By Steve Robinson | February 21, 2018 - 8:25 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite

I learned to play chess from a childhood friend, John Crew, when we were in fifth grade. John was, I would say at the time a very accomplished player — especially if I was the one he was teaching. I lost to John every time except for one draw (a moral victory at best for me). Sadly, I’m rusty at the game having not played in a while.

So I absolutely would be in worse shape if I played today against young people who achieved playing well enough to get to Illinois High School Association State Chess Tournament held at Peoria Civic Center Feb. 9 and 10.

All five Intercity schools had teams qualify for the tourney with Normal Community West High School, under head coach Vicki Kafer and assistant coach Garrett Scott, finishing 21st out of 120 teams who came from all over the State.

For Bekah Nielsen, daughter of Adam Nielsen and Dayna Brown Nielsen, and a junior playing chess for the Wildcats and being at the State Tournament “was really fun and we wanted to do well. At the end of the day, we played our best and that’s all we could ask for. Getting 21st was something we were happy about.”

“We were happy we finished high,” Bekah said. With the State Tourney done, some of the team members from West are now gearing up to compete at Nationals in Nashville, Tenn. this spring.

Bekah, being female, said she has discovered she not only needs to take on her mostly male opponents at tournaments but must also take on a perception that lingers in the chess world that girls just don’t do as well as guys at the game.

Her advice to girls who want to play: ”Just keep playing, just keep practicing. You will win some and you will lose some, but you’ve got to keep going to tournaments and you’ve got to keep going to the practices. You will get better and have a chance to go to Sectionals which can lead to getting to State and trying for a title.”

Bekah said she would like to play chess in college and she wants to follow in the footsteps of older brother, Benjamin, now in college, who was also on West’s chess team when he was there.

Bekah’s teammate, Clayton Davis, son of Ben and Nickie Davis, is a junior on the team and said going to State “was pretty fun. We played against teams we hadn’t played before.”

Joseph Kessinger, son of Sheila Kessinger, and another junior on the team said kids start to learn the game in kindergarten, as he did, although Davis didn’t until he was in fourth grade. Kessinger said at the age he started, “Chess is different than anything else offered to kids at that age. When I play, I feel like I have control over my own game. I don’t have to depend on someone else to succeed.”

It appears Bekah has the right approach to this issue, from what I can see. It’s an approach and an attitude she is using to cope with naysayers she encounters who question how well girls do at a chess board. Hers is an attitude which will serve her well once she gets into the real world beyond chess, too.

Overall Results For Twin Cities Schools: Normal Community West, under head coach Vicki Kafer and assistant coach Garrett Scott, finished highest among Twin City schools placing 21st. Among those who made it to State in addition to Nielsen were other juniors including Gabe Chambers, Jon Spaulding, Zach Gilliam, Henry Lovellette, Sawyer Price, Davis, and Kessinger. Also qualifying for State were sophomores Tori Kafer, Jolie Pressburger, Naaman Rivera, and Austin Shillage.

University High under head coach Gretchen Zaitzeff and assistant coach Megan Flueri-Somers, finished 25th. . Pioneers Team members are: Seniors Vish B-Karthekeyan, Brian Cordero, Jack Dawson, Tanner Gillam, Nick Rolley, and Jared Schuckman; Sophomore Tasha Schuckman; and freshmen Grant Antink, Xhemal Bardhi, Jade Bates, Suhas Nelaturi, and Joseph Suh.

Bloomington High School finished 26th under head coach Allen Hays at this year’s event. Team members included: Seniors Mihir Bafna, Jason Enevoldsen, Prithiv Kumar; Juniors Prathik Gowda, Henry Lopez, Noah Pounds, Harrison Slotky, and Aditya Thakur; Sophomores

Selman Aydogdu and Sriram Vakkalanka; and freshmen Daevion Givan and Hari Kumarakrishnan.

Normal Community High School placed 33rd out of 126 teams this year under head coach

Chandra Darbhakul. Members of NCHS’ team are: Seniors Tarun Maddineni, Micheal Mesquita, Shanku Nair, and Nithin Sebastian; Sophomores Srikar Annapragada, Nikhil Kuricheti, Abhiru Raut, and Nathaniel Sobery; and freshmen Rahul Darbhakul, Eli Exner, Ashwath Ramesh, and Vasanth Ramesh.

