District 203 property tax rate to decrease next year

O’FALLON – At the O’Fallon District 203 meeting, superintendent Dr. Darcy Benway announced that the tax rate of the district will reduce. 

“We did receive an EAV from St. Clair County and our tax rate as a school district is scheduled to go down almost three and a half cents,” Benway said. “So the EAV is increasing, which will allow us to support the additional students coming into our district.”

Benway said no action needs to be taken because the tax levy – which was previously approved, will not be changed.

“It doesn’t mean peoples tax rates necessarily go down because it depends on the value of your home, it depends on all of the other taxing bodies and other things,” she said. “Our rate and portion of that as its charged against your assessed evaluation as tax payers is reduced.”

Benway said the taxable EAV figure is $969,443,656. 

During her report, OTHS Assistant Superintendent Dr. Martha Weld said the Feed the Future program, which started in January, has culminated in 186 lunch bags being given out to 62 different students. 

By grade level, 18 percent is given to freshman, 32 percent to sophomores, 27 percent to juniors and 23 percent to seniors. 

“There really isn’t a significant difference between grade level,” Weld said. 

Weld said 18 percent of students utilizing the program are not on Free and Reduced lunches. 

“Social workers have established relationships with them so that has been a real positive for us,” Weld said. 

There has been approximately $800 spent in the program. Funds are supported fully by OTHS staff and community donations. 

“We are trying to make students more aware of it, we are giving a flyer to every student — not just those who technically qualify because that would be stigmatizing.”

“We have expanded pick up locations to the nurses office and to our speech pathologist as well,” Weld said.

In other action… 

• District 203 board members approved an intergovernmental agreement with the City of O’Fallon regarding the MidAmerica St. Clair County Enterprise Zone. 

• The Board approved the Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of O’Fallon and O’Fallon Community School District No. 90 (regarding the MidAmerica St. Clair County Enterprise Zone).

• A motion was approved for the purchase agreement for land adjacent to Milburn School as presented, and to authorize the Superintendent to execute all related documents to effect the purchase of the property, subject to the review of legal counsel.

• A motion was approved for the Agreement Granting Ameren Illinois an Electric Easement

• A motion was approved for the the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Membership Renewal

Local nonprofit Swing Fore Hope raises money for cancer research through 12th annual golf tournament

O’FALLON – Swing Fore Hope, a local organization that raises money for cancer research, is helping local families throughout the O’Fallon community. 

Brett Gilliland, Co-founder and CEO of Visionary Wealth Advisors in O’Fallon, and his wife Julie Gilliland created Swing Fore Hope in 2007. In 2003, Julie’s maternal grandmother, mom and two aunts were diagnosed with breast cancer within a seven month period. Julie and Brett felt compelled to do something. 

“They were faced with that one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer over the course of their lifetime,” Kate Sollberger, Chief Operating Officer of Visionary Wealth Advisors and supporter of Swing Fore Hope said. Sollberger became involved with the organization after she started working with Brett in 2007.

Brett and Julie soon decided to raise money for cancer research and started the 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Swing Fore Hope. 

According to Sollberger, the main fundraising event for the nonprofit is a golf tournament held at Far Oaks in Caseyville. Additional fundraising efforts are done throughout the year with a lip sync battle and a live performance at an event called Rock Fore Hope. 

“Each year, 100 percent of the proceeds go toward cancer research and to support local families facing financial hardships that this disease may bring.” Sollberger said.

Local families have been assisted through mortgage payments, medical bills, transportation costs, therapeutic chairs, monthly expenses and many other miscellaneous needs.

Since its creation in 2007, Swing Fore Hope has raised and donated over $500,000 to The Siteman Cancer Center and local families. 

“2019 is sure to be our biggest year yet,” Sollberger said. “We held our Rock Fore Hope and Lip Sync Battle in January 2019 and are planning for our twelfth golf tournament on Monday, June 24 at Far Oaks in Caseyville, Illinois.”

For more information, to donate or volunteer, go to SwingForeHope.org.

Shiloh District 85 to get nonprofit foundation board, amends 2019 school schedule

SHILOH – At the Shiloh District 85 meeting on Monday, board member Ken Davis announced that Shiloh Village School is now a fully functioning nonprofit foundation. 

“I’ve been working on this foundation since August of last year,” Davis said. “I finally submitted paperwork to the IRS.” 

While the status of the paperwork was disrupted by the recent government shutdown according to Davis, he made a phone call on the morning of March 18 and the school’s paperwork was approved. 

“They will be getting the notice out to us within the next two weeks,” he said. “We have been approved by the state of Illinois as a full blown charity. We have been approved at every level.” 

Davis said there are already many volunteers wanting to sit on the foundation board and put together an organizational meeting. 

“As soon as we can get that done we are ready to go,” Davis said. “We will start doing some work for kids and filling the gaps to raise money to augment what the district provides.” 

“It’s an opportunity for us to really get some great things done for the kids in our district,” he said. “We will be calling on the union and teachers to be a part of this. Everybody should be at the table participating in this — it’s been a while coming.” 

