By Steve Robinson | May 4, 2021 - 1:48 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved three ordinances and one resolution related to a request by Rivian Automotive to expand its facility located on the Town’s west side. The first item Council members approved by a unanimous vote was an ordinance reducing the levy of the 2020 property tax for electric automaker in accordance with the Town’s 2016 economic incentive agreement.

The abatement Normal provides the automaker was part of its development agreement with the company and has contributed over $300 million in investments by Rivian as well as 1,000 new full-time jobs, according to a memo provided Council members by Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn.

The abatement will result in the Town estimating a reduction in property tax revenue in the coming fiscal year of $103,150. Huhn’s report said that loss of funds will have an impact on two of its funds – its general fund by $72,500 and the library fund by $30,650.

Patrick Hoban, chief executive officer of Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, informed Council members Rivian submits to that Council information concerning information on investments the company has become involved in as well as the number of employees hired and proof of the wages it pays employees. Hoban said, to date, Rivian has exceeded the figures not just for the current fiscal year but for the upcoming fiscal year, as well.

Next, Council members unanimously voted to approve a resolution conditionally approving an amended site plan for the property located at 100 N. Rivian Motorway for a new access road to College Ave. The new entrance would align with the driveway to its property at 2601 W. College Ave. Council Member Stan Nord wondered if the cost of the new entryway which would be used exclusively by the company would be repaid back to the Town.

Town Engineer Ryan Otto told Nord the new entrance would allow Rivian to have direct access from its warehouse on the south side of College Ave. to its manufacturing plant. He said the company would have to submit a traffic analysis report to the Town before construction for the new entrance would be considered.

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz took issue, however, with the notion of the Town looking to recoup its money from the automaker in order to complete the road it wants to add for access to its plant. Calling the notion of looking to get money back “such a slap in the face” to Rivian, she said, “Our job as a municipality is to provide, you know, roads and access to businesses and residential neighborhoods. This is what we do.”

Council members then voted unanimously to approve an ordinance annexing 380 acres of land west of the auto plant for its use. The land is currently zoned as agriculture. The company sought it to be rezoned as M-2 General Manufacturing. Changing the zoning would permit the company to expand its industrial uses.

Council members voted unanimously to approve an ordinance rezoning property at 419 Rivian Motorway and 320 acres surrounding that property which is primarily agricultural. The vote reassigns the land from Agricultural to M-2 General Manufacturing. Normal Planning Commission members voted 6-0 to recommend rezoning of 320 acres to the east of the plant from Agricultural to the new classification. Reece said Rivian officials were seeking to add such property to the Town of Normal by seeking the rezoning. She said if approved, Rivian would be included into the Town’s corporate boundaries.

But Nord expressed concerns over costs incurred for extending sewer service. Reece reminded the Town was simply adding land to the Town by annexing it. She said no annexation agreement was necessary in this instance. She added any issues concerning extending sewer service to Rivian would be brought before the Council.

Reece said Rivian officials have not expressed how or when they will use the newly annexed land, that they were simply asking the Town to approve its annexation for future use.

Lorenz said she didn’t want Council members to lose sight of the fact “there is a business here in town that wants to grow. They aren’t doing this out of the kindness of their heart, but because they have plans to use it.” She added while the plans for the automaker might not be immediate, “they are looking out five or 10 years.”

Council Member Chemberly Cummings added all Rivian is seeking is Council approval to make the parcel of land they have to become part of the Town of Normal.

Greystone Fields Preliminary Subdivision Plan Approved: Council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution giving re-approval to the preliminary subdivision plan for Greystone Fields Subdivision located just east of Normal Community West High School. Greg Troemel, Director of Inspections for the Town told Council members a slowdown in residential construction related to economic conditions in recent years was the culprit for no recent construction of new homes on the property.

As a result, the preliminary subdivision plan expired due to no activity and require being renewed for construction to expand the housing in the subdivision to resume. Troemel explained there had been no construction activity on the property for the past three years. Council’s approval of the preliminary subdivision plan was necessary for construction activity to resume.

When the homes are finished, considering the time that has gone by since construction last took place, in response to a question from Council Member Karyn Smith, Troemel said he believes the homes would be marketed at prices around “the low $200,000s range.”

