All posts by Susan ONeill

Ladies Night Out to benefit Mutual Ground

by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—More than 25 vendors invite potential customers to enjoy an evening of appetizers, wine-tasting, massages and more at the Bliss Creek Golf Club on Thursday, Feb. 11, while contributing to a good cause. According to Sugar Grove resident and Tastefully Simple home-based vendor Audrey Ritchie, a majority of the vendors participating have agreed to contribute a percentage of the evening’s revenues to Mutual Ground, an organization located in Aurora that provides shelter and support to abused women and children.

Ritchie said she hopes to raise at least $1,500 during the free entry evening for Mutual Ground. Last year, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn cut state funding to domestic violence programs by 10 percent and to sexual abuse programs by 20 percent. The impact to Mutual Ground was a decrease in funding from the state of $90,000 out of $725,000 it receives from the state.

Mutual Ground Executive Director Linda Healy said that in these tough economic times, it is wonderful to see someone from the community take on a fundraising effort of the size and scope that Ritchie is doing.

“We’re excited and pleased,” she said. “She’s really done such a marvelous job, especially with marketing of the event.”

Mutual Ground stats

Mutual Ground provided
more than 20,000 hours of
counseling and almost
12,000 nights of shelter
to more than
1,700 clients in 2009

“Love is in the Air Ladies Night Out”
Bliss Creek Golf Club
Open Range Southwest Grill
1 Golf View Lane, Sugar Grove
Thursday, Feb. 11
5:30-9:30 p.m.
To raise funds for Mutual Ground

For more information:
Call (630) 363-2113 or e-mail


Domestic violence
and sexual abuse statistics

• One-half of all married women in the
United States are physically abused at
some time in their marriage
• A woman is beaten every 10 seconds
• One in 10 teenagers will be involved in a
violent dating relationship before
graduating high school
• Abused women comprise 20 percent of
all women presenting injuries at hospital
emergency rooms
• Battering often occurs during pregnancy
• Domestic violence cuts across all
socioeconomic backgrounds regardless
of race, religion, or level of education
• A woman is raped every five minutes
• One-third of all rapes occur in a
woman’s home
• One-third of Mutual Ground’s sexual
assault program clients are children
between the ages of 3-13
• Only 7 percent of sexually abused
women report a rape, making the actual
number as high as 2 million per year in
the U.S.
Source: Mutual Ground website,

5th graders lift their hands up for Haiti

by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—The world just got a little bigger for four fifth-grade girls at Kaneland John Shields Elementary School. Sammy Kowalczyk, Erica Witt, Kayley Bilotta and Samantha Healy have taken on the challenge of collecting basic needed items for the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.

Chosen for their leadership skills, the girls have made posters, flyers, letters to go home with students and a PowerPoint presentation to encourage their classmates and teachers to donate items such as soap, washcloths, toothbrushes and toothpaste to send to families in Haiti.

They even came up with a slogan for the project, calling it “Hands Up for Haiti.”

School social worker Nicole Pryor, who has been guiding the girls in their project, said they have done much of the work themselves, making decisions and creating the communication to their fellow students.

“It’s been interesting to see them learn how to work together,” Pryor said.

In addition to hygiene and first aid items, the girls decided that collecting sandals and flip flops was important. Healy said that because the buildings were not well-constructed, many of them crumbled and collapsed in the earthquake. She said the footwear will keep the Haitian people from stepping on nails and other debris, and injuring their feet.

Witt said she searched the Internet for trustworthy charities to work with, such as the American Red Cross, Americares and Unicef. The girls wrote a business proposal to FedEx to obtain funding to ship the items.

Then they found a partner in their own hometown. The Sugar Grove United Methodist Church has had a mission in Haiti for years and has the means to transport the items where they are needed most.

The Rev. Steve Good said the people in Haiti will be glad to receive the items the girls are collecting.

When you’ve lost everything, taking care of your personal hygiene helps you to feel better about yourself, he said.

“Haitians are similar to us in this way,” he said. “Being able to brush their teeth and take care of their personal hygiene will lift their spirits as well as their bodies. These items will help them regain some sense of personal dignity.”

Good and his church have a special place in their hearts for the people of Haiti. Good, who lived in Haiti for several months when he was in college, developed a relationship of mission with Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince. Church members have gone to the hospital several times with mission teams.

The Sugar Grove church and other Methodist churches work through local Haitian ministries to support feeding programs, clean water projects, provide school supplies and distribute health care kits.

In addition to collecting money to help with the disaster, the Sugar Grove church is conducting a collection of personal care items to send to Haiti through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), an organization which has provided outreach worldwide for more than 70 years.

Church members will transport these items, including those that are collected through John Shields, to the UMCOR warehouse in Chatham, Ill. From there, they will be shipped to Haiti.

Good said he is glad to see the children at the school become involved in the project.

“Children can relate to other children,” he said. “They know what they’re afraid of; they know what they love to do.”

He hopes the students will develop a connection and a world view through this project that they will carry with them into the future.

Pryor hopes that for them, as well.

“I love to see kids get involved with something bigger than themselves,” she said.

Want to help?
One-gallon re-sealable plastic bags,
hand towels, washcloths, combs,
fingernail clippers, bath-size bars
of soap, toothbrushes,
sterile bandages and toothpaste.

Financial donations may be sent, with checks payable to
“Sugar Grove UMC”
(designating Haiti Relief in the memo)
Kaneland John Shields
Elementary School
85 S. Main Street, Sugar Grove
SG United Methodist Church
176 Main Street, Sugar Grove

Checks may be mailed to
SG United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 226
Sugar Grove, IL 60554

Items will be accepted at the school through Friday, Feb. 12.
Call Nicole Pryor at (630) 466-8500
Rev. Steve Good at (630) 466-4501
visit the church’s website at

For more information about UMCOR, visit the website at
for relief efforts through
Grace Children’s Hospital in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Kaneland teachers to take a vote on Friday

by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—Kaneland teachers will take a vote on Friday, Feb. 5, whether or not to re-open salary negotiations with the district. The union representing the teachers, the Kaneland Educators Association (KEA), will announce its decision on Monday, Feb. 8.

According to KEA representative Linda Zulkowski, the KEA leadership met last Friday. They are facilitating an on-line question-and-answer session with the teachers this week, leading up to the vote.

Zulkowski emphasized that the re-negotiation, should the teachers vote in favor of it, would only address the salary increases. She said they informally discussed several options, but they will not discuss anything formally until the vote is taken.

Options discussed include furlough days and spreading out the contracted increase between two years, taking a portion this coming year and the remainder the following year.

Board wants alternatives to current cuts

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—The feedback from School Board members on the administration’s proposed cost reduction plan was clear: They want to see other options that don’t have such a big impact on the students.

“I see students taking a big impact, and not the administration or the teachers,” board member Ken Carter said. “I don’t see any salary freezes. Some groups are under contracts, but others are not.”

With direction from the board to eliminate a $2.6 million deficit for the 2010-11 school year, the administration has been working with the various cost centers since November to come up with ways to make up for the shortfall the district will have next year.

The cuts, mainly in the form of reducing staff and eliminating clubs and activities and cutting back on some sports programs, were proposed in a general format at the last board meeting. More specifics were provided on Monday. The plan includes a reduction of 23 positions, including teachers, other positions and administrative personnel. When retirements and attrition are factored in, this represents letting go of 12 employees.

While the size of some classes in the elementary schools will increase with the current proposed cuts, the overall average class size of 23 to 24 students would not go up significantly. However, according to Associate Superintendent Jeff Schuler, any additional cuts in the teaching staff would have a significant impact on class size, increasing class sizes up to 30 students in some classrooms.

But the part of the plan that received the most criticism from a couple of board members was the proposed elimination of 11 clubs and the cuts to some of the sports and music programs. These cuts would effectively eliminate, among other things, the elementary band program, competitive sports at the middle school level, and leave fewer opportunities for students at the high school level to participate in sports programs.

“As a parent, I’m concerned with how (these cuts) are going to impact our culture … It won’t be the Kaneland I know,” board member Deborah Grant said.

A community forum is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8, directly after the regular board meeting. This forum is an opportunity for members of the community to ask questions of the administrative panel regarding specific budget items targeted for reduction. Community members are also encouraged to provide ideas or feedback about the plan, both during the forum and during the following week, using a format available on the Kaneland School District’s website,

With the direction to come back with several scenarios, school officials decided to add another opportunity for the board to discuss the options. The board will meet again on Tuesday, Feb. 16, to discuss their reactions to the alternative options presented by the administration, as well as the feedback provided by the community.