Shiloh Elementary School principal Tiana Montgomery said the recent book fair at the school raised funds of $4,714. 

“This book fair put approximately 945 books into the hands of students including approximately 170,100 volunteer reading minutes for the kids,” Montgomery said. “Not only are we trying to get extra funding for our library — book fairs promote reading.” 

Scholastic dollars earned from the book fair were approximately $3,580. Shiloh teachers will be able to utilize these funds. 

According to Montgomery, kindergarten information night will take place on Thursday, April 4, in the Shiloh Elementary School cafeteria. 

The night is open to all parents who have children that will be five years old before September 1, 2019. Parents will have the opportunity to meet with teachers, tour the building including the kindergarten classrooms, set up your child’s screening appointment for April 23, 2019 and learn various information about the district’s kindergarten program. Parents will also be asked to fill out pre-registration forms for the 2019-20 school year. 

Developmental screenings for kindergarten will take place April 23 and April 24 in the Shiloh Elementary library and screening for preschool aged children will take place on Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26 in Klucker Hall in Shiloh. 

Children will be screened for vision, motor coordination, hearing, speech, concept formation and language. Parents can make appointments for their children beginning April 1. To schedule, contact the elementary school office at 618-632-7434. 

In other action at the Monday meeting, superintendent Dale Sauer discussed an issue with the 2019 calendar. 

Sauer said the four local school districts originally agreed to take off Wednesday before Easter (April 17) rather than Easter Monday (April 22) due to a “one time oddity” that has to do with the timing of SAT testing at O’Fallon Township High School.

State testing for OTHS will take place on Tuesday, April 23. “That means kids go back on Easter Monday and come back to take the test, which is very difficult for them to get logistics done,” Sauer said. 

“They asked all the districts if we would take off Easter Wednesday with them and go to school Easter Monday,” he said. “Originally, all four districts were supportive of that.”

“In talking with our union, they very much understand the issue with the high school and are supportive of that but still would like us to take Easter Monday off in stead of Wednesday,” Sauer said.

Sauer said Central 104 has already approved to be off on Wednesday and not Monday, whereas District 90 has approved to be off Monday and not Wednesday. 

“As far as logistics, it really doesn’t hurt us one way or another. We tried to do something in alignment with those schools but we have a staff who even though are sympathetic would like to still consider taking Easter Monday off.”

The board chose to approve the 2019 calendar to go to school on Wednesday, April 17 and have off Monday, April 22. 

The board approved the Shiloh Middle School Graduation Date of Thursday, May 23, 2019.

Shiloh trustees discuss status of commercial development

Dennis Maher, director of sales for Fort Worth, Texas- based Buxton Co., spoke to trustees about the status of economic and commercial development in the Village.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

SHILOH – At the Shiloh Committee at Large meeting, Dennis Maher, director of sales for Fort Worth, Texas- based Buxton Co., spoke to trustees about the status of economic and commercial development in the Village. 

The Village of Shiloh entered into an approximate $50,000 per year contractual agreement with Buxton in June of 2018. While Buxton is known as one of the largest aggregators of consumer analytics in the nation, trustees expressed frustration at the March 25 meeting that the company has not done enough to meet the needs for the community. 

Maher said since Buxton has begun representing Shiloh, they have performed analysis identifying which retailers would be willing to locate within the market and have made the “initial outreach to those retailers.” 

Maher spoke of the importance of trying to touch base with potential retailers on a weekly basis. “Just to be that squeaky wheel and get in front of them to try and engage in those conversations.” 

“I think implementation wise and outreach, we can definitely strengthen on,” Maher said. “We will do that together, whether it’s looking for additional contacts, new contacts — but creating a better system in that outreach.” 

“I think overall with the evaluation we have done is great,” he said. “Retail recruitment overall takes time, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. On our end, we would ask for patience.” 

Maher said representatives from Buxton are communicating with Village administrator John Marquart bi-weekly. 

When asked by trustee Colleen Powers if the Village has heard feedback from Costco, Marquart said they have not heard whether the business would be willing to locate in Shiloh. 

Trustee Mark Herrmann brought up the discussion of the retail market and what its status will be 10 to 15 years down the line. 

“Are we going to be buying stuff from Amazon?” Herrmann asked the board. “Are these stores going to want to put up more brick and mortars?”

Herrmann said the Village may need to get ahead of the curve and see what would still be here in 10 years. 

“When we’re looking at retail, we are looking at healthy retail,” Maher said. “We are looking at the experience you cannot get online.” 

Maher said healthy retail could look like sit- down farm to table dining concepts or a trampoline park. “We will always have to go buy goods and services from somewhere.” 

Trustee Greg O’Neil said in the last nine months of the contract agreement with Buxton, himself and other trustees have not been updated on the status of incoming commercial development. 

“In this whole process we have been doing this, nine months, unless I missed something — I’ve never been updated that these guys have done anything for us. Up until now, you don’t even exist to us,” O’Neil said. 

Mayor Jim Vernier said attracting retailers right now in the current climate “is very difficult.” He said he understands if retailers aren’t responding to Buxton, but the Village needs more transparency on what is being done in the process to attract businesses. 