Council members then voted unanimously approving a related resolution which would conditionally approve the final plat for Greystone Fields Subdivision 2nd addition located on Parkside Rd.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Meeting of April 19, 2021.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 28, 2021.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 28, 2021.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a lease agreement with Illinois House of Representatives, by its agent, Illinois State Representative 105th District, Dan Brady and with the U. S. House of Representatives by its agent, Rep. Rodney Davis.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Pontiac, Ill.-based H. J. Eppel & Co., Inc. for the 2021 general street resurfacing project in the amount of $1,119,265.70.

• A resolution waiving the bid requirements and authorizing the purchase of a Ford F-350 truck equipped with a Perkins 8-Y yard satellite refuse body from St. Louis-based Key Equipment & Supply Co.

• A resolution authorizing the filing of the Town of Normal’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Action Plan for program year 2021-2022.

NORMAL – Three newly-elected Board members for Normal-based Unit 5 School District were sworn in at the regularly-scheduled session for the governing body April 28 in Normal Community West High School’s cafeteria. Kentrica Coleman, Jeremy DeHaai, and Stan Gozur took the oath of office toward the end of the nearly two-hour session which began with tributes to three Board members they were about to succeed.

But before the new members were sworn in, the three outgoing Board members were sent off with tributes from fellow Board members and family members honoring them for the time they spent making decisions which would impact the district. Mike Trask, Meta Mickens-Baker, and Taunia Leffler made final statements about their time on the Board. Trask had been on the Board for 10 years over three terms, including a two-year stint. Mickens-Baker first was appointed in 2004 and ran for terms in 2005, 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2019. Leffler only had one term after being elected in 2017.

“It’s been a great four year term, and I’ve met some great people,” Leffler said. “Everyone who works in our district are a great group of people, so congratulations to the new Board members.” She added she has appreciated the friendships she has gotten from her experience on the Board, adding being on the Board means Board members put in long hours to accomplish what is needed to be done on behalf of the district.

“I just appreciate that we were always respectful of each other,” Leffler added. She said even with coming from different backgrounds, she felt it was important that Board members “were able to come together to make important decisions for the district.” Leffler came onto the Board with David W. Fortner and Joseph Cleary. New job opportunities prompted both Fortner and Cleary to step down from the Board, Fortner resigning in spring 2018 to pursue an opportunity in the Chicago area followed by Cleary in July that year for a job in California.

Board Member Barry Hitchins made note to Leffler about her being the one who remained when, as he explained, “It’s a challenge to be on the Board at times. You persevered, and your passion for the students is something I will always remember.”

Board Member Dr. Kelly Pyle said she wrote each of the three exiting members personal notes, adding, “I do want to thank all of you very sincerely for the service that you have provided Unit 5 families, not only through your many years of service on the school board, but as Barry noted, many of you have served in multiple capacities on PTOs, Citizen Advisory Council, Back-To-School Alliance, Promise Council, and continue to serve our students and our community to the greatest extend.”

A phrase Board Member Alan Kalitzky had heard sometime before the meeting summed up the trio’s efforts on the Board for him, he said. He told them, “You all have a servant’s heart in everything you do.”

Trask recalled the first meeting he attended and wearing a purple shirt whereupon Mickens-Baker gently chided Trask by reminding him he was wearing District 87 colors to a Unit 5 meeting. The memory produced laughter among Board members. He continued reminding he replaced Scott Lay on the Board. Scott Lay, and his father, Loren Lay, had both been Unit 5 Board members. Becoming emotional, Trask said, “I’m not sure if I filled their shoes all the way up, but I gave it my best shot.” Loren Lay was a Board member in the 1990s. Scott Lay exited the Board in 2011 after being on it for two terms.

Trask also said giving each of his two daughters their high school diplomas were “moments I will never forget.” He told his daughters, Hannah and Sydney, he considered himself “the luckiest and most blessed dad.” He also thanked his wife, Angela, for her support during his years on the Board. He said when he wants to become involved in something, he admits he doesn’t say no, but that Angela never tells him “Don’t do it.”

Mickens-Baker said she appreciated Trask’s passion concerning the district’s facilities. That meant he spent time working with Joe Adelman, the district’s operations director, and District Business Manager Marty Hickman to make sure Unit 5’s facilities were kept clean whether it was for daily classes or special events.

