By Steve Robinson | March 30, 2013 - 10:31 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Students in Normal’s schools are in the home stretch of their school year, with only about 60 days or so before they are out for the summer. But already, both Normal-based Unit 5 School District and officials who oversee Illinois State University’s Lab Schools, including University High School, have already rolled out their 2013-14 school year calendars. For both entities, putting together a school year calendar is a collaborative process.

At Unit 5, the contract between the district and the Unit 5 Education Association, the union that represents the district’s teachers and other similar staffers that bargain with the district, requires the teachers’ union be involved in the calendar-finalizing process, explained Dr. Sandra Wilson, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

Wilson said members representing Unit 5 administration, including principals, teachers, clerical staff, and food service employees were present. Those meetings typically begin in December before school lets out for the holidays. Unit 5 Board members approved the final calendar in their only meeting in March.

Wilson said the process starts with her preparing a list of proposed dates for starting school, institute days, and other similar dates essential to those staffs.

With draft calendars in hand, members of Wilson’s committee take Wilson’s information back to their respective constituencies, to find out what they liked or didn’t like about the proposed calendar.

“It’s a really nice collaborative conversation,” Wilson said about the process of assembling a calendar that will impact so many students, parents, teachers, and staff. “I really like this because there were concessions from all sides.”

From there, dates are put into a final draft calendar, Wilson said. That draft calendar goes back to the separate groups being represented for any last minute issues and/or approval before being finalized by those groups. Once the committee finalizes it, Wilson presents the finalized calendar to Unit 5 School Board members, who vote to approve during their public meeting.

ISU Lab Schools handle setting its school year calendar using a “system-wide committee that meets and looks at the number of days that we need to satisfy State requirements, adding in the number of professional development days that we have,” explained Dr. Jeff Hill, Superintendent for ISU’s Lab Schools. It’s a post he has held since last summer. For seven years before that, he was principal at University High.

After those dates have been plugged in, Hill said, “From there, a calendar committee comes up with a couple different calendar options for our faculty to vote on.”

Hill said the faculty votes “on the calendar option that is best. Once we get that figured out, then we send the calendar out to our parents.”

Hill said he approves the calendar based upon the recommendations of the Lab Schools’ calendar committee.

Both Unit 5 and ISU Lab Schools have “late start” days and “early dismissal” days neatly inserted into their calendars. Late start days are generally used for Professional Development for the teachers. Early dismissal days are generally related to school events such as homecoming activities, parent/teacher conferences, and the like.

When Unit 5 began “Late Start,” it was a means of providing professional development time without having to factor in travel costs. Unit 5 did calculate “Late Starts,” which typically are on Wednesdays once a month, would save the district around $1 million annually. At the lab schools, Hill said no one had yet to tag a dollar savings figure to their late starts.

“I do think, in general, there are a lot of similarities in how ‘late starts’ serve the two groups,” Hill explained. “”We’re always seeking ways to get people together for the purpose of developing professionally. Research shows that having faculty collaborate around some important topics is a good way for professional development to happen.”

Setting homecoming dates – one of the biggest social school and community events during the school year – is done with assistance of the individual school’s athletic director and football coach, Wilson and Hill explained.

Since U-High shares Hancock Stadium with parent Illinois State University, “we’re looking at a variety of different factors,” Hill said. One of those factors happens to need to know when ISU’s homecoming is, and we take a look at the optimal time of year, and usually, that’s late September or early October for us.”

Hill said U-High also looks into “finding the best facilities for providing a dance which also factors into the equation.” I don’t want to sound like an old fogy here, but when I went to U-High, the equation was simple: Dances were held in the school cafeteria. But as we all know, times have changed.

Hill said scheduling dances has to be given consideration, too, because U-High has access to the Brown Ballroom in the Bone Student Center on ISU’s campus, a very popular venue for public events, as we all know.

Most of us probably never gave the school calendars a second thought in terms of their assembly. We just take them when they are published in preparation for the next coming year. I don’t know about you, but I am likely to have a little more appreciation for the effort that goes into planning a new school year from this point on.

