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Fewer first-year teachers in area districts this year

Local students looking for first-year teachers to harass are going to have a much harder time finding them this year. Whether it's due to state budget cuts or longtime teachers refusing to take retirement packages in an unsteady economy, several districts have few rookie teachers at their schools.

The Urbana school district will start the year with only three first-time teachers, while Danville has five. Champaign, which has the largest school district of the three, is the exception with 22 first-time teachers starting this fall.

Colwell Systems to build new Champaign plant

CHAMPAIGN – Colwell Systems will replace its two existing plants in Champaign with a new 150,000-square-foot facility northwest of town, company officials said today.

Groundbreaking for the $12 million plant near the intersection of U.S. 150 and Duncan Road is expected to take place in March. The 370 employees from the Kenyon Road and Staley Road plants will move to that facility, as will 50 jobs from a Colwell plant in Roselle.

Urbana panel to consider rezoning land

URBANA – A rezoning petition has been submitted for 76 acres in east Urbana that is under consideration for a possible Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The Urbana Plan Commission will consider at its 7:30 p.m. meeting Thursday a request from the city zoning administrator to rezone the 76 acres at the southeast corner of Illinois 130 and U.S. 150 from industrial to general business.

Urbana business group gets new leader

URBANA – An Urbana native well-versed in promotion and organization has been hired as the new executive director of the Urbana Business Association.

R. Douglas Marcum, 50, returned from New York last week to take the job, just a week before the association's biggest annual event, the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. Marcum succeeds Laurie Bonnett, who has accepted a job with the Urban League of Champaign County.

It's Your Business: Nifty Nuptials handles wedding details

After shopping around and finally going out of state for the kind of wedding she wanted, Michelle Baker of Champaign became the Rev. Michelle Baker and started her own wedding business called Nifty Nuptials.

Baker has teamed up with her sister, wedding coordinator Kandice Leonard, and between the two of them, they now handle all the details of a betrothed couple's wedding – including photography, music, flowers and the ceremony itself, performed by Baker, an ordained Christian minister through the Universal Life Church, which does ordinations online without question of faith.

Rantoul chamber elects two members

RANTOUL – The Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce will have two new board members next month.

Chamber Executive Director Joe Bolser said Thursday that Connie Franzen of Deena's Style Shop and Dennis Long, chairman of the Bank of Rantoul, have been elected to join the chamber board.

Rural Arcola woman found in Mississippi

ARCOLA – A rural Arcola woman who left her home with her boyfriend nearly a month ago, leaving her two young children behind, was discovered and arrested along with the boyfriend Sunday afternoon by Biloxi, Miss., police.

Biloxi police arrested the woman, Gwendolyn Maxedon, 23, and her boyfriend, Michael McGehe, 24, at a Greyhound bus station in Biloxi. Both were arrested on Douglas County warrants accusing them of residential burglary in connection with the burglary of a garage safe owned by Maxedon's parents in which more than $30,000 in cash, coins and jewelry was taken, according to Rickey Ferguson, Maxedon's father.

Putting the sweet in corn

Bite into a piece of sweet corn at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival this week and you will be biting into a piece of University of Illinois history.

Fifty years ago next month in the journal Genetics, John Laughnan, a UI corn geneticist and botany professor, published an article describing a gene that caused corn kernels to store less starch and more sugar.

Wright idea for high-flying project

CHAMPAIGN – Steve Chalke has the Wright idea.

The Savoy engineering consultant is building a replica of the Wright brothers' 1903 airplane, with hopes of having it done by Dec. 17, the 100th anniversary of their first flight.

South Farms on move

URBANA – The groundbreaking agricultural research at the University of Illinois has included development of an early weaning system to improve the quality of beef cattle and a test to identify carriers of spider lamb syndrome, a genetic condition causing deformities of the legs and spine in sheep.

Scientists have done their cutting-edge work with animals housed in out-of-date facilities built in the early part of the last century.