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District 117 holds first Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner

Thomas Clatterbuck



District 117 held its first Distinguished Alumni Award ceremony tonight at the newly renovated Jacksonville Middle School.  The nine alumni were honored for their contributions to their community as well as their professional success.

  • Robert F. Sibert (Class of 1932) – He rose to the rank of Captain in he US Army Quartermaster Corp, as well as serving as President of Bound to Stay Bound Books.
  • Walter Meyer, MD (1943) – Dr. Meyer served as a physician in both the Navy and Army as well as in Jacksonville. He helped form the Stroke Support Care Givers Group, and has been widely recognized for his skill as a healer.
  • Herman Dieckamp (1946) – A leader in the atomic energy field, he managed the response to the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear incident. His generosity funded a scholarship to the University of Illinois for JHS students.
  • Judge Richard Mills (1947) – Judge Mills served as a Colonel in the Army and was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois.
  • Merritt Norvell Jr. PhD. (1959) – Dr. Norvell was the National Manager of Market Support for IBM, as well as serving as the Board Chair of the Wisconsin State Special Olympics and the Madison Urban League.
  • Ronald Tendick (1960) – Ron Tendick was elected as city mayor five times, and lead many initiatives to modernize city government.
  • Ken Norton Sr. (1961) – Mr. Norton was boxing’s Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1973.  He was twice recognized as “Father of the Year” by the LA Times.
  • Joy Becker (1962) – Mrs. Becker rose to become the President and Chief Executive Officer for The Farmers State Banks and Trust Company. She also serves in the Jacksonville Main Street Program to help revitalize the downtown area.
  • Kathryn Thomson (1983) – She served as the General Counsel for the United States Department of Transportation and the Chief Counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration, before becoming the Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Amazon. She is also active in tutoring programs such as Everybody Wins.

The distinguished alumni award is a valuable addition to the district. These nine are just the first to show current and future students that there is value in a Jacksonville education, and a future in both Jacksonville and the wider world.

The District’s memory video was also unveiled. This project was another part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration and  highlights the positive impact that JHS and District 117 has had on so many. The theme of the whole celebration is, “Rich History, Bright Future, and was a fitting bridge between honoring the alumni and exploring the new Jacksonville Middle School facility.

JMS Showcase:

The Dinner was also an opportunity to show off the renovations at Turner Jr. High/Jacksonville Middle School. Work is still ongoing, but large portions of the building are already completed.

One of the dominant themes in the building is adaptability. Compared with the old building, JMS is very open and spacious.

JMS strikes a balance between conventional classrooms and a true open floor plan. The science labs are really three rooms in one, with two standard classrooms on either side of a dedicated lab space. Sliding dividers can be used to separate the three rooms as needed, allowing lectures to be held separately while still sharing the lab space.  This flexibility can also be seen in the auditorium and dining area, as well as the second floor library. 

JMS looks very different from the old Turner building. However, when possible elements of the old building were retained. The stage for the new auditorium area is actually the stage that used to be in the gym.  

By choosing to renovate the old building rather than simply building new, JMS keeps an important link to the district’s past while also saving the district more than $10 million in construction costs.


Images by Thomas Clatterbuck of Springfield Daily, taken November 11th, 2017 at Jacksonville Middle School. 

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.


New Illinois law requires high school students to apply for college aid before graduation




In addition to math, science, reading, and gym class, Illinois high school students will soon have a financial aid requirement to graduate high school.

Every high school senior in the state of Illinois will have to apply for federal student aid before they can graduate.

Lawmakers approved the new law last week. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will sign it.

Under the plan, high schools in the state will be required to have seniors fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and if eligible a state student aid application as well.

State Rep. Katie Stuart says it will be easy for schools and kids, and could help some students get into college.

“This initiative will connect more students to the resources that are already available to help them get education or training after high school,” Stuart said. “But it’s flexible enough that we are not putting up any new barriers to graduation.”

Not all lawmakers are happy about the idea.

Opponents say there’s always a cost when the state requires local schools to do anything. And there’s a question about why all high school seniors need to fill out a FAFSA application.

But state Rep. Mary Flowers, who voted for the plan, said the requirement is aimed at the students who need extra help.

“You assume that all schools have the necessary counselors to take the time to educate the students, as well as the parents, about college and/or other programs,” Flowers told opponents of the plan.

Pritzker says the idea is critical for the state’s schools. He says he looks forward to signing the new law.

Once he does, the requirement will start in the 2020-2021 school year.


Article by Benjamin Yount with The Center Square. For more TCS visit

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LIVE | District 186 school board meeting January 22nd

Staff Contributor



Follow along live with District 186’s school board meeting for January 22nd.

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Illinois educators wary of bill to require metal detectors in every school




image from the Sentinel-Echo

A group of Illinois lawmakers are promoting legislation that would use a combination of state, local and federal funds to put metal detectors in every school in the state, but some school leaders say it’s simply not feasible.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said students in schools should feel safe from gun violence when they’re learning. For that reason, the former teacher filed a bill that would require all public schools, K-12, have students walk through metal detectors everyday to get to class.

“Why is it that no one gets shot inside of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport?” he asked.

The bill would tap into federal funds made available this summer to partially pay for the walk-through detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, who oversees schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties, said the idea is well-intentioned, but would result in a unfunded expenses for school districts and create logistical problems.

“Who’s going to be responsible for doing those screenings? Are districts going to be responsible for the cost of hiring additional personnel?” he said. “The concept, on the surface may seem like a good idea, but it presents a number of challenges once you dig into it.”

The detectors would have to be run by a trained professional and need regular servicing and calibration to ensure they work properly. Jontry said such costs would likely fall to local taxpayers.

Ben Schwarm, deputy director with the Illinois Association of School Boards, served on a working group with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The law enforcement contingent of the group had a hierarchy of actions that could be taken to “harden” schools from unwanted entry. Schwarm said metal detectors were last on that list.

“It’s just not that effective,” he said. “There’s a thousand things school districts should be doing before they get to that point.”

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit

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