On a subject related to school start dates, beginning with the 2013-14 school year, a new law goes into effect that would erase a shorter first day and shorter last day of school for students, something that has seemed to border on traditional for years. Illinois Senate Bill 2850, introduced by State Sen. David S. Luechetfeld (R-Okawville), was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn last year, and restricts school districts from having shorter school days at either end of the school calendar.

By Steve Robinson | March 24, 2013 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Illinois Elementary School Association held its third annual State Chess Tournament at Bone Student Center on the Illinois State University campus on Saturday, March 23. After two years of being held at U. S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, IESA moved the event, and while the setting may have changed, the intensity of those seventh and eighth graders who participated competing in varying divisions didn’t – at least from what I could see.

John-Charles Micklich, known to friends and family as “J-C,” is a seventh grader at Epiphany Catholic School in Normal who, thanks to his dad, Doug, learned the game for the first time before he had even started kindergarten. But he has been playing – and winning competitively at it since kindergarten. Doug Micklich, J-C’s father, is now one of three coaches for the chess team from the school. The other coaches are Sean Clark and Chris Morgan.

Now 13, J-C was one of 380 players at this event. Epiphany Catholic School was among 40 schools that participated in this tourney that had players that ranged in their skill level from beginner to intermediate to advanced. The schools represented were from as far north as the suburbs of Chicago and as far south as Alton.

Doug Micklich said when kids are small, obviously, you start them on the game by teaching them the basics, such as the names of each chess piece and how they are allowed to move. He adds that as kids grow older, “it’s just practice, practice, practice” that helps improve at their game. The senior Micklich had also taught chess to kids representing Prairieland Elementary School before moving over to Epiphany.

But at this level and with that much experience, for kids, Doug Micklich said, there is still more for kids to learn about the game. “The kids can learn game-opening moves, some defenses, and using pieces in combination.”

“I like how you can coordinate the pieces to work in a specific order and I like the strategy,” J-C said, addressing his fondness for the game. “I enjoy watching the way my game plan comes together and succeeds against an opponent.”

J-C, even at his age, has not just caught on to the strategic aspects of the game, but has also come to a realization that the game has been helping him in other ways, too. “Chess is very important to me because it builds up how I think,” J-C said, explaining he believes it bolsters the analytical side of his brain.

Chess, J-C said, has taught him that “before one makes any kind of move, it’s important to think about it first.” With that kind of thinking, young J-C said, a person would be less likely to commit an error in play.

As it turns out, in that last statement, J-C wasn’t just talking about game-related mistakes, either. He said he has seen friends post and then remove items they have posted on their Facebook pages after a second thought. He said he wishes people his age would increase their contemplative thinking before they act.

Doug Micklich said he has always tried to teach young chess players that a skill they need to catch on to is “to be able to look at least two, maybe three moves ahead in a game. You need to know an opponent’s responses to your move, and your next move in response to theirs.”

“They have to learn that moves need to be planned,” Doug Micklich said. He added a child’s maturity has a role in how long it takes young players to pick up on that.

The senior Micklich said being part of the chess club helps kids like his son also make life-long friends. “People J-C plays with since he was in kindergarten still play today,” he said. “You’re never at a lack for a game anywhere. They’ll always have a friend because it’s a common element that binds all these people together.”

“The people at this tournament are from up and down the state, and we’re all friends,” Doug Micklich explained. “We may not know each other at first, but it’s the chess board that joins us together.”

Doug Micklich said, as a coach, he and the other coaches can tell when kids get the gist of what they’re doing as far as their game development is concerned “because the kids are locked in” to what they are doing. He said kids he encounters showing that mindset do not want to be disturbed, even by a coach wanting to consult with them.

“The kids clearly have picked up on enjoying and winning tournaments, and meeting new people, Doug Micklich said. He said he knows the kids want to add more trophies to the 7×7 trophy case at his son’s junior high school.

“There is room for growth for more trophies,” Doug Micklich said. And his son can also look upon the tournament as a growing experience, too. In his division, J-C placed seventh.

