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Twenty Gillespie grads receive Partnership scholarship



FRONT ROW (left to right): Rosie Emmenderfer, Partnership Secretary;
Megan Rife, Regan Bussman, Adalyn Drewel, Ken Tebbe, Partnership
Director; SECOND ROW: Shelbee Geisler, Ava Ronald, Joie Cox, Addie Hayes; THIRD ROW: Hailey Handy-Rhodes, Macy Fosnock, Darci Wolber, Jenna Clark, FOURTH ROW: Lukas Trumpy, John Luke Herron, Kamryn Link, Reese Bussman, Jaiden Johnson
NOT PICTURED: Partnership Scholars Emily Schoen and Owen Turcol.
Also Boehmke Music Award recipients Moon Schuette (Band) and Kadence
Schmitt (chorus).

The Partnership for Educational Excellence of Community Unit School District 7 (CUSD7) in Macoupin County crowned its 30th-anniversary celebration, which straddled two school years, with two remarkable milestones:

  • more than 500 GHS graduates have now received Partnership scholarships. In fact, the Class of 2023 winners bring the grand total to 515 students.
  • more than $1 million donor dollars – through scholarships as well classroom grants – have now been invested by The Partnership in the students of CUSD7.

“We are a bit stunned and extremely humbled to have achieved these numbers,” says Nancy Grandone, who founded The Partnership in 1992. Nancy, who has served continuously as an officer or director, remarks: “I had no idea we could achieve this when I brought my graduate school research on education foundations to friends and neighbors 30 years ago!”

Remarkably every penny of the nearly $350,000 in scholarships that The Partnership has been privileged to award has come from local people and businesses, alums and foundations.

The Partnership has also awarded more than $660,000 in classroom grants for curriculum enhancement in every grade in every CUSD7 school.

“The biggest thank you goes to all the donors who have trusted us over and over again with their hard-earned dollars,” says John Fassero, Jr., current president. He as well as Nancy and Donna Prevedell, vice president, were involved from the first day and have served continuously for 30 years. “We still stand by our motto: ‘Only on the foundation of education can our children build useful lives and a stable society.’”

Class rank, GPA, and need are NOT considered by The Partnership. “We are proud to recognize and assist students from every quarter of each class to pursue their chosen careers,” says Prevedell. “They earn our recognition and modest financial support for their initiative, character, responsibility, and hard work in school activities, community service, and academics.”

In addition, The Partnership is honored to present two annual music awards on behalf of the estate of Evaline Boehmke. Gifts of $100 are given to two students chosen by GHS music faculty for excellence in band and chorus.


Today James William Behrens, retired senior technical advisor for the U.S. Navy to the Pentagon, initiates this scholarship to honor his family which has contributed to Gillespie since 1869. Henry H. Behrens and wife Wilhelmina raised eight children, including George William Behrens Sr. and his son George William Jr., who later operated Behrens Drug Store in Bunker Hill.


Adylin Drewel, daughter of Elizabeth Drewel of Gillespie, will attend Bradley University in Peoria, IL to study chemical engineering.


“We are grateful to the people of this area who have supported my medical practice,” said Dr. Billiter, who retired after nearly 50 years as a general surgeon at St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield. “This gift acknowledges our appreciation and an investment in the future of our area.”

Owen Turcol, son of Angela and Robert Sandretto of Gillespie, will attend Wingate University in Charlotte, NC. His major will be in the health field.


Family and friends endowed the award in memory of this Benld native who was a respected educator and counselor. The daughter of Rose Enrico, she established a consulting business to help students pursue their goals through higher education.

Macy Fosnock, daughter of Cindy Fosnock of Benld and the late Patrick Fosnock, will attend Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville to study pharmacy.



An outpouring of memorials for this talented farmer, painter, horse breeder, horticulturist, and musician led to this award. Song writing and performing with his band Southern Blend were backdrops to his first career as a farmer and second as an artist. Self-taught, he depicted small family farm life, a disappearing culture of the rural Midwest.

Shelbee Geisler, daughter of Terry and Stephanie Geisler of Gillespie, will attend Illinois State University in Normal, to study nursing. Shelbee was awarded a Gold Key National title for her art. In 2019, Shelbee drew the winning ticket for The Partnership’s raffle.


Morrie was an art and science teacher in CUSD7 for 40 years. He loved teaching the concept that “art is a thinking process”. His own art was devoted to animal illustrations and taxidermy. An avid fisherman and big game hunter, he operated Giaudrone’s Animal Artist Studio which showcased more than 200 taxidermy mounts from six continents. Also showcased were his many tales of exciting and harrowing wilderness and hunting adventures.

John Luke Herron, son of Mary Kirk Schuette of Benld and Jarrod Herron of Benld, will attend Bradley University in Peoria IL to study game design.


The Griffel family farm began in 1856 when they purchased ground in Brushy Mound Township north of Gillespie. To date seven generations of Griffels have continuously owned and operated that farm. “God needed a caretaker, so he made a farmer,” as the saying goes. The family honors God and their ancestors with a scholarship for a student pursing a career in agriculture.

Darci Wolber, daughter of DuWayne and Abby Wolber of rural Litchfield, will attend Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield to study agribusiness.



