By Steve Robinson | September 12, 2019 - 10:46 pm
Posted in Category: Unit 5

NORMAL – At Wednesday, Sept. 11’s regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board, two days had gone by since Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel made his intentions known that he would be leaving at the end of the school year, on June 30, the result of a decision to take a job to be closer to family in the Chicago area. At the Board meeting held at Parkside Junior High School, Board members received details on how the search firm the district was considering hiring in aiding in the search for the new leader would proceed.

Dr. Jill Hawk and former school administrator Diane Robertson, representing Oak Park-based search firm School Exec Connect, gave Board members insight into how the firm works to help the district find the most qualified candidates for the position Daniel has held since July 2014.

Robertson explained that using focus groups and interviews with district staff, parents, students and other interested parties, the firm “will be looking for a good fit for your community. The only way to do that is to come in for a couple of days and talk to people.” Such community input, Robertson explained would give the firm an idea from those talks an answer to the question “what kind of skills does the superintendent need to possess?”

Robertson added the group would also produce and post an online survey for residents of the district to complete, as well as host “a couple of open forums.” “We don’t want you to settle,” Robertson told Board members. “We don’t want to bring you candidates number 8, 9, or 10.”

This next search for a new Unit 5 Superintendent would be the third consecutive one for the district using School Exec Connect, the previous two resulting in the hirings of Niehaus and Daniel. The cost for finding a new superintendent through School Exec Connect breaks down as $23,500 for consulting services; travel expenses not to exceed $5,000; and costs for advertising the opening, based on options chosen by the Board. The Board also has a background check option available from the company, which if the district opts to use it would cost $750.

Robertson said the firm generally begins with a planning meeting with Board members shortly after the firm is hired. She told Board members that during that meeting is the Board’s opportunity to tell the firm how they want the search to be done.

School Exec Connect’s reach stretches to not just Illinois but also Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Board members will take up whether to hire the firm at their Sept. 25 meeting.

Transportation Issues Continue: The issue of transporting students continues vexing the district. In his Superintendent Comments segment, Daniel said he understands parents are frustrated by issue of buses not getting students to their schools on time. Daniel told the audience he is frustrated about the situation, too. “The service we are receiving is not acceptable,” Daniel said in referring to the district’s transportation provider, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co.

“We understand most buses are running on time, but most is not enough,” Daniel said. He added he and Board members expect a quick solution from the provider. In addition to Daniel’s remarks, there were two public comments on the subject from Lindsey Dickinson, president of Unit Five Education Association and Tony Cole, a parent with two students in school in the district.

Dickenson pointed out that as a result of buses arriving late to some schools, those students miss out on between 30-45 minutes of class time at the start of the day. Cole added it sounded to him as though Unit 5 was attempting to solve the issue which he saw as primarily a communication breakdown between the district and First Student.

LaCrosse Co-Op Proposal Presented: Illinois Wesleyan University has both men’s and women’s lacrosse. There is a club lacrosse team, comprised of high school age players, both boys and girls, known as the Bloomington-Normal Warriors. Board members were presented with a proposal by Normal Community High School Athletic Director Nic Kearfoot which he and Normal Community West High School Athletic Director Stan Lewis have worked on which Kearfoot presented to start a lacrosse program at those two schools.

Currently, there is only a practice field for the club team – the field at Kingsley Junior High School, known as Truman Keys Field when the school was used by NCHS, Kearfoot explained. Kearfoot said in order for Lacrosse teams to use that field once more would require getting the field into shape as though it would be used for football. It has been over a decade since high school teams played football on that field, when it was a high school facility.

Being a spring sport, Kearfoot said he and Lewis have approached Illinois Wesleyan University Lacrosse coach Zach Iannucci about using Tucci Stadium, which is used for football and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Board Member Alan Kalitzky asked about how much money it would take to add the sport to its roster of athletic activities. District Operations Director Joe Adelman told Kalitzky answers to questions like that are being researched presently.

To get the sport approved by Board members and thus get set things in motion for the work needing to be done so that the sport can debut, potentially by next year, Board President Barry Hitchins informed Kearfoot that for the item to appear on the agenda of the Board’s next meeting on Sept. 25, Kearfoot would have to have the item submitted to the district office by Sept. 20.

Benjamin Elementary 4th Grader Recognized For District 70th Anniv. Art Contest Entry: When Board members met for their Aug. 28 session, they were introduced to a group of seven students from varying grade levels who won an art contest, the goal of which was to honor the district celebrating the milestone of its 70th anniversary. While she was not able to attend the prior session, Benjamin Elementary student Kaitlyn Call was recognized for her effort. At this latest meeting, Call’s art work displayed with her present by her principal, Marlys Bennington doing the honors.

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