By Steve Robinson | November 17, 2019 - 10:37 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Depending on the family, sometimes, a certain type of bond will run through from generation to generation. There may be generations of doctors or lawyers or other professions that run through a family. The same can be said of families where athletics becomes central to their lives: Parents who played sports in high school and college may see their offspring continue the tradition once they reach that age. Our area has one family who is bearing witness to that sports tradition now.

If you were a fan of University High School’s Volleyball team this season, you got to see the Pioneers team make it all the way to State, finishing 4th after losing to a two-set match to LaGrange Park-based Nazareth Academy, 25-21 and 25-22 at Redbird Arena. Among the six seniors on head coach Mike Bolhuis’ team was 5 foot-9 setter Isabel Schaefbauer.

That last name should ring clearly for many an Illinois State University men’s basketball fan. Isabel’s father is Skipp Schaefbauer, who played guard for East Carolina after high school in 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons before transferring to play for the Redbirds in 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons under then-head coach Kevin Stallings. He sat out the 1995-96 season to meet NCAA transfer requirements. Stallings’ team made it to the NCAAs in 1998 and 1999.

Now employed by the Bloomington Fire Department, married to his wife, Nicole, and a father of two daughters, Schaefbauer was playing the role of spectator this past weekend, taking in how the Pioneers did at State from the comfort of the new seating just installed at the arena this past summer. But no doubt, the athlete in him could relate to every successful kill made, every missed ball, and every point scored as he and his wife watched their daughter and her teammates vie for a shot at a State championship.

Isabel will attend college and play volleyball for South Carolina-based Winthrop University. She said she did look at and consider other schools closer to home such as DePaul, Eastern Michigan, and Northern Illinois before settling on playing for the Eagles. “They are big on undergrad research,” she said. “I’m hoping to go into Biology for my major.”

She has her educational goals set and is even going to graduate from U-High in time for Christmas. “I’ll be starting classes and training with the team in South Carolina in January.”

One would think parents of a graduating senior who would be leaving home ahead of schedule would be anxious and concerned because the usual parting and watching your child go off into early adulthood would produce such emotions. But her mother, Nicole, a former athlete herself who was an athlete at Princeton High School as well as in college, explained both she and Skipp “were both really happy for her because, as Isabel said, she found her perfect fit for college. The volleyball program she is going into is up and coming. They finished their regular season schedule undefeated. It’s a program that will start taking off and it will be fun for her, her mother explained.

The Schaefbauers were happy to hear that Winthrop’s head volleyball coach, Chuck Rey, showed concern “on not only building a good volleyball player, but also a good person,” according to Nicole. When Isabel leaves for college, the Schaefbauers will get to rehearse being empty nesters because they have an older daughter, McKenna, who is already at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy at Hilton Head, S. C.

“Tonight, I looked at her while she played with a lot of pride,” Skipp Schaefbauer said about how his youngest daughter did at State. That’s understandable because any parent with a daughter who had achieved with her teammates what the Pioneers did would be right to feel that way. Here’s hoping Isabel’s college experience gives her and her family more reason to be proud, on the volleyball court and in classrooms and labs.

By Steve Robinson | November 14, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: Unit 5

NORMAL – There was plenty of recognition to go around when Normal-based Unit 5 Board members held their regularly-scheduled meeting at district headquarters Nov. 13. Veterans, the girls’ cross country team from Kingsley Junior High School, an honor bestowed onto Parkside Elementary School, and even Board members themselves received honors at this meeting.

Veterans Day Remembered: In the first of four “good news” reports presented to Board members, district superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel informed Board members and an audience of about 20 people that throughout the day, district schools hosted “dinners, assemblies, classroom visits and parades” to recognize veterans. At the meeting, Daniel added, “Tonight we want to honor all of our employees who are veterans, past and present, whose service and sacrifice enable us to enjoy peace and freedom every day.”

