Category Archives: Kaneland

KHS announces students of the term

Kaneland—The Kaneland High School (KHS) administration and staff announced that the following students were named students of the term for the second term in the 2009-10 school year: Elizabeth Smith, CTE (Business); Elizabeth Kennedy, CTE (Orientation to Family Consumer Science); Jessica Corbett, English; Stephanie E. Lanute, Fine Arts (Chorus/Band); Danielle Anderson, Fine Arts (Foreign Language); Anthony Sperando, Math; Thomas Whittaker, Physical Education/Health; Francesco Cimmarrusti, Science; Lauren E. Allen, Social Studies and Mariella Zavala, Student Services/Special Education.

The goal of the program is to recognize KHS students who exemplify the type of effort, commitment, character and leadership qualities and academic effort, including achievement, improvement and contributions, that are desired of all Kaneland students.

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
or
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
or
Rev. Steve Good at (630) 466-4501
visit the church’s website at
www.sgumc.net.

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

Citizens voice concerns over cuts

by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—There’s no question about it—Kaneland’s proposed cuts are not making anyone happy.

Kaneland’s Citizens Advisory Committee members, mostly parents, told the administration their concerns during a meeting held at the high school last Thursday. Some, like Mark Weintraub and Monica Kellen, voiced strong opposition to the idea of larger classroom sizes.

Kellen, whose child will soon start kindergarten, said she is opposed to classrooms with 30 students in them, which would be the result of cutting an additional one to two teachers at the elementary school level.

“I can’t imagine what kind of learning environment that would be,” she said.

Some members, such as Patrick Crimmins and Weintraub, said they were opposed to cutting gifted teachers and folding the gifted program into the response to intervention program.

Other members focused on the proposed cuts to the various activities and clubs. Some, such as George Silfugarian, suggested that, rather than cut some of the sports activities, parents be asked to pay higher fees.

He said that in looking at other options for his children in the community, he found fees in other leagues of about $350. With Kaneland’s fees currently at $100, his suggestion was to raise them to $300.

“I’d just as soon have them play at Kaneland,” he said.

Suzanne Fahnestock told the administrative panel that she gets upset when she looks at activities, such as band for the fifth graders or the outdoor education trips to Loredo Taft, being cut.

She said that before the children have to miss out on these and other valuable opportunities in the areas of fine arts, music and sports, she would like to see salary cuts and more position cuts looked at more seriously.

“At the last referendum, I encouraged others to vote yes,” she said. “My sons are not going to benefit from the referendum I voted for.”

Some individuals asked if more administrative positions could be cut instead. Several mentioned salary freezes as a way out. Although the teachers’ salaries are part of a negotiated contract, freezing the wages of non-union employees would realize a savings of $175,000.

Silfugarian said that wage freezes of the non-union employees could serve to put pressure on the teachers to offer to do the same.

“Many of our taxpayers are in that same position,” he said, referring to district residents who have either experienced pay cuts or who have lost their jobs altogether.

In the meantime, the Kaneland Educators Association has said that the membership will take a vote on Friday on whether or not to re-negotiate the salary increases for next year (see related story).

Silfugarian and others suggested that the schools could ask parents to help out with more activities, rather than to eliminate them.

“Perhaps more of the parents are willing to help out so some of these activities don’t get cut,” he said.

Bev Taylor, a committee member who is also a teacher in another district, said she appreciated everything that had been said and she knows how tough the situation is.

However, she said she would not want to do anything that would cause teachers to want to leave the district.

“One of our goals in our strategic plan is to attract and keep our quality teachers,” she said. “I want to be careful about that. I’ve been here when we got good teachers, and they left after a year. That hurt us. I don’t want to lose the best.”

Taylor said she would much rather see a salary freeze than cuts in positions.

“There’s people behind those positions,” she said. “There’s families behind those positions. It’s a balancing act—fifth grade band versus freezing or making cuts. We are going to make difficult decisions.”

