NORMAL – In a special session on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Normal Town Council members unanimously approved an economic assistance agreement with Dan O’Brien of Extreme Motors to relocate his Hyundai dealership to the property located at 600 Greenbriar Dr., Normal. Council member Jason Chambers was absent from the meeting.

Under the terms of the agreement, O’Brien receives half of the 1 percent sales tax revenue raised by sales at the site for 48 months. At the most, that would be a maximum of $600,000.

As part of the terms of the agreement between O’Brien and the Town for the relocation, his business will be mandated to stay at the Greenbriar Drive for at least seven years. Failing to do so would require him to pay the Town back any money he received through the agreement.

O’Brien currently owns and operates his business out of one building that sells two car brands, Hyundai and Kia. Part of the reason for O’Brien’s urgency to relocate his businesses was because both Hyundai and Kia were pushing him to separate the two brands into individual stand-alone dealerships. For now, the two brands are sharing space at the Morrissey Dr. location.

Prior to the Council’s vote, Jeff Fritzen said, “I felt that this was an appropriate package to offer,” adding the offer made to O’Brien is similar to offers the Town has made to out-of-town proprietors who want to put a business in Normal. “If we’re willing to do it for people outside the community, we need to do it for people inside the community, it’s appropriate.

“To me, it’s a very honest proposal and it’s performance-based,” Fritzen added. “There’s some accountability there and some incentive to the person receiving the assistance to perform and achieve some success.”

Council member Sonja Reece added, “The incentive money that we are talking about is money that would not be there if it not for the sales that were made. There is an opportunity for the Town of Normal and its citizenry to benefit from this, as well as helping get this particular project off the ground.”

The potential relocation of the dealership from Bloomington to Normal, was an agenda item Normal Council members were to have discussed and potentially voted on at their regularly-scheduled session on Feb. 20, concerned a resolution authorizing approving the economic incentive agreement between the Town and O’Brien.

But no discussion of the item took place at that meeting because Bloomington city officials expressed concerns about Normal’s tax incentive offer. Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said Tuesday that two days after Normal’s Council meeting, on Feb. 22, O’Brien met with Bloomington city officials, including City Manager David Hales, but that the two sides could not work out an agreement. That allowed O’Brien to continue to negotiate with the Town of Normal.

Peterson said he heard from both O’Brien and Hales following the Feb. 22 meeting. “I heard from both Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Hales, and they said it was a good meeting, cordial, but at the end of the day, there was nothing available in Bloomington like the Saturn property that could meet his needs.”

Although he did not speak at the session, Bloomington Alderman Robert Fazzini was in attendance at the meeting.

“This will be good, candidly, for the City of Bloomington and the Town of Normal,” O’Brien said the meeting. He said doing this will allow him to expand his service to both communities.

“I’m really, really pleased,” O’Brien said.

Proposals For Uptown One Development Presented: Four developers, all with their own vision of what sort of facility should go into the plot of land in Uptown Normal known as Uptown One Development made their pitches for the parcel during interviews with the Council following a dinner recess, which followed the earlier special session.

Last September, Council members unanimously agreed to seek proposals for uses for the development at One Normal Circle. In 2007, Champaign-based One Main Development had proposed building a facility that would have a variety of uses including retail, office, and residential uses.

But the site upon which the One Main project was to housed has sat empty with fencing surrounding the hole which had been dug for its foundation since the developers encountered a lack of investor money, caused by the recession which deepened in 2008.

The four developers who presented proposals were: JSM Development; Harlem Irving Properties and Tartan Realty Group, Chicago; One Main Development, Champaign; and Raufeisen Development, Davenport, Iowa.

JSM Development proposed and currently operates the Uptown Crossing complex, 100 S. Fell Ave. Their vision for Uptown One is a four- or five-story mixed use structure with ground floor shopping, potential second floor office space, and apartments on the remaining floors.

Among JSM Development’s terms and conditions are that ownership of the land be transferred from the Town to JSM, and JSM would manage the property; and the Town provide up to 70 spaces available for lease in the parking deck of the currently under construction Uptown Station; and Town investment could be in the form of a discounted up-front investment, annual payments, and tax abatements.