“$50,000 a year is a lot of money,” Vernier said.  

Maher expressed to the board of trustees that increased correspondence will take place and that analytics and informational reports will be shared on the process of attracting commercial developments. 

With the incoming informational report from Buxton, trustees will continue discussion of the partnership at the next meeting board meeting on April 1. The board will take action on the Buxton Company contract renewal at the May 6 board meeting.

Vernier then discussed with the board the status of 3429 Langford Drive home in the Ashford Farms subdivision. 

The home, visible from Green Mount Road, caught fire and burned in May of 2018, according to Vernier. 

Vernier said a fire investigation is currently in federal court and the owner of the house is also seeking approval to have it fixed or demolished. 

“Neighbors have been looking at it for a year,” Vernier said. “I don’t like driving by it and looking at it on Green Mount Road. Those people all have very beautiful homes and they pay a lot of taxes for them. They shouldn’t have to look at it.”

“I understand it is in court and the homeowner is trying to do what he can. That doesn’t do the neighbors any justice,” he said. “This could be in court for years.”

Vernier said the Village of Shiloh has condemnation rights — he then asked the board to authorize the Village attorney, Terry Bruckert, to authorize the condemnation of the property. 

“I think we pursue it and seek recovery of costs from either the owner or bank that financed it,” he said. “We are showing the neighbors that we are concerned about it.”

“Once we serve the copy of the condemnation, he has 30 days to respond.” The motion passed with trustees authorizing Bruckert to pursue condemnation of 3429 Langford Drive. 

Trustees then authorized the Village to enter into a partnership with Scott Air Force Base to work together to develop the Lower Silver Creek Watershed Plan. 

The plan is not mandatory, but to encourage voluntary improvements to improve water quality, implement stormwater management practices and work collectively to achieve the goals of the plan. It’s overall goal is commitment to promote a healthy environment within the community. 

“Just to be good neighbors is a reason for us to approve of it,” Vernier said. The motion passed. 

Shiloh school board recognizes racial harmony recipient, young author award winners

Elementary school principal Tiana Montgomery
recognized Ann Merritt as the racial harmony award recipient
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

SHILOH – Shiloh principals recognized students for their merits at a District 85 meeting on Monday, March 18. 

Elementary school principal Tiana Montgomery recognized Ann Merritt as the racial harmony award recipient at the meeting. 

“I was very impressed not just with Ann and the student from the middle school, but all the students around St. Clair County that were recognized for this award,” Montgomery said. 

Montgomery then read a letter from Merritt’s second grade teacher Amanda Cockrell. 

“Ann always has a smile on her face and is happy to work with anyone in her classroom community. She often looks for those who may be left out and chooses to sit by them and ask them to be partners so they don’t have to work alone,” Cockrell wrote. 

Cockrell said Merritt is incredibly kind and considerate toward her peers and school staff and that she is a true example of a Shiloh Wildcat and always exhibits positive character by being responsible, respectful and kind. 

“She is a model student and we are proud of Ann and all of her achievements,” Cockrell wrote. 

Fourth grader Kallee Kern was honored as a young author winner for her book “Lilly’s Search for the Perfect Pet”
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

SMS principal Darin Loepker then recognized the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education Young Author award winners. The young authors included fourth grader Kallee Kern, seventh grader McKenzie Ballinger and eighth grader Bella Durbin. Ballinger was not present at Monday’s meeting. 

Loepker said Kern is a “bright light” at Shiloh Middle School. 

“She’s not only really good in academics, she’s very socially accepted,” Loepker said. “She does a very good job in and around the classroom.” 

Eighth grader Bella Durbin was honored as a young author winner for her book “The Lost Avenger”
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

“Bella is one of our shining students,” Loepker said about eighth grader Bella Durbin. “She is intelligent and always even keeled.” 

“She’s a person that we can count on really to carry the torch when it comes to academics in our building,” he said. “She works hard and is a model student in the classroom.” 

Kern’s story is titled, “Lilly’s Search for the Perfect Pet,” and Durbin’s book is, “The Lost Avenger.” 

The Young Authors Conference will be held Saturday, April 6, at Westhaven Elementary School in Belleville. 

O’Fallon area Special Olympian takes home gold in Dubai World Games

O’FALLON – Competing on a world stage might have been unthinkable just a few short years ago for an O’Fallon young woman who recently brought home several medals in gymnastics at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, Dubai. 

OTHS student Saneatha Trice won a gold medal in vault, a bronze medal in uneven bars, floor and all around, and fourth in balance beam at the Special Olympics World Games in Dubai earlier this month. (Submitted Photo)

Saneatha Trice, a student at the O’Fallon Township High School Transition House, said when she first took up gymnastics in eighth grade, she didn’t know if she would like it or not. 

“I was kind of scared and nervous,” Trice said. “My teacher wanted to see if I would try it.”

Tara Edwards, Trice’s mother and director of Parent Teacher Organization for Exceptional Children (PTOEC), said when Trice was at her first gymnastics practice, she surprised many with her abilities on the vault. 