At this meeting, Daniel honored Shane Hill, associate principal at KJHS who had just returned from a recent tour of duty at Bagram AFB, Afghanistan. There, Hill served as with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing as chief of public affairs. “Capt. Hill is representative of our many employees who selflessly serve our country,” Daniel told the gathering. “We want to thank you for all your service.”

Hill responded by saying, “On behalf of all my family, Unit 5 is an extension of my family and while I was gone, I received over 500 letters from grade schoolers, and junior high and high schoolers. That was awesome.” He presented Daniel with an American flag which was flown over Bagram AFB to recognize all those at Unit 5 who showed support for his family.

Kingsley Junior High’s “Good News”: Dennis Larson, assistant principal at Kingsley Junior High School, introduced the next “good news” report which featured members of the school’s Cross Country team. On Saturday, October 19, the team, aided by the guidance of their coaches, finished 4th in the Illinois Education State Association Girls’ 3A State Meet. The Cross Country Team is coached by Amanda Robison and Shelby Wall. Runners on the team are: Ali Ince, Addie Snoeyink, Maya Lanier, Kaitlyn Ringler, Makayla Jackson, Ryann Bossard, Carly Gorman, Lana Alcorn, Maddie Chapman, and Lydia Plattner.

Parkside Elementary’s “Good News”: Board members next heard about Parkside Elementary School having been named one of just four National Unified Champion Schools in the State of Illinois, celebrating the honor at an assembly in the school gym on Oct. 24. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program is an all-ages based program supported by the Federal Department of Education. A primary goal of the program is to motivate young people and give them tools, skills, and opportunities to help change their schools to have a genuine culture of inclusiveness, according to the national office of Special Olympics.

Unified schools have three main goals as set by Special Olympics: Inclusive sports; Youth leadership and advocacy; And Engagement in the program on the part of the whole school. At this assembly, Parkside Elementary was awarded a banner signifying the school’s commitment toward those goals.

Parkside Principal Chris Ellis introduced Kathy O’Connell, the school’s adaptive physical education teacher and Nancy Wojtanowski, a special education teacher whose students, many of them, are part of Special Olympics. “Together, these two ladies, honestly, have pulled this program together and made it one that is respected in our building and in our district.”

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. Illinois Association of School Boards designated Friday, Nov. 15 as Illinois School Board Members Day. Honored this year were Board President Barry Hitchins, Vice President Amy Roser, Secretary Alan Kalitzky, and Board members Dr. Kelly Pyle, Mike Trask, Meta Mickens-Baker, and Taunia Leffler.

Hitchins and Leffler were recognized for having completed IASB courses related to Board membership. Hitchins completed work related to earning a Board Member Level II designation while Leffler completed work related to earning a Board Member Level I designation and Leadershop member designation.

Curriculum Update Presented: Board members heard a presentation from Dan Lamboley, director of secondary education concerning curriculum updates planned to start in the 2020-21 school year. A new course in cybersecurity for high school students is among new offerings planned by the district, Lamboley said. The one credit course would be available to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Another course dealing with the subject is Project Lead The Way, which he explained offers students benefits to students such as fostering interest in the subject, and acts as a springboard for students to have more opportunities to interact in computer sciences.

Also being planned in an internship in education for seniors for either one or two credits building on knowledge and skills learned in another course, Introduction To Education. As part of this course, Illinois Professional Teaching Standards will be used to guide course curriculum. Necessary career skills will be correlated with soft skills and academic skills in a project-based format. The student will participate in an unpaid internship with a mentor teacher in a community school. Students are required to provide their own transportation for this component.

These two classes are among eight the district is adding to help spark students’ interest. The others are Transitional Math, Pre-Advanced Placement World History and Geography, Transitional Math which includes Statistics, Robotics and Engineering, taught through Bloomington Area Career Center, and AMPED 1 Algebra. AMPED stands for Algebra 1 in Manufacturing Processes, Entrepreneurship and Design). Dual credit courses conducted in conjunction with Heartland Community College are also part of the new offerings.

