Academy renamed after former Champaign school board member

CHAMPAIGN— The Champaign school district's alternative high school was renamed on Thursday after a man who devoted much of his life to the district's schools and students.

The Unit 4 school board, Superintendent Judy Wiegand and the school district dedicated the school formerly called the Academic Academy as the Novak Academy in memory of longtime school librarian, teacher union leader and school board member Greg Novak.

Mr. Novak, 61, who died March 7, had been instrumental in researching programs and putting together ideas for the academy, which opened in 2008.

"I am hard pressed to think of anyone else more dedicated to the importance of education of children here in Champaign," Wiegand said.

The academy, located at 815 N. Randolph St., currently has an enrollment of 43 students, according to Principal Rachel Maehr.

"We serve students who, for whatever different reasons, were not successful at their home school, Centennial or Central," Maehr said. "Maybe they are behind in credits. Maybe they are struggling with their attendance. Socially, emotionally, maybe they don't feel they fit into a larger environment. This is the school for them."

Mr. Novak worked in the district for 31 years as a librarian and served as president of the teachers union for several years.

After retiring, Mr. Novak was elected to the school board, bringing the perspective of a former union president to his management role.

School board member Sue Grey said Mr. Novak's passion for serving on the board was "second to none."

"This is such a fitting tribute to Greg because he wanted each and every student in Unit 4 to be successful," Grey said. "He knew, better than most of us, that there were those who were struggling who needed a little extra support. If we could find a way to do that, and to make sure that each student didn't fall through the cracks, they were bound for success."

Mr. Novak's widow, Donna Oakes-Novak, also announced Thursday night the formation of a foundation to provide grants to support students at the academy.

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