Sales tax for schools will be on spring ballot

URBANA – Voters will once again decide whether to approve a 1-cent sales tax to help pay for school building improvements or new construction.

The Urbana school board on Tuesday night approved putting the countywide sales tax question on the ballot in April. The Champaign school board passed a resolution to do so last week.

Danville schools superintendent finalists grilled at forum

DANVILLE – Finalists for Danville schools superintendent took questions from a panel of community members, students and staff on Tuesday. Afterward, the panel met with school board members to discuss the finalists.

Board President Randal Ashton said other members of the public have until 5:30 p.m. today to call or e-mail a comment to board members. That's when the board is scheduled to meet in closed session at the Jackson Building to consider the position. No action is expected to be taken.

Tuscola school board approves higher tax levy

TUSCOLA – Property owners in the Tuscola school district can expect to pay a little more for their school taxes in 2009.

The Tuscola school board voted 7-0 on Monday to approve a 4.99 percent increase in the district's property tax levy.

Urbana board to consider upgrades to high school auditorium

URBANA – Greg Chew walks through the Urbana High School auditorium with a sense of nostalgia. As drama teacher and often director, he has used this space for decades, from back when those '70s orange-upholstered seats were cool.

But they haven't been cool in a while, and some are visibly worn out, their metal bottoms dented and dinged from thousands of tapping high-schooler legs.

When it was built, the space was designed to be "a touch of luxury on the prairie," Chew said. "There's an implied promise when you come into a theater that it's going to take you somewhere, and the stage is going to take you there."

At Tuesday's Urbana school board meeting – held at 7:30 p.m. at 205 N. Race St., U – the beginnings of a renovated theater may be hatched.

DACC trustees to vote on new strategic plan Tuesday

DANVILLE – Over the next three years, Danville Area Community College officials are looking to upgrade technology across the campus, add on to the Mary Miller Center and find new revenue streams.

Those goals and others are outlined in a newly updated strategic plan, which college trustees will vote on Tuesday.

Catlin school board hires new superintendent from Shiloh district

CATLIN – School officials voted Thursday to hire a new superintendent to take over for the retiring Guy Banicki after June 30, 2009.

Gary K. Lewis, who is currently serving in his second year as superintendent of the Shiloh Community Unit School District, will start as superintendent of the Catlin school district on July 1, 2009. He was offered a three-year contract by the Catlin school board on Thursday.

'Upper houses' for Danville High School students taking shape

DANVILLE – Danville High School freshman Tatiana Atcher said she's been able to make the leap from middle to high school without much problem, and she credits that to being part of a small learning community.

Under the new Freshman House program, all of her core classes are on the first floor. Many of the same students are in those classes. And her four teachers can keep a close eye on them and intervene when they need help.

"It's almost the same as middle school," Atcher said, referring to the close-knit environment. "You just feel comfortable."

Gates Foundation program is model for tech house

Danville High School's upper house focusing on technology is being modeled on New Technology High School in Napa, Calif., said Kathy Houpt, director of secondary education.

"New Tech High," funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the result of local business people's frustration that students were coming out of school educated but lacking work skills, she said.

Geek Squad helps kids learn about computers

CHAMPAIGN – Edison Middle School students were working, bent over tables filled with computer parts, after school Wednesday.

They were installing motherboards and power supplies and adding video cards and CD drives with the help of members of the Geek Squad, who troubleshoot and repair computers.

UI chemists carry on holiday tradition

URBANA – Five University of Illinois chemists ushered in the holiday season with a big explosion and a "kaboom" – after all, what's December without a fire sizzling?

They turned fire red and green, lit what looked like snowballs and snowmen on fire (and juggled them) and expanded and deflated marshmallows designed to look like Santa. They completed the tricks using chemistry at the department's Holiday Magic show at Noyes Lab in Urbana on Wednesday night.