“We fully anticipated this (the administration’s proposed cuts) would be the start of a community dialog,” Schuler said. “It’s a starting point for the discussion. You have to start somewhere.”

Several parents had suggestions for the administration regarding the cuts on Monday.

Parent Ryan Delahantey said that he would like to encourage the administration and the Kaneland Education Association to get together and agree to salary freezes for the coming school year. The salary increases negotiated by the teachers union for the 2010-11 school year adds up to $1.2 million of the budget.

“Let’s demonstrate to the children that we’re all in this together,” he said.

According to Schuler, the administration has yet to receive a response from the Kaneland Education Association to a request for members to renegotiate the contracted increases for next year. The contract included salary increases for Kaneland teachers over a period of three years: 4.86 percent for last year, 6.21 percent for this year, and 5.6 percent for fiscal year 2010-11.

The Elburn Herald’s calls to Kaneland Education Association President Linda Zulkowski were not returned by press time.

Another parent and former board member, George Silfugarian, proposed that rather than make some of the cuts to the sports programs, that the board consider allowing parents to pay higher fees.

“We will have some hard choices to make,” School Board President Lisa Wiet said. “We need to do everything we can do to reduce the impact on our students … We need to keep the kids number one.”

2 dead as plane crashes in Sugar Grove

updated 1-28-10
by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkel was the first responder to the scene of a plane crash in Sugar Grove Township on Saturday evening.

The plane was a twin-engine Piper Aerostar, and had just taken off from the Aurora Municipal Airport headed for Denver.

Kunkel said he was in his garage at about 7 p.m. when he heard the sound of a plane flying low to the ground just before impact. He said he remembered noting that the weather was cloudy and foggy.

He said the sound of the crash was so loud that it rattled the windows in his house. After calling dispatch, he grabbed his coat, expecting to find the plane in his back yard.

Two doors down, he found that the plane had crashed into the garage of a residence north of 43W420 Old Oak Road near Route 47.

“There was flaming debris down the side of the house and a massive amount of debris in the area,” he said.

A couple of Sugar Grove police officers arrived at the scene, including one who was also a Geneva firefighter. Once they made sure that all of the occupants were out of the house, they extinguished the fire.

The people in the house included the wife of the couple who owned the house, her mother and her two children.

“The crash had so severely detonated the plane that there was no chance for survivors,” Kunkel said.

The pilot and his passenger were killed. The pilot, 37-year-old Gary Lee Bradford of Hollywood, Fla., was an instrument-rated pilot, Aurora Airport Director Bob Rieser said. His passenger, 32-year-old Drago Strahija, was from Lakeworth, Fla.

The two men had stopped in Texas prior to coming to the area on Friday night. They spent the night before taking off for Denver on Saturday.

The NTSB and FAA are continuing the investigation into the crash. There are no details available at this time regarding why the plane crashed or the events that led up to the crash. Route 47 was closed between Bliss and Merrill roads from 7 until 11:30 p.m.

“It was a very unfortunate accident,” Rieser said. “It was very fortunate that nobody on the ground got hurt.”

Kaneville loses a good friend

by Susan O’Neill
KANEVILLE—Kaneville lost a stalwart member of the community last week, when life-long resident Leon Gramley passed away on Friday. Kaneville Township Supervisor, volunteer firefighter, Memorial Day committee member and Kaneville Cemetery Board treasurer were just a few of the roles that Gramley took on throughout his lifetime in Kaneville.

Add loving father, playful grandpa, thoughtful and romantic husband, and that only begins to describe the person most people in Kaneville have known for years.

Mary Niceley, former owner of the Kaneville General Store, remembers mornings when Gramley would stop by the store for a cup of coffee. People would notice his truck parked outside, and pretty soon any number of people would stop in to ask for his help with all kinds of things.

“He was always fixing something,” Niceley said. “He would say, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ and it would be taken care of.”

Niceley said Gramley was in charge of the Community Center in Kaneville when she was on the Library Board.

“He never raised our rent,” she said. “When the lights went out, he got them fixed. When the sidewalks needed to be shoveled, he got it done.”

Big things; little things; he took care of it all. She said one day a little boy came into the store after he had missed the school bus.

“’Come on,’ Leon said, and he gave the kid a ride to school,” she said. “It was all these little acts of kindness that go unnoticed. He didn’t do it for the glory; he did it from the kindness in his heart.”

Gramley was born on Oct. 31, 1943, in Aurora. He grew up in Kaneville and he graduated from Kaneland High School in 1962. Shortly after graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army and served during the Vietnam War.

Taking an active part in Kaneville’s Memorial Day Service was an important honor for him. For more than 30 years, he marched in the color guard, and made sure that every veteran’s grave was adorned with a flag.

His son Stephen said that some of his best memories about his dad were when Stephen was a teenager.

“My dad was a farmer who could fix anything and a fireman who could help anybody,” he said. “My dad was ‘the guy.’ He was Superman. He could just do it all.”

In addition to being a firefighter for the Kaneville Fire Department, Leon was a paramedic for the Elburn Fire Department. Stephen remembered his dad’s pager going off in the middle of the night and he would run out the door to go help somebody. When the call was to Kaneville or someplace close by, his dad would take off in his truck, arriving at the scene before the ambulance arrived.

“It made him feel good to go and help out an elderly person alone and scared in the middle of the night,” Stephen said.

It was his work with the ambulance service that would lead him to the woman he would describe as the love of his life, Mary Fecht. A co-worker introduced the two on July 4, 1991, and they hit it off right away.

“He was very romantic and very thoughtful,” Mary said.

While they were dating, he sent her flowers every Friday. When they got engaged, he bought her a ring with two rubies that he said represented their two hearts and their love. Recently, he bought her a ring with 18 stones that represented their years together.

He and Mary were married in 1992, and they spent the years since then traveling, going to concerts, and sharing their children and grandchildren. Although they traveled all over the country, he had a special place in his heart for Disney World, where he had as much fun as his granddaughters did.

Throughout the years, he remained committed to his community. Although Gramley lived outside of the boundaries of what would become the village of Kaneville, he gave much of his time and his efforts to the village’s incorporation in 2007.

During the two-year process, he helped with legislation in Springfield that made the incorporation possible, facilitated meetings where residents helped determine their future, and encouraged others to take on leadership roles once the incorporation was complete.

Although he shouldered a lot of responsibility, Leon had a light heart. His sense of humor, his jokes and his infectious laughter will be missed by many.

His death leaves a void in many lives and in the life of the community.

“Kaneville lost a good friend. He was always there when anyone needed anything,” Pat Hill said. “I miss him.”

Photo: Leon Gramley with his wife of nearly 18 years, Mary Gramley. Courtesy Photo

Mallard Point close to flooding solutions, funding sources

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—The installation of additional drain tiles to bring the current water levels down and regular maintenance of the retention pond and wetland areas should solve the flooding problems in the Mallard Point Subdivision, an engineering consultant told the Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday.

Trotter & Associates consultant Mark Bushnell, has been working since last year with engineers representing Kane County, the Rob Roy Drainage District and the village of Sugar Grove to come up with a solution to the area’s drainage issues.

He said it is likely that they will recommend placing an independent and parallel drainage tile south through the subdivision to take the unwanted water to a ditch near Jericho Road. In addition, he said that prescribed burns and other maintenance should take place on an annual basis to remove the debris and stop the further growth of vegetation.

Kane County has identified an initial potential funding source for the project through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has made available $16.8 million in low-interest loans for use in public economic recovery projects.

But the money, which would be paid back at 2 percent interest, must be used before 2011. Kane County Board member Drew Frasz, who has been working with Sugar Grove to identify potential funding sources for the project, said that the target date for completion of the project must be November.

“The funding is driving the project; now is the time that we can get the money,” Frasz said.

The money to pay back the loan would likely come from the enactment of a Special Services Area (SSA) for Mallard Point residents, a tax on property owners throughout the Rob Roy Drainage District, an area that includes Mallard Point, and potentially additional grants.

However, the residents of the Mallard Point Subdivision, 20 of whom attended Tuesday’s meeting, do not feel that they should be the ones to bear the brunt of the expenses to fix the problem. Some have said that they do not feel the village of Sugar Grove and its engineers did their due diligence when they approved the construction of the development at the time. Some also want to know why the current owner of the retention pond would not be responsible for maintaining it.

But Village President Sean Michels said that the subdivision has been functioning well for the past 15 years. He said there weren’t the engineering capabilities back when the development was originally built that exist today. Bushnell pointed out that besides the village’s engineers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on much of the work at the time.

