By Steve Robinson | August 31, 2019 - 10:26 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Community High School’s senior class has a group of kids who team up to decide the theme students in the stands will use to enjoy watching their Ironmen football team. They set the tone for the evening. The theme selected for the Ironmen’s home opener Friday, Aug. 30 was “Hawaiian Night.” Figuratively speaking, the Ironmen opened the season kicking sand in the face of Peoria Richwoods to open the season, beating the Knights, 30-7, before 850 fans.

Senior running back Jake Hileman’s 23 yard touchdown dash put NCHS (1-0 Big 12 and overall) on the scoreboard for the first time this season with 2:34 remaining in the first quarter. But that was followed by a botched 2-point play, putting the Ironmen up, 6-0, for what would be the only points in the quarter.

Peoria Richwoods (0-1 Big 12 and overall) responded scoring on defense, as Knights senior defensive back Amaris Campbell picked off a pass by NCHS senior quarterback Aiden Oliver and scrambled his way 36 yards into the end zone, followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Marcus Lanier. That gave the Knights a 7-6 lead, but it would be their only lead of the night, at 7:02 in the second quarter.

But on the ensuing series for NCHS, the Ironmen marched 73 yards in five plays topped off by Oliver’s 18 yard touchdown run, followed by a successful point after by freshman kicker Ryan Millmore. That put NCHS up, 13-7, at the 5:34 mark in the second quarter.

Richwoods would wind up punting to end the ensuing possession. But Lanier’s punt to the Ironmen wound up going nearly straight up, allowing NCHS to have the starting possession at Richwoods’ 31 yard line. Five plays later, Hileman scored for the second time on the night, this time from 2 yards out, increasing NCHS’ advantage, 20-7, following Millmore’s extra point with 48 seconds until halftime.

Third quarter action opened with Richwoods having two unsuccessful drives and NCHS one before the Ironmen would put points on the board again. After partially blocking a Knights punt, NCHS was able to start their next drive from the Knights’ 11 yard line. But Knights defenders kept NCHS from being unable to maneuver into the end zone. That prompted NCHS to kick a field goal from 26 yards out. With the successful kick, Millmore increased NCHS’ lead, 23-7.

Senior wide receivers Camron Jackson’s fourth quarter touchdown, followed by Millmore’s extra point finished out NCHS’ scoring on the night.

But officials’ flags flew often during the contest. NCHS was flagged enough to be penalized 160 yards on the night compared to 312 yards in infractions Richwoods accumulated.

NCHS head coach Jason Drengwicz said calling play by both sides “a little bit sloppy would be the understatement of the football season. We didn’t play too well offensively, committing too many mental mistakes. We left a lot of points out there. “

But because football has three phases to it, Drengwicz said, he could give credit to the sections that did play well. “I thought our defense played outstanding and controlled the line of scrimmage. Special teams, I felt did an excellent job. We just need to pick it up on offense.”

He called the penalties his team got flagged for “self-inflicted.” “Richwoods did a heck of a job. There were a lot of penalties, a lot of false starts, a lot of holding calls – all things we need to clean up. If we want to accomplish what we want to accomplish this year, we can’t have 20 penalties or however many we had. That’s definitely going to be a point of emphasis.”

For Richwoods head coach Roland Brown, what needs to be taken care of before his team’s game next week playing host to Peoria Manual was basic. “We’ve got to generate some offense,” he said. “I don’t think that we performed very well up front. I knew NCHS had a lot of offensive starters coming back and good defense, but I think we had a little success, but our defense was on the field all day. I thought our defense flew around and played very well, and kept NCHS out of the end zone when we could have easily have let them in. Defensively, it was a pretty decent game, offensively, it’s got to go up.”

Friday, Sept. 6 is the annual “Chili Bowl” game for Unit 5’s two crosstown rivals as NCHS travels to Normal Community West High School. Kickoff is slated for 7p.m.

