By Steve Robinson | May 31, 2011 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – Catcher Jeff Dunbar got his season off to a good start during the first road trip for the Normal CornBelters. The 6 foot-4, 225 pound Dunbar smacked two home runs in one game against the Florence Freedom on May 25, aiding Normal’s 9-5 victory.

His first home run was a solo shot in the top of the third with no one on base. His homer led the charge because his teammate, outfielder Colin Moro, hit a homer right after, giving Normal a 3-0 lead after 4 ½ innings. Dunbar’s second home run of that game came with two men on and two out in the top of the 8th inning.

Dunbar modestly called the game in which he hit those homers “just one of those days.”

“The first one was a little wind-aided,” Dunbar said. “The second one was one where I was just seeing the ball well and it was just a good day for everybody. I think, as a team, we had four home runs that game.”

“When I signed on, I was signed thinking I would be, pretty much of a utility player, and I didn’t think I’d be doing that much catching,” Dunbar said, reflecting on the role he thought he would be playing once he joined the club. ”But now that I have been catching a lot, things have been really good. I’m enjoying it back there and feel like I’m definitely contributing.”

Before joining Manager Hal Lanier’s CornBelters, Dunbar played in the now-defunct Northern League for Lake County in 2010 and Schaumburg in 2009.

“Now that I have been here and have been experiencing competition within it, I think the Frontier League is a good league,” Dunbar said.

“He was a first baseman, outfielder, and catcher,” Lanier said about Dunbar. “He really wanted to come here and catch. He’s done a great job here with the pitching staff.”

At first, Lanier thought Dunbar would be in left field when he first got to the team. But after acquiring Alvaro Ramirez and putting him in the outfield, Dunbar was moved to behind the plate.

Lanier said he liked what he saw in this team when he, his coaching staff and Nick Belmonte, the CornBelters’ director of player procurement, put this team together.

“I think we have a more experienced club than we had last year,” Lanier told me. “Some guys have gotten off to a good start swinging the bat and some guys need for hits to fall in.” He said there is no panic at this stage of the season.

“We have players who have a lot more experience than what we had last year,” Lanier said. “We got a lot more quality players this year compared to last year. We had a lot of young kids last year and they made a lot of mistakes.”

Lanier said he is not taking away anything from the skills of the players he had last year when he says that. After all, he points out, big leaguers make mistakes, too.

The point Lanier is making about this group is that they know how to play the game a little more consistently. That, he said, is going to show up in the win-loss column.

“Steve Alexander is off to great start,” Lanier said, pointing to three homers the 26-year-old first baseman had on the CornBelters’ season-starting road trip. Lanier points to Alexander having had 11 homers in 2009 as a member of Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association, and 16 he had in Normal’s first season last year. That number could have been higher had Alexander not been fighting injuries, Lanier said.

Overall, Lanier said, “We just have a more balanced ball club this year. It’s not just going to be one or two or three guys contributing. We have guys on the ball club who can contribute every day swinging the bat. If someone is not hot at bat, hopefully, someone can pick things up at that particular time.”

On another subject, former major league reliever Lee Smith, who played 8 seasons as a Wrigley Field regular and 4 in St. Louis in an 18-year career visited The Corn Crib for the Summer’s first “Star Struck Saturday” promotion. Before signing autographs for fans, he visited with CornBelters players on May 28.

Like everybody else in this area and especially around Chicago’s North side, Smith said he thought Hall-Of-Famer Ryne Sandberg would have been the most-likely person to succeed Lou Pinella as Cubs manager. But despite Sandberg’s two year successful stint at Class A Peoria, in Class AA Tennessee, and at Class AAA Iowa, Cubs management chose their third base coach, Mike Quade, to succeed the man known as “Sweet Lou.”

“Things didn’t pan out as everyone knows,” Smith said about the Cubs’ managerial decision. “I think Ryno did the right thing by going to another organization because baseball clubs don’t show loyalty to former players anymore. That’s a tough thing. He did a really good job going through the minor leagues.” Sandberg is now managing in the minors within the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

What message did Smith want to pass along to the CornBelters players? “There’s nothing in this world better than being a major league player,” Smith said was among wisdom he wanted to pass along. “To be able to go out on the field when the game is on the line with 50,000 people watching is just the best,” he said.