Michels said that the recent increase in rainwater may also be the cause of some of the subdivision’s current problems.

The committee of engineers should have a completed plan within the next two months, Bushnell said. The Village Board will discuss the SSA at its Tuesday, March 2 meeting.

History of the problem
Problems with the neighborhood date back to the mid-1990’s, when Mallard Point was first built. After the first builder declared bankruptcy, two others took over before it was finally completed. Difficulties determining who was responsible for what problems go back to the beginning.

Although the annexation agreement called for the establishment of a homeowners association, one was never created. A proposal to create a special services area tax on the residents to pay for the maintenance of the common property areas never went beyond the discussion stages.

Residents began approaching the village in fall 2008, when drainage and flooding issues worsened, complaining of standing water, flooded basements and excessive electric bills to continually run two and sometimes three sump pumps.

The village contracted the engineering firm Trotter & Associates in 2009 to study the problem. Mark Bushnell has been working with engineers from the Rob Roy Drainage District, Kane County and the village to come up with a plan to resolve the issues as well as a cost-sharing program.

D-302 students give generously to Haiti

by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—What started out as a simple request for change turned into a donation of over $2,000 to help the people of Haiti after last week’s earthquake.

“It was such an outpouring of help,” student council member Mel Mazuc said.

High School social studies teacher and student council adviser Javier Martinez said he asked a few students last Thursday morning if they thought the other students might want to contribute their pocket change to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Word spread throughout the day, and student council members went to each room at the end of classes to gather the donations. They collected $1,020 in one hour.

The Student Council doubled the donation, bringing it to $2,040. The council raises money through Homecoming ticket sales, blood drives and the sale of T-shirts.

Martinez said he chose the American Red Cross to receive the donations, because it is a high profile agency with a track record, and it will be able to put the money to good use immediately.

He said the Red Cross already had a mission in Haiti before the earthquake, because of the poverty there. The money will go to basic sustenance, such as food, water and medical supplies, he said.

The students have been watching the news this past week for updates on the situation in Haiti. Tommy Whittaker said he was particularly touched by the number of orphans in Haiti.

Mazuc said there was no question about donating the money.

“That’s where it’s needed the most,” she said.

The Student Council Haiti Relief Fund is still accepting donations through the end of this week. Martinez said that if people want to contribute to help the people in Haiti, he would urge them to go to the Red Cross’ website,

Activities, staff reductions targets of proposed cuts

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—School activities and reductions in staff were among the cuts Kaneland officials brought to the board on Monday to reduce the district’s $2.6 million budget deficit for the 2010-11 school year.

The administration recommended the elimination of at least 10 teaching positions, 10 non-teaching positions and two administrative positions, spread out across the elementary, middle and high schools. In addition, the elimination of a number of programs, including competitive athletics in middle school, fifth-grade band and a number of other clubs and activities was laid out to eliminate the $2.6 million deficit.

Board member Deborah Grant reacted to the proposed elimination of the competitive sports programs at the middle school, which will be replaced with intramural programs.

“Going from competitive sports to no competitive sports,” she said. “It’s really hard to take.”

Board member Cheryl Krauspe complimented the administration on the tough choices they made in the proposed cuts.

“All of these are tough to take,” she said. “As ugly as the truth is, the model is well laid out, and it appears there was a very thoughtful process that was unbiased.”

The vast majority of the proposed cuts, totaling $1.4 million, will affect staff workload, due to class size adjustments, alternative ways to deliver selected services and the reduction of instructional supplies and administrative services, Associate Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. Efficiencies gained in operational services made up $697,000 of the cuts.

Proposed budget cuts totaling $509,000 were identified through direct reductions or eliminations of student programs.

The initial cost-reduction plan Schuler presented on Monday outlined the cuts at a general level. The administration will provide more specifics about the proposed cuts, including dollar amounts attached to each item, at the next board meeting on Monday, Jan. 25.

Schuler said that they did not propose deeper cuts than were absolutely necessary to eliminate the deficit, so if there was a decision not to implement one of the cuts, they would simply have to find somewhere else to cut.

“Whatever we pull out of this package, we would just have to redistribute the pain a little differently,” District Superintendent Charlie McCormick said.

Board member Dianne Piazza wanted to know what alternative might be put in place to minimize the impact felt by students who need the after-school homework help.

“I can see how those reductions can impact the core (of the academic curriculum)” she said.

Board member Bob Myers noted that there were no wage freezes identified in the recommendations.

Following the presentation at the Jan. 25 board meeting, members of the community will have several opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions, and ask questions, Schuler said.

The Citizens Advisory Committee will meet on Thursday, Jan. 28, to discuss the initial cost-reduction plan. Following a short board meeting on Monday, Feb. 8, the administration will host a community forum, moderated by former School Board president Steve Bauserman. The public comment period of the board meeting on Monday, Feb. 22, will provide a last chance for community feedback prior to personnel actions taken by the board.

The administration will give its final recommendations to the board in March.

Survey finds high percent of A’s and B’s at high school

Report says data suggests 7-point scale does not put students at disadvantage
by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—In a recent study, school administrators found that nearly 50 percent of the students at Kaneland High School have an A grade-point average. Add the B grades in, and nearly 75 percent of the students are above average.

The study was conducted as an initial step in response to feedback from a number of parents in the community who asked the administration to change the school’s grading scale to make it more in line with other schools in Kane County.

Some parents said that Kaneland’s 7-point grading scale put the Kaneland students at a disadvantage when they were compared with other students from schools with 10-point scales. This could hurt them when being considered for college admissions, scholarship awards and auto insurance discounts, parents said.

In a 10-point scale, students with a score of 92 receive an A; with Kaneland’s 7-point scale, students need a score of 93 to receive an A.

Administrators conducted an informal survey of other high schools in the Western Sun Conference and the soon-to-be Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference; five of the seven schools that responded used a 10-point scale. One school left it up to each department to use either a 7-point or a 10-point scale, and another used an 8-point scale.

The survey, which looked at grade-point averages during the 2008-09 school year, found that a greater percentage of Kaneland students had an A average than the overall average of 37 percent, even though a majority of the other schools used 10-point scales.

In addition, the survey also found that the schools with the higher average of A students did not necessarily correlate with the higher ACT scores.

Although Kaneland fell third on the list in terms of A averages, its average ACT score of 20.9 falls below the average of 22 when all seven schools are included.

“The data shows there is a disconnect between grades earned and results when compared to performance,” board member Dianne Piazza said.

Administrators told the board on Monday that the initial data do not seem to support the suggestion that Kaneland’s grading scale puts the students at an unfair disadvantage.

Kaneland Superintendent Charlie McCormick said that since the administration has not reviewed at the grading scale since it was changed 15 years ago, their recommendation was to take another look at it.He said that the study should take place in the context of the curriculum department’s original plan to study grading criteria, purposes and philosophy.

The School Board voted 5-2 in favor of this recommendation.

McCormick also recommended that it follow Kaneland’s current policy that establishing a grading system is the responsibility of the administration and professional staff, and not a board decision.

“That’s why we have our curriculum directors and professional teaching personnel,” he said.

While some board members agreed that decisions about the grading system were better left to the professionals, others felt that decisions made internally would leave members of the community nowhere to go if they were still unhappy about the grading scale.

“We had a petition that came to the board,” board member Deborah Grant said.

Parents brought a petition to the board in October 2009 with 703 signatures from parents that asked the board to evaluate the current grading system this school year. The petition asked the board to consider changing the grading scale to a 10-point system rather than the current 7-point scale.

“I want our students to have the same opportunities that every other student in Kane County has, and that is a 10-point scale,” Grant said.

Board member Cheryl Krauspe said that she did not feel it was the right time to change the scale.

Board members agreed to table the administration’s recommendation for a later time.

Rising above a down economy

Metrolift succeeds despite market
By Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove-based Metrolift, Inc. President Rick Dahl credits his company’s successful journey through troubled economic waters to some strategic moves he made several years ago.

“The Chicago commercial construction market was at record levels until recently,” he said. “Two-and-a-half years ago, there were clear markers that the construction industry was too white-hot.”

Dahl said he saw the signs that it would not last. He began to see more slow-payers. Then he noticed formerly successful construction companies, such as Kennedy Homes, filing bankruptcy.

Two years ago, he began implementing cost-cutting measures. He asked his vendors to respond, and he asked his employees to work smarter, doing more with fewer resources.

While the business’ former focus was the rental of aerial lift equipment, the new direction of the company includes purchasing used equipment through auctions and banks, then fixing it up and remarketing it.