“Coaches still talk about it today how she just walked in and gave them their first heart attack,” Edwards said. 

Before gymnastics, Trice said she was nervous just talking to people. But with a little help from friends she calls her heroes, she has become a fearless competitor.

“They helped me,” Trice said. 

Edwards said her daughter benefits more from just the athletic aspect of the PTOEC program. “Saneatha would never go up to somebody she didn’t know and just talk,” Edwards said. “Now, she talks to everybody.”

After realizing her natural abilities with gymnastics, Trice has taken an interest in other sports as well, such as bowling and basketball.

Among her crowning achievements in her sport of choice are five gold medals in vault, uneven bars, floor, beam and all around earned last summer in Special Olympics USA games in Seattle.

After that competition, she kept the momentum going by hard work, which later earned her a prestigious invitation to the Special Olympics World Games. 

Trice said she was “surprised and shocked” to be competing in Dubai. Her nerves really set in, however, on the plane ride overlooking the ocean. 

In Abu Dhabi, Trice said she enjoyed meeting other USA Special Olympians from all of the competing sports. 

“All they wanted to do was support me and support Team USA,” Trice said.

Her favorite part of the trip, she said, was the food at “host town” and a theme park visit in the desert with other USA competitors. 

The World Games took place from March 14 through March 21 and Trice spent three of those days competing. 

Trice received gold in vault, bronze in uneven bars, floor and all around and fourth in balance beam. She said vault and floor are her favorite events to compete in with beams and bars being less favorite.

“I was just happy my family was there to support me,” Trice said. “I really like my mom coming and watching, I don’t want her to miss anything.” 

Edwards said while Trice has always struggled with the beam, when she competed during preliminaries, it was the best she has ever done in her gymnastics career.

Trice said of her gymnastics coach Jennifer Hitt, “she’s the best coach ever. She’s helped me with a lot.” 

Trice said after the conclusion of the World Games, she was ready to come back home to O’Fallon. She also said she may be done competing for awhile. 

“I think there’s still a lot left to learn,” Edwards said. “She saw a lot of skill at those games that we don’t get to see here on a state level.”

Trice said Special Olympics has helped her with many different aspects of her life. She also said she would tell kids her age to never give up on their dreams and goals. 

“I would tell anyone who is my age, anything you can do — just do it. It’s good for all the kids to know what I’m doing. Don’t give up and try to do the best you can with sports. Pick your favorite sport that you like and want to do.” 

Trice described her Olympic medals as “heavy.” But her famous line that she so often uses — “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

Bob Cryder visits his “House” at Fulton Jr. High

OTHS grad and former NFL player Bob Cryder (center rear) poses with the members of Cryder House at Fulton Jr. High School. (Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – The famous Bob Cryder, an O’Fallon Township High School graduate and former NFL player from the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, stopped by Fulton on Monday, March 11 to meet with the kids of “Cryder House.” 

Cryder House is one of six “houses”, or smaller communities, into which Fulton is divided. Cryder House was named after Bob Cryder because of his O’Fallon roots. 

Fulton assistant principal Alex Herrell said the 2018-19 school year was the first year implementing the “house” philosophy. It’s goal is to positively enhance the social and emotional culture of Fulton Jr. High. 

Eighth grade English teacher Laura Derstine helped get the program on its feet, according to Herrell.

“The “houses” philosophy might remind you of Harry Potter and Gryffindor, and that is not too far off the mark,” Herrell said. “Historically originating from England, “houses” have proven to be a beneficial structure for educational institutions ranging from elementary schools on up to universities.”

“Similar to the houses implemented at the award-winning teaching school, The Ron Clark Academy, students are getting opportunities to build deeper relationships with staff and peers, which can foster positive adolescent development and a sense of belonging, acceptance, and camaraderie with their housemates.”

Coincidentally, Herrell said he had the pleasure of meeting Ron Clark at the recent ASCD Empower Conference in Chicago. He was the keynote speaker. 

“Whether reading his books or watching him in action, he is truly inspiring and his methods have helped lead us in our new initiative this year,” he said. “When I told him what we were doing at Fulton, he was ecstatic to hear we were working on building that same culture in our school.”

On the first day of the school year, Herrell said students took part in a sorting ceremony that determined which of the six houses they would belong to for the remainder of their time as a Fulton Panther. 

Each house is named after a famous or influential person in O’Fallon’s history. Schwarz House represents George Schwarz and his O’Fallon dairy plant. Schmitt House represents Joseph Schmitt, a NASA spacesuit pioneer. Cartier House represents Lionel Cartier who initiated O’Fallon’s park system. Peck House represents John Peck, O’Fallon’s first postmaster. Ogle House represents Joseph Ogle who made O’Fallon’s first modern-day settlement. And of course — Cryder House, which represents Bob Cryder.

“Above all, the unifying element all houses share is that everyone is an Edward A. Fulton Panther.”

Herrell said one of the first activities students did was create a house crest that represented both Edward A. Fulton, who was a former District 90 band director, and also their influential O’Fallon namesake. 