The competition is divided into seventh grade and eighth grade, but there are a few sixth graders who are individually placed at either of those other two grade levels who get to participate, too, explained Steve Endsley, IESA executive director. He added there is no previous event students must participate in to qualify for State. “Schools just simply sign up their kids to participate,” he said.

Players and teams earned points for wins. If a match ended in a draw, that resulted in a competitor and/or a team earning one half-point.

With 40 seventh grade teams participating, Parkside Junior High School finished fourth with 205 points. Chiddix Junior High School finished right behind PJHS, in fifth place, with 185 points. Bloomington Junior High School finished sixth as a team with 175.5 points. George L. Evans Junior High School finished 10th with 151 points. Heyworth Junior High School finished 14th with 117 points. Epiphany Christian School placed 38th with 20 points, and Kingsley Junior High finished 40th with 18 points.

Individually, in both grade levels, players placed in seven separate divisions, played seven rounds during the daylong event. Local seventh graders, their school, and how they finished were: Chidambara Anagani, CJHS, 1st; Hanson Hao, BJHS, 3rd; Balaji Iyengar, EJHS, 4th; Tanner Gillam, PJHS, 5th; Anjali Toli, CJHS, 6th; Saishankar Nair, EJHS, 2nd; Michael Maxfield, CJHS, 3rd; Bafna Mifir, BJHS, 6th; Suhrud Raut, CJHS, 10th; Hance Clymer, Heyworth, 11th; Nikhil Pallem, EJHS, 4th; Kumar Prithiv, BJHS, 5th; Nikhil Madugula, CJHS, 6th; Jake Lamont, PJHS, 9th; Zane Dalton, Heyworth, 14th; Rebekah Nielsen, PJHS, 2nd; William Vanarsdall, Heyworth, 11th; Boyd Bronwen, BJHS, 21st; Richard Newcomer, EJHS, 31st; Clayton Davis, PJHS, 2nd; Michael Dixon, CJHS, 20th; Chris Cuppini, CJHS, 22nd; Mitchell Travis, CJHS, 27th; Jackson Lauren, BJHS, 31st; Sierra Stengel, Heyworth, 43rd; Sawyer Price, PJHS, 46th; Alaysia Peterson, KJHS, 57th; and Jacob Tomaras, PJHS, 64th.

With 32 eighth grade teams participating, results had KJHS placing third in team results with 218 points. Heyworth Junior High eighth graders placed 10th with 132 points. BJHS placed 27th with 40 points. EJHS placed 29th with 30 points, while PJHS placed 32nd with 18 points.

Local eighth graders, their school, and how they finished were: Jared Schuckman, KJHS, 1st; Robert Madison, KJHS, 1st; Nithin Sebastian, KJHS, 7th; Jack Jackon, BJHS, 9th; Anish Tallam, EJHS, 15th; Colton Longstreth, Heyworth, 17th; Vishvarath Karthikeyan, KJHS, 3rd; Brayden Estes, Heyworth, 4th; Nick Deiter, Heyworth, 13th; Noah Pearson, KJHS, 3rd; Austin Estes, Heyworth, 18th; Evan Milsteadt, KJHS, 9th; Bryce Rudge, PJHS, 34th; Linnea Hall, Heyworth, 39th; and Amber Greenburg, KJHS, 54th.

“Chess fits into IESA’s big picture by offering opportunities for kids to participate in some of the ways that hadn’t been possible before,” Endsley said. He cited Illinois High School Association’s debut of bass fishing competition as one of another of the unique competitions open to young people these days.

“This is an avenue for kids who are talented in the activity of chess to participate in an interscholastic competition,” Endsley said.

It has been a very long time since I sat at a chess board to challenge an opponent. I dare say I was no older than J-C the last time I did it. That was a long time ago. These kids showed a lot of skill and poise and held their concentration while participating in this event. If I ever decide to take the game up again, I may have to start with the beginners, but I have no doubt I could learn a thing or two from these players.

