Category Archives: Kaneland

Randall 2

The sweet spot

Photo: Randall (right) directs the Waubonsee Chiefs’ defense during WCC’s 8-3 win over Nassau (New York) during the NJCAA Division III World Series tournament. Courtesy Photo

KHS grad finds decades of satisfaction just down the road at WCC
SUGAR GROVE—College coaches leaving one program for another is nothing unusual, particularly in major college football and basketball.

Meet a coach in the college ranks who’s bucked that trend and stayed put. For 36 years.

Dave Randall, the athletic manager and veteran baseball coach at Waubonsee Community College, had opportunities years ago to move on, but at the end of the day, he chose not to. His decision to stay at Waubonsee has been affirmed more than once by colleagues in the coaching profession he knows, who have taken what they believed to be a better gig, only to discover the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

“It’s not always about the title,” Randall, a Kaneland product, said recently in his office at Waubonsee. “I’ve always said you have to be happy and enjoy what you’re doing. I have no desire to move up to a four-year school. I’m happy here. I love it where I’m at and I’ll stay here.”

In addition to enjoying his roles at Waubonsee, Randall said his commitment to family and his desire to develop the baseball and sports programs at the school—as athletic manager, he oversees 14 men’s and women’s sports—keeps him going.

His daughters, Jessica and Rebecca, both played softball for the Chiefs. Rebecca will be a senior at Aurora University this fall, and is coming off a junior year in which she hit .422 while helping the Spartans go 39-8 and reach the NCAA Division III regional tournament.

“Eighty percent of our (baseball) recruiting is in the immediate area,” Randall said. “You can be home in the evening. You can be with your family.

“I wanted to be around my family and wanted to see my kids play ball. I’ve always been the type of person who likes to take something and develop it to the end. I just really enjoy seeing it develop over the years and seeing it through.”

Coach Dave Randall talks with (No. 1) Tevin Brown, (No. 6) Eric Ray, (No. 34) Jake Jouris and (No. 3) Harry Vickers during a pitching change in the first inning of their game against Century (Minnesota) at the NJCAA Division III World Series tournament. 					            Courtesy Photo
Coach Dave Randall talks with (No. 1) Tevin Brown, (No. 6) Eric Ray, (No. 34) Jake Jouris and (No. 3) Harry Vickers during a pitching change in the first inning of their game against Century (Minnesota) at the NJCAA Division III World Series tournament. Courtesy Photo

Randall certainly has gone above and beyond seeing the baseball program through at Waubonsee. When Randall took over as coach in 1978, Jimmy Carter was president, the Bee Gees’ “Saturday Night Fever” album went No. 1 for 24 weeks, gasoline was around 62 cents per gallon, and a Polish cardinal named Karol Jozef Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II.

Approximately 856 wins later, Randall is one of only two NJCAA Division III coaches to compile more than 800 career victories. Randall doesn’t keep track of such numbers; in fact, his pitching coach, Steve Moga, who also serves as the school’s sports information coordinator, had to tell him he was nearing his 700th career win.

“It’s nice and it’s kind of neat,” Randall said of the victory totals, “but basically it tells me I’ve been here a long time.”

Yet, Randall emphasized that he doesn’t measure the success of his career by his won-loss record.

“It’s not just all about the wins. It’s about the players,” he said. “I never have evaluated the success of any team based on our record, accomplishments or awards. If they say it was well worth spending their time here, then I’ve done my job.”

The players on Randall’s 2013 squad reached the pinnacle of success at the NJCAA Division III level this past spring. After enduring 38 losses—a dubious Waubonsee record for most defeats in a single season—during the 2012 season, the Chiefs did a 180, winning a school-record 38 games and advancing to the NJCAA World Series in Tyler, Texas, for the second time in four years.

