By Steve Robinson | November 12, 2020 - 10:17 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Concerns over a Covid-created teacher shortage, passage of an annual tax levy, honoring those who have served our country on Veteran’s Day, giving annual recognition of Board Members for their efforts on the district, and even hearing about a new extracurricular activity were all part of the mix that made up the contents of what was the only Unit 5 School Board meeting held Nov. 11 at Normal Community West High School.

Superintendent Informs About Sub Teacher Shortage: COVID-!9 has put “the district dangerously close to not being able to staff all of our buildings,” District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle informed a small audience who sat far apart for safety reasons due to the pandemic. “What that means is, we may not be able to keep all of our buildings open if we don’t get more subs.”

Dr. Weikle said Unit 5 already had a shortage of substitute teachers before the pandemic hit a year ago, and if teachers contract the disease, they must quarantine for 10 days before they can return to classrooms, or 14 days if they have been in close contact with others. That timing “definitely put a lot of stress on being able to staff our buildings,” Dr. Weikle added.

As a result, the district will be adding employees to serve in the position of Classroom Supervisor to lighten the load, she explained. In the week preceding the meeting, the district needed to fill but could not find people to fill 44 classroom positions. In terms of teaching positions, the district found itself short between 12 and 28 positions in the previous four school days.

For the work teachers who have covered another teachers classrooms on a short-term basis, Dr. Weikle said, “I am extremely and beyond grateful for our staff who have stepped up and offered to cover one another’s classrooms.” To do that, Dr. Weikle said that often meant the teachers stepping in were often giving up preparation time for their own classes in order to oversee an absent teacher’s class. She added even building administrators have stepped into classrooms when need arose.

But Dr. Weikle cautioned, “We can only do this so long because when teachers are covering for other teachers, that means they aren’t answering emails and help students in a timely manner.” She said anyone interested in becoming either a sub or classroom supervisor should apply for either of those posts at the district website, www.unit5.org.

Dr. Weikle also reminded the district is using metrics provided by Illinois Department of Public Health concerning whether in-person learning can and should continue versus needing to revert back to remote learning. She added that in the previous 10 school days, “students have done a great job wearing masks, and our staff are doing a great job.”

Tax Levy Decision Coming At December Board Meeting: Board members heard from District Business Manager Marty Hickman concerning filing the tax levy by the Dec. 31 deadline. Board members, at their next meeting Dec. 11, will consider adopting the levy. The County Clerk’s office will verify the levy in March or April and collecting the tax will begin in May or June.

Hickman said tax levy dollars account for nearly 65 percent of money used by the district, with State and Federal revenue, as well as other sources making up the rest of the money used by the district. The percentage taken in using property taxes for Unit 5 is $71.4 million. Federal revenue accounts for 7.54 percent, or over $8.3 million; State revenue accounts for 21.52 percent of what the district gets, or over $23.9 million, and 6.64 percent comes from other local sources, or over $7.3 million.

Veterans Day Remembered: This year’s November Board meeting, having been held on Veteran’s Day, and in the wake of the Coronavirus causing problems for large gatherings, meant the district could only mention and honor any veterans in attendance during the meeting. Normal Community West Principal Dave Johnson introduced meeting attendees to Normal West junior Hope Knoerle, and Art teacher Ali Akyuz and Technology teacher Bob Scormavacco who joined forces to produce a video which honors veterans. Akyuz establishes a theme for projects to be displayed in the school’s main corridor.

Akyuz said because students needed to meet digitally, the project became a video featuring students and veterans. Knoerle, who has been involved in the school’s technology program also addressed the meeting, saying during her three years at Normal West, she “has worked her way up in the digital media realm.”

In past years, Social Studies Teacher John Bierbaum and a number of his students would host a dinner for area veterans in the school cafeteria. But the Covid-19 pandemic prevented that from taking place this year.

Normal Community High School’s Doubles It’s “Good News”: Normal Community High School had two “Good News” items to present at the session, the first one being about a young lady seemingly always on the go, and winning awards in the process. Ali Ince may only be in the middle of her freshman year at Normal Community High School, but, thus far, she has proven when it comes to Cross Country, she can’t be slowed down.

NCHS Principal Trevor Chapman introduced the 9th grader to Board members who, as a member of the school’s girls’ cross country team, managed to win at recent meets including Intercity Cross Country, Illinois High School Association Class 3A Regional Championship, Big 12 Conference Cross Country Championship, and IHSA Class 3A Sectional Championship.

“She has been running like somebody’s chasing her everywhere she goes,” joked Chapman, in mentioning Ali, the daughter of Tony and Addie Ince of Bloomington. She has even managed to break a record in a 3 mile race with a time of 16:58:19.

“She’s involved in many other activities at school,” Chapman told Board members. Those would include Student Council, Best Buddies, and is also active with the school’s basketball and track teams.

“I want to say thank you to the school board for making Cross Country possible,” Ince said, addressing its members.

For the other item, Chapman introduced Board members to members of Normal-based Future Farmers of America chapter. He said that chapter has been named National Premier Chapter in Building Communities by the national organization during its 93rd annual convention and expo on Oct. 28. Students Madelyn Hubble and Kelsey Kern were among the presenters at this function. In addition to current FFA students, three NCHS graduates were honored for having received the highest honor FFA bestows on members, an American FFA Degree. He said it has been over a decade since such a recipient came from the district.

Those three and the year they graduated NCHS are: Makayla Kelley and Becca Merrill (Class of 2017), and Kenzie Kraft (Class of 2019). Of the honor the trio has received, Chapman explained the award is the highest recognition an individual can receive from National FFA and less than 0.05 percent of its members attain it.

Board Members Honored On Their Day: The State has set aside a day to honor school board members for the work do and hours they put in. This year, Illinois Association of School Boards designated Sunday, Nov. 15 as Illinois School Board Members Day. Honored this year were Board President Amy Roser, Vice President Alan Kalitzky, Secretary Dr. Kelly Pyle, and Board members Mike Trask, Meta Mickens-Baker, Barry Hitchins, and Taunia Leffler.

Roser, Kalitzky, and Dr. Pyle were recognized for having completed IASB courses related to Board membership. They all completed work related to earning a Board Member Level II designation while Leffler completed work related to earning a Master Board Member Level I designation.

Next Board Meeting Dec. 9: Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no second Board meeting in November. The Board’s next meeting will be on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Normal Community West High School beginning at 6:30p.m. The district has been using Normal West for meetings to help attendees maintain distance during the Coronavirus situation.

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