More often than not, when Smith’s turn to take the mound came, it was usually as a closer. He was the guy in the late innings that fans of the opposing team usually booed, Smith said. He said he relished being in that exact situation.

“I loved those situations,” Smith said. “To be able to go out there when the game is on the line….Just the thought of it…I get goose bumps thinking about it.

“I want to make sure these players here understand the most important thing is to make quality pitches and do it on a consistent basis,” Smith said. And what’s more, Smith added, make those pitches look almost effortless in the process while being consistent.”

For young guys, that’s not easy to do without some guidance from a pitching coach. Luckily for players within the San Francisco Giants minor league system, their roving pitching coach is Lee Smith. He has been with the Giants organization for 11 years. We’ll have to keep that in mind when San Francisco’s minor league system starts promoting its players to the big club.

Before he started his volunteer concession work at The Corn Crib for one of the local baseball teams, the Twin City Bandits, Sam Fisher got a ball autographed by Smith. “It was pretty cool to get his autograph,” Fisher said as he headed back to his spot working behind the counter. “

Sam, who will be an eighth grader at Chiddix Junior High next year, said he never thought he would get a former big leaguer’s autograph while here in town. Sam was pretty low key, but you had to believe he was excited by the opportunity.

Having a guy like Smith, who played for both the Cubs and the Cards was wonderful to have visit the area. The CornBelters’ next “Star Struck Saturday” visitor will bring back memories for Chicago White Sox fans, as on June 4, Ron Kittle, who played a variety of positions in a decade-long career, will appear at The Corn Crib. Kittle played as a designated hitter, in left field, and first Base. In addition to playing on the South side, for eight seasons (1982-86; 1989-91), he also played for the Yankees, Cleveland, and Baltimore. In addition to “Star Struck Saturday,” Saturday’s promotion is “Automobile Night.”

On another subject, We may have been discouraged by the wet conditions over the homestand’s opening weekend, but, as we have all seen, the folks in Joplin, Mo. have been dealing with their community’s being ravaged by a tornado on May 22.

For Zach Ziler, vice president for fan experiences for the CornBelters, the Joplin tornado literally hit close to home. Ziler is a native of Carthage, Mo., about 10 miles east of Joplin.

Ziler explained what happened in Joplin affected him because “Joplin is the center of our universe growing up” so near to it. “If we need to go eat, or have fun, or go to the mall, Joplin is where we go. So, being right next door to it, Joplin feels like home to me.”

Ziler asked CornBelters President Steve Malliet if it would be okay to take the team’s half of the proceeds from the nightly “50-50” drawing last weekend and donate that money to the American Red Cross to help aid their efforts in Joplin. Malliet approved the idea. Over the three-day home stand this past weekend, the team raised $248.

On another subject, if you looked at my column last week, I closed by wishing the Normal CornBelters the following for their opening homestand: Good crowds, great weather, and big wins.

Lanier and his troops got a good crowd on opening night against the Southern Illinois Miners. As for the weather and the victories, I wish I had wished a little harder. It seemed The Miners were not the only opponent Normal faced over the weekend, as the weather was cold May 27, when over 4,400 people showed up for the CornBelters’ home opener.

Cold and damp conditions followed on May 28, making May 29 the only real dry day during the homestand. Under the circumstances, there was low attendance at those games, which was a shame.

This weekend, the CornBelters hit the road for a mid-week three game series at Lake Erie before returning to The Corn Crib to begin a 7-day, six game homestand. The Washington (Pa.) Wild Things will be in town June 3, 4, and 5. The team will get a day off June 6, then play host to Lake Erie Tuesday-Thursday, June 7-9. Games Monday through Saturday begin at 7p.m. Sunday games start at 6p.m.