The Chiefs ended up finishing third in the nation. Randall attributes the team’s dramatic turnaround to:
• His sophomores working on, and perfecting, specific aspects of their game
• His position players staying injury free
• A deep pitching staff, which compensated for the loss of two starters to injury
• Bringing in a solid group of freshmen

“We were deep enough (pitching) that the other kids picked it up,” Randall said. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself (with injuries). It’s an opportunity for somebody else, and some kids took the opportunity and ran with it.”

Freshman Jordan Jones, a Kaneland graduate, stepped in and became a top middle reliever for the Chiefs, leading the club with 19 appearances. He pitched 32 innings and posted a 2-1 record. Tyler Heinle, who also prepped at Kaneland, saw action in 18 games and hit .327 in a reserve role as an infielder.

Both Jones and Heinle were part of the Knights’ 2011 Class 3A state championship team.

Jones recalls how Randall brought in former Chicago Cubs pitcher Aaron Heilman to talk to the incoming freshmen—a talk that he said really calmed everyone’s nerves.

“All of us as freshmen came in pretty nervous, and coach Randall took care of it pretty good,” Jones said. “He (Heilman) came in and talked about being freshmen and how to deal with being nervous before games. He’s (Randall) like a living legend in junior college baseball. He always makes coming to the field fun, and knows what he’s talking about.”

Jones said the team worked through some rough spots during the conference season, but hit its stride in the playoffs.

“In the playoffs we started beating up on teams,” Jones said. “That’s when it hit us. ‘We’ve got a shot to make it to Texas. Let’s do it.’”

One of the memories etched in Randall’s mind in regard to participating in the World Series this time around didn’t have anything to do with the team’s on-field performance. It’s how his players conducted themselves off the field.

Each team in the NJCAA World Series adopts a Little League team from the Tyler, Texas, area during the series. The way in which the Chiefs embraced their adopted Little League team drew a letter of praise from one of the residents.

“We got a nice letter from (a) gentleman in Tyler,” Randall said. “He wrote a nice letter about our team. I’m as proud of what he said in that letter as I am about us placing third at the World Series.”

Randall is proud of his Kaneland roots, as well.

“I’ve always been proud of being a Kaneland grad,” he said. “I live in Yorkville, but grew up in Sugar Grove. I’m more country; I feel much more comfortable being out here in the Sugar Grove and Elburn area.”

After 36 years of coaching, has retirement tried knocking on Randall’s door?

“That day will come, and people have asked me that,” he said. “I’m not putting a time on it. I’m going to coach as long as I’m having fun and it’s rewarding for the players. The day it stops being fun, I’ll retire that day. But I’m enjoying it.”

WCC head baseball coach Dave Randall gathers with his team after the 2013 Chiefs finished third nationally at the NJCAA Division III World Series.
WCC head baseball coach Dave Randall gathers with his team after the 2013 Chiefs finished third nationally at the NJCAA Division III World Series.
Joseph Play_June11_6

Kaneland premieres: ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’

Performances to resume this weekend
KANELAND—The Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival’s Community Theatre branch presented “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on the Kaneland auditorium stage last weekend. The show will resume this weekend, July 19-21, with performances at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The play is based off of the story of Joseph from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. Its music is written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, known for other popular musical scores in the Broadway scene, notably “Phantom of the Opera,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita” and “Cats.”

Maria Dripps-Paulson, coordinator of the event and executive director of the Fine Arts Festival, said that over half of the school is involved in the play.

“We have about 100 students involved in the production of the play, and there are about 50 people that are part of the cast,” she said.

There are also many non-School District members contributing to the production of all ages, with participants coming from as far as Round Lake, Ill. There will also be a 4-year-old singing in the kid’s choir for the play.

Dripps-Paulson said that the production was chosen by the new director, Mark Mahallak. She said that he chose “Joseph” because of his familiarity with the show.

“(Kaneland High School) has done “Joseph” before, but the Community Theatre has not,” she said. “This will be our fourth year doing a production.”

