State rep. fired up to help Meridian mold problem

State representative Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) is standing strong with Meridian School District.

Phelps attended an informational meeting June 25 at Meridian High School regarding the districts mold problem. He said he was incensed at what he heard and immediately took action.

“I got involved. I started making phone calls. I started opening up the lines of communication because I thought it was ridiculous and embarrassing that some of these departments were not getting back to these officials at Meridian School,” Phelps said.

He got results. After a day and a half, the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) was at Meridian Elementary performing tests to see if the building is inhabitable. Phelps said it may take a few days to get results, but the community members he talked to were happy the IDOL had come.

As of July 1, Regional superintendant of schools and interim Meridian School superintendent Janet Ulrich said the results were still not in from IDOL, but she expects the district will not have to wait much longer. She said a special board meeting is being scheduled for July 8 to discuss the results and to try and move forward with a plan.

Should the tests come back with the same bad  results the school received from architect Bob Huff, Phelps said he is determined to help the district in any way he can.

“I am going to do anything and everything I have to do make sure Meridian gets taken care of,” he said.

–Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Beegle’s bike

Glynn Beegle smokes near his bike June 5 outside Fil-Up Mart in Mounds. Beegle said he has had the bike for the last two years and is proud of where it came from. “They still make that in America,” he said. -- Isaac Smith |  The Cairo Citizen
Glynn Beegle smokes near his bike June 5 outside Fil-Up Mart in Mounds. Beegle said he has had the bike for the last two years and is proud of where it came from. “They still make that in America,” he said. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

Local hoopster hosts charity tournament

More than 60 basketball players from the area converged at Meridian Elementary School June 1 and 2 for the 1st Annual Bobcat Hoopfest.

Eight teams played games all day June 1 and into the night on the 2nd, with the Championship game started at 8:30 p.m.

The final game of the tournament showcased the red team against the blue team. The red team had local players such as Isiah Jones, RJ Williams, DJ Weldon, Jared Staples, and former SIU player Nick Evans.

Darius Brown, formerly of Cairo, also played for the red team. Brown will join Josh “Joddy” Jones at Odessa College in the fall.

The blue team had players from outside the Pulaski County area but had several talented high school athletes.

The Kissing Brothers from Crab Orchard High School were three big players for the blue team. The three brothers each scored over 1,500 points in their high school careers. Youngest brother Ben scored over 2,300 and has the school record for points at Crab Orchard.

After 40 minutes of competitive play, the red team came away with the victory 49-45.

Red teams Ben Kissing led both teams in scoring with 28 in the final but his older brother Ray was the talk of the tournament.

The blue team rallied behind their leading scorer Isaih Jones who had 12. Nick Evans had 11 while DJ Weldon had back to back three point baskets to finish with 6.

A bigger story than the championship was the condition of the playing surface. It was very wet. Players fell countless time and luckily no one came away with any injuries. The location of the tournament and the playing surface could be a concern in the coming years of the Bobcat Hoopfest.

There were many more memorable performances from the weekend; Josh Jones had 33 points and 13 rebounds in a game for his team.

The money raised from the tournament will go to the Meridian Elementary school to purchase new athletic uniforms.

This was a tournament that was run well and will continue to be a success for many years to come. Congratulations to all the teams that participated in this competitive tournament. 

–Tyler Dixon can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Taking the next step

Cairo and Meridian High Schools graduated their 2013 class May 18.

Tatyana Graham cries after May 18 after graduating from Cairo High School. Graham said she intends on attending Shawnee Community College where she will study early childhood education.-- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Tatyana Graham cries after May 18 after graduating from Cairo High School. Graham said she intends on attending Shawnee Community College where she will study early childhood education.– Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Blaine Crow, right, fixes Josh Jones’ collar before graduation May 18 at Meridian High School. Jones and Crow were two of 28 graduates that walked across the stage at Meridian that day. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Blaine Crow, right, fixes Josh Jones’ collar before graduation May 18 at Meridian High School. Jones and Crow were two of 28 graduates that walked across the stage at Meridian that day. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Melissa McCutchan, left, a former Meridian High School graduate and now a social worker at the High School, passes out gifts to graduating seniors May 18 at Meridian High School. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Melissa McCutchan, left, a former Meridian High School graduate and now a social worker at the High School, passes out gifts to graduating seniors May 18 at Meridian High School. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Cairo graduates Shatoyria Jangjiraway, valedictorian, left, and Joecelyn Coleman, salutatorian, celebrate in front of their lockers May 18, after the graduation ceremony at Cairo High School. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo graduates Shatoyria Jangjiraway, valedictorian, left, and Joecelyn Coleman, salutatorian, celebrate in front of their lockers May 18, after the graduation ceremony at Cairo High School. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

