Category Archives: Kaneland


Tri again

Clinton named to All-American list by USA Triathlon, preparing for Florida race
ELBURN—With the mood-crushing winter season still upon us, the urge to get outside and participate in athletic activities can weigh heavily.

Lady Knight sophomore Victoria Clinton can do something about it right now, and looks to push herself more than most.

Clinton, named last week to the Junior Elite All-American list for USA Triathlon in the 16-19 age group category as an Honorable Mention, looks to participate with her fellow MMTT members at the PATCO North American Junior Championship on Saturday, March 8.

The honor is a big deal, considering its Clinton’s first year in the category.

“You have to keep in mind that prior to her injuries, she was near No. 1 in those rankings, and near the top of the overall standings,” coach Steve Brandes said. “She’s extremely consistent; her biggest attribute is consistency.”

The Sarasota, Fla.-based event provides a chance for Clinton, the 2012 Class AA State cross country individual champ, to swim, bike and run with five other team members from the western suburbs against a field that includes athletes from Mexico and Canada.

Clinton, who owns the fifth-best Class AA State-winning time in cross country at 16:56, can use her cross country experience to perform at a high level this weekend.

“Cross country is pure racing, there are no splits,” Brandes said. “Victoria is very good at rising to that top level. She’s a state champ, and cross country makes her tough. It’s about racing hard, and she’s very strong.”

Clinton has also managed to qualify for the Pan American Cup in early June in Monterrey, Mexico, as one of eight American females vying for the lone Youth Olympics Games spot taking place in China this summer.

Clinton’s last competition under the ITU (International Triathlon Union) Triathlon banner came in June 2013 at the Pan American Championships in Vila Velha, Brazil. Clinton finished eighth in the junior women category with a clip of 1:07:24.

Brandes, in his first year of working with Clinton, feels there will be no off-base expectations.

“That’s what you sign up for with these international events. It’s her biggest test against tough competition,” Brandes said.

Clinton’s team can be found at, and the PATCO North American Junior Championship information is at


A feast fit for the arts

Photo: The Kaneland Arts Initiative on Friday celebrated the arts with its fifth annual Fine Arts Feast at Open Range Southwest Grill in Sugar Grove. KHS art teacher Emily VanDelinder-Birchfield plays the accordion for guests in attendance. Photo courtesy Sally Jane Photography

SUGAR GROVE—Rebecca Aimone is an Elburn resident and Kaneland parent who regularly attends the annual Fine Arts Feast.

Aimone believes it’s important to attend the event.

“We need art,” she said. “And we need music. And everybody should support this. It’s a part of life.”

This year marked the fifth annual fundraiser feast at Open Range Southwest Grill in Sugar Grove. The event took place on Friday evening in the Pine Room, a space adorned with white lights and covered in smooth wood from the ceiling to the walls.

Nearly 100 supporters attended the Kaneland Arts Initiative’s (KAI) Fine Arts Feast. According to Maria Dripps-Paulson, executive director of KAI, $3,000 was raised at the event.

Dripps-Paulson said that KAI wants people to be “arts minded.” KAI offers the Fine Arts Festival, scholarships and performance series, and also puts money into the Kaneland School District.

“Everybody can be a sports fan,” Dripps-Paulson said. “But not everybody is an art lover. And we want to create more people who are art lovers. And by art, I mean all of the arts—fine arts, dance, all of those things.”

Laura McPhee, Board of Directors secretary and volunteer coordinator for KAI, said that the arts initiative is about community.

“It’s truly bringing the arts to every single person that is interested and wants to share that,” she said.

During the event, attendees had the opportunity to browse a variety of silent auction items ranging from Chicago Blackhawks tickets to a “Golfer’s Survival Kit.”

Raffle prizes included bookstore gift card, glass jewelry and orchestra tickets.

People dined on pasta, pizza and Ceasar salad.

Kaneland High School art teacher Emily VanDelinder-Birchfield played “Love Me Tender” on an accordion while many attendees flocked to grab desserts, including big, crisp chocolate chip cookies and tiny powdered sugar brownies.

The event also offered lots of live entertainment, as KAI representatives sang behind microphones. Dripps-Paulson had been part of the singing group she dubbed as Two and a Half Filipina. The group included her daughter Clara, 6, and Sugar Grove resident Estrellita Uzarraga.

Diane McFarlin, assistant principal at Kaneland High School, is also the artistic director of KAI. She sang for attendees during the event while Deanna Cates, president of the Board of Directors, accompanied on a keyboard.

McFarlin concluded her bit with the announcement that the KAI’s summer theatre production will be “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Uzarraga’s sons Matthew, 11, and Zachary, 8, stole the show as they bounded up on top of big boxes, stood behind tall mic stands and sang songs from “Les Miserables.”

The brothers are professional actors and have acted on Kaneland’s community stage.

“I like that you get to pretend to be someone whose life is cooler than life that could be in real life,” Matthew said of acting. “And more extraordinary.”

Matthew’s acting career has allowed him to be a different person, as well as a bear and an ogre.

“You can pretend you’re a different person and you can have a different life,” Zachary said.

The boys also know what it’s like to be on stage with the audience applauding.

“It felt like I was bringing joy into their lives,” Matthew said.


Photos: Choir power

Kaneland High School presented the 2014 KHS/HMS 8th Grade Choir Festival on Saturday in the KHS auditorium in Maple Park. Eighth-grade mixed choir soloist Amanda Eckstrom (right) performs “Shenandoah,” arranged by Spevacek.

The combined choirs (above) performing “Imbakwa,” by Arr.

The combined choirs performed “Imbakwa,” featuring soloists John Briggs and Jonathan Heuman.

More photos on our photo website:

Harter Middle School students qualify for Illinois Junior Academy of Science Fair

DEKALB—Students at Kaneland Harter Middle School are solving problems, thinking independently and raising the bar for future science classes.

On Feb. 13, Kaneland eighth-graders gathered to showcase their science projects at the second annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Science Fair. Out of the 343 student projects, 68 were selected to compete in the school science exposition. Fifty judges consisting of community members, Kaneland administrators and School Board members, and parents rated the inquiry-based projects according to several criteria developed by professionals affiliated with the Illinois Junior Academy of Science. Of the 68 local exhibitors, 37 will advance to the regional competition of the Illinois Junior Academy of Science (IJAS) Fair at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in March.

Students developed their own projects, completed independent research, performed various experiments, analyzed data and formed conclusions based on their findings. The creative, insightful projects ranged from an analysis of local water quality to developing biodiesel fuels to detecting background radiation. “It’s up to each student to design a unique project,” said Ryan Wlodek, teacher and science fair coordinator

“The unit of study prepares students to problem solve, think critically, and apply their knowledge to new situations. It’s teaches kids how to think,” Wlodek said. “Teaching kids content is important; however, it is also necessary to teach critical thinking skills to prepare them for future careers that do not exist and problems that have yet to be encountered.”