Board approves 2010 capital projects

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Jan. 25 approved $3 million worth of capital projects for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, including repairs on the high school roof, paving work and a number of life-safety-related projects. The projects will be paid for with part of the money left over from the $65 million building referendum passed in February 2008.

The repairs on the roof, paving work at the high school, Kaneland John Shields and Kaneland John Stewart Elementary schools, and half of the repair and renovation life-safety projects at John Shields, John Stewart, the high school and Kaneland Middle School will be completed this summer. The remaining life safety work will be done during the next school year.

The board approved hiring Nicholas & Associates as the construction manager for the life safety projects. The cost for this service is 5.5 percent of the project cost, for a total of approximately $25,000.

Nicholas & Associates has served as the general contractor for a number of the School District’s projects, including Harter Middle School and the addition and renovation of Kaneland High School.

The administration will seek public bids on the work as soon as possible. The district is currently working with Engineering Enterprises, Inc. in preparing bids for the Esker Drive road extension project at the Harter Middle School. This project will be completed this summer, as well.

The three main projects supported by the referendum funding; Harter Middle School, Kaneland Middle School and the addition at Blackberry Creek Elementary School, are close to completion.

The board will consider a recommendation for an athletic and maintenance storage facility to be housed at Kaneland Harter Middle School. The cost of this facility is estimated at $1.1 million.

KHS sophomores support the troops

Kaneland—The Kaneland High School sophomore student council members are sponsoring a school and community-wide Valentine’s “Send the Love and Supplies” program to support US troops.

The council members are asking all students in all grades to collect items to ship to various military bases.

The group is specifically seeking the following items: peanut butter and jelly; individual packages of mayonnaise; crackers; antacids; unscented wipes; foot powder; shaving cream and lotion and mouthwash.

To donate items, drop them off at Kaneland High School, 47W326 Meredith Road, Maple Park. Please label all bags for the sophomore student council supply drive.

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, www.kaneland.org.

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.”

Kaneland offers preschool screening

Elburn—Kaneland parents are encouraged to bring their children from ages 3 to 5 years old to be screened between 8 and 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, at Faith Assembly Church, 44W555 Keslinger Road, Elburn.

The district will check development milestones, including speech, hearing and vision. Please note that this is not a kindergarten screening.

To schedule an appointment, call the Kaneland School District Office at (630) 365-5111, ext. 110.

For children younger than 2 years, 8 months, please call Child and Family Connections for Kane and Kendall Counties at (630) 761-9227, ext. 117.

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, www.redcross.org.

Elburn children learn good health habits from Tooth Wizard, Plaqueman

Elburn—Elburn children in kindergarten through third grade will learn how to take care of their teeth and the importance of good oral health from Tooth Wizard as he battles his nemesis PlaqueMan, during Delta Dental of Illinois’ Land of Smiles program at Blackberry Creek Elementary on Friday, Jan. 22.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting children in Illinois. According to a survey by the Illinois Department of Public Health, 55 percent of Illinois third-graders have experienced dental cavities. Among those children, 30 percent have untreated cavities and 4 percent have cavities that need urgent dental treatment.

“Since most tooth decay is preventable, we know it is important to start educating children about good oral health habits at an early age,” said Tom Colgan, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Illinois. “This program inspires a lifetime of good oral health habits and helps further our mission to improve the oral health of the communities we serve.”

Land of Smiles, sponsored by the nonprofit Delta Dental of Illinois, is a theatrical performance in which costumed characters Tooth Wizard and PlaqueMan educate kids on how to get rid of what Tooth Wizard refers to as that “icky, sticky, slimy, grimy, sort of yellowy, greeny gunk”—known as plaque—which causes cavities and damages gums.

Student volunteers will help Tooth Wizard and PlaqueMan demonstrate proper brushing techniques and how to floss using an oversized set of teeth and toothbrush. The characters will also discuss good and bad foods for teeth and why it is important to visit the dentist at least twice a year.

WCC scholarship deadline nears

Sugar Grove—The Waubonsee Community College Foundation is offering more than 100 scholarships for the 2010-2011 academic year. The application deadline is Thursday, Feb. 4.

