All posts by Keith Beebe

Keith Beebe is the Editor of the Elburn Herald. You can reach him at or (630) 365-6446 x105.

Local student invited to attend NRA youth summit

by Keith Beebe
MAPLE PARK—Theo Mirkut, a Maple Park resident and junior at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, was recently selected by the National Rifle Association (NRA) as one of 45 students in the country who will partake in its National Youth Education Summit (YES) in Washington, D.C. in late June.

The trip is solely for outstanding high school sophomores and juniors. And while Mirkut is indeed an outstanding student, he also happens to be an experienced marksman, which probably didn’t hurt his cause much when it came to the NRA selecting participants for the seven-day event in the nation’s capitol.

Mirkut has been involved in shooting sports since he was in the seventh grade, beginning with small-bore Olympic rifle shooting and eventually graduating to both trap and pistol shooting. He currently holds a Bar 3 Sharpshooter qualification for small-bore rifle shooting, and a Marksman qualification in trap shooting. He also recently received certification to be an NRA apprentice rifle instructor.

“One of the things that the NRA looks for in the application are more well-rounded individuals. Part of the application was to write an essay on the Second Amendment, (and) part of the grand scholarship following the program is to conduct an educational program that teaches younger kids about firearm safety,” Mikrut said. “I can’t exactly speak on how my experiences have related directly to my selection to partake in the summit, (but) I can say, however, that my involvement in shooting sports, as well as shooting sports education, (has) contributed to what I believe was an extremely strong, well-rounded application.

Mirkut learned about the summit through his father’s involvement in the NRA, and said that IMSA stresses to its students that college isn’t just an option. Because the colleges Theo is interested in attending are rather expensive, he’s been consciously looking for any and all scholarship opportunities.

“The original e-mail about the summit was sent to my father, who forwarded it to me,” Mirkut said. “I was intrigued about the potential for scholarship money, as well as the experiences that the summit could offer me, which is why I chose to apply.”

Mirkut learned of his acceptance into the YES in April. Students who participate in the summit will each give a speech to NRA representatives, form groups to debate assigned topics, and take a tour of both Washington, D.C., and the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.

“This summit is a huge opportunity for me,” Mirkut said. “I am excited about my acceptance, but more importantly about the experiences that I will be provided with that would not be possible normally. How many high school students get to visit Quantico on a typical vacation?”

Mirkut also knows that the summit will be as much about hard work as it will be about sightseeing.

“Overall, I think that the debates, speeches and events that have been planned out for the week are more than I ever could have bargained for,” he said. “I am proud to say that I am one of the 45 students from across the nation that will be attending the summit.”

The NRA Youth Education Summit will take place June 20-26.

Village discusses open burning regulations

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove residents in attendance during the village Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday night wanted to make it clear that they very much enjoy their open burning rights.

The village chose to hold the discussion after receiving several comments from residents who have respiratory issues and cannot be around an excessive amount of smoke, as well as those who believe the village isn’t doing enough to prevent residents from reckless burning practices (allowing their fires to smolder, burning items that are not permitted by the village, etc.).

According to a village document, Sugar Grove’s waste hauler now offers a curbside pickup service, which means the village has the option to ban open burning in the villages. However, the document states that discussions regarding a total ban were poorly received.

“I don’t think we should ban the burning,” Village Trustee Mari Johnson said during the meeting. “I do think we should be more responsible … enforcing the ordinance we already have.”

According to the village document, some of the suggested code amendments include adding the word “dry” to the definition of debris (wet debris is an inappropriate burn item); the addition of “sunny day,” which will prevent residents from burning during wet weather conditions that can cause a fire to smolder; and the mandatory presence of an extinguisher, hose or water source while burning.

“When I was out campaigning, the issue of open burning (was) the second-most popular concern people had,” Village Trustee David Paluch said. “And I just wanted to bring it to the board, and to the public, to have that discussion. I’m not looking at banning (burning) at all. I think we should look at maybe being a little bit more responsible when it comes to (open burning).”

Village President Sean Michels said he thinks the board will take a look at the language in the current code and possibly amend a few areas to add some things.

“As a collective group, if we could sort of police each other and our neighbors, and tell them that we’re not trying to be a bad guy (by) telling them to keep the smoke down or knock it down a little bit, I think we’re all looking out for the best interests of the community,” he said.

Maple Park mural evokes old-time village spirit

by Keith Beebe
MAPLE PARK—There is a rich history behind the stretch of Lincoln Highway that travels through Maple Park, and that history is currently represented on an interpretive mural that was installed in the heart of downtown Maple Park on May 24.

The interpretive mural, which is affixed to the west side of Village Hall, is part of the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition (ILHC)’s series commemorating several of the communities located along the Lincoln Highway’s 179 miles. All of the community murals were designed and painted by artist Jay Allen, president of ShawCraft Sign Co.

The Maple Park mural depicts a service station employee flanked by old-time gas pumps, a restroom sign and an ad for tires, indicative of the time period between 1913 and 1928, when three gas stations were located in the village.

“The subject of this mural is pertinent to the history of the Lincoln Highway for many reasons. As the highway developed from dirt and mud to pavement, automobile travel became a way of life,” ILHC Planning Director Sue Hronik said. “Service stations and garages along the Lincoln Highway made it their goal to accommodate motorists’ every need; not just fuel, but all the elements included in the painting.”

The multiple interpretive murals were made possible by grants from the Federal Highway Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The Maple Park interpretive mural, which Hronik said was painted from a photo provided by the village, is the 17th of 20 murals that have been installed since January 2010. Murals have also been installed in Aurora, Geneva, St. Charles, DeKalb and Rochelle, just to name a few. Another set of murals will be installed later this month.

“It looks amazing,” Hronik said of the Maple Park mural. “As always, the talent in the artwork and detail are a true gift of Jay and his staff. Each time an ILHC mural goes up, it is such a wonderful thing for the history of the byway and the community that has accepted the gift. Maple Park’s mural is a tribute to the roadside industry of the service station, the Lincoln Highway, as well as how each of those things forever changed the American landscape.”

The murals are valued at $10,000 each, and, according to Hronik, have been well received by their respective towns.

“Some communities actually have had true unveilings, with a tarp covering the mural until an official ceremony takes place,” she said. “Public reaction is always favorable, to say the least. Every town loves their mural—it evokes considerable community pride.”

Comptroller orders Old Second to raise its capital ratio

by Keith Beebe
KANE COUNTY—It was less than a month ago when Old Second Bank was ordered by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of Currency to raise its capital ratio to 8.75 percent by Sept. 30, but Old Second Bancorp President and CEO Bill Skoglund thinks things are already looking better for the largest bank in Kane County.

“They’re asking us to raise our regulatory capital ratio. As of March 31, our total capital was at 11.97 percent, and our leverage ratio was at 8.64 percent, after being at 8.1 percent at the end of (last) year, so we’re almost at the (8.97) ratio, and we think we can get to that in a very short time,” he said. “I think we’ll be there before Sept. 30.”

A capital ratio of 8.75 is what federal regulators want to see, and Skoglund said the bank was first notified about its capital ratio in December 2009.

“We, as a public company, made a public announcement of it in June 2010, when we were looking to get some capital,” he said.

The FDIC website defines any total risk-based capital ratio equal to or greater than 8 percent as “adequately capitalized.” According to the website, the standing of “well capitalized” is reserved for any total risk-based capital ratio equal to or greater than 10 percent.

Despite Old Second’s slightly sub-par capital ratio, Skoglund maintains that their leverage ratio is far better than the ratios found in banks that are forced to close.

“They don’t close banks with these kinds of ratios. Banks that get closed, they have ratios of 2 percent or less,” he said. “We’re a long way from that, but this is an agreement that they want us to raise these ratios.

Skoglund said some of Old Second Bank’s losses were due to construction and development loans.

“We’re through that now,” he said. “The economy’s seeming to get a little bit better. We’re starting to see some businesses start to make money now, and they’re starting to hire people. We’re starting to see commercial real estate value stabilize, which is big for us.”

Local resident advocates against distracted driving

by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—Just about every facet of Ryan Anderson’s life has revolved around the Elburn area: he was born here, grew up here, and worked here at Northern Fs Inc., after he graduated high school. His father, Dave Anderson, is the mayor of Elburn.

But there’s something else in Ryan’s life that he wants to make a local staple: a stance against distracted driving, which led Anderson to join an organization known as the Crash Coalition.

Crash (Coalition for Responsibility and Accountability on Streets and Highways) is a public charity that seeks to educate the public about the potentially deadly consequences of driving while distracted. The organization also provides assistance to victims, as well as their families, of accidents that are a result of distracted driving.

Anderson, now 34, was one of 14 people injured in a multi-car accident on May 23, 2009, at Route 47 and Smith Road, when then-24-year-old Alia Bernard of Aurora crashed her car into the back of Anderson’s Honda Civic. The impact of the crash pushed Anderson’s vehicle into oncoming traffic, where it collided with a group of motorcyclists—two of which, Wade and Denise Thomas of St. Charles, were killed.

Bernard is facing two charges of Aggravated DUI and two charges of Reckless Homicide with a Motor Vehicle. Her next court date is Thursday, June 9.

As a result of the accident, Anderson suffered numerous cuts that required stitches, a broken orbital socket that also related to an unconfirmed CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) leak, and two herniated discs in his lower back.

“After my accident, I was frustrated with the laws, the legal system, and trying to find out how ways that distracted driving, as a whole, could be changed,” Anderson said. “I was reading up on articles and came about the “nail polish” crash up in Lake Zurich (Ill.).”

