By Steve Robinson | September 29, 2018 - 10:56 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community High School senior quarterback Daylen Boddie scored four running touchdowns totaling 80 yards and threw over 200 yards passing as the visiting Ironmen defeated Bloomington High School at Fred Carlton Field Friday night, outpacing the Purple Raiders, 49-28, for a Big 12 Conference victory.

BHS (4-2 overall, 3-2 Big 12) could only mount single-digit scoring each quarter but surprised their fans and stunned the visitors when senior wide receiver Drew Crooks took the contest’s opening kickoff at his own 13 yard line and then weaved his way through Ironmen defenders and then found a hole in the defense which he used to score the game’s first points. That gave BHS a quick 7-0 lead at 11:48 in the first quarter following freshman kicker Jack Weltha’s extra point.

After each team failed to score on a possession and BHS punted, NCHS (5-0 Big 12, 5-1 overall) and Boddie received the ball at his team’s own 46. From there, he weaved through defenders for his team’s first score of the game followed by senior kicker Camron Hinman’s extra point to tie the game, 7-all, with 5:35 left in the quarter. Boddie scored his next touchdown from five yards out with 55.2 seconds left in the quarter followed by Hinman’s extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 14-7.

Junior running back Jake Hileman scored from five yards out to cap a 3-play, 53 yard drive for NCHS putting the Ironmen up, 21-7, following Hinman’s extra point at 3:56 in the second quarter.

BHS’ ensuing drive resulted in a 6 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Griffin Moore to junior wide receiver Diontay Griffin with 47.5 seconds until halftime capping an 8 play, 64 yard drive. A 2-point conversion pass from senior wide receiver C. J. Hyde to junior wide receiver Ivan Smith provided a surprise for fans and cut NCHS’ halftime lead to 21-15.

NCHS received the ball after the half and marched 65 yards on 7 plays for their next score, a 26 yard pass from Boddie to senior wide receiver Connor Lay at 9:14 in the third quarter followed by Hinman’s extra point, increasing the Ironmen’s margin, 28-15.

Following a BHS punt, the Ironmen scored again, with Boddie running into the end zone from 14 yards out to put the visitors up, 35-15, after Hinman’s next extra point at 6:07 in the quarter. BHS pulled within 13, 35-22, when Moore connected with senior wide receiver Mauliek Johnson on a 22-yard pass play followed by Weltha’s next extra point, with 3:42 remaining in the third quarter.

But NCHS increased their lead by 20, 42-22, at 11:31 in the fourth quarter when Boddie connected with senior wide receiver Dishon Hall II on a 20 yard scoring pass followed by Hinman’s extra point.

Starting with an interception of a Bloomington pass by Ironmen Hall playing defensive back, NCHS began their next drive at the Purple Raiders’ 16. Three plays later, Boddie scored from seven yards out to top the drive, followed by Hinman’s extra point, with 8:16 left, pushing the Ironmen up, 49-22.

BHS scored their last points of the night thanks to Smith’s 19 yard running touchdown with 5:58 remaining in the contest but Weltha missing the extra point.

Explaining the Ironmen’s performance in the second half, Boddie said rhetorically afterward, “It looked like we got a little juiced at half, didn’t it?,” and then referring to Ironmen head coach Jason Drengwitz, added, “Coach told us to keep our composure and play our game, and that’s what we did. We just played our game.”

Referring to the contest overall, Drengwitz said, “ Bloomington was doing some things we had to adjust to and they were playing physical and their assignments were sound.” He said his team put itself behind in a couple instances but were still able to come away with a win.

When BHS scored on the opening kickoff, Drengwitz said, his players showed no panic and took that as a sign “they needed to step up.”

This contest, BHS head coach Scott Godfrey said afterward, is “why our guys need to be in the weight room. NCHS was more physical than us and they took the fight to us in the second half. That Normal Community team is bigger and more physical than we are.

“If we don’t close that gap down,” Godfrey added, “The result’s not going to change.”

“We knew at some point we would have to match score-for-score with them,” Godfrey pointed out. “We told our guys ‘you have to keep going against this team,’” explaining to his players that NCHS has the ability to run away from opponents during contests.

“We knew what NCHS was capable of. At a certain point, we knew we would have to match score for score with them,” he explained. Godfrey said his players managed to achieve that matching in the first half, but he added, by the second half, “the better team won.”