In some cases, students proved their hypotheses correct, but in others they were shown to be false. In every instance, student exhibitors demonstrated a deep understanding of their research and easily communicated their findings to judges and spectators. As one student put it, “I definitely aimed as high as I could. I enjoy physics and chemistry and found this project to be fun and exciting.”

On March 22, the excitement will continue as the following Kaneland students attend the IJAS Regional Science Fair at NIU with other students in the region: Alex Montalbano, Kaitlyn Becker, Ian Stoll, Rachel Wozniak, Robbie Dudzinski, Jessica Tiv, Jessica Shell, Zach Farris, Bella Vargas, Ysabelle Simbol, Amanda Eckstrom, Jeff Wachter, Autumn Georgi, Katie Moore, Ava Mandele, Brennan Hare, Olivia Goodenough, Drew Gould, Tim Rosko, Lexi Abruzzo, Sam Webster, Trevor Cannon, Bryce Burton, Hunter Smith, Carson Wallace, Bridget McCracken, Alyssa Lech, Gabrielle Faletto, Peyton Heiser, Trevor Jones, Nicholas Rauwolf, Brian Bartholomew, Ben Purcell, Grant Schaaf, Robert Berrios, Sandra Gale and Tiffany Castracion.

School Board approves cost limitation waiver submission

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday voted to submit a waiver for administrative cost limitation to the Illinois State Board of Education.

The vote requests a “one-time, one-year waiver.” The matter is expected to go to the General Assembly in August.

Tony Valente was the only board member to vote against the waiver, though fellow trustee Peter Lopatin had a long pause before voting yes. Board member Pedro Rivas voted yes with “hesitation.”

The issue would have had a hearing and been up for a vote at the Jan. 27 meeting had the gathering not been cancelled due to extremely cold weather conditions. The majority of Monday’s meeting attendees were Kaneland staff, and there were no public comments during the hearing.

According to a report by Dr. Julie-Ann Fuchs, Kaneland assistant superintendent for business, under ILCS 5/17-1.5, the cost cap’s purpose is to “establish limitations on the growth of administrative expenditures in order to maximize the proportion of school district resources available for the instructional program, building maintenance, and safety services for the students of each district.”

Fuchs noted information of administrative limitation.

“The limitation in administrative expenditures each year is 5 percent over the prior year’s actual expenditures,” Fuchs stated in the report.

Administrative expenditures included in the calculation are executive administration services (superintendent), special area administration services (director of special education), direction of business support services (assistant superintendent for business) and internal services (administrative copy costs).

The report added that an auditor who completed an annual financial report noted that the actual administrative expenditures for fiscal year 2013 was $650,192. Fiscal year 2014 is budgeted at $696,129. The difference accounts for 7 percent or $45,937, with the 5 percent limit at $682,701.

The Kaneland District is $13,428 over the expected limit.

Fuchs pointed out in the report that the main reason for the “overage” is because of salary and benefit increases that the board approved in spring 2013 for Fran Eggleston, director of Special Education, and Kaneland Superintendent Dr. Jeff Schuler. Eggleston’s increase was due to the additional work days tagged onto her contract. Schuler’s salary adjustment was discussed by the board last spring.

Board President Cheryl Krauspe said that there had been 1 year of voluntary salary reduction and a two-year salary freeze.

“It seems we’re spending, spending, spending,” Valente said. “(That’s) not responsible to our constituents.”

Rivas questioned what would happen if the board did not approve the waiver submission.

“The state could stop our state funding,” Fuchs said. “They can penalize us.”

The report added that an auditor who completed
an annual financial report noted that the actual
administrative expenditures for fiscal year
2013 was $650,192.

Fiscal year 2014 is budgeted
at $696,129.
The difference accounts for 7 percent or $45,937,
with the 5 percent limit at $682,701.

The Kaneland District is $13,428 over
the expected limit.

Inaugural Day and Knight event raises over $5,000

KANELAND—On Feb. 15, nearly 1,000 basketball players and fans filled the gym at Kaneland High School as the boys basketball held its inaugural Day and Knight of Basketball to benefit Wounded Warrior Project. Varsity and sophomore basketball programs from Hillcrest, North Chicago, St. Charles North, Peoria Richwoods and Larkin (Elgin) joined the Knights in thrilling the crowd with galactic three-pointers, stifling defense and thundering slam-dunks.

Most important, the event celebrated our nation’s veterans as proceeds went to Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower wounded veterans.

“It was a really special event. In addition to great basketball action and bringing the community together, we celebrated veterans and recognized those who serve. This is an important lesson to reinforce with the players, parents and fans. Thanks to the volunteers and sponsors that made it happen,” said KHS head coach Brian Johnson.

More than 100 sponsors—businesses and individuals—made the event possible. Net contributions of more than $5,000 dollars will go to Wounded Warrior project. And the event website will remain open and accept donations –

The event organizers plan to hold the second annual event in February 2015.


Kaneland chess team shines in IHSA tournament

Photo: The 2014 Kaneland Chess team at the IHSA State Tournament last weekend. Courtesy Photo

KANELAND—Kaneland High School sophomore Spencer Serwin’s first chess match on Friday ended in a loss.

That was OK, though, because he went on to win the remaining six games at the IHSA State Chess Tournament on Friday and Saturday in Peoria.

More than 1,500 Illinois high school students gathered at the Peoria Civic Center to play in 40th annual tournament. The 139 teams, made up of eight players per team, played seven games to determine the top teams in the state.

“I’m very proud of our team,” coach Ken Dentino said. “This tournament is the culmination of (the KHS chess team’s) season. We also had a great showing at the conference tournament a few weeks ago.”

Four boards placed third: sophomores Drew Doyle at Board 3, Spencer Serwin at Board 5 and Duncan Kreidler at Board 7. And two players placed in the tournament open: freshman Ryan St. Peter took first while fellow frosh Charlie Falkner took fifth.

“We are in a tough conference,” Dentino said, noting that Lisle’s Benet Academy and Aurora’s Illinois Math and Science Academy are in the conference. Both teams have a strong history in chess.

“We are better for (having them in the conference),” Dentino said.

This year the Benet team took second place at state; IMSA took 11th place. The Kaneland team took a very respectable 42nd place.

The Kaneland team is made up of eight boards, with the better players, playing at the lower boards.

District 302 seeks to add committee members

KANELAND—Kaneland Community School District 302 seeks to add members to its Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC), Finance Advisory Committee (FAC) and the Kaneland Foundation.

The mission of the CAC is to improve Kaneland schools by advising the Administration and Board of Education regarding educational and other issues facing the district. Members study and deliberate problems, issues and questions of concern to the district and report the results of their studies to the elected officials who serve on the Board of Education. The CAC also advises the Board of Education regarding policies of the district and facilitates cooperation and communication in educational matters between the school and the community.

The mission of the FAC is to improve the education of the children, youth and adults of the district by monitoring financial issues and trends facing the district and advising the Board of Education regarding them.