The CornBelters finished the opening month of the season with a 4-6 record, including a three-game sweep over Florence on the road. Here’s hoping June will be warm and dry while our CornBelters turn red hot for the first full month of the season.

Lastly, congratulations to those CornBelters players who are near the top of the league stat chart. Alexander is in a three-way tie for second for home runs, chasing current leader, Florence’s Mark Samuelson. CornBelters right-hander Bobby Pritchett is fifth among league pitchers in strikeouts thrown, with 15, trying to topple Washington’s Vidal Nuno. CornBelters second baseman Frank Martinez is fifth in the league in batting average, holding steady at .378.

NORMAL – If you’re like me, you probably longed for days and evenings at the ol’ ball park as soon as fall became winter. What’s more, that feeling intensified over the first two days of February when we were all stuck inside on account of what one broadcaster I heard casually refer to as “Snowmageddon.”

As the wind blew snow across my lawn and it got tougher and tougher to see as the first day of the blizzard of 2011 raged outside, all I could think of was “CornBelters season isn’t far off…CornBelters season isn’t far off…”

That is all behind us now, and a second season of Normal CornBelters baseball began this past weekend. In fact, The CornBelters started the 2011 season on the road against the River City Rascals, and put up quite a fight in the season-opener May 20. They gave it their all, losing in 16 innings, 2-1.

As of Tuesday, CornBelters had a 2-2 record, having gone 1-2 in the series against River City, and being victorious on the road Tuesday over the Florence Freedom, 5-3, in the first of a three-game set.

Normal, under second-season Manager Hal Lanier, will look to spend the season improving on the team’s first-year record of 44-52, and is looking to dethrone last year’s league champion, River City. Despite the opening night loss, if that sort of willingness to battle doesn’t say the CornBelters are prepared to fight for every win this season, nothing will.

This weekend, the Normal CornBelters’ fresh off their season-opening week on the road will spend Memorial Day Weekend at The Corn Crib, squaring off in a three-game series against the Southern Illinois Miners. Games on Friday and Saturday will start at 7p.m.; Sunday’s contest starts with a 6p.m. first pitch.

Memorial Day will be a travel day for the CornBelters, then spending May 31, and June 1 and 2 in Avon, Ohio playing the Lake Erie Crushers. The CornBelters will return to The Corn Crib Friday, June 3 to start a 6-game home stand: Friday-Sunday, June 3-5 against the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things; and Tuesday-Thursday, June 7-9 hosting Lake Erie.

As at the start of any new season, there will be a number of new players on the CornBelters’ roster. I will do my best to introduce you to them as the season presses forward.

But we will also benefit from seeing a few guys from last season’s rookie season team being here to help move the team forward including pitchers Ryan Sheldon and Tyler Lavigne; catcher Gabe DeMarco; infielders Brad Agustin, Daniel Cox, and Steve Alexander; and outfielder Asif Shah.

There is even a new face among the coaching staff. Lanier and pitching coach Brooks Carey are both back for the team’s second season, and joining them this year is Charles “Boots” Day, as a hitting instructor. Day played from 1969-1974 for St. Louis and Chicago Cubs, before spending his last four full seasons with the Montreal Expos.

When fans settle in their seats for the game, they will have two new voices helping them enjoy the experience at The Corn Crib. The team held auditions for the jobs of public address announcer and field host last month. Several people applied for both jobs.

Jerry Harcharik is the new public address announcer. Although he has lived in this area for about 25 years, he had experience in radio in Streator. He has worked as a manufacturing associate at Mitsubishi Motors for over 22 years.

Nate Kurant, 25, is the new on-field emcee, and recently moved to Normal from Madeira Beach, Florida, to become a part of the CornBelters organization. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. He has over seven years of experience working in radio.

And before I forget it (because the editor won’t forgive me if I do): The team, at the same time they were auditioning new public address announcers and field emcees last month, also were auditioning new snacks to sell in the concession stands. And the winning selection was fried pickles, a taste sensation created and submitted by Sally Pyne, wife of Normalite editor, Ed Pyne. They’re pretty tasty, folks. That much I can attest to.