Harlem Irving Properties and Tartan Realty Group is proposing a mixed-use project including 5,900 sq. ft. for a American Bistro Steakhouse, 6,280 sq. ft. for a health spa, and first floor space for a five-story boutique hotel. The five floors above the restaurant would have a mix of 85 one-, two-, and three-bedroom “condo quality” apartments. Harlem Irving Properties and Tartan Realty Group is putting the total estimated cost of the project at $20.5 million, estimating between $3 million-$5 million worth of public investment. The developer would build the project. There would be limited parking in the underground portion of the building, with the rest to be at Uptown Station.

One Main Development proposes a two-phase, six-story development with fronting along Uptown Circle, with first floor retail, second- and third-floor office space, and condominium rentals on the upper floors. Phase one has a proposed project cost of $13.5 million. Developer equity would be $4 million including the cost of the existing foundation and site at $3.3 million, leaving the Town to invest $700,000. One Main Development proposal suggests the Town’s investment may be requested from Tax Increment Funding revenues.

Raufeisen Development proposes a seven-story building consisting of 22,000 sq. ft. ground floor retail with a target tenant mix of sports bar, high end restaurant, health facility, and high end clothing boutique. The structure would have five stories of 85 single, double, and triple room apartments with approximately 148 beds. The seventh floor would be a partial workout facility/”celebration room” with full kitchen, office space, and meeting rooms. The proposed cost given by Raufeisen Development is $24.2 million.

Raufeisen Development’s terms include asking the Town provide the land and existing foundation system, and are seeking an investment by the Town of $4 million which includes the land and improvements. This developer is intent on owning the project but would like a right-to-sell once the project stabilizes. This developer anticipates 20 parking spaces in the basement of the structure, but is requesting access to the parking garage via some type of protected access like a sky bridge.

By Steve Robinson | February 26, 2012 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

High school seniors Sydney Freed and Maggie Hayes couldn’t have pictured themselves together where they were on Thursday, Feb. 23. Both girls were competing to be the top 3-point shooter in the State. Freed, representing Lexington High School in Class 1A, while Hayes, represented Bloomington Central Catholic in Class 2A, participated in the IHSA 3-Point Showdown, an event which preceded the Class 1A/2A State High School Basketball Finals last weekend.

Sydney is the daughter of Dan and Sue Freed; and Maggie is the daughter of Bill and Michelle Hayes, all Lexington residents.

But what many folks outside Lexington, including myself, didn’t know is that Freed and Hayes have known each other since they were in grade school and continue to hang out regularly, even though they attend separate schools.

So the fact the two friends found themselves among eight contestants in each class competing for the titles, respectfully, at the same time, was something neither of the girls could have dreamed of.

Although the pair have been at different high schools, Freed said they “hang out all the time.”

And even when the 3-point competitions were in full-swing across the state, Freed and Hayes were sending text messages to each other to see how things were going with their respective events.

“We weren’t very nervous about it,” Maggie said. She was at the basket on the north end of Redbird Arena for the competition while Freed was at the south end basket.

But even before these two young ladies competed in separate ends of the arena on the same day, they have had a tight bond.

Bill Hayes, Maggie’s father, said the friendship between the girls dates back to when they were in second grade at Lexington Grade School. For the record, I tried to get the girls to tell me the story of how they became friends for themselves, but they did what teens being asked such questions do best: They just looked at each other and burst out laughing. It’s what teens do when approached by an old reporter. No surprise there.

“It’s been pretty tight,” Bill Hayes said of the girls’ relationship. “When we moved back to the Lexington area from Kansas City, Mo., they were just two athletic girls who always ran track, played volleyball, basketball, and were always playing pick-up basketball outside. They became good friends and we, as parents are friends.”

Bill Hayes said the bond between the two girls remained tight even when Maggie left to go to Central Catholic High School. Going to two different schools while living in the same small town didn’t hinder their communication.

“Maggie has gone to some of the dances at Lexington, having been invited by Sydney,” he said.

As it turns out, not only did the pair stay close as friends, they’ve stayed close to basketball as teammates, making two trips to Illinois Elementary School Association Girls’ State Tournament in both 7th and 8th grade. Both of those years, Lexington Junior High School placed fourth at State. But as 8th graders, the girls helped Lexington Junior High take the IESA State Volleyball title.