Dripps-Paulson said that preparation for the play involves about six weeks of rehearsal and a production crew working out important details and technical aspects of the play.

According to Dripps-Paulson, the Community Theatre has been growing in its participation and in the attendance of the shows.

“I would say the program has grown. The fact that people know that it exists and that people are showing up more show this. We have a Facebook page, as well. I think people are really excited,” she said.


Kaneland community to create memorial garden to remember Caity Phillips

ELBURN—When school begins again this fall, Harter Middle School students and teachers will miss the smiles and laughter of Caitlyn Phillips.

Phillips, a 13-year-old student at HMS was taken from the Kaneland community on April 26 when she collided with a car while inline skating in her Elburn neighborhood.

But thanks to the efforts of parents and fellow cheer squad members, students and staff will have a spot in which to remember Phillips: a memorial garden at Harter Middle School.

The garden has been planted near the place where Phillips practiced with her cheer squad, and students will also be able to view it from the cafeteria. The space will include a bench, multi-seasonal garden plantings and a tree. A memorial plaque will feature a Quick Response code that, when scanned using a cell phone, will tell Phillips story.

HMS parent and landscape professional John Alagna, whose daughter Stephanie was on the cheer squad with Phillips, volunteered to help design and install the garden.

John also coaches a girls softball team, most of whom knew Phillips.

“The girls all took it really hard,” he said.

John, who finished planting the garden over the weekend, said he was “honored to be involved, and that the garden will feature something of interest for every season, including hollies with berries in the winter and perennials in the fall.

Another family donated a concrete bench that will be rehabbed and engraved, and Sugar Grove resident and arborist Roger Storck donated a tree. HMS parent, Mary Elliot, whose daughter Elizabeth was also a member of the squad, is heading up the project, including helping to raise the funds to support it.

The Kaneland Youth Football League, whose games the squad cheers for, contributed the initial $200 toward the garden. Then, in a three-day fund-raising effort at HMS, students and staff contributed more than $400.

Mary said they hope to have a dedication ceremony in August before school starts this fall. The participants will have the option to write a thought, a prayer or a memory for Caitlyn on biodegradable yellow ribbons that will be placed in the garden. If people would like to donate, they can do so at

“Even $5 would help us,” Mary said.

In addition, if anyone would like to volunteer to help with the care of the garden, including watering or weeding to keep it looking nice, they may contact Mary at

“We feel it appropriate to provide a spot to remember Caity’s memory in an area that already rings with echoes of her laugh, a location that will bring the kind of smiles Caity did,” Mary posted on the website.

Mary said that any additional money collected above what is needed for the garden will be set aside for cheer scholarships. She said she hopes that through these actions, Phillips’ death will not just be a tragic thing, but something that the young people can learn from.

“They will realize that communities can come together,” Mary said.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the Kaneland Auditorium stage

KANELAND—The Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival (KCFAF) will present its summer 2013 production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s iconic musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

The Biblical saga of Joseph and his coat of many colors comes to vibrant life in this delightful musical parable. Set to a cornucopia of musical styles, from country-western and calypso to bubble-gum pop and rock ‘n’ roll, this Old Testament tale emerges both timely and timeless. This production will take place in the Kaneland High School Auditorium the weekends of July 12-14 and July 19-21, with performances at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students/senior citizens, and $25 for a Family Ticket, which admits all family members currently living in one household. Preschoolers attend free of charge. Tickets are now on sale at