The “nail polish” crash, which occurred three weeks before Anderson’s accident, involved a motorist who struck and killed a motorcyclist, 56-year-old Anita Zaffke.

Reading about the “nail polish” crash led Anderson to begin speaking with Greg Zaffke, president and founding board member of the Black Nail Brigade (the organization that would eventually become Crash Coalition), sometime around the one-year anniversary of the accident at Route 47 and Smith Road. Anderson immediately took to the group and began attending meetings and distracted-driving-related court cases. He is currently a Crash Coalition board member.

“I just did anything I could to help the organization,” he said.

Greg Zaffke said he defines distracted driving as multi-tasking actions—visual or cognitive—that result in drivers effectively driving blind and risking the lives of everyone on the road.

“It has been shown in studies and statistics that distracted driving is comparable to, and often more dangerous than, drunk driving,” Zaffke said. “Yet there is a huge disparity in the rate of prosecution and the severity of sentencing between DUI and non-DUI traffic fatality crashes. That must change if our society is going to change its perception of the serious dangers of distracted driving. These are 100 percent preventable deaths, and more attention needs to be given to holding the offenders fully accountable within our legal system for their negligent and reckless actions behind the wheel.”

According to Zaffke, the Crash Coalition’s initiatives are broken down into three categories: charity (establishing funds for victims of distracted crashes), advocacy (victim advocates and court monitoring) and awareness (education, awareness programs and events).

“We support more frequent application of current reckless homicide statutes, as well as the addition of a negligent vehicular homicide statute to fill the major gap between minor traffic fines and reckless homicide (which is a felony),” he said. “Too many people are killed on our streets, and typically the only consequence for the offenders is petty traffic court.”

Anderson said the Crash Coalition is really just starting to get its message out.

“For every second you travel while not looking at the windshield, your car can travel half the length of a football field, so imagine what can happen in that time,” he said. “People need to understand, because (distracted driving) has been a huge problem for a long time.”

Vocal quintet performs for KMS students

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Chicago-based vocal ensemble Table for 5 performed for Kaneland Harter Middle School students on May 18, belting out a handful of musical numbers while also teaching students the importance of emphasizing the visual aspects of performance while singing for an audience.

Halfway into the quintet’s performance, KMS students proved to be no vocal slouches themselves, either, and performed Toto’s “Africa” for their guest singers, stomping the floor to emphasize percussion and mimicking the song’s keyboard parts with vocals.

The visiting vocal ensemble was clearly impressed.

“The kids were great,” Table for 5 member Jeff Duke said. “(Kaneland Harter Middle School music teachers) Lori (Grant) and Brian (Kowalski) do an excellent job in motivating their students and helping them experience the joy of making music.”

Grant said it was a wonderful opportunity for the students to hear and learn from professional musicians.

“Table for 5 has a ‘New York Voices’ sound, but they are right here from the heartland,” she said.

The current line-up of Table for 5 has been together for three years, and consists of Jeff Duke, Heather Braoudakis, Amy Pickering, Roger Anderson and Kathryn Kemp. However, only four members of the group performed for KMS, as Kemp was unable to attend the concert.

Table for 5’s musical repertoire includes classical, jazz, pop and broadway, and four of the group’s members (Duke, Braoudakis, Pickering and Kemp) sing with the Chicago Symphony Chorus. So it’s not surprising that the quintet’s song choices for the Harter Middle School concert ranged from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” to ’60s music, as well as some Wizard of Oz-inspired vocal histrionics. Despite the diversity of the performed material, the group’s strong vocals and complex harmonies weaved effortlessly throughout each song.

“Since we were missing one of our members on Wednesday, we picked arrangements that we thought would not suffer from having a smaller ensemble,” Duke said. “Also, we wanted to pick music that would show the kids how to act and perform a song and let their personalities shine through.”

Duke said the quintet has a variety of music in its catalogue, and will sometimes perform themed concerts when they feel arts series presenters are looking for a particular genre or era of music.

“We try to pick interesting and complex arrangements that will keep the audience’s interest,” he said. “We have had a lot of arrangements written just for us, and that is always helpful to help a group create its own identity.”

Table for 5 doesn’t perform many concerts for schools, but relished the opportunity to perform for Harter Middle School students, talking and giving advice to students between songs, and really hamming it up for students, in an effort to demonstrate the importance of a singer injecting some personality into the performance.

“We don’t do a lot of schools but when we get a chance we always have a great time,” Duke said. “Occasionally when we do a concert series in a community or university, they will coordinate a time for us to get together with students that are interested in the performing arts. It is really fun to share some of the knowledge that we have gained by being working professionals in the arts.”

Village approves non-standard pavement amendment

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday voted 5-1 to approve a text amendment allowing the use of non-standard at-grade pavement in driveway right-of-way aprons.

According to a document from Community Development Director Richard Young, contractors and homeowners over the last few years have requested permission to match their driveway apron, located in the village right-of-way, with their driveway material.

The document also states that several municipalities in the area use non-standard pavement materials such as stamped concrete, colored concrete, stamped asphalt and brick pavers in the right-of-way.

With the new amendment, non-standard at-grade pavement will be allowed in village right-of-ways if the property owner files for a building permit, as well as a “Non-Standard Pavement ROW Permit Agreement and Covenant,” which means the owner agrees that the village is not responsible for the cost of any non-standard pavement materials, even if said materials are damaged by the village during right-of-way work.

Trustee Bob Bohler voted against the amendment.

“I don’t think this is a good idea. I don’t know what recourse we’re going to have,” he said. “Let’s say that apron does go to hell, and water starts corroding underneath and damaging our roadway or damaging our gutter. How are we going to go back after the homeowner? First of all, we’re not going to be fixing the apron, which is brick. What recourse do we have to repair this? I think it’s a horrible idea.”

The issue of subsequent homeowners having to agree to non-standard pavement terms with the village was also posed during the meeting. Trustee Mari Johnson said if the village is going to allow something out of the ordinary, the onus needs to be on the homeowner and the future homeowner, as well.

Approval of the amendment is subject to attorney review.

School Board recognizes retirees

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday recognized district staff who will retire this June.

The list of 2011 retirees includes John Stewart teacher Jan Gramley (16 years of service), Blackberry Creek teacher Susan Hasenauer (22 years), John Stewart teacher Nancy Hensley (19 years), Fox Valley Career Center Director Larry Imel (9 years), Blackberry Creek Principal Kyle Kuhns (28 years), Harter Middle School teacher Linda Lanthrum (20 years), John Shields teacher Sherene Lyon (11 years), Blackberry Creek teacher Lynda McGowen (25 years), John Stewart art specialist Bonnie Whildin (25.5 years), Kaneland High School teacher Joe Thorgesen (33 years), Kaneland High School teacher Doug Ecker (25 years), Harter Middle School Psychologist Deb Vensel (18 years), John Stewart reading specialist Jenny Wagner (15 years), John Shields teacher Candy Soper (19 years) and John Shields teacher Karen Springer (7 years).

“We are blessed to have worked with such a committed and passionate group of educators,” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. “The group of retirees collectively have taught for almost 300 years. They have touched a lot of lives, and for that we owe them a great deal.”

Each retiree spoke briefly upon receiving their plaque from the board and expressed what it meant to teach in the Kaneland School District.

Gramley, whose husband, Elmer, is vice president of the board, also said she looked forward to having regular conversations with her husband.

“When people say, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ (I tell them) Elmer and I are going to have many wonderful dinners where we don’t say, ‘We can’t talk about that,’” she said.

Kuhns said he appreciated everything Kaneland had provided him while he served as a special education teacher, fourth-grade teacher, librarian and then principal at Blackberry Creek. He also quickly drew laughs from those in attendance by poking fun at his own age.

“It’s been a lot of years, and in my advanced age, if I could remember most of them, I’m sure I would have wonderful thoughts,” Kuhns said.

Schuler said the appreciation expressed by each retiree was indicative of the quality of the Kaneland School District community and staff.

“That says a lot about the quality of our School District when you hear people talk with that level of passion and appreciation for Kaneland,” he said.

Kaneland junior goes to State for WYSE competition

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—As someone who admits to never having any luck with playing sports, Kaneland High School junior Kayley McPhee caught a glimpse of the world of high school competition when she qualified to represent Kaneland at the World Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) state finals in April.

And luck had nothing to do with McPhee’s inclusion, as she absolutely tore through the WYSE regional and sectional rounds of the competition.

“To me, WYSE is a way for me to get in on the high school experience of competition,” she said. “To be able to go to State for something is a huge honor, considering I never thought I’d get the opportunity to compete in a challenge of this sort.”

The WYSE, sponsored and hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a test-taking duel that pits high school teams from the state of Illinois against one another at the regional, sectional and then, finally, the state level. Each team member must select two of the seven academic areas offered: engineering graphics, chemistry, biology, English, computer science, mathematics and physics.

Those who place first at State received a $2,000 scholarship to the university’s engineering program, while those who placed second received a $1,000 scholarship.

“Although I am not interested in either the (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) or engineering, the experience was a fun way of competing in something I am good at,” McPhee said.

McPhee was offered a spot on the Kaneland WYSE team by KHS math teacher Sharon Black before the regional round, and promptly chose the biology and English portions of the event.

McPhee placed first in English and third in biology at the event, and then placed first in biology and second in English at the WYSE sectional, which was held at Northern Illinois University in March.