By Steve Robinson | March 21, 2013 - 10:19 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – In two separate debates, three candidates seeking the office of Mayor of Normal and six candidates, including two incumbents, seeking Normal Town Council seats, to discuss issues and define themselves before an audience of roughly 300 people Wednesday, March 20.

The event took place in the Brown Ballroom in the Bone Student Center on the Illinois State University campus. The event was co-sponsored by ISU’s American Democracy Project, the organized groups of College Democrats and Campus Republicans at ISU, Heartland College, and the McLean County League of Women Voters. In addition to taking written questions from the audience, organizers used a live Twitter feed to seek input from those unable to attend.

Mayoral Debate Begins The Event: The event opened with the Mayoral debate between incumbent Chris Koos and challengers Victor Connor and JeVaughn Martin. Connor began by pointing out 30 percent of a citizens income goes to both Federal and State coffers. “Mayor Koos, the Town Council, and the City Manager talk about what a great job they are doing,” he said. In part, he argues the current administration is only making life better for a select few and not the entire community.

Martin picked up on that theme, saying, were he to be elected, in a Martin administration, “we’re going to maintain property taxes and give the people what they need and not what the Normal Town Council wants,” – a reference to the proposed Hyatt Place Hotel and apartment project schedule to be built on the One Normal Development site in Uptown.

Koos, who is seeking a third term as Mayor, said, “people make communities great. He said Normal has provided “the highest quality of basic services at an affordable rate. Those services are high quality.” He said that because of projects like the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Carol A. Reitan Convention Center, and the roundabout outside of Uptown Station, the Town has been “getting national attention for its improvements, while joining just seven percent of the communities in the country which can boast of a Triple-A rating from national credit agencies.

Connor said the Town will spend about $100 million over time primarily” toward beautifying the Uptown area. In stating his disagreement with that idea, Connor, who said he has lived here since 1984, added, “I liked it here in 1994. It was quaint, charming.”

On the subject of student involvement within the community, Connor said college students attending ISU and Heartland Community College “need to get involved and are involved, and that ISU’s input is important in continued civic engagement in the community. Martin said he would let students speak regularly during Normal Town Council meetings, which are held twice monthly. Koos said he wants students to feel invited and welcomed into the community and to Council sessions.

Responding to a question concerning Green initiatives, Connor said he would support them but not use taxpayers’ dollars to do it. He said the Town must look at other ways to achieve this. He said that would need to include individuals “modifying their own behavior, and not depending on government.” On the subject of electric cars, Martin said regardless of the fact that there is an electric car plant in the community, the Town does not need to install any additional charging stations, because he said, the Town already has enough of them. Koos cited the Town’s Bike-Pedestrian Master Plan, and the traffic roundabout as part of the community’s Green initiatives already in place.

On the subject of increasing the number of bike trails and access for bike riders in available in the community, the three candidates had very different plans. Koos touted the need for an east-west access that would help citizens get the ability to go from one end of the community to another. Connor said the Town has 170 miles of streets “that are fine for bikes.” Martin said he would like to find a way to make biking safe and give streets back to the drivers.”

Six Candidates Compete For Two Positions: The field to win a seat on the Town Council is double the number of Mayoral candidates. Six people, including two incumbents and at least two others who have previously run before for a Council seat, participated in a debate which took place immediately following the Mayoral debate.

Incumbents Kevin McCarthy and Cheryl Gaines were joined by Scott Preston, Jarrod Rackauskas, Ron Ulmer, and Gary Ohler. Ulmer and Ohler have both previously each had a run for a Council seat in the past.

McCarthy, who was appointed to his seat when former Council member Jason Chambers resigned in July to run for McLean County State’s Attorney last fall, is seeking his first full term on the Council. He said during the time he has been on the Council, he “has been working very hard in the last seven months, and wants “to ensure strong financial management and enhance the quality of life in the community.”

Rackauskas said his goal is a balanced budget for the Town and enhance Town services while maintaining financial integrity for the community. Ulmer said the Town needs to “be concerned with both the expected and the unexpected” financially.