“It was good planning,” he said. “We stopped buying new equipment at the right time.”

In addition, he expanded his customer base outside of the Midwest by selling to contractors in states such as Montana, Nebraska, Missouri and North and South Dakota, where the construction industry was not as hard-hit. And Dahl said that home construction sales have actually increased recently in San Antonio.

Dahl said that his profitability goal for the past year was to make at least $1. He said he beat this goal, although he said his company is currently in the shaded gray, rather than “in the black.”

He said that 2009 was a challenging year overall, but the company has several bright spots to focus on. He explained that the wholesale division is doing extremely well, and that the rental and service businesses remain profitable despite shrinking revenues and declining rental sales.

He compared the previous business environment to farming, and said the current environment is more like hunting. He enjoys being a hunter, he said.

“I’m trying to grow in a down market. I’m more alive than ever now,” he said. “I’m wired for this. There’s so much more at stake now.”

Last winter, he recognized the need for additional space for his business. He recently added 30,000 square-feet in shop space and two acres of yard space adjacent to his existing location on Heartland Drive.

The Elburn resident opened his business in 1991, and moved his operations to Sugar Grove eight years ago. He had eight employees at the time.

At the time, his business was in tough shape and he was facing a crisis in his personal life, as well. Dahl said he turned the wheel over to Jesus.

Currently, he employs 46 people, most who live in nearby towns, such as Kaneville, St. Charles, Maple Park, DeKalb and Big Rock. His faith remains a large part of his life, and he said that God’s word leads the way for him and his business.

He regularly meets with a group of about 25 “corporate Christians,” CEOs who get together to encourage and challenge each other. One of the books he likes to hand out to people is called, “Business by the Book: The Complete Guide of Biblical Principles for the Workplace” by Larry Burkett.

He said it is the people in his organization that keep him going. He said he enjoys seeing them develop and improve. Through the recent downturn in the economy, he has managed to keep everyone on board.

“We’re all relieved that we made it through another year,” Metrolift employee Kara Sanders said. “Everybody recognizes that Rick’s investments are adding to the vision of our company for our long-term future.”

Photo: Metrolift, Inc. president Rick Dahl stands next to his inventory of aerial lift equipment in one of his lots in the Sugar Grove industrial park on Heartland Drive. Photo by Susan O’Neill

Library Board members available for ‘meet and greet’ next four Saturdays

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Library Board members will be available at the library for the four Saturday mornings in January to answer questions residents may have about the upcoming referendum or about the library’s services.

“People still have questions,” board vice-president Sabrina Malano said. “If all they read is the question on the ballot, it can be very confusing. People want to know what rate we are asking for, and if it passes, what the increase will do for them.”

Malano emphasized that the board members will not be there to try to persuade residents to vote for the referendum, but rather to answer their questions.

The referendum, which will be on the ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 2, will ask Library District residents for an increase in the tax rate of 10 cents per $100 of Equalized Assessed Value. For a homeowner of a $300,000 home, this would mean an additional $102 per year.

According to Board President Art Morrical, if the referendum passes, the number of hours the library is open will be increased by at least 20 hours, the collection of books and magazines will be expanded, and more programs will be offered.

If the referendum passes this time, patrons will see the value of their “yes” vote right away, Malano said.

Malano said that, because of the timing of this election, the money from the increase in the rate would become available to the library this July.

“They definitely would see an impact quickly,” she said.

According to Malano, the increase in the hours would add a couple more evenings that the library would be open for students, as well as some additional weekend hours. The additional programs would target older children, such as middle-school students and teens, as well as adults, and additional computer classes. There will also be additional meeting room availability for community groups. A “no” vote would mean more of the same.

“There’s so much more we want to offer,” Malano said. “But it’s really up to them (the district residents).”

The library will host early voting, beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 12, through Thursday, Jan. 28. Kane County election judges, who will preside over the voting, will be able to access voting information for any registered voter in the county. Anyone who lives in Kane County, with the exception of Aurora residents, will be able to cast their vote at the library, Library Director Beverly Homes Hughes said.

“Meet and Greet”
about the library referendum
with Library Board members
Sugar Grove Library lobby
Saturday, Jan. 9, 16, 23 & 30
9 a.m. to noon

To answer residents’ questions about the referendum or about the library

SG Library District Referendum
• On the ballot for Feb. 2 election
• Asks for funding increase of 10 cents per $100,000 of EAV
• Would mean total operating tax rate of 20 cents per $100 of EAV
• Impact on a $300,000 home = $102 per year
• Library would begin receiving funds in July

If the referendum passes
• Library hours would increase from 41 to 61 hours
• Library would be open on Monday, and increased hours on Fridays and Saturdays
• Sunday could be an option, based on resident survey responses
• More programs, especially for older children, teens and adults
• Decreases in check-out line delays
• Decreases in the time a book is on hold
• Availability of more copies of books, CDs and magazines; greater variety of titles
• Creation of a DVD collection

If the referendum does not pass
• No changes to current situation, in regards to hours, classes, size of collection

Sugar Grove in step with amended FOIA

by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday identified four Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officers, in compliance with the updated law, which went into effect Jan. 1.

As part of the new requirements, governmental bodies are required to appoint FOIA officers to respond to all future requests for information made through the FOIA process. The Village Board named Village Clerk Cindy Galbreath, Public Works Director Tony Speciale, Police Chief Brad Sauer and Community Development Director Rich Young as the village’s FOIA officers.

The Act requires that all information held by a public body be given to anyone who asks for it, with very few exceptions. One of these exceptions is private information, such as social security numbers, home or personal telephone numbers and personal e-mail addresses. Among other FOIA changes, public information requests will not have to be written on a village-specified form and can be submitted in a variety of ways, including verbally.

The new FOIA law also requires municipalities to provide the first 50 pages of public information free of charge, and can charge no more than 15 cents for each additional page. In addition, the law requires municipalities to provide public information electronically if requested, when it is available in that format. Municipalities must also provide the requested information within five working days, as compared to seven days under the old rules.

Recent concerns raised that the e-mail addresses of e-news recipients of a public body would no longer be considered private is not something Sugar Grove residents need to worry about, Galbreath said.

“Please rest assured that the village of Sugar Grove has always taken precautions to ensure that your e-mail address is private and remains private,” Village Clerk Cindy Galbreath wrote in an e-mail to residents. Galbreath said that Sugar Grove’s E-News database is grouped by geographic area and all addresses are classified as private.

To view Sugar Grove’s Freedom of Information Act procedures, visit To view the Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140/1), visit

Galbreath said that if anyone has questions or concerns regarding the village’s policy, she can be reached at (630) 466-4507, ext. 24.

Easier way to pay

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—By the end of the work week, Metra commuters will no longer have to find ever more creative ways to fold a dollar bill in order to pay for daily parking.

Metra will install an electronic payment system on Thursday, Jan. 7, that will make it easier for customers to pay the $1.25 for parking, and more efficient for Elburn police officers to collect the money. With access to two payment booths, each with four electronic payment terminals, customers will be able to more easily pay for parking as well as obtain a receipt.

Commuters will immediately be able to pay with cash, and by spring, Metra-specific debit cards will be available for purchase at the station.

“It will be as simple as an ATM to operate,” Elburn Assistant Village Administrator David Morrison said.

The receipt will also include the number of the parking space they are paying for, to reduce the likelihood of paying for the wrong spot.

The current payment system requires commuters to fit $1.25 in cash into one of hundreds of narrow slots in a metal container. When they do not have the entire amount in quarters, customers find themselves having to fold a dollar bill into a size small enough to stuff through the slot. There is a slim metal stuffer to assist with the process, but banging on the container sometimes works, as well.

As frustrating as it is for commuters to fold the dollar bill, it is just as frustrating for the police officer to unfold them. According to Morrison, people have developed their own unique folding techniques, the most creative of these being origami (a Japanese method for folding paper into the shape of a crane).

“It’s a consumer-friendly move,” Village President Dave Anderson said of the change.

The cost for the conversion to the electronic payment system is approximately $100,000, and will be paid for with Elburn’s parking fee collections.

Elburn leverages its buying power

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn joined other municipalities in northeastern Illinois in a consortium to negotiate with Nicor for more attractive terms and a new franchise agreement. The current agreement, which has been in place for 50 years, will expire in 2011.

The Elburn Village Board on Monday authorized the execution of the intergovernmental agreement that established the Northern Illinois Municipal Gas Franchise Consortium.

According to Assistant Village Administrator David Morrison, the agreement will take some time to renegotiate.

“It was a 50-year agreement, so it obviously needed to be updated,” he said.

