Champaign Dems reluctantly ready to OK school tax

URBANA – Champaign County Democrats seem poised to authorize – somewhat reluctantly – the 1 percent school sales tax that county voters approved April 7.

The sales tax for planning, land acquisition, construction and reconstruction of school facilities in the county will go into effect Jan. 1. It will apply to all purchases except automobiles, boats and farm equipment, plus food, drugs and certain medical equipment.

Medicinal-herbs class looks at plants in different light

URBANA – Catherine Novak believes in the power of herbs – and not just because they're tasty.

In her herbal medicine chest classes – taught at Novak's store, Beads N Botanicals, in Urbana – the Hoopeston woman teaches students how to look at the plants for healing and health properties as well.

Tips lead to recovery of Native American House signs

URBANA – Web tips to Crimestoppers of Champaign County on Monday night led to the recovery of two signs taken near the Native American House on the University of Illinois campus.

UI police Sgt. Tony Brown said the two signs, stolen about 2:15 a.m. Saturday from the 1200 block of West Nevada Street in Urbana, were found in the parking lot near the Arboretum on South Lincoln Avenue on Monday night.

Pool renamed to honor retiring Danville superintendent

DANVILLE – As Danville High School's athletic director, Nanette Mellen lobbied hard for a new swimming pool.

At the time, the school's pool was only 20 yards long and had four narrow lanes. The ceiling in the small, cramped room was so low that students hit their head on it when going off the diving board.

Fischer Theatre back in spotlight this weekend

DANVILLE – The Vermilion Heritage Foundation is lighting up, just as it hopes its work will light up the Fischer Theatre marquee once and for all.

South View Middle School posts gains on state tests

DANVILLE – South View Middle School students met and exceeded state learning standards in reading last year, according to preliminary Illinois Standards Achievement Test data released by Danville schools officials on Monday.

Overall, 75.7 percent of students met benchmarks in 2009, compared with 70.8 percent in 2008, Associate Superintendent Mark Denman said. He added that 71.5 percent of black students met benchmarks in 2009, compared with 62.5 percent the year before.

Villa Grove, Shiloh school districts to get technology grants

VILLA GROVE – The Villa Grove and Shiloh School Districts will have approximately $25,000 a piece to improve technology and technology education in their schools and communities this coming school year. The two districts co-wrote the grant application for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Digital Divide Grant.

The districts have not been informed of the exact amount appropriated to the fund, but will be working with the administrators to work out the details in the coming months.

Programs put Danville students back on graduation track

DANVILLE – Thaieisha Lipscomb had looked forward to taking an advanced placement American history class last year.

But once it got going, she felt overwhelmed by coursework – lots of reading and note-taking, and writing a 750-word essay if you scored a C or below on a test.

Cissna Park man's needs met without leaving home

CISSNA PARK – Richard Henry Rieches wakes up at that dark, pre-dawn hour that hovers between day and night. He sits up, stretches, glances around the bedroom – the same bedroom his father used to wake up in. He looks out the window. The stubborn darkness reveals no hint of the day ahead.

He stands slowly, then pads out the door and down the stairs. They still creak all the way to the bottom. He turns the corner and stands in the kitchen, where his mother used to bake coffee cake from scratch. She always served it fresh, right out of the pan.

Major pane repairs will help with climate, pest control

URBANA – Mary Ramsbottom has worked in Lincoln Hall eight years, adopting a bipolar style of dress.

In Lincoln Hall, she says, "the top half of your body is one climate zone (near the windows) and the bottom half is another climate zone because of the radiator."