“In the beginning, I had no clue about the level of competition,” McPhee said. “At regionals, Kaneland was one of the strongest teams there. At sectionals, though, only the better schools ended up there, and we were competing against a lot of college preparatory and private schools with more advanced curriculum.”

McPhee didn’t medal in either of her selected categories at the state finals, but did register high scores in both areas. She said the level of competition at State was mind blowing, and that she felt it was a huge accomplishment just to make it to the final portion of the event.

“At State, the vast majority of schools were private, with a lot of competitors going without their team, like I did,” she said. “I suppose that I expected the more advanced challenges to be a lot harder, but I found that the tests only got a little bit more difficult as I went along.”

McPhee officially has the WYSE bug after her first run in the competition, but said she hopes to have some company the next time she competes in the event.

“Next year, I’m hoping to not just get to State, but to place there,” she said. “And I really hope that Kaneland can go as a team. All of the juniors and sophomores and freshmen we had on the team this year are very bright, and I’m sure we can go far.”

Cloat named Kane County Associate Educator of the Year

By Keith Beebe
KANELAND—A District 302 staff member has been recognized as an Educator of the Year in Kane County.

An awards banquet honoring Kane County 2011 Educator of the Year nominees was held on May 6 at the Pheasant Run Mega Center in St. Charles, with Julia Cloat, a Response to Intervention (RtI) facilitator at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary, taking home the award in the Associate Educator category.

The other District 302 nominees for Educator of the Year were John Stewart Custodian Noe Malagon (in the category of Support Staff), Blackberry Music Teacher Brandon Fox (Elementary Educator), Harter Middle School Science Teacher Charri Trembley (Middle School Educator) and Kaneland High School Biology Teacher Doug Ecker (High School Educator).

There is also an Administrator category.

Cloat said she actually felt a little embarrassed and unworthy upon hearing that she was nominated, and thought that several teachers in Kane County were deserving of a nomination.

“I truly felt that it was my team’s efforts that deserved the acknowledgment and that this was their award, not just my own,” she said. “The teachers who I work with are so dedicated to working hard and doing what is needed to help children learn every day. I don’t deserve to be recognized any more than any one of them.”

To be nominated as an Educator of the Year, fellow work colleagues must submit a letter of recommendation that is then reviewed by the Kaneland School District Educator of the Year committee. The committee then selects a Kaneland Educator of the Year for each category, and in turn, nominates all of the honorees for Kane County Educator of the Year.

The Associate Educator category pertains to any staff member in a certified position who is outside of the classroom: special education, intervention, etc.

“Julia (won) the R.B. Mades Award, which is given to the winner of the Associate Educator category,” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. “It was a great honor for her.”

The Regional Office of Education selects the winner of each category and then presents the winners at the Educator of the Year banquet, which is also meant to recognize the nominees from every district.

Cloat became a classroom teacher during the 1998-99 school year, which was also the year John Stewart opened. Cloat taught at JSE for six years before transferring to Blackberry Creek, where she served as a challenge teacher, reading teacher and literary specialist. She then returned to JSE for the 2008-09 school year and became the RtI facilitator.

“RtI is a multi-step approach to providing services and interventions to students whose academic and behavioral needs are not being met through the core curriculum,” she said. “It is my role to coordinate the interventions for the students who receive RtI services.”

J.A. Air takes top spot on FBO survey

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—In the world of aviation, earning a spot on Aviation International News’ (AIN) survey of the top 40 fixed-base operator (FBO) facilities in the country is like winning the Super Bowl. Earning the No.1 spot on the list is like winning baseball’s Triple Crown.

So which FBO topped the list in 2011? That would be the J.A. Air Center, located at the Aurora Municipal Airport. The J.A. (Joliet Avionics) Air Center has been open since December 2008, and was previously located at the DuPage Airport in West Chicago, as far back as the mid-1990s.

“(Earning the top FBO spot) is a dream come true. It’s what we had planned when we decided to move our business from DuPage Airport out here to Aurora—to provide a world-class facility,” J.A. Air Center President Brad Zeman said. “We were just hoping to someday get on the survey. Optimistically, (we said), ‘Hey, top 10 would be phenomenal,’ but to win is just completely over the top. For a private company, where you’re competing against a lot of companies that are owned by Fortune 500 companies and others that are owned by government entities that have budgets well beyond private owners, it’s just absolutely amazing (to win).

AIN is the most widely read publication regarding corporate aviation, which is essentially any business that has an airplane—single-engine planes up to business jets. The publication’s FBO Survey is compiled from the opinions of pilots and dispatchers, and grades FBOs on areas such as line services, overall facilities, and pilot and passenger amenities.

Zeman credits the J.A. Air Center’s service as a major reason why the facility earned the top spot on the survey.

“Our people give the best service anywhere, and we treat our customers like family and friends,” he said. “In everything we do, we try to anticipate the pilots’ needs, but also the passengers’ needs.”

A strong example of the J.A. Air Center’s commitment to providing great service includes the facility’s 25,000-square-foot canopy that can provide total cover for even the largest business jets. In the event of rainfall, a customer can taxi their airplane underneath the canopy and get in and out of the aircraft without getting hit with a single raindrop. Other amenities include a drive-up canopy for people to keep dry when they exit their cars, and doorless bathrooms.

“People getting in and out of airplanes always have things in their hands, and we designed the bathrooms so there are a series of turns and walls (instead of doors),” Zeman said. “Yeah, you do a little bit of zig-zagging, but there are no doors to have to deal with.”

The J.A. Air Center also bakes fresh cookies in-house every day, and offers Lou Malnati’s Pizza for people who are traveling through on business. Zeman said it’s a nice way for visitors to take home a little taste of Chicago.

The J.A. Air Center, which beat out other FBOs such Global Select at Sugarland Regional Airport in Sugarland, Texas, and XJet at Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colo., also earned the highest score in the history of AIN’s FBO Survey, notching an overall grade of 9.52. Global Select’s grade of 9.45 was the next highest, followed by XJet with a grade of 9.16.

So what’s next for the J.A. Air Center after earning the right to be called the best FBO in the country? Zeman said he expects the increased publicity to help put the Aurora Municipal Airport on the map.

“I think what we’ll find is more corporate aviation is going to come through Aurora Airport to experience the service that we provide, and that’s good for the community as a whole because it brings more businesses through the front door of (this) community,” he said. “The truth of that matter is this is the best location for business aircraft in Chicagoland. It’s the only one that has direct access to the tollway, and there’s only one stoplight between Aurora Aiport and the Chicago Loop, and this is the only airport that can say that.”

WCC cancels pre-school program

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Waubonsee Community College will discontinue its Magnet Place preschool program when the current semester ends this month, and some parents aren’t happy about it.

The community college will eschew the Magnet Place because it believes the preschool no longer serves one of the purposes it was initially created for: to function as a lab for the college’s early childhood education program. However, WCC will continue to have a childcare program.

“There are a number of other local preschool options, and over the years, the students in our early childhood education program really began to get their internship experiences in a variety of different settings and were often times interning off campus,” said Jeffrey Noblitt, director of marketing and communications at Waubonsee. “In terms of the educational value of having a preschool, (it) became less of a necessity for our early childhood education program.”

Kathleen Spayer, whose child attends Magnet Place, said she wasn’t told about the discontinuation of the preschool program until late March/early April.

“We were all disappointed to find out (about the discontinuation), and the teachers were also surprised,” Spayer said. “My daughter has only been there since January, so for her to only be here for a few months and then have to change, that’s hard for little kids.”

Spayer said Waubonsee was less than receptive to parents who voiced their disappointment with the short notice of the program discontinuation. According to her, one Waubonsee dean told the parents they were lucky the community college didn’t wait until May to tell them the news.

She also claims that parents were notified about the discontinuation of the program through Magnet Place teachers, not the community college.

“The administration never mailed anything to my home,” she said.

Noblitt, though, claims that a notice was indeed mailed out to parents.

“I know for a fact that a parent notification letter went out,” he said.

Spayer is now concerned with having to pay more for a different preschool program in the area, as Magnet Place provided both a high quality and affordable program.

“I have since located another program for my daughter, and it’s not in Sugar Grove,” she said. “The other two programs in Sugar Grove, I can’t afford (them). We were paying $400 a semester for Waubonsee, and now we’re talking about at least that a month. (One preschool) is a couple hundred a week.”

Noblitt said he hadn’t priced out the different preschool options in the area.

“I know that for years Waubonsee has offered a very affordable preschool, but (this decision) comes down to refocusing on our core mission, which is to provide two-year degrees and certificates,” he said. “Offering a preschool program is not directly in line with that core mission, but providing childcare to help students achieve those goals, is directly in line (with our core mission).”

Spayer remains disappointed with how Waubonsee handled the situation, but said she has found a preschool that is a reasonable alternative to the Magnet Place program.

“My fear is gone, because I’ve since found somewhere that has an opening that we can afford, and it seems like a good program for my daughter,” she said.

And as for Spayer’s hard feelings towards Waubonsee?

“My initial disgust has started to die down,” she said.

Citizens’ group forms to create veterans park

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The message from those in attendance during the Sugar Grove Village Board meeting on Tuesday was clear: the village should have a Veterans Park.

There’s just one problem: the Village Board hasn’t discussed the topic yet.

During the meeting, Village Board members listened to comments from members of Citizens for Veterans Park, a group dedicated to establishing a park in Sugar Grove that will honor those who have served their country. The Citizens for Veterans Park has the support of the American Legion, the Sugar Grove American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion.