Scholarships are available to both new and returning Waubonsee students. Details and application forms can be found online at www.waubonsee.edu/scholarships. A printed brochure is also available by visiting Waubonsee’s Office of Fund Development, located in Dickson Center on the college’s Sugar Grove campus, Route 47 at Waubonsee Drive, or by calling (630) 466-7900, ext. 2983.

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.

KHS seeks Hall of Fame nominees

Kaneland—To celebrate and commemorate the many accomplishments and achievements of Kaneland graduates, Kaneland CUSD #302 has formed the Kaneland Hall of Fame. New Hall of Fame recipients will be inducted at the Academic Awards Ceremony in the auditorium on May 3, 2010.

All community members, staff and friends of Kaneland are encouraged to nominate individuals or groups for one of the Hall of Fame categories. The categories include:
Service—Kaneland High School graduates who have contributed significantly to their community, state or country and have been out of school for at least 10 years.

Personal Achievement—Kaneland graduates who have been honored or recognized by their college/university, profession or peers for their success and achievements and who have been out of school for at least 10 years.

Extra-curriculars—Former extra-curricular participants in non-athletic or athletic activities who were recognized for excellence by their organization or team for at least two years. In addition, the participant(s) received honors in one or all of the following: All-Conference, District, Sectional, State or American. These nominees must have graduated from Kaneland High School and have been out of school for at least 10 years.

Commitment—Past or present staff members who worked at Kaneland for a minimum of 10 years and who, through their employment at Kaneland, have demonstrated their deep commitment to Kaneland students, parents, and/or staff.

Friend of Kaneland—Those who have given meritorious service to Kaneland and/or one or more of its schools for many years or have been a loyal friend to Kaneland and/or one or more of its schools. Kaneland staff members are not excluded from this category. However, nominations of Kaneland staff members in this category shall be for something other than what they achieved as an employee.

Teamwork—A Kaneland High School team or organization that demonstrated outstanding achievement, which may include record status or state recognition, at least 10 years prior to selection.

Any member of the community, alumni or staff member can submit names for nomination to the committee. The submission deadline date is Jan. 15. A nomination form can be obtained from Sharon Sabin in the Superintendent’s office at (630) 365-5111, ext. 109, or at www.kaneland.org. Click on “Hall of Fame” under Kaneland Alumni. Individuals making nominations should send the nomination form, resume and/or biography of the individual or group and their achievements or contributions to: Hall of Fame Committee, Kaneland CUSD #302, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park, IL 60151.

Folk-singer concert in Kaneland

Kaneville resident and folk-singer Lee Murdock plays a song with special guest Bob Zentz, who traveled from Norfolk, Va., to share an evening of songs and stories at Murdock’s Annual Hometown Concert on Saturday, held at Kaneland High School’s Auditorium.
Courtesy Photo

Murdock’s Annual Hometown Concert set for Jan. 8

KANELAND—Lee Murdock’s Annual Hometown Concert returns to the rural theme in 2011 as he welcomes southern Indiana farmer-songwriter-actor Tim Grimm as the special guest on the first Saturday of the new year.

As part of the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival’s Concert Series, the concert takes place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8, at the Kaneland High School auditorium, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.

Tim Grimm is an award-winning songwriter, actor and hay farmer, living and working on the family homestead—a farm originally homesteaded by a family named Needham. In the late 1990s, Tim left Hollywood and a successful acting career to focus his life on his family and his art, a conscious choice to live a life of significance rather than one of “success.” Tim’s songs are full of the rural rumblings that have shaped his life, celebrating the inextinguishable national romance with the idea of the family farm and the vanishing landscape of rural America. 

Tim’s movie appearances include “Clear and Present Danger” with Harrison Ford, and “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.

Lee Murdock is known internationally as “North America’s Great Lakes Balladeer,” and also as a fluent instrumentalist on six- and 12-string guitar. In addition to the songs of Illinois history and maritime music, Murdock also has a strong affinity for Irish music and Illinois history, as well as blues, ragtime and a bit of classical guitar. Murdock and his wife, Joann, have been Kaneville residents since 1982.