The Kaneland Foundation is a non-profit organization that has contributed for decades to the educational needs of the students of Kaneland District 302. Their mission is to support academic excellence through innovation. Foundation members meet several times during the school year and host an annual golf outing held in September each year.

In preparing to add members to these committees and to the Foundation, know that the selection committees will seek representation from the various attendance areas within the Kaneland community. It seeks a cross section of opinions and educational perspectives with a general ability to work constructively with others.

More than 50 percent of Kaneland households have no school-aged children in them, and those households should be represented on this committee. If interested in learning more about membership on the CAC, FAC or the Kaneland Foundation, contact Beth Sterkel for an application at the Kaneland District office at (630) 365-5111, ext. 109, or Applications are due Tuesday, April 1.

Coaches share memories

We asked Kaneland coaches that were once athletes at KHS to share some of their favorite memories from their playing time and coaching careers:

Michael Thorgesen
Michael Thorgesen
Q) What is your favorite memory as an athlete at Kaneland HS?
A) “Simply playing and competing with great friends and great coaches for four years. The homecoming victory against Batavia was a fun one.”
Q) What is your favorite memory as a coach at Kaneland HS?
A) “Its tough to choose; I’ve been extremely lucky to be around some very special moments in just a short period. From the 2011 playoff run and semifinal game against Montini, to witnessing two state placers, including a state champion last year in wrestling. Both stick out the most to me.“

Back to story >


Many happy returns

Photos: Coaches share memories >

One need not look far for former athletes returning to teach, coach at KHS
KANELAND—It’s one thing to compete for your school—to put in hours of blood, sweat and tears for a shot a glory.

But there are some whose story doesn’t end when they walk through the graduation line. Many of the coaches that patrol the sidelines at Kaneland High School used to be Knights themselves.

The roster of alumni spans a large set of years, going from wrestling head coach Monty Jahns from the Class of 1981, to assistant football and basketball coach Brian Claesson from the Class of 2008.

That space of time has seen considerable growth in the area and much success from the programs that have spawned the future educators.

Participant in girls track, basketball and volleyball, Class of 2003 member Breanne Kahl helps students with biology and AP biology challenges during the day before mentoring freshman volleyball players, something she’s done for the past seven seasons.

“Coaching is something I’ve really wanted to do, I love the game and still play whenever possible,” Kahl said. “What I do now is a great way to connect with the kids and form relationships throughout high school.”

Kahl, a graduate of Aurora University and Masters degree recipient from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, isn’t that far removed from walking the halls as a student, but has seen almost two full classes cycle out of KHS.

It allows for reflection.

“You get to see the transition and it’s really a lot of fun going all the way from freshman year to graduation. Then they go off to college and do great things,” Kahl said.

Someone like Andy Drendel, of the Class of 2005, is no stranger to the Kaneland athletic story, with his father Ralph a storied track coach and current interim athletics director.

“My dad is my hero, and I can go to him for anything and he’ll tell it like it is,” Drendel said.

Drendel already brought a wealth of coaching experience to the current cross-country and track landscape he occupies as an assistant. The McDole Elementary teacher helped coach boys track and girls track at Macomb High School after completing his degree at Western Illinois University.

“I knew all about the great coaches at Kaneland like Bob Pederson and Joe Thorgesen, and grew up with their kids. I knew that I wanted to be a coach since elementary school. In basketball back in high school when a drill was being run, I remember thinking ‘I want to do this,'” Drendel said.

An athlete like twin sister Kelsey, now the head volleyball coach down at Normal West, Drendel’s memory of school time stretches far, something he often brings to his students and athletes.

“It’s easy to be able to relate to them that 20 years ago, I was sitting where they were now,” Drendel said.

Science teacher Mike Thorgesen, a graduate of Kaneland and Illinois State University, was in a spot with his younger brother Boone, a current Plano faculty member, where Kaneland athletics were never far away.

“Growing up a coach’s kid, you were always around the sports. It took me awhile to understand it, but you saw the older kids playing all the time and that’s who I wanted to be,” Thorgesen said.

In his third year of helping lower-level football and varsity wrestling after two years at McHenry High School, Thorgesen wouldn’t have been deterred if the output he saw from father Joe after multiple decades was less than the two State titles.

“Even when we were young, it didn’t matter how good or bad they were, it felt like home. Then, I kind of knew what I wanted to do,” Thorgesen said.

The most recent addition to the group of KHS athletes returning is Claesson, who attended Aurora University and saw action on the diamond as a Spartan, this after playing for both Joe Thorgesen and Tom Fedderly on the football field as well as current baseball coach Brian Aversa.

“I wanted to try and get into coaching and teaching and do P.E. or special ed,” Claesson said. “I wanted to stay close to home and I had a great time at Kaneland, luckily they had an opening.”

In his second year, Claesson has paid his dues assisting the freshman and sophomore football rosters, along with the sophomore baseball team.

A move to varsity baseball could be in the cards in 2014.

“Aversa has pulled that program up since he’s been here, I think my first year, there were nine kids on varsity. He’s won a State championship, and he’s great to coach with. The coaches I work with are great to learn from.” the former Knight catcher said.

Former Knights that return have seen enough experience that that can even serve well in a bind.

“When you switch coaches, and during any transition, it’s very helpful to have coaches that know the routing and who can be looked at for things like even taking attendance on the bus,” Kahl said.

KHS personnel who have made their way back always have an outlet to turn toward for help or advice, as well.

“I’ll bring up something to my dad and mentioned something he did in 1993, but he’ll let me know that that situation was back in 1993 and was different,” Drendel said. “I have (Chad) Clarey in the fall to work under and (Eric) Baron in the spring if I have any questions. They are great coaches as well as great mentors.”

The work put in by the athletes is quite familiar to the coaches that have returned.

“I feel I work best on the freshman level,” Kahl said. “My record has been decent, and the girls that come in are very talented. A lot of times, girls will come in as great athletes but need work on the volleyball skill. You get to see how they do all four years.”

“You see the coaches in your youth and they seem like seasoned veterans to you, but there’s growing pains. You still have to try your own style to get your message across,” Thorgesen said.
Aspects of the experience can still surprise.

“I always loved football, and I’ve really taken to coaching wrestling. They’re two different sports completely, but I’ve really gotten into it,” Thorgesen said.

“The dedication of the players is amazing,” Claesson said. “You have a lot of three-sport athletes at Kaneland and there’s a lot of success. I saw that as a student, especially with football.”

Kahl loves the coaching aspect, and the Lady Knight experience, with all challenges therein.

“I sit through two games that need full attention. Sometimes it’s tough to keep your energy up, but Kelsey Flanagan (Class of 2006) helped this year a lot, and was able to take over a bit in between the games so I was able to gather myself, get energy back and move on to the next match,” Kahl said.

In his still young coaching career, Claesson looks to instill what he was witness to as a diamond backstop and Knight pass-catcher.

“The coaches were always approachable. I could talk with any of them. Kaneland coaches have great relationships with their team,” Claesson said.

