By Steve Robinson | April 30, 2016 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonWhen it comes to raising money for charity, some things are best done as a team. The Normal Community High School Boys’ and Girls’ Swimming and Diving squads seem to have proven that with their efforts to raise money for the local Teen Relay For Life event. This year’s event was held on and around the track at Normal Community West High School’s Wildcat Field in colder than expected conditions from 6p.m. Friday, April 29 to 6a.m. Saturday, April 30.

For the third straight year, the girls’ Swimming and Diving team from Normal Community High School raised funds with NCHS senior Maddie McDowell and her team co-captain, Katie Kennedy, a junior, leading the charge. As McDowell explained each of the 13 team members were asked to raise $60 apiece at minimum. In total, the team was shooting to raise $1,500. The girls approached family and friends to reach their individual goals. The team also participated in a fundraiser at Moe’s Southwest Grill in north Normal to add to their efforts. The eatery donated a percentage of its intake one night to the team’s efforts.

When all the cash collected is counted, McDowell said, the team had hoped they would raise at least $2,000. When I left them, they had $1,700, so reaching their goal was doable.

“Getting people to donate was easy for me because the people were all eager to donate,” explained team member Abbey Harrison, an NCHS freshman. “It was easy because cancer has affected a lot of people in my life.” Harrison said the list of those people includes her grandparents and friends’ family members.

McDowell said parents of the swim team members were very helpful in the effort, donating items, helping in any number of ways. Like many of the Relay teams taking part, McDowell said it meant putting in five to six months of planning to make the team’s efforts a success. “We all owe our success to our parents.”

The person responsible for the NCHS teams’ journey into raising funds is their coach, Heather Budak. Budak herself has good reason for her involvement: Her sister, Vicki Kobel, an NCHS Physical Education teacher, and a 12-year cancer survivor, having beaten Stage 4 Throat Cancer. Kobel now has four children.

“The girls on the swim team decided to form a Relay team when Vicki had her tenth anniversary as a cancer survivor,”Budak explained, adding her swim team is a family, too, and wanted to do something that would honor and celebrate Kobel’s accomplishment.

The money raised by NCHS’ Swimming and Diving teams was added to monies brought in by 22 other schools throughout McLean County and outlying areas. As a result, the event raised $17,000, explained Kimberly Wright, Community Manager for American Cancer Society’s Peoria Regional Office, who oversees Relay For Life events conducted for McLean County in June, and by Illinois State University students in April. As a matter of full disclosure, I write press releases for Relay For Life of McLean County and have for the last 16 years.

A total of 23 Relay teams, numbering between 10-12 young people per team, or in some cases more, took part in this event with local schools NCHS, Normal Community West High, University High, Bloomington High participating. A number of in-county schools like LeRoy High School also participated, Wright said. She said the Teen Relay raised $17,000 in 2016.

That’s not bad and might even be considered lofty for an event which, in total, only raised $4,000 in 2014.

“We would, someday, like to raise $100,000 at this event,” Wright stated. “We have the potential for that. The students of this community are amazing cancer fighters. They have so much ambition and so much determination to make this cancer’s last century. So, we are looking forward to growing every year.”

The total amount of money raised at the Teen Relay is added to the total amount of money raised at the primary county event, which will be held at NCHS on June 24-25.

For Jordyn Blythe, 16 and a sophomore at University High School, having a grandmother who is a long-time cancer survivor has been impactful, she said, because her grandmother, Rita Porter of New Jersey, “gives me certain tips on what I can do to stay healthy.” Blythe said her grandmother cautions her that the disease is hereditary for their family, Blythe said, and her grandmother reminds her “to be vigilant about making healthy choices.”

“I’ve definitely heeded my grandmother’s words,” Blythe said. “I’ve tried to keep a balanced diet and try to stay away from negative things.”

Sounds like a healthy frame of mind Blythe and the other kids who got involved in this event are trying to follow while having a good time raising money for a good cause.

By Steve Robinson | April 28, 2016 - 10:08 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – A new member for Normal-based Unit 5 School Board was sworn in at the group’s regularly scheduled meeting at district headquarters on Wednesday, April 27. Joseph Cleary was selected to fill the vacancy on the Board which resulted from Denise Schuster’s resignation at the end of March, the result of a job transfer for her husband. Cleary will fill the remainder of Schuster’s term and is expected to run for office for the first time to retain the seat when it comes up for a public vote in April 2019. Cleary was one of four people who applied for and were interviewed for the slot on the Board.

Cleary is employed at Illinois State University as an Instructional Assistant Professor of Construction Management and the Professional Practice Coordinator in the Department of Technology.