Preston said he, because he works as an assistant to State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, understands the State’s financial situation and how it will impact Normal. Ohler touted his experience as a business owner and the need to be fiscally responsible in watching where and how the Town spends its dollars. Gaines said that as a result of her being on the Council, she understands the importance of the Town watching spending and believes in conservative budgeting.

The candidates were asked what they felt were the top three priorities for the Town in the next four years. McCarthy and Rackauskas both said maintain public services was among their individual priorities. Ohmer said he would want to double-check to make sure the Town continued to be in a sound financial position. Gaines agreed making services available to residents helps maintain quality of life for those living in the area. Ulmer said the Twin Cities should consider merging its fire departments to cover the area. Preston would like to see more done to help by the Town to encourage furthering economic development.

Concerning the proposed over $70 million Hyatt Place Hotel and apartment project, all the candidates seem to be in agreement a hotel doing business and bringing in money would, understandably do more for the Town than an unused hole in the ground. “The Town has taken a wise step with the current plan.

Gaines said while at the same time wanting the Marriott to succeed, once the second hotel is up and running, the pair will help keep local property taxes low by generating new business and dollars, just as the Marriott is continuing to do.

“The hole is an eyesore and is not generating money,” Ohler said, explaining he favors the proposed second hotel in Uptown. McCarthy said business owners have been asking him about the new hotel, saying those business owners want it.

NORMAL – By a 6-1 count, Normal Council members approved an ordinance requiring tree trimmers and cutters to obtain a license from the Town before doing work within the community. That measure was discussed and voted on during the group’s regular meeting, held Monday at Normal City Hall.

The measure came to light as a result of an increase in emerald ash borers threatening the health of trees in the community. Their presence was generally followed by an influx of tree removal companies, many of them from out-of-town, going primarily door-to-door in an attempt to drum up business to aid residents of the beetles. Town officials had a concern that citizens wanting to get rid of the borers would be and have been approached by tree removal companies that lack the expertise in removing the borers approaching citizens to do the work. In January, Council members wanted Town Staff to revise the proposed ordinance. Tree trimming services were looking to make sure those soliciting to do the work were certified arborists.

In numerous Midwestern communities, residents who feel they were defrauded by tree trimming and cutter services for removal of infected ash trees have complained to authorities. In an attempt to head off potential fraud, the ordinance was proposed by Town Staff.

Mayor Chris Koos said the Town received input from local tree trimmers and other related companies in putting together the ordinance. City Manager Mark Peterson explained residents can ask a company representative who comes to their door offering to do the work to show them their Town-issued license. Such business owners would be able to get the license from the Town Clerk’s office for a fee. Peterson said those in the market for such service might want to consider looking at competitive pricing.

But Council member Jeff Fritzen said he wondered if the Town should be providing an ordinance for such a situation. He cast the lone opposing vote on the measure.

Measures Concerning Patriot Manor Subdivision Approved: Council members unanimously approved two resolutions and an ordinance regarding the Trails On Sunset Lake Subdivision. The Trails On Sunset Lake Subdivision is an 83 acre development located at the northeast corner of Airport Rd. and Fort Jesse Rd. Council members passed a resolution which authorizes the execution of the first amendment to an annexation agreement with the Town. That first amendment related to the rezoning of almost 16 acres of land west of Canyon Creek Rd. Under an agreement with the Town, that land would be zoned as Single Family Residential. The ordinance passed during this meeting by Council members made that rezoning of that land possible.

The second resolution passed unanimously by Council members approved an amended preliminary plan for a portion of this subdivision. Normal Planning Commission members unanimously approved the second resolution during their regular meeting on March 7.

Prior to the start of the scheduled Council session, a public hearing was held pertaining to an amendment to an annexation agreement regarding The Trails On Sunset Lake Subdivision. Local developers B. J. Armstrong and Jim O’Neil were present to answer questions and were the only ones who addressed Council members, but no major issues were brought up by Council members.

Two New, One Renewed Appointment To CDM Foundation Board: Council members unanimously approved two new appointments, and renewed a current member to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board Of Directors. Newly appointed to the Board were Carlo Robustelli and Mark Jontry. Reappointed to serve for another term on the Board was Dr. Caroline Halperin.

