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School board green lights weight room project

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Community Unit School District 7 Supt. Shane Owsley accepts a donation from the 2023 Coal Country royalty during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Board of Education. The organization mades an annual donation to the district in recognition of the district allowing the organization to use school facilities for the annual pageant and practices. Those presenting the check include 2023 Coal Country Miss Madilyn Martin, Junior Miss Lydia Lowry, Junior Princess Violet Bellovich and Little Miss Vivien Bellovich.

Community Unit School District 7 will move forward with revamping and equipping the Gillespie High School weight room after members of the Board of Education voted unanimously to proceed with the project during the board’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 23.

The meeting was postponed from its usual date due to icy road conditions on Monday.

Installation of new fitness equipment and flooring represents the next phase of the project. A project to install new HVAC equipment for the weight room, previously approved by the board, was completed over the winter break at a cost of about $108,000.

Supt. Shane Owsley said Direct Fitness Solutions, Mundelein, will provide and install fitness equipment focussing on cardio training, including self-powered treadmills. He said company representatives and administrators previously met with Athletic Department employees to ensure the new equipment is what “they need” for meet students’ needs for fitness training.

“This will put us in line with other schools we compete with,” Owsley said. The estimated $137,000 will come from proceeds of a $1.6 alternate revenue bond sale to underwrite capital improvements over the next three years. The bonds will be retired using revenue accruing from the county’s School Facilities Sales Tax. The district plans to pay down the bonds at a rate of about $200,000 per year, about half of what the district receives in sales tax revenue, over the next 10 years.

Board member Peyton Bernot said he recently visited the existing weight room and discovered it looked the same as it did when he graduated 14 years ago. “That equipment is very, very old,” he said.

Board members voted unanimously to approve the project on a motion by Bernot, seconded by Amanda Ross.

Owsley also reported to the board that the district was successful with an application for a state-funded safety grant in the amount of $466,365. The grant will be matched with $155,000 in local funding, giving the district more than $600,000 to spend on capital improvements related to student safety. The pending grant was the focus of discussion as the board considered the alternate revenue bond sale last year, since the grant can be used to defray the costs of some projects the district expected to finance with bond sale revenue.

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In addition, Owsley told the board he is preparing an application for a grant co-sponsored by Blue Cross-Blue Shield to build an outdoor fitness court, which would be open to the public. He said Blue Cross-Blue Shield recommended CUSD 7 for the $30,000-$40,000 grant.

PERSONNEL

Following an executive session of about 90 minutes, during which the board primarily discussed personnel issues, the board took a number of actions regarding personnel:

  • The board voted unanimously to extend Supt. Owsley’s contract by one year. Administrators are employed under a three-year contract, meaning Owsley’s new contract will continue through the 2026-27 school year.
  • Board members unanimously accepted the retirement of BenGil Elementary teacher Lori Emmons, effective at the end of the 2027-27 school year.
  • The board voted unanimously to terminate the employment of bus driver Christy Besserman, effective Jan. 22; accept the resignation of bus aide Cindy McCarty, effective Jan. 24; and accept the resignation of bus driver Alicia Landreth, effective, Jan. 6, and post a vacancy for the position.
  • Board members voted unanimously to accept “with regret” the resignations of Matt Browner as middle school 8th grade girls basketball coach, and Nikki Browner as middle school 7th grade girls basketball coach.
  • Anthony Kranvanya was appointed by a unanimous vote as a volunteer high school men’s basketball coach, pending certification and a background check.
  • The board voted unanimously to hire Rebecca Leitschuh-Birdsell as a substitute bus driver, pending certification and a background check.
  • Korben Clark was hired by a unanimous vote as head coach for the high school women’s track and and field program.
  • Alex Ottersburg was hired by a unanimous vote as an assistant high school track and field coach, pending certification and a background check.
  • Board members also voted unanimously to re-employee high school football coaches Dalton Barnes, Nate Henrichs, Cory Bonstead, and Donnie Allen, and volunteers Alex Jasper, Korean Clark and Zayne Ireland.

SURPLUS PROPERTY

The board voted unanimously to sell to Stacy Hart and previously identified surplus lot owned by the district and located on Park Avenue, Gillespie. Hart, who was the sole bidder for the property, offered to pay $800 for the parcel.

The board also voted to accept a seniority list for certificated and non-certificated employees.

GHS Principal Jill Rosentreter presented this year’s Illinois State Scholars—Michael Bertetto, Alexia Emelander, Graciela Koch and Leo Page. Each of the GHS seniors scored 31 or higher on the state’s standardized test, according to Rosentreter.

“These students are amazing in every way,” Rosentreter said. “We’re going to see great things from them after they graduate.”

The board also accepted a donation from the Coal Country Queen organization, in recognition of the district allowing the queen program to use school facilities for practices and for the annual queen pageant. Miss Coal Country 2023 Madilyn Martin, Junior Miss Lydia Lowry, Junior Princess Violet Bellovich, and Little Miss Vivien Bellovich attended the meeting to present the check.