The KCFAF would like to congratulate the following cast members who will be on stage for the festival’s fourth annual summer theatre production: Teresa Arnold, Cornelius Marr, Steve Hommowun, Beth Hitzeroth McDonald, Robyn Lycan, Nicole DiSandro, Trisha Mills, Steven Mills, John Gibbas, Peter Lopatin, Paul Cepynsky, Tucker DeBolt, James Tockstein, Beau Ott, David Gotfryd, Ross Cortino, Ben Mitchinson, Dominic LaSalle, Mace Jendruczek, Alyssa Gibbas, Vivian Gibbas, Rebecca Hof, Alex Herbert, Katie Kenkel, Sydney Luse, Sally McClellan, Melanie Marr, Christine N. Stevens, Teresa Witt, Katelyn Blaszynski, Caitlin Carlson, Amanda Eckstrom, Ben Gibbas, Ethan Gibbas, Riley Gibbas, Allison Gotfryd, Abigail Heinicke, Paige Krueger, Lorelai Marr, Rohan Marr, Sabrina Massa, Libby Mattern, Betsy Mills, Natalie Mills, Ally Mitchinson, Jillian Mitchinson, Cyrena Pierce, Jade Sadowski, Erica Witt and Tim Gibbas.

School Board adopts tentative 2013-14 budget

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday voted 4-0 to approve the tentative 2013-14 budget for District 302.

According to a document from Julie Ann-Fuchs, assistant superintendent for business, revenues in the 2013-14 operating budget are projected to exceed expenditures by $132,646. In addition, revenues in the operating funds are expected to see a general increase of 3.6 percent over last year’s budget, with an increase in the Education Fund of 3.3 percent, for a total operating revenue budget of $50,939,501.

Operating expenditures for 2013-14 are expected to come in at $50,806,855, a bump of $1.8 million from the 2012-13 operating budget. The increase in expenditure budget is due to certified/classified staffing changes, special education transportation, health insurance and salary increases.

Fuchs’ document states that, in terms of revenue, the tax levy has produced an additional $1,661,689 for the operations from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014.

“The administration and staff are very appreciative of the support that the board has provided throughout this past year as we have gone through the budget planning process,” Fuchs stated in the document. “While it has been a great challenge to repurpose some of our staff in an effort to align limited resources with our goals, we continue to make great strides toward our district mission: “The mission of Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 is to graduate all students college, career, and community ready.”

Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said it is important to know that the budget presented on Monday is is the result of several months of collaborative work involving many Kaneland staff members.

“Kaneland School District remains committed to a conservative spending plan aligned with the priorities established by the Board of Education through our Vision 2014 strategic plan,” he said. “We have allocated resources in the budget to key priorities, including math intervention services, instructional coaching and support, technology to support 21st century learning, and the purchase of new buses to ensure that we continue to get students to school safely.”

According to Schuler, the district reduces discretionary expenses whenever possible to support district priorities.

“The budget is balanced, clearly demonstrating our ongoing pledge to operate in a financially responsible way,” he said. “I am proud of the team effort that went into the development of our new budget.”

A public hearing and subsequent adoption of the District 302 budget for 2013-14 is scheduled to take place at the School Board’s meeting on Monday, Sept. 9.


Photos: 2013 Knight Run

Photo (right): Jack Wituk of Maple Park worked hard as he competed Friday night at the Kaneland Foundation 5k and Fun Run at Kaneland High School. The event is held to raise money for the educational needs of District 302 students.

The Kaneland Foundation’s Knight Run took place Friday night. A non-profit organization, the Kaneland Foundation’s mission is to support academic excellence in the Kaneland School District. All money earned via the Kaneland Foundation goes directly back to the students at D302.

Photos: Flying through the air

Pole vaulters from around the district gathered the first three weeks of June for the annual Kaneland Pole Vault Camp. The camp began with two weeks of “free” vaulting, followed by the official camp, which was held last week. Thirty athletes took to the skies every evening, and some even participated in a meet held at Yorkville Saturday. Dan Evers takes a shot on a practice vault. Coach Drendel gives instruction in the background while vaulters wait their turn. Mitch Groen about to land after a practice vault. Dylan Kuipers prepares for a practice vault.

D-302 preschool screening

KANELAND—Kaneland School District Special Services will conduct a preschool screening on Friday, Sept. 13, at Family Life Church in Elburn, for students who may qualify for special education.