Tax Levy Filing Deadline Approaches: Board members heard from District Business Manager Marty Hickman concerning filing the tax levy by the Dec. 31 deadline. Board members will consider adopting the levy at their next meeting Dec. 11. 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.

Next Board Meeting Dec. 11: Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no second Board meeting in November. The Board’s next meeting will be on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at district headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., beginning at 7p.m.

By Steve Robinson | November 12, 2019 - 10:10 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Normal Community West High School’s effort to honor those who have served in the military on Veterans Day reached a milestone Monday. The program, which Bierbaum proposed students engage in to not only honor the men and women who served while learning a little something about the day America sets aside to remember those who have served and those who never made it home marked its fifth year at this program.

The former servicemen were treated to a spaghetti dinner from Avanti’s with all the trimmings, desserts, and entertainment provided by two of the schools musical groups, Normal West Jazz Voices and Colla Voice which means “With The Voice.” The groups sang while the former servicemen and servicewomen had dinner. Sara Williams, director of choirs at Normal West oversaw the music and singers provided.

The snowy and slick weather provided an obstacle for some to get to the ceremony, as between 100-150 people, those who served and their families, were expected to attend. But despite the inclement conditions, and much like when their country asked them to serve, that number or close to it did show for the honor, and to see students demonstrate what they have learned about and from those who served.

One of those who served and said was Butch Ekstam, a graduate of Bloomington Central Catholic High School. After graduating from BCC in 1965, and enlisted in the U. S. Air Force in 1966. When he enlisted, he was attending what was known then at Lincoln Junior College and working at State Farm in their Administrative Services Division. When he wasn’t working, he was “beating the skins” as a drummer with a local band called The Sattertones from 1961-1966.

Ekstam’s time in the service lasted from his enlistment until his being honorably discharged in 1970. It began at basic training at Lackland AFB in in San Antonio, training of F-4 Phantom Jets. “They were pretty popular at the time,” he said. He married his high school sweetheart and was then stationed in England, and then got orders to transfer to Homestead AFB in Florida, working as a weapons mechanic. “I had four years active and two years inactive,” he admitted of his time in uniform.

Of the event honoring the soldiers which Bierbaum and his students orchestrated, Ekstam seemed to appreciate it, especially since he was a member of the honor guard which opened up the event during a formal ceremony, saying, “These kids get it, but the teachers better be paying attention to the history. The kids need a little background on what has happened in history,” he said, adding that in order for the students to understand what has taken place militarily in our history, the teachers need a refresher on the subject themselves.

Members of two American Legion Posts, including Normal-based Post 635 and Bloomington-based Post 56 provided an education on this nation’s military, and honored all five branches – U. S. Army, U. S. Navy, U. S. Coast Guard, U. S. Marines Corps, and U. S. Air Force – to begin the evening’s event, including a demonstration on how to properly fold an American flag.

Ekstam’s family military history stretches back to his grandfather, Carl H. Ekstam, Sr., who served in France in World War I. Ekstam’s father, Carl Jr., was a member of the 1874th Corps of Engineers in the Philippines helping maintain runways and get cities started in order for the military to operate in World War II, from 1944-45. Ekstam’s uncle, Francis G. Moews died in that same war shortly before it ended in 1945. Ekstam’s son, Joseph, was a sergeant in the U. S. Army who served from 1988-2000. He was in the 1st Cavalry Infantry Mechanized Unit. He served tours in Germany, Korea, Bosnia, and a number of bases in the States including Fort Hood and Fort Benning. Joseph died while living near Fort Benning on Oct. 25, 2000. He was riding his Harley when he was struck and killed by a truck.

Of the Normal West students’ efforts, which included homemade cards on the table from students from Hudson Elementary School, thanking the former soldiers for their service, Ekstam said, “These kids taking part in this are interested in the subject. They are showing appreciation here tonight. That’s a good feeling. But they also need to get that from the parents. I don’t think the parents emphasize what the military’s all about.” He said there needs to be more respect for people, he added. He said he believes that’s been lost over the years.