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Court News

Macoupin County Courthouse News

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Cases filed during July 7 through July 13. Visit the “Court News” category under the “Community News” tab for other editions.

FELONIES

Timothy D. Conlee, 29 of Gillespie, is charged with aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, driving on a suspended license, and reckless driving in connection with a July 6 incident.

Dylan J. Arview, 25 of Benld, is charged with driving under the influence while license revoked or suspending, DUI, driving on a suspended license and driving 15-20 mph above the limit in connection with a July 5 incident.

Bobby L. Walker, 35 of Sorento, is charged with driving revoked/suspended with a DUI, driving on revoked license, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, displayed registration plate, and expired registration in connection with a June 27 incident.

Dustin W. Gooch, 34 of Beecher City, is charged with aggravated fleeing/bodily injury, unlawful display of a title, improper use of registration/title, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and registration light in connection with a June 17 incident.

MISDEMEANORS

Jordan A. Black, 24 of Gillespie, is charged with battery/causing bodily harm in connection with a July 8 incident.

Dustin R. Stieglitz, 37 of Shipman, is charged with aggravated assault/use of a deadly weapon in connection to a June 29 incident.

Steven A. Kroll, 33 of Eagarville, is charged with resisting a peace officer, fire fighter, or corrections employee in connection with a June 26 incident.

TRAFFIC

David B. Brown, 58 of Virden, is charged with cancelled/revoked/suspended registration in connection with a July 3 incident.

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Jennifer L. Roberts, 47 of Worden, is charged with driving on a suspended license and operating an uninsured motor vehicle in connection with July 5 incident.

Andrew L. Connoyer, 31 of Bethalto, is charged with improper use of registration, driving 15-20 mph above the limit, and no valid registration in connection with July 7 incident.

Megan E. Bertoldi, 37 of Gillespie, is charged with leaving the scene in connection with July 11 incident.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE FILED

  • Tasha McQuay versus David McQuay

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School board disciplines staff member; hires AD and Student Services Coordinator

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In a relatively brief meeting Monday night, the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education approved a “resolution of remedial warning” against an unidentified district teacher, and hired a new Student Services Coordinator and Athletic Director.

The actions followed an 80-minute executive session during which board members presumably primarily discussed personnel issues. The regular monthly meeting of the board was moved up by one week to fill key positions, such as the Athletic Director and Student Services Coordinator, prior to the start of the school year next month. The district was taken by surprise when former Student Services Coordinator Stephanie Bray and Athletic Director Mike Bertagnolli both announced their retirements within days of each other.

Supt. Shane Owsley said the resolution of remedial warning is a disciplinary action representing “a second strike, so to speak.” Neither the teacher or the nature of the infraction was disclosed in open session.

In other action, the board, voted unanimously to hire Shelsie Timmermeier as the district’s Student Services Coordinator for the 2024-25 school year, stepping into the vacancy created by Bray’s retirement, pending confirmation of certification and a background check. In a separate action, the board also appointed Timmermeier as an assistant high school women’s volleyball coach.

Jeremy Smith was hired, also by a unanimous vote, as the district’s Athletic Director for the 2024-25 school year. In a related matter, Smith’s resignation as middle school head baseball coach was accepted. Additionally, the board posted the coaching position as vacant for the coming school year.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Dennis Tiburzi, the board hired Alex Jasper as a high school social science teacher for the coming school year. The board also voted unanimously to hire Tate Wargo as a first-year, non-tenured physical education instructor, pending confirmation of certification. Both positions were vacated as a result of the sudden resignation of Dalton Barnes in April as head football coach, physical education teacher and social science teacher. 

In related matters, the board also hired Wargo Monday night as an eighth grade boy’s basketball coach, and accepted Jasper’s resignation as a district paraprofessional and posted the position as vacant.

In other personnel action, the board:

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  • Hired Amanda Ewin as a one-on-one aide.
  • Hired Anthony Kravanya as a freshman men’s basketball coach.
  • Appointed Melissa Heigert as a volunteer assistant high school softball coach.

In other action, the board gave routine approval to a list of policies provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. 

Supt. Owsley also provided a brief update on the progress being made on safety projects expected to be completed before the start of the school year, including installation of a new intercom system, a card-reader entry system and shatter-proof protective film on exterior windows.

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Gillespie Library, United Community Bank to host Fraud and Scam Prevention seminar on July 22

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Gillespie Public Library (Photo by Gillespie Public Library)

Friends of the Gillespie Public Library and United Community Bank are hosting a joint “Fraud and Scam Prevention” seminar at on Monday, July 22 starting at 6 p.m. at the Gillespie Public Library.

The seminar will focus on today’s common scams and frauds, which includes imposter and check scams, money mule fraud and those that target seniors. Presenters will be Jenni Alepra of Gillespie UCB and Kennen Bertolis of Carlinville UCB.

The seminar is open to the public and is free of charge. For additional questions, call the Gillespie Public Library at 217-839-3614.

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