By Steve Robinson | August 29, 2019 - 10:21 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Students may be gearing up for a new school year, but Normal-based Unit 5 School District is winding down its 70th Anniversary celebration which began July a year ago. At the regularly-scheduled meeting of the district school board, held at district headquarters on Aug. 28, Board members were introduced to students who participated in and won a poster contest to honor the district.

Dayna Brown, Director of Communications and Community Relations for the district, introduced Board members to poster contest winners who ranged in age from toddler to junior high. The winners Brown introduced (and the program or school they were from) are: Sugar Creek Early Learning student Aeden Emery; Prairieland Elementary student Quinn Dobson; Northpoint Elementary student Abhinav Avala; Oakdale Elementary student Jordan Nunoo-Ponder; Benjamin Elementary student Kaitlyn Call; Grove Elementary student Sophia Smith; and George L. Evans Junior High School student Elijah Noll.

The posters varied in size, and Brown explained to Board members the district accepted those differing sizes because Unit 5 didn’t want to limit student participation. “These posters were selected because they best showed what Unit 5 represents.”

Parkside Elementary Honored By Special Olympics Illinois: During his comments at the beginning of the meeting, Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, announced Parkside Elementary School has been named one of 18 schools in the state to receive recognition by Special Olympics Illinois as a “Unified Champion School.” According to Special Olympics Illinois’ website, that makes Parkside Elementary one of 160 schools in the State which, “utilizes provided tools and resources to create inclusive school communities through Unified Sports, Leadership opportunities and whole school involvement activities.”

Special Olympics Illinois’ website explains its Project UNITY initiative this way: “Special Olympics Project UNIFY is an education and sports based strategy powered by an engaged youth community that increases athletic and leadership opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities. All of this success helps to create communities of acceptance for all.”

First Student Presents Busing Update: Board members heard an update on how Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co., the district’s transportation provider, has been doing since the beginning of the school year three weeks ago. Chris Coyle, area general manager for the company, gave a summary, explaining changes in a student’s living situation often leads to route changes for drivers.

He said since Aug. 5, First Student received reports and made adjustments as a result of 955 route changes. But he was quick to add that, as of the time of the meeting, he had been informed of their being roughly 35 changes per day. He said that large a drop “is natural,” as a result of late registrations of students, among other reasons.

“We are continuing to review the route timing,” Coyle said, adding, “Just like anything, when you have distance and traffic, what looks good on a computer isn’t necessarily right in reality.” He added the company “continues to struggle” to communicate changes such as late buses, to the public.

Despite Coyle’s explanation, Board Member Mike Trask responded by telling Coyle, “It’s your job to communicate effectively. I feel that we struggle with the communication issue constantly. We pay you a lot of money to do this. The communication piece always ends up being the problem.” Trask concluded by saying, “The communication piece has to get better or we move on.”

Board President Barry Hitchins, and members Alan Kalitzky and Meta Mickens-Baker added their concerns on the matter. Mickens-Baker urged managers to give consideration to what is going on in students’ minds during such delays. She likened the anxiety students could feel to waiting for a late but to running late for a job interview.

Trask noted the school system is paying First Student taxpayer dollars to do a job that Unit 5 isn’t able to oversee itself. Trask suggested the district might not renew First Student’s contract if problems continue.

In June 2012, over the objections of drivers then represented by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Unit 5 Board voted to enter into a first contract with First Student. In 2016, the district threatened to not renew its contract with First Student due to issues related to getting students either to their schools or to home in a timely manner.

Once the issues were resolved to the Board’s satisfaction, the two sides pressed on, with Unit 5 and First Student agreeing to a two-year contract extension in January 2018.

New Assoc. Principal At PJHS, New Assistant Principal At Pepper Ridge Elementary: A new associate principal for Parkside Junior High School and a new assistant principal for Pepper Ridge Elementary School were formally introduced to Board members by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ray Epperson. DeAndre Henderson is the new associate principal at PJHS, coming to Unit 5 from Urbana High School where he was a dean, student interventionist, and professional development facilitator there. He also has taught in Champaign and Galesburg. He received a Bachelor’s Degree from Knox College and two Master’s Degrees, both from Western Illinois University.