Normal West Social Studies teacher John Bierbaum admitted he “had a small army” of his own – 45 students at the most — helping make the dinner a success, including members of the school’s Future Farmers of America, Social Studies Club, and the school’s Art Department pitching in to help. “We had a lot of kids pitching in to set up and with decorations. “It really was a team effort.”

Bierbaum also addressed Ekstam’s concerns, saying, “I just think kids these days are so active in their communities and what’s going on around them that they are raising the bar for everybody. They want to be more engaged in the community, they want to be more engaged in political issues, and I think they are raising the bar for what they want their teachers to be doing in the classroom, which is a good thing.”

The cards from students in Jennifer Holder’s first grade, Clinton Carden’s third grade, Kim Stille’s third grade, and Lynette Bixby’s fifth grade classes could be seen at every table displaying their gratitude for what the soldiers had done during their time in the service of their country.

This event, which reached a milestone making it to a fifth year, seems to have struck a right cord with everybody from the teachers and the vets who want to impart what they believe the kids need to know to be good citizens to the vets who simply came in and were honored by kids who are learning of the sacrifices made by our troops to protect our freedoms. For the vets, the kids, and all of us, this event can be counted as a victory for all of us.

By Steve Robinson | November 11, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – As Col. Teddy D. Bitner explained it, America honors its military – those who served and either came back from their service or gave their lives in battle – because “a century before, President Woodrow Wilson said American citizens would be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and gratitude for the victory.”

Bitner added, “That’s why we remember. Because those soldiers died to preserve our freedom.” Bitner, a Kansas City, Mo. resident, was the guest speaker at the annual Veterans Day luncheon sponsored by the Gen. Joseph Bartholomew Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. The local chapter held their annual Veterans Day event at Tony Roma’s Restaurant at the Bloomington Chateau Hotel Monday.

Bitner, a 26-year career soldier, now academic dean and chief academic officer at Missouri-based Calvary University, told the gathering that in the 1920s, there were various activities to help “establish a day to remember soldiers.” He explained U. S. Congress passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926 requesting President Calvin Coolidge issue a proclamation to have the country “observe Nov. 11 with appropriate ceremonies.”

Twelve years later, in 1938, an act of Congress designated Nov. 11 as “Armistice Day.” By 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks had the notion to expand that holiday include all veterans, not just those who served in World War I, Bitner said. As a result, Bitner added, Weeks led the first national Veterans Day celebration in 1947, continuing to be part of the observance until he died in 1985.

“Armistice Day was about World War I,” Bittner said. “After that, there was a concentrated effort recognize a day broader than for just World War I. Weeks was one of those guys who didn’t give up. He kept coming back to establish the day until 1947. He received a citizenship medal from President Ronald Reagan in 1982.”

In addition to thanking those who are willing to serve, Bitner added, “It’s a day to thank God that we live in a country that recognizes and values freedom.”

This annual luncheon did just that, as many of the branches of the service were represented as were the battles they served during. Of the 40 people attending, four had been in World War II, four had been in Korea, 12 had been in Vietnam, one was in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, one was in Afghanistan, and one is currently also serving overseas.

Following the lunch, Bitner said, “It’s our job to make future generations realize this” about the country’s military history. He said he is concerned about future generations not completely grasping the importance of the day’s meaning.

He added he teaches college students whose understanding of what the country has experienced in protecting its history is concerning to him. Bitner said such knowledge of history, in addition to what students learn in school, ought to start at home being taught by parents.

Bitner said “rewriting history from a certain perspective – one’s point of view – is among the other reasons such history isn’t well-known by younger generations.” He said some textbooks aren’t helping matters. He mentioned one book which cited that draftees in Vietnam sustained the highest casualties in the war which lasted from 1954-1975, with American troops making headlines daily for their effort there from 1964 until the fall of Saigon at the end of the war.