Robustelli currently serves as the Director of Grants and Foundations at Illinois State University. He previously served as Director of Orange County Operations at Durham Techinical Institute. Robustelli is being recommended to fill a position on the CDM Foundation Board previously held by Linda Bowman. Robustelli’s term on the Board expires June 30, 2014.

Jontry is currently in the middle of his fifth year as Superintendent of the Regional Office of Education. He has been with the Regional Office for nine years. In his post, he serves school districts in McLean, DeWitt, and Livingston Counties. Jontry will be filling a vacancy left by the departure from the Board of Chuck Dennis. Dr. Halperin has been a member of the CDM Foundation Board since August 2010. Jontry’s and Dr. Halperin’s terms on the Board both expire on June 30, 2016.

Liquor Commission To Collect Nearly $140,000 In Back Taxes From Merchant: Council members, serving as the Normal Local Liquor Commission unanimously approved collecting $138,414 in fines from the owner of two liquor stores who is arrears on tax payments to the Town. Owners of 707 Food And Liquor on S. Main St., and 707 Food And Liquors #2 on Beaufort St., put the blame for the problem on poor internal accounting. That problem resulted in the business failing to pay liquor tariffs to the Town for three years, beginning in 2009.

One of the establishments will pay a total of $102,239 to the Town. That amount includes: $77,000 in back taxes, a $1,000 late fee, $4,239 to pay for the cost of a Town liquor audit, and a penalty payment of $10,000.

The second of the two establishments will pay $18,894 in back taxes, $3,042 in late charges, $4,239 to pay for the cost of a Town liquor audit, and a penalty payment of $10,000.

Peterson said the Town should be “a little more aggressive” in following up on other sorts of collection of taxes done by the Town, such as its hotel/motel tax. He said the alternatives the Town faced in this situation were to either collect the cash due to the Town or revoke the stores’ licenses. He added the catch with revocation is that the stores’ owner could appeal the revocation to the State Liquor Control Board.

In addition, Commission members approved liquor licenses of the 59 establishments in Normal licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. In addition, Liquor Commissioners granted approval for alcohol licenses for five catering businesses; nine establishments with outdoor gardens; 11 for businesses that cater to wine tasting; and one para-mutuel operation.

A report submitted to the media by the Town of Normal indicates two local establishments were fined for providing liquor to minors, the result of recent liquor audits conducted by the Town. Meet, Inc., doing business as Fast Stop, was fined $250 for selling to a minor on Oct. 3 liquor audit. The owners of the business were fined $250 for what was the business’ first offense within the past three years.

The other business fined by the Town was Okgo Restaurant Group, LLC, doing business as Moe’s Southwest Grill, 1730 Bradford Lane. That business was fined $350 for selling alcohol to minors during a liquor audit on Feb. 15. The amount the restaurant was fined was the result of Moe’s being four months shy of the Town’s three-year look-back period concerning offenses.

In both cases, the businesses have already paid their respective fines to the Town.

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

• Approval of minutes of the public hearing held March 4, 2013.

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting held on March 4, 2013.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 13, 2013.

• A motion authorizing the selection of Indianapolis-based RATIO Architects for design and contract administration services for the pedestrian overpass, south boarding platform, and improvements to the old Amtrak station, and authorizing Town Staff to negotiate an agreement.

• A motion to approve a semi-annual salary schedule adjustment for classified employees.

• A motion to waive the formal bid process and accept a quote from Verizon Wireless for cellular and direct connection services.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Clyman, Wis.-based United Liquid Waste Recycling for lime sludge removal.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Carlock, Ill.-based Boitnott’s Lawn and Landscaping for “mowing and abatement services,” effective April 1, 2013 through March 31,2015.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with Omaha, Neb.-based Ballantyne Strong Inc. for the installation of a digital projection system at The Normal Theater in the amount of $84,010.54 and approval of an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of Patriot Manor Subdivision by expedited process (601 Broadway)..