Senior bobcats’ last ride

Meridian senior catcher Jammerio Moore, right, attempts to make an out May 18 during the regional championship against the Shawnee Redskins at Shawnee High School. The Bobcats lost  the game in the 5th inning with a score of 10-0. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Meridian senior catcher Jammerio Moore, right, attempts to make an out May 18 during the regional championship against the Shawnee Redskins at Shawnee High School. The Bobcats lost the game in the 5th inning with a score of 10-0. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

It was an emotional roller coaster for the senior Meridian Bobcats May 18. The players went from the excitement of graduation at 10 that morning,  to having their season ended by the mercy rule at the hand of perennial power Shawnee High School by four.

The Shawnee Redskins beat the Bobcats in 5 innings by a score of 10-0.

Redskins senior Adam Pennington threw a 1 hit shutout with the assistance of junior Aiden McMahon.

DJ Weldon had the lone Bobcat hit, a 2 out double down the 3rd base line in the second inning.

Connor Schaal picked up the loss for the Bobcats.

The defensive player of the game was Meridian senior center fielder Wyatt Isom. Isom threw out runners attempting to score on 2 different occasions in the 3rd inning. Senior catcher Jammerio Moore was able to catch the ball and have to presence of mind to know where he was in relation to the runner to make the tag.

Next season will be a rebuilding year for the Bobcats with many key starters graduating. Only 5 underclassmen had significant playing time this season.

— Tyler Dixon can be reached at (618)-734-4242

The Week in Photos: May 16, 2013

The visual report from the week of May 16, 2013.

Angela Thomas, right, shares a tearful hug with her son Eric Dent after he his graduation ceremony May 10 at Egyptian High School. Dent said he plans to attend Shawnee Community College and hopes to play basketball. Dent graduated with 30 of his fellow seniors. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Angela Thomas, right, shares a tearful hug with her son Eric Dent after he his graduation ceremony May 10 at Egyptian High School. Dent said he plans to attend Shawnee Community College and hopes to play basketball. Dent graduated with 30 of his fellow seniors. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Lacey Hacker, left, waits for her friend Jade Yates to put on her gown just before graduation May 10 at Century High School. Hacker and Yates were among the first of Century’s 20 graduates to arrive for the ceremony. Yates said she has plans to attend Shawnee Community College to get her associate degree. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Lacey Hacker, left, waits for her friend Jade Yates to put on her gown just before graduation May 10 at Century High School. Hacker and Yates were among the first of Century’s 20 graduates to arrive for the ceremony. Yates said she has plans to attend Shawnee Community College to get her associate degree. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Danny Kohn, left, insists the held of Century High School teacher’s aid Michelle Nale to fasten his tassel to his cap May 10 before Century’s graduation ceremony. Kohn said he plans to attend Shawnee Community College before transferring to SIU where he hopes to get a degree in international studies. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Danny Kohn, left, insists the held of Century High School teacher’s aid Michelle Nale to fasten his tassel to his cap May 10 before Century’s graduation ceremony. Kohn said he plans to attend Shawnee Community College before transferring to SIU where he hopes to get a degree in international studies. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo Pilots third baseman Lorenzo Nelson just misses tagging out an opponent May 13 during the Pilot’s regional loss against the Dongola Demons. The Pilots lost 25-3. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo Pilots third baseman Lorenzo Nelson just misses tagging out an opponent May 13 during the Pilot’s regional loss against the Dongola Demons. The Pilots lost 25-3. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Kylee Wright, of Charleson, looks out the window of the Airbrush Dreamz trailer May 9 in Cairo. Derik Davis, Wright’s mother’s boyfriend, sells airbrushed clothing and accessories out of the trailer. Davis said he primarily sets up shop at carnivals and festivals but said he does come to sell his wares in towns like Cairo from time to time. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Kylee Wright, of Charleson, looks out the window of the Airbrush Dreamz trailer May 9 in Cairo. Derik Davis, Wright’s mother’s boyfriend, sells airbrushed clothing and accessories out of the trailer. Davis said he primarily sets up shop at carnivals and festivals but said he does come to sell his wares in towns like Cairo from time to time. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