Audiences at the Hometown Concert can expect a round of impromptu jamming between Murdock and Grimm in the second set. Each year, the concert opens with a short set by Lee and by the guest artist, followed by an intimate “song swap” with both artists on stage for the second set.

Lee Murdock’s Hometown Concert is an annual event which now draws people from all across the Chicagoland area. Advance reservations are not needed, but call (630) 557-2329 for directions or further information.

The Hometown Concert continues its second season in collaboration with the Kaneland District’s Fine Arts Festival. This is the second of four major events, to be followed by the free multi-stage and multi-media event from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, and by the Second-annual Kaneland Community Theater production running for two weekends in July.

For more information on the Kaneland Community Arts Festival, contact Maria Dripps-Paulson, Community Liaison for the festival, at (630) 365-5100 ext 180  or maria.drippspaulson@kaneland.org .

State group names KHS Illinois State Scholars

Kaneland—The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) recognized 19,345 high school students from 752 different schools from across the state as 2010 Illinois State Scholars.

Illinois State Scholar winners rank in the top 10 percent of high school seniors. Selection is based on SAT, ACT and/or Prairie State Achievement Exam scores, and/or class rank at the end of the junior year.

“Excellent high school grades are tremendously important for laying the groundwork for future college success,” said ISAC Executive Director Andrew Davis. “Illinois State Scholars are the best and the brightest in our state’s high schools, and we salute them, their families and their teachers on this achievement.”

Earning the distinction from Kaneland were Jenna Bartel, Emily Butts, Kristyn Chapman, Megan Cline, Eric Dratnol, David Dudzinski, Joseph Garlinsky, Tara Groen, Amy Husk, Haley Johnson, Samantha Johnson, Brett Ketza, Kevin Krasinski, Micaela Lane, Logan Markuson, Melanie Mazuc, Vincent Micek, Alexandra Morefield, Joss Nicholson, Zachary Nolte, Tara Olson, Kasey Ostarello, Kylen Pattermann, Justin Phillips, Lisa Roberson, Erin Rodway, Patrick Ruffolo, Kelly Shaw, Nikki Smith, George Spirakis, Elizabeth Webb.

SG Library to host student art show in January

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Public Library in January will play host to 40 student artworks selected by the Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA) for the 2010-11 IAEA Student Show—a traveling showcase displaying the finest examples of artwork from Illinois students, grades K-12.

Betse Hauser and Sydney Stacy of John Stewart Elementary, Keely Noel of John Shields Elementary and Brandon Abordo of McDole Elementary are local students whose artwork will be featured in the exhibit.

“Last year, (the Sugar Grove Library) was approached about being the host location for the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival, and that began a relationship (between the library) and the art teachers in the School District,” said Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes. “We began to have more earnest conversations about how we could participate with one another and bring art to the community.”

The library is working with the Kaneland School District and John Shields Art Specialist Erin Livermore to bring the IAEA Student Show to the Sugar Grove community, and an artist recognition event will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 6, at the Sugar Grove Library. There will also be a recognition at 7 p.m. for the Kaneland area students whose artwork is featured in the exhibit.

“I think it’s wonderful that there is art featured from students throughout the state, and the students from our School District have the chance to come with their families and see the artwork,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the Sugar Grove Library is an ideal location to house and showcase an art exhibit.

“Our building was built with display areas in mind, and also to encourage art teachers and art students to show their work on our walls,” she said. “It gives the people who visit the library something to visually experience, and it changes throughout the time we have different shows in place. And the moment of pride a student feels from seeing their artwork up on the wall is pretty spectacular.”

After its stay at the library, the IAEA Student Show will move on to Marmion Academy’s Dr. Scholl Gallery in February, Mattoon Middle School in March, Elgin’s Westminster Christian School in April and then Skokie’s Niles West High School in May.

“I’m looking forward to the show, and I hope certainly that people in our community will take advantage of this opportunity and encourage us to bring more (events) to the community,” Hughes said.