The group wants to establish the Veterans Park on the old Sugar Grove Hotel property on Main Street, now owned by the village. The Citizens for Veterans Park pamphlet suggests the park can serve as a green space for reflection, as well as celebration of Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day.

“We really don’t have a place in town where we can … respect and appreciate our vets,” Trustee Kevin Geary said. “Doing a little bit of research into this, the old hotel site was actually purchased with county funds. And the old hotel, being on the Kane County historic register, the intent of those funds was to keep it as a historic site.”

Geary described the proposed park as a living monument that will move on into the future.

“What I am asking the board to do is to strongly consider dedicating this land … the thought is that the village could still retain ownership of the land. The cost to the village is nothing other than to dedicate the land.”

Geary said that there are no existing formal agreements in place to provide for maintenance of the park, although there have been discussions with a local garden club, Scouts, and the American Legion.

Trustee Bob Bohler raised the point that the Veterans Park proposal would have to be discussed further with the village attorney.

Cliff Barker and Tim Sury spoke on behalf of the Citizens for Veterans Park, with Barker stating that the group is requesting a sign and a designation of Veterans Park, with a flagpole and light to be added later.

“I attended a meeting last Thursday at the Sugar Grove American Legion regarding this proposal,” Sury said. “It was suggested that if the Sugar Grove (Village) Board turned down this proposal, the Sugar Grove American Legion should walk the streets with a petition to secure a memorial site for Sugar Grove. Does the Sugar Grove Village Board believe the memorial site will not be accepted by the citizens of Sugar Grove?”

A discussion between the village and the Citizens for Veterans Park is expected to take place sometime within the next week.

Aurora Airport manager to be inducted into aviation hall of fame

by Keith Beebe
AURORA/Sugar Grove—Bob Rieser began working for the city of Aurora in May 1971 as a summer college intern while working toward a degree in civil engineering.

Forty years later, he will be the first professional airport manager to be inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

The Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame is a part of the annual Illinois Aviation Conference, which will be held this year on May 24 and 25 at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield. The conference features programs, guest speakers and other tools to help show what is currently going on in the world of aviation.
Rieser, who serves as manager and director of aviation at the Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove, is one of four people who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011. He said he was both pleased and surprised when he found out in late January that he would be inducted this year.

“It’s an honor to be inducted, and it’s very nice to be acknowledged by your peers in the industry,” Rieser said. “There’s no better form of flattery, especially if you look at the guys who are in there ahead of me. It’s an honor to be in that group of distinguished people in aviation.”

This was also Rieser’s first time being nominated for the Hall of Fame. According to Rieser, nominees do not typically make it through the screening process the first few times they are nominated.

“I guess I met the criteria,” he said. “The biggest thing they look for is what you do for aviation in Illinois outside of your job, and I guess I’ve done that.”

According to an Illinois Aviation Conference press release, Rieser’s skills, love and devotion to general aviation have opened many doors of opportunity to the aviation community for those who want to be part of it. The release states that Rieser has supported EAA Chapter 79 in flying over 14,000 children as part of the Young Eagles program, and has hosted the Chapter One Aerobatic Competition, the North American Trainer Association formation seminars, the Moleaires line control model airplane competition, and the USAF Reservists.

The press release also states Rieser’s devotion to aviation and dedication to Illinois airports qualifies him to join the ranks of notable inductees in the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

One of the first projects Rieser was assigned to work on 40 years ago was the construction of a runway extension. After that, he finished his college training, earned his degree at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and went to work for Aurora, building projects as a civil engineer. Then, everything came together for Rieser one day in 1978.

“The then-airport manager apparently went to the mayor, who was Jack Hill, and said he wanted to take a three-month leave of absence. The mayor walked up into the engineering part and said, ‘OK, he’s going to be gone for three months; who wants to look after it while he’s gone?’ And I stuck my hand up,” Rieser said. “That was it. He just said, ‘Take care of it while you do your other stuff.’”

Rieser then officially began splitting his time between civil engineering and managing the airport in 1981, and then moved into the full-time airport manager position three years later. Rieser is currently the longest-standing airport manager for a public airport in the state of Illinois.

He also believes he still has plenty of important work still ahead of him.

“I want to keep working, and I see some good surprises coming up around here this next year,” he said.

Community comes together

Photo: The Elburn community has come together to find a new home for the Anderson family: father, Steve, mother, Cari, and their three sons, Sam, Max and Jake. Courtesy Photo

Local residents help family of Iraq veteran facing long line of hardships
by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—Hard luck stories are far from uncommon during this time of poor economic stability, but “hard luck” wouldn’t even begin to describe what Elburn resident Steve Anderson and his family have gone through during the last six years.

“Nightmarish” would be a more apt description of the events that have recently taken place in their lives.

Anderson retired from the Army in May 2010 after suffering various spinal and head injuries brought on from three separate occasions in Iraq in which a military vehicle he was traveling in was struck by a detonating Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

And then on March 5 of this year, Anderson’s wife, Cari, was diagnosed with a golf ball-sized tumor on her brain stem, which has left her with facial paralysis on the right side of her face, as well as the inability to hear out of her right ear or voluntarily blink her right eye.

Just prior to his wife’s diagnosis, Steve discovered that the house he rents in Elburn with his wife and their three children—Sam, Max and Jake—was being foreclosed on.

“The landlord was pocketing the money (I paid him each month) instead of paying the mortgage,” Anderson said. “I have to assume he’s been pocketing the cash since last May. I had no idea that the house was being foreclosed on until someone tried to serve me with papers, thinking I was the owner of the house. That threw me for a loop.”

Anderson’s landlord, Robert Heywood, said he has tried to make it easier on Anderson by allowing him to be late on rent payment.

“He’s had to deal with his wife’s health, and I am currently out of work myself,” he said. “Steve’s a great guy and a hero to this country, and I wish him the best.”

Anderson said Heywood has indeed been understanding about late rent payments since hearing about Cari’s diagnosis.

“I know it’s kind of messed up, because he’s not actually paying the mortgage, but because I am under lease, I have to pay him anyway,” Anderson said. “So he’s at least been understanding.”

The foreclosure means Steve and his family will have to find a new home while Cari continues to recover after having the brain tumor removed. The recovery process is expected to take between six months and year, and even then it’s uncertain whether or not she’ll recover the hearing in her right ear or control of her right eye.

Steve, a 1992 St. Charles High School graduate, enlisted in the Marines during his senior year of high school. He met Cari at what was then the Colonial Cafe in Geneva, and they began dating in February 1992, eight months before Steve left for basic training and his first overseas tour in Japan. After two years apart, the couple was married in January 1995.

Steve left the Marines with a rank of Corporal (E-4) in October 1996 after his request for a more stable assignment in Naples, Italy, was denied. He and Cari then bought a house in DeKalb, and Steve worked at Jorgensen Steel in Schaumburg for the next seven years. During this time, Steve and Cari had their three boys.

Return to service
“(We) were living the American dream just like any family,” Anderson said. “When 9/11 happened, I had a mind to get back into the military, but it wasn’t until the U.S. invasion of Iraq that I became serious enough to get myself back in shape to go back in. I left a $60,000-a-year job, trained my butt off and joined the Army in September 2003. I simply felt an overwhelming obligation to serve again.”

Anderson said it’s difficult to speak about his injuries sustained while serving in Iraq, because he feels the Army betrayed him.

“My first injury unofficially came in May 2005 during a convoy from FOB Normandy,” Anderson said. “An IED exploded in front of my vehicle that day—the day I gave my gunner a break and sat in the turret instead. I saw the explosion in what seemed like slow motion.”

A piece of shrapnel flew from the bomb and struck Anderson in the helmet, causing his head to snap back. He said he literally felt nothing with all the adrenaline coursing through his veins. The blow left no visible wounds on Anderson, but he felt severe pain in his head and neck.

“I was not seen by a doctor, but rather by a medic who happened to be my best friend. He cleared me so as to continue the mission,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s second run-in with an IED was in Taji, Iraq, when a bomb went off underneath his truck, knocking him unconscious for a short period of time. Anderson has back problems as a result of this blast.

“The gunner in the vehicle behind me was struck by shrapnel, and again I felt guilty for saying anything (about my injury),” he said. “Having a friend that was visibly injured made it clear to me that what I was feeling was minor by comparison, and so I didn’t make too much of a fuss. Again, because of the team having medics on hand, a quick exam was performed but not documented, and I continued my mission without complaint. Had I been seen by an actual doctor, I am sure I would have been awarded a Purple Heart.”

According to Anderson, both injuries needed several surgeries to fix, but because of documentation reasons, he does not receive benefits that would have been entitled to him otherwise.

“You can see why I felt betrayed,” he said. “I was also hit by a third IED, but by that time, I was so screwed up (that) I no longer cared whether I lived or died. After eight months of living in hell and seeing so many people killed, I believe it was natural to be depressed a little.”

A community responds
With Cari’s diagnosis, as well as Anderson’s living arrangement in jeopardy, Mike Davis, a friend of Steve and Cari’s, reached out to Pastor Gary Augustine of the Elburn Hill Church and asked if there was anything Augustine could do to help the struggling family. Davis had read Augustine’s articles in the Elburn Herald and thought he might be somebody willing to help out.

Davis and Augustine then met over breakfast and coffee that Thursday morning. After hearing the Anderson’s story, Augustine went to Delnor Hospital that day and prayed with Cari about the surgery.

