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Partnership Scholarships awarded to 25% of GHS grads



May 22, 2011- Gillespie, Illinois - Twenty-one of the 82 Gillespie High 
School (GHS) seniors receiving diplomas this year received $500 tuition 
scholarships from The Partnership for Educational Excellence during 
commencement ceremonies on Sunday May 22, 2011. The awards were presented by 
directors Jackie Van Doren and Brian Engelke, treasurer.

"Nearly twenty percent of this large graduating class has received tuition 
support from The Partnership," says Jim Pickett, retiring president. "Thanks 
to the loyalty and generosity of hundreds of supporters, we can recognize 
these many excellent students and give them a little help furthering their 
educations. They perfectly embody our policy of rewarding every ability 
level for hard work, involvement in school and community activities, and 
proven ability to set goals.

"Our scholarships are not large, because we want to recognize the greatest 
number of students," says Pickett. "And parents over the years have told us 
that the $500 tuition payment does help their students during first 

This year a total of $10,500 was awarded to21 applicants. To date the 
Partnership has awarded $145,750 in tuition scholarships to 281 graduates of 
Gillespie High School.

In addition, The Partnership again administered two $100 cash awards from 
the estate of Evaline Boehmke for musicianship in band and chorus.

BENLD ROTARY CLUB SCHOLARSHIP by local business and professional members of 
this international service organization whose motto is "Service above self."
Blake Pollard, son of DeAnna Day of Wilsonville, will 
major in business management at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois.

EMIL BORGINI MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by an anonymous donor. He taught in Benld, 
taught and coached at GHS, where he was also principal for 20 years. Borgini 
retired as CUSD#7 superintendent.

Trae Wargo, son of Tim and Julie Wargo of Benld, attend Lewis and Clark 
Community College in Godfrey, Illinois.

CARROLL-KEUPPER SCHOLARSHIP established by the late Rosemary Keupper Valle 
and her sister Lillian Keupper in honor of their families who have been 
involved in medicine, world health, and banking/finance. Their grandfather 
Anthony Carroll, a member of the Gillespie school board, initiated strong 
family support for the local school system and its students.

Abigail Ferry, daughter of Bob and Shari Ferry of Benld, will major in 
pre-medicine at the St. Louis University.

ELINOR DAVIES NURSING SCHOLARSHIP by friends and family in honor of Elinor 
who served many decades as school nurse in CUSD#7.

Mackenzie Buckner, daughter of Brad and Carrie Buckner of Gillespie, will 
major in nursing at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey.

established by family and friends in memory of this Benld native who was a 
respected educator and counselor. The daughter of Rose Enrico, Carol 
established a consulting business to help students pursue their goals 
through higher education. Her daughters Allison and Ashley live in 

Brianna Bednar, daughter of Jackie Brimberry of Gillespie, will major in 
mathematics education at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

Ashley Heyen, daughter of Bill and LouAnn Heyen of rural Gillespie, will 
major in music and business at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee..

JEAN FITE MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by friends and family. She taught more than 
40 years in every Gillespie school after graduating from the University of 
Chicago. She concluded her career as GHS librarian, arranging for the 
receipt of the Tiogo collection of art prints and books. She also worked to 
establish the GHS track and ball diamond.

Kyle Henderson, son of Kim and Mark Henderson of rural Mt. Olive, will major 
in pre-pharmacy at Blackburn College in Carlinville.

JOSEPH LIBBRA MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by family friends. Married 48 years to 
Eileen, he was a hard working grain and livestock farmer, proud of his Army 
service in Korea, and dedicated to their four children and grandchildren.

Zachary Morris, son of Michael and Tina Morris of Benld, will major in 
industrial technology at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.

JOHN and MARK MADDEN MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by family to lovingly honor this 
father and son. Both played Miners football, graduated from GHS and St. 
Louis University Law School. John returned to serve the community he loved 
in private practice, as a county public defender, and for 43 years as 
Gillespie City Attorney. He died at age 78 on 10 October 2009. His son Mark 
lived half as long, dying suddenly at the age of 39 on 11 October 2005. He 
was a trial attorney with Moser and Marshalak in St. Louis.

Brian Caveny, son of Julianne and Matthew Caveny will major in civil 
engineering at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

HENRY MARCACCI MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by friends and family. Hank taught 
business in CUSD#7 for 33 years and served as county superintendent of 
schools for 8 years. He and his wife Lucille raised seven children. Hank 
died at age 101 on January 25, 2011. A granddaughter was a past Partnership 

Maura Kluthe, daughter of Steve and Judy Kluthe of Gillespie, will major in 
business/fashion at Blackburn College in Carlinville.

