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First class of athletes inducted into CUSD 7 Athletic Wall of Fame

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Gillespie Community School District recently held its firstt inaugural class of its “Athletic Wall of Fame” on October 1, 2023. The inductees were invited to participate in the Homecoming Parade and then a “meet and greet” at the high school football game.

Here is a list of the inductees and a brief biography of their accomplishments.

Sam Anderson graduated from Benld in 1952. He participated in football, baseball, basketball, and track for 4 years earning all-conference in three sports and All-State in football and basketball. He was a St. Louis Browns professional baseball tryout and played basketball at St Louis University for one year and Eastern Illinois University football for two years. He scored over 1300 career points in high school basketball.

Keith Parker graduated from Gillespie in 1940. He participated in football, basketball, and track and earned nine varsity letters. He played football at University of Missouri and National Champion Purdue University for one year each. He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts. He was a football and basketball official for 41 years and inducted into Granite City Hall of Fame, Missouri Football Hall of Fame, NFHS Hall of Fame, and Greater St Louis Hall of Fame.

Lisa (Ribes) Roberts was a graduate of Gillespie HS in 1996. She participated in multiple sports including four yrs in track. She holds the school record in 1600 and 3200 meters. She ran track at SIUE for 4 years and is a professional Tri-Athlete and 6x Iron Man Champion. She has participated in over 100 triathlons around the world and holds multiple Iron Man course records.

Jim Hlafka graduated from Gillespie in 1952. He earned all-conference in basketball. He played basketball at St Louis University and Eastern Illinois University for one year each. He coached Bunker Hill High School basketball for 43 years and ranks 13th in IHSA career wins with a record of 754-347. Hlafka was also inducted into the IBCA Hall of Fame.

Gordon Hartweger graduated from Gillespie in 1957. He participated in basketball, baseball, and track for four years earning all-conference honors in basketball. He played basketball at St Louis University for 4 years earning MVP and Captain. He was the assistant basketball coach at St Louis University for 5 years and played in the NIT National Finals.

Jerry Grandone graduated from Gillespie in 1960. He participated in basketball, track, and football earning all-conference in basketball and track. After Gillespie, he played basketball and track at Eastern Illinois University for 4 years. He held hurdle records, MVP, and track captain at Eastern Illinois, basketball captain at Eastern Illinois, and earned seven varsity letters at Eastern Illinois. Grandone coached basketball in Coal City and Gillespie, was the track coach at Coal City five years, and in Gillespie for 38 years.

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Rick Bertagnolli graduated from Gillespie in 1978. He participated in football, basketball, baseball, and track earning all-conference in football and baseball. He played baseball at Lewis and Clark and SIUE for two years each and was the MVP and Captain at Lewis and Clark. Bertagnolli was a men’s Olympic Festival softball and Major fastpitch softball for five years and earned the IHSA Softball Coach of the Year. Bertagnolli coached softball at Wabash Valley Jr College, University of South Carolina-Spartanburg and California University of Pennsylvania for 20 years winning the Div. II National Champion twice and also receiving the Conference, Regional and National Softball Coach of the Year.

Bob Boston graduated from Gillespie in 1966. He participated in football and basketball for four years each. He is the all-time school basketball scoring leader with approximately 2000 points and also threw for over 2000 career passing yards. He earned all-conference football and basketball, and honorable mention little All-State football and basketball. He played basketball and football at University of Missouri for 2 years each and received over seven university scholarship offers from St Louis University, Air Force, Memphis State, LSU, Northwestern, Holy Cross, Princeton and Dartmouth.

The 1964 Gillespie football team was the last inductee with an 8-0-2 record. They were the last unbeaten football team with wins over Feitshans (Springfield SE), Hillsboro, Mt Olive, Pittsfield, Jerseyville, Carlinville, Nokomis and Dupo, and ties to Southwestern and Staunton. The team was coached by Bill Parmentier and Andy Easton.

Another class will be inducted in the fall of 2024. Wall of Fame nomination forms can be found on the Gillespie Community School District website.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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