The village also belongs to an electric cooperative made up of northern Illinois municipalities, through which it is able to leverage its buying power of electricity.

The coop will go out for its annual bid in the spring.

Airport director protects planes from local birds

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Police responded to a call on Dec. 15 about a male subject driving a green pick-up truck shooting geese out of his truck by the airport. Imagine their surprise when they approached the truck on Skyhaven Lane and found Aurora Municipal Airport Director Bob Reiser with a shotgun sticking out of his window.

According to the police report, Reiser told the police officers that he had a permit to shoot the geese to prevent them from hitting an airplane. He also possessed a valid FOID card for the shotgun.

Reiser said on Monday that he was not actually shooting at the birds. Rather, he was shooting a special shotgun shell that goes off like a cherry bomb to scare them. According to Reiser, there were about 5,000 geese within a quarter mile of the runway. He said that the sky went dark when they took off.

Reiser said this is something he has done when needed over the past 10 years. A bird hunter since the mid-1970s, he explained that geese like to roost near a good food source where they feel safe. With all of the grain from the corn fields near the airport, the geese population reaches significant proportions near the airport at times, he said.

“People have no idea how dangerous wildlife strikes are,” he said.

Reiser related a situation that involved a Lear Jet in Cohokia in 2002. He said that when the birds struck the plane, the aircraft hit the field and burned.

“That’s the most dramatic incident locally in the recent past,” he said.

DuPage Airport Authority Executive Director David Bird said that his airport also has a pretty active “hazing” program to keep the birds moving. According to Bird, the DuPage Airport has six propane cannons positioned in different spots to go off every few minutes.

“You want to keep them from getting comfortable in one spot,” he said.

The airport, located in West Chicago, has a number of water and drainage ponds not far, which attracts the birds. Bird said the DuPage Airport also uses cracker shells, which are similar to big firecrackers that are shot off in the area where the birds are gathering.

Although the Aurora airport also has a propane-fired cannon, Reiser said he does not use it very often, because the nearby residents complain of the loud noise it creates.

“It goes off every 30 seconds,” he said.

Bird said that killing is not something DuPage Airport advocates. However, Reiser said that he will kill the geese if necessary, such as, when they are landing on a runway and they won’t leave.

“My intent is not to have another Hudson Bay at the Aurora airport,” he said.

Reiser was referring to an incident that took place earlier this year, when a commercial passenger plane went down shortly after takeoff into the Hudson River in New York. The accident took place when at least one bird flew into the plane, damaging its engine.

The Sugar Grove Police asked Reiser to notify the department ahead of time when he is going to take this type of action again. They also notified him that he could not shoot his gun from inside his vehicle. Reiser said he understood.

“All I was trying to do was to protect people in the air and people on the ground,” Reiser said.

46,514 wildlife strikes
on airplanes between 1990 and 2002
2,334 in Illinois
during that period
93% of all bird strikes happen during
take-off or landing phase of flight

78% of bird strikes occurred below 500 feet above ground
$13 million: average cost to repair a plane after a bird strike

Source: Study conducted by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and
the United States Fish and Wildlife Department from 1990 to 2002

Church members share God’s word with their neighbors

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Thanks to Sugar Grove residents Rich and Laura Wood, their children and fellow church-goers, about 5,000 area families recently received a Bible in a packet hanging on their front doorknob. Included in the packet were a few readings and reflections about the story of Christmas, and an invitation to attend Christmas services at the Village Bible Church in Sugar Grove.

Although for the most part, there was no one at home, Laura said they did encounter a few people, including a man hanging up his Christmas lights. She said that the responses they received were positive, and that the experience was enjoyable.

The Woods were a few of the 100 or so Village Bible Church members who volunteered their time on Dec. 5 to pass out copies of the New Testament to their neighbors and surrounding areas.

The Village Bible Church, located on Route 47 near Wheeler Road, is a non-denominational church, with a belief in the Bible as the core foundation to who they are and how they live.

Since they believe it is the word of God that transforms lives, Pastor Keith Duff said putting a Bible in the hands of their neighbors seemed like a potentially powerful way to have an impact.

Duff and the other church members said the Bibles may not be read right away. However, their hope is that if it ends up sitting on someone’s end table, eventually someone will pick it up and begin reading it—perhaps for the first time.

“What if only 1 percent of these Bibles are actually read by someone who hasn’t read God’s Word before?” he asked. “That would be 50 new people reading God’s Word; and 5 percent would be 250 people.”

Duff said that even if someone already has his or her own Bible, chances are it is an older version that has been around for awhile. He said the one they passed out, an English Standard Version Bible, is a current translation, and reads closer to the way people speak today.

According to Pastor Tim Badal, the Village Bible Church has always been known for its missions emphasis, which is usually focused on far-away places. However, the past couple of years, the church has been looking for more ways to reach out to its own community.

Duff said he hopes the people in the community gain something from the Bibles. However, in the act of passing out the Bibles to their neighbors, the church members have already gained something, he said. While walking through their neighborhoods, many of them prayed for the people who live in the homes they passed.

“These are homes we drive past every day,” he said. “We become islands in our own homes.”

He explained that the church members have begun to think about their neighbors in a whole new way.

Photo: Tim Badal and Travis Fleming at Crossway publishers in Wheaton, Ill., picking up 7,000 New Testamentsl; 5,000 were for Village Bible Church in Sugar Grove while 2,000 were for Grace Bible Church in Aurora.
Courtesy Photo

Village creates pool of qualified police candidates

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—The village of Sugar Grove recently sent out a request for applications from individuals who wish to become Sugar Grove police officers. Although the department does not yet have approval to hire additional officers, Police Chief Brad Sauer said the force has to have an active pool of qualified candidates available for when it does get the green light to hire.

The first hurdle applicants must pass to be considered for the job is a physical test. Last Saturday, the 101 applicants who passed the physical test took a written test of their skills in math, report-writing, grammar, reading comprehension and coming up with common-sense solutions to specific scenarios.

Those who receive a passing grade on the written test will then interview for the job with members of the Police Commission. The same company that creates the written test establishes the questions for the interviews and determines what the answers should be, Sauer said.

“They (Stanard & Associates, Inc.) know what responses will get the best officers,” he said.

Each interview question is looking for specific qualities that the department wants in its officers, said Rick Montalto, Sugar Grove Board member and former police commissioner.

After the oral interviews are completed, the list is established. Points are added for an individual’s military experience and college degree. Before someone is hired, they must also pass a psychological test, a physical exam and a background check, Sauer said.

The new officers then attend the police academy, where the curriculum includes topics such as criminal and constitutional law, self defense, firearms and report writing. Field training takes place once the officer has completed the academy requirements.

“It could be six months before a new officer is out on their own on the street,” Montalto said.

Two individuals recently retired from the force, but due to a hiring freeze, the village has not yet been able to replace them, Montalto said. However, with budget discussions taking place in April for the new fiscal year, the new budget could include new-officer staff salaries, he said.

School officials lay out timeline for announcement of budget cuts

by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—Kaneland School District administrators, faced with a reduction in property tax income and cuts in state funding, have been working with the district’s main areas of operation to come up with cost-saving measures to reduce a $2.6 million projected deficit in the 2010-11 budget.

Given the magnitude of the deficit, school officials said that “nothing is off the table.”

McCormick said they are looking at cuts across the board, in personnel, travel, staff development, supplies, programs and services. The areas of operation that have been involved in the budget discussions include classroom instruction, transportation, technology, maintenance, administration, support service and food service.

“We’re going to make decisions that we don’t want to make,” Board President Lisa Wiet said.

The result will be a comprehensive district plan for budget cuts, which the administration will initially introduce to the School Board at its first meeting in January.

“The sooner you deal with the deficit, the better,” District Superintendent Charlie McCormick said.

Budget cuts timeline
Dec. 15: Board formally directs administration to
balance the 2011 budget

Jan. 11: Administration introduces general budget deficit
reductions to the School Board

Jan. 25: Administration lays out more specifics

Feb. 8: Public hearing scheduled, during which members of the
community have an opportunity to provide feedback

March 8: Administration identifies personnel actions for
budget deficit reduction*

March 22: Administration’s final report

*According to the Illinois School Code, notices of job cuts must take place in
March in order to be implemented by the end of the school year.

District attempts to balance budget amid unknowns

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—As Kaneland School District officials work to chop away at the $2.6 million deficit in the budget for 2010-11, they are dealing with several unknown variables. The expected revenues, which already are lower this year, based on slow growth and a record-low consumer-price index, may be dealt an even-bigger blow by the state of Illinois.

