Sunday, February 17, 2013

Monmouth Teachers Using ‘Revolutionary’ Teaching Strategy

By Libby Meyer
Two grade school teachers at Harding Elementary School have caught the attention of parents, teachers, and school board members by introducing their students to a “revolutionary” learning program.  

 Second grade teacher Melinda Fry and third grade teacher Laura Anton  have implemented features of the Kagan Cooperative Learning Program in their classes.  Both teachers were introduced to the Kagan program at a three-day conference in Chicago.

According to Kagan’s website, its mission is to “develop and share revolutionary instructional strategies proven to boost engagement and achievement.”

By implementing some of the “Kagan Structures” into their daily routines,  the teachers have seen a positive impact on their students.  At different points throughout the day students are split up into groups of four, intermixing students of various academic abilities.

“In their teams they play a much more active role in the learning process,” Fry said. “I also think the students enjoy taking on a leadership role in helping their peers learn. They all have strengths in different areas and they love to share their strengths with others who may need the assistance.”

Working in small groups allows the students to improve their social skills and engage more actively in their own learning. “They truly work as a team to complete group assignments and assist/coach each other when needed,” she said.

After a presentation to the Monmouth-Roseville school board, complete with a video documenting the Kagan Structures in action, Superintendent Edward Fletcher was equally impressed.

“Instead of the teacher standing in front of the class presenting all of the lessons, these Structures allow the students to interact with each other and learn through active participation,” Fletcher said. He added that he would like to see Kagan expanded to other grade levels and more junior/senior high school classes.

The Packinghouse Returns to Galesburg

By Elisha French
After three decades, the last year has been difficult for the locally iconic Packinghouse restaurant.  In March of 2012, the Packinghouse was closed for renovations and a menu overhaul.  The motivation for the move was to help the Packinghouse continue after the retirement of owners Jay and Mary Matson.  This effort was led by Chef Mick Hug.

That restart only lasted a matter of days as Hug left and Todd Erling stepped in.  The restaurant changed their hours and some of their philosophy of food.  Erling made changes more than just interior or menu but completely rebranded the restaurant in June.  The restaurant went from being the Packinghouse to Todd Erling’s Chop House.  In this process, he removed the salad bar and the notable cinnamon rolls.  This however, didn’t last as the Chop House closed on Jan. 1.  The Matsons expressed this was due to Erling having health issues.  Today Todd Erling is head chef at Big Al’s in Peoria.

Kevin Cerar, owner of the Barnstormer and Petey’s in Monmouth, told the Courier that after he heard about the Chop House closing, he began to inquire about the building.  He thought about what would work there and wasn’t concerned about the previous year’s events.
“Sometimes you have to change things up and do something new,” Cerar said, “but with the Packinghouse’s history in the area, going back to what worked is in the best interest of the area.”  Cerar called the Matsons and worked out an agreement to obtain the rights to the menu, recipes, the use of the name and to lease the building.

Moving forward, Cerar believes he will employ 45 full time and part time employees.  As far as the menu, locals will find many classic favorites have returned.
“The cinnamon rolls, salad bar, and slow roasted prime rib will all be there along with some other personal touches.”

However, Cerar will not be incorporating menu items from his other two restaurants onto the menu.
“If we do something then it will be new and not like the Barnstormer or Petey’s.  [The Packinghouse] will have its own personality.  That is a key for survival of all three restaurants.”
While Cerar will be putting in time at the Packinghouse, he expressed that he still has to be concerned about the Monmouth restaurants as well.  The Packinghouse will have a limited reopening on Easter weekend and will begin operation from there.
Elisha French
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Mike OlszewskI
A new branding campaign for struggling local businesses in Monmouth is on the back burner and waiting to be launched. Within the next year residents will begin to see major renovations to the downtown area. One change will include a new brand name for Monmouth’s downtown businesses, “The Shops of Monmouth.” Monmouth’s City Council hopes that this new branding campaign will serve as a creative way to bring more businesses and families to the downtown area.
“You can’t just throw up a small shop in a small town like this, it has to be more of a destination, there has to be a reason to come here,” said Paul Schuytema, Director of Community Development. Schuytema added, “The whole idea of branding is to find something everyone can get behind. We have met the challenge of rehabbing all the buildings in the downtown area, the next step is figuring out what businesses will fit.”

 The new branding campaign, sponsored by Midwest Bank, hopes to attract new businesses to boost Monmouth’s economy.  “The Shops of Monmouth” will become the town’s way of publicly advertising to large franchises and businesses.

 “If we have a really vibrant retail and cultural base in our downtown everyone wins, businesses, Monmouth, Monmouth College, and even the students. We are tending the garden and getting the soil ready right now,” said Schuytema. He hopes that by creating an attractive brand name for downtown Monmouth, they can reduce the “leakage factor” and bring business back, “The money is being spent, we just have to market it right”.

 As of now, Monmouth’s City Council’s goal is to keep building its residential market to attract more businesses. If you are looking to become part of the campaign or would like your business in downtown Monmouth, visit for more information.


By Sarah Mabley
Mayor Rod Davies presented the city's plan for the new development of the downtown district in Monmouth, Illinois this week.  Along with the mayor, City Administrator John Cratty and Director of City Development Paul Schuytema each spoke of  the opportunity to ¨strike while the iron is hot¨ in the downtown district. 

According to Davies, City Hall sees new growth opportunities for downtown in retail, dining, and cultural activities in the heart of our community¨.  He said that his administration sees very real ways to leverage the limited TIF income and continue development. He also said that there is clearly a benefit to all of the downtown residential population. There is an opportunity for downtown to grow into a real destination for retail, dining, and cultural activities.

¨There are a lot of moving places but the upside to our community is huge. It´s a challenge we can face head on if we can see the destination of a vibrant, thriving town. It´s where we live, it´s Monmouth¨ Davies said.    His comments were made to about 40 members of the Monmouth Rotary Club who attended the weekly meeting.

Another speaker at the Monmouth weekly meeting of the Monmouth Rotary Club was Paul Schuytema who discussed real prospects for the new development to the downtown district.  The vision for downtown Monmouth is of an exciting and vibrant retail district in the same vein as Seminary Street in Galesburg, Illinois, Schuytema said. ¨We are trying to re-imagine our downtown as something that will work in our small, rural community¨.  He pointed out that targeted businesses are one way to bring business downtown. Loft apartments, cultural activities, and retail businesses will be major pull factors set for another generation, according to Schuytema.¨If we had talked about 2 years ago, renovating 12 buildings in this economy in the state of Illinois we would have been run out of town on a rail¨, Schuytema continued. He said that City Hall is thinking beyond into the real future. 

¨What we are trying to do is map a course so we are always playing a couple of chess moves ahead. Plans are being made down the road. Yes it´s kinda scary but we´d rather have the problem to find the people to occupy the retail stores than find the 5 to 10 million dollars that it is going to take to get these building up to code¨, he summarized.

John Cratty was last to take the podium  talked about why new development makes long term sense for the communit. He said a major goal is to get the old buildings up to code, and to spur future economic growth. He addressed the challenges because of the slow economy in the state of Illinois. However, according to Cratty new development is an investment in the future because it prevents major costs. When old buildings are left to themselves, they suffer costs to the community of Monmouth. For example, a small building fire could cost the city millions of city dollars, Cratty explained. Cratty used to be the fire chief in Galesburg, Illinois. ¨No matter how bad the state is doing, we still have to serve and protect the people of Monmouth¨