“Sydney and Maggie were part of a very talented group of girls,” Bill Hayes points out with obvious parental pride.

Maggie said those early victories taught her what it took to get to and win a State Championship. As a sophomore at BCC, she was on the Saints team head coach Debbie Coffman led to an IHSA State Title in 2010 and to a second place finish last year.

“I feel as though I brought those lessons from Lexington to high school,” Maggie said.

Sydney credits her coaches and teammates with helping her get to the 3-Point Showdown finals. “I couldn’t be here if it weren’t for them,” she said.

Both Sydney and Maggie put their best effort into their 3-Point try that Thursday. Unfortunately, neither girl could get to the finals. Sydney managed to pocket five free throws, while Maggie saw six swish through the hoop.

Sydney has advice for the girls coming up behind her who may have dreams of wanting to be in the 3-Point Shootout in future years: “They just need to have that competitive drive,” she said. Then, looking at Maggie, they again exchanged that knowing glance all close friends have before simultaneously bursting out in laughter for a second time.

“You need the drive,” Maggie said, adding, “You also need to have a lot fun, otherwise. You can’t go through four years of playing basketball without having fun.”

Sydney wants to study Filmmaking, and her choice of colleges has been narrowed to either Illinois Wesleyan University, or two California colleges, UCLA or the smaller Chapman College. Maggie is going to attend Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to study Early Childhood Education, with her life’s goal to become a Kindergarten teacher.

Hopefully, these girls will take their fun, their laughter, and little bit of their Lexington pride with them when they head off to college, and elsewhere in the years ahead.

By Steve Robinson | February 25, 2012 - 10:47 pm
Posted in Category: Sports, The Normalite

NORMAL – The way Coach Danielle Cooley and her players from LeRoy High School see it, getting to the Illinois High School Association Class 1A State Basketball Tournament this season lays the foundation for future Panthers teams that follow.

Cooley’s Panthers squad laid claim to fourth place following Illini Bluffs’ 58-50 win in front of roughly 800 fans at Redbird Arena.

LeRoy (27-5), ranked third in the state, jumped out to a fast 6-0 start from the opening tip, with guards Shannon Steffan, Ashley Walker, and Emily Schopp hitting deuces, pushing the Panthers forward.

After forward Stephanie Howell hit a deuce pushing the Panthers up, 8-2, Illini Bluffs (30-6), ranked fifth in the state, responded with a three-point play from senior guard Taylor McClintock and a deuce from center Kenzie Wall, closing in on the Panthers’ lead, 8-7, with 5:04 left in the quarter. A basket each from Walker and Marcum helped increase LeRoy’s advantage, 14-9, with 2:38 left in the quarter. A deuce by Walker put LeRoy up, 16-13, with 43.3 seconds left.

But I-B’s Jaycee Johnson responded tied the game at 16-all with a trey that swished through as the first quarter-ending buzzer sounded. That gesture led to another one as the entire section of Tigers fans jumped to their feet applauding.

Johnson hit another trey at the start of the second quarter, giving I-B a 19-16 lead. But baskets by Walker and Marcum helped tie the game, 23-all, with 4:59 left in the period. The remainder of the quarter was spent with each side exchanging baskets, leading to a 30-30 halftime tie.

A trey by Marcum, followed by a pair of free throws by Steffen, earned LeRoy a fast 35-30 lead with 7:01 left in the third quarter. I-B roared back with a pair of threes from Johnson and McClintock, pulling the Tigers within one, 37-36 with 5:28 left in the quarter. Another McClintock trey at 3:02 put I-B in front, 40-39, en route to their 42-39 lead which used to begin the fourth quarter.

Johnson opened the fourth quarter, as she had the third, with a trey, pushing I-B up, 45-39. Marcum and Walker helped LeRoy keep pace, together going 4-for-6 from the free throw line, keeping the Panthers within two, 45-43, with 4:21 left.