As for league news at this stage of the season, there is a new team joining the Frontier League while two others that played in 2010 are sitting out this year. The Joliet Slammers are an expansion team joining the league. CornBelters’ away games there will be played at Silver Cross Field. Joliet had a team in the Northern League for a number of years, the Joliet JackHammers. But over the off-season, numerous financial matters forced the team to fold. The Slammers team name refers to the prisons in Joliet and Will County: Joliet Correctional Center and Stateville Correctional Center.

A quick refresher on teams we probably will see plenty of at The Corn Crib: Normal is in the Frontier League’s West Division battling it out with the River City Rascals; Florence (Ky.) Freedom; Southern Illinois Miners, based in Marion, Ill.; Gateway Grizzlies, based in Sauget, Ill.; and the Evansville Otters.

Visiting teams from the league’s East Division are: Joliet; Lake Erie; Windy City Thunderbolts, based in Crestwood, Ill.; Rockford RiverHawks; Traverse City (Mich.) Beach Bums; and the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things.

Normal swept Joliet in two spring training games earlier this month. The two sides will meet up again during the regular season, home and away, in July.

The Oakland County Cruisers, based in Michigan, were essentially a traveling team last season, as they waited for their new stadium to be built. The Cruisers asked the league to let them sit out now while that construction work continues, with hopes to return in 2012. Like Oakland County, the Kalamazoo Kings will be on hiatus for 2011 and have the option to rejoin the league next season.

Last August, you might have been lucky enough to join me at The Corn Crib for the Legends Game. Among the players who came out were Lanier; Bill Buckner; Cal Eldred; Keith Moreland; and John Tudor. It was a Cubs Legends versus Cards Legends event, with some area media personalities added to the teams for local flavor. It was a great event and went over very well.

This year, however, The CornBelters have decided to spread out the appearances of the celebrities to last the entire season with something they call, “Star-Struck Saturdays.”

“Star-Struck Saturdays” will feature a celebrity throwing out the first pitch and signing autographs for fans. They have an area fan favorite for their first “Star-Struck Saturday” on May 28 – Lee Smith.

Smith pitched for both the Cubs (for 8 years), and St. Louis (for 4 years) during a career than spanned 18 seasons. Smith also spent time with a number of other clubs including Cincinnati, Boston, the New York Yankees, Baltimore, and California Angels, before retiring from the game as a member of the Montreal Expos in 1997.

On June 4, Ron Kittle, who played a variety of positions in a decade-long career, will appear at The Corn Crib. Kittle played as a designated hitter, in left field, and first Base. He played for the White Sox for eight seasons (1982-86; 1989-91). He also played for the Yankees, Cleveland, and Baltimore.

Here’s hoping the opening homestand brings good crowds, great weather, and big wins for the CornBelters. See you at the ball park!

By Steve Robinson | May 16, 2011 - 10:08 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

While visiting my brother and sister-in-law over the Christmas holiday, my sister-in-law, Mary, mentioned that she had noted that kids in high school do not wear watches anymore. She noted that her son, my oldest nephew, Charlie, a high school sophomore, doesn’t. None of his friends do, either. “They all keep track of time on their cell phones,” Mary said.

That notion has stuck with me ever since that conversation. I have spent the spring semester testing it. Sure enough, most all of the kids I have come in contact with over the course of the semester use the clock on their cell phones to keep track of time.

I found two – count ‘em, folks – two students who buck the new trend. The first is Colin Pershick, a junior at Normal West High. He has a pocket watch. Well, to be honest, it’s not the pocket watch we might think of our great-great grandfathers possessing. It’s a Timex watch hanging on to one strap. Not even a full wristband. Just half of one. Colin is behind technologically, too, in that he does not have a cell phone, either.

Of not having a cell phone, Pershick said, “I don’t really feel I suffer from not having a cell phone. I can’t get detention for using one in class since I do not have one. I suppose I might miss out on the whole texting thing. But it works and I don’t really mind it.”

