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.

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