“We then began looking at what we might be able to do (to help their situation),” Augustine said. “Of course, raising money was part of the issue. One of the things we did right away was bring meals to the family three times a week while Cari was in the hospital recovering. Mike Davis was also trying to provide some meals, too, and he had a couple of restaurants help out with that. He and his wife brought meals over for the kids, and so it’s been like that three or four times a week for the last month.”

According to Augustine, part of the Anderson family’s financial concerns stemmed from the fact that the bulk of the family’s income, provided by Cari, would be unavailable while Cari was on disability. Augustine said he and Steve sat down to try and figure out if they could get some applications for the state programs for medical stuff and also for social security disability while Cari is recovering.

Augustine’s position on the Elburn Chamber of Commerce and, more specifically, his connections with the Elburn American Bank and Trust Co., led to his meeting with Brian Hansen, who was also very interested in helping the Andersons by finding them a home to buy or rent.

“What we need is for everyone in the community to step up with a house for this family,” Hansen said. “We’re doing everything we can to help him out on our end.”

Augustine said an individual came along and helped Steve and Cari get out of a few things that they were committed to financially, freeing up some money so that the family could look into buying or at least moving into another place. The individual who helped the Andersons prefers to keep his involvement private.

Davis, who was a catalyst for this immense effort to help the Andersons, also called Rich Temmerman of Midtown Martial Arts in Elburn about doing some kind of benefit for the family. Davis’ son takes martial arts classes from Temmerman with one of Anderson’s sons.

Midtown will host a fundraiser for the Anderson family on Saturday, April 30, from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. on the second floor of the Elburn Community Center, 525 N. Route 47. The fundraiser will consist of a black belt demonstration by Temmerman. Midtown can be reached by calling (630) 365-2344.

“I can’t say enough about the people who have helped us out,” Anderson said. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”

How you can help
Midtown Martial Arts
black belt demonstration/fundraiser
Saturday, April 30
3:30 to 4:45 p.m.
second floor of the
Elburn Community Center,
525 N. Route 47, Elburn
(630) 365-2344

Elburn Hill Church
pastor Gary Augustine
can be reached at
(630) 365-9064

Thousands turn out for fine arts fest

Photo: Visitors to the 2011 Kaneland Fine Arts Fest Sunday were treated to hundreds of pieces of art, and were even invited to add their own. A gallery will load below the story. Photo by Ben Draper

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Another year, another successful display of visual and performing arts by the Kaneland community.

The 12th annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival (KCFAF) was held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and offered glass, dance and painting workshops, various artists and performance ensembles to an audience that ranged from first-time viewers to highly experienced art spectators. Approximately 3,000 people attended the Fine Arts Festival this year.

The great weather this weekend probably didn’t hurt the crowd turnout, either.

“I was so pleased with this year’s festival. The weather held up, and many people came (to the event) for the very first time,” KCFAF Executive Director Maria Dripps-Paulson said. “I think that having great publicity pre-event led to many people coming to check us out. The festival was also a success because it’s free, which fits perfectly into many families’ budget these days. I simply love seeing people of every age group immersing themselves in the fine arts.”

Performance art on display during the festival included a hands-on workshop featuring the AMEBA Acrobatic and Aerial Dance Company. Visual forms of art, including pencil art, watercolors and calligraphy, were also demonstrated during the event, which was held at Kaneland High School.

The Fine Arts Festival is just a part of the artistically driven month of April in the Kaneland community. The KCFAF Juried Art Show, in its third year, is on display at the Sugar Grove Library all month long. The Juried Art Show features 18 artists and over 50 works of art.

Despite the success of this year’s Fine Arts Festival, Dripps-Paulson said she’d like to improve a few aspects of the event.

“I feel like we need to re-evaluate the performing artist part of the festival,” she said. “I heard a lot of comments like, ‘I didn’t even get to see the performers,’ which doesn’t make me happy for the performers. Some festival-goers are also torn between seeing pavilion performers and auditorium performers. Maybe we simply need to work on tweaking the schedule more.”

Dripps-Paulson also said performing artists are at more of a disadvantage than visual artists during the festival.

“Audiences kind of dabble and walk around all the artists, and you can walk up to an artist and in five or 10 minutes, be happy with your interaction and then walk out. But if you do that for a performing artist, well, it’s kind of insulting,” she said. “And you’re not really seeing their performance.”

The performing arts do not stop when the Fine Arts Festival ends, however, as there is a festival performance series that is featured year-round at the high school. The next performing event is “Bye Bye Birdie,” which will be a summer theatre production. Auditions will begin in May, with two weekend performances in July.

“We’ve pulled out a whole festival series that goes year-round to honor the performers so that there aren’t people walking in and out of their performance,” Dripps-Paulson said.

Elburn chamber recognizes Brauer, Paisano’s Pizza

by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—The Elburn Chamber of Commerce at its Winter Dinner on Feb. 19 named Bill Brauer as the Member of the Year. Brauer, current vice president and regional market manager of American Bank and Trust, served as Elburn Chamber Board president in 2009 and 2010.

The Elburn Chamber also named Paisano’s Pizza and Grill as the Business of the Year.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be nominated and then selected by your peers,” Brauer said. “It’s quite a thrill and quite an honor, and I am humbled by it.”

In addition to his two years as chamber president, Brauer had been on the Chamber Board nearly five years and occupied several positions, including treasurer.

“A lot of the stuff we do is volunteer work, and it’s nice to be recognized. Hopefully we’re making a difference.”

According to Winter Dinner committee member Kristen Damolaris, the voting process for Member and Business of the Year begins with the Winter Dinner committee asking the Elburn chamber members who they would like to nominate for the two awards. Once finalized, the nominations are listed on the Winter Dinner and Silent Auction invitations.

“We get the votes back from the (chamber) members, and then we tally the votes to find the winners of the Business and Member of the Year,” Damolaris said. “Both winners have strong ties to the community and have either participated on multiple committees and/or held various Chamber Board positions.”

The Winter Dinner was held at Mill Creek Golf Club in Geneva. Proceeds from the event benefit the Elburn Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fund for Kaneland High School. Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded later this spring.

Planning Commission recommends approval of Route 30 building expansion

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Planning Commission at its special meeting on March 30 reviewed two items that were continued from the Planning Commission’s meeting agenda on March 16, including a request for variances regarding the expansion of Scot Industries’ location on Route 30.

According to Village Planner Mike Ferencak, the variances requested by Scot Industries are related to the company’s plan to expand its current building, located at 1961 W. US Highway 30, by about 90,000 square feet, which would increase the total size of the building to 230,000 square feet.

Scot Industries’ request for 11 variances was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission with a vote of 5-0. The matter was then presented before the Village Board at its regular board/Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday evening.

A document from Ferencak and Community Development Director Rich Young states that the Planning Commission’s draft conditions for the expansion include the building’s setback along Dugan Road being revised 40 feet, as well as screening for all rooftop, ground-based and wall-mounted vents, HVAC equipment and meters.

The document also states that Scot Industries’ plan for expansion is due to the additional growth the company has been experiencing.

The other item on the Planning Commission’s agenda was the village’s request for a zoning text amendment, which was again continued—this time to the Planning Commission’s meeting on April 20, when village staff will present a draft ordinance for review.

Village Board approves chemical distributor’s move to Sugar Grove

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Producers Chemical Co. is about to make the switch from Batavia to Sugar Grove.

The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to approve a special use that will allow Producers Chemical Co. to move from its current address into a building located at 1960 Bucktail Lane and use it as a facility to store, repackage and distribute chemicals.

Producers Chemical, a distributor of liquid and dry industrial chemicals, serves over 1,000 customers (24 of which are in Sugar Grove) and has 22 full-time and three part-time employees.

“The great thing is that (Producers Chemicals’) presence increases our daytime population by about 25 employees and it provides some employment for local residents,” Village President Sean Michels said. “The current residents who work for Producers Chemical will be much closer to work, and there’s potential for them to hire new employees.”

Michels said it’s been the Village Board’s goal to increase (daytime) population because their employees will eat at the local Subway and McDonald’s and buy gas in Sugar Grove.

“We really think it’ll help out our local economy, and those are numbers that Rich (Young) Community Development Director, I and the rest of the board use to attract other retailers and companies to come to Sugar Grove,” he said.

The Village Board also voted 5-0 to grant a variance for building materials at the company’s new address on Bucktail Lane. According to a document from Young and Village Planner Mike Ferencak, the requested variance would waive the building wall material requirement, which would allow a metal siding product to enclose the facility’s 8,000 square foot outdoor canopy.

After 44 years in Batavia, Producers Chemical’s need for more interior storage space led to an interest in relocating to the building on Bucktail Lane, which was previously a dry wall distribution facility. The indoor storage will eliminate container rust and wear brought on by snow and inclement weather.

“It’s going to improve the looks of their product so much more, and those containers will be safer because you won’t have ice and snow on them,” Michels said.

According to the document from Young and Ferencak, Producer Chemical’s request for a special use includes outdoor acid, solvent, fuel tanks, a railcar unloading platform and truck loading docks.

“(Producers Chemical) is really excited about (the move),” Michels said. “They’ll have to make a significant investment into the site for leak prevention, and they’re aware of that.”

T&C Library prepares for Dewey Dash

by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—Who’d have ever thought the Dewey Decimal System and cardiovascular activity could be involved in the same event?

Yet, that’s exactly the case with the Elburn Town and Country Public Library’s seventh-annual Dewey Dash 5k and one-mile run/walk, which will be held Sunday, April 10. The one-mile race will take place at 8:30 a.m., with the 5k race to begin at 9 a.m.