By Steve Robinson | September 27, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Jane Collins made sure those who made the concrete walkway rounding the inner part of the property near Eugene Field after a year plus of labor received a proper “thank you” during the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 Board of Education Sept. 26.

The walkway surrounding the inner grounds of Eugene Field School complete, during a “good news” item at the meeting, Collins, the school’s administrator, passed along her and the school’s thanks to all involved in making the walkway a reality. A formal ceremony to announce the project, including groundbreaking, was held in May 2017. Students saw the finished product when they returned to class as the current school year started Aug. 16.

Eugene Field School, once an elementary school when it opened over 80 years ago, is now home to an Adapted Learning Program, a Secondary Services Program for young people ages 18-21, a vocational training center, a vocational transitional training program, and Decker Industries.

The walkway was dedicated to one of the school’s first students, Reggie Whittaker, who attended the school as a fifth grader in the 1936-37 school year. Work began work on the walkway shortly after the groundbreaking.

Among those Collins thanked were: Ronald C. Morehead, President of Local 18 of Bloomington-Normal Trades and Labor Assembly. Also thanked were Nick Blazevich, Ray Bosquez, Joe Carr, Justin Dumyahn, Scott Gregory, Dick Huddleston, Steve Lowe, Gage Nimmo, Scott Nimmo, Chris Patterson, Dennis Rich, Kevin Taylor, and Mark West of Laborers Local 362.

In addition, Collins thanked Ray Lello, Danny Martinez, Jr., Doug Meyers, Ronnie Paul, Chuck Porter, Tony Sipes, and Elliot Vinson, from Bloomington-based Stark Excavating Co. Brent Williams from Midwest Construction Rentals also received acknowledged appreciation.

Collins’ thanks continued to Alan Batterman, Jim McKinney, and Bill Speary who were Teamsters members who drove trucks hauling the needed concrete, and the dispatcher who coordinated the trucks, Curtis Eichen. She also acknowledged Rob Ditchen, the concrete supervisor for McLean County Asphalt Co., Inc.

Unit 5 personnel were not left out in Collins’ appreciation for what was done for the school. She started with Operations Manager Joe Adelman, and Unit 5 staffers Doug Johnson, Kaine Hilt, Norm Hicks, and Chad Merritt.

Hudson Elementary School’s “Good News”: Board members heard from Scott Myers, principal of Hudson Elementary School, as he introduced them to second grade teachers Amanda Hunt and Becky Braman. Hunt and Braman, Myers explained, have introduced a new mentoring program into the school which puts students in “multi-grade family teams.” The teams meet weekly on Monday and Friday mornings with students to discuss such things as character traits, goals such as self-esteem and empathy, and showing kindness toward others.

He explained there are student mentors in the group giving positive reminders to fellow classmates each day during morning announcements.

School Year 2018-19 Budget Approved: Board members unanimously approved a budget for the coming school year. District leaders presented Board members a tentative budget for the next fiscal year that has a structural deficit totaling close to $5.9 million. To close that gap, Board members unanimously approved borrowing up to $16.5 million using bonds. Doing that will create an increase in property taxes for local residents. For example, the owner of a $177,000 home will see an increase of roughly $204 in their tax bill in each of the next two years.

Substitute Teacher Issues To Be Concern Of New Panel: Board members heard the district will form a panel which will address issues brought to the district’s attention by substitute teachers who addressed the Board at this meeting and at the governing body’s Sept. 12 session. Dr. James Harden, executive director of human resources and student services for the district, informed Board members an advisory committee consisting of substitute teachers, members of Unit Five Education Association and Unit Five Support Professionals Association, which represents support staff in the district, will meet for the first time on Oct. 9 to address concerns raised by the substitutes.

Learning By Playing Returning To District Kindergarten: Board members heard from Deb Honniger, Early Learning Instructional Coach for the district, and Kathy Reardon, Kindergarten teacher at Fox Creek Elementary School, Bloomington. Honniger and Reardon informed Board members that after years of being absent, play time is back for district kindergarten classes.

Honniger informed Board members 40 minutes of free play time, which has been absent from district schools for a few years, has returned. She explained such activity helps children’s brains and imaginations. She said it’s done in what she called a “teacher-engaged” style and helps to form emotional and academic skills. In one class, the instructors informed, children used water-filled bottles to study different sounds made using them.

Reardon related children using blocks in her class to build a Wal-Mart building. She said that prompted one child to consider the fact the building would need a sign, which he took the initiative to make for the creation. Other children, she added, began creating the road around their creation.