Epperson also introduced Emily Masten as the new assistant principal at Pepper Ridge Elementary School. Prior to joining Unit 5, Masten was employed by Peoria-based District 150 School District where she was a third grade teacher. She earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Bradley University.

Infinite Campus And Tyler Training Continues: As the start of the new school year approached, and after it started, reported District Business Manager Marty Hickman, district staff were continuing to receive training on both the Infinite Campus and Tyler Vision Accounting System, both newly operational beginning this year.

Tentative 2018-19 Budget Update Presented: Hickman also updated Board members concerning the district’s tentative 2018-19 budget report. He said that the district education fund had been expected to come in starting the year evenly balanced, but the district was surprised to find that account actually had a surplus of nearly $770,000. Expenditures in that account for this past school year totaled $106,317,959 while the money the district took in during that same period totaled $107,087,571.

In addition, Hickman explained, five of the seven other accounts the district maintains – Operations and Maintenance, Bond and Interest, Transportation, Municipal Retirement, and Working Cash – all showed surpluses. Only the district’s Tort fund and Fire Prevention/Life Safety account showed deficits to open the school year.

Tort Fund income was reported as being $5,496,835 while having spent $5,716,787. The District’s Fire Prevention/Life Safety took in $1,254,601 and although spending money on projects tallied $4,919,438. That left that fund with a deficit of $3,664,837.

Hickman said part of the reason for the surplus in the transportation fund was receiving four payments for that account coming due from the State.

Opening Day Enrollment Figures Presented: Although enrollment figures typically don’t become final until sometime in October, Epperson gave Board members enrollment figures for the opening day of school for this year. As of Friday, Aug. 16, Unit 5 had 13,203 students in class on day one of the new school year. That’s an increase of 256 students, or nearly a full percentage point increase above the 12,947 students registered by the first day of school last year.

By Steve Robinson | August 26, 2019 - 10:43 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Going through high school has many challenges: It’s the start toward a life of responsibility and gets kids thinking about the future. Getting through high school can be challenging enough for kids familiar with an area they live in. But if you’re a foreign exchange student, there’s a larger adjustment to consider – including new surroundings and a different culture.

For Christiaan de Paauw, a citizen of The Netherlands, he became involved with a foreign exchange program called Education First which tries to give foreign students an opportunity to experience a year of high school life in the U. S. de Paauw, said he lives in his home country in a medium-size community, so coming to be a foreign student at Heyworth Junior-Senior High School, which has just 396 students throughout all grade levels, and the Town having a total population of over 2,800, took some adjusting for him, he explained. His host family is headed by Lisa Davis and Jessica Davis.

de Paauw said when he was going to be going to Heyworth, “I was like, ‘yeah. Sure.’ I was super excited and wanted to do this. Heyworth is smaller than the town I am from, but it’s nice. I wanted to do this to step out of my comfort zone.” He added he is still looking into a career to study for college, but said he had an interest in videography.

One would think leaving one’s friends at this juncture of life might be a tough thing to want to do at this age, but Clara Stridh, 17, a senior from Sweden, said her friends back home “were very supportive of my dong this. She is attending Normal Community High School while staying with host parents Mike and Jayme Corcoran. Stridh said she wants to try out for NCHS’ track team while she is here.

Jayme Corcoran is employed by Education First as an exchange student coordinator. Education First has offices in Boston and Denver. The company provides study abroad opportunities for students to see what school is like in the U.S.

Wanting to experience another culture was the biggest draw for Stridh, she admitted. And for Jayme Corcoran, having had a successful run with hosting students (her family has hosted three in three years), she said the exchange students largest adjustment for students is finding out American parents parent a little differently than foreign parents. “We want a little more information about what and where our children are, whereas European parents give a little more independence to their children.”

Corcoran said that by her family taking part in the program, “I’m hoping to create lots of global learners. That’s where we are in our society right now.”