“I’ve known Colin for a while, and the watch doesn’t really make or break who Colin is,” chimed in Colin’s pal and Fellow West classmate, Brent Rodgers. “The watch doesn’t change who he is.”

Pershick thinks he is cool in a different way. Nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of folks out there who tend to be that way.

It turns out Colin is not alone. Jacqueline Spaniol is a junior at Normal Community High School. Where Pershick wears his to be unique, Spaniol wears hers as a matter of style. Spaniol carries a cell phone and uses the watch to tell time if she does not have her cell phone with her, also bucking the trend so many kids have demonstrated lately.

Spaniol defined the conditions under which most kids do wear watches these days. Some wear them when they work out, are taking tests, or as fashion statements, she said.

It looks like you now can tell the hipsters from the old-timers these days. All you have to do is check their wrists. I fall into the latter category, and have been, apparently, since I started wearing a watch at age 8 or 9.

On another subject, Adam McGinnis made history on May 4. When he and his baseball teammates from Normal Community West High School took on their Unit 5 rivals from NCHS on May 4 and 5, they did not just play using the facilities provided at the schools. They got a taste of the big leagues facing each other at the home of our local independent team, the Normal CornBelters.

Normal West and NCHS played at The Corn Crib. Normal West pummeled the Ironmen in the first game, 11-1 on May 4. The Ironmen nudged past West on May 5, 4-3. I made it to the first game and even for high school sports, this was a big deal.

For a high school game, there were even a few pockets of fans in the stands at the game I saw May 4. They all seemed to have a good time.

West catcher McGinnis and NCHS shortstop Brent Turner will be two names high school history buffs will want to burn into their memories. They were the first players for each team to score the very first runs by a high school team at The Corn Crib during the May 4 game. I was not able to interview any NCHS players after the first game, but I did catch up with West’s McGinnis after that very first game for his thoughts on playing on a minor league field.

West seemingly also got an advantage prior to the start of game one because Wildcats head coach Chris Hawkins called a former assistant of his, Nate Metzger. Metzger is now the athletic director and head baseball coach for Heartland Community College.

“As it turned out, we were able to get out here and practice on this field May 3,” Hawkins said. “And NCHS didn’t look like they were too surprised either by the high hops balls can take on this kind of turf.”

Hawkins said he advised his players to get an earlier than usual start on any slides they might consider doing because to not do so might result in over-sliding a base.

NCHS head coach Ryan Short said some of his players earned experience playing in The Corn Crib by being in tournaments that the facility hosted last summer. “The field didn’t take anything away from us today,” Short said after May 4 loss. “I’ve seen enough games here to know there will be a little spring.”

Short said the players on his squad this year who have the edge on knowing how the turf at The Corn Crib plays are Brent Turner, Kyle Rutledge, Matt Burns, and Brandon Taylor.

In that first game May 4, Short said, “Normal West is a good hitting team. You’re not going to be able to sneak a fastball down the middle of the plate against them. They did a great job.”

On another subject, congratulations to Caleb Bonner from NCHS and David Schemerhorn from Bloomington High School who took the honors in the Bloomington Area Career Center’s Civil Engineering/Architecture program. The pair were entered in the Illinois Drafting Educators Association’s annual state competition. Both Bonner and Schemerhorn tied for third out of a field of 24 in the 3D Architectural CAD Division. Congratulations.

Roughly 200 students from schools across Illinois survived the competition to reach the regionals which were held at various Community Colleges in early March. Getting to that point made participants eligible to compete at the state level competition which was held April 30.

With the school year winding down and the baseball season starting this week for our local team, the Normal CornBelters of the independent Frontier League, I move from the high schools to the ball diamonds for the summer. I have enjoyed bringing you “High School Highlights” in its first year and look forward to doing it again beginning next August. Have a great summer.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members voted 5-2 to send a proposed ordinance amending Town Code to permit the keeping of horses and chickens on to Normal Planning Commission for public input.

In addition to urban chickens, the proposed ordinance clarifies the rules pertaining to riding horses and homing pigeons. Town Code currently permits riding horses but has no regulations. The proposed ordinance would require at least 10,000 square feet of open space per horse. The proposed code addition further clarifies the ability to house homing pigeons in the Town, as permitted by State law.

