students from birth to age 5 to build the foundation for behavior and educational skills in its youngest students.

• Unit 5 should examine its current structure and strategies for parent and community involvement, including considering engaging parents at the earliest point of education, Pre-K; Coordinating existing family/community involvement programs and adding or expanding upon programs; and utilizing local businesses and parent involvement to help nurture students’ critical thinking, organizational, and life skills.

• Adding enhancements to the curriculum as well as teacher training opportunities, including exploring alternative approaches to learning at the early grades; Emphasizing reading literacy and math at the elementary school level; Exposing children to college and career opportunities early, even so far as at the elementary level; and implementing a mandatory study class for incoming freshmen.

Uses For Left-Over Construction Money Discussed: Unit 5 went to voters in spring of 2008 to get approval of a $96.7 million construction project to build two new elementary schools and one junior high school. The elementary schools – Cedar Ridge Elementary and Benjamin Elementary – have been up and running since last August. The new junior high school – George L. Evans Junior High School – will open its doors this fall.

District Business Manager Erik Bush told Board members that, with construction in final stages at Evans, Unit 5 faces the prospect of having between $4 million to $6 million left over when all projects conclude.

Bush told Board members that, if they chose, the money could be used toward needs that would be paid for out of either the district’s Operations or Educational budgets. “There are hundreds of thousands of dollars in asset needs in Unit 5,” Bush said. “I can’t think of a better use for the funds.”

Outgoing Board member Scott Lay said, “at some point in the future, a board in the future should look at school capacity,” an indication he thought the Board could use the money for obtaining future school sites, if needed.

He suggested the money could be divided between land acquisition, projects the district is working on, and paying down the district’s debt.

Board member Wendy Maulson said she thought district priorities would need to be revisited once Unit 5 knows exactly how much money is left over once all construction is finished. Bush said the exact amount of money remaining will not be known until construction is completely finished.

Board member Jay Reece said he wants to see that the interest money is used for what Unit 5 needs, so long as land acquisition isn’t what it is locked in for.

Board member Mark Pritchett said he was all for setting aside the money because “there is a laundry list of things we need to address. I think paying down the debt is an excellent idea.”

Unit 5 mapCircle Your Calendars: As part of approving the district’s omnibus agenda, Board members approved Friday, June 3 as the last day of the 2010-11 School Year. On May 11, the School Board will hold its meeting at George L. Evans Junior High School in Bloomington.

Normal Community West High’s “Good News”: Normal Community West High School Principal Tom Eder introduced Board members to Ruth Kinney, a senior at West, who was chosen to sing the National Anthem prior to the Class 1A/2A State Final Basketball Tournament at Redbird Arena. Ruth’s selection for this honor came after going through some auditions. The first audition was in cooperation with the Illinois Music Educators Association. IHSA member school students qualified for and participated in auditions conducted at the IMEA All-State Festival in Peoria in February. Ruth was selected after two levels of auditions. Ruth is the daughter of Tom and Teresa Kenney of Bloomington. Her three sisters and one brother are all graduates of Normal West. Ruth hopes to attend the University of Illinois and hold a double major in Music-Vocal Performance and Linguistics.

Parkside Junior High’s “Good News”: Dan Lamboley, Principal of Parkside Junior High School, introduced Board members to members of PJHS’ 8th Grade Volleyball Team, the new champions in their Illinois Elementary School Association Class 4A. PJHS earned the championship with a two-game sweep over Manteno, 25-20 and 25-19. PJHS, under head coach Sandi Kelley and assistant coaches Dan Ehlers and Al Applington, finished the season with a 26-2 record. To get to the championship game, PJHS defeated Rochester Junior High School 25-19 and 25-18, and then Mattoon Middle School 25-21 and 25-22.

Members of PJHS’ team also won the I.E.S.A. State Volleyball Tournament as 7th graders last year. Members of the team are: Krysten Holderby; Maddie Williams; Hannah Collins; Amy Nelson; Claire Ambrose; Ebony Powers; Jill Paska; Morgan Pennington; Madison Moser; Shayla Kozak; Tyler Brown; Mackenzie Gallagher; Amber Collinson; Baylee Patrick; Sara Whiteley; Andrea Gordon; Kaleigh Kauth; Natalie Freeman; and team manager Taylor Simpson.

District’s “Good News”: Board members were also informed that Jeff Monahan, Construction Coordinator for the district, was honored as being a recipient of the 2011 Governor’s Environmental Hero Award.

Board Approves Windows Purchase For KJHS: Board members unanimously approved awarding a contract for replacement of gym windows at Kingsley Junior High School to Peoria-based Kelly Glass, Inc. at a cost of $64,892.