The item about draftee deaths was a myth repeated by those unfamiliar with history, Bitner contended. “What I’m concerned about is facts. Two-thirds of those who went to Vietnam volunteered. The average age of a soldier killed in Vietnam was 24, not 19. It’s those factual inaccuracies and others that give me concern.”

To correct such errors, Bitner said he refers the authors to actual historical references. “It’s not that hard to find such information,” he said.

BLOOMINGTON – Ron Rose admits he needs to make sure his team absorbs as much information while at practice on Dennie Bridges Court in Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center for this season’s version of the Fightin’ Titans to be successful this season. Of his 19-player roster, nine are brand new to the program.

To get his newer charges to understand the team’s playing system, Rose admits, instructing players becomes “a slower process and you have to get a base” established to get the newer players to understand what you want to accomplish.

“There are so many things you have to prepare for, both offensively and defensively, that you don’t want to skip stuff,” explained Rose, who will be going into his 13th season on the sidelines. “An equal challenge to that is you have 10 other guys chomping at the bit to get going because they are ready for the next step.”

His job at this stage of the year, Rose said, “becomes a fine line between keeping your eye on the development of everybody and preparing for that first game.” Rose said he believes his current group of players “have a ton of potential and we want to give our guys every opportunity to have some success and build confidence as well.

Rose said getting freshmen used to the physical nature of how much different the college game is from the high school game. “You’re 18-years-old and you’re going up against 21-year-old men who have been in college weight programs,” Rose explained. “So there is just initially, just the physical nature of whether freshmen are strong enough and physically developed to compete.” He said the returning players found the answer to those questions as they got older and so, too, the veteran coach adds, will these freshmen.

Keondre Schumacher, University High: Redshirt freshman guard went to play and study at college out of state before returning to central Illinois and the chance to play for IWU. But the 5 foot-11, 175 pound guard will not have to sit out a year per NCAA rules because he is transferring to Division III IWU from an NCAA Div. I school.

IWU lost three starting guards to graduation, so Rose is happy to see Schumacher come to play for his team. He has two years of college ball under his belt so he’s not new to the college game having transferred to IWU after attending and playing for South Carolina-based Winthrop College. He’s looking to earn a Bachelor’s degree in World Religions.

“I thought it would be cool to come play college basketball in my hometown,” said Schumacher, who is the son of IWU Track and Field head coach Chris Schumacher. He added the Division I school he came from taught him to stay competitive and to maintain a good work ethic toward the sport.

Tommy Nelson, Central Catholic: Nelson, the 6 foot-6, 205 pound freshman forward said he is getting along with his new teammates and admits, “I’m just trying to get used to the system. Right now, I’m just trying to practice hard and play well.” Nelson said he wants to major in Finance.

“As you jump up in levels in this game, there’s just a lot to learn and that’s where Tommy is right now,” Rose added.

Luke Yoder, Central Catholic: “I really like the small campus and the basketball program here,” explained 6 foot, 170 pound freshman guard Luke Yoder. He said at this stage, he is learning from his older teammates. The biggest lesson so far that he has picked up at this early stage is “I have a lot of learning and developing yet in term of skills,” he admitted. Yoder is looking to major in Health Promotion-Fitness Management.

“We’re excited Luke is in the program because he’s got a game that travels at a lot of different levels,” said Rose. “He’s tough, he handles the ball, he makes great decisions and he defends. Not many freshmen defend.

At this stage of practice, Rose said Schumacher, Nelson, and Yoder “have done a nice job of picking things up but they aren’t at the stage to where they can just play yet.” He said that goes for all of his new players as the practice phase gets started.

Circle Your Calendars: IWU will have already played an exhibition against Missouri Valley Conference member Southern Illinois University. They start their home schedule on Tuesday, Nov. 12 hosting Blackburn College. Their first Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin game will be Wednesday, Dec. 4 when they host Wheaton College for a 7p.m. contest.