JAMES MASTERSON MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by The Partnership honors our beloved 
colleague, steadfast supporter, generous friend, and spark plug of its 
Citizens' Advisory Committee.

Kaila Claro, daughter of John and Dawn Claro of Benld, will major in art 
therapy at Blackburn College in Carlinville.

DENIS McGRADY SR. MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP established in loving memory by 
family and friends. Denis graduated from the University of Illinois Commerce 
and Law program, returned to Gillespie to raise nine children, and to 
practice law for almost 50 years. In addition to valuing education, Denis 
loved roses and trees, his garden becoming a destination for GHS botany 
field trips.

Austin Peterson, son of Darrin and Jennifer Peterson of Gillespie, will 
major accounting and finance at Southern Illinois University at 

DICK MENO MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP established in loving memory by family and 
friends. Known as much for his love of music and participation in the Music 
Men and many local municipal bands, Dick was a graduate of GHS and St. Louis 
University Law School. He practiced in Macoupin County with Denby Meno, 
Bloomer & Denby, imbuing his two children, C.J. and the late Mavi Baarson, 
with a love of music and education.

Derek Heyen, son of Lisa Heyen of Gillespie, will major in communications at 
Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey.

local farmer known for his kindness and generosity to family and friends.

Savanna Bednar, daughter of Barbara Bednar of Gillespie, will major in 
agriculture education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

JAMES ROSENTRETER MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by his family. "Our dad spent his 
life helping other people pursue educational and financial goals. It's 
fitting that once again Dad is sharing his dream of a young person's 

Jacob Feeley, son of Penny Feeley of Gillespie, will major in industrial 
technology at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.

TRAVIS SEMPLOWSKI MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP established in loving memory by 
family and friends. Travis, a graduate of GHS, was a member of Future 
Farmers of America. He was working as an automotive specialist at WalMart in 
Litchfield when he died tragically on 28 July 2009 at the age of 21.

Bradley Libbra, son of JenniferValenti and Troy Libbra of Gillespie, will 
major in dental hygiene at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey.

TEBBE FAMILY FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIP and several classroom mini-grants have 
been funded by GHS graduate Mark Tebbe, Class of 1979, founder of Lante 
Corporation, and his parents through their family foundation.

Joseph Balzraine, son of Jim and Susan Balzraine of Gillespie, will major in 
engineering at Illinois College in Jacksonville.

and Marge's greatest joy was their family. Marge is remembered by all for 
her generous and caring ways. Matt was mayor of Benld and president of the 
CUSD#7 school board for many years. Two of his grandsons are past 
Partnership scholars.

Sydney Koniak, daughter of Randy and Tammy Koniak of Gillespie, will major 
in radiology at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

MICHAEL VALENTI MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by friends and family is awarded in 
loving memory of this 1998 GHS graduate who lost his life in 1999 in a 
tragic accident on the brink of his higher education.

Jonathan Griffel, son of David and Mary Griffel of rural Gillespie, will 
major in history education at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

MIKE AND PERINA VERTICCHIO SCHOLARSHIP by family. This award was established 
to recognize the dedication and years of service to the Gillespie school 
district by Mike and the late Perina Verticchio. Perina was an elementary 
teacher for many years and Mike was a teacher, coach, and administrator 
whose education career began as a literacy specialist during World War II.

                    LeeAnne Bertetto, daughter of Lois Bertetto of 
Gillespie, will major in pre-medicine at Blackburn College in Carlinville.

PETE WYATT MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP by family and friends. A familiar and 
well-liked figure as custodian supervisor in CUSD#7, Pete and his wife 
Eleanor, were the grandparents of two past Partnership scholars.

Blake Raynor, son of Bill and Maleah Raynor of Gillespie, will major in 
industrial technology at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.

EVALINE BOEHMKE MUSICIANSHIP AWARDS: Evaline (Mrs. Robert) Boehmke, was an 
ardent supporter of music in CUSD#7. She left a bequest for $100 cash awards 
for students to be selected by the music faculty of Gillespie High School 
for outstanding musicianship in GHS band and chorus. The Boehmke winners in 
2011 are:



The Partnership for Educational Excellence is a not-for-profit educational 
foundation recognized by the IRS as a 501©)(3) corporation. All donations, 
which may be sent to The Partnership for Educational Excellence, P.O. Box 
125, Gillespie, IL 62033. When addresses are provided, all gifts and 
memorials are acknowledged by mail.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting




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.


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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Community News

Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park



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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Community News

Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday



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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