By Steve Robinson | October 12, 2017 - 12:24 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – In a first of its kind event, Normal-based Unit 5 School District presented residents with an update on the district, not just on matters it was addressing, but some also provided some statistical information which residents might not have been aware of previously.

Held in the auditorium of Normal Community High School, Board President Jim Hayek, Jr. informed roughly 100 people present the district “has a direct impact on the quality of life” for the students it instructs.

Hayek was followed by Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, who informed audience members that the district has seen its graduation rate jump 4 percent, to 91 percent, from a decade ago. He said Unit 5 is seen as “a destination district” by many who come to the area.

Daniel explained that through offering internships, project-based learning, and college and career readiness opportunities to its students, Unit 5 is continuing to help students prepare for their future.

Daniel touted activities such as 5th grade Band, which has 528 members currently, which helps students master skills, as well. He also mentioned that Virtual Learning has become part of the district, as well, the result of the virtual classroom at Normal Community West High School, which brings professionals to speak remotely to students’ classes. Of virtual learning, Daniel said, “We’re, hopefully, going to see more and more of this.”

In addition to the graduation figures, Daniel cited that 927 district students had scored highly on Advance Placement exams.

Unit 5 mapDaniel informed the gathering that 30 percent of Unit 5’s student population is neither white nor male. The teachers in the district also have continued to pursue learning, with 66 percent of them either holding Master’s degrees, and 64 of them are National Board Certified. He added the district manages to retain 87 percent of its teaching staff, which Daniel said, is above the national average.

But while Unit 5 has such positives, Daniel explained, it’s faced with some looming challenges, among which is trying to eliminate a $1.2 million deficit in its education fund. Unit 5 also finds itself $33 million below what State lawmakers see as an adequate amount of funding to meet State guidelines. Unit 5 has an overall budget of $162 million.

“Enrollment drives revenue,” Daniel told the audience members who attended the session which preceded the Board’s scheduled meeting, which was held in the school’s cafeteria.

Beginning Enrollment Figures Presented: During the Board meeting, Dr. James Harden, executive director of human resources and student services for the district, presented Board members with school year-opening figures. Unit 5 begins the 2017-18 school year with 13,334 students in its elementary schools, four junior high schools, and two high schools. That figure includes 1,003 students total at the district’s four junior high schools, and 2,144 students at NCHS and 1,686 students at Normal Community West High School. There are a total of 6,400 students attending the district’s 17 elementary schools.

ISBE Requests Information To Comply With Federal Law: Marty Hickman, business manager for the district, reported to Board members Illinois State Board of Education is asking Unit 5 to submit to them per school building budgets in order to comply with an Obama Administration law which asks for such figures which, once received by ISBE, would be turned over to the Federal government.

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