Bloomington Central Catholic High School under head coach Doug Michlich and assistant coach Jim Taber, brought up the rear for the Twin Cities’ schools at the tournament placing 75th. Team members included: Seniors Dillon Manness, John-Charles Micklich,Ryan Jonas, and Andrew Smith; Juniors Finn Rubey and Reese Seidl; Sophomores Ethan Catt, Reagan Simpson, and Phillip Yu; and Freshmen Alex Brouillette and Owen Macrowski.

By Steve Robinson | February 19, 2018 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – If you are, or know the parent of a child or young person in a sport that doesn’t have its own facility to cater to those who play the sport, such as Soccer, for example, you’ve heard the conversation before. Those parents yearn for a site their kids can play at within the Twin Cities. Up until recently, there was a facility near Central Illinois Regional Airport which catered to young Soccer players until the Federal Aviation Administration took over the land.

At their regularly-scheduled session Monday, Normal Town Council members voted unanimously to authorize funds for and gave the City Manager authority to enter into an agreement with Clearwater, Fla.-based Sports Facilities Advisory, LLC (SFA) to conduct a feasibility study and economic impact analysis of a multi-sport facility being placed in Town.

Simply because the study is being done should not be an indication a facility is in the works, Council members pointed out as they approved spending an amount not to exceed $47,000 for SFA to conduct the study. “Just because the study says ‘your community is prime for a facility like this’ doesn’t mean we’ll do one,” Council Member Jeff Fritzen said.

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz said studying the need for possibly needing such a facility is worth the cost because of all the other events which use area facilities. She cited the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament, known by the nickname, “The Classic,” as another event that draws fans from out-of-town when held annually the four days after Christmas.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy called the study a “pricey idea” but worth it for what is being looked into.

Four firms submitted proposal requests to be selected for the assignment. The firms also had to make in-person presentations to a committee made up of Town officials before the final selection was made as to which firm was selected.

SFA, which has been in business since 2003, will send representatives to make three in-person visits to Normal as part of their research for their final report.

There was public comment before the discussion from two citizens – one for and one opposed. Former Town Council candidate Ron Ulmer spoke against the expenditure, saying no investor had shown interest in a Soccer facility. “If they want Soccer,” Ulmer said, referring to parents, players, and fans who have been seeking a facility, “Have them mount a campaign to rescind order” that would help the local Soccer association put pressure on FAA to let them reuse the land. He cited President Donald Trump seems to favor such actions nationwide.

“I would support this because it would be a community amenity,” said Bob Kohlhase with an opposing view. “It would bring in dollars from visitors.”

Tax Levy For Rivian Motors Abated: By a unanimous vote, Council members approved an ordinance abating the 2017 property tax levy for Rivian Automotive. Doing so was in accordance with the 2016 economic incentive agreement the Town signed with the auto manufacturer. To receive the abatement, Rivian successfully completed a couple of stipulations sought by the Town: To complete its purchase of the former Mitsubishi Motors of North America on the Town’s west end; and invest at least $500,000 in project expenses, but did not include the cost of the former MMNA property. The Town estimates the abated property tax for the Rivian land will equal $74,900 for the Town and $32,300 for the Normal Public Library.

Subway Lease Amendment Approved: With the exception of two omnibus items pulled for discussion, the remaining five items on that list were approved unanimously. The first item pulled from the omnibus agenda concerned an amendment to the lease agreement the Town had with Subway restaurants concerning the franchise operated in Uptown Station. Council members unanimously approved a lease agreement concerning rent to be paid to the Town by Subway Real Estate, LLC, the operators of the Station’s Subway restaurant which has been in operation since Uptown Station opened in 2012.

Subway Real Estate LLC, operator of the Subway restaurant in Uptown Station, was seeking to renew its lease with the Town to continue operations but was seeking, among other things, to extend the base term of the agreement so that it would expire in 2027.

In addition, the ownership of the Subway in Uptown Station has changed owners, and they were seeking to change its rent to fixed monthly payments. Currently, the rent, according to a Town Staff report “is greater of 10% of gross profit or $1,400 per square foot.” Currently, Subway is paying a monthly rent of $1,927.33. The Town has another concern in that the restaurant can only take in a certain amount of money from the restaurant because Uptown Station was constructed in part with the use of tax exempt bonds.