Council members Adam Nielsen and Jeff Fritzen voted against sending the proposed amendment in the Normal Planning Commission’s direction.

At the Council’s May 2 meeting, members heard a proposal from Normal resident Michael Sebald to amend Town Municipal Code so that it would allow for ownership of chickens on residential property.

Based on the discussions on May 2, Town staff drew up a prepared ordinance with a number of key provisions, including:

• Permitting up to four hens of specific chicken breeds.

• Disallowing roosters.

• Disallowing the slaughter of chickens.

• Requiring an enclosure for the chickens.

• Maintaining a distance of at least 25 feet between the chicken enclosure and residential structures on adjacent lots.

• Filing an annual permit with the Town Clerk.

• Maintaining the chickens and the chicken enclosure that does not create a nuisance for neighbors.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, Town Code prohibits owning any poultry. But nine other Illinois communities including Naperville, St. Charles, Decatur, Springfield, Urbana, and Oak Park have ordinances in place for such animals. In addition, there are large cities such as Portland, Ore., Seattle, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Madison, Wis. that allow people to own poultry.

Council member Adam Nielsen said he was “a little concerned about sending this to the Planning Commission since we have not sent something like this to the commission before.”

Council member Sonja Reece said she felt it was not uncommon for the subject of amendments to ordinances to be heard by the Planning Commission.

Caisley Reappointed To Serve On Transit Board: Council members unanimously approved the reappointment of Mary Caisley to serve a third term on the board of the Bloomington-Normal Public Transportation System. Caisley’s reappointment means her term will expire on March 31, 2014.

Retiring Finance Director Recognized: Ron Hill, who has served the Town as its Finance Director for 32 years until he announced his retirement as of May 13, was honored by Council members at Monday’s meeting.

“I am grateful for the quality of people I have worked with,” Hill said, addressing Council members.

“You were an outstanding staff member and you’ve give this body a lot of credibility” with handling financial issues, Nielsen told Hill.

“The thing that stands out for me is the high level of integrity with which you carry yourself,” Fritzen told Hill.

Although Hill’s retirement has already started, he will still be around Normal City Hall, serving to assist his successor, Andrew Hahn, until the end of August. During that time, he will help with the transition and put finishing touches on current projects.

Of Hahn, Hill told Council members, “He’ll do a wonderful job. No doubt about it.”

Liquor Commission Imposes Fine: Council members, serving as the Normal Liquor Commission, unanimously voted to impose a $1,500 fine against Mac’s Convenience Stores, LLC, doing business as Circle K #150, 1606 N. Main St. The action taken was the result of a recent Town liquor audit.

Town Attorney Wayne Karplus explained that, although this was the second offense by the establishment in the last three years, the amount of the fine was because the latest violation was the sixth in the last seven years for this particular store.

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

• Approval of the inauguration and seating of three trustees on May 2, 2011.

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Meeting of May 2, 2011.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 11, 2011.

• A motion to approve payment of $16,226 to Bloomington-based McLean County Information Technologies for annual support of the E-Justice System (EJS).

• A motion to authorize the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to award a contract to Peoria-based Krumholz Brothers Landscaping, Inc. in the amount of $97,383.75 for the Uptown landscape planting project.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept the low quote submitted by Bloomington-based Masters Brothers for replacement of the air conditioning unit at the Ironwood Clubhouse in the amount of $13,600 and approve a budget adjustment for the replacement.

• A motion to accept a bid from Bloomington-based George Gildner, Inc. and award a contract in the amount of $500,976 for the Gregory St. Watermain Replacement Project.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for maintenance of traffic control devices on U. S. 51, U. S. 150, and Veteran’s Parkway.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of the Patriot Station Subdivision by expedited process (Irving and Hester).

• A resolution conditionally approving an amended final development plan for the Morgan Court Planned Unit Development (711 Kingsley Ct.).

