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  • Fairbury News staff

District recognizes retirees

(Left to right: Alan Dunahee, Cindy Frickey, Cindy Ifft and Sandy Ropp)

Retirees in the Prairie Central School District were honored by the Board of Education during the board’s regular meeting Thursday night in the PCHS library.

This year’s group includes bus driver Mike Zimmerman, Junior High PE and health teacher Sandy Ropp, High School Industrial Technology instructor Alan Dunahee, High School paraprofessional Cindy Frickey and High School PC and Driver’s Education teacher Cindy Ifft.

Customized mugs were presented to the retirees by board president John Wilken. The employees were recognized during a reception with family members prior to the start of the meeting.

Also during Thursday’s regular Board of Education meeting, PC Superintendent Paula Crane announced her upcoming retirement. She will step down after the 2024-2025 school year and the board approved the retirement request.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and triumphs that come with leading such a dynamic district and have appreciated the support of the board throughout my career,” Crane told the board.

Crane said the role has been rewarding and unique and that it has been a privilege to serve the district. She looks forward to the continued partnership with the board over the next 16 months and offered her assistance in the transition to new leadership.

“It’s nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel but it’s been great,” noted Crane.

School board members will be working with an advisor from the Illinois Association of School Boards for assistance in the process to replace Crane. This includes advertising, interviewing and coaching.

“The first step is to get a job description,” explained board president John Wilken.

Under old business, the board discussed a schedule for the building facility study. The advisory committee has a meeting on Tuesday. A special board meeting is likely in late June to receive a report from the committee and begin discussion. Additional special meetings may be needed after that.

“I don’t know how many meetings to even schedule for discussion,” said Superintendent Crane.

A path forward is expected to be decided by the Aug. 15 school board meeting. Anything needing to go on the November General Election ballot would need to be certified or admitted by Aug. 19.

“I think we need to start as soon as (the committee’s report) is prepared,” said board member Tim McGreal.

K-6 Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Jenifer McGowan reviewed an Advisory Council meeting from Monday in which school improvement plans were reviewed. Growth was observed in kindergarten and first grade at both Primary East and Primary West.

PCHS Principal Wade Czerwonka gave an update on the upcoming graduation ceremony which is scheduled for next Friday (May 24) at 7 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.

“It’ll be inside rather than outside this year,” said Czerwonka, citing it is an easier choice from a planning standpoint due to unpredictable weather.

Stipends and fees were approved for the 2024-2025 school year.

“We did not raise any of the registration fees for next year,” Crane reminded the board.

Items that did increase include stipends for substitute teachers in order to be competitive along with substitute pay for café workers, bus drivers and paraprofessionals. Some of the different officials pay for sporting events did increase as well.

The 2024-2025 school board meeting calendar was approved. It basically mirrors the current school year with meetings on the third Thursday except in March for the FFA auction and November for the school board conference in Chicago. Those two meetings will be held on Tuesday.

In new business, the group heard about student handbook changes from the various administrators. These are mainly legal updates dealing with cyberbullying, artificial intelligence and employee code of conduct. The K-6, Junior High and High School handbook updates were approved for the coming year.

Overnight stay requests were granted for the FFA. This includes a trip to Wisconsin Dells June 3-4, the State FFA Convention in June and an officer retreat July 15-16.

The purchase of a 2022 lift bus was approved from Central States Bus Sales. This will replace the current wheelchair lift bus.

“This has air ride and it also has air conditioning,” explained Crane.

The cost of the Bluebird bus is $99,500 but the district would trade in buses 6 and 16, bringing that cost down.

Board members approved a recommendation from Superintendent Crane to retain freshman coaches for football, boys basketball and volleyball. This comes after consultation and information gathered from a student survey by the athletic directors.

In other matters, the board:

-Was reminded of the last day of student attendance May 30 with the last day for teachers May 31.

-Approved Kull & Associates for the Fiscal Year 24 audit.

-Authorized board policy updates as presented.

-Approved minutes of the April 18 regular meeting.

-Okayed the consent agenda, including the activity fund report, bills and treasurer’s report.

Following an executive session, the board:

Approved the following individuals for employment, effective the 24-25 school year unless otherwise noted:

Valerie Stoller, PCUE secretary, effective 4/22/24

Caren Appel, CTE Teacher Leader effective for the 2024-25 school year only

Emily Lanz, senior class sponsor

Jeff Curl, auxiliary boys’ basketball coach

Megan Eck, PCP East kindergarten teacher

Deborah Donze, PCP East special education teacher

Taylor Ritter, social work intern

Derek Underwood, PCJH baseball coach

Becky Schlabowski, HS café worker

Michelle Naumann, PCP West preK teacher


Approve the following, effective the end of the 2023-24 school year unless otherwise noted:


Rhonda Lamberth, PCP East custodian (w/intent to retire), effective Jan 30, 2026

Charles Harrell, PCUE custodian (w/intent to retire), effective Aug 16, 2024

Jeff Curl, freshman boys’ basketball coach

Jonnita Vogel, JH student council co-sponsor

Molly Cagley, HS softball head coach


Celeste Koch, PCP East paraprofessional

Dawn Hamilton, PCP East paraprofessional

Danielle Harper, PCP East paraprofessional


Approved the following transfers, effective the 2024-25 school year:

Ashley Richard, PCP West preK to special education teacher

Ivana Rivera, PCP West paraprofessional to PCP East paraprofessional


Approved a leave of absence for the following:

Ashley Richard, PCP West preK teacher, effective 5-15-24 through the end of the year.

Blayne Dixon, HS sped teacher, effective 4-24-24 through the end of the year.

Ivana Rivera, PCP East paraprofessional, effective 10-10-24 through 1-6-25


Approved compensation packages for non-bargaining employees.

Approved the “Amendment to Superintendent’s Employment Contract (2022-26).

(The PC retirees shown at a reception Thursday night at PCHS)

(Superintendent Paula Crane announces her retirement to the board Thursday night at PCHS)


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