The other item removed from the omnibus agenda concerned an ordinance amending the Town’s liquor code giving restaurant and bar owners the opportunity to serve as early as 9a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Currently, those establishments must not open until 11a.m.

Only the following establishments with the following types of licenses would be affected by the change: Class B (Consumption on premises-Beer only); Class C (Consumption on premises-Beer and Wine); Class D (Consumption on premises-all liquor); Class D (Consumption on premises-all liquor); Class E-Hotels, and Class M-Brewpubs

Under the proposed ordinance, establishment in these categories can now begin sales on Saturday and Sunday at 9a.m. But Fritzen objected to the hours in the amendment and asked if it could not be altered so that the hour serving could begin would be changed to 10a.m. The Council voted down that change by a 5-2 count with Fritzen and Council Member Kathleen Lorenz casting opposing votes. When it came to the original amendment, to begin serving at 9a.m., Council members approved the start time change by a 6-1 vote, with Fritzen voting against it.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Feb. 5, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Feb. 14, 2018

• A motion approving hourly rates and direct costs for 2018 with Clark-Dietz, Inc.: Crawford, Murphy, & Tilly, Inc.; Farnsworth Group; Lewis, Yockey and Brown, Inc.; Maurer-Stutz, Inc.; and Wight and Company to provide engineering services for various Town departments.

• A resolution authorizing an agreement for construction materials testing services for the 2018 construction season with Bloomington-based Ramsey Geotechnical Engineering LLC (RGE).

• A resolution approving a salary schedule adjustment for classified employees to reflect the cost of living adjustment.

By Steve Robinson | February 14, 2018 - 10:38 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – The current school year isn’t quite three-quarters done and members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board got a sneak peek at the school year calendar for the next school year during their regularly-scheduled meeting Feb. 14 at district headquarters.

For openers, the next school year is tentatively scheduled to begin with a full day of classes on Thursday, Aug. 16. Before their students arrive for that first day, the teachers will spend the two days prior in Teacher Institute sessions.

Thanksgiving break for students and staff will be Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 21-23. The last day before Christmas Break will be Friday, Dec. 21, with the break running from Monday, Dec. 24 through Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. After a teacher institute day set for Monday, Jan. 7, students return to class Tuesday, Jan. 8 to start the spring semester.

Ray Epperson, deputy superintendent, and Dr. James Hardin, executive director of human resources and student services for the district, jointly chaired the committee which put the calendar together. Epperson told Board members the coming year’s calendar “most closely mirrors” the calendar used to put assemble the schedule Unit 5 used this school year.

Epperson explained that the district took a survey of teachers and staff finding that two-thirds of those polled wanted to have a full-day of teacher conferences in November without having to also have classes on the same day. That will take place on Oct. 19. Epperson said doing conferences in that matter, according to teacher responses, “helps with concerns needing to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

Board member David W. Fortner asked administrators if the district could look into trying to have Unit 5 align its yearly calendar with other school districts in the area. Fortner said that was a request he has been asked about by constituents. Epperson said that can be put forth in the form of a resolution which the Board would need to vote on at a future meeting.

Valentine’s Day Bus-Car Crash Injures 3 Students: Three students and the drivers of a McLean County Unit 5 school bus and a car were injured when a bus collided with a car and overturned the afternoon of Feb. 14 on U.S. 150 at Abraham Road between Bloomington and Downs. Published reports indicated Unit 5 school bus carrying 47 students from Evans Junior High School collided with the car about 4 p.m. traveling in thick fog. The bus rolled on its side as a result of the collision. Three students and the bus driver were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, told reporters following the meeting students who were uninjured in the crash were transported by a second bus back to EJHS where their parents were requested to pick them up.

Published reports indicated the driver of the car also was injured, according to initial reports from police at the scene, but additional information was not available.

State police handled the accident because it happened on a U.S. highway, and was under investigation as of that night.

Published reports also indicated Unit 5 officials said their initial report of the crash indicated the bus driver was not at fault.

As a matter of procedure, Daniel said, both Unit 5 and First Student Bus Co., the district’s busing provider, send administrators to the scene to conduct a formal investigation. Police officials are asked to help the district and First Student do their research into the accident, as well.