By Steve Robinson | May 15, 2011 - 10:54 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members held their May 11 meeting at the district’s newest school, George L. Evans Junior High School, 2901 Morrissey Dr., Bloomington. The school is slated to welcome students for the first time in August.

The new junior high was build with funds from a $96.7 million referendum vote in 2008. Money from that referendum also went into building the district’s two new grade schools, Benjamin Elementary School and Cedar Ridge Elementary School, as well as pay for renovation projects at other elementary schools in the district.

George L. Evans Junior High School is an 80,000 square foot building with 70 classrooms. Cleaning it could, for most people, seem a massive undertaking. But Ondray Hume, a warehouse custodian with over 25 years of service to the district, was tabbed to take on the task. He was introduced to Board members by Joe Adelman, director of operations for Unit 5.

“We had to select someone to, for about four months, come into Evans and clean this building,” Adelman explained. “Ondray personally, single-handed, cleaned 80,000 square feet. He stripped, waxed, and cleaned the rooms,” Adelman told Board members.

“He was unbelievable,” Adelman added. “I don’t know of anybody who could have done that.”

Adelman said Hume put eight coats of wax on every floor. The floors shined even as they were getting tested by those who were setting foot in the building that night.

Multiple “Good News” Reports: Board members were treated to a number of “Good News” reports during this meeting. First, they heard from Dr. Jeanette Nuckolls, Principal of Normal Community High School, who introduced NCHS senior Nathan Titus. Titus has been selected to be among 110 students who have been selected to be named Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Class of 2011. He is considering a career in teaching.

Nathan will receive $2,500 in tuition assistance per year for both his freshman and sophomore years, and $5,000 tuition assistance for both his junior and senior years.

Nominees were required to submit a written application, provide ACT scores and recommendation letters, and provide transcripts to the scholarship selection committee.

“When I announced at one of our faculty meetings about the award this young man had received, there was a resounding applause from the teachers, most of whom who have had him as a student,” Nuckolls said.

“I’m very excited about the Golden Apple scholarship,” said Nathan, son of John Titus and Phyllis McCluskey Titus. “The total of 110 people who received this were chosen out of 1,600. I’m so thrilled to have gotten this award.”

Next, Nuckolls introduced Board to members of NCHS’ Mock Trial Team, congratulating them for a first time achievement of reaching the final round of the Illinois State Bar Association’s state mock trial tournament. The team reached that level out of 47 schools that competed. NCHS’ team was led by Social Studies teacher Kevin Suess, and lawyer coach, NCHS alum and current assistant McLean County States Attorney Jake DiCiuala.

The students on the Mock Trial Team are: Blake Cecil, Chris Varney, Alec Gramm, Taylor Wiese, Tom Hunter, Cameron Baker, Harrison Meece, Sean O’Malley, Tarush Khurana, and Emma Blanchard.

“This is the first time a team from Normal Community has made it to this level of competition,” Nuckolls told Board members.

“It was really a proud moment for me as well as our team to take part in this experience,” Suess said. “I think it really takes our team to the next level for years to come.”

Next, Board members heard from Carmen Bergmann, principal of Prairieland Elementary School, who introduced fifth grader K. C. DeCreamer. DeCreamer submitted the winning design for a rain barrel contest conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation to promote green initiatives. The school has received the rain barrel and K. C.’s class will work to paint the rain barrel.

To describe the design she created for the barrel, K. C. showed Board members a picture. K. C. indicated that in the picture, “There’s a waterfall made out of stone rock, kind of flowing into a river behind it, with many animals and different kinds of nature behind it.” K. C.’s parents and brother came to the meeting to share in the moment, as well.

Next, Board members heard Bergmann recognize Prairieland Elementary Art Teacher MaryLynn Meredith for her efforts to put together an art fair at the school. Student art work was on display at this event, and pottery and crafts were auctioned off, as well. Students worked on their projects for a couple of months leading up to the show. All projects were related to careers as a means of connecting the show to the real world, according to Bergmann.

Next, Tom Eder, principal of Normal Community West High School, introduced Board members to nine Normal West Foreign Language teachers who were the leadership team for an event the school hosted in March.