She said she recalled hearing students criticizing upkeep at schools in other districts for events but how clean Unit 5 kept their schools. Facilities “was something you stuck with throughout the time you were on the Board,” Mickens-Baker reminded Trask.

At the end of the April 6 election, ballot counts indicated Coleman received the most ballots, 6,261, or 21.1 percent of the vote followed by DeHaai who received 5,370 votes or 18.1 percent of the vote, and Gozur who received 5,089 votes or 17.1 percent of the vote.

Family Member, Friend Of Board Members Speak During Public Comments: Public comments were highlighted by members of outgoing Board members stepping up to the microphone before the Board and thanking their relative one final time publicly for the work they put in on the Board. Mickens-Baker’s husband, Keith Baker, led off that group, reminding his wife and Board members that her first Board meeting fell on her birthday, and for that occasion, he and their two sons brought in a cake and those in attendance sang “Happy Birthday” to her. As for her 17 years serving the Board, he added, “It’s been a great ride. We met a lot of great people, not just in Bloomington-Normal but throughout the State.” He reminded current Board members and informed new Board members that “School Board members are also the family because the family is involved in just listening, offering feedback, and supporting.”

Joined by a few members of the sorority she belonged to, Delta Sigma Theta, Renee Thompson saluted her sorority sister, Mickens-Baker next by said to her, “We want her to know how much we love her and appreciate her. Anyone who serves for 17 years in any capacity must have a servant’s heart.”

Michael Coleman, husband of Kentrica Coleman, thanked Mickens-Baker, and added, “I am here to say how proud the Coleman family is of Miss Kentrica Coleman and that she is going to do a fantastic job.”

District “Those Who Excel” Nominees Announced: Nominees from the district for the annual “Those Who Excel” Awards, presented by Illinois State Board of Education were announced to Board members by Dayna Brown, Director of Communications and Community Relations for the district. The nominees, the schools or office they work at, and the awards they were nominated for are: Kailey Geiselman, Normal Community West High School, Classroom Teacher; Marielena Gozur, Cedar Ridge Elementary School, Classroom Teacher; Hunter Watts, NCHS, Early Educator; Kirsten Freeze, Pepper Ridge Elementary, Early Educator; Natalie Schumaker, District Administration, Special Education Administrator; Stacie France, Kingsley Junior High School, Administrator; Margie Toca, NCHS, and Susan Naber, Brigham Elementary School, Educational Service Personnel; April Powell, Fox Creek Elementary School, and Emma Milliken, Northpoint Elementary School, Student Support Personnel; Unit 5 Nursing Team, and Normal Community West High School CARES Team, Team; Meta Mickens-Baker, District, and Miranda Davis, George L. Evans Junior High School, Volunteer.

NORMAL – College baseball and softball coaches go out recruiting players who have a special combination of skills, both visible on and off the field: They look for someone who can hit well, field the ball in a tight situation while on the field and still keep their cool and stay current on their studies while the season is in progress. They also look for someone whose personality will mesh well with the current players.

As it turned out, when Illinois State University Softball Head Coach Melinda Fischer recruited Jayden Standish, both she and the Redbirds Softball team quickly discovered they found the right young lady to add to their squad. How quickly? In the Redbirds’ contest against Coastal Carolina University on March 7 during one of her four at-bats, freshman Standish belted a grand slam home run aiding her team in their 12-5 win.

Standish plays third base for the Redbirds and will major in Nursing at ISU, which operates Mennonite College of Nursing. She admits after she makes contact with the ball, she always wants to see it take flight.

But in the end, after making contact, Standish said, “I never watch it. I just assume it’s going out. I always have to ask other people where it went. It felt like good contact and I ran it out. It was a good solid hit.”

As of Monday, after 64 at-bats, the 2020 Lexington High School grad is carrying a .266 average having smacked 17 hits including 5 home runs, a triple and two doubles and scoring 9 runs. She has struck out 22 times and walked 7 times.

“We’d been watching Jayden for several years and we knew she had that power potential,” Fischer said, adding, “Most important with Jayden was her ability to be consistent at the plate. That was what we were looking for from everybody in our program, but that was exciting for her home run to be a grand slam and that’s something that will be in Jayden’s memory book forever.”

“My freshman year has been a good start,” Standish, daughter of John and Sara Standish, said. “I have had a lot of fun. We have had a lot of wins and it’s been a full team effort off the bench. Our pitching staff has been amazing, so I can’t say enough about this team, so it makes all my freshman season, all my little successes, seem like nothing compared to what this team has done so far. I feel like I am having a good start. I am just hoping we can keep it going.”