“There’s revenue—what the state is expected to provide to us, and then there’s cash—when we get it,” District Superintendent Charlie McCormick said.

Projected revenues for the 2010-11 school year are based on a number of assumptions, which include local property and corporate taxes, as well as funding provided by the state and federal government. Next to property taxes, Kaneland’s second largest source of revenue is the General State Aid (GSA) from the state.

Although the state has so far made its GSA payments, there is uncertainty about state categorical programs funding, including when and even if it will come.

State categorical funding, the school district’s third largest source of revenue, funds special education programs, transportation, and supports a few block grants. Although the district expects a total of $4.8 million this year, the state so far has only paid $6,700 of that amount.

Last year, the district finally did receive all the funding owed it from the state, but not until June or July, after the school fiscal year was over. At that, the state was only able to honor its commitments statewide by borrowing $1 billion.

This year, the state was assisted by $550,000 it received from the federal government through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Next year, that funding goes away. When this money is no longer available, there is no plan in the works to replace it with state level income.

“Revenue sources are down across the board,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Julie-Ann Fuchs said. “Unfortunately, there’s no good news on revenue.”

The other uncertainty relates to expenditures. With salary costs, the majority of the district’s expenditures ($29.5 million of the $47.2 million budget), the administration went back to the teacher’s union to ask it to renegotiate its contracted raise for next year.

The negotiated 5.6-percent salary increases for the teachers for next year equal $1.2 million of the budget.

According to McCormick, the administration does not expect to hear back from the Kaneland Educators Association until after the beginning of the year.

“We’re likely to receive some response in January,” he said. “We have to proceed with the numbers we have.”

Budget cuts timeline
Dec. 15: Board formally directs administration to
balance the 2011 budget

Jan. 11: Administration introduces general budget deficit
reductions to the School Board

Jan. 25: Administration lays out more specifics

Feb. 8: Public hearing scheduled, during which members of the
community have an opportunity to provide feedback

March 8: Administration identifies personnel actions for
budget deficit reduction*

March 22: Administration’s final report

*According to the Illinois School Code, notices of job cuts must take place in
March in order to be implemented by the end of the school year.

Parents concerned about effects of cuts

by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—A group of about 20 concerned parents met on Dec. 7 to discuss the pending budget cuts for the Kaneland School District.

Although Patrick J. Crimmins, father of two students at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School and one student at the Kaneland Harter Middle School, is a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee and the Finance Advisory Committee, he said he wanted to start an advocacy group that was more independent than those groups.

“We don’t want to argue about the reductions after they have been made,” Crimmins said. “We would like to have information further ahead of time—as early as possible.”

Crimmins said the district has been working on cost reductions since August, and the public will not have access to any information about the cuts until Jan. 11 and Jan. 25. The meeting set for public input is on Feb. 8, which Crimmins said does not give them a lot of time to process the information before providing feedback.

Crimmins said the cuts made now will impact the district for the next 10 years.

“We have a lot of interest in the outcome,” he said.

Kaneland School Board President Lisa Wiet attended the group’s meeting on Dec. 7. She said she was able to clear up a few misunderstandings.

“We understand that parents are concerned,” Wiet said. “We are interested in communicating to parents in any forum that we can.”

District offers early retirement

Offer is part of Kaneland’s deficit-reduction plan
by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—The Kaneland School District is offering a $10,000 incentive to staff members covered by the Kaneland Education Association if they retire a year earlier than planned. This one-time offer is one of the measures the district is taking to help reduce the budget deficit.

Those certificated staff who had given notice to retire at the end of the 2010-2011 school year are eligible to take their retirement at the end of the 2009-2010 school year and receive $10,000. In addition, the employee will receive either $100 or $200 per month, depending upon years of service, to pay for insurance premiums. This amount will be paid directly to the Teachers Retirement System until the employee is eligible for Medicare.

The district estimates that the amount of cost savings per teacher will be between $40,000 and $50,000, according to Associate District Superintendent Jeff Schuler. There are 13 teachers with a retirement letter on file for next year.

“A lot of the teachers set to retire at the end of next year are at the top of the salary schedule,” Schuler said. “We saw it as a win-win.”

Madrigals usher in the joy of the season

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—The Kaneland High School cafeteria was transformed into a medieval castle last weekend, when family, friends and fans attended the school’s 32nd annual “Madrigal Christmas Feaste.”

Entering the doors of the high school, members of the audience stepped back in time and place for a few hours of entertainment, feasting and merry-making. While they enjoyed a meal fit for a king or queen, prepared by local caterer Food for Thought, they settled in for an afternoon or evening of the joy of the season.

Audience members could easily imagine they were guests of English nobility sometime in the 16th century, when madrigal singing was a private form of entertainment within castles and country homes. More than 90 students played various roles in the performance, which included a brass and a recorder ensemble, servers, pages, court jesters, troubadours, minstrels, beggar women, as well as the madrigal singers.

Preparation for the performance began in the spring, when auditions were held. Rehearsal began in earnest in the fall, as members of the madrigal class began to learn their roles. In addition to the semester-long class, students attended a team-building weekend retreat in Oregon, Ill., in November, where they played games, learned more about each other as people and bonded as a group, madrigal singer Chloe Bluml said.

Chloe’s mom and Samantha Vasquez’s mom sat at a front table together on Saturday afternoon, taking in the show, and passing notes to their daughters on-stage. As part of the entertainment, parents wrote notes of encouragement and humor to their children and receive responses back. Students sent missives to each other, and notes also flew between members of the audience.

“The pages are kept pretty busy,” said Brent Eichelberger, Madrigal singer Eric’s father.

Brent is a somewhat seasoned spectator at the madrigal dinner, having come to see his children perform for the past five years. His involvement is likely to continue, as his youngest daughter, Caroline, a freshman, began her participation this year as a server.

Many parents and others volunteered their time to make the show a success, from helping out in the kitchen to sewing the costumes. Much care was taken with the details of the Elizabethan costumes, as well as with the complex and intricate musical pieces.

Armed with only a pitch pipe, the madrigal group sang most of its songs a capella. Although musical director Brian Kuntzman observed them from the back of the cafeteria, the students were so attuned to each other and the music by the time of the performance, their voices blended together beautifully and came in right on cue.

The event was an emotional experience for many of the students, Brent said. For the seniors, this was their last musical performance in their high school careers. For him and his family, the event was a highlight of the Christmas season, and was an inspirational way to get into the spirit of the season, he said.

Photos by Ben Draper
Photo gallery will load below, or click here.

PIE club members gain experience and friends on Denmark trip

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—Kaneland High School PIE Club (Partners in International Education) student members packed a lot of learning and interaction into their trip to Denmark this fall to meet their counterparts at the Vestre Skole High School.

The two groups of students had much to share with each other about what it is like to grow up in their respective homelands.

A major difference between the two countries is that education is free to any Danish citizen who wants one – from kindergarten through 12th grade, and on through college. The Danish government pays for the student’s housing as well as for his or her college tuition, Kaneland High School teacher and PIE advisor Brian Willis said.

The Kaneland students visited every kind of school during their stay. Willis said that although the Danish education schedule is similar to that in America, the Danes take their education more seriously. More responsibility is placed on the students themselves to keep up with their studies and to be successful, he explained.

“They don’t test their kids,” he said. “It’s like, ‘We’re done with geometry; hope you’ve got it.’ No one’s calling mom or dad to say you’ve flunked your test.”

By the time students reach gymnasium, their version of high school, many students have already begun to specialize in a career path.

Kaneland High School student Dennis Brettman said he was impressed with the level of education students were receiving at the gymnasium.

Student Kory Harner said that many of the Danish students spoke three languages. He added that they used laptops quite a bit more than students do here.

To pay for everyone’s education and the other services the government offers, the tax rate is about 50 percent, Willis said. This makes the cost of a $25,000 car closer to $50,000.

There is at most only one car per family, Harner said. Some of the teachers don’t even own a car, Willis added. And with gasoline at more than $6 a gallon, biking is a significant mode of transportation.

“They hardly had any traffic,” Harner said. “Everybody walked or rode their bikes to work or school.”

The students made use of this preferred transportation when they went sight-seeing in Copenhagen. With bike paths eight feet wide, biking to their destinations was a lot easier than it would be here.

Harner, a three-sport Kaneland athlete, enjoyed learning about the different types of sports the Danish people play. While he was there, he attended a professional women’s handball game.

The students also had a good time teaching each other their native sports. The Kaneland students learned to play handball and soccer, and they taught the Danish students how to play softball and football.