Meridian schools face budget woes

Terry Mooreland presented Meridian School District’s financial outlook for the coming school year to a gymnasium of concerned parents and community members May 13 at Meridian Elementary School. His report was grim.

During a PowerPoint presentation, Mooreland, superintendant of Meridian School District, went line by line through the reductions in funding the school has received in the last three years. He reported general state aid (GSA) was reduced by five percent in 2012, another 6 percent for 2013 and he said based on Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed budget, the school will lose another 7 percent for 2014. This next proposed reduction would be an estimated loss $198,866 Meridian School District would do without.

While this reduction in funding is a tough pill to swallow, Mooreland said the cuts do not stop there. He said Quinn has also proposed cutting funding for school transportation by 71 percent, which would be a loss of $163,831. These decreases when coupled with the possible  $150,538 reduction in Title 1 funding could cripple the district. Mooreland said should these reductions become a reality, some things will have to change.

Mooreland said this is the problem, though. No budget has been passed at the State level, so the numbers he presented are simply projections. He and his staff have been, as he called it, making a budget based on a maybe.

School officials will have to make a decision soon as to how to deal with the possibility of such drastic cuts to their budget, but no one is quite sure what that decision will be. The primary solution Mooreland presented was to change the student structure at both the elementary and high schools. Mooreland said he and his team have considered removing Meridian’s ten students from the Johnson, Alexander Massac and Pulaski Special Education program (JAMP), which would save the district a total of $175,000, some of which would go to paying two full time special education teachers to work with these ten students on Meridian’s campus. However, to make room for these special needs students, seventh and eighth graders would need to be moved from the elementary school building to the high school building, which creates a whole new host of challenges. Terrance Gaddy, principal of Meridian High School is confident he and his staff can handle it.

Gaddy also spoke during the presentation and he assured parents that should this change take place, his office will take all the necessary steps to ensure students make a smooth transition. He said seventh and eighth grade students would be separated from the high school students by keeping each group in separate hallways.

Should this happen, new students at the high school will not be the only big change.  Gaddy and Mooreland also said they have drafted plans to restructure the curriculum for seventh through twelfth grades. Because of eleven layoffs Mooreland had to make for the fall, he and Gaddy said in the new plan, they have been forced to eliminate all electives, which Gaddy said presents a new challenge to teachers.

“The primary challenge is maintaining student interest when you have limited number of electives,” he said. The new curriculum would focus on eight classes: Physical Education, Math, English, Social Science, Science, Health, Drivers Education and Spanish, which are the basic classes students are required by the state to complete before graduating. This change would mean cutting everything from computer classes to even the school’s Ag program.

The thought of losing Ag classes did not sit well with some parents. Johnny Severs, a parent with two children at Meridian High School, said with the area’s agriculturally driven economy, losing the Ag program would negatively affect students graduating from the school who hope to go on to complete a degree in agriculture. He said should the school go without an Ag class for more than a year, it would lose its chapter of the Future Farmers of America. Severs said with Meridian’s preparations to hire a new science teacher, he believes they should seek a candidate who has the tools to teach agricultural as well.

Mooreland, who will be retiring as superintendant in 60 days, said he does not know what is next for his district but he said he does feel defeated.

“I can’t win,” he said. Moreland explained that there is very little a school can do to bounce back from such drastic funding cuts. Mooreland said the restructuring of the schools is a very real possibility but nothing is set in stone. He said he plans to have another informational meeting and he has invited the region’s state representatives to attend, though he said he has not had luck getting their attention in the past.

Until he gets a budget on his desk with concrete numbers, Mooreland said it all just a waiting game.