Cleary has been in the Bloomington-Normal community for almost 13 years. He is married and is the father of two school-age children. He has been active in the parent teacher organization at Parkside Elementary School.

He has been involved with Unit 5’s Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), which serves as a liaison between the district and its community. Mr. Cleary currently is president of the CAC, a position he will resign as a result of his appointment to the School Board. He has also served as a committee facilitator during Unit 5’s recent Strategic Planning.

Cleary’s civic involvement in the community prior to joining the Board included being a 2015 graduate of Leadership McLean County, and is a member of the Town of Normal Planning Commission. He also was an expert member of the City of Bloomington Comprehensive Planning Committee, and is the Vice President of Non-Tenure Track Faculty at ISU. In his free time, he coaches soccer for Prairie City Soccer League.

“I’m honored to have been appointed and selected and to be working to help educate the 13,000 plus students of the district,” Cleary said in his first public statement as a Board member.

Board Elections Held: After Cleary was seated, elections for Board President, Vice President, and Secretary were held. Meta Mickens-Baker retained her post as Board President for a second year; Board Member Jim Hayek, Jr. succeeded Schuster as Board vice president, and Board Member Gail Ann Briggs was elected Board Secretary, succeeding Mike Trask.

“Those Who Excel” Award Nominees From Unit 5 Announced: Hayek announced to Board members that a slate of nominees for the “Those Who Excel” award, given by the Illinois State Board of Education, has been announced. Unit 5’s nominees in their categories are: Classroom Teacher – Jennifer Gibson, Benjamin Elementary third grade teacher; Student Support Personnel (certificated) – Tera Hafermann, Normal West IMC Specialist; Educational Service Personnel (non-certificated) – Gwen Pebbles, Evans Junior High School Paraprofessional; Community Volunteer – Garry Hendricks, Pepper Ridge Promise Council Volunteer; School/District Administrator – Laura O’Donnell, Director of Secondary Education; Team — Cedar Ridge Bilingual Team; and Early Career Educator – Devin Wilson, Normal West Math Teacher.

Hayek explained to Board members that a district committee made up of previous award winners selected the nominees, who will now go through an extensive application process. Award winners will be notified in August.

Unit 5 mapOther Developments: Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, informed Board members senior assessment testing, conducted at the request of Illinois State Board of Education will be taken by fifth and eighth graders and high school seniors shortly and is expected to be completed by the end of the school year.

Daniel said Normal Community West High School will hold a fundraiser for its Freshman Mentoring Program on April 30, and that the company which has been handling its busing services, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co., is estimating servicing 124 routes when the school year begins for the fall in August. That’s a decrease in routes currently, as 134 routes are currently serviced.

Normal West Community High School’s “Good News”: Casey Engelhorn was selected as the Illinois Future Farmers of America State Winner in the project area of Small Animal Entrepreneurship. Englehorn’s Supervised Agriculture Experience Program consisted of raising, training, and showing Dachshunds. She was recognized at an FFA function on April 2 and again at this meeting by district Board members. Englehorn has shown her dogs all over the United States, as Dr. Kevin Enderlin, agriculture teacher at Normal West, explained to Board members.

Englehorn recently showed her dog at the Westminster Kennel Show in New York City. She will also be competing at the regional level against nine other state winners this summer. Englehorn is part of Normal West’s Supervised Agriculture Experience Program, which Enderlin oversees. The program allows Agriculture students gain additional Agriculture and Career experiences outside of the Agriculture classroom.

By Steve Robinson | April 26, 2016 - 10:08 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BaseballNORMAL – Central Illinois was spared a massive rain storm that went around the area, staying south, allowing Unit 5 sports rivals Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School the opportunity to get in their first head-to-head Softball contest of the season.

But where the rain spared the teams allowing them to play, a 25 miles per hour wind gust did not spare them from seemingly unbearable conditions under which to play. Then, from NCHS’ perspective, perhaps, Normal West compounded the issue, shelling the Iron’s pitching for 15 hits en route to a 10-4 rout of their hosts on Tuesday.

NCHS (12-4) jumped out to a fast 2-0 lead in the first inning on a home run into deep center field by catcher Mack Leonard.

Normal WestNormal West (12-5) countered in the top of the third inning as a double from shortstop Jaxynn Dyson scored pitcher Amanda Rogers, who singled ahead of her, giving the Wildcats a 3-2 lead. The Iron countered in the bottom of the third inning courtesy of a 2-run home run from designated player Elexis Schwartzentrauber scoring herself and Leonard who walked. That put the Iron in front, 4-3.

West began the top of the fifth inning with a four-run explosion which began with a double from Rogers, and was followed up with a single each from Dyson, third baseman Jess Jacobs, and Savana Mattson, all of whom crossed the plate, putting the Wildcats up, 7-4, midway through the fifth inning.

West scored three more runs in the top of the sixth inning, as Mattson used a single to help score designated player Reganne Camp and first baseman Kristi Schmidt, each of whom had gotten on base having been hit by pitches. Those runs put West up, 9-4. West went up 10-4 when Mattson scoredon a single from left fielder Ellie Sowetz. That gave West a 10-4 advantage midway through the sixth inning.

NCHS hitters were only granted seven hits, and Mattson registered the only strikeout. The Iron stranded six players on base, while the Wildcats stranded eight.

NCHS“This game showed me that our players have a lot of fight and a lot of heart,” Schermann said of the result. The Wildcats have three players injured forcing a shift in players at positions they were unaccustomed to playing, she added. Second baseman Olivia Sonetz, Greta Witter, and Mikayla Fairfield are all nursing injuries, she explained.

“I think that we went out and we battled,” Schermann said about her team’s effort. “I’m proud of the way that our girls came out and played. We know Normal Community has great hitters and we just tried to counteract that by switching pitchers through the lineup.”

Despite the loss, NCHS head coach Bob Grimes assessed the outcome by saying, “I thought we did better than we were expecting. Neither team threw using their ace pitchers and that changes the game completely. I was pleased with what we did. We just had a bad inning in the fifth.”

The game was considered a non-conference contest per an agreement with the other schools from the Peoria area which are joining the Big 12 Conference. Normal West head coach April Schermann explained that some of the Peoria-based schools are just starting Softball programs. To be fair to those programs, and to make sure competition was on an equal footing, Big 12 coaches and athletic directors agreed to make one of the two games the teams played non-conference. Which of the season’s two games with those teams would be non-conference was determined before the start of the season, Schermann said.

Steve RobinsonAs older folks, we see kids in their teens and assume, with their wireless devices in hand, seeming to tune out the rest of the world – let’s be honest, we all think that’s what they’re doing when they do that – that, as a group, they are all that way and direct contact with anyone other than their peers is something to be avoided until it really becomes necessary.

Then you hear about kids like Jack Dawson and your mind starts to believe there’s hope that younger generations do care about the world beyond their own lives. Dawson, 16, is wrapping up his sophomore year at University High School. In his volunteer job at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, he transports patients to and from rooms and assists visitors answering questions.

Dawson’s efforts were noted by two adult volunteers at OSF St. Joseph, Ann Woodside and Kris Albert-Burke, who, in individual letters, nominated Dawson for an annual award given out to young people who help at the facility – Junior Volunteer Of The Year. As a result, Dawson was chosen among the younger helpers at the facility to receive the 2016 award.

As Dawson describes what he does one night a week at the hospital, “I work at the front desk, and it’s mostly patient transport. So if someone is going home from the hospital, I bring a wheelchair, or if someone walks in who doesn’t know how to get to a patient’s room they’re visiting, I take them up to the room, and do other errands like that.”

Dawson will celebrate his first anniversary as a Junior Volunteer in May and has put in all tolled 106 hours just in being there a few hours a week.

You could say that as he continues doing his volunteer work, Dawson is carrying on a family tradition. About 20 years ago, Jack’s maternal grandfather, Bruce Cluver, was in an auto accident and was treated at OSF St. Joseph, where he was cared for and recovered. “They pretty much saved his life,” Dawson said. “So after that, he’s always volunteered there. My sister, Isabel, volunteered there as well, and I’m following in their footsteps.”

What Woodside and Albert-Burke individually wrote about Dawson was to the point, and I suspect, describes how Dawson has grown as he has carried out his duties. They describe him as being quiet and shy when he first began his volunteering venture, but has grown as he continues to do the job, and has stepped up to volunteer to take on assignments, as well.

The administrator at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center who oversees the volunteers had glowing comments for Dawson’s efforts, understandably, when I talked to her. “Jack is polite, enthusiastic, and caring about his volunteering with us,” explained Bobbi Hynes, director of volunteer services for the Medical Center. “Jack loves to do errands for anyone. The staff loves that he’s willing to move about like that in the course of his duties. He’s very dedicated.”

What Dawson, son of Bloomington residents Robert and Georgia Dawson, told me he enjoys about his volunteer job is “just giving back and helping out with the hospital.” He added he has learned a lot from being around “older, more experienced people. They’ve taught me specific things, but some general things, too.”

High on the list of things being around older folks has helped Dawson with, he said, “is that I’ve been able to be a little more open with people than I have previously.”

