By Steve Robinson | May 15, 2011 - 10:54 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members held their May 11 meeting at the district’s newest school, George L. Evans Junior High School, 2901 Morrissey Dr., Bloomington. The school is slated to welcome students for the first time in August.

The new junior high was build with funds from a $96.7 million referendum vote in 2008. Money from that referendum also went into building the district’s two new grade schools, Benjamin Elementary School and Cedar Ridge Elementary School, as well as pay for renovation projects at other elementary schools in the district.

George L. Evans Junior High School is an 80,000 square foot building with 70 classrooms. Cleaning it could, for most people, seem a massive undertaking. But Ondray Hume, a warehouse custodian with over 25 years of service to the district, was tabbed to take on the task. He was introduced to Board members by Joe Adelman, director of operations for Unit 5.

“We had to select someone to, for about four months, come into Evans and clean this building,” Adelman explained. “Ondray personally, single-handed, cleaned 80,000 square feet. He stripped, waxed, and cleaned the rooms,” Adelman told Board members.

“He was unbelievable,” Adelman added. “I don’t know of anybody who could have done that.”

Adelman said Hume put eight coats of wax on every floor. The floors shined even as they were getting tested by those who were setting foot in the building that night.

Multiple “Good News” Reports: Board members were treated to a number of “Good News” reports during this meeting. First, they heard from Dr. Jeanette Nuckolls, Principal of Normal Community High School, who introduced NCHS senior Nathan Titus. Titus has been selected to be among 110 students who have been selected to be named Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Class of 2011. He is considering a career in teaching.

Nathan will receive $2,500 in tuition assistance per year for both his freshman and sophomore years, and $5,000 tuition assistance for both his junior and senior years.

Nominees were required to submit a written application, provide ACT scores and recommendation letters, and provide transcripts to the scholarship selection committee.

“When I announced at one of our faculty meetings about the award this young man had received, there was a resounding applause from the teachers, most of whom who have had him as a student,” Nuckolls said.

“I’m very excited about the Golden Apple scholarship,” said Nathan, son of John Titus and Phyllis McCluskey Titus. “The total of 110 people who received this were chosen out of 1,600. I’m so thrilled to have gotten this award.”

Next, Nuckolls introduced Board to members of NCHS’ Mock Trial Team, congratulating them for a first time achievement of reaching the final round of the Illinois State Bar Association’s state mock trial tournament. The team reached that level out of 47 schools that competed. NCHS’ team was led by Social Studies teacher Kevin Suess, and lawyer coach, NCHS alum and current assistant McLean County States Attorney Jake DiCiuala.

The students on the Mock Trial Team are: Blake Cecil, Chris Varney, Alec Gramm, Taylor Wiese, Tom Hunter, Cameron Baker, Harrison Meece, Sean O’Malley, Tarush Khurana, and Emma Blanchard.

“This is the first time a team from Normal Community has made it to this level of competition,” Nuckolls told Board members.

“It was really a proud moment for me as well as our team to take part in this experience,” Suess said. “I think it really takes our team to the next level for years to come.”

Next, Board members heard from Carmen Bergmann, principal of Prairieland Elementary School, who introduced fifth grader K. C. DeCreamer. DeCreamer submitted the winning design for a rain barrel contest conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation to promote green initiatives. The school has received the rain barrel and K. C.’s class will work to paint the rain barrel.

To describe the design she created for the barrel, K. C. showed Board members a picture. K. C. indicated that in the picture, “There’s a waterfall made out of stone rock, kind of flowing into a river behind it, with many animals and different kinds of nature behind it.” K. C.’s parents and brother came to the meeting to share in the moment, as well.

Next, Board members heard Bergmann recognize Prairieland Elementary Art Teacher MaryLynn Meredith for her efforts to put together an art fair at the school. Student art work was on display at this event, and pottery and crafts were auctioned off, as well. Students worked on their projects for a couple of months leading up to the show. All projects were related to careers as a means of connecting the show to the real world, according to Bergmann.

Next, Tom Eder, principal of Normal Community West High School, introduced Board members to nine Normal West Foreign Language teachers who were the leadership team for an event the school hosted in March.

