By Steve Robinson | December 10, 2015 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Members of the school board overseeing Normal-based Unit 5 School District voted unanimously to approve a tax levy for 2015, which will be paid through residents’ 2016 property taxes next spring. District officials expect the tax rate to stay at the current $5.03 per $100 assessed valuation. If a district resident owns a $165,000 home, their tax should cost slightly over $2,700.

The amount of property tax was figured based on all taxable property, including corporate properties with a sum total of $88,165,501. Unit 5 has until Dec. 29 to file the tax levy information with the McLean County Clerk’s Office.

In addition to approving the tax levy, Board members were informed by Marty Hickman, the district’s business manager, that the annual fee for students to take drivers’ education in the district will be increased to $450 per student for a five year span. Hickman cited the need to increase the cost on monies it’s not getting through the State currently. State regulations hold the cost of Drivers’ Ed at $250 per student. Hickman justified the added cost, in part, by explaining the money would be well spent because 90 percent of Unit 5 students who take the course receive a grade of B or better in the course.

“Good News” Related To High School Safe Driving Campaign Presented: Both Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School students participated in a campaign called Celebrate My Drive. State Farm Insurance’s Celebrate My Drive contest was open and offered to legal residents of the 50 United States and District of Columbia, who are at least 18 years of age or older or the age of majority, whichever is older, as of October 12, 2015 and are employed as an administrator or teacher of a public, private or charter high school.

NCHS students Shubhang Desai, Ryan Greene, Emily Schramm, and Henry Wong played roles in their school’s Celebrate My Drive campaign this year as members the school’s Android Club. The quartet created a mobile app call Iron Drive which restricts the settings on a person’s cell phone, preventing distracted driving. Once they completed the prototype of the app, these students filmed a video highlighting Iron Drive that was submitted for the Celebrate My Drive application.

At Normal Community West High School, students in the process including making the video, radio interviews, passing out fliers for voting, making posters, and our social media campaign. Normal West Associate Principal Wendy Davis publicly recognized the following students for their efforts during the campaign: Frankie Riley; Riley Nichols; Sophia Downes; Emily Bauman; Sara Verda; Shannon Doherty, and Carlos Torres. Davis reminded the group attending the meeting the school had, tragically, lost students to driving accidents in the last two school years “so this program emphasizes the seriousness of texting and driving.”

Parkside Elementary Honored By State Ed. Board: Another piece of good news was delivered by Parkside Elementary School Principal Staci Mandros, explaining to Board members the school had been honored by Illinois State Board of Education as a National Title I Distinguished School.

Representatives for the school will receive public recognition for the accomplishment at two meetings early next year. First, Parkside Elementary will be recognized at the 2016 No Child Left Behind Conference in Chicago, held Feb 22-24. Then the school will be recognized at the 2016 National Title I Conference held Jan. 28-31 in Houston, Texas. The National Title I Distinguished School honor is based on exceptional performance for closing the achievement gap between student groups.

Unit 5 mapEnglish Second Language Program Update Presented: Board members received an update concerning students involved in the district’s English as a Second Language program, or ESL. The program’s coordinator, Leslie Romagnoli, explained to Board members that a total of 492 students have been served by the district’s ESL Program through 12 of the district’s 18 schools. The largest amount of students using the service come from Cedar Ridge Elementary (123 students), and Colene Hoose Elementary having the fewest students in the program, with just eight students.

Romagnoli explained to Board members that while the program is open to all students whose first language is not English, not all students who can have the program made available to them take advantage of it, for varying reasons. The district calculates there are 154 students district-wide who have refused to participate in the program.

Romagnoli said the number of newcomer students who are in grades 6-12 has required the district to add one full time teacher at NCHS to support them. She added a bilingual teacher has needed to be added to Cedar Ridge Elementary School’s staff as a result of increased numbers of ESL students there.

District’s 2014-15 Student Achievement Report Presented: Laura O’Donnell, Director of Secondary Education, and Carmen Bergmann, Director of Elementary Education, presented Board members with the district’s 2014-2015 Student Achievement report. To begin with, the educators explained, Unit 5 has a 20 to 1 ratio of students to teachers at the elementary level and a 21 to 1 ratio of those parties at the high school level. That appears close to the overall State average at the elementary level, which is 20-to-1, and doesn’t do quite as well to the State’s 21-to-1 mark throughout its high schools.

In terms of academic growth in the subjects of reading and math across the grades, Unit 5 students are staying within the same range as students statewide, the educators explained. In terms of being ready for college-level work, and showing it on annual ACT exams, the educators explained the district’s students seemed to score well in all subjects exceeding state averages in all subjects except Science. There, the district had 49 percent of students showing they were ready for college-level work compared to a statewide average of 35 percent.

The subject where the district and State numbers came nearly to par was English, where 69 percent of Unit 5 students showed they were ready for college-level assignments compared to a Statewide figure of 61 percent. In Mathematics, Unit 5 students outpaced State comparisons, with 56 percent of district students showing to be ready for college-level assignments to a 40 percent State average.

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