The game was tied 47-all, thanks to a LeRoy basket by Lauren Russell at 2:39 before foul trouble beset the Panthers for the next 70 seconds of the game. Panthers’ fouls sent McClintock to the line once and guard Anna Young three times for a combined 6-for-8, pushing the Tigers up, 53-47, with 1:39 remaining.

Seven seconds later, I-B lost Johnson to injury as she scrambled for a ball in front of the officials’ table. Twenty seconds later, Johnson’s teammate, Hannah Wall, exited the game with an injury, as well.

McClintock attempted to hang on to the ball in the closing seconds, drawing a foul and going 1-for-2, thus increasing I-B’s lead, 54-47. Russell and Steffan were fouled in the closing seconds, sending them to the free throw line for the Panthers. The pair went a combined 3-for-4, giving the Panthers a 54-50 lead, but that would be as close as LeRoy would get for the day.

McClintock led all scorers in this game with 22 points, including two treys. She was joined in double-digits for I-B by Kenzie Wall, with 15 points. Marcum led LeRoy with 18 points, followed by Walker’s 17.

“We just didn’t make shots in the second half,” Cooley said after the game. “We had a plan and we thought we executed it pretty well. We knew McClintock would battle and that the two Wall girls also would continue to battle, and they did. Our hats off to them, and if we had hit some big shots, it would have been an even closer battle toward the end. We had our shots and we just didn’t make them today.”

Having made it to State begins a legacy for Panthers basketball, as the players see things. “It’s great to set the bar high,” said Marcum. “Obviously, we wanted to come in today and get third. Friday, we wanted to come in and get first, but we didn’t. We didn’t finish the season like we wanted to. But to come out and make it to State was a big deal for our town, and we just hope that what we left behind will be remembered.” She added she hoped a future LeRoy team will be able to advance to a championship game.

Beyond leaving a legacy, the seniors are exiting the team. That was something that gave Schopp pause as she talked about the experience. “I’ve had a heck of a year with these girls,” she said. “We love each other and we love basketball, and I couldn’t have shared this with anybody else but them.”

Cooley said she credits this particular senior class of players – Stephanie Hintz, Katie Woltkamp, Walker, Howell, Marcum, Schopp – as being the reason “we’ve started to turn this program around. When they came into high school, we knew that they were something special.”

She added it wasn’t just the girls on her team with something special, but “their entire senior class” demonstrate that same quality, she explained.

Cooley cited the senior boys on the LeRoy Wrestling team as another example of the leadership shown by the senior class this season. And indeed, while the girls were battling I-B, public address announcer Jeff Fritzen relayed to the crowd that the Panthers’ Wrestling squad had defeated Bloomigton High School, 27-24. It was news that brought cheering from the entire section where Panthers’ fans were seated.

Illini Bluffs head coach Jim Robertson said any jitters his team had playing their first game Friday may not have helped then, but seemed to be useful against the Panthers. “We went out and played like we had nothing to lose,” he said. “We went out to have a good time, play basketball, not apply pressure to ourselves, and if we come away with third, great. If we come away with fourth, it’s still not bad.”

Panthers Lose To Freeport Aquin In Round One: The Panthers were ready for State. They weren’t, however, expecting an ambush in the opening quarter of their opening game against Freeport Aquin. The Lady Bulldogs’ play, on the other hand, seemed to represent one.

In the semi-final the Panthers had against Freeport Aquin (30-4 after this game), the Lady Bulldogs ambushed the Panthers early, going n a 9-0 run before Cooley called a time-out to get her team settled. But even after that, Freeport doubled their original run, owning a 23-0 lead with 2:08 left in the first quarter before Marcum’s jumper gave LeRoy their first points of the game, with 1:16 remaining. Russell’s layup at 1:02 was the only other Panthers scoring in the quarter, giving Aquin a 23-4 advantage going into the second quarter.

Walker scored six of the eight points the Panthers fought for in the second quarter while the Panthers tried to hold down the faster Lady Bulldogs. Freeport Aquin held a 35-12 halftime lead.

But LeRoy, behind buckets by Marcum, Walker, and Howell, regrouped in the third quarter, holding Freeport to just 10 points in the period while going on to score 22, pulling within 11 going into the fourth quarter trailing, 45-34.