Proceeds from the Dewey Dash typically go toward one of the Town and Country Library’s technical needs, and this year is no different, as proceeds from this year’s race will help fund a book self-checkout system for library patrons to use.

Raffle prizes and concessions donated by local businesses and individuals will be available during the event. Registration is currently available at the library or through the library’s website, Race-day registration will also be available from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.

The first 300 registered entrants will receive a T-shirt, snacks and goodie bag.

“This is our major fundraiser of the year, and it really does help us with our technology needs,” Library Director Lynn Alms said. “It’s a nice, healthy way to support the library and get everyone out in the, hopefully, sunshine. It’s a really fun day.”

Alms said the races will include a “ghost runner,” which means various signs held up during the race will feature quotes from a deceased author. This year, the quotes will be taken from the work of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

“We have a different ghost runner every year,” Alms said. “The first year, I think we had Shakespeare. Whoever the ghost runner is, hopefully people will be interested enough in the quotes to maybe read some of their works. Sometimes it’s a forgotten author.”

Alms pointed out that William Shakespeare was an excellent ghost runner to begin with.

“Shakespeare wasn’t exactly forgotten, so we figured we’d start with him,” she said. “You couldn’t go wrong with Shakespeare.”

Committee readies for 2011 Fine Arts Festival

Kaneland Fine Arts Festival
Sunday, April 10
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
High School

Photo: Handmade arts and crafts will be on display at the 12th annual Kaneland Fine Arts Festival, set for Sunday, April 10, at Kaneland High School. File Photo

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—All things artistic will be on display during the 12th annual Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival (KCFAF) on Sunday, April 10. And this year’s festivities will include dance, glass and painting workshops, caricature artists, various music ensembles, a live performance of School of Rock, and an art experience for pre-Kindergarten children.

To say there will be something for everyone at this festival might be a bit of an understatement.

“The Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival will provide another year of spectacular opportunities to immerse oneself in the arts, (and) people of all ages will be able to participate in watching the amazing artists present their work throughout the day,” KCFAF Executive Director Maria Dripps-Paulson said. “We will have another year of our Pre-K Art Experience offered throughout the entire day in the Fox Valley Career Center Child Care Center, with interactions with the KHS Art Club as well as puppets and storytelling.”

The 2011 Fine Arts Festival, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Kaneland High School, typically draws close to 3,000 people each year and is a main attraction during the arts-oriented month of April in the Kaneland School District. In addition to the festival, the KCFAF will present its third-annual Juried Art Show at the Sugar Grove Public Library throughout the month of April. The show will feature 18 artists and over 50 works of art on display. A reception and awards show will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, at the library.

Dripps-Paulson said the Sugar Grove Public Library is an outstanding place in which to showcase art, citing it as one way to try and unite the many communities of Kaneland, working with public and visual entities within the school’s boundary.

“We understand that the Kaneland District boundary covers many municipalities, and the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival tries to have as much representation from the different communities as possible,” she said.

Visual art styles such as pencil art, acrylic and oil painting, watercolors and calligraphy will also be well represented during the festival. However, boasting a wealth of performing and visual artists as well as a healthy crowd turnout each year isn’t about to cause anyone on the KCFAF committee to forget about the tight festival budget.

“We’re expecting upwards of 3,000 people again this year, and even though (all of the planning) is coming together quite nicely, we have to really keep track of our finances to make sure we’re all in check,” said Kara Berth, a KCFAF committee member. “But it hasn’t really been a problem because we’ve worked really well together and we’ve done a few fundraising efforts that turned out nicely for us. People are still out there supporting the arts, which is great.”

According to Berth, those fundraiser efforts include a few mailers to businesses, and a feast that took place on Feb. 19.

With the festival coming up in just over a week, the committee’s focus has been on making sure all of the festival’s small details are accounted for.

“The festival is so close, (and) with spring break this week, it makes it a little more difficult to tie up all the loose ends,” said Bonnie Whildin, a KCFAF committee member and an art teacher at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School.

KCFAF Committee member Colleen Grigg said she believes some of the festival’s appeal comes from the city-caliber artistic talent it draws out to the Kaneland community.

“The feedback is so positive from anyone who goes, and it’s just a good time with a variety of stuff to do,” she said. “The festival can hold the interest of my 2-year-old daughter and also my parents, who are in their sixties. It’s really just wide appealing to all groups of people.”

Voters asked to help forest preserve add more land

by Keith Beebe
KANE COUNTY—Kane County residents voting on the April 5 ballot will have the option to approve the Forest Preserve District Land Acquisition and Preserve Improvement Referendum, which would give the district $30 million to acquire land and perform capital initiatives.

The Forest Preserve District’s website states that the $30 million in general obligation bonds will go toward acquisition and preservation of forests and natural lands, protection of wildlife habitats, enhanced flood control, improved hiking, bike trails and fishing, and improved forest preserves, wetlands and prairies.

Land acquisition entails the addition of land to existing preserves and acquirement of land for new forest preserves, while capital projects include tasks such as resurfacing trails and renovating facilities.

Kane County forest preserves currently cover a total of 18,752 acres.

The Forest Preserve District previously issued referendums in 1999, 2005 and 2007 (those referendums were for $70 million, $75 million and $85 million, respectively), so why is there a need for a referendum in 2011? The district’s answer is simple: it believes land prices are at their lowest in years.

“We’re estimating being able to buy the same amount of land with $30 million that we were able to buy with that $85 million (a few years ago),” said Monica Meyers, executive director of the Kane County Forest Preserve District. “If the referendum passes, we’ll be going in as the only land buyer for a while, and that creates some opportunity—prices are low, there’s no competition to make prices go up, and we know there’s a lot of land on the market.”

The referendum’s impact on taxpayers would be $13.20 for a household in a $268,000 home (the average cost of a house in Kane County) each year over a 20-year period, which amounts to $1.10 every month.

According to Meyers, the issue of timing and the economy were both prime factors when the district was discussing whether or not to go through with the Land Acquisition and Preserve Improvement Referendum. And though land prices have never been better, the district is still committed to maintaining a rapport with Kane County taxpayers.

“The district’s always had a philosophy of, ‘If we’re going to do these programs, we’re going to send them out for the public to vote on them,’” Meyers said. “We’ve got a master plan in place, and we’re moving forward with that program as long as the taxpayers tell us they want us to move forward with it. We’re going to ask for their permission.”

Planning Commission recommends two agenda items, continues two others

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Planning Commission on March 16 reviewed four items on its agenda, including petitions for the relocation of Division One Fitness, expansion of Scot Industries’ current location on Route 30, and expansion of Producers Chemical Company to a facility located on Bucktail Lane.

Producers Chemical, a company in Batavia that distributes liquid and dry industrial chemicals, wants to buy a building located in an industrial area on Bucktail Lane and use it as a facility. The company’s request for a special use and variance was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission with a vote of 7-0, and will be presented before the Village Board at its regular board/Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, April 5.

The building in question was at one time a dry wall distribution facility.

“We did have several people in the audience who were supportive of the use. Frankly, they were employees of Producers Chemical, and three of them were actually Sugar Grove residents,” Community Development Director Richard Young said. “A couple folks who were adjacent property owners didn’t necessarily object to the use, but just had concerns about what the safety procedures would be.”

Young said the Producers Chemical representatives answered those questions and have an extensive safety procedure in place.

“(These chemicals) would just be concentrated in one location, because they bring in bulk material and then repackage it for smaller distribution,” Young said. “They don’t actually manufacture anything on-site.”

Division One Fitness was included on the agenda because of the proposed move from its current location on Route 47 to the Heartland Business Park in order to have more room for expansion. The fitness club’s request for a special use was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission with a vote of 6-0, and will be presented before the Village Board at its regular board/Committee of the Whole meeting on April 5.

The Scot Industries item on the agenda was continued, by a vote of 7-0, to a special Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, March 30. The company is requesting a variance for a 90,000-square-foot expansion of its current building.

Young said the item was continued because the Planning Commission is still waiting for some additional information from Scot Industries.

“The existing building has a setback variance that does not meet material elevation requirements in the current zoning ordinance, so they needed two different variances that would go along with expansion,” he said.

The Planning Commission also voted, 7-0, to continue the village’s request for a zoning ordinance text amendment. The item will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at its special meeting on March 30.

“We’re working on some text amendments to include some questions that have come up over the last year or so with temporary uses, vendors, outside stores—that type of thing,” Young said. “It’s a text amendment that will be a part of the zoning ordinance in the future.”

Kaneland finalizes budget reduction

Editor’s note:
In the “Kaneland finalizes budget reduction” story on page 1A of the Thursday, March 17 edition, a paraphrased statement by Kaneland School Board President Cheryl Krauspe was published as, “The budget reduction work was challenging, but cooperative and simple.” The statement should have read, “The budget reduction work was challenging, but cooperative and sensible.”
The Elburn Herald wants its news reports to be fair and accurate. If you know of an error, please contact:
Ryan Wells, Editor
123 N. Main St., Elburn, IL 60119

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—After nearly three months of financial projections, targeted cost centers and budget analysis, the Kaneland School District on Monday presented the School Board with its finalized cost reduction plan for the 2012 fiscal school year.

The reduction plan, which the School Board approved with a unanimous vote of 7-0, will cut $1,005,477 in district expenditures at the elementary, middle school, high school and district level. Despite the financial belt tightening, Superintendent Jeff Schuler said no school employees were lost as a result of the budget cuts, because all eliminated positions were offset by district retirements.

Schuler had repeatedly stated at School Board meetings since early January that the district’s main goal was to cut expenditures while trying to minimize the impact of reductions on student programs.