Kaneland’s student-artists
A group of Kaneland elementary students will have their artwork included in an art show that will travel around the state in 2011.

Kaneland’s student-artists are:
• Betse Hauser,
John Stewart Elementary
• Sydney Stacy,
John Stewart Elementary
• Keely Noel,
John Shields Elementary
• Brandon Abordo,
McDole Elementary

Erdmann honored as educator by peers

Teacher shaped KHS journalism program
by Martha Quetsch
Kaneland—Former Kaneland High School journalism teacher Laurie Erdmann received a lifetime achievement award from the Journalism Educators Association (JEA), topping off a career that she found both challenging and gratifying.

“I was thrilled just to be nominated,” Erdmann said. “There are so many amazing people in the JEA that I’ve admired and tried to follow the example of through the years, and to be recognized by one’s peers is unbelievably gratifying.”

Erdmann accepted the award Nov. 14 in Washington D.C. at the national convention for journalism students and newspaper advisers, co-sponsored each year by the JEA and the National Scholastic Press Association.

Erdmann taught journalism at Kaneland High School and advised its award-winning student newspaper, The Krier, for 34 years before retiring in 2008.

When she arrived at KHS in 1974, she first had to learn the process of publishing the on-campus Krier from a co-worker in the Midwest Vocational Center.

“I came into the job knowing very little and left with a wealth of knowledge and experiences,” Erdmann said.

Later, she steered the newspaper staff through the technological transition from paste-up to desktop publishing.

“When I started, we were using manual typewriters, T-squares and rubber cement; when I left, students were using iMacs and sophisticated software like InDesign to create their pages,” Erdmann said.

Twenty-five years ago, the KHS journalism program offered just a one-semester course. Erdmann helped develop it into a three-tiered, sequential journalism program, concluding in an Advanced Placement course emphasizing intensive journalistic writing.

Also during her tenure at KHS, Erdmann helped plan and implement a building addition to the school in 1998 for a journalism suite with a classroom, publications office and 20-workstation publications lab. She later supervised the establishment of an online version of the Krier.

In addition, she advised the school’s literary magazine for five years and served as board member, president and treasurer, respectively, of the Northern Illinois School Press Association during the early 1980s. In 2001, she was selected as KHS Educator of the Year.

Erdmann said her education helped her meet the challenges of building the Krier and journalism curriculum through the years at KHS. With a B.A. in English and an M.A in journalism from Northern Illinois, Erdmann received further adviser and journalistic training at University of Iowa, Indiana University and Harvard.

Under Erdmann’s leadership, The Krier frequently was recognized by regional, state and national scholastic evaluation organizations, and still operates as an open-forum, completely student-produced publication that has operated without censorship since 1974, she said.
“That’s what I’m most gratified about,” Erdmann said.

As a teacher and Krier coordinator, Erdmann emphasized journalism ethics and encouraged her students to understand the rights and responsibilities of free expression.

“When students have a voice and make the final decision, they are fully realizing their role in a democratic society—that a free press is a responsible press, and a responsible press is accountable to its readers,” Erdmann said.

One of Erdmann’s former students, Eric Ferguson, now a radio host at 101.9 FM, The Mix, said although Erdmann always encouraged students to have their own thoughts and opinions, she stressed the importance of backing them up with facts.

“She always told us to make sure you knew where you were going to take a story, otherwise you might end up painting yourself into a corner,” said Ferguson, former managing editor of the Krier. “She encouraged creativity backed with a logical thought process. I still use that model to this day.”

Photo: Retired Kaneland journalism teacher Laurie Erdmann (left) received a lifetime achievement from the Journalism Educator Association. Erdmann taught journalism at KHS and advised the award-winning Kaneland Krier for 34 years.
Courtesy Photo

Krier coordinator inspired, motivated students
by Martha Quetsch
KANELAND—Laurie Erdmann estimates that she worked with 4,000 students during her more than three decades at Kaneland High School.