LeRoy opened the fourth quarter with a basket by Howell assisted by Walker, cutting the Lady Bulldogs’ lead, 45-36, with 7:40 left in the contest.

But that would be the closest LeRoy would get as Brunner would have three baskets, putting the Lady Bulldogs further in front, 53-38, with 4:17 remaining.

The Panthers would find themselves in foul trouble late in the game, sending Brunner to the free throw line three times in the game’s last 2:26, where she went 3-for-6, leading to the final score and the Panthers’ showdown for third place against Illini Bluffs. Illini Bluffs entered the third place game after losing its semifinal match against Cowden-Herrick, 63-54.

Sisters Sophie Brunner and Ellen Brunner led Freeport Aquin in scoring, with Sophie scoring 30 and Ellen pocketing 12. Walker was the lone Panthers player to reach double-digits, with 26.

By Steve Robinson | February 24, 2012 - 10:33 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Sports

NORMAL –Illini Bluffs wanted to come on strong in their first appearance at theIllinois High School Association Class 1A State Basketball Finals. But not evena fourth quarter surge led by primarily by Taylor McClintock was enough to helpthe Tigers, as they dropped a 63-54 decision to Cowden-Herrick-Beecher City,63-52 Friday afternoon.

Asa result, I-B will square off with LeRoy for third place on Saturday at RedbirdArena. That game will begin at 12 Noon. LeRoy lost to Freeport Aquin, 56-42earlier in the day.

CHBC(29-3) jumped out to a fast 11-4 lead in the first quarter off baskets by MicahJones, Faith Wendte, and Bailey Doty before Illini Bluffs recovered. Thatrecovery was led by senior guard Taylor McClintock who scored six unansweredpoints, including a trey, cutting CHBC’s lead, 11-10, with 1:59 left in the quarter.CHBC owned a slim 14-12 lead going into the second quarter.

Illini Bluffs (24-6) chased CHBC throughout the middle stanzas, trailing 28-22 athalftime, and 49-31 going into the fourth quarter before going for a last pushto overtake the Hornets. Hannah Wall and McClintock contributed to a 5-0 run asthe quarter opened, cutting CHBC’s lead to 49-36.

With CHBC up 53-38, McClintock hit a deuce at 4:49 with started a 12-0 run for theTigers, 10 of which are credited to McClintock. A basket by Anna Young at 2:07concluded the barrage, pulling the Tigers within five, 55-50, with 2:07 left. ButIB’s efforts proved to be not enough as a basket by Doty and Wendte and forwardCourtney Myers went a combined 5-for-6 for the free throw line in the contest’sclosing minute to help push CHBC toward a certain victory.

In scoring a game high 38 points, McClintock came within one point of setting anew scoring IHSA scoring record. Three players reached double figures for CHBC,with Wendte’s 20 points leading the way. She was followed by Doty’s 18, and 11from Jones contributing 11.

CHBC will face Freeport Aquin for the Class 1A championship at Redbird Arena,starting with Saturday’s 2p.m. tip.

Seeing as his team was at State for the first time, I-B head coach Jim Robertson saidhe thought his team “was a little shell shocked” at being at State for thefirst time. But Robertson said he is not using that as an excuse for the loss.”(CHBC)is a very good three-point shooting team,” Robertson said. “The third quarterkilled us. We were outscored 21-9 in the third quarter. Probably, I should haveput on the press just a little bit sooner.

“I am a little gun-shy about the press because of our depth and getting us in foultrouble,” Robertson admitted. He said he will not make that same error injudgment in their game on Saturday.

Regarding the rally, Robertson said “it must be a Tiger-thing” to keep fighting whendown. “The rally was good,” he said. “We came storming back to within fivepoints, and again, I wished I had pulled that up just a little bit sooner.”

“I thought we did an awesome job,” McClintock said in talking about the rally. “Anna(Young) and Nicole (Russell) are our speed. “

Although pleased with her team’s victory, CHBC head coach Carolyn Wendte saw room forimprovement, citing her team’s six turnovers in the fourth quarter, whichhelped I-B. “We just need to handle the pressure a little better,” she said. “Sometimes,we get a little lackadaisical a little bit. We just need to show them that wecan play four quarters.”