“I think that, for the most part, we were successful in that goal, although any reduction in staff, supply or purchased service is going to have some impact on our education services for students,” he said. “If it did not (have an impact), then we should not have been spending that money to begin with. I believe that Kaneland has been responsible and strategic in the use of our resources, so any cost reductions are going to be challenging.”

One of the cost reduction plan’s more difficult cuts is the elimination of two LRC director positions at the elementary level, which will leave the two remaining LRC director positions to each oversee two of the district’s four elementary buildings. These particular cuts were discussed by the School Board at its meeting on Feb. 28.

Board President Cheryl Krauspe said the budget reduction work was challenging, but cooperative and sensible.

“(It’s) hard to think positive when you think budget cuts, but we’ve got a vision that recognizes some harsh realities,” she said. “We are not in the practice of hand wringing and feeling sorry for ourselves; there is not enough time for that. We need to invest all of the resources that we have in the best possible way, and that’s moving forward.”

According to a memorandum presented by Schuler, the cost reduction plan will reduce $200,845 at the elementary level, $128,149 at the middle school level, $181,842 at the high school level, and $494,641 at the district level.

There is, however, one positive aspect that Schuler was able to take from the grueling cost reduction process.

“If there is a silver lining in the cost reductions, it is the fact that the district staff and administration have been very creative in our ability to accomplish more with less,” he said. “We have sought new ways to allocate resources-especially in operational areas-that have allowed us to maintain our focus on teaching and learning. We have not just maintained during this financial crisis, we have continued to innovate and improve.”

Minimized cuts

Despite the financial belt tightening, Superintendent Jeff Schuler said no school employees were lost as a result of the budget cuts, because all eliminated positions were offset by district retirements.

Stewart named Illinois Honor Roll School

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—It is safe to say Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School is getting the most out of its curriculum.

John Stewart Elementary was recently named a 2010 Illinois Honor Roll School in the category of academic excellence, having maintained high academic performance from its students over the last three years. This is the second consecutive year JSE has received the Academic Excellence award.

The criteria to be eligible for the award is simple: at least 90 percent of a school’s students are required to satisfy Illinois state test standards in the areas of math and reading for three consecutive years while maintaining an attendance rate of 90 percent or higher.

This is technically the fourth consecutive year JSE has posted qualifying numbers in both attendance rate and test scores.

“The ISAT (Illinois Standards Achievement Test) is what (the state) uses to monitor our achievement,” JSE Principal Laura Garland said. “We actually just took those tests again last week, and if all went well, we can make it five years straight.”

Garland said the Academic Excellence award is indicative of the team effort put together by JSE staff and also the effort of students and support from parents. She called the award a “community achievement.”

“There’s no one person or even a sub-group of people who are able to accomplish something like this alone, and we’re very fortunate in our community to have parents who are involved, help hold the students accountable, and volunteer on a regular basis,” she said. “The parents truly support our staff and students.”

According to Garland, JSE’s primary goal is to reach out and meet the needs of every student, not pursue outside recognition and awards. Therefore, a lot of work has been done with the incorporation of Response to Intervention to make sure students are meeting and exceeding standards. She claims this simplistic, unified approach is the secret to maintaining such an effective learning environment.

“Response (to) Intervention is a program that we’ve implemented throughout all of our elementary buildings, and it’s truly a don’t-wait-for-students-to-fail type of model,” she said. “As soon as we see students struggling, we intervene immediately and provide any support that (they) need. We don’t wait (to see) a regression in skills.”

John Stewart Elementary was one of 459 Illinois schools to receive the 2010 Academic Excellence award.

Village Board discusses budget

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday evening held a discussion regarding its 2011-12 budget, including general, capital project, debt service, refuse and police pension funds.

According to Village President Sean Michels, the village general budget is currently in good shape, and the discussion’s main purpose was to help the Village Board keep an eye on ancillary budgets that they have little control over but still try to monitor.

Michels said the current general budget has a surplus of about $150,000, and will have a surplus of about $25,000 in 2012 when the fiscal year ends.

“It’s looking good, and I am pleased with how things are progressing,” he said. “By having the surplus, it shows that we’re being fiscally responsible and working hard to keep expenses to a minimum. What we’re doing is trying to put money back into the community by improving their streets and keeping our quality of life up.”

The village is currently focusing on day-to-day operations because it does not have a large surplus to spend on major projects.

“It’s kind of like the discussion we had at the end of tonight: what are we seeing (in terms of) economic development?” Michels said. “New businesses can have an impact on our budget, and we’re expecting McDonald’s to generate about $20,000 a year in new sales tax, so that’ll be good.”

Village president’s shopping spree raises over $1,200 for food pantry

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels could feel the pressure as he was about to square off against Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner before a crowd of onlookers, Batavia High School cheerleaders and the clanging school band.

A spring debate between two mayors? No, it was just an intense build-up for the Kane County Farm Bureau’s 10th annual Shopping Spree.

The nonperishable grocery-shopping spree, held Friday at the Jewel-Osco in Batavia, had the mayors of Sugar Grove and Aurora zipping through store aisles to collect food for the food pantries they represented for the event. Michels shopped for Between Friends Food Pantry, while Weisner shopped for the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry. Weisner’s wife, Marilyn, is the executive director of Aurora Interfaith.

“There were quite a few spectators there to cheer me on, and with all the people there, I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of pressure on me to perform,’” Michels said. “I raised about $1,288, and Mayor Weisner raised about $1,001. It was a lot of fun, and it was great to help raise awareness for the food banks.”

The farm bureau’s five-minute shopping spree is meant to raise awareness for National Check-Out Week, which seeks to educate the public on how to shop for healthy food. According to Michels, various elected officials have participated in the shopping spree in previous years.

“They’ve gone through all the state reps and state senators, and now they’re working with local mayors,” he said.

The rules for the shopping spree were simple: the two contestants had to stay between the second and eighth aisle (where the nonperishable items are located) and could take only two of each item. Michels filled up five grocery carts with items and practically ensured that families who visit the Between Friends food pantry will be well-caffeinated for months to come.

“Coffee seemed to be the best deal for us. A half-pound of coffee added about $7 or $8 (to the total), and they don’t get a lot of coffee at the food bank,” Michels said. “I also grabbed a lot of (cooking) oils, cereal, cereal bars, chocolate—things that the food bank doesn’t always get.”

All of the food items collected by Michels and Weisner during the shopping spree were boxed up and sent to the respective food banks.

Between Friends Food Pantry Founder/Director Melisa Taylor considered the shopping spree a success for the food pantry before the event even began.

“We went into the shopping spree knowing that even if we walked out with an additional can of beans, it’s just one more thing to help the food pantry. We knew (the spree) was a win-win no matter what,” she said.

Taylor also admitted that Michels was more than prepared for his frantic supermarket jaunt.

“At one point, I turned to a cameraman (there) and said, ‘This right here is why I am really glad my village president runs every day,’” she said.

Board member, public uneasy with LRC position cuts

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Kaneland School Board discussions regarding the district’s budget reduction plan for the 2012 fiscal year have typically been about financial projections and cost centers since the plan went into motion last December.

The board’s focus, however, was solely on the human side of the budget reduction implications during the School Board meeting on Monday evening.

Budget cuts that will eliminate two of the four LRC director positions at the elementary level were a sore point for both School Board member Teresa Witt and the public in attendance during the meeting. The budget reduction plan calls for the remaining LRC director positions to each split time between two of the district’s four elementary school buildings.

Superintendent Jeff Schuler said the LRC directors that lose their current position could be assigned to a classroom or literary position.

“Several of the LRC directors also have a classroom teaching certificate and are certainly qualified to teach several different positions,” he said.

Witt said she was a little disturbed by the LRC director position cuts.

“If administrators got together and actually chose (LRC Directors) as a cut, it seems to me that we must be under-utilizing valuable professionals because there’s so much potential (there),” she said. “And then to be saying, ‘Well, you know, we might take up some of the slack with technology instructors and things like that,’ seems backwards to me because librarians are actually qualified-they have experience in technology, whereas technologists don’t have experience in library.”

The LRC director position cuts will render $60,000 of the $1 million in expenditures targeted for reduction by the district.

Board President Cheryl Krauspe was sympathetic with Witt’s position on the cuts, but also noted that the LRCs will continue to function in spite of the reductions.

“(The) services of the LRC directors will be consolidated and delivered in a different way because of this reduction, (but) we are not eliminating the service. We value the library service and the instructional support provided,” she said. “It’s not a popular reduction, but this amount of loss in a district is going be felt on some level by all. And these current directors aren’t going to lost their jobs.”

Krauspe emphasized the intent to cut expenditures while attempting to keep student programs unscathed.

“We did the best that we could carefully do to maintain class size and program opportunities in the district, minimizing negative impact in the quality of direct service to students,” she said.

“I think (the staff cuts) might be hard to recover from at some point,” Witt said. “And just with the attention we’re placing on rigor, it seems like maybe our priorities aren’t there.”

The district’s budget reduction plan will be finalized at the school board meeting on Monday, March 14.

Village Board approves new Farmers Market management

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Farmers Market vendors in Sugar Grove will now have to learn how to pronounce “Bensidoun.”

The Village Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to authorize the company Bensidoun USA, Inc., to take over management of the Farmers Market. Several people, including former Farmers Market lead volunteer Pat Graceffa, expect the market to flourish under the operation of Bensidoun Midwest Manager Leslie Cahill.