Everyone lived with a Danish family during their stay. Harner said his host family enjoyed playing games, and although their house was smaller than the typical house in the states, they did have a flat screen television.

“They were close as a family,” he added.

The PIE club began after a group of nine Kaneland High School students traveled to Romania in October 2005. According to Willis, the trip was so successful that the extracurricular club was created to continue to foster these types of relationships with students in other countries and to encourage the exchange of cultures and curriculum.

The experience that the students gained from the trips can’t be put in a book or shown in a movie.

“It can’t be duplicated,” Willis said.

The students have maintained the friendships that they forged while they were in Denmark.

“We keep in touch on Facebook,” Harner said. “I have 20 friends from the trip.”

Photo: PIE Club member Cara Zagel (center) poses for a picture with two of her Danish counterparts. Courtesy Photo

Spirit of the season

Fifth-graders make a local family’s Christmas brighter
by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—Brooke Simmons was one of five Kaneland John Shields Elementary School students chosen to pick out presents for a family adopted by fifth-graders through the Holiday Spirit program. She and the other students joined their teachers on Friday afternoon to purchase presents with money collected by the students.

Brooke said she does not know the family that will receive the gifts, nor does she need to know. What she imagines are the smiles on their faces as they open their presents on Christmas Day.

Fellow student Lexie Guerra said the family they adopted includes a mom and dad, a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. She and the other shoppers had a list of some of the things the family wanted, along with their sizes. She said that some of the items the children asked for, such as jackets and pants, made her think about the fact that not everyone has the things that she and her friends take for granted.

In addition to the clothes for the children, the girls bought twin baby dolls for the girl, and the boys bought Legos for the boy. Zach Woodward said they had fun picking out a Legos starter kit and a Legos police kit.

The teachers purchased gift cards for the parents.

Fifth-grade teacher Dan Rutter said that he and the other teachers were inspired by fourth-grade teacher Lee Hoover. She has motivated the students in her classes for years to participate in Holiday Spirit by choosing several children at random to go shopping with her and join her for dinner afterward.

Rutter said that, given that there were 116 fifth-graders, the teachers set a goal of $150. However, the students quickly surpassed that.

Although they were told they could collect money from others to donate, many of the students gave their own money. Some children donated the money they earned doing chores or babysitting; others emptied out their pockets; some like Brooke, relinquished the money she received from her birthday.

“The money just came flowing in every day,” Rutter said. “The kids wanted to do it themselves.”

Lexie said she was happy to know that she and the other students in her class were part of giving someone else a reason to be excited about Christmas.

“I know they’re getting important stuff that they actually need,” she said.

Photo: Kaneland John Shields Elementary School fifth graders and teachers wrapped up a shopping trip last Friday, when they used the money collected from the students to purchase clothes and a few toys for a family they adopted through Holiday Spirit.
Courtesy Photo

Holiday Spirit reaches into the community
Holiday Spirit was created to help Kaneland area families who are experiencing financial crises during the holiday season, Kaneland John Shields social worker Nicole Pryor said.

A parent may have lost a job, an illness or other tragedy may have presented serious financial challenges, or families may have lost their homes.

A joint effort between the Kaneland School District, service and professional organizations, churches and local businesses, as well as Conley Outreach and West Towns Human Services, the Holiday Spirit will help 55 families this year, Pryor said.

Some of the money is raised through events such as Breakfast with Santa during Sugar Grove’s Holiday in the Grove. In addition, school grades, such as the ones at Kaneland John Shields; clubs and organizations, such as local Brownie troops; area churches, banks and pre-schools adopt one or more families for the Christmas holiday.

Pryor said the focus is mainly on the children, and families receive needed clothing for them, along with a few toys. Gift cards may also be purchased for the adults, including gift cards for gasoline.

Sugar Grove village notes

Plan Commissioners waive meeting stipend
Sugar Grove Plan Commissioners voted at the Nov. 18 meeting to waive their meeting stipend of $25, in a gesture to assist with the village’s budget shortfall. With seven commissioners, the estimated cost savings for the village is approximately $175 per meeting.

The Plan Commission generally meets once a month with all members in attendance.

Village joins gas franchise consortium
Sugar Grove joined the Northern Illinois Municipal Natural Gas Franchise Consortium, which will give the village and other participating municipalities greater negotiating power with natural gas utilities. Sugar Grove is the Steering Committee representative for the Metro West Council of Governments.

The formation of a consortium also reduces the cost to each municipality of drafting, negotiating and finalizing a new gas franchise. The agreements are for contracts for village services, and do not apply to individual resident’s contracts.

Village considers truck weight restrictions
Sugar Grove is considering seasonal weight restrictions on certain village roadways in order to protect the roads and reduce maintenance costs.

The changing of seasons between winter and spring creates conditions known as freeze-thaw cycles, which increase the chance of damage to the asphalt, Streets and Properties Supervisor Geoff Payton said.

Heavy trucks and equipment on the roads can make the problems worse. Payton said the restrictions could be implemented in the spring to keep the heavier trucks and equipment off village roads during these critical times. Firefighting equipment, school buses, garbage trucks and village-owned vehicles would be exempted.

Dugan, Granart, Wheeler and Hankes roads and Prairie Street are the roads under consideration.

Fun for the family

Holiday in the Grove brings holiday cheer to Sugar Grove
by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Holiday in the Grove begins early on Saturday, Dec. 5, for good little boys and girls who want to share a breakfast with Santa. The first of four seatings begins at 7:15 a.m. at the Sugar Grove Community House on Main Street, with the last seating scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Reservations are required for this popular event, and can be made on the Parent Teacher Organization website,

Sugar Grove Police Chief Brad Sauer and Sugar Grove firefighters will cook the breakfast. Breakfast with Santa raises money for the community’s Holiday Spirit fund, a program that ensures there will be presents under the tree and staples in the house for Kaneland area families during the holiday season.

The children may pose for a free photo with Santa, available for pick-up after 12:30 p.m. Packaged photos taken by a professional photographer are available for purchase and will be ready one week from Saturday.

For an old-fashioned family experience, the Sugar Grove Park District sponsors horse-drawn sleigh rides from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local farmer George Alexander volunteers his time and his horses to provide the rides through the streets of Sugar Grove free of charge.

For transportation between the various events, a heated school bus will take visitors from the Community House to the school to the library all day long.

Community House events
Residents may stop in at the Community House between 9 and 11 a.m. for Coffee with the Mayor with Village President Sean Michels.

A Fun Fair will take place at the Community House upstairs in the gym from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The children can grab a lunch of hot dogs, chips, nachos, popcorn and pop, and enjoy an entertaining clown from noon to 2 p.m. Stay for magician David Fleming’s juggling act and magic show at 2:30 p.m.

Ornament making is available downstairs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., or children can participate in Noah’s Ark Stuff-n-Fluff from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to make a snowman, reindeer or gingerbread man.

Sugar Grove United Methodist Church
Visit Santa’s Sweet Shoppe at the United Methodist Church, across from the Community House, and purchase candies and cookies, pies, sweet breads and fudge, baked by members of the church. Be sure to take a tour of the sanctuary, where nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes will be available to remind visitors of the reason for the season.

Kaneland John Shields Elementary School

Events at the school include a crafter and vendor fair with more than 35 crafters from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Kids Holiday Shop is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where children can do their own Christmas shopping. Inexpensive homemade craft and store-bought items are available for purchase for family members and friends.

Sugar Grove Public Library

The Library Friends will host a Used Book Sale all day on Saturday at the new library. For a head start, stop by the library on Friday, Dec. 4, to pick up a few green (recycled) Christmas gifts.

Salvation Army community volunteer bell ringers will be at the library from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Money collected on that day will be available to Sugar Grove families and service organizations.

Holiday in the Grove

Saturday, Dec. 5
7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sugar Grove Community House,
Sugar Grove United Methodist Church and Kaneland
John Shields Elementary School,
Sugar Grove Public Library.
Parking available at each location.

Sponsored by
Kaneland John Shields PTO and
other organizations

Contact Carrie Guerra at
(630) 715-9230

Village tables Mallard Point SSA vote

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday tabled a proposal for a Special Services Area (SSA) in the Mallard Point Subdivision to deal with the recurring groundwater issues and elevated water levels in the wetland area.

Village officials, members of the Rob Roy Drainage District Board, Mallard Point residents and Kane County Water Resources Department Director Paul Schuch have been working together since early summer in an attempt to come up with a plan to resolve the flooding issues that are affecting the Mallard Point Subdivision, as well as property to the south.