For Kaneland High School athletics, it’s been fortunate to see the return of capable athletes from its annals of history mentor current athletes today. It stands to wonder which Knight or Lady Knight currently brandishing the KHS jersey could make their way back in 2024?

Editors note: We contacted numerous coaches at Kaneland that were once KHS athletes, but did not hear back from many prior to publication.


Community bowls against bullying

Photo: Leigh Ann Reusche (left to right), director of Kindness Campaign of Elburn, Renee Dee, founder/CEO of Peak for Kids, and Maria Dripps-Paulson goof around at the “Bowling Against Bullying” event on Saturday night. Photo by Lynn Logan

AURORA—C.J. Conley, a Kaneland parent and Elburn resident, learned a lesson while attending the “Bowling Against Bullying” event on Saturday at Parkside Lanes in Aurora.

That lesson came from Jeff Bean, president and founder of Act on Bullying, who spoke about the cyber bullying epidemic. Conley said she learned not to spy on children but to be involved in what is going on with them.

“I personally think that it starts with the parents,” Conley said. “And parents need to take responsibility and accept that their child might be involved in something that they don’t want to admit. And so, it’s awareness.”

The bowling fundraiser was a collaborative endeavor hosted by the Kindness Campaign, Nick Edward Haben Foundation and Peak for Kids.

“(The event) was a success because our community spoke volumes as far as them supporting the effort and understanding what we’re trying to do,” Peak for Kids founder Renee Dee said. “They all showed up during a snowstorm. Because they didn’t have to do that. And they did.”

Dee said about 175 people attended the event.

Kaneland representatives made an appearance as well, including Superintendent Dr. Jeff Schuler and Kaneland School Board members Peter Lopatin and Tony Valente.

Dee noted that Kaneland School Board President Cheryl Krauspe was at the event in spirit, sponsoring a bowling lane and donating a “Love is Kind” raffle basket.

Event attendees meanwhile played gutter games.

“None of us were great bowlers,” Conley said of her bowling group. “The big challenge was to break 100 in a game. And some of us did. And some of us did not.”

It paid to be “bowling covered.”

“You could purchase gutter insurance,” Conley said. “Because for however many gutterballs you had, you had to pay a dollar at the end of the game. We decided as a group to buy gutter insurance. Thank heavens we did, or we might have had to pay out quite a bit more.”

People didn’t just try their luck at bowling during the event.

“There was some dancing,” Dee said.

Cheese, pepperoni and sausage pizza slices were available for event participants. Music flowed throughout the evening. Trivia centered around bullying, community and kindness topics.

More Peak for Kids events are in the planning process for this year. Some events to expect include a leadership forum, theatre arts performances and a dedicated kickoff to Kindness in Kaneland.

Feb. 7, 2015, will mark the second annual “Bowling Against Bullying” event, where the special guest speaker will be Jarrett Payton, son of the late Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton.

Conley and her husband Ben plan on being there.

“We’ll be there to support,” she said. “I think it’s a great program for the community. I think it brings everybody together. And we’re excited about staying involved.”

Kaneland considers middle school Spanish course

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday listened to the possibility of incorporating Spanish in Harter Middle School next year.

School Board member Peter Lopatin expressed his enthusiasm for the idea of having foreign language at the middle school and beyond, and also noted interest in “working for immersion in the elementary school.”

Students had the opportunity to take an exploratory Spanish course before 2009 on the old Meredith Road middle school site. However, it ended as a result of budget cuts.

According to a report by Erika Schlichter, director of Educational Services 6-12 for Kaneland, an administrative team identified the need to explore having a middle school world language curriculum.

“This need was identified based on student interest, increased rigor in the KHS course sequence, best practice in language acquisition, and collaboration with our comparative districts,” Schlichter stated in the report.

Thirty districts had been surveyed. The report noted that 21 district offered AP Spanish and had offered the language in middle school or earlier.

“This data indicates that a middle school program in language is a fairly standard component of a course sequence that culminates in AP language,” Schlichter stated in report.

A proposed model entails that students could take Spanish 1 during seventh and eighth grade. If they complete the course, they can then move on to Spanish 2. Students could take fifth-year AP Spanish by their senior year.

The courses would mean a need for funds to pay up to two full-time Spanish teachers. According to the report, one full-time teacher is estimated to cost $50,000.

In addition, the seventh-grade books and workbooks are estimated to cost $15,000. The next year, those seventh-graders going to eighth grade would need materials that could cost another $15,000.

School Board member Tony Valente said that he is “behind it,” noting that students get higher ACT scores when they take the language.

Board member Pedro Rivas advocated having an immersion Spanish class. Rivas pointed out that his high school son, who takes Spanish class, is frustrated because he cannot fluently converse in the language.

Michelle Jurcenko, department chair of World Languages and a Spanish teacher, pointed out that a big component of colleges is the grammar.

“They have to read it and write it,” said School Board President Cheryl Krauspe. “Along with speak it.”

No action was taken after the discussion. However, the Spanish concept could come back to the board later this month via “budget process,” with final approval in March.

Story updated 1:38 p.m. CST Feb. 14, 2014


Bateman crowned Mr. Kaneland 2014

Photo: Mr. Kaneland 2014 was won by senior Mitch Bateman (middle). First runner-up won by senior Dalvell Triplett (right) and second runner-up was given to senior James Lim (left). Photo by Lynn Logan

KANELAND—There’s a new Mr. Kaneland in town, and his name is Mitch Bateman.

Bateman, a senior at Kaneland High School, was crowned on the high school auditorium stage during the eighth annual Mr. Kaneland fundraiser pageant last Friday. He wore the velvety black crown with white fur trim and silver stars, a sash announcing the title of Mr. Kaneland.

Bateman stood on the stage after the event and reflected.

“It just feels like the icing on the cake,” Bateman said. “It’s great. Any of these guys up here could have won. And any of the guys totally deserve it.”

Mr. Kaneland is presented by the Kaneland High School Peer Leadership. The auditorium packed around 350 people for the event. Attendees had the pink Mr. Kaneland 2014 bracelets in hand or on their wrist, and it served as their “ticket” to enter the event at cost $5. Part of the money paid will benefit the Kaneland community in need of support due to poverty, homelessness and illness.

The Mr. Kaneland Court included KHS seniors Bateman, Creston Saylors, Dalvell Triplett, James Lim, John Briggs, Nathaniel Kucera, Alex Buzenski, JayVon Malik Swain and junior Dillon Lynn.

All of the court members sold the bracelets, which played a big factor in winning the competition.

According to Lori Grant, co-sponsor of Peer Leadership, the fundraiser raised nearly $5,000. That total accounts for bracelets sold and donations, as well as auction money generated from Kaneland High School students and staff bidding on the contestants.

The event began with lights out and screams from the audience as the theme from “The Lion King” played through the P.A.

Bateman held the Mr. Kaneland crown Simba style on the lit stage. Additional contestants then trickled in from the audience, making their way to the crown before kneeling and raising their arms toward it.