This screening is for Kaneland School District children ages 3-5 who are suspected of having any delays in developmental milestones are encouraged to attend this event. This is not a kindergarten screening. Also, Child and Family Connections will screen children from ages birth to 3 for suspected developmental delays.

For more information regarding preschool screening and/or scheduling a screening appointment, call Kaneland Special Services District Office at (630) 365-5100, ext. 158.


Kaneland 2013 grad earns pilots license

Photos: 2013 Kaneland grad Alec Koczka of Elburn took his first step toward a career in aviation by earning his private pilot certificate in May. Courtesy Photos

ELBURN—Who knew the most exciting part of an 18-year-old’s day would be landing a plane with crosswinds in excess of 25 knots?

Alec Koczka, an Elburn resident and 2013 Kaneland High School graduate, took the first step in moving toward a career in aviation by earning his private pilot certificate in May. Taking Alec a little under a year to complete the ground school and flight time program, he studied the mechanics of flying, airport operations, and federal regulations, in addition to one-on-one instruction in the air. Flight instructor David Gillingham of Fly America in DeKalb said Alec is one of the best students he has seen in years in regard to focus and good judgment.

“The best quality about Alec is that he consistently pays attention to what is going on in the air and has excellent focus,” Gillingham said. “I have no doubt about his ability to command an aircraft.”
Rich Koczka, Alec’s father, remembers his son always looking up at the sky, even as a young boy. The natural response as a parent of a child who is intrigued about something is to encourage that fascination.

“You end up investing (financially) in your child now or later, so we just decided to start with Alec from a young age,” Rich said in reference to Alec’s involvement in electrician classes at the Fox Valley Career Center, and recent achievement of earning his private pilot license.

The next step to becoming a skilled pilot is to take the necessary training to become instrument rated. Taking additional classes and extensive training in flying an aircraft in harsh weather conditions will require Alec to fly safely by referencing only instruments and taking cues from the aircraft.

Beginning in August, Alec will attend Lewis University in southwest suburban Romeoville, Ill., with a double major in aviation maintenance management that gives students the skills and technical training needed to become a certified aviation maintenance technician. The oldest aviation program in Illinois, Lewis University is also the only college in the state with an on-site airport for hands-on training.

“Along with that, I will be flying and continuing my training towards becoming an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot),” Alec said.

When asked who has supported him on his journey to the skies Alec replied that his dad and grandpa have been a big influence by getting him into the art of flying.

“My parents support me 110 percent the whole way. I couldn’t have done it without them,” Alec said.

Long 1

From court to sidelines

High school, collegiate star athlete takes head coaching job
DOWNERS GROVE—Several weeks ago, Lyndsie Long originally set out to apply for an open position in the Downers Grove South High School physical education (PE) department.

Not only did the former Kaneland High School star and Elmhurst College Division III All-American interview for, and land, that opening, she fulfilled another career goal shortly thereafter: becoming a varsity head coach.

Long, the all-time leading scorer in Elmhurst College women’s basketball and No. 2 all-time at Kaneland, was recently named head coach of the Mustangs. The Sugar Grove resident succeeds longtime coach Ellen O’Brien, who stepped down to take over as the school’s assistant athletic director.

“I’m so thankful for everything that’s fallen into place for me,” said Long, who was getting to know the DGS girls program and its players—from incoming freshmen to varsity—at a camp held on campus last week. “This was like my dream come true.”

Randy Konstans, the Downers South athletic director, contacted Long a week after she joined the PE staff, and asked her if she was interested in interviewing for the head coaching position. Long responded enthusiastically.

“Of course,” she said.

Long interviewed with Konstans and O’Brien, who, in addition to being the girls coach at DGS, was inducted into the Downers South athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 as a three-sport athlete (basketball, volleyball and softball).

Long badly wanted the job, but prepared herself if she didn’t get it.