Many of Erdmann’s students pursued journalism after high school, including Eric Ferguson, radio host at 101.9 FM, The Mix.

Ferguson, like many of Erdmann’s former students, has remained in contact with her since graduating. He remembers how she challenged him as a student.

“Her teaching style was always very engaged,” Ferguson said. “If she thought you could do more, or were just putting in a marginal effort, she would call you on it and challenge you.”

Ferguson had several journalism and English classes with Erdmann, and was managing editor of the Krier, Kaneland High School’s student-run newspaper.

Among Erdmann’s other students who have had professional journalism careers are Cali N. Bergold, former editor for Today’s Chicago Woman and writer for The New York Times; Lauren Stott, new executive editor for the Northern Star at Northern Illinois University; Suzy Lackey Ray, graphic designer for Chicagoland Gardening; Jason Chandler, editor for Campus Crusade for Christ website; and Kevin Murphy, sports editor at Eastern Illinois University.

Stott said Erdmann’s classes inspired her.

“Her classes were absolutely the reason I wanted to be a journalist,” Stott said. “The way she taught made it seem like such a fun, interesting and important job.”

Financial aid demystified

by Morgan Buerke
Krier Reporter

KANELAND—Senior Beth Smith has spent many tedious hours filling out scholarship applications.

“I’m applying for all of the financial aid and scholarships I can. I’m trying to get as much as possible,” Smith said.

It’s a smart move, the experts say, because college costs have skyrocketed in the past few years, and with it, so have student debts.

Among 2008 college graduates, 67 percent of students graduating from four-year colleges and universities had student debt, a U.S. Department of Education study found—and on average, those graduating seniors owed $23,200, an increase of 24 percent since 2004. For those who attended private four-year universities, the average debt was even higher: $27,650.

This problem has been receiving growing attention as debt loads increase and recent graduates struggle in a poor economy. Often, they have to wait a year before finding a job, while struggling to repay the loans, or they begin graduate school immediately in order to defer them.

And yet despite this, many students still aren’t applying for financial aid and scholarships. It’s a stupid mistake, counselor Andrew Franklin said.

“Applying for financial aid will help you stop throwing your money out the window,” Franklin said. “Realistically, not applying is foolish.”

While financial aid may not seem that important, counselor Maria Mecic, who’s in charge of helping students get scholarships, strongly advises students to apply.

“I’m applying for scholarships and filling out the FAFSA form. I need the grants and scholarships, especially because I have other siblings in college,” Smith said. “I participate in extra-curriculars, do community service and work (to improve my chances).”

Mecic said students should check the Student Services website and the board outside Student Services to find scholarships they’re eligible for.

“Most scholarships students will send off on their own,” Mecic said. “But local scholarships, which are only for Kaneland students, need to be turned in directly to Student Services.”

According to Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest financial aid organization, there are four types of financial aid: scholarships, grants, earned money and borrowed money. Scholarships can be given for a variety of reasons, including excellent grades, financial need, community involvement, parents’ employment, sports and memberships in organizations. Grants, which are need-based aid distributed by the federal government, the state and colleges, are similar in that they do not need to be repaid.

Earned money is just that: earned. Students awarded this participate in a work-study program and are guaranteed a job on-campus—an important benefit because jobs in college towns can often be difficult to find.

The last and least desirable type of financial aid is borrowed money. These are loans that have to be repaid and usually collect interest. Among the better loan options are those offered by the federal government, such as the Perkins loan and the Stafford loan, both of which are low-interest, need-based loans. The Federal Parent PLUS loan is not need-based, but it is low-interest. To qualify, parents must have a undergraduate dependant child enrolled in college at least half-time.

The last two loans are institutional loans and private loans. Institutional loans are directly from the college and the payment and eligibility are determined by the college. A private loan, the least desirable option, is a loan from a private lender, bank or other organization. Private loans often have high interest rates.

Smith, who is applying to the University of Illinois-Chicago and Arizona State University, is still working on her scholarship applications.

“I’ve applied for scholarships through FastWeb and McDonald’s Corporation,” she said.