KHS senior Tatiana Guererro and recent graduate Josh Rodriguez were the masters of ceremony for the event.

The contestants then had a chance to show off in front of the school’s five judges.

One at a time the boys, sporting tuxedos, strolled across the stage and presented red roses to ladies dressed in fancy dresses. Judged on style, confidence, smile factor, audience response and introductory statements, personality, creativity, passion and skills, the contestants did not fail to entertain the crowd during the event.

“Mitch be trippin’,” Bateman announced during the show.

“Only thing greener than my tux is Shamrock Shakes,” Briggs said.

Swain explained why he didn’t have time to say a silly line.

“I’ve got to save my voice,” he said.

Contestants showcased their talents, ranging from singing and playing guitar to dancing and playing the piano and doing a comedy show.

Bateman sang and played a red and black acoustic guitar with James Pockspeis, who accompanied on the mandolin. They did a mashup of the songs “Thrift Shop” and “No Diggity.”

Triplett, the first runner-up, danced with a crew, working out some hip hop and breakdance moves, complete with a back flip.

Lim, second runner-up, performed Taekwondo with his brother, John. They lunged, turned and chopped wood boards with their hands and feet. Together they moved with graceful arm motions.

“Giving is not always painful,” Lim said after the event. “It can be your happiness. It can be fun.”


Fundraiser a success for Kaneland Blackberry Creek

Photo: Elburn resident Rocky Wruck dazzles the crowd in his Elvis costume as he volunteers to sell the 50/50 raffle tickets at Family Bingo on Saturday night. Photo by Lynn Logan

KANELAND—Maryann Lisberg, a Blackberry Creek Elementary School parent volunteer, enthusiastically recalled Saturday’s Family Bingo and Silent Auction Night, hosted by the Kaneland Blackberry Creek PTO.

“It was fantastic,” Lisberg said. “I think that it turned out so much better than we all anticipated it to be.”

Lisa Brown, chairperson of the event, had a similar sentiment.

“I would say that it surpassed all expectations that we had,” Brown said. “It was awesome to see so much camaraderie and school spirit in one place.”

She said that the school’s gym packed more than 350 people, accounting for more than 95 Blackberry Creek Elementary families.

More than $11,000 was raised at the event, the most money the Blackberry Creek Elementary PTO has raised during a fundraiser, Brown said.

“It was a huge success,” she said.

The money raised during the event will go toward technology purchases, school assemblies, field trips and playground equipment.

All auction items were purchased, including Kaneland staff time donations such as “All Scream for Ice Cream with Mr. Barth,” “Principal for a Day with Mrs. McCoy” and “The Music Man with Mr. Fox.”

As planned, the gymnasium was decked out in Kaneland’s signature black, silver and white. Silver stars landed on plastic tablecloths. And there were plenty of black and silver balloons. Students played Bingo while some teachers called out numbers for the game.

People in attendance could purchase popcorn, lemonade and cake pops (a treat with a tiny cake on a stick).

The magician Magic Matt, otherwise known as Matthew Scherer, whipped up animal balloon creations and magic for those in attendance. With the balloons, he created an iguana and a fishing pole that had a fish.

Lisberg’s son Wyatt, a third-grader, was impressed with the magic show.

“He did a lot of cool tricks,” Wyatt said. “He had this magic wand and had another magic wand come out of it.”

Bingo was nearly as much for Wyatt.

“I almost won,” he said. “I had one more (space to go).”

Fine Arts Feast fundraiser at Open Range Southwest Grill

SUGAR GROVE—Kaneland Arts Initiative will host its fifth annual Fine Arts Feast on Friday, Feb. 21, at 5 p.m. at Open Range Southwest Grill in Sugar Grove.

The purpose of the fundraiser is to raise money from arts-minded individuals seeking to become KAI arts patrons. Guests are served dinner and entertainment, along with an informational program on the financial need of KAI.

All interested over the age of 21 are invited to attend. Reservations can be made by calling (630) 365-5100, ext. 180 or emailing The event is free to attend, though donations will be taken.

Information on all KAI events is available at

Kaneland to conduct inaugural Parent Satisfaction Survey

KANELAND—Kaneland School District 302 in February will conduct its inaugural Parent Satisfaction Survey. The survey is part of a continued effort by Kaneland CUSD 302 to strengthen communications between schools and the community.

Between Thursday, Feb. 6, and Tuesday, Feb. 18, parents will be asked to complete a satisfaction survey to help identify school strengths and areas for improvement.

“The Parent Satisfaction Survey will help us measure our effectiveness as a district,” Kaneland Superintendent Dr. Jeff Schuler said. “We encourage all parents to participate, as the feedback gathered from this survey will spark discussion, guide improvement and impact district goal-setting.”

The survey was designed to provide a comprehensive assessment of the district in the areas of teaching and learning, school climate, communication, technology and overall fulfillment of the Kaneland CUSD 302 mission to graduate all students college, career and community ready.

Parents may complete the Parent Satisfaction Survey online. A link to the survey will be sent to all parents on Feb. 6, and will also be available at

District 302 seeks to add committee members

KANELAND—Kaneland Community School District 302 seeks to add members to its Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC), Finance Advisory Committee (FAC) and the Kaneland Foundation.

The mission of the CAC is to improve Kaneland schools by advising the Administration and Board of Education regarding educational and other issues facing the district. Members study and deliberate problems, issues and questions of concern to the district and report the results of their studies to the elected officials who serve on the Board of Education. The CAC also advises the Board of Education regarding policies of the district and facilitates cooperation and communication in educational matters between the school and the community.

The mission of the FAC is to improve the education of the children, youth and adults of the district by monitoring financial issues and trends facing the district and advising the Board of Education regarding them.

The Kaneland Foundation is a non-profit organization that has contributed for decades to the educational needs of the students of Kaneland District 302. Their mission is to support academic excellence through innovation. Foundation members meet several times during the school year and host an annual golf outing held in September each year.

In preparing to add members to these committees and to the Foundation, know that the selection committees will seek representation from the various attendance areas within the Kaneland community. It seeks a cross section of opinions and educational perspectives with a general ability to work constructively with others.

More than 50 percent of Kaneland households have no school-aged children in them, and those households should be represented on this committee. If interested in learning more about membership on the CAC, FAC or the Kaneland Foundation, contact Beth Sterkel for an application at the Kaneland District office at (630) 365-5111, ext. 109, or Applications are due Tuesday, April 1.

Bowl against bullying

Event seeks to teach participants to “be happy”
AURORA—Local adults will soon have a chance to go out, bowl and have fun while learning, too.

“Bowling Against Bullying” is a collaborative endeavor hosted by Kindness Campaign, Nick Edward Haben Foundation and Peak for Kids. The event will take place Saturday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at Parkside Lanes in Aurora.

The idea of this fundraising event is to have fun and promote kindness. According to Renee Dee, founder of Peak for Kids, Inc., the groups hope to use some proceeds from the bowling event for Kindness in Kaneland Week and Sugar Grove Corn Boil ideas.