In another instance, Reardon said, children used blocks to build a castle. That exercise, Reardon explained, helped teach youngsters about various shapes, such as cylinder-shaped blocks.

“We want our time in the classroom to stick with them,” Honniger told Board members.

By Steve Robinson | September 24, 2018 - 10:52 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

John Johnson is trying to put the University High Pioneers football team in a winning frame of mind. In his second year as head coach, Johnson seems to be trying to get his players to think of themselves as a unified group out to erase the 4-5 record they finished 2017 with.

When it comes to football, Johnson’s resume is vast – from high school to college to arenafootball2 to the pros, including a Super Bowl ring. Johnson was on the Green Bay Packers coaching staff headed by Mike Holmgren and led by quarterback Brett Favre when they defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI that year, 35-21.

But Johnson’s coaching roots got planted at the high school level, as head coach of Negaunee High School in Michigan 30 years ago. From there he coached at Harper College, moving on to Kentucky Wesleyan University, followed by the Peoria Pirates of af2. Peoria was where I first encountered John, covering the Pirates for a couple local daily papers.

When John was in Green Bay, he was an intern in the team’s marketing department before being added to the coaching staff. Making the leap from marketing to coaching was something his bosses in Green Bay knew Johnson wanted to do, he said.

As for his Pioneers’ season thus far, it has been be blown out or blow out the opponents. His team is 1-4 going into this week’s homecoming contest with Springfield Southeast. After three straight weeks of only managing seven points or less the first three weeks, and scoring 12 in a losing battle to Jacksonville two weeks ago, Johnson’s Pioneers opened fire on Springfield Lanphier, 41-12, in front of the Pioneers faithful at Hancock Stadium last week.

“We’re young and we’re kind of small up front,” Johnson admitted about his team. “We try hard.” But the problem is his players go into games facing bigger kids on the other side of the ball. “We tell the kids to keep on keeping on and keep playing.”

Johnson himself has continued to keep on keeping on, even when coaching football wasn’t how he earned his keep. It was in a supervisory role at Caterpillar in Peoria that helped Johnson win up as an assistant with Peoria’s af2 Pirates in the mid-2000s. Before Peoria, Johnson kept his hand in the game as head coach of a semi-pro team in Pekin, the Mid-State Steel before joining the Pirates. By 2009, he migrated east to join the Bloomington Edge. When he isn’t at U-High, he currently coaches the currently league-less Bloomington Edge.

One of Johnson’s former Bloomington players, Dusty Burk, played 50-yard ball for Bloomington and moved on to coach U-High a few years back. Now Burk is an administrator at Chatham Glenwood High School.

Johnson said he got the suggestion from Burk to apply for the Pioneers coaching post after the team went 3-6 under then-head coach Trevor Von Bruenchenhein two seasons ago. Johnson had seasoned players last year but the team’s record last year halted their progress toward the postseason.

Johnson said he’s “coaching really cool kids…really good kids” and describes the administrators he works for, which include U-High Principal Andrea Markert and Athletic Director Wendy Smith, as “awesome.”

“We’re pretty small,” Johnson reminds, with his Pioneers playing bigger kids from, among others, three Springfield high schools and two from Decatur who belong to the league
the Pioneers currently reside in, the Central State Eight.

Johnson commends Pioneers fans for being “great,” adding, “They never get on us and they cheer all game.” He adds parent groups back the team well and have a presence at games.

Despite their current situation in the standings, but because of the love he has for the game, Johnson adds, “I love being at U-High and it’s a good challenge. We’re working hard.”

There is half a season left for the Pioneers, and in the interest of full disclosure, this reporter is a U-High alum, but there will be no favoritism shown here, except to say, it’s hoped that after seeing the Pioneers make the playoffs in recent years, they get hold of the right combination of plays to help turn their fortunes around in the near future.

By Steve Robinson | September 17, 2018 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – At their regularly-scheduled session Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Normal Town Council members heard the Town has won an award for historic preservation, specifically for work done concerning Broadview Mansion. Specifically, the award was earned by the Town in the category of stewardship.

The Town received a 2018 Preservation Award from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation for efforts in preserving the Edwardian-style home built in 1906 which sits at the corner of Fell and Highland Avenues and is operated by the Immanuel Bible Foundation.

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz attended a function hosted by Landmarks Illinois in Chicago on Saturday to accept the award. Lorenz said the collaboration between the Town and Immanuel Bible Foundation needs to be credited with the success of preserving the building and for which the award was received.