Corcoran’s daughters, Peytan and Aleksy, benefit from the exchange as well, she said. “My kids have friends in The Netherlands and Japan as a result. They have contacts all over the world.”

Education First takes students interested in this foreign study between the ages of 14 and 18. They receive orientation in New York City to learn what is expected of them in American High Schools, Corcoran said. Kids coming over here, she said, are updated on things such as budgeting their money, and how Americans communicate as a family.

“These foreign students want to be here because they’ve heard about school spirit, and the ways American families are run, and they want to participate in school activities,” Corcoran said. She said Education First is always continuing to look for host families, particularly for the 2020-21 school year. She said the organization is particularly interested in finding such families in places like Heyworth and Lexington, and other smaller communities.

“We want this to be a program that continues because it benefits everyone involved – the host families, the school, students at the school, as well as the exchange student,” Corcoran explained.

Such a program appears to be geared to showing foreign students what American life is like. We see American students go spend a semester or year in places like France and Japan with the goal the student come back having gained some knowledge about the world as it is elsewhere. The premise for this program is no different except it’s our way of life and customs that get put on display.

Here’s hoping we do as well at providing that slice of American life.

NORMAL – It was a piece of news Normal Town Council Member Chemberly Cummings saved for comments and announcements toward the end of Monday’s Normal Town Council session Monday in Council Chambers. But it is a prestigious first for Normal.

Cummings announced she has been selected as one of 41 local and State officials to be part of the eighth annual Edgar Fellows Program.Those community officials selected will gather in Champaign August 4-8.

The Edgar Fellows Program is an initiative designed by former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar to inspire respectful and collaborative leadership to address the state’s major challenges. Forty-One participants selected this year were chosen from a field of 169 nominees and reflect Illinois’ political, racial, ethnic and geographic diversity. They include elected and appointed officials from all levels of government, leaders of non-profit organizations and individuals who are making their mark in the business world.

The 2019 class will bring the number of fellows who have completed the program to 313. After completing the initial program, fellows continue to meet at least twice annually at alumni gatherings designed to increase their knowledge and help build their professional networks.

Street Resurfacing Project Prompts Questions: Other than approval of minutes of the Council’s Aug. 5 meeting and approving payment of expenditures, the only other omnibus item which would be looked at and approved had to do with the accepting of bids and awarding of a contract to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co., a division of United Contractors Midwest, Inc., of $792,662.17 for the base bid and alternative #1 for the 2019 General Street Resurfacing Project.

Council Member Karyn Smith, while motioning that the measure be approved, questioned why there ever only seems to be one company – Rowe – who ever applies for the assignments. Town Chief Engineer Ryan Otto explained the Town has tried to make other potential contractors aware of such assignments but that when bids come in for the jobs, Rowe turns out to be the only company submitting bids for them.

Final Plat For Grieder II Subdivision Conditionally Approved: Council members unanimously approved the final plat of the Grieder II Subdivision expanding property which currently sits at 2242 W. Raab Rd. That expansion would expand eastward as a result. The subdivision takes up 2.54 acres of land and the owner of the proposed subdivision owns the surrounding 75 acres. Such a subdivision request would require a preliminary plan for the Town to review but, in this case, the applicant is requesting the requirement for the preliminary plan be waived.

When this project came before Normal Planning Commission on Aug. 8, no members of the public testified and the measure passed unanimously, 5-0.

Sarah Sturgill Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Board: Sarah Sturgill, an optometrist with Bloomington-based Gailey Eye Clinic, has been appointed to the Children’s Discovery Museum Board. Ms. Sturgill serves patients at both locations of the clinic, in Bloomington and Danville. She will be filling an open seat which has an initial term which expires on June 30, 2022.

New Economic Development Council CEO Introduced: Council members were formally introduced by City Manager Pam Reece to Patrick Hoban as the new chief executive officer of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. He has held similar positions prior to coming to the Twin Cities, most recently in Tinley Park.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held Aug. 5, 2019.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Aug.19, 2019.