“Basically, we thought it was a good kickoff event for both of our organizations,” Dee said. “(The organizations) are brand new, so it was a nice way to network and get to know everybody and have everybody know who we are and what we do.”

Marc Ebert, owner of Sign FX in Sugar Grove, a planning committee member for the “Bowling Against Bullying” event. He said that the event is a good networking possibility for local business owners.

“It kind of helps get the word out about the bullying,” Ebert said. “If it can come to light by talking about it—that’s kind of our M.O. It’s just, if we can get people to start talking about it, then something good happened. And maybe it can come to light and then so people don’t have to hide with it anymore.”

Jeff Bean, president and founder of Act on Bullying, will speak at the event about the dangers of the cyber bullying epidemic.

Those who attend “Bowling Against Bullying” can munch on pizza, drink soft drinks and bowl. A cash bar of beer and wine will also be available during the event.

Gave Ortiz of Go 4 It Entertainment will DJ the event. Dee said she wants the music to be about “being nice and being happy.” She anticipates hearing Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” during the event.

“I hope everybody will be dancing,” Dee said. “I’m meeting with the DJ. He’s got all sorts of little tricks that he does with the audience.”

There will even be some dance contests during “Bowling Against Bullying.” Attendees will also be able to place bids on silent and live auction items. Auction prizes include a week-long cabin in Wisconsin, and Chicago Cubs tickets. Raffle prizes include Kane County Cougars tickets, a beauty basket and restaurant gift certificates.

Author Amy Logan, a Joliet resident, will be in attendance to bowl and chat with attendees. She will also announce her book, “A Girl with a Cape.”

Trivia, led by DJ Ortiz, will center around bullying, community and kindness.

Those interested in attending the event can register by Friday, Jan. 31, by visiting

Individual tickets are $30 and include bowling, shoes, pizza and soft drinks. A registered group of 10 will get two lanes for some five-against-five bowling.

People can also count on more collaborations between Peak for Kids and groups from the Kaneland area and beyond. Dee said that there will be a leadership forum, performing arts projects and sport dedications to kindness.

“All of those specifics will be coming out in the next few months,” she said.

Meanwhile, the upcoming “Bowling Against Bullying” event is the current focus.

“I think (people) should (attend the event) because they believe that bullying is stoppable,” said Maria Dripps-Paulson, a committee member for the event. “And they want to be a part of that movement.”

Kaneland Arts Initiative’s Fine Arts Feast

SUGAR GROVE—Kaneland Arts Initiative (KAI) will host the fifth annual Fine Arts Feast and Silent Auction on Friday, Feb. 21, at Open Range Southwest Grill, 1 Golfview Road, Sugar Grove.

A cash bar will open at 5 p.m., with dinner and program scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Attendees will have an opportunity to learn more about the KAI, bid on auction items, participate in a cork pull for a bottle of wine, and contribute to the arts initiative. Your meal will be free of charge, and your donation to KAI is 100 percent tax deductible.

Seating is limited to the first 150 guests. RSVP by Friday, Feb. 14. Since alcohol will be available at the event, those who attend must be at least 21 years of age.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Maria Dripps-Paulson, KAI executive director, at (630) 365-5100, ext. 180, or For more information about KAI, visit

The cast of “The Laramie Project” includes Justin Schaller (back row, from left), Ben Mitchinson and Patrick Murphy; Rebecca Hof (middle row), Pamela Gianakakos, Sabrina Massa, Laszlo Reed, Peter Lopatin and Trisha Mills; Douglas Orlyk (front row) and Caitrin Mills. Photo courtesy of Sally Jane Photography

‘The Laramie Project’ debuts on Kaneland stage

‘It’s a powerful, powerful production.’
KANELAND—The play “The Laramie Project,” presented by Kaneland Arts Initiative (KAI) and partnered with the Kindness Campaign, did not open on its expected opening day last Friday, due to frigid weather. However, the show was back on Saturday and Sunday.

Maria Dripps-Paulson, executive director of KAI, said the cancellation was justified.

“It was windy,” she said. “And the drifts—if the wind blew always the exact same direction, we’d be fine. Because it (kept) changing—at one point it was north and then it kind of came from the west—we just couldn’t keep up with the drift.”

Dripps-Paulson said Saturday had a turnout numbering in the 50s. Sunday had about 40 people.

“I believe that every person that came and saw the performance was moved by the performances,” Dripps-Paulson said. “It’s a powerful, powerful production.”

The drama played out on the intimate stage of Kaneland High School’s Black Box Theatre, depicting the feedback from the townspeople in Laramie, Wyo., following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998.

Shepard was a gay college student who was driven to a remote area outside of Laramie where he was tied to a fence and beaten with a pistol.

“The Laramie Project” consisted of 11 cast members. According to Dripps-Paulson, six cast members were adults and five were Kaneland High School students. The youngest in the show were two freshman. “The Laramie Project” also showcased the acting talents of Kaneland School Board member Peter Lopatin and Pamela Gianakakos, who is a first-grade teacher at McDole Elementary School.

Each cast member played numerous roles—typically between six and eight characters.

Diane McFarlin, assistant principal at Kaneland High School and artistic director of “The Laramie Project,” referred to “The Laramie Project” play as a community project.

“We feel strongly that as part of what we try to do in bringing art to the community, that this was an important piece to spur and inspire really good conversations regarding acceptance and certainly kindness for all,” McFarlin said.

KAI and the Kindness Campaign lead an audience discussion following each performance.

“Certainly from our talk-back sessions that we had this weekend, our kids have experienced some feelings of not feeling very safe in school if they’re different,” McFarlin said. “It’s important to see that there are all kinds of people in this world. And everyone has a right to be safe and be accepted in our community.”

What can audiences learn from “The Laramie Project”?

“Out of great tragedy there is hope. Always,” Dripps-Paulson said. “So I think that would be a strong and good message for people to learn from. And I would hope that it would open up some conversations among people to see what true acceptance is.”

Kindergarten registration, literacy fair

KANELAND—The 2014 Kindergarten Registration and Literacy Fair will take place Saturday, Feb. 8, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at Kaneland High School, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park.

Students with last names beginning with letters A-H will register from 8 to 9:30 a.m.; I-O will register from 9:30 to 11 a.m.; P-Z will register from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The following must be provided in original and photocopy forms: driver’s license, birth certificate and proof of residency (utility bill, lease, mortgage, etc.). No fees are due during the fair.

Informational booths regarding heath and physical information, speech, alphabet sounds and letter recognition, number, retelling, rhyming, expectations for kindergarten, motor skills, independent/adaptive skills and transportation will be available during the fair.

For more information, contact Dr. Sarah Mumm, director of Curriculum, at (630) 365-5111, ext. 112.

‘Friday Knightlife’ in the Kaneland area

ELBURN—’Friday Knightlife,’ a newly reborn program giving Kaneland kids a fun place to go on Friday nights, will be available this winter for Kaneland community kids, grades fourth through eighth, on Fridays, 6 to 9 p.m., from Jan. 31 to March 21.

