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Gillespie preps for big night in sports

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The Gillespie Middle School eighth grade boys' basketball team won their regional last week. The team plays their first sectional game Wednesday.

The GMS 8th grade Indians with their regional championship plaque last week.

Gillespie fans are preparing for a unique experience tonight, February 10, as three of the district’s basketball teams have momentous games scheduled this evening and fans are split between which event to attend.

MIDDLE SCHOOL BOYS BASKETBALL

In the opening night of the IESA Class 8-3A Sectionals, the eighth grade Gillespie Middle School boys’ basketball team (19-4) will continue to defend last year’s state title as they face off against Greenville (19-2) at Auburn Junior High School at Divernon with play starting at 6:30 p.m.

After receiving a bye to start their regional run last week, the team defeated Auburn Junior High 45-27 in the semifinals and then knocked down White Hall North Greene 52-33 in the regional championship last Thursday.

The winner of tonight’s battle will face the winner of the Sectional 5 contest between Farmington Central and Mossville in the opening round of the Class 3A State Tournament at Tolono Unity JHS that opens this Saturday, February 13.

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL

The no. 4 ranked Gillespie Lady Miners (17-9) face a rematch in the opening round of regionals with the Greenville Comets just 13 days after the regular season meeting. If the first battle was any indication how tonight’s game will be, it will be one you won’t want to miss.

Gillespie won that one 52-44 with the game being played on their home court. Tonight’s game will be played on neutral grounds in Piasa with a game time of 7:30 p.m. The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the regional championship tomorrow, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m.

The Lady Miners are playing their best basketball since 2002 with only one senior in the starting rotation – 5’9” senior Bailey Jarman. After placing third in the Macoupin County Tournament 18 days ago, the team is 3-1 with victories over Nokomis (47-40), Greenville and Carlinville (53-41) and a tough loss to Litchfield (42-47).

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS BASKETBALL

The closest game for Miners fans will be senior night for the high school boys’ basketball team. Gillespie (15-9) is hosting Calhoun in their last home game of the regular season and is coming off a 90-86 victory over Pana last Friday.

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The Miners are saying goodbye to seven senior players on this year’s roster including Josh Balzraine, Sam Barylske, Eli Fox, Blake Hayes, Alex Myers, Evan Price and Colin Tieman. The team has two remaining games on the regular schedule next week, a match-up against Bunker Hill on Tuesday and a dual against Staunton on Friday, before starting regionals the following week.

Play will begin after a brief senior night ceremony, which starts immediately after the 6 o’clock junior varsity contest.

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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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