Different kind of white Christmas

Teachers and students at Kaneland McDole Elementary School in Montgomery enjoyed a “snowball” fight Dec. 18 in the school gym. However, this wasn’t your ordinary snowball fight—the snowballs were actually 500 pairs of new socks, donated by the students and their families for the Hesed House shelter in Aurora. Courtesy Photo

Many can benefit from Armory program

by Kendall Callaghan
Kaneland Krier reporter

Kaneland—The Kaneland Knights Armory is one of the newest editions to our school. This program can benefit everyone in the Kaneland High School.

“(The program started) this year, but we dreamed about it last year. It took a lot of time to get ready for it last year,” Special Education Director Jill Maras said.

This program gives students with individual needs or trouble concentrating with a quiet place to work, study or take a test.

Students who need this program can use it as often as needed. It can also be used during STEN to take tests, and students can also enroll in this program as a class. Classes are usually at a maximum 15 students, but students may come and go as they please throughout the day. There will always be one of the two teachers that run the room in it to help.

This program can help students with concentrating on tests and projects, and teachers can focus on individually helping a student.

Students aren’t the only people who may benefit from this program.

“It can also be an extra set of hands in a classroom, or teachers may send students down to the armory for more help (if the general teacher may not be able to give it to them),” Maras said.

KHS hosts annual Murdock concert

Kaneland—Lee Murdock welcomes this year’s special guest, Bob Zentz, traveling all the way from Norfolk, Va., to share an evening of songs and jolly-good tales at Murdock’s Annual Hometown Concert on Saturday, Jan. 2.

Always the first Saturday of the new year, the concert begins at 7 p.m. The concert will be held at the Kaneland High School auditorium, 47W326 Keslinger Road in Maple Park. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.

Lee Murdock is known internationally as “North America’s Great Lakes Balladeer,” and also as a fluent instrumentalist on six- and 12-string guitars. In addition to the songs of Illinois history and maritime music, Murdock has a strong affinity for Irish music and Illinois history, as well as blues, ragtime and a bit of classical guitar. Murdock and his wife, Joann, have been Kaneville residents since 1982.

Audiences at the Hometown Concert can expect a round of impromptu jamming between Murdock and Zentz in the second set. Each year, the concert opens with a short set by Lee and by the guest artist, followed by an intimate on-stage “song swap” with both artists on stage for the second set.

The Hometown Concert continues its second season in collaboration with the Kaneland District’s Fine Arts Festival.

Lee Murdock’s Hometown Concert is an annual event which now draws people from all across the Chicagoland area. Tickets for the annual Hometown Concert are $10 at the door. Advance reservations are not needed, but call (630) 557-2329 for directions or further information.

Photo: Musician Lee Murdock of Kaneville will perform an evening of songs and jolly-good tales at the Annual Hometown Concert on Saturday, Jan. 2. at 7 p.m. at the Kaneland High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. Courtesy Photo

Acid Reflux on Ice

The sketch comedy Acid Reflux Comedy Troupe, formed in 2006 by recent Kaneland grad Brian Renaud, opened its fourth season premiere, “Acid Reflux on Ice,” Dec. 18 and 19, with encore performances Dec. 29 and 30 at the Jester’s Courtyard Theatre at 901 W. Batavia Ave., Batavia. Both shows are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Reservations are recommended by calling (630) 551-TUMS. The troupe includes Kaneland students Ben Tennant, Kasey Ostarello, Ryan Stasell, Chelsea Roberts and Steven Sledinski. Courtesy Photo

A group effort

Local band to play Chicago’s Metro Jan. 2
by Ben Draper
ELBURN—The band Kid, You’ll Move Mountains could be considered a second-chance.

After enjoying nationwide success in the band Troubled Hubble between the years of 2000-05, Kaneland High School graduates Nathan and Andrew Lanthrum took a hiatus from the rock world following a flurry of what can be considered extremely bad luck.