As for her career aspirations, she said when she was at LHS, she shadowed an anesthesiologist at Carle Clinic in Champaign a couple summers ago to experience what that career is like. “I just really liked the atmosphere,” she explained, adding being in an operating room furthered her enthusiasm toward her choice of careers. “I liked being able to stay in the O. R. and just watch surgeries all day. That kind of environment was something I really would be interested in. But I also know that there are a lot of different paths in a nursing career. In four years, I could decide to do something else. But as of right now, I am interested in anesthesiology.”

During her high school years, softball wasn’t the only sport her family and LHS fans could find Jayden engaged in helping earn victories for. She played in three other sports – Basketball, Volleyball, and Track.

But before she graduates and dawns a mask and gloves heading into an O.R. for her livelihood, there is still time for her to add wins to the Redbirds’ record books. “She’s continued to provide some long power for us, which put us back in the game on Sunday,” Fischer said, specifically pointing to a home run Standish hit which kept the Redbirds close against Southern Illinois, a contest the Redbirds lost in a 3-2 decision.

Fischer said Standish is credited with a home run each in a pair of games at the Middle Tennessee State University Invitational Tournament, and on April 18 homered into right field and drove a run batted in against Southern Illinois keeping the Redbirds in the game only to drop a 3-2 decision to the Salukis.

Standish said despite having to adjust how the team operates as a result of the COVID pandemic, “Not being able to stretch outside our bubble too much, I still had a fantastic freshman year. I’ve gotten really close with the team and, of course, with some other friends here at ISU. We have really focused on Softball, and I’ve focused on school. Just being here on campus has been a lot of fun. I’m only 20 minutes from home but being here has been a growing experience for me being on my own.”

Standish said her goals while she is at ISU include helping the team earn “some rings within these four years, get a degree, and just make a lot of memories at ISU. I’m excited to see what this team can do.”

Jayden Isn’t The Only Family Member To Play Sports For ISU: Playing sports in a Redbirds jersey has been part of Jayden’s family. Her aunt, Teresa Standish, played softball at ISU over 25 years ago, and her uncle, Jan Rvehlicke, was on ISU’s men’s soccer team. Jayden makes the sixth person in her family to attending ISU.

Team Has Had 14 Games Cancelled, All Weather Related: Fischer explained her team has had 14 games cancelled but none of the cancellations were due to COVID-19, but rather to poor weather conditions. Those cancellations included three games called at the River City Leadoff Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., and two at the Tennessee Invitational Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn.

By Steve Robinson | April 20, 2021 - 10:53 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – As a means to find itself in a position to be able to know about and apply for funding opportunities for capital projects in a post-COVID environment, Normal Town Council members voted 6-1 to approve a resolution with Chicago-based McGuireWoods Consulting, with Council Member Stan Nord casting the lone opposing vote. The firm would also assist the Town keeping it apprised on legislative matters. Nord told Council members he couldn’t vote in favor of the contract until he knew the scope of the work McGuireWoods Consulting would do on the Town’s behalf.

City Manager Pam Reece said McGuireWoods’ aid “would help us engage at the State level and hopefully secure dollars for a variety of projects” the Town is seeking to complete. Deputy City Manager Eric Hanson said there are “a number of infrastructure projects that are identified but not yet funded.” He said that would “provide a good road map” for McGuireWoods as they attempt to seek needed dollars for the Town for those projects.

The contract with McGuireWoods Consulting would run for 11 months beginning May 1 at a cost of $4,000 per month. Reece pointed out the Town had not had such representation working on the Town’s behalf since the contract with the previous consultant firm expired in November. Previously, the Town had a six-month consultant contract with Chicago-based Turing Strategies.

Council Renews Town’s Contract With Brokerage Service: Council members voted 6-1 with Nord casting the opposing vote to approve a resolution for the Town to enter into a professional services agreement with Orland Park, Ill.-based Horton Group for brokerage services. Horton Group was among five firms who responded to the Town’s request for proposals for the opportunity to work with the Town. The Town will pay $39,600 annually for consulting services for the next three years.