“Most of the kids really seem to be having fun with this new approach to structuring the school culture.”

Throughout the year, Herrell said the students and house teachers have engaged in team building and relationship building activities to promote positive relationships between peers and between peers and staff. 

Each house is divided into smaller “dens” to allow for more intimate conversations and relationship-building. Additionally, the students have engaged in student-led kindness projects to foster positivity among others, both inside and outside of the school.

“From as simple as leaving positive messages on lockers — all the way to leading toy drives for kids with cancer and writing holiday cards to solders overseas,” Herrell said. “Most recently, our school received recognition from the Kind Schools Network for successfully completing their Kindness Challenge in 2019.” 

“We also engage the students in friendly school spirit competitions to earn rewards, such as the massive monthly pancake breakfast and the distinction of proudly displaying the Panther Spirit stick for the month.”

Herrell said that Fulton staff is responsible for teaching students more than just academics. 

“We recognize middle school can sometimes be a complex time for adolescents, so we are always searching for innovative ways to help them navigate through this stage of life and keep believing in themselves.”

“We have been very excited with the positive gains we have seen in our students thus far with the house philosophy and look forward to growing it in the future,” he said. “It is truly helping us provide the nurturing guidance our students need while they are with us.”

To find out more fun things happening at Fulton Jr. High, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Fulton-Junior-High-559025640962922/.

Planning Commission approves veterinary clinic on East Hwy 50

James Bollmeier of Advanced Veterinary Center spoke to the Planning Commission about his proposed veterinary clinic on East Highway 50.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON –At a planning commission meeting on Tuesday, March 12, the commission oversaw an application from James Bollmeier of Advanced Veterinary Center requesting a planned use approval to operate a veterinary clinic and boarding operation in existing buildings off Highway 50. 

The buildings, which are located at 706 and 800 E. Highway 50, is a 3.5 acre site located across from the O’Fallon Township High School football field and has approximately 21,000 square feet of total office space. The site was previously occupied by Memorial Healthcare but has been vacant since January of 2018. 

 Bollmeier requested of the planning commission that the property be rezoned from “B-1” Community Business District to “B-1P” Planned Community Business District. 

The proposed development would utilize the existing buildings to provide veterinary services — including exams, imaging, routine surgeries and overnight boarding. No changes will be made to the interior floor plan. 

The property surrounding the proposed Advanced Veterinary Center is a mixture of non-residential and residential uses, including a school, apartments, retail, and single-family residences.

At the March 12 meeting, residents of Holliday Drive in O’Fallon voiced their concerns about the proposed business and its proximity to their homes. Holliday Drive is a residential street behind the business. 

Patty Sergott of 909 Holliday Drive said she was concerned over the noise of dogs within the two buildings. 

“You need to reassure us,” Sergott said to Bollmeier about the potential noise of his business. “We’re not far. We’re on that street right behind.”

Kelly Steadman, an engineer from Woolpert, Inc., said at the meeting that a sound study was conducted for the buildings. 

Steadman said they recorded the noisiest sound from Bollmeier’s existing Four Paws building at 2006 West Highway 50. 

“We took that sound and recreated it at the same decibel levels that we recorded and put it inside the building and played it,” she said. “What we found when we went out to those property corners was that the sound levels were a little bit lower without it playing.”

“That shows the acoustics of the building were dampening the sounds of the dogs during the day when they were barking. The traffic noises were actually even louder.”

The planning commission recommended the approval of the project with the following conditions:

1. The dedicated dog-walking areas must be fenced with a 6-foot vinyl fence.

2. The animal waste shall be properly disposed, so as to not create a nuisance to surrounding property

owners.

3. Signage will be required to meet the regulations of Article 8 of Chapter 158: Zoning of the Code of

Ordinances, including the removal of the sign on 706 E Highway 50.

4. The parking lot must be restriped, and accessible parking signs brought into compliance with Illinois Accessibility Code requirements.

 The commission removed the recommendation that a six-foot vinyl fence must be provided along the rear of the parking lot.

The commission also approved a recommendation that Bollmeier have another sound study completed in the evening and at 800 E. Highway 50. The sound study conducted previously was only at one of the two buildings, 706 E. Highway 50. 

OTHS asks local veterans to participate in sixth Illinois Veterans Classroom Project

WWII veteran Burnell Petry shares his story with OTHS JROTC students. 
(Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – O’Fallon Township High School is hosting the Illinois Veterans Classroom Project for the sixth consecutive year. 

Kristin Strubhart, OTHS U.S. History Teacher, is currently seeking veterans of foreign wars to interview as part of the project. 

Civilians who participated on the “Home Front” are also welcome to share their experiences, according to Strubhart. 

Vietnam veteran Ron Davinroy, who served as a naval aviator, records his memories.(Submitted Photo)

The main goals of the veterans project are: 

• To provide students the opportunity to do personal interviews and capture Veteran and Home Front experiences organized around an inquiry-based, digital-story telling learning experience.

• To provide students with authentic connections which foster a deeper understanding and knowledge of the overall purpose and sacrifices made by our veterans.