• An ordinance amending Chapter 25 of the Town Municipal Code – Technical Corrections.

By Steve Robinson | March 14, 2013 - 10:27 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – With only two parents speaking publicly and a brief discussion beforehand, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board voted unanimously to approve a redistricting option, slated to begin with the 2013-14 school year – a plan that was rolled out to community members in a forum in late February. The Board held their regularly scheduled meeting on March 13 in the cafeteria of Kingsley

Under the redistricting measure goes into effect on May 1, the following will take place:

• Brigham and Cedar Ridge will share the same boundary and operate as two attendance centers.

• Kindergarteners (including bi-lingual) living in the Brigham/Cedar Ridge boundary will attend Brigham.

• First through fifth graders (including bi-lingual) living in the Brigham/Cedar Ridge boundary will attend Cedar Ridge.

• There will be one principal for grades K-5 at Brigham/Cedar Ridge.

• Elementary buses will be shared between Brigham/Cedar Ridge.

• There will be one after-school program at Cedar Ridge. Students from Brigham will be transported to the after-school program. There will also be one PTO and one Promise Council for the two attendance centers.

• No open attendance areas will feed into Brigham/Cedar Ridge.

• Headstart would be able to remain at Brigham with this option.

• McGraw Park Subdivision (the area bordered by Lockenvitz on the West, Cornelius on the South, Rader Run on the East and Prescher Point on the North) will be redistricted to Northpoint.

• Northpoint students feed into Kingsley Junior High, which is a different junior high than is currently assigned to the McGraw area. McGraw area students currently attending Evans Junior High (and their siblings) can choose to remain at Evans, and future students from that area will attend Kingsley.

• All incoming 5th graders impacted by redistricting (who currently attend Benjamin Elementary) can choose to remain there next year.

• The areas near Wingover and Ekstam Rd. will be an open attendance area, meaning it will be assigned to multiple schools. Open attendance areas are designated because they have a large number of students within the boundaries. Students in those areas will be assigned to one of the following schools: Hoose, Glenn, Northpoint and Benjamin.

• Students in open attendance areas will be assigned to a school by May 1.

Prior to the vote, Board President John Puzauskas told an audience of roughly 40 people seated in rows in the school cafeteria that the redistricting committee weighed a number of options to help realign students who live primarily on Bloomington’s east and south sides. He explained the committee making the decision consisted of two Board members, school administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

Puzauskas told the audience “we feel that this is the best option for us at this point to alleviate overcrowding and benefit our students.”

To prepare for the public comments section of the evening that came ahead of the vote, an interpreter brought in to assist Spanish-speaking parents asked twice if there was anyone who spoke Spanish who wanted to address Board members. She had no takers.

One parent who did address Board members before the vote, Zachery Perschall, who has a child at Benjamin Elementary, said while he understood “the difficult situation the Board was put in with redistricting.” He added, “any time a decision affects children, there will heightened sensitivity in a situation where, it is unlikely, everyone will be happy.”

Perschall said “it would be great to have more insight” into the discussions that led to the plan the School Board set before the public.

Revised Cell Phone Policy Approved: Board members unanimously approved, as part of their omnibus agenda, a change in District policy regarding junior high and high school students and cell phones. Under the change, students in those grade levels may have possession of cell phones inside their school buildings and in their classrooms.

As Dr. Gary Niehaus, district superintendent defined “possession” in comments to media members after the meeting, “Possession means cell phones are not to be seen, or to go off, or to cause any issues” while a student is carrying one. Previously, students had to keep cell phones in their lockers or kept out-of-sight. He said high school students generally had phones in their possession, while junior high students had to keep the phones in their lockers.

The change is the result of the shooting incident at Normal Community High School on Sept. 7. During and after that episode, students at the school used their cell phones to keep their parents updated on the situation and their whereabouts. Because of that factor, Niehaus said, Unit 5 “got a lot of benefit out of students having their cell phones. That was a major positive for us. If we were to have another crisis, which we hope we don’t, we would have cell phones on those students.”