2012 in education: Leadership changes, financial advances

Lonny Lemon resigned as Quincy Public Schools superintendent on June 30. (H-W File Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Dec. 27, 2012 8:59 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 9:16 pm
Blessed Sacrament School eighth-graders carry a banner touting the school's new designation as a "Lighthouse" school during a pep assembly Dec. 5. (H-W File Photo/Phil Carlson)

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The John Wood Community College Board of Trustees named John Letts as the college's fifth president in January. Letts, who had spent nearly 24 years at the college, was named interim president after the board decided in September 2012 to buy out the contract of the previous president, Tom Klincar, and then dismissed Klincar in early October.

• Quincy University announced in February it had received its largest-ever gift from a living donor - a $1 million donation from Rich Niemann Sr. and the Niemann Foods Foundation. Niemann, the chairman of the board of Quincy-based Niemann Foods Inc., said he was making the donation to honor his wife, Connie, whom he described as the "unsung hero" of his business and personal life. The $1 million gift will be used to redevelop a section of a building on QU's north campus into the Connie Niemann Center for Music.

Mark McDowell was named the next principal of Quincy Notre Dame High School. He was selected to replace longtime Principal Ray Heilmann, who had announced he would retire from QND at the end of June, ending a 39-year association with the school. McDowell, a 1995 graduate of QND, has been an educator since 1999 and mostly recently worked as an eighth-grade history teacher at Quincy Junior High School.

On March 20, voters in the Quincy School District passed a $6.2 million working cash bond issue by a margin of 4,197 to 3,060, marking the first time in 43 years that local voters approved a tax issue in support of Quincy's public schools. But despite the issue's passage, the Quincy School Board on March 21 proceeded with plans to carry out a deficit-reduction plan and pulled the trigger on $1.5 million worth of budget cuts impacting 66 employees.

Hannibal-LaGrange University's new Roland Library was dedicated in April. The new 20,000-square-foot library is twice the size of HLGU's previous library.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis agreed to acquire WQUB (90.3 FM) from Quincy University in May. The sale was finalized several months later. At that point, St. Louis Public Radio began handling operations and programming of WQUB, now called Quincy Public Radio.

The Quincy School Board began searching for a new superintendent to replace Lonny Lemon, who announced his resignation effective June 30. Lemon, who had been Quincy's superintendent for four years, accepted a job as superintendent at the Oak Grove 68 School District in the Chicago area. The board subsequently hired the district's former business manager, Bud Martin, to serve as interim superintendent under a 60-day contract. The board then hired Cal Lee as a second interim superintendent. Lee's 100-day contract expires in January 2013. Meanwhile, the School Board hired a search firm, School Exec Connect, to help find a new full-time superintendent.

Culver-Stockton College launched a $10.4 million fund drive -- the college's first "comprehensive campaign" in 20 years. Major goals include the possible construction of a recreation and wellness center, renovations to the Carl Johann Memorial Library, campus beautification projects and endowment growth. The campaign will be carried out over three years with the goal of "enriching the student experience" in a way that will impact student recruitment and retention.

The Quincy School Board in June rejected a proposal to let all students at five Quincy schools receive free breakfasts and lunches next school year, regardless of their family's income level. The proposal would have allowed the district to tap into a new option under the national school lunch program that allows entire buildings with high poverty levels to become eligible for free meals paid by the federal government. However, the proposal received no support from the five board members attending a special meeting in June, so the proposal died.

Anthony Allen began work as the 17th president in the 154-year history of Hannibal-LaGrange College in June, replacing Woodrow Burt, who retired after serving as president since 1995. Allen was formally inaugurated in October at a two-hour event full of music, prayer, pomp and ceremony.

The Quincy Federation of Teachers was awarded a $75,000 grant in August to develop a communications campaign about the new "common core" educational standards and what they will mean for teaching and learning in the Quincy School District. The grant from the American Federation of Teachers was announced at the AFT's annual convention in Detroit. The grant was one of five "Innovation Fund" grants totaling $750,000 awarded to AFT-affiliated teachers unions across the country.

Plans were announced in August to open a new church and Bible college in the former Stowell Elementary School on Fulton Street in Hannibal, Mo. The proposed Big River Chapel and the Korea Mission College are slated to open Feb. 1, 2013, if not sooner, in the 107-year-old building, which closed in 2007 after the new $8 million Stowell Elementary School was built a couple of blocks down the street.

The Quincy Catholic Elementary Schools Foundation announced in September that K-8 enrollment in the city's four Catholic elementary schools has increased for the first time in 15 years. Paul Rittof, the foundation's executive director, said total enrollment in grades K-8 rose by 48 students to 903 -- the first uptick for grades K-8 since the 1997-98 school year.

The Quincy School Board declared its intent to abolish the long-standing practice of giving certain School District employees pre-retirement bonuses. The board passed a resolution spelling out its intention to open talks with employee unions with the goal of eliminating these special contract provisions prior to July 1 of next year. In addition, the board passed a second resolution declaring any pre-retirement bonus practices for non-union workers are to be eliminated immediately.

The Quincy School Board in October learned the district would be taken off the state's financial watch list. An auditor told school officials that the district's financial health had improved during the past year thanks to budget-cutting efforts and the voter-approved passage of a $6.2 million working cash bond issue. As a result, the district's "financial profile" -- a score based on a uniform grading system used by all Illinois school districts -- had improved enough that the district could be placed in a financial "review" category, which is less onerous than a "financial watch" listing.

Quincy's Blessed Sacrament School was named a "Lighthouse" school by FranklinCovey Inc. Blessed Sacrament is the first school in Illinois -- and the first Catholic school in the U.S. -- to be named a Lighthouse school, a designation given to just 29 schools worldwide. The honor recognizes schools that have achieved the highest level possible in incorporating the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" into their curriculum. This achievement resulted from a process that began seven years ago through a United Way-funded concept to bring the "Seven Habits" into all schools in Adams County.

Knapheide Manufacturing Co. and the Knapheide family announced they would be partnering with the Quincy School District and the Quincy Public Schools Foundation to implement a major technology upgrade for all of the district's public schools. Knapheide's information technology department will team with the district's IT department to design and implement a wireless and wired infrastructure throughout the school system. In addition, the Knapheide company and family will contribute significant funds toward the project.

Anthony Allen began work as president of Hannibal-LaGrange University in June. (Submitted Photo)


Mark McDowell


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