Lamboley Tapped To Become Director of Secondary Education: Daniel announced that Dan Lamboley, Principal at Parkside Junior High School, will be moving into the administration office as director of secondary education. Lamboley succeeds Laura O’Donnell, who is leaving Unit 5 to take a position in the administration of the Olympia School District in Stanford.

Kingsley And Parkside Junior High Have Three Students With “Good News”: Three PJHS students qualified for All-State Music. These students auditioned and were selected as the top musicians in the State. A total 82 students in the entire state were selected for this honor. This is the highest honor that junior high musicians can achieve. Auditions were open to anyone in the state of Illinois, and they were selected based upon their own individual talent, not as part of the larger band talent. Four of them from Unit 5, with three from PJHS and one from KJHS. They were the only musicians to be selected from the Twin Cities.

The three students from PJHS are Ernst Kangu, Anna Poncin, and Jonah Techmanski. The KJHS student who qualified is Froylan Racey.

Normal Community West High’s “Good News”: While at Normal Community West High School, Xavier Higgins has volunteered with the Best Buddies Program, working his way to serving on the group’s Board. According to the group’s website, the organization was founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver which has grown from one original chapter at Georgetown University to more than 2,300 chapters worldwide, positively impacting the lives of over 1.1 million people with and without intellectual disabilities. Higgins works with other students involved in the program to help foster meaningful friendships between students and assist students who have physical and intellectual disabilities.

In doing so, the program helps those students Best Buddies benefit from by being able to develop life skills. As a leader within the program, Higgins has dedicated himself to increasing student participation and volunteerism in the program among the students at Normal West. Higgins was recognized by Board members for his efforts at the meeting in another “good news” presentation.

Eugene Field School’s “Good News”: Jane M. Collins, administrator for Eugene Field School, which currently services students with, among other things, vocational training, presented a report about how a team of parents have worked together to create a sensory room which helps students afflicted with Aspurger’s Syndrome maintain calm and concentration. Aspurger’s Syndrome is a form of Autism.

A Unit 5 student named Jon Miskulin was the inspiration for the creation of a local support and advocacy group for parents of Aspurger’s Syndrome. Miskulin’s maternal grandparents, Richard and Bernadine Ploch, founded HEAL Foundation, Inc. to honor their grandson. HEAL is an acronym for Heroes Embracing Autistic Lives.

In her memo to Board members and Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, Collins explained a team effort has been employed to turn the former storage room into the space where students can feel calm.

Among the efforts put into the project, Collins explained in her memo, were Valerie Leichtenberg and her brother, Eric Leichtenberg came in during the evenings and weekends last spring “to paint the former storage room with beautiful pastel colors of blue and green.” As an added bonus, additional shelving for the room has been provided.

One of the school’s teachers, Kacy Stark, shopped with her students and donated several items of her own for the room such as lighting, pillows, mirrors, toys and various fidget spinners. Collins said Angie Mier donated several stress balls which come in handy throughout the day. Collins pointed out Jennifer Pearl, the school’s Health Care Provider and her husband, Loren Pearl, donated and installed carpet squares during after school hours. Jennifer Pearl, Collins wrote in her memo to the superintendent, has also donated additional furniture and paint touch-ups for the room.

By Steve Robinson | February 9, 2018 - 3:04 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Sometimes, when you go looking for one thing, you encounter something else you weren’t expecting. That’s the easiest way to explain how I met Anna Tulley. I had gone into the restaurant she works at, The CoffeeHouse and Deli at 114 E Beaufort St. in Uptown to ask about something I thought would make a good story.

When I told her I was with The Normalite, her reply was a nice surprise, particularly coming from a high school student: “Oh, I love The Normalite!” she said. Most of our readers are of a certain age, but high school students, I’m pretty sure, aren’t counted among our regular demographic.

“I like to stay updated about current events, especially in town, because I know it affects my everyday life, or I can bring it up in a conversation,” explained Anna, a senior at University High School.

And the truth is, when I didn’t find what I was originally looking for to write about at The CoffeeHouse, I left. But perhaps it was knowing we had at least one teen reader that made me circle back to find out more about Anna. Her grandmother, Mary Ann Tulley, bought Anna’s family the subscription, adding to their resources of information. “It’s really special to go through your paper and read about people from around town,” Anna said.