The event, GlobalFest 2011, gave students an opportunity to delve into world cultures and languages. A total of 20 different world languages were taught at the two-day event March 11-12. Over 700 students from 25 schools across Illinois came to Normal West for the event. Students came from as far north as Crystal Lake and far south as Cairo for the event.

It is an event that has been in existence since the mid-1980s. it is coordinated by the GlobalFest Committee, and sponsored by the Central States Rotary Youth Exchange and the Illinois Council For Teachers Of Foreign Languages, among other groups.

The members of Normal West’s Foreign Language Department are: David Hilst, Jama Lindahl, Patty Ryan-Fouts, Leslie Wagner, Isela Jacquez-Williams, Shelli Lord, Sue Strauch, Amy O’Donoghue, and Monika Grobe.

“It takes a team to pull off a State-wide festival,” Hilst explained to Board members. Hilst is chair of Normal West’s Foreign Languages Department. “Without these people, and actually, collaboration from teachers at Normal Community High School, this could not have been done, and we couldn’t have had such a successful GlobalFest.

Hilst added: “I really believe that we are blessed to have an administration who supports us in what we’re doing, and have a district that is willing to recognize that it is at the crossroads of the state and at the crossroads of our nation. So, we have a responsibility to let our students know that the world is out there. If you know a little about their language and their culture, that can be a powerful thing.”

Four Elementary Schools Recognized For Academic Excellence: Board members were informed that four Unit 5 elementary schools have been recognized for academic excellence by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

The four schools (and their principals) are: Fox Creek Elementary (Mark Robinson); Grove Elementary (John Lutes); Northpoint Elementary (Bruce Weldy); and Prairieland Elementary (Carmen Bergmann).

To earn ISBE’s Academic Excellence Award, a school must meet the following criteria:
• Schools must have made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2009 and 2010 as required by the No Child Left Behind Act;

• In schools serving grades 8 and below, 90 percent of students must have met or exceeded State standards in both reading and mathematics for the three most recent school years; and

• In high schools, 80 percent of students must have met or exceeded State standards in both reading and mathematics for the three most recent school years.

Jim Braksick, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, congratulated each principal and presented them with a certificate to commemorate the achievement made by each of the four schools.

“Beyond The Books” Update: Board member Gail Ann Briggs reported to the Board that a total of 76 applications were received for grants from the “Beyond The Books” Foundation from educators representing both Unit 5 and Bloomington’s District 87. Briggs reported that 45 of those applicants will receive grants totaling $27,495.

She’s Dr. Wilson Now: Sandy Wilson, Director of Secondary Education for the district, was recognized by Board members for having received her doctorate in Education Administration from Indiana State University in ceremonies held May 7.

Funding For New Scoreboard At Normal West Approved: In addition to hearing those “Good News” items, Board members unanimously approved a motion to award a bid for a new scoreboard at Normal West to Daktronics for a total of $79,089. As part of agreeing to this contract, there were a few specifications regarding its funding.

That included Unit 5 approving $25,000 to be used for scoreboard infrastructure, and that the remaining $54,089 used to pay for the scoreboard coming from the Normal West Gridiron Club. Another stipulation for agreeing to the purchase was to designate that the scoreboard was the property of the district.

After voting to agree to the agreement, Board member Jay Reece said he wanted to make sure that there would be parity between the district’s two high schools in terms of equipment purchased so that, “one school does not wind up with substantially less than the other,” referring to the district’s other high school, NCHS.

Concert Benefiting Sudan Publicized: Three NCHS seniors spoke to Board members about a concert to be held Saturday, May 21 to benefit United Families Of Sudan. NCHS students Tarush Khurana, Sean O’Malley, and Ryan Everly spoke before the Board. A fourth NCHS senior, Nick Cooper, is also involved in organizing the event but was not present at the meeting. A total of 13 acts, as well as dancers and other entertainment will be part of the event, which will run from 4 p.m.-8p.m. at NCHS’ football practice field. There is a $5 admission charge, as well as an auction.

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