• To digitally preserve the personal stories of veterans and persons who served and sacrificed for our country.  

USAF pilot Sondra Marston talks about her experiences with OTHS students. (Submitted Photo)

Illinois Central Bus Company, OTHS’ school bus company, is sponsoring the Veterans Classroom Project. 

Strubhart said veterans do not need to put together a presentation. She said it will be more of a Q&A session. 

“Past veteran participants have said that it is a very healing experience for them,” Strubhart said. “The project has a profound impact on our students, as well as veterans.” 

As an effort to preserve veterans stories, interviews will be videotaped and submitted to the U.S. Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project at http://www.loc.gov/vets/about.html and to the Illinois Veterans & Community Classroom webpage at http://ilvets.ltc.k12.il.us/ilvets/.

“Veterans will be given the opportunity to view the interview and give approval before any footage is uploaded to the websites,” Strubhart said. “If you are not comfortable with the interview being submitted to the Library of Congress or the Illinois Veterans Project, it will not be submitted. Veterans will receive DVD copies of the interview to keep and share with their family.”

According to Strubhart, veterans will tell their story to a small group of about five students in a small conference room. Veterans will be provided student prepared questions in advance of the interview. 

Strubhart said veterans are encouraged to bring photos and artifacts to share with the students. OTHS JROTC cadets will also be on hand to escort veterans. 

Interview dates are Wednesday, April 17 or Thursday, April 18, and the veterans can select whichever date works best for them. The interviews will take place at OTHS Milburn Campus located at 650 Milburn School Road.

If interested in participating in this project, Strubhart asks that you contact her at strubhartk@oths.us or (618)632-3507 x 536. 

Carriel Garden to join list of vendors at Vine Street Market opening day

Carriel students work in the garden, growing flowers and vegetables. (Submitted photo)

O’FALLON – The Carriel Garden will join the list of vendors for the opening day of Vine Street Market at O’Fallon Station in May. 

O’Fallon Station’s Vine Street Market will feature farm, culinary and artisan products on the second Saturday in May through the third Saturday in October from 8 a.m. to noon. 

Seventh grade science teacher at Carriel, Amanda Mellenthin, said while the Carriel Garden is not a club, “it’s a lot of things.” 

“It started small with worm composting and over time we started adding veggies in and and kind of built up the veggie side,” she said. 

Mellenthin said the Carriel Garden has evolved in large part due to grant money through the district. 

Through funding from the Emerson Gold Star Grant, Carriel gained a greenhouse. In the spring, the garden will receive a new pollinator patch and approximately $1,400 of plants. 

Mellenthin spends time in the garden and the greenhouse with her science students and also the Carriel Eco Team. 

Mellenthin has taught science at Carriel Jr. High ever since it opened 10 years ago. She said the garden was brought to life about a year after she started working. While Mellenthin was instrumental in the garden’s success, she attributes other teachers and classrooms for helping develop and expand it. 

Mellenthin met Horticulturist and Market Coordinator for the City of O’Fallon Sarah Burton through the O’Fallon Garden Club. Burton is instrumental in putting together Vine Street Market. 

“The O’Fallon Garden Club has helped us pull weeds when we have our community work days where we invite anybody that wants to help us keep this thing running,” Mellenthin said. “One of the members said to talk to Sarah.” 

Mellenthin said Burton and the city helped the Carriel Garden by sharing pots for plants, which began a repertoire between the two. 

Burton then asked if Mellenthin wanted to become involved with the Vine Street Market committee. 

“I didn’t know too much about O’Fallon Station and the farmers market until she contacted me and said ‘did you want to get involved,’ she said. “I’m actually on their committee to help decide who’s going to be (in Vine Street Market).” 

“She knew I was into the gardening scene and wanted to get another perspective,” Mellenthin said. “They try to get different viewpoints to make sure that it’s set up for everyone involved there.”

Mellenthin said selling the Carriel Garden plants was never what she had in mind. In previous years, after planting seeds in the garden with her students, they would give them away to Laverna Evans and Moye Elementary. 

“Now — the second spring with the green house, we just decided they looked pretty good last year so I thought we could handle selling them at the market.” 

Mellenthin said her seventh grade science students are currently working on a project to prepare for the farmers market. 

“For whatever we sell, the kids are making flyers to go with them to say what plant it is and how you grow it,” she said. “They have to do research on it.” 

Mellenthin said that her Eco Team students began planting seeds last week to prepare for the market. 

While her students will be involved in Vine Street Market, Mellenthin said she hasn’t figured out who will participate as she has around 200 students. 

The Carriel Garden program will be at the inaugural open of Vine Street Market on Saturday, May 11. 

“We didn’t make plans to do anything beyond the first day,” Mellenthin said. 

“I’m thinking it’s going to go pretty well,” she said. “The kids are excited about the opportunity to participate in it.” 

Mellenthin said the Carriel Garden allows an opportunity for her students to get outside and be involved with the ecosystem. 

The Carriel Garden will be bringing native pollinator starter plants like Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed and Purple Coneflower along with basics such as basil and marigolds. Proceeds from their sales will go toward supporting the garden program. 