Council Approves Contract to H. J. Eppel & Co. for Route 66 Trail Project: Council members voted 6-1 with Nord voting in opposition to approve a resolution to accept bids award a contract to Pontiac, Ill.-based H. J. Eppel & Co. for a project which would link the existing Route 66 trail to nearby neighborhoods, allowing access to be granted for both pedestrians and bicyclists. The connection would provide access and trail head parking for users of the Route 66 trail as well as connect the Village of Towanda and future locations to the north. The Town will spend $471,357.55 from monies in its Capital Investment account, and has received partial funding from the State’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Nord said this item had come before Council in 2018, it was estimated to come in at a cost of $314,000. At that time, Nord added, Town Staff recommended it not be approved because the project bid was $425,000. But now, Nord added, the Town needs to prioritize what projects it spends its transportation-related money on.

Council members heard a pair of public comments related to this item, beginning with Patrick Dullard who represents Friends of Constitution Trail. He told Council members he supports this item because he believes “it improves bicycle and pedestrian safety of Town residents and that alone justifies the investment.”

He said the project also “brings the trail closer to many more Normal citizens.” He said he understands the Route 66 bike route brings people from not just around the country but other countries as well to the area. “This is not just an economic project, but a quality of life project, as well.”

Former Town Council Candidate Ron Ulmer told Council members Constitution Trail receives funding from both the Town through its transportation budget, and the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department. He said does not consider the current level of transportation funding the Town has acceptable “considering the number of potholes and bumps my car hits.” He added he would like to know how much money the Town spends to maintain the streets.

Road Resurfacing Project Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution accepting bids and awarding a contract to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction for the 2021 Motor Fuel Tax Street Resurfacing Project in the amount of $1,951,965.50. Streets to be selected for repair were selected based on numerous factors including condition, traffic level, deterioration level, and cost.

Streets to be resurfaced as part of the proposed Motor Fuel Tax project were initially presented to Council on March 1 and are: W. Raab Rd. from Constitution Trail Collegiate Br. To Bradford Lane; Bradford Lane from Miles Lane to Raab Rd,; Gregory St. from Parkside Rd, to Cottage Ave.; Bowles St. from Main St. to University Ct.; N. Fell Ave. from Willow St. to Sycamore St.; and Normal Ave. from Locust St. to Gregory St.

Bid For New Well Construction Near Anderson Park Approved: Council unanimously approved a resolution awarding the bid and approving contracts for Well #21 Division A to Fenton, Mo.-based Brotcke Well and Pump for maintenance at a total cost of $142,163.

Council members unanimously approved a resolution to award the bid for rehabilitation of one of two clarifiers for water at the Town treatment plant. According to information provided in a memo to Reece, John Burkhart, Town Water Director explained clarifiers soften raw water during the treatment process.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of April 5, 2021.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 14, 2021.

• A resolution extending a license agreement with Peoria Charter Coach Company for access to Uptown Station as a transportation provider.

• An ordinance reserving volume cap in connection with private activity bond issues and related matters.

By Steve Robinson | April 17, 2021 - 6:11 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Literature and theater made up the components presented to members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board at their regularly-scheduled meeting in Normal Community West High School’s cafeteria April 14. Board members were introduced to authors, speech team competition winners, and received an invitation to one of the district high school’s spring performances

Parkside Junior High’s Speech Team’s “Good News”: Parkside Junior High School’s Speech team took center stage for a “good news” report concerning a speech competition they participated in with six first place winners coming away with honors. Those students are: Eighth grader Faithe Streily; Seventh graders River Stokes-Dorsey and Dane Schlipfman; and sixth graders Delia Allen and Caroline Bertsche. Streily also came away with the event’s Judge’s Choice Award for Outstanding Performance.

High Schools Present “Good News” About Student Authors: Board members were introduced to a newly-published authors as a result of two students, one from Normal Community High School and one from Normal Community West High School, were introduced by their principals.

As Normal Community High School Principal Trevor Chapman introduced Annie Sun, an NCHS senior, had a book titled Igniting Snow published by China-based Hobai University Press in 2020. Igniting Snow is a collection of poetry and essays written in both English and Chinese. Chapman said Sun credited her access to comics in English teacher Jacob Wiechman’s English class and being part of German teacher Mirjam Schnabel’s class to motivate her to be able to share her writing skills in both German and English.