“I guess we will wait and see what they do to us next,” he said.

Tyler Dixon contributed to this report

–Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

The Week in Photos: May 9, 2013

The visual report from the week of May 9, 2013.

Cairo junior Jordan Holder, right, takes a look at Cairo Junior Jalecia Purdiman’s cell phone May 4 while taking a break from dancing during the Cairo High School senior prom. Later that evening, prom attendees voted seniors Jeleigha Johnson and Terion Taylor as prom queen and prom king. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo junior Jordan Holder, right, takes a look at Cairo Junior Jalecia Purdiman’s cell phone May 4 while taking a break from dancing during the Cairo High School senior prom. Later that evening, prom attendees voted seniors Jeleigha Johnson and Terion Taylor as prom queen and prom king. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Senior Jeleigha Johnson, left, and senior Terion Taylor pose for a portrait May 4 after being named prom queen and king during Cairo High School’s senior prom. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Senior Jeleigha Johnson, left, and senior Terion Taylor pose for a portrait May 4 after being named prom queen and king during Cairo High School’s senior prom. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Shanna Farris, left, is comforted by her father, John Timmons, during her mother’s funeral May 1 at Jones Funeral Home in Villa Ridge. Farris’ mother, Sandra Farris, went missing March 28 after a walk near her home in Cairo. Her body was found April 24 in the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky. The cause of death was deemed undetermined.-- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Shanna Farris, left, is comforted by her father, John Timmons, during her mother’s funeral May 1 at Jones Funeral Home in Villa Ridge. Farris’ mother, Sandra Farris, went missing March 28 after a walk near her home in Cairo. Her body was found April 24 in the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky. The cause of death was deemed undetermined.– Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Rita Flummer, middle, takes her oath of office as mayor of the City of Mounds May 6 with the help of former mayor, Waymon Butler, right and city clerk Robin Barksdale. After being sworn in, Flumer then lead her first city council meeting.-- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Rita Flummer, middle, takes her oath of office as mayor of the City of Mounds May 6 with the help of former mayor, Waymon Butler, right and city clerk Robin Barksdale. After being sworn in, Flumer then lead her first city council meeting.– Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Myron Jordan rounds third base April 30 during the Pilots’ double header home win over Agape Christian. The Pilots had a slow start, narrowly winning the first game 6-5. However, they picked up momentum in the second, defeating the Knights 12-8. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Myron Jordan rounds third base April 30 during the Pilots’ double header home win over Agape Christian. The Pilots had a slow start, narrowly winning the first game 6-5. However, they picked up momentum in the second, defeating the Knights 12-8. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo Pilots third baseman Lorenzo Nelson jumps for a line-drive April 30 during The Pilots' double home win against the Agape Christian Knights. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo Pilots third baseman Lorenzo Nelson jumps for a line-drive April 30 during The Pilots’ double home win against the Agape Christian Knights. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Bobcats blasted by Appleknockers

On April 4, the Meridian Bobcats suffered a loss against the Cobden Appleknockers.

Senior Blaine Crow\ attempts to tag out a runner at second base April 4 during the Meridian Bobcats’  away loss to the Cobden Appleknockers. The Bobcats fell 9-1.
Senior Blaine Crow\ attempts to tag out a runner at second base April 4 during the Meridian Bobcats’ away loss to the Cobden Appleknockers. The Bobcats fell 9-1.

Earning their Easter eggs

Meridian Elementary School hosted an Easter Egg hunt through the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support Program.

Second graders Laniya Barnett, middle left, and Jaleah Graham, middle right, open Easter eggs with fellow classmates March 28 at Meridian Elementary School. The morning’s egg hunt was a reward through the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support Program. Pre-K through second grade all had egg hunts and Melissa Hawking, a teacher’s aid at the school, said the kids that participated earned the privilege by having good behavior throughout the month. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Second graders Laniya Barnett, middle left, and Jaleah Graham, middle right, open Easter eggs with fellow classmates March 28 at Meridian Elementary School. The morning’s egg hunt was a reward through the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support Program. Pre-K through second grade all had egg hunts and Melissa Hawking, a teacher’s aid at the school, said the kids that participated earned the privilege by having good behavior throughout the month. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen