PARCC Test Results Revealed

College & Career Are Goals

By Mike Brothers

Sullivan District 300 school board members learned high school and elementary school student assessment testing results were good, but some work needs to been done in the middle school.

School psychologist Jessica L. Reeder presented Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) testing results December 14.

Reeder noted this was the first year for PARCC testing for grades 3-8 in English, language arts and mathematics. Juniors at Sullivan High School were tested in English III and Algebra II.

Reeder explained the scoring gap between high school and elementary may be partly explained by the recent curricula changes. “Teaching Common Core is raising the bar of expectations,” she said, noting students achieving past curricula expectation levels are now having to advance.

Superintendent Brad Tuttle noted the staff and students put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears on the PARCC tests, which require up to three weeks at the elementary level and one day at the high school level.

Tuttle did explain that funding for the testing has yet to be determined. The state paid testing expenses in the past, but since there is no state budget, those questions remain.

“I like that we are teaching kids to think outside the box,” Reeder said of Common Core, noting tests are requiring students to think critically, solve problems and explain their answers.

She explained that kind of thinking is essential when preparing students for college and careers.

Scoring was separated into five levels and a point system ranging from 650 to 850. Students achieving levels four and five (scoring 750-850) were at the top of the scale of college and career ready candidates. Read More

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Moultrie Food Drive Reflects on a Caring Community

Photo by Mike Brothers Final Food Pantry delivery was made by Hydro Gear to CEFS- Pictured from L to R:  Kristy Dawson, CEFS; Kelly Brown, HG Material Handler; Chris Zerrusen, HG Safety Team Leader; Ron Harshman, Chairman of the Board of all Agri Fab Holdings.

Photo by Mike Brothers
Final Food Pantry delivery was made by Hydro Gear to CEFS- Pictured from L to R:  Kristy Dawson, CEFS; Kelly Brown, HG Material Handler; Chris Zerrusen, HG Safety Team Leader; Ron Harshman, Chairman of the Board of all Agri Fab Holdings.

•December 16, 2015•

The final Moultrie County Food pantry delivery from Hydro-Gear’s annual drive was made Wednesday, December 9.

Hydro Gear employees not only responded with food donations, but generated substantial cash donations to help the food pantry.

According to Hydro Gear Communications specialist Kathleen Blievernicht, employee collections totaled 1640 pounds of food for 2015.

Hydro Gear’s participation includes contributions from some 800 employees.

Blievernicht explained Hydro-Gear employees rallied to support the Moultrie County Food Pantry while having fun with an NFL theme in 2015.

Employees were players on eight NFL teams. Teams then were scheduled to play each other. Points were given to food items in most need and donations accepted were counted each week.  Read More

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Yost Gets Evaluation

•December 9, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

A motion to allow Michael Yost an evaluation to see whether he is fit for trial was granted by Judge Dan L. Flannell in Moultrie County court Monday.

Yost, 41, is accused of the March 4 murder of Sheri L Randall in Sullivan.

He was represented in court by public defender Bradford Rau, who presented the motion.

“Our expert exam for fitness focuses on medical issues that could make Mr. Yost unfit for trial,” Rau told Judge Flannell.

State’s Attorney Jeremy Richey explained that he felt there was no reason to doubt Yost’s fitness for trial, but it was the public defender’s right to make the request.

Richey did emphasize the defendant’s right to a speedy trail within 120 days would not be met with the additional time required for an exam. Read More

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Animal Control is Under Control

•December 9, 2015•

By Stu D. Baker
For the News Progress

Moultrie County’s updated  Animal Control Ordinance will allow easier enforcement of violations.

State’s Attorney Jeremy Richey presented the changes to the Public Health and Safety committee last week explaining the changes clarify what procedures the sheriff’s department must follow to issue citations.

Sheriff Chris Sims explained that most of the calls of this nature involve neighbor disputes over dogs running at large. Citation violations still carry a $75 fine to the dog owner.

Animals running at large is an issue that has improved over the past few years with animal control director Rick Matthews pointing out that from 2008 through 2013 the animal shelter population was around 136-137 every year.

By 2014 the annual processing number for both dogs and cats at Moultrie County Animal Control dropped to 92, and Matthews said this year 59 is a new low for the annual population.

Matthews explained that Moultrie Animal Control polices stray and animals running at large in the rural areas of the county.

Lovington has an animal control officer for the village with Dalton City and Bethany using the police department to bring strays to the county shelter. Read More

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Moultrie County Boosts NJLB Contribution

Jobs Program Grows

•December 9, 2015•

by Mike Brothers

Moultrie County’s board is putting money on the success of No Job Left Behind.

Members of the county board budget and finance committee voted to recommend increasing the contribution to Sullivan Chamber & Economic Development from $5000 to $7500.

County board chairman Dave McCabe recommended the increase explaining No Job Left Behind has grown expanding into Okaw Valley schools to make it a countywide program.

“The money we invest is earmarked for No Job Left Behind,” Chairman McCabe told the committee, who voted unanimously to recommend the increase in the budget for Economic Development to the full county board.

“I’m very grateful Moultrie County is investing in the No Job Left Behind initiative,” Sullivan Chamber and Economic Development Director Stepheny McMahon said.

Over 150 businesses, educators,community members and workforce development professionals are working together to address the growing shortage of skilled workers in east central Illinois.

“We just completed our 2016 Skills Gap Survey,” McMahon said of the continued progress. Read More

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Okaw Valley Teaches Drone Technology

Photos by Mike Brothers With the Drone in the foreground the class learns how to maneuver. Pictured from left: Eric Mercer, Olivia Buxton, Conner Sheehan, Ethan Macklin, Kam Roley, Kyle Burford, T.J. Williams, Jackson Masters, Wesley Wise, ag instructor.

Photos by Mike Brothers
With the Drone in the foreground the class learns how to maneuver. Pictured from left: Eric Mercer, Olivia Buxton, Conner Sheehan, Ethan Macklin, Kam Roley, Kyle Burford, T.J. Williams, Jackson Masters, Wesley Wise, ag instructor.

•December 2, 2015•

By Derek Pope
For the News Progress

Agricultural technology has undeniably come a long way since its humble beginnings, perhaps more so in recent decades than at any other time in its history.

But this year could mark the advent of one particular technological wonder in agriculture that, before now, hadn’t quite taken off—the drone. With Moultrie County being the seat of some of the best farming in Illinois, it only seems appropriate that Okaw Valley High School’s ag department is poised to make the most of this emerging commercial technology.

Thanks to a grant from the Eastern Illinois Education for Employment System earlier this year, Okaw Valley was given funds to purchase a commercial style drone for the purpose of vocational training in its agriculture classes.

The school’s erg instructor Wes Wise said of the purchase, “Without question we are making advancements in the OV erg department that are going to put our students at the forefront of employment.”

The drone, which retails for roughly $2,000, will allow students to take aerial video and photography of local area farm fields to look for “water, insect, and disease damage” in unprecedented ways.

According to Wise, recent research has indicated that drone technology can increase crop yield by as much as 10% by recognizing these issues before they become a problem for farmers.  Read More

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One Book, One Sullivan Unveils Community Read

Book one Sullivan•December 2, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

Sullivan Middle School students greeted the One Book, One Sullivan novel unveiling with a standing ovation Nov 25.

Michael Vey-The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans was announced to the schoolwide assembly following a trailer prepared by the One Book One Sullivan group for the second year in a row.

One Book One Sullivan volunteers then handed out copies of the book to students with the following instructions: Read it. Enjoy it. Talk about it. Share it.

Rikki Ray teaches Language Arts and has spent the past nine years as coordinator of the volunteer community/school based book selection group.

“Students who volunteer have to commit to reading a book a week during the summer,” Ray said of the yearlong One Book, One Sullivan program.

More than 20 kids have volunteered from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Ray explained that the students and staff read and discuss selections from the Rebecca Caudill list.

“We meet once a week to discuss the selections in order to determine what will best appeal to the community,” she continued, explaining everything from story content to the book cover is considered before a recommendation is made.

This year’s selection won by only one vote to not only indicate the competition among books but to help students understand the meaning of democracy. Read More

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A Good Night for Camping and Reading

 Photo by Mike Brothers Librarian Leah Fleming reads Pigeon Needs a Bath to “campers” during Family Reading Night at Sullivan Elementary School November 19. The Secretary of State Family Reading Night Camping theme was complete with tent and stories around the campfire.

Photo by Mike Brothers
Librarian Leah Fleming reads Pigeon Needs a Bath to “campers” during Family Reading Night at Sullivan Elementary School November 19. The Secretary of State Family Reading Night Camping theme was complete with tent and stories around the campfire.

at Sullivan Elementary School

•November 25, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

Family Reading Night became a camping adventure at Sullivan Elementary School on November 19.

With around 200 parents and students roaming from one indoor campsite to another from 6-7p.m. the Illinois Secretary of State sponsored event got families involved.

School librarian Leah Fleming coordinated the annual family reading night with the help of teachers who volunteered time as readers for the event.

“This is a way to encourage families to get out together,” Fleming said of the statewide initiative.

“It’s a fun night with the family reading together instead of spending it in front of TV or an iPad.”

Coordinating an event shuttling 200 people to eight different locations is a task that requires a bit of preliminary work. Read More

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ALAH School Board Deals with Uncertain Funding

4.97% Levy Increase Ahead

•November 25, 2015•

By Ariana Cherry
for the News Progress

The checkbook currently has $7,169, 575.50, and all funds are in the black,” stated superintendent Ken Schwengel at the most recent Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond School Board meeting. “The state aid payments are scheduled through December 20, but after the first of the year, I am not sure what will happen,” he stated. “We’ve received 90% of the property taxes and have not received any incentive funding yet,” he added.

The board also discussed and approved a tentative 2015 tax levy for property taxes paid in 2016. The levy is set at a 4.97% increase in property taxes. There won’t be a Truth in Taxation hearing since the increase is less than 5%. The levy was calculated from the estimated 3% increase in the district’s assessed value. In 2014 it was $193,270,479 and in 2015 it increased to $199,068,593. The tax rate for Arthur and Lovington will be $3.56 per $100 assessed value and those in the Atwood-Hammond area will be $4.62 per $100. The board will vote on the final tax levy at their December 9 meeting.

Other matters that were discussed or voted upon:

-The district received $3,700- their first check from Piatt County sales tax. Read More

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Veterans Honored at Sullivan Schools

Photo by Mike Brothers Careers student Brad Kay introduces WWII veteran Myron Haney.

Photo by Mike Brothers
Careers student Brad Kay introduces WWII veteran Myron Haney.

•November 18, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

Veterans Day observations filled Sullivan schools on Nov. 11 with a musical tribute to attending veterans at the elementary school followed by the high school program featuring veteran speakers.

Coordinated by the careers class at Sullivan High School who were emcees of the event, the high school program began as a middle-high school assembly  at 10:30 a.m. in the gym.

The American Legion Post 68 Color Guard presented the flag with Sullivan High School band performing the Star Spangled Banner to open the assembly.

World War II Veteran Myron Haney opened recalling his service in Europe with the 9th Army at the end of the war.

Haney served in Europe, was discharged and called up again during the Korean Conflict when he returned to Europe as part of the U.S. occupying force.

Haney had left high school during his junior year to join the Army and received his diploma along with his oldest grandson in 2003.

Brandi Binder is a 1996 Sullivan graduate and veteran of two National Guard tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.  She received her bachelors in psychology from EIU in 2014 and is currently pursuing a masters in social work at the U of I. She is currently working on forming a non-profit organization called Harbored Veterans.

Binder recalled her road to gain respect from cadets as a sergeant in the Guard. Read More

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