Billy and Diana Hayes established this scholarship in 2021 to support GHS graduates interested in medicine. Diana’s career as a nurse taught them the field’s potential to enhance self and community.

Joie Cox, daughter of Paula Cox and James Cox of Gillespie, will attend Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey to study sonography.


Gerald and Sandi Brand’s foundation, in memory of their daughter Heidi, assists those interested in helping young people with special needs achieve full potential. H.E.I.D.I. stands for Helping Every Individual Develop Independence.

Jaiden Johnson, son of Stevi and Jeremy Johnson of Gillespie, will attend McKendree University in Lebanon IL to study nursing. He hopes to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.


John, mayor of Gillespie and a local businessman, and Mary, an active volunteer, offer this award in memory of his parents, Lloyd and Betty Hicks. It is given in support of a student pursuing a career in the trades.


Reese Bussman, son of Ryan and Melissa Bussman of Gillespie, will attend Southwest Illinois College in Granite City to study industrial electricity.


Married for 48 years, Joe, a hardworking grain and livestock farmer, and Eileen, a nurse, were dedicated to their four children. Today Mary Sievers, Joe Libbra, Trish Elking, and Carol Kramer, maintain this scholarship to honor their parents and give back to their community.

Hailey Handy-Rhodes, daughter of Jamie Rhodes of Wilsonville, will attend Chamberlain College in St. Louis to study nursing.


Gary is remembered by friends and his wife Patricia as an outdoorsman, particularly as a charter member and officer in the Macoupin County Field Trials Club. At GHS Gary played several sports; his 100-yard dash record still stands. He served in the U.S. Army during the Cuban missile crisis and later worked for Olin Corp.

Megan Rife, daughter of William and Deanna Rife of Gillespie, will attend the University of Missouri at Colulmbia, to study nursing. She hopes to specialize in pediatrics.



Denis and Margaret Bee McGrady are honored by their nine children: Denis, Jr.; Connie Page; Mikey McPheters; Doug; Charlie; Barb Mathenia; Margaret Enlow; Murray; and Brian. Denis graduated from the University of Illinois Commerce and Law programs, returned to Gillespie and practiced law for almost 50 years.

Both were known for their love of flower gardening, landscaping, and hospitality. Margaret, who passed in January at age 98, was also a talented musician, seamstress, and interior designer.

Emily Schoen, daughter of Brandi and Glen Schoen of Benld, will attend Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey to study nursing.


The Partnership offers this scholarship in memory of a founding member. Richard played a key role by writing the bylaws that shaped our mission. A native of Massachusetts and later resident of Florida, he married Angie Raynor of Gillespie in 1974 and moved to Gillespie. Their sons Colin and Andrew are remembered in our community.

Richard’s many accomplishments include designing and building their passive solar home in the 1980s, earning an MBA, teaching in community colleges, and acting as a small business consultant for SIUE. The family moved to Monticello when Richard became director of UIUC’s Small Business Development Center. He later obtained a Masters in library science at UIUC. Home improvement projects and genealogy were his most consistent avocations.

Ava Ronald, daughter of Tracy Hostettler of Gillespie and Jay Ronald, will attend Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville to study psychology.



Sam was a talented athlete and teacher whose lifelong dedication to sports and education shaped his career. He was a CUSD 7 baseball coach for 30 years, and also coached basketball and football. “Sam would be pleased. This scholarship is a way of ‘paying it forward,’ in his memory,” says his widow, Suzanne.

Kamryn Link, son of Mark and Angie Link of Gillespie, will attend Johnson Community College in Overland, Kansas, to play baseball and study physical therapy.


The union represents coal miners, health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing employees and public employees in our communities. UMWA 1613 fights for safe workplaces, good wages and benefits, and fair representation in workplaces.

Addie Hayes, daughter of Michael and Kara Hayes of Gillespie, will attend Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey to study elementary education.


This 1994 GHS graduate lost his life in a tragic accident. Michael had earned an associates degree at Lewis and Clark Community College and was continuing his education at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

Regan Bussman, daughter of Ryan and Melissa Bussman of Gillespie, will attend Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey to study criminal justice.



This award was established by family to recognize the dedication and years of service to CUSD7 by Mike and 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.

Jenna Clark, daughter of Michael and Donette Clark of Gillespie, will attend Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau to study elementary education.


The Partnership is pleased to offer a scholarship for a child or grandchild of a U.S. military veteran and/or a student who has committed to ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) in college. This scholarship is the result of a generous gift from the now disbanded Gillespie VFW Post 4547.

Lukas Trumpy, son of Toni and James Trumpy, will attend Drury University in Springfield MO, to study pre-med/radiology. His grandfather Robert Trumpy was a POW in Europe during World War II after serving in the U.S. Army Air Force 461st Bomb Group.


Evaline Boehmke, was an ardent supporter of music. She left a bequest for $100 cash awards for students to be selected by the music faculty of GHS for outstanding musicianship in band and chorus.


This year the Band winner is Moon Schuette, and the Chorus winner is Kadence Schmidt.

The Partnership for Educational Excellence is an IRS-chartered 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational foundation. It also awards classroom grants to enhance curriculum. To donate or learn more, contact us at: or P.O. Box 125, Gillespie IL 62033.

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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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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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