But reading our weekly dose of what’s going on in town isn’t all Anna is into. She also runs Cross Country and is on the Pioneers’ girls’ Soccer team.

“I actually didn’t start playing Soccer until my sophomore year and I had never played it up until then,” she explained. “But all my friends were on the Soccer team, so I decided to go out for it and see what happens. It was a great experience during my first year.” She started on the junior varsity squad and quickly showed promise that prompted her coaches to move her to varsity.

In a world where we older folks think kids are tuned out listening to their music on their devices, Anna said, in the circle of friends she runs around with, those kids are “sometimes more up to date than I am, just because they care about what’s going on.”

Anna has what some could find a unique career goal: She wants to spend her working life employed in a museum of some type. She wants to, as the ultimate goal moving up the career ladder, be able to do this at a museum in Washington, D. C. “Museums are such a positive learning atmosphere that that’s where I want to be for the rest of my life,” Anna said. “I want to do something where I get to talk to people.”

Her interest in current events led Anna to help found a group at U-High called SAGE – Student Advocates for Global Education. “We discuss educational topics around the world and how they relate to us,” Anna explained.

Here’s hoping Anna achieves her goal so she can teach others from whatever museum where she becomes employed. And regardless of where she lands, we here at The Normalite will be happy to keep a subscription reserved in her name.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members voted to approve a resolution moving forward a 20-year materials recovery and solid waste management plan along with the City of Bloomington and McLean County. The governing body’s decision seemed to agree with everyone, but one provision within the document led Council Member Scott Preston to cast a lone dissention leading to a 6-1 vote.

While the entire group appeared favorable toward the long-term plan, the issue which prompted Preston to oppose it was a set of clauses concerning recycling for multi-family housing, commercial operations, and recycling of construction and demolition materials recycling was included.

In each of those clauses, an ordinance mandating the communities and the county set certain recycling benchmarks if voluntary participation doesn’t help residents contribute in the program. That one item prompted Preston to disagree.

“I was not in favor of language that took a stance and advocated for ordinances by the Town as well as the City if certain benchmarks are not met,” Preston said afterward. Preston said had the mandated benchmarks come with an explanation of why they were being considered, Preston said he would still have voted down the resolution.

“I didn’t like the plan has a recommendation of mandating,” Preston added. “The rest of the plan is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people for the past two years. It’s an ambitious goal to be looking 20 years out.”

Preston said he commended Michael Brown, executive director of the Ecology Action Center among those who put the 26-page report together over the last couple of years. There are a lot of great things in the plan,” Preston added. “The recommended ordinances were the sticking point for me and that was why I couldn’t vote for this.”

Brown explained after the meeting that some small companies and renters do offer recycling but the percentage of companies that do that “isn’t as high as it could be. That means there’s a significant room for improvement.” He added rental companies told him that if they were mandated to provide recycling to help the community, to do so would “actually level the playing field” for those companies compared to complexes or companies who have recycling provided.

Wayne Aldrich, director of public works for the Town, said he has been contacting private companies which provide recycling services to apartments and multi-family dwelling operators.

City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members during the session the McLean County Landfill “is pretty much done. They are beginning a closure process. He added the plan “tries to move the needle on the Town’s recycling option.”

Council Member R. C. McBride told Brown and Aldrich during the meeting that establishing a 20-year plan “is a good thing.”

Jay Tummula Gets Human Rights Commission Appointment: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Jay Tummula to the Town’s Human Rights Commission. Tummula is filling a vacancy left by the resignation of Mandava Rao, the result of Rao moving from the community. Tummula will serve a full four-year term which will expire March 31, 2022.

Tummula moved to the U. S. 17 years ago to take a job with IBM. From there, he joined State Farm as an analyst in the field of information technology, his current job. He is co-chair of the Minority and Police Partnership, and a volunteer with Ecology Action Center and Community Health Care Clinic. Tummula is married and has two children.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Jan.16, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Jan. 31, 2018

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an intergovernmental agreement with McLean County for centralized booking services.

• A resolution approving a lease amendment for the Heartland Theatre Company at the Community Activity Center.

• An ordinance abating the levy of 2017 property taxes for Special Service Area Number One.