Planned Unit Development, Rezoning On Lincoln College Property Approved: Council members unanimously approved a trio of resolutions related to the Lincoln College property at 715-755 W. Raab Rd. College officials are wanting to change how the nearly 9.2 acres are used. First, the College, which is in three buildings, sought to scale back to one academic building adjacent to Raab Rd. and to sell off portions of the remainder of the property.

Doing what the college wants accomplished would require rezoning the property and then create a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, so the properties could be divided into new lots and rezoned. Parts of the land will be rezoned from S-2 Public Land and Institutions to B-1 General Business.

Normal Planning Commission members held a public hearing on the proposed re-subdivision on Sept 6 where no members of the public addressed the issue and only Lincoln College representatives were in attendance. The Planning Commission voted 6-0 on the re-subdivision. That vote on the measure sent it on to Normal Town Council.

Council members first unanimously approved a resolution for the final plat for the fourth re-subdivision of the property. The second measure they approved unanimously related to the property was its rezoning

Finally, Council members unanimously passed a resolution conditionally approving a final development plan for the Lincoln Colleges residences, located at 717-731 W. Raab Rd., the area to be referred to now as Fairlawn Capital PUD. That PUD can now be zoned R-3A Medium Density Multi-Family Residence.

The PUD was needed to be established on this property, according to the memo prepared for Council members by Town Planner Mercy Davison, because Town Code limits the number of such buildings to one per lot unless a PUD is in place.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 4, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Sept.12, 2018.

• A resolution accepting base bid Alternatives 1, 3, and 4 and awarding a contract to Springfield-based Henson-Robinson Co. for replacement of roofing systems at the water treatment plant in the amount of $156,200 and an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution accepting base bid and Alternative 1 and awarding a contract to Chenoa-based Union Roofing Co., Inc. for the replacement of low slope roofing systems at the Community Activity Center in the amount of $67,390.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Watseka, Ill.-based Freehill Asphalt, Inc. for the 2018 Towanda Ave. concrete pavement crack and joint sealing contract in the amount of $66,223.

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Small Government Enterprise License Agreement with Redlands, Calif.-based Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. for software licensing and related services for the Town’s Geographic Information System

By Steve Robinson | September 16, 2018 - 10:06 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – Wars tend to make some children into orphans. World War I was no exception. And yet, for young people already orphaned at that time and having the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School as their home, it sometimes meant the children, who already missed a parent for one reason or another having to relive anguish of possibly losing a parental figure again possibly to the ravages of battle.

To commemorate and honor those who worked at ISSCS at the time America joined the war effort in WWI in 1917, Normal Public Library and Normal Township presented a tour of the ISSCS grounds called, “Voice From The Home: Stories Of The Great War From Normal, Illinois.” The program was created by local historian Ruth Cobb. The tour of the grounds of ISSCS grounds, which was known by the name Illinois Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home from its founding in 1869 until 1931, debuted Saturday with two initial trips conducted by Cobb and John Fischer, Manager, Normal Public Library.

Eagle Monument Restored To The Property: Each tour was limited to 12 patrons each. There were six key points on the tour which were introduced by Cobb and Fischer as each of the two tours that day circled the grounds both by van and on foot, starting with the school’s administration building. Today, there is an exhibit on the impact of “The Great War” on the School in the inside of the building, which is now used as a community center, part of what is known now as One Normal Plaza .

Just outside of that former administration building is a cast iron eagle monument atop the brick plinth indicating where an earlier monument had been erected. When the State closed the school – which was known as Illinois Soldier’s and Sailor’s Children’s Home, or ISSCS – in 1979, Cobb explained, the eagle monument wound up at the McLean County Museum of History thanks to the Town of Normal . The ISSCS Historical Preservation Society and the Town restored the monument and returned it to the property in 2008.

In December 1917, a Service Flag was dedicated to the Home to honor 58 boys from the Home who went to serve their country in WWI. When overcrowding became an issue for the Home, Cobb explained, some of the children were placed in good homes throughout the community or went to live with relatives in the area.