“I wish we had a little better answer for how (we let I-B get a run on us in thefourth quarter),” Wendte said. “I think we wanted to start celebrating a littlebit earlier than when we needed to, and we just didn’t stay focused.”

By Steve Robinson | February 22, 2012 - 10:25 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL –Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board members heard about a number ofawards some district schools have received recently from Illinois State Boardof Education. Jim Braksick, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instructionfor the district, reported to Board members about each of the awards as hehonored the school staff present for the Feb. 21 meeting held at Districtheadquarters.

Four District Elementary Schools – Fox Creek, Glenn, Oakdale, and Sugar Creek – wereawarded ISBE “Spotlight School” Awards. This honor is given to schools meetingthe following criteria:

• At least half the students enrolled are classified as low-income students in 2011;

• Schools must have made Adequately Yearly Progress for the last two years, 2010 and 2011, as required by No Child Left Behind;

• At least 60 percent of students must have met or exceeded standards in both reading and mathematics in 2011, and at least 50 percent of students met or exceeded those same standards in the two preceding years of 2010 and 2009.

Five other District Elementary Schools – Grove, Northpoint, Pepper Ridge, Parkside,and Prairieland — were awarded ISBE “Academic Excellence” Awards.

NCHS’ “Good News”: NCHS seniorAtticus Francken received the “I Have A Dream” award from the Town of Normal Human Relations Commissionat the 36th Annual Bloomington/NormalDr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Luncheon on January 14, 2012.

Atticus was nominated by NCHS counselor Camille Taylor for his work in various politicalarenas. Atticus has developed quite a resume. Atticus was recently appointed byGovernor Quinn to the State of Illinois Youth Development Council and serves as ExecutiveVice President. In addition, he is currently serving as the National CommitteeChairman and Vice President of the High School Democrats of America. He is pastpresident of the Illinois High School Democrats. Atticus is the Illinois StateDirector of Future Civic Leaders. Atticus also serves as a member of the YoungDemocrats of America Finance Committee.

For two years, Atticus has interned in the United States Congress. He also has worked on thecampaigns of many Illinoisbased politicians. Atticus writes for the International Student Strategy Centerand The Huffington Post. Atticus is the Executive Director for the NationalYouth Association PAC and a member of their Policy Council, while also servingas the organization’s National Director of Fundraising. It is through theefforts of Atticus that Senator Dick Durbin spoke to a group of Normal Community High School socialstudies classes last fall. Atticus has managed to accomplish this and stillfind time to be an Eagle Scout, a member of the Boys State Citizen, a JuniorStatesmen of America, and member of the Young Creating Action Network.

Atticus is just as busy in school. He maintains an A grade point average, is a member of theNational Honor Society, the Principal’s Advisory Committee, Students EmbracingDiversity and several others.

Dr. Nuckolls also introduced Board members to students who were recently honored as winnersof an essay contest, sponsored by the Bloomington-Normal Branch of the AmericanAssociation of University Women (AAUW) and Illinois State University’s Departmentof Physics and American Democracy Project.

Seniors from the area high schools are invited to submit essays that reflect upon issues of equity anddiversity that impact their personal, professional, and civic lives. Five NCHS seniors, underthe mentorship of English teacher, Misty Morris-Lelm, submitted essays.

The results areas follows: First place Award–Deana Qiao, daughter of Ling Sun and MinghongQiao; Finalist Awards—Alex Taylor, son of Michel and Steven Taylor; BrookeBailey, daughter of John Bailey, and Lisa Sandage; and Amanda Parker, daughterof Sharon and Craig Parker. Honorable Mention—Alexandria Wyatt Sanchez, daughterof Vicki and Rick Wyatt and Jose Sanchez.

Towanda Elementary’s “Good News”: Karrah Jensen,principal at Towanda Elementary Schoolsubmitted a “Good News” item saluting one of the parents of the school, Mindy Rinkenberger. Mrs. Rinkenbergerfirst started working with teachers, to level teacher’s instructional books accordingto our district standards. Jensen reported Rinkenberger has spent hours reorganizing,dividing by grade level and entering all of the books into one communaldatabase.