To stay up to date with what’s going on with the Carriel Garden, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CarrielGarden/

To find out more information about Vine Street Market at O’Fallon Station, visit https://www.ofallonweekly.com/2019/01/22/downtown-ofallons-newest-destination-vine-street-market-to-open-may-of-2019/

O’Fallon Middle School Tennis Program to begin March 14, open to boys and girls

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon Middle School Tennis Program will take place beginning March 14 and is open to local boys and girls in the sixth, seventh and eight grade. 

There will be a total of eight sessions that take place on Thursday’s from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m at the OTHS tennis courts. Sessions will take place on: March 8, March 21, March 28, April 4, April 25, May 2, May 9 and May 16.

According to the OTHS Tennis Team head coach Erin Thoman, this will be the seventh year for the middle school tennis program. 

“The middle school tennis program is for all levels,” Thoman said. “It allows middle schoolers to have a chance to see how they like tennis. For some, they decide they want to continue on and play competitively in high school. For others, it is recreational.”

Current OTHS tennis players will serve as instructors for the program. Participants in the program will receive a t-shirt. 

A $50 fee covers all eight sessions of the program. Checks can be made payable to Erin Thoman (OTHS Tennis) at 600 S. Smiley St. O’Fallon, IL 62269. 

Participants in the program are responsible for their own transportation to and from the tennis courts. 

OTHS hosts first Skilled Trade and Career Fair

O’FALLON – O’Fallon Township High School held its first ever Skilled Trades and Career Fair, showcasing over 20 programs with post- high school opportunities for students. 

The fair was held on Thursday, March 7, from 8 a.m. to noon in the South Gym located at the Smiley Campus. 

Students discussed career opportunities available to them with individuals currently working in fields with high job demand. 

The fair was geared toward junior and senior students who are looking to pursue a trade, certificate or technical program out of high school. 

The fair was organized by Christina Buehler of the Special Education Department and Tiffany Lugge, Guidance Department Chair. 

Programs that were represented at the fair are as followed: 

• Illinois Laborers & Contractors JATP

• Local 309 Electricians

• BSNSF Railway

• Paul Mitchell

• Universal Technical Institute

• Southern Illinois Builders Association

• Southern Illinois Carpenter’s Joint Apprenticeship Program

• Premier CDL School

• Ranken Technical Institute

• Illinois Department of Corrections

• Kaskaskia College Cosmetology and Nail Technician 

• O’Fallon Emergency Medical Services

• Building and Construction Trades Council of STL 

• Ameren Apprenticeship Program

• Department of Rehabilitation Services

Southwestern Illinois College Programs in the following areas:

  • Admissions
  • Industrial Technology
  • Aviation Mechanics
  • Pilot
  • Paralegal Studies
  • HVAC
  • Health Services
  • Sign Language Studies
  • Music Education

O’Fallon Weekly Photos By: Annabelle Knef

Summer concerts to return to Shiloh Park

SHILOH – The Village of Shiloh will soon play host to Music in the Park, a series of concerts taking place this summer at the Shiloh Community Park under the pavilion. 

According to Village administrator John Marquart, this will be the third consecutive year that Music in the Park has taken place. 

The concerts will take place on the second and fourth Wednesday’s in June, July and August and will comprise of music groups local to the Metro East. 

The schedule of concert dates is as followed: 

June 12 – Alley Kats – Big Band Sounds

June 26 – George Portz – Blue Grass

July 10 – Vince K – Variety Band 

July 24 – Waterloo German Band

August 14 – ShortMist Band – Country Rock

August 28 – Tommy Tunes – Variety Band

Marquart said bands were selected and reached out to by the local area musicians union. He said they have all played at Music in the Park before and two of the musicians, George Portz and Vince K, are local to Shiloh.

“Attendance has gotten larger every year,” Marquart said. “The bands have their own following.”

The Shiloh District 85 PTO will sell drinks and snacks at the events. The concerts will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

“It’s a nice event for the summer,” Marquart said. 

In other action, at the Shiloh Village Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, March 5, trustees approved an ordinance to regulate fishing in Three Springs Park Lake. 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has recommended that fishing be allowed in the lake to maintain appropriate fish species levels, but yet not to over- fish and deplete certain species.

Trustees also approved the Three Springs Park Master Plan. The master plan is a multi-phase project to revamp and upgrade opportunities at the park. 

The first stage in the master plan is to provide maintenance to current park facilities within the 80- acre space.

Mayor Jim Vernier and trustee Kurt Burrelsman were not present and excused for the March 5 meeting. 

District 90 Board receives financial profile score, approves grant director job description

O’FALLON – At the Feb. 19 O’Fallon District 90 Board of Education meeting, superintendent Carrie Hruby said the Illinois State Board of Education has given the district a positive financial profile score.

Hruby said the ISBE looks at the district’s fund balance to revenue ratio, days cash on hand, fund balance and long term and short term borrowing debt capacity — they then assign a score. 

“Our score has increased every year for the past several years,” Hruby said. “We’re at the second highest level.” 