But karma has been kind to the brothers. They form the rhythm section (drums and bass guitar) of Kid, You’ll Move Mountains, who will play the historic Metro in Chicago Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010. They will also appear on WGN’s Noon News on New Year’s Eve, and just released a new album that has been praised nationally and abroad.

At the end of 2005, the brothers’ band, Troubled Hubble, was signed to a record label out of California that was mired in a controversy that ultimately ended up losing the label multiple acts such as Green Day. The Troubled Hubble tour bus then exploded while the band was at a festival in New York City, stranding the band for weeks.

After calling it quits, the brothers entered the real world and got what Nathan called “real jobs.”

It wasn’t long before Nathan and Andrew, both originally from Elburn, got back on the musical horse.

With Nathan’s wife Nina—formerly of Sugar Grove and a Kaneland graduate herself—on keyboards and vocals, the brothers banded together with guitarist/vocalist Jim Hanke and guitarist Corey Wills to form Kid, You’ll Move Mountains.

The band recently released a new album, titled “Loomings,” that has received rave reviews, including being honored as the top Chicago release of 2009 by the Red Eye/Metromix.com earlier this month, and was No. 9 of the websites’ top 10 overall records of the year. Former Troubled Hubble member and Kaneland grad Josh Miller produced the album.

As a way to promote the Jan. 2, 2010, show at the Metro, all four bands performing are offering their albums free of charge to download at www.GreatestShowEver.com.

“We don’t feel like bands really work together anymore on a local level to promote each other’s music, so we’ve built that site and are playing this show to try to get as many people in front of each band in one of the greatest music venues that Chicago has to offer,” Nathan said.

The band is also offering free tickets to the Metro show by visiting www.GreatestShowEver.com, printing out the flier and arriving at the Metro before 9 p.m. Otherwise, tickets are $9 for the show, which is for anyone 18 years old and up.

Top photo: Kid, You’ll Move Mountains band members are (from left) Nina Lanthrum (vocals/keys), Jim Hanke (vocals/guitar), Nathan Lanthrum (drums), Andrew Lanthum (bass) and Corey Wills (guitar). The Elburn-based group features three Kaneland graduates, Nina (Jones) (1998), Nate (1998) and Andrew (2000). Courtesy Photo

Career center announces students of the month

Kaneland—The following Kaneland High School students were named students of the month for November at the Fox Valley Career Center: Lindsey Dodis, Graphic Communications I; Olivia Emmanouil, Emergency Medical Technician; David Fischer, Welding I; Megan Hanlon, Graphic Communications I; Lauren Malawski, Early Childhood II; Kevin Mendoza, Electrician I.

Fox Valley Career Center recognizes Students of the Month throughout the school year. In order to receive this honor, students are selected by their program instructors because they demonstrated the ability to do excellent work and to accomplish goals for their particular career training program during the previous month. Further, these students also exhibited a positive attitude, willingness to work with others and willingness to learn.

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.

Dec. 18 Kaneland notes

Committee struggles with attendance, changes meeting time
Although the Finance Advisory Committee met regularly this year, the committee struggled to meet the quorum requirements of 60 percent attendance. The committee set a meeting schedule that it hopes will increase attendance for a majority of members.

However, five of the members resigned because the new schedule, which is the first Tuesday of the month, does not work for them. The FAC accepted resignations from Karen Glad, Sean Michels, Steve Pitstick, Shana Sparber and Melisa Taylor.

With the membership number reduced to 17 from 22, only 10 members must be present to establish a quorum.

According to the Kaneland.org website, the goals of the FAC are to deliberate financial problems, issues and questions, advise the board and administration regarding district finances, and to facilitate cooperation and communication between the schools, the district and the community.

District to put Esker Drive extension to bid
The Kaneland School District will ask for bids for the Esker Drive extension in January. The road extension, part of the Kaneland Harter Middle School construction project, will provide two entrances to the school campus, from Harter Road and Wheeler Road.

Engineering Enterprises, Inc. estimated the cost of the road extension at approximately $1.5 million. The actual cost will be determined once the district receives the bids.

School officials said they anticipate approval of a construction contract by March or April, with completion of the project set for July.