Boys’ Row Cottages Honor Pres. Wilson, War Generals: The next stop of the tour was to the Boys’ Cottages which are now on Oglesby Ave. off of Douglas St . Now, private residences sit on that part of the property, but as a result of the war, five of the eight foursquare brick cottages were named for people either associated with or lost as a result of the war, Cobb said. The cottages were built over a seven year span in the 1920s and could accommodate up to 30 boys. Each cottage had a living room, bedrooms, a dining room, and a basement playroom. A cottage each in this area was named for key figures at the time of the war: Wilson Cottage, named for President Woodrow Wilson; Pershing Cottage, named for Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, the American commander during WWI; and Chateau Thierry Cottage, named to recognize a significant battle directed by Gen. James Harbord which halted the progress of German troops heading in the direction of Paris. Harbord’s men headed the Germans off in the French capitol mounting a fierce counterattack.

The cottages on Boys’ Row were completed in 1928 and now are private homes. “The cottages are in good condition despite their age,” Cobb informed the tour group.

Girls’ cottages, Cobb explained, each had living, dining, and a sitting room, and laundry. Six of the eight girls’ cottages were demolished in 1969, she explained, adding the remaining two were made into private residences.

“Kids would graduate from cottage to cottage once they got older,” Cobb told the tour. The property even had a burial plot for children who passed away while at the school. But in later years, she said, children who died there would be buried at Bloomington ’s Evergreen Cemetery .

Illinois State Normal Univ. Student Teachers Taught Here: Where the children attended school on the grounds was the third site on the tour – Felmley School . It was the last school built on the grounds in 1921, just after WWI ended, and was the first school in the State to abide by new regulations from Springfield to improve safety for students and staff. The Baby Fold’s Hammitt Junior-Senior High School at 612 Oglesby Ave. , is also part of this section of the property. It had 10 rooms on one floor, and had an addition to it which included an auditorium which was constructed in the early 1930s.

The on-site school became a formal training site for student teachers from Illinois State Normal University in 1916, something urged by Dr. David Felmley, President of ISNU, which dropped using Normal as part of its moniker in 1959, according to the booklet Cobb wrote in the tour’s program. One of the students at the school, Clara Kepner, arrived there in 1914 and went on to teach at the school as a young woman.

“Refuge Garden” Helped Grow Food During The War: The property also had a farm and a garden which, as part of the war effort, allowed the School to grow their own vegetables. The garden is still in use today. At the time of the war, these were known as Refuge Food Forest , explained Bill Davidson, extension educator with University of Illinois Extension Service , who showed the visitors that the garden is still functioning today.

During the war, storing and preserving additional food was an essential part of being at the home, Davidson said. Carrots, turnips, onions, and cabbages, once picked, were stored for winter. He said that when the garden was restarted on the property in 2016, after an acre of turnips had been planted east of the garden 99 years ago, it was discovered that those dormant turnips seeds, amazingly, did produce turnips once again years after their planting.

The Children’s Village: West of the Refuge Food Forest garden and along Lincoln St. at its south edge, visitors will find The Children’s Village, Fischer pointed out. The Children’s Village was not yet part of the Home during WWI but a number of the cottages commemorate people who had roles of significance during that time. A total of WWI veterans’ children residing at the home numbered 433 by 1930. The eight Tudor Revival cottages were designed for housing children ages 3-12. Up to 15 youngsters in that age range, grouped by age and gender, along with a supervising matron, lived in those cottages.

Bloomington native A. L. Bowen was appointed to the post of superintendent of charities for the State’s Department of Public Welfare, and he oversaw the project which designed and constructed The Children’s Village.

A “Homer” Becomes A Homecoming King: For the years that youngsters and older students lived at the facility, they became known as “homers,” a term used by the community to identify them, Cobb said. She added as the older kids pushed toward young adulthood and began attending high school, “homer” was a term many bristled at being identified as. But one “homer” managed to go from being that to being a king – a homecoming king at University High School in 1965, Cobb said. That young man’s name was Bob Hayden.

Tour Concludes At “The Circle Of Friendship”: The tour’s last stop was the Gymnasium and the “Circle Of Friendship.” The gymnasium first used by the children at the home was newly built in 1922 for a cost of $25,000 and had modern direct lighting and heat. It served as both recreational facility and assembly hall for important gatherings and events, Cobb said. It sat 250 people and had a motion picture booth. It was used often for 60 years but once the State closed ISSCS in 1979, it has been shuttered.

A “Circle Of Friendship” memorial, depicting six children gathering and greeting each other around a working light pole stands nearby.

The facility had seen its ranks of children swell to 505 kids (referred to by those supervising them as “inmates” by May 1918, but every effort was made to place kids with family members to reduce that. Two months later, as a result, that stat dropped to roughly 400 in a facility that had a capacity for 400. The war’s continuing, however, made trying to find foster homes for children a reality, as well.