“It’s important especially should you go out and sell bonds that your credit rating is partly based on the financial profile score and also based on policy and what you have done to reduce budgets.”  

Hruby said there is an asbestos abatement necessary for the secure entry way upgrades taking place at District 90 school’s. According to Hruby, there is an issue at Moye Elementary which has to do with a water leak in the wall behind a water fountain. Hruby said there may be mold needed to be remediated. 

Hruby said CENPRO Services, Inc. gave an estimate of the work required to be done. She said it’s a “high estimate” of $50,000 because services may require the total replacement of the water fountains. Hruby said “that probably won’t need to be done.” “It’s hard to know when it’s behind a wall.” 

At the District 90 meeting, the Board amended the district wide calendar. 

Hruby said school was previously unscheduled for April 2, 2019 because District 90 school’s were to be used as a polling place for the upcoming election cycle. 

Hruby said per St. Clair County, District 90 facilities are no longer to be used for polling. As a result, the board passed a resolution for students to attend school on Tuesday, April 2. The day will be used as a make up snow day, with the other missed days added to the end of the school year. 

Due to the Feb. 28 weather cancellation, an additional day may be added to the end of the calendar. Hruby said the current last day of school for District 90 students is May 24 – however, that is subject to change at the March Board meeting. 

While there was discussion had at the District 90 meeting about hiring a communications director between the four districts, Hruby said “this isn’t our top priority right now.” She also raised questions on the job description and how local districts would share the director. 

“When a crisis comes, where is the person and whose day is it,” Hruby said. “This isn’t our top priority right now.” 

Hruby said currently, District 90’s primary focus is the reduction of class sizes and the continued improvement of curriculum. 

“There are a lot of needs that would come before the need for a communications director,” she said. “That was a great idea but lets put it on the back burner for another time when we have met all of our other priorities.” 

Hruby said District 90 received a Department of Defense Education Activity grant that required the district hire a math grant project director. 

The total grant is approximately $750,000 over five years. 

Hruby said the math grant project director would oversee the grant itself and “make sure everything is taken care of and all the paperwork is filed.” 

Hruby described that as a “half time” position, which couples with a math instructional position that would support teachers in classrooms. The board approved the job description for the position. The position will be partially paid for by the grant. 

District 90 to seek approval for land acquisition from April voters

O’FALLON – As O’Fallon District 90 moves forward with purchasing land for future use, the Board of Education wants the community to be informed and have a say in the potential 80-acre land acquisition. 

Officials say that land is being acquired in part due to growth in O’Fallon and the increase in recent years of District 90 student population.

Board president John Wagnon said the land purchase will mean that the district will get to “lock in a great parcel of land in a prime location where significant growth in O’Fallon is happening today and will continue to happen for the next several years.”

The 80-acre parcel is near Milburn School Road in the Northwest section of O’Fallon. The OTHS Milburn Campus is east of the tract of land. 

“With this land, we will have the ability to build a school in the future if our student population continues to grow like it has over the past several years,” Wagnon said. 

Wagnon said based on recent growth patterns in O’Fallon and future projections from city planners, the District 90 Board believes the land will be invaluable when they would need it in the future for building expansion purposes. 

“We aren’t building a school right now, but we want to position ourselves in the event we need to build a school in the future,” he said. 

In a recent informational video on the O’Fallon District 90 Facebook page, Wagnon said there are communities and subdivisions in the Northwest portion of O’Fallon that are continuing to grow and develop. However, there are no District 90 school’s in this sector. 

Some of the developing subdivisions near the land parcel are: Reserves of Timber Ridge, Windsor Creek, Bethel Farms, Savannah Hills and Milburn Estates. 

While there is significant mine subsidence throughout O’Fallon that affects building and construction, Wagnon said it doesn’t present a problem in the proposed land acquisition.

Wagnon also said infrastructure surrounding the parcel of land is solid for potential school construction.

Because the tract is currently farmed, Wagnon said it could continue that way with any rent income from the farm offsetting the cost of owning it.

Enrollment numbers are steadily increasing in District 90 school’s, according to Wagnon. There are currently 3,717 students in the 2018-19 school year. 

As a way to involve the community in the land acquisition process, District 90 is asking voters to decide in the April election.

Wagnon said while District 90 is not immediately building a school on the land currently, it’s something that could take place in the future. 

“Right now, we are buying land to set us up for the future,” he said. “If we don’t get it now someone else will buy it.” 

District 90 would pay a total of $2.2 million for the 80 acres of land. 

Superintendent Carrie Hruby said architects have relayed that the potential school construction would need between 20 and 40 acres of space. 

“The reason there is that span is because it depends on your green space — it depends on how the parking lot is laid out, what land it’s on and how you lay the building out,” Hruby said. 

Hruby said at this point, there are still “a lot of unknowns.” “It’s far out,” she said of a school construction. 

At the Feb. 19 District 90 BOE meeting, the board discussed the land acquisition. They clarified that the district won’t be needing all of the 80 acres of land. Once a school is built in the future, the value of the property would increase and the district could sell any of the land to offset any outstanding debt.