The event, GlobalFest 2011, gave students an opportunity to delve into world cultures and languages. A total of 20 different world languages were taught at the two-day event March 11-12. Over 700 students from 25 schools across Illinois came to Normal West for the event. Students came from as far north as Crystal Lake and far south as Cairo for the event.

It is an event that has been in existence since the mid-1980s. it is coordinated by the GlobalFest Committee, and sponsored by the Central States Rotary Youth Exchange and the Illinois Council For Teachers Of Foreign Languages, among other groups.

The members of Normal West’s Foreign Language Department are: David Hilst, Jama Lindahl, Patty Ryan-Fouts, Leslie Wagner, Isela Jacquez-Williams, Shelli Lord, Sue Strauch, Amy O’Donoghue, and Monika Grobe.

“It takes a team to pull off a State-wide festival,” Hilst explained to Board members. Hilst is chair of Normal West’s Foreign Languages Department. “Without these people, and actually, collaboration from teachers at Normal Community High School, this could not have been done, and we couldn’t have had such a successful GlobalFest.

Hilst added: “I really believe that we are blessed to have an administration who supports us in what we’re doing, and have a district that is willing to recognize that it is at the crossroads of the state and at the crossroads of our nation. So, we have a responsibility to let our students know that the world is out there. If you know a little about their language and their culture, that can be a powerful thing.”

Four Elementary Schools Recognized For Academic Excellence: Board members were informed that four Unit 5 elementary schools have been recognized for academic excellence by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

The four schools (and their principals) are: Fox Creek Elementary (Mark Robinson); Grove Elementary (John Lutes); Northpoint Elementary (Bruce Weldy); and Prairieland Elementary (Carmen Bergmann).

To earn ISBE’s Academic Excellence Award, a school must meet the following criteria:
• Schools must have made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2009 and 2010 as required by the No Child Left Behind Act;

• In schools serving grades 8 and below, 90 percent of students must have met or exceeded State standards in both reading and mathematics for the three most recent school years; and

• In high schools, 80 percent of students must have met or exceeded State standards in both reading and mathematics for the three most recent school years.

Jim Braksick, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, congratulated each principal and presented them with a certificate to commemorate the achievement made by each of the four schools.

“Beyond The Books” Update: Board member Gail Ann Briggs reported to the Board that a total of 76 applications were received for grants from the “Beyond The Books” Foundation from educators representing both Unit 5 and Bloomington’s District 87. Briggs reported that 45 of those applicants will receive grants totaling $27,495.

She’s Dr. Wilson Now: Sandy Wilson, Director of Secondary Education for the district, was recognized by Board members for having received her doctorate in Education Administration from Indiana State University in ceremonies held May 7.

Funding For New Scoreboard At Normal West Approved: In addition to hearing those “Good News” items, Board members unanimously approved a motion to award a bid for a new scoreboard at Normal West to Daktronics for a total of $79,089. As part of agreeing to this contract, there were a few specifications regarding its funding.

That included Unit 5 approving $25,000 to be used for scoreboard infrastructure, and that the remaining $54,089 used to pay for the scoreboard coming from the Normal West Gridiron Club. Another stipulation for agreeing to the purchase was to designate that the scoreboard was the property of the district.

After voting to agree to the agreement, Board member Jay Reece said he wanted to make sure that there would be parity between the district’s two high schools in terms of equipment purchased so that, “one school does not wind up with substantially less than the other,” referring to the district’s other high school, NCHS.

Concert Benefiting Sudan Publicized: Three NCHS seniors spoke to Board members about a concert to be held Saturday, May 21 to benefit United Families Of Sudan. NCHS students Tarush Khurana, Sean O’Malley, and Ryan Everly spoke before the Board. A fourth NCHS senior, Nick Cooper, is also involved in organizing the event but was not present at the meeting. A total of 13 acts, as well as dancers and other entertainment will be part of the event, which will run from 4 p.m.-8p.m. at NCHS’ football practice field. There is a $5 admission charge, as well as an auction.