“I think Leslie Cahill and Bensidoun are the best next step to keep improving on the Sugar Grove Farmers Market, and I think making it a French Market means we broaden, and in some cases, improve on the goods we present weekly,” Graceffa said. “I hope people come give us a look and support local agriculture and entrepreneurs.”

Village President Sean Michels also had kind words for Cahill.

“It sounds like (Leslie) is really motivated to do a good job and get a lot of local businesses to participate, which is a plus,” Michels said.

Cahill has been with Bensidoun the last 13 years and manages several seasonal markets in the area.

“I am absolutely delighted to move ahead with the Sugar Grove French Market. Applications are available for prospective vendors, and we are ready to go. We look forward to a great season,” she said.

Cahill met with Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger, Graceffa and the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 23 to discuss Bensidoun taking over management of the Farmers Market. Eichelberger said the meeting went very well.

“We made (Leslie) aware that there is a liquor license available for Farmers Market, so we’ll be supplying her with that information,” Village Trustee Mari Johnson said.

The authorization of the village’s market license agreement with Bensidoun is still subject to attorney review, but Michels said the agreement is pretty much done as long as there are no major changes made.

“It’s just good to have the Farmers Market continue (on),” he said.

KHS group honors Civil War history with trip to Virginia

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by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Few activities can hammer home the importance of a school subject matter like a field trip. And when that trip is to a state on the East Coast, then you’re talking about a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

And that’s exactly what Javier Martinez, a Kaneland High School social studies teacher, will have in mind when he, 18 of his students, a fellow teacher and a parent embark on a spring break trip to Northern Virginia in late March.

The trip is made up of students who are taking the new high school course, Armed Conflict and International Relations. The class teaches a mix of military history and political science.

“In conjunction with (the class), I made an offer to all the kids who were taking the class this year to put together a service trip to Northern Virginia to work with the National Park Service and do some battlefield restoration,” Martinez said. “The fact that (it’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War) is almost just a coincidence.”

The group will stay in 1930s-era Civilian Conservation Corps cabins in Prince William National Forest during the trip and will cook for themselves to keep costs down. After arriving in Virginia on Sunday, March 27, the group will spend the week taking a trip to the Gettysburg battlefield; working to clear brush, rebuild soil barricades and, weather permitting, paint cannons and other battlefield artifacts in Spotsylvania; and sight-seeing at The National Museum of the Marine Corps, Arlington National Cemetery, the FBI Academy, the National Air and Space Museum, and some monuments located in the Nation’s capital.

Martinez said the Kaneland Social Studies Department had tried more of a sight-seeing trip in the past, but couldn’t drum up much interest from students. This year, they focused on kids taking the Armed Conflict and International Relations course with the assumption that those students had a strong interest in the D.C. area and the military’s legacy in the United States.

“A lot of the kids didn’t get the opportunity to go on the (eighth grade) trip to Washington D.C., so we thought we’d offer (this trip) while they are in high school,” he said. “And it just seemed to be a natural dovetail for this class to do some service work so the kids (could get) an appreciation for the history they learn in school, and at the same time help preserve it.”

The cost of the all-inclusive trip is currently $942, but Martinez hopes to dial down those costs a bit with a fundraiser that will take place on Friday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the KHS auditorium. There will be a screening of the award-winning documentary “Chosin,” during the fundraiser. The film, released last year to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, is named for the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea and features Korean War footage and interviews regarding the battle between the 1st Marine Division and Chinese troops at the reservoir in November and December 1950.

Martinez said there is no cost to see the film, but students will be set up in the lobby to collect any donations during the fundraiser.

“We’re going to show the movie, and we’ve got a bunch of veterans coming out,” Martinez said. “My understanding, although I haven’t met him yet, is we actually have a survivor of the Chosin Reservoir War campaign coming out to the movie, and he lives in the area. It’ll be kind of neat to meet him.”

SG Farmers Market could have new management

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove resident Pat Graceffa has served as market manager of the Sugar Grove Farmer’s Market the last seven years. This year, however, Graceffa is relinquishing her role as lead volunteer of the event because she claims to know someone who can help turn the Farmer’s Market into something bigger and better.

That someone is Leslie Cahill, Midwest manager for Bensidoun USA, Inc., a company specializing in market development and operation.

“We’ve been hearing from a lot of people that they want to see different farmers or different types of things (at the Farmer’s Market),” Graceffa said. “The market has grown every year, and we just thought that maybe (Leslie) could make the market even better for us. We want to give the people what they want.”

Cahill, who has been with Bensidoun the last 13 years, manages a dozen seasonal markets in the area and is currently in talks with the village to take over management of the Farmers Market. According to Graceffa, Cahill was scheduled to meet with Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger and the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce at 11 a.m. on Wednesday to further discuss the possibility of Bensidoun operating the Farmers Market.

“Pending approval, our plans are to work closely with all of the founding (Farmers Market) vendors so that the market maintains continuity going forward-they are truly the heart and soul of the market,” Cahill said. “We will partner with the village, the chamber, local businesses and local nonprofits to deliver a market that serves the entire community.”

The Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce previously sponsored and organized the Farmers Market. According to a document from Eichelberger, the chamber advised the village that it no longer intends to prepare the event, but recommended the village enter into an agreement with Bensidoun.

“The chamber would certainly support the Farmers Market and the community (if Bensidoun is brought in),” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shari Baum said.

Graceffa said Cahill’s presence and experience will bring forth advantages that were previously unavailable to the Farmers Market.

“Leslie works with all the big markets. She can talk to a farmer and tell him, ‘If you want a better place at the Wheaton Market, you have to do the Saturday market in Sugar Grove,’” Graceffa said “She has contacts and people that she can (tell),’Hey, I can do this for you if you do this for me.’ We don’t have that (now). We’re limited because on Saturday, all of the market farmers are usually committed to a market already.”

Cahill expects several of her current vendors to see the Sugar Grove Farmers Market as an opportunity to expand their business. In regards to long-term goals, Cahill believes the Farmers Market will steadily grow to the point where it will actually require a new location.

“It is really early in the game to say too much more than that, but we are very pleased to be moving forward,” she said.

Kaneland presents initial budget reduction plan

Summary of staffing cuts
Position Full Time Equivalent (FTE)
Certified Positions 5.9
Non-Certified Positions 0.5
Administrative Positions (District Office) 0.5
Stipend Positions (Student Activities) 31

By Keith Beebe
KANELAND—The Kaneland School District on Monday presented the School Board with an initial cost reduction plan that will seek to cut $1 million in expenditures for the 2012 fiscal year.

Superintendent Jeff Schuler, in his slide-show presentation to the board, explained the entire budget research process leading up to the initial reduction plan, outlining the cost-center approach used to identify necessary financial reductions at the elementary, middle school, high school and district levels.

Schuler said the process began in December 2010 with financial projections for the 2012 fiscal year.

“We began to review the targeted amounts for reduction through the financial projections,” he said. “In January, we began the process of re-identifying our cost centers, (analyzing) the budget, (reviewing) each cost center and then set the targets that we reviewed or set at our last meeting.”

A cost center breaks down the finances of each school level and identifies areas that can be reduced. The district, Citizens Advisory Committee and Finance Advisory Committee then reviewed targeted reductions before those numbers were finalized in the budget reduction plan. For example, the elementary cost center was set at $240,815 in January, but the initial cost reduction plan presented on Monday intends to reduce a 10-month secretary position to nine months, eliminate local professional development allocations, reduce kindergarten by half of a full time equivalent (FTE) position, and reduce Learning Resource Center staff by two FTE positions in order to meet a reduction total of $200,845—nearly $40,000 less than the original targeted amount.

The budget reduction plan has a middle school cost-center total of $128,148 (initial target was $127,911), a high school cost-center total of $181,882 (initial target was $169,884) and a district cost-center total of $494,641 (initial target was $461,390). The middle school and high school cost centers each call for elimination of 1.0 FTE positions.

“Over the last two years, we’ve already reduced projected expenditures by more than $5 million, and we did that with our mission statement in mind, and we did that making sure that we made every effort to preserve our core educational program and services for students,” Schuler said. “Although, again, let me say clearly that as we talked about cuts and we talked about the way that we approached cuts, we don’t take them lightly.

“We understand the cuts that we’ve made certainly have been and will continue to be painful,” he said.

Schuler’s presentation also touched upon the “triangle of savings” concept, which breaks down district expenditures into three categories: student programs, staff workload and operational services. The presentation listed a reduction of $186,397 in operational services (non-instructional supplies, early retirement options, etc.), a reduction of $805,921 in staff workload (instructional supplies, administrative services, etc.) and a reduction of just $13,159 in student programs.

“It’s difficult to continue to cut operational services; it’s difficult to continue to make programs adjustments to cut supplies and to cut things that ultimately make the staff workload more difficult,” Schuler said. “The reality is, what we ultimately are trying to avoid are cuts that directly impact our programs and services for students.”

Board President Cheryl Krauspe said she was pleased with the district’s cost reduction plan.

“I feel the administration used a very fine scalpel instead of a chainsaw when approaching these cuts,” she said. “(The cuts) were well defined and did not result in the district hemorrhaging as much as feared.”

According to the presentation, the board will be asked to approve finalized budget cuts at its meeting on March 14. Any personnel action stemming from the approved reductions will go into effect that evening.

“We have to make the most high-quality educational program as we can within the limitations and confines of a limited budget,” Krauspe said. “Those decisions on what gets funded and what does not aren’t easy, but this process has been lengthy, thorough, all-inclusive, collaborative and fair.”