Elburn and Countryside Community Center, 525 N. Main St., will be open with activities like basketball, floor hockey, dodgeball, Wii, air hockey and more. Sugar Grove Public Library, 125 S. Municipal Drive, will also be open with a movie every Friday, computer gaming, board games, crafts, music and more.

Friday Knightlife is a community collaboration between Peak for Kids, Elburn and Countryside Community Center and Sugar Grove Public Library District. Peak for Kids is a new non-profit organization in Kane County dedicated to promoting enrichment and kindness. Part of Peak’s mission is to provide kids more opportunities for connection to community.

Friday Knightlife will provide kids with a safe and fun place to go and socialize. It will also provide mentoring opportunities as older, high-school-aged kids will be invited to volunteer at both facilities.

The Friday Knightlife program will provide participating parents with a Friday Knightlife “Out & About Card,” which will unlock 15 percent discounts on food and more at participating restaurants and venues in the Kaneland community.

Java Plus Cafe at Sugar Grove Public Library will also be open every Friday night from January until March, and offer 15 percent off coffee and live music by some of your favorite Kaneland area musicians.

Registration is now open at Registration forms also available on the Kaneland School District virtual backpack system. Each student will get a free Friday Knightlife T-shirt. Cost is $75 per student; $50 for one sibling, and no charge for all additional siblings. The pilot program is 10 weeks long this year. If the program is successful, the intent is to open the program up to five months next year (November through March), open more facilities and keep the price point between $35 and $55 per student.

The program will be monitored and reviewed weekly to note the kids’ preferences in terms of activities. That way, program coordinators can work to enhance next year’s program.

For more information, call (630) 466-8880 or visit Peak for Kids was the official host of the recently promoted Kindness Campaign in the Kaneland area.


Ky’s the limit

Lady Knight star-turned-college libero wins prestigious Augustana honor
ROCK ISLAND, ILL.—For a rising Kaneland volleyball program in the beginning of this decade, Class of 2012 athlete Kylie Siebert of Sugar Grove could be seen digging plenty of attempts from opponents.

After two seasons as a libero for the Division III Augustana Vikings, Siebert has dug up some high accolades.

As starting libero for the Vikings, most recently 16-15 and owners of back-to-back winning records for the first time in six years, Siebert was named Most Valuable Player for the 2013-14 Augustana unit for her exceptional play.

That came on the heels of earlier namings to the All-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin team and All-CCIW academic all-conference list.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Siebert said on Monday. “As a libero, we sometimes get overlooked.”

From a stint on the KHS squad that won 55 matches during her varsity stay, to a rigorous college circuit, Siebert was glad to have some preparation.

“It’s a lot more commitment. You have to be mentally and physically ready, and it’s a lot different of a workload,” Siebert said.

The sophomore averaged 5.3 digs a game for the Vikings, the fourth best single season rate in program history. The former Lady Knight was also third on the team with 109 assists.

Raising her game against the rotation of capable CCIW teams was satisfying to the former Northern Illinois Big XII MVP.

“There’s teams like Elmhurst, Wheaton, North Central and Carthage. We kind of struggled and get looked at as the underdogs, so this season was a big step,” Siebert said.

Siebert, attending Augustana for a business and marketing major with a minor in multimedia journalism, doesn’t plan to rest after the nice bounty of awards.

“I’m very competitive and I push myself. I’m in a lifting program now and it’s helping out,” Siebert said.

The CCIW leader in average digs per game with 5.95 per conference tilt, Siebert is already looking to a productive back half of her college tenure after adjusting to the high level.

“The college game is very disciplined, and you have to adjust and go with it,” Siebert said. “We have a new coach next year (Kelly Bethke), and I think we can fight to get in the top half of the conference.”

Hawks honor two local high school seniors

GENEVA—The Fox Valley Hawks honored its seniors Sunday, which included an Elburn and a Sugar Grove resident.

Kaneland senior and Elburn resident Mike Potvin, an assistant captain and left wing, started playing hockey at age four, plans to attend Waubonsee Community College next year.

Mike Hill, a Sugar Grove resident and senior at Aurora Central Catholic High School, has been playing the last four years, and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin/Platteville majoring in Engineering.

The hockey team, consisting of players from Aurora Central Catholic, Batavia, Kaneland, St. Charles East and St. Charles North high schools, plays at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva.

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Hoops for Heroes Feb. 15

Kaneland to host inaugural Day and Knight of Hoops
MAPLE PARK—Kaneland Boys Basketball announced the Hoops for Heroes inaugural Day and Knight of Hoops, to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15.

Six premier varsity/sophomore basketball programs—Kaneland, St. Charles North, Hillcrest, Elgin Larkin, North Chicago and Peoria Richwoods—sporting deep traditions in basketball, community, service and youth sports, will be showcased throughout the day.

In addition to the great action on the court, the event will also have plenty of off-court entertainment as well, including:

• Exhibition games by the Kaneland Youth Basketball and Cagers programs
• Kaneland Pep Bands filling the place with sound
• Team cheers and spirit for all teams, by Kaneland Youth Cheer
• Food and drink by the Kaneland Sports Boosters
• Customizable event clothing, to capture the memories
• 50/50 Raffle with winners all day and “Knight” long
• Draw down raffle following the hoops at Maple Park’s Bootlegger’s Bar and Grill with a $2,000 Grand Prize

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, to honor and empower wounded veterans.

In addition to attending the event, sponsorship opportunities are available as well,

For more information or to donate, click here.

Kaneland Blackberry Creek to host Bingo, auction

ELBURN—Are you ready for some Bingo?

The Kaneland Blackberry Creek PTO will host Family Bingo and Auction Night on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at Kaneland Blackberry Creek Elementary, 1122 Anderson Road, Elburn.

Blackberry Creek Elementary teachers will take to the stage to call out Bingo information via microphone. Game players will be seated in the school gymnasium.

Julia Galvan, a third-grade teacher at Blackberry Creek, will be one of the event’s five bingo callers. Can attendees expect to hear any teachers use a game show host voice?

“No,” Galvan said. “I’m just planning to just be myself.”

The Family Bingo and Auction Night event is the first of its kind for the Blackberry Creek PTO. According to Lisa Brown, chairperson of the event, money raised during Family Bingo and Auction Night will go to the PTO. Money earned by the PTO goes toward providing classroom supplies, technology purchases, field trips, assemblies, movie nights and a spring dance.

“It’s definitely an opportunity for families to enjoy an evening together and show their Kaneland spirit,” Brown said.

The gymnasium will reflect Kaneland’s school colors of black, silver and white. Silver stars will have landed on plastic tablecloths. And there will be plenty of black and silver balloons.

Magic Matt, a magician otherwise known as Matthew Scherer, will be on the scene to entertain guests. He’ll perform what Brown calls “interesting magic tricks,” and also create balloon animals.

