By Steve Robinson | November 13, 2014 - 10:06 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – After two terms as a member of Normal-based Unit 5 Board Of Education, Mark Pritchett is opting not to run again next spring.

In a one-page release Pritchett gave media members prior to the Board’s regularly-scheduled meeting on Nov. 12 at District headquarters, he explained, “Put simply, it is time. It is time for someone with fresh and new ideas to join the Unit 5 Board of Education. It is time for me to step back and enjoy my family life and further my career.”

Pritchett explained in the release his announcing his stepping down shows he’s keeping a 2007 pledge to voters he would not seek more than two terms as a Board member. What’s more the State Farm employee stated in his release, “You will not see my name listed on the ballot for this election nor any future elections.” With time he spent on the District’s Citizen Advisory Committee prior to being elected to the Board, Pritchett has been part of making policy in Unit 5 for 11 years.

Calling it an honor to have served the district, Pritchett concluded his release with “I am grateful that I was able to be a part of the many accomplishments Unit 5 has achieved during my tenure on the Board of Education.” Pritchett added he would be willing to “provide guidance” to persons wanting to serve on the Board.

Board Approves Annual Audit Report: Board members unanimously approved accepting an annual audit report from the Champaign-based firm of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP which showed that with the exception of a few minor items needing to be rectified by the district, Unit 5 appears to be doing well in their overall operations.

Hope Wheeler, a partner with the auditing firm, walked Board members through the report, explaining that of the four findings, or areas of concern the district needs to address, two have come up before. Those included Unit 5 needing to improve tracking and reporting of fixed assets; and to tighten internal controls concerning reporting of monies received through grants. Concerning this matter, the district is set to eliminate duplicated and improperly noted reports. Auditors also found findings concerning internal controls regarding bank reconciliation, and reviews done of journal entries.

The fixed assets and grant reporting issues have been cited as concerns in previous audits, Wheeler reminded Board members. District Business Manager Marty Hickman told Board members the internal control issues were the result of changes of personnel within the district’s business office.

Tax Levy Increase Anticipated: Hickman told Board members District taxpayers can anticipate a slight jump in their tax bill next year – an increase of two cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation. For the owner of a $165,000 home, their tax bill would see an increase of $11.22 over what they were paying last year, or $2,211. Property taxes bring in 61 percent of Unit 5’s Education Fund dollars, while another 10 percent comes from State funding.

The cause for the increase is the result of higher tax rates for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and Social Security. Both were reduced last year because of excess fund balances.

Board Approves Updated Notices To Parents: Board members unanimously approved the updating of one form each sent out to parents of eighth grade and high school students concerning instruction students receive regarding Family Life and Sex Education Courses. Nothing has changed as far as the intent the forms have, however, language on the forms has been simplified.

Unit 5 HS Seniors Exceed State For Prepping For College Courses: As part of a report on achievement of district students, Dr. Sandy Wilson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, presented Board members with an annual update concerning student progress. As part of that report, Wilson explained that, compared to other students statewide, Unit 5’s high school students are showing higher marks for being ready to handle college-level course work when compared to the statewide average.

In all subjects, Wilson said Unit 5 students come in at 34 percent for dealing with college-level material versus 24 percent of students statewide. In the subjects of Math, reading, and science, the percentages of those district students ready for college-level assignments are ten percent or better that compared to counterparts across the state. English is the only subject where that gap drops to single digits, as 68 percent of district students appear to show themselves ready for studies in English as compared to 60 percent of students statewide.

Unit 5 mapNormal Community West High School’s “Good News”: Board members were informed Dr. Suzanne O’Brien, President of Everyone Reading Illinois (ERI), presented the “It Takes a Village of Readers Award” to a team of Normal Community West teachers at its 2014 annual conference Friday, October 24. in Schaumburg. ERI presents the award at an annual conference which is intended to recognize a school that has performed at an exemplary level in meeting the educational needs of individuals with dyslexia.

The award recognizes teams who demonstrate an interest in learning about dyslexia and provide students with dyslexia an intensive, multisensory, structured language approach for remediation, with documented student progress in reading and writing. Normal Communuity West High School was recognized for their commitment to intervention through curriculum, intervention and academic support and their results in developing their students’ reading skills. The team also demonstrated supporting students with accommodations to ensure access to the general education curriculum through collaboration and assistive technology. The West team — Tom Parton, Peg Modglin, Amy Brinkmeier, Kristi Probst, Laura Stephenson, Karen Highland, and Nora Bard — educates students about dyslexia and reading, providing students a sense of self-esteem by understanding their own strengths and weaknesses, which helps to demystify the difficulties which have often plagued them for years.