Rinkenberger continues to seek opportunities to assist staff, administration and students.She was approached about using her skills as a certified fitness instructor toenhance Unit 5’s wellness initiative, she was enthusiastic about getting thatproject started.

Most inside recess days are spent doing sedentary activities. Towanda Elementary has FitnessFridays to keep all Towanda students moving and active during their recesstime. Rinkenberger has designed 12stations that students rotate through, spending two minutes at each. She attends each Fitness Friday to motivate and encourage students to keepgoing.

Prairieland Elementary’s “Good News” Times 2: Carmen Bergmann, principal at Prairieland Elementary School, informedBoard members about students’ actions to help others. First, she mentioned thatin Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Naeger’s classroom. One day last month, Naeger noticed that her students were passing around a clipboard and writing on it.When she asked the students what they were doing, they explained that they weresigning up to bring a dollar to school to help children who do not have homes.A few days later, the students actually began bringing money to school. Aroundthe same time, Naeger had the students doing a writing assignment where theyfinished the following statement “If I had 100 dollars I would…” Amazingly,many of the students wrote about using it to help others. Naeger plans to havesomeone from Home Sweet Home Mission come to her classroom to talk to the childrenand accept their donations.

The students in Miss Neger’s class are: Abrigail Burger, Katie Cole, Samuel Descarpentrie,Ava Eames, Lily Evans, Amiyah Griffin, Grace Hany, Eden Husarik, Erin Kim,Maxon Mathias, Rowan McReynolds, Neadow Nachazel, Andy Pomrenke, Aidan Riggs,Hudson Rucker, Rolen Schlipmann, Jacob Simmons, Peyton Wehmeier, BradynWhitehead, and Karissa Zimmerman.

Meanwhile, two Prairieland fifth graders, interested in continuing staying fit, approachedBergmann about starting a hockey club at the school. Brennan Mitchell andKonnor Halsey approached Bergmann, asking if the school could possibly add aHockey Club to our club offerings this year. Bergmann told the boys she thoughtit was a great idea and asked if they were interested in making it happen. Theywere very excited about the challenge and immediately began planning. They talkedto the Physical Education teachers to see if it would be okay if they used thePE hockey equipment, they talked to their mothers to see if they would bewilling to supervise, and they ordered personalized pucks to use and distributeto participants. They were ready with posters and sign-up sheets for the club’ssign-up night, and that night they answered questions and collected forms andfees from the families.

The club has been meeting every Thursday after school. Brennan and Konnor plan for each sessionand run them. They showed good problem solving and leadership skills when there were some conflicts within thegroup about choosing teams for the hockey games. They decided to draw names toeliminate any hurt feelings or potential conflicts.

Bus Driver Union Rep Addresses Board: Renee’Nestler, representing the American Federation of State, County, and MunicipalWorkers (AFSCME) Council 31, addressed Board members concerning the Board’sdecision in December to unanimously to seek bids for a contractor for itsbusing operations, over the objections of drivers currently employed by thedistrict. Nestler said, “many problems resulted from poor planning and poormanagement.”

“This was evidenced by not hiring enough drivers to cover the routes to cover newschools,” Nestler said.

Since the problems have come tolight, discussions between drivers and management have eased tensions betweenthe two parties, Nestler told Board members. She renewed AFSCME’s objections tothe district’s looking into outsourcing drivers. A public hearing on thesubject will take place prior to the Board’s next meeting on March 14. Thatmeeting will be held at Normal Community West High School. The public hearingwill begin at 5p.m. During the Board’s regular meeting that night, which willbegin at 7p.m., Board members will take a vote on the issue of outsourcing. Concerns over reportsof driver shortages and absences, and students arriving at either school orhome late prompted Board members to consider outsourcing drivers. The subjecthas been a topic of public comments at Board meetings ever since it wasbroached during a September Board session

Bond Refinancing Approved: Board members also approved an agreement for refinancing $53million worth of bonds which dated back to 2005. District Business Manager ErikBush told Board members doing so saves the district $3.25 million, based oncurrent market conditions. Bush reminded Board members that around 65 percent ofrevenues the district takes in comes from property taxes.