The Village Board in September decided to table a vote that would have allowed the village to establish an SSA to address a portion of the flooding issues, when nearly 150 residents attended a public hearing on the topic. Many of the residents who attended the hearing said they did not want the board to rush into creating an SSA without knowing how much the special tax will cost them.

The establishment of the SSA would only cover the cost of maintaining the retention pond, which is just a small part of the problem. Funding to repair the broken drainage tiles and lay a large drain tile from the Mallard Point Subdivision south to Jericho Road would likely end up the responsibility of property owners throughout the Rob Roy Drainage District, an area that includes Mallard Point. This would mean additional fees charged to the residents.

The board agreed to invite Trotter & Associates engineer Mark Bushnell, who has been conducting the studies of the problems, to attend the Jan. 19, 2010, board meeting, to explain where things stand on the maintenance part of the project. Residents may comment at that meeting, and the board would then vote on the SSA issue at its March 2 meeting.

“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said. “March is getting down to the key decision point. More than likely, we’re looking at a fall 2010 major project.”

“Obviously, no one wants to pay more taxes,” trustee and Mallard Point resident Rick Montalto said after the meeting.

However, he said, people do feel it is important to get the situation resolved.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” Eichelberger said.

He said the village is working with the county and the Rob Roy Drainage District to see if there is any money out there to help with the costs, but he is not sure when they will even know how much the costs will be.

“I don’t know if we will have that estimate by March,” he said.


Local wildlife lives on in library photo display
by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Visitors to the children’s section of the Sugar Grove Public Library may find themselves eyeball to eyeball with a Chinese Praying Mantis.

The photograph is just one of about two dozen pictures that Sugar Grove Park District employee John Clayton has currently displayed at the library. Clayton’s photos of birds, prairie plants, insects and landscapes were all taken locally.

Clayton said that a year ago, a fellow Park District staff member asked him to take some pictures of the prairie plants in the detention basin behind the Park District building.

“I got caught up in the moment,” he said. “I ended up buying a camera.”

He said he plans to drop off copies of the pictures at the Kaneland John Shields Elementary School, in case the teachers would like to use it to educate their students about the wildlife that exists just outside their classrooms.

Clayton’s pictures were on display at Peck Farm Interpretive Center in Geneva during the month of October. He said he signed up to display his pictures about a year ago when he participated in the Kane County Certified Naturalist Program through the Geneva Park District at Peck Farm.

In the meantime, the library is the beneficiary of Clayton’s creativity.

“We love John’s work,” Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes said. “It’s colorful, cheerful, refreshing.”

Hughes said the library decided to display Clayton’s work partly because the content was local, but also because it was appealing and familiar, but not often seen by most people.

“It’s a cool thing to be a part of the new library,” Clayton said.

Clayton’s pictures are displayed in the front foyer of the library, leading to the board room and on the wall in the children’s section.

According to Hughes, the library is interested in displaying the work of local artists, given the appropriateness of the content, space and interest in the work. Works from the Kaneland Fine Arts Festival juried show will be on display in April 2010. Interested artists will find application forms at the library.

Photo: A Chinese Preying Mantis is among the subjects of Sugar Grove Park District employee John Clayton’s photographs displayed in the Sugar Grove Library. Courtesy Photos

Food pantry helps local families care for their pets

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Animal Hospital has agreed to serve as a drop-off site for animal food and supplies, as well as food donations that will end up on the shelves of the Between Friends Food Pantry of Sugar Grove.

Sugar Grove teenagers Danielle and Madison Taylor, who helped their mother Melisa Taylor with the start-up of the food pantry, determined that if families were having a hard time affording food, they probably needed help with the care of their animals, as well.

Sugar Grove Animal Hospital employee Julie Wortman said that they had talked about partnering with a local animal shelter to collect donations, but then they were contacted by volunteers for the food pantry. People are being asked to drop off dog and cat food and other supplies, cat litter, and of course, treats are always welcome. The animal hospital is located at 110 Main St. in Sugar Grove.

“They’re picking it up from us once a week,” she said.

The food pantry, located in the back of the Engineering Enterprises, Inc. building at 52 W. Wheeler Road, is open once a week on Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. According to the website, the goal of the food pantry, which opened on Nov. 5, is “to ensure that no one in our community goes hungry, while empowering people to remain self-sufficient in these difficult economic times.”

Taylor said the food and goods are available to residents within the Kaneland School District, and all Sugar Grove residents that meet the income and eligibility guidelines set by the Northern Illinois Food Bank (NIFB).

She said food donations are always welcome; however, monetary donations allow them to provide much more to recipients. Every dollar donated goes six times farther when the food is purchased from the NIFB than someone buying it off the shelf at a grocery store.

The Sugar Grove Jewel Osco, through donations collected from its customers, was able to provide Thanksgiving meals for 27 families through the food pantry, Taylor said. Customers who either paid an extra $1 with their purchase and/or dropped their extra change into a collection jar might be happy to know that their donations helped that many families have a happier Thanksgiving.

Taylor said she is grateful for everything that everyone is doing to help, whether it is donating time, food, services or money to help their neighbors in need. However, she cautions that the needs will continue long after the holidays are over.

“Come January, we’ll still be stocking the shelves,” she said.

Between Friends Food Pantry of Sugar Grove

52 Wheeler Road, Sugar Grove
behind EEI, Inc.
Open Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.
For additional information,
contact Melisa Taylor at or
(630) 466-0345 or visit the website at
Mail to P.O. Box 509,
Sugar Grove, IL 60554

Product donations needed

Toilet paper
Paper towels
Cleaning supplies
Shampoo and condioner
Toothpaste and toothbrushes
Cooking oil
Ketchup and mayonnaise
Sugar and flour

Drop-off locations
Sugar Grove Animal Hospital
Green Acre Cleaners
Sugar Grove Village Hall
Sugar Grove Public Library
Old Second Bank
Sugar Grove Remax
Aurora Candlewood Suites
McDole Elementary School
Sugar Grove United
Methodist Church

Village wants more time to study wind turbines

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board extended its six-month moratorium on windmills and wind turbines for another six months on Tuesday, but that does not mean they are not interested.

According to Sugar Grove Community Development Director Rich Young, the board passed a moratorium in July so village staff would have time to prepare an ordinance that would properly regulate the devices. Young said he and his staff have been researching the topic, including reviewing the ordinances of other communities.

“Woodstock has a good example, and the county has one that is evolving,” he said. “Although we’re asking for another six-month extension, my hope is that we’ll be ahead of the curve on that.”

Trustee Tom Renk said that he has seen wind turbines in many locations.

“They’re starting to pop up everywhere,” he said. “We do need to get in front of this sooner rather than later.”

The village has not received any requests for permits for these types of uses. The ordinance would have to go through a public hearing before the Plan Commission and then receive board approval.

No response yet from teachers

Kaneland requested renegotiation in early November
by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—A letter sent to the Kaneland Education Association at the beginning of the month requesting that members return to the bargaining table so far remains unanswered.

The Kaneland School District, faced with a $3 million projected deficit in next year’s budget, recently asked Kaneland teachers to renegotiate the contract ratified last year. The contract included salary increases for Kaneland teachers over a period of three years: 4.86 percent for last year, 6.21 percent for this year, and 5.6 percent for fiscal year 2010-11.

According to Kaneland Superintendent Charlie McCormick, next year’s increase for the teachers accounts for $1.2 million of the district’s budget. Adding in the same percentage increases for non-covered school employees brings the total to $1.5 million.

Associate Superintendent Jeff Schuler said that the district must remain on target with its timeline for cost reductions, in order to meet its obligations under the Illinois School Code.

Schuler said he will continue working with the district’s main areas of operation, including classroom instruction, transportation, technology, maintenance, administration, support service and food service, through early December to come up with a comprehensive district plan for budget cuts. These budget proposals will be presented to the School Board for its approval at its first meeting in January 2010.

“We have to work with our current set of assumptions in our financial planning model,” he said.

Schuler said he respects the position in which the association finds itself, and he understands that it has to follow its own process. However, he said the school administration’s intent is to follow its own timeline.

“We don’t want to eliminate jobs that we don’t have to,” he said. “Those decisions impact people and those decisions impact families.”

Schuler said that whatever cuts or changes to the budget that are presented to the board in January must be approved and implemented by late February or early March.

“Any shifts in compensation for any employee groups would happen in this timeline,” he said.

According to the Illinois School Code, notices of job cuts must take place in March in order to be implemented by the end of the school year.

Calls to Kaneland Education Association President Linda Zulkowski were not returned by press time.