BLOOMINGTON – Graduating from LeRoy High School in 2016, Bryce Dooley opted not to play sports after being part of the Panthers’ football team for four years. He chose the University of Illinois to attend college and dove into his general studies. But with time, he realized he did miss being on a team and decided to transfer to IWU to resume playing football.

By the end of this coming academic year, Dooley, now a senior, will finish his education – both having learned more about the intricacies of college football and the ability to start a career having earned a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting.

I’m really excited about the season,” Dooley said. He said he’s really looking forward to playing his last season. One thing that has never slowed is that he knew the local fans and friends and family who came to see him play in junior high and high school didn’t trail off when he got to IWU. He said he looks forward to seeing the folks from LeRoy come out to see his final season.

What he said he’ll remember is “the great culture here,” Dooley said. “It’s just a great group of guys. It’s really no better place to be if you want to be an athlete and go to a great school academically.”

“When he went to the University of Illinois, he did well, he’s a very bright young man,” IWU head coach Norm Eash said. “He’s a great student and he just missed football.” Feeling as Dooley did, he called Eash looking to transfer schools, wanting to play again. He did have to adjust to a new position though, once he got to IWU, switching to running back from having played quarterback at LHS.

Eash noticed once Dooley began playing for the Titans that he, perhaps, had some additional skills, thanks to his speed, the Titans could use. Eash turned out to be right: Dooley not only maintained his position as a back, but came in handy as a slot receiver, too.

“He’s a playmaker,” Eash added. “He’s a great young man. He’s a team captain this year. Our players really look up to him, so, we look forward to him having a tremendous year for us.”

First Home Game A Month Away: The way the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin football schedule came together this year, it will be a month before Fightin’ Titans fans will get a first glimpse of the team at Tucci Stadium. That will happen on Saturday, Sept. 28 when Augustana visits for a 1p.m. game. Eash, entering his 33rd season, said he believes his squad is up to the task of pushing for a conference crown this year. IWU starts the season with a bye week on Sept. 7 followed by two straight road games – a non-conference tilt at University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse Sept. 14, and Sept. 21 at their first CCIW opponent of the season, Wheaton College.

With Dooley and 13 other seniors and a battery of returning starters led by senior quarterback Brandon Bauer, Eash said he sees a lot of confidence in returning players as training camp opened up. Bauer is one of the few four-year starting quarterbacks IWU has ever had. “Brandon is like another coach out there,” Eash said. “He understands the offensive system that we run, and we put a lot of responsibility on him during the game, making reads on every play.”

Eash said there “has always been a sense of urgency” inside his players at this time of year. “And that sense of urgency is a little higher this year,” he said, adding that the experience level in his players is showing itself at this point so far, too.

He said that mindset “is going to benefit our whole football team because the freshmen learn much faster with the seniors showing them the way and how things are done.”

Final Media Day For Sports Information Director Stew Salowitz: For 31 years, Stew Salowitz has helped local media stay up-to-date on teams, scores, statistics, and other related items pertaining to IWU teams. Monday’s Football Media Day was Salowitz’s last event for IWU, as he is retiring on Aug. 30. “I’ve had a great run at Illinois Wesleyan. I’ve been blessed with winning teams and so many great people to work with.” He added the athletes he has written about over the years in the job have gone on to become people he has become great friends with.

This event also marked the first Media Day for Salowitz’s successor in the SID post, Katie Gonzales. She shadowed Salowitz on this day but will be fully at the controls when Basketball Media Day rolls around in October. Gonzales graduated from Loras College in 2014 with a double major in sport management and mathematics and received her master’s degree with honors in sport management from Eastern Michigan in 2017.

Circle Your Calendars: Carroll University will be IWU’s Homecoming opponent Saturday, Oct. 5 for a 1p.m. game. North Park University will be the opponent for Senior Day on Saturday, Nov. 16’s 1p.m. game.