As a result of this volunteer job, Dawson said he thinks he’s learned to talk to people a bit more than in the past. “I try to make the people I talk to feel a little bit more at home,” Dawson reasoned. During his weekly three-hour stint and depending on the week, he averages dealing directly with between 3-7 people a night. And as a result, Dawson is discovering what is meant by the axiom that it’s the quality of the time spent with people rather than the quantity of people the time is spent with.

Dawson said he has thought about staying active with OSF St. Joseph Medical Center after high school, while he attends college, as a means of keeping that channel open. He said University of Illinois is a school he has an interest in attending at this point.

Dawson said, if he were going to convince a fellow teen to volunteer at the hospital, he said he would explain doing so “is just a great way to give back and help out, and you meet a bunch of really nice people who help you more than you would understand.”

It may be a volunteer job, but at Dawson’s age, learning that lesson ought to be considered compensation in itself.

Town of NormalNORMAL – At their regularly scheduled meeting in Council Chambers in Uptown Station, Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a resolution conditionally approving the fourth amendment to an annexation agreement concerning the North-Land Commercial Subdivision.

But they did so after voting on divided lines concerning language in the agreement between the Town and the subdivision land owner concerning the number of billboards which should be on the property. One of the sections in the agreement came at the Town’s request to remove one of the two billboards. The subdivision land owner sought to add a third billboard. That was not something the Town was willing to approve considering wanting to remove the second billboard.

A second vote on the matter concerning language in the agreement between the Town and the land owner ended in a 4-3 split with Council Members Jeff Fritzen, Kevin McCarthy, Kathleen Lorenz, and Scott Preston voting in favor of allowing the two billboard signs already on the land to remain in place. Mayor Chris Koos, along with Council Members Cheryl Gaines and R. C. McBride, cast opposing votes wanting language in the section of the agreement reducing the number of billboards on the property.

Preston said it was his opinion the signs on the land in question, which is roughly 176.88 acres east of Veterans Parkway and north of the Greenbriar residential subdivision, constituted clutter.

“Two signs on a tract of land that size are a valuable help” for drivers, Fritzen said. The signs are leased to the advertiser, and are located at the Town’s northeast end, explained Mercy Davison, Town Planner, to Council members.

At a public hearing on the matter prior to the beginning of the regular Council session, John Pratt, lawyer for the Country Acre Land Corp., told Council members that group would “just like to keep the two signs” currently on the land. The group had asked for up to three billboards in negotiating with the Town. The Town denied that request.

Council members voted unanimously to approve three more measures regarding this land. The first was to approve a resolution amending the preliminary plan for the subdivision; The second action was giving partial approval to the ninth addition to the North-Land Subdivision; and the third action conditionally approved a site plan for Destihl Brewery on the east side of Greenbriar Drive, north of Shepard Rd.

Council Approves Expanding Parking Impact Zone: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance rezoning properties in town in an effort to expand a parking impact zone in an area of town near Vernon Ave. Stables. The buildings nearby which are affected include: 305-327 E. Vernon Ave. ; 612 S. Linden Ave. ; 203, 205, 207, 211, 213, and 215 Lindell Dr . ; and 808 S. Linden Ave.

Council members also unanimously approved a resolution approving a preliminary development plan for the Lincoln Trails Planned Unit Development located at 808 S. Linden Ave.

Construction Contract Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Town Staff to execute a contract with River City Construction LLC for the construction of the East platform and station improvements at Uptown Station. The Town agreed to design and construct the project as part of the Illinois High Speed Rail Program. Although the work will cost $2.7 million, Koos reminded Council members Federal High Speed Rail Program money will finance the work and not money coming out of the Town’s budget.

Regional Broadband Refresher Given To Council: Council members also received a refresher and an update on the Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network from CIBRN’s Executive Director, Mark DeKeersgeiter, before the meeting adjourned.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting held April 4, 2016.

• Approval of expenditures as of April 13, 2016.

• A resolution authorizing the acceptance of bids and the purchase of a 2015 Ram Promaster City Tradesman cargo van from Bloomington-based Sam Leman Chrysler Jeep dodge in the amount of $22,082.43.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Indianapolis-based Tank Industry Consultants for evaluation, engineering, contract administration, testing and construction services for the West Reservoir Interior Rehabilitation Project.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co., a division of United Contractors Midwest, Inc., in the amount of $478,956.05 for the 2016 Non-MFT Street Resurfacing Project.

• A resolution accepting a permanent public sidewalk easement from Torrington LLC at 608 Hester Ave.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a conditional right of entry – Dan Kelley.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving a final plat within one and one-half miles of corporate limits by expedited process – Feasley-Cummins Subdivision (19546 N. 1700 East).