Attendees will have a chance to win Bingo prizes, including Paisano’s Pizza and Grill certificates, Funway roller skating passes and up to $20.

Popcorn, cake pops, lemonade and water will be available for purchase during the event.

Those up for a silent auction can bid on 15 different Kaneland staff time donations. Items include “Games with Mrs. Galvan,” “The Music Man with Mr. Fox,” “Dinner with Mrs. Bateman” and “Hot Chocolate and a Book with Mrs. Tierney.”

Kindergarten teacher Autumn Gilchrist will donate “Pedicures with Mrs.Gilchrist,” designed for up to two of her kindergarten students to enjoy some “girl time.”

“This gives the child an opportunity just to have all of your attention squeezed into an amount of time while having a fun and enjoyable, relaxing experience together,” Gilchrist said.

Meanwhile, Maryann Lisberg, a Blackberry Creek parent volunteer, plans to bring her family to the event and has a reason why people should also attend.

“I just think that it would be a lot of fun, and it’s something for the family to do together,” Lisberg said.

Fine Arts Feast fundraiser at Open Range Southwest Grill

SUGAR GROVE—Kaneland Arts Initiative will host its fifth annual Fine Arts Feast on Friday, Feb. 21, at 5 p.m. at Open Range Southwest Grill in Sugar Grove. The purpose of the fundraiser is to raise money from arts-minded individuals seeking to become KAI arts patrons. Guests are served dinner and entertainment along with an informational program on the financial need of KAI.

All interested over the age of 21 are invited to attend. Reservations can be made by calling (630) 365-5100, ext. 180 or emailing The event is free to attend, though donations will be taken.

Information on all KAI events is available at


Kaneland cancels all after school activities Jan. 24

All activities after school this evening have been cancelled, including all athletic events at the middle school and high school. We will follow regular dismissal times in all of our schools, but are concerned about potential driving conditions after 5:00 p.m. as a result of the predicted snow this evening. This cancellation does include the Friday performance of the Laramie Project. Any person with a Friday reservation will be contacted for details regarding the cancelled performance.

Harter Middle School Jazz Band to perform at State

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
KANELAND—Each year, a select few middle school jazz bands are given the high honor of performing at the annual Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) Conference in Peoria, Ill. This year, the Kaneland Harter Middle School Jazz Band, under the direction of Rebecca Andersen, was chosen to perform at State. The jazz band, comprising of seventh- and eighth-grade student musicians and one sixth-grader, will travel to Peoria on Friday, Jan. 24, to perform.

The selection process began last January after Andersen attended the 2013 conference. Andersen submitted an audition tape of the jazz band to the ILMEA to be considered for a performance at the 2014 conference.

“The make-up of the band last year and the larger number of seventh graders who were in the band led me to believe that this year’s band could be something special,” Andersen said.

In order to prepare for the conference, the students rehearsed weekly since school began in August and also met during Thanksgiving and winter break. Kaneland High School band director Aaron Puckett and Burlington Central High School band director Jim Struyk also worked with the jazz band to perfect their songs and sound. The songs that the jazz band will perform are “Phat Kat,” “Blues in the Night,” “Whoopin’ Blues,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Song for my Father,” and “Shake, Twist and Jump.”

“This is a huge honor for both our district and this group of students,” Andersen said. “I’m pretty sure this is the first time a Kaneland group has been selected to perform at the conference.”

Andersen said that the group of students is very excited to perform, and they realize what a great opportunity this will be to showcase their talents.

The Kaneland Harter Middle School Jazz Band performs throughout the year at concerts, pep assemblies, local sporting events and jazz festivals. Funds were provided by the Kaneland Performing Arts Boosters, Andersen Plumbing & Heating, and Quinlan & Fabish to cover a portion of the trip’s expenses. Kaneland Harter Middle School is located at 1601 Esker Drive in Sugar Grove.

Kaneland honored at achievement conference

KANELAND—Kaneland High School was honored as a Featured School at the Raising Student Achievement Conference, which took place Dec. 9 and 10.

The Raising Student Achievement Conference, presented by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools and the Regional Offices of Education, is an annual state level conference dedicated to focusing on best practices that support student learning.

Kaneland High School was recognized for implementing improved practices that resulted in unprecedented increases in student achievement scores on the ACT college entrance exam. For the 2013 administration of the ACT, the percentage of KHS students meeting the college readiness benchmark increased by 9 percent in English, 4 percent in math, 18 percent in reading and 13 percent in science.

Because of these increases, and corresponding increases on the Prairie State Achievement Exam, Kaneland High School was
designated as making adequate yearly progress for the 2012-13 school year. In addition to being honored at the conference general session, KHS administration presented at the conference regarding its school improvement practices and processes.


Body of work

Boys track assistant coach accepts award
KANELAND—For two decades, Rob Bieritz has been a part of the fabric of Kaneland track.

Two weeks ago, he was awarded some hardware for his work.

Bieritz, a Batavia resident and a Class of 2001 graduate of Kaneland High School, was one of several honorees by the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association as a recipient of the Dave Pasquini Assistant Coach Award. The award can only be awarded to a coach once in their lifetime, and is for extraordinary effort as an assitant coach for either track and field or cross country.

Bieritz, along with Glenbard South’s Ryan Crissey, Evanston’s George Woodridge, Chicago’s Jones rep Ben Mahon, Neuqua Valley’s Michael Rossi and Sterling’s Tom Depasquale, were honored at a social in Downers Grove, Ill., on Jan. 10.

KHS boys track coach Eric Baron informed the track staff of the honor through email; fitting because Baron is also a winner of the award, along with Randy Olesen.

The award is named after former Glenbrook South High School coach Dave Pasquini, who died of cancer.

“You look at what coach Baron has done and what Randy has done, and all the way back to Ralph Drendel, and it’s as much them surrounding me,” Bieritz said.

Starting assistant track work in 2006 under Baron, Bieritz was influenced as a coach, but first an athlete, under the Kaneland success factory.

“You can’t put a description as to what the coaches taught me, but you try to resemble what they’ve done as much as you can,” Bieritz said.

Bieritz has been able to interact with current coaches as a Knight athlete and a KHS mentor in the lanes.

“Every coach I’ve had, guys like Tom Fedderly and Chad Clarey and others, you learn from them and take what you want,” Bieritz said.

The former 300m Intermediate Hurdles state qualifier has noticed differences in his coaching approach and now has eight years of track nuances to look back with.

It’s all the better for the perennial Class 2A medal threat.

“You try not to coach in general, you have to coach toward each different kid. What you try could affect a kid differently, and you have every style of kid. They’re all different,” Bieritz said.

The award, for assistant coach achievement, was given out before the annual ITCCCA track clinic held at Oak Park-River Forest High School. It could be fitting that an award that went to Bieritz comes shortly before a clinic, signifying that an assistant coach’s work is never done.

“You have to be able to bust your butt at this, so the kids can bust theirs and see the rewards,” Bieritz said. “When the kids see what the rewards are, that’s what it’s all about.”