Normal Community West High Principal Dave Johnson introduced Thomas Dyrek, a senior, to Board members. Dyrek has just published Central Illinois Train Depots, published by South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing. Johnson said Dyrek has had an interest in trains and first wrote about them in the sixth grade. In addition to text, the book includes 127 pages of photos Dyrek himself took. He refers to the trips he has taken with his mother for these pictures “depot drives” and looks forward to writing another book on the subject in the future.

Invitation Extended To NCHS’ “High School Musical” In Public Comments: During public comments, Normal Community High School junior Ian Kuhlman invited Board members to watch the school’s spring musical, “High School Musical: The One Act Edition.” Performances can be seen Thursday-Saturday, April 22-24 at 7p.m. with a matinee on Sunday, April 25 at 2p.m. Kuhlman said the show’s cast of 50 did all six rehearsals virtually. From there, they filmed the play in March. “The cast did a remarkable job putting the production together in such a short amount of time, all while being masked and socially distant,” he told Board members.

Angela Trask, wife of Board Member Mike Trask, addressed Board members on what would be Trask’s final meeting as a Board member. He did not seek re-election after having been initially elected in 2011, and earning re-election in 2015 and again in 2019. With the couple’s two daughters present, she began her comments saying, “First of all, I want to say thank you so much to the entire board for all you do every day for all the students of Unit 5. So many times, you only hear the negative comments when, really more people ought to be here thanking you for your service.”

She also acknowledged the two other Board members, in addition to her husband who opted not to seek another term on the Board, Taunia Leffler, who is stepping away from the Board after a single term, and Meta Mickens-Baker, who has been on the Board since first being appointed in 2004 and followed that up with an election win in 2005, and re-election in 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2019.

She saved her last comments for her husband, stating to him, “You have spent countless hours at meetings and at events. You have had sleepless nights worrying about making the right decisions, not only for the students and staff, but also for this whole community.” She said she knew her husband’s proudest moments came when he got to hand their two daughters their high school diplomas. “Mike, from your teacher wife, and your two daughters, we want to say thank you. Thank you for all your years of service to Unit 5.”

Kingsley Jr. High’s “Good News”: In an era where there isn’t always good news about journalism, Kingsley Junior High School Principal Stacie France presented a video which introduced Board members to students at the school who assemble the KJ News, a student newspaper. The paper was started three years ago when a student approached language arts teacher Ashley Durdan-Levy wanting to see what interest there would be for starting it. At the time, the student asked about starting the paper so that the student “could share her writing with others.” At that time, Durdan-Levy was also a first-year teacher.

The paper is now in its third year, France told Board members, adding, “There are now two student leaders who co-edit the newspaper.” They are Layla Winn and Vibhuti Patel. In the video, Patel explained, “Every writer brings, like, something different to the newspaper. We have so much fun seeing their writing evolve, and it shows they really care about this as much as we do.”

In just three years of operation, France said, the number of writers has increased from 3 to 18. Among the writers in the video is Joanna Gonzalez, who said she likes the research aspect of doing writing because, as she explained it, “it’s not very often I get to randomly choose and go out and read a couple articles about it, but then turn those words into my own.” Also in the video is fellow KJ News writer Alyssa Thompson. She explained she “enjoys working with others who share my passion of writing.” Thompson added she likes being on the paper because “we get to choose what we want to write about and make it our own. We get to publish it in our own words as to how we want to say it so other students can read it.”

Data System Preview Presented: Board members received a presentation from Darrin Cooper, the district’s director for teaching and learning, concerning software the district is looking into which would become a replacement for student data processors currently in use. The district spends $185,920 on the system it is considering replacing. The system presented to Board members at this session to replace the current processors, called EduClimber, manufactured by a company called Illuminate Education, would cost the district $160,700. There are also on-time training and implementation costs which would cost $17,000.

Such products like EduClimber must be compliant with the State’s Student Online Personal Protection Act, or SOPPA, which goes into effect July 1. The Act requires all Illinois public school districts to provide additional guarantees to protect student data privacy by that date.

New Administrative Post To Be Added In New School Year: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle indicated to Board members the district is seeking to add a person who would become the district’s 20th administrator who would be responsible for overseeing the district’s efforts concerning diversity and inclusion. The person selected for the job would begin their duties on July 1. Finalizing a candidates list for the post will take place in about a month, according to Dr. Weikle.