This year’s award is the first year that a high school team has been recognized for its work with reading and adolescent reading. Normal West’s team presented their curricular, remediation, accommodation and technology supports, and student results during a conference session. For their efforts, Normal West will receive a one-year complimentary institutional membership in Everyone Reading Illinois.

Endeavors outside of the classroom by students representing Normal West were also recognized by Board members. Specifically, Board members heard about Normal West’s Future Farmers Of America Horse Judging Team having placed first at the State FFA Horse Judging Career Development Event at Black Hawk East College in Kewanee. Team members were Casey Engelhorn, Nyla Maere, Baily Wight, & Sophia Wood. Their coach is Dr. Kevin Enderlin.

At the competition, students judged eight classes of horses based on conformation and performance. Students judged Western Pleasure, Western Horsemanship, English, and Halter classes. The State Horse Judging Career Development Event is the culminating activity after students have completed an instructional unit on Basic Horse Care and Evaluation in their Agriculture class at Normal West.

Evans Junior High School’s “Good News”: Evans Junior High School Associate Principal and Athletic Director Christopher McGraw introduced Board members to 8th graders, Zach Wolford and Josh Nepomuceno who recently competed in the 2014 Illinois Elementary School Association State Cross Country Championship on October 18. Wolford finished 1st in the Class 3A boys race with a time of 10 minutes and 20 seconds for the two-mile course. Wolford also finished the 2014 cross country season undefeated, winning every race he competed in for EJHS’ cross country team. Wolford also competes for the Evans track team and Illinois Fusion club soccer team. Zach is the son of Michael and Deborah Wolford of Bloomington. Nepomuceno finished 8th in the Class 3A boys race with a time of 10 minutes and 39 seconds for the two-mile course. Josh finished in the top ten of the races he competed in this year while battling through a back injury near the end of the season. He also competes for the EJHS’ track team, and is the son of John and Narmin Nepomuceno of Bloomington.

In the second report for EJHS, McGraw introduced Board members to his school’s Gateway to Technology teacher, Kathryn Rabolt for having organized EJHS’ inaugural “Heart Of The Eagles” 5K and Fun Run on October 25. McGraw praised Rabolt for overseeing and completing numerous duties including arranging sponsorship deals, course creation, volunteer opportunities, runner registration and public relations for the race. A total of 125 runners registered and took part in the debut event.

McGraw explained Rabolt created the race to aid EJHS’s year-long Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Program theme of “Get Connected: To Each Other, Our District, Our Community, And Our World.” The race raised over $4,500 and the proceeds from the event will be distributed across the entire EJHS building to help the school’s academic teams, its PBIS team, and other such in-school endeavors.

District’s “Good News”: While the schools doubled meeting attendees’ pleasure with two items each, the District Office went one better with three positive items to report. It began with a report from District Director of Operations Joe Adelman, and Director of Food Service Pat Powers concerning efforts made by Unit 5 food service workers to implement the new U.S. Department of Agriculture Standards to provide meals while meeting new standards set by the government agency. It has been 15 years since the standards were last increased, according to Adelman and Powers.

The healthier meal requirements are a major component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The final standards make the same kinds of practical changes that many parents are already encouraging at home, including: Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week; Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods; Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties; Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

USDA built the new rule around recommendations from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine. The standards were also updated with key changes from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – the Federal government’s benchmark for nutrition.

Among the changes resulting from these regulations, Unit 5 Food Service employees have cleaned and served 40% more fresh fruits and vegetables, offered taste testing for students and worked on recipe development. They have talked to students and staff about the changes and encouraged students to try new foods.

Last year, Unit 5 schools served a total of 1,216,056 lunches and 240,660 breakfasts.

The District also reported “good news” of its own, praising Board members collectively for their efforts on serving the district on the eve of “School Board Member Day,” which was on Nov. 15. “School Board Members Day” was established by the Illinois Association of School Boards, according to the group’s website to provide “an opportunity to build community awareness and understanding about the crucial role a locally elected board of education assumes in a representative democracy.”

Unit 5’s Board members – Pritchett, John Puzauskas, Meta Mickens-Baker, Denise Schuster, Gail Ann Briggs, Mike Trask, and Wendy Maulson – were recognized by District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel for the hours the group puts in to serve students, teachers, and the community as a whole through their efforts.