“What I kept telling myself was to just be patient, and if it didn’t work out, there’s a plan for me in the making,” she said. “Just getting the PE job was my main concern, and this on top, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Konstans said Long being only three years removed from Elmhurst College was not a factor in his decision-making. He said Long got glowing reviews from coworkers at York High School in Elmhurst, where she was a special education assistant and coached the York girls sophomores last season to a 25-2 record.

“I think for me, more than anything else, when you sit and talk to a person, you do get a feel,” Konstans said. “That hour-long chat has to be coupled with the recommendations from those co-workers she’s had in the past. I must have talked to a half-dozen people at York who just say nothing but great things about her and her work ethic, her knowledge of the game, her ability to work with people.”

Prior to coaching at York, Long spent a year as an assistant at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind., and also coached for a year at Concordia University.

“You’re never ready,” Konstans said. “That’s the one thing I’ve learned over the years: Where you think you’re not ready, or you’re (not) experienced enough and ‘I’m ready for my own program.’ You’re just never ready to be a head coach, so you’ve just got to take that plunge. It’s desire more than anything else, and I think she has great desire and great enthusiasm and has a great basketball resume.”

Long 2Impressive resume
As a junior at Kaneland during the 2004-05 season, Long helped the Knights advance to a Class AA sectional championship game against Naperville Central. That took place three years before the IHSA went to a four-class system for basketball and one year after Naperville Central all-American and U.S. Olympian Candace Parker—the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year and league MVP—had graduated.

Even minus Parker, Naperville Central had a formidable team, and the Redhawks ended up defeating the Knights 61-48, despite Kaneland mounting a double-digit lead at one point.

“That was probably the best experience, playing in that type of atmosphere with so many people there,” Long said. “Those (years at Kaneland) were the funnest four years for me. I think I was playing with some of my best friends that I’m still really close to. We knew how to play with each other, and we knew our strengths and weaknesses. It was just fun. Back then, we were going up against some huge schools in the regionals. I think we held our own and we proved to people that we’re from a small school, but we can hang with the best.”

Long went from being a four-year starter at Kaneland to being a four-year starter at Elmhurst College. She was a four-time first-team all-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin selection, and was named to two Division III All-American squads her senior year.

Long, who led the CCIW in scoring as a senior (26.1-point average), holds numerous scoring records at Elmhurst, including finishing as its all-time leading scorer (1,866 points) and all-time leader in three-pointers (170). She also holds records for most points in a game (45), most three-pointers in a game (eight), most three-pointers in a season (74), the best free-throw percentage for a season (89.3), the best three-point field goal percentage for a career (38.8) and the top career free throw percentage mark (84.2).

Switching gears
At Downers South, Long plans to take her new squad in a different direction offensively for the 2013-14 season.

“The offense is totally different from what they’ve been used to,” she said. “Just the coaching style is different in respect to I’m totally new. There will be a lot of screening, learning to read the defense and getting open that way and not always having a set that the other team can scout.”

But defense will be emphasized even more.

“I’m really defense oriented,” Long said. “Defense is going to win games, so if we’re all communicating and we’re helping each other out, that’s going to put us in a good position to get some stops.”

Long concluded her first week at camp with 40 girls in the gym last week. She likes what she sees in the way of talent at every level.

“This week has been great,” she said. “We have varsity players that have been in the program three or four years now so I’m just making it known to them that I’m here to mentor them and to be a good basketball program and just coaching them the best I can.

“The girls have responded well to the changes, and I’ve only heard positive feedback, so it’s a step in the right direction. There are a few freshmen that have stood out a lot to all the coaches. They’re already playing with the sophomores right now. It’s really, really good to see. The sophomore level has some good talent; we just need to learn to play together more and learn to get stronger.”

Long said she’ll keep building on what O’Brien has established once she gets situated in her new role.

“Instead of 40 girls being in the gym, I want 90 girls,” she said. “I think just getting a good year under our belts and people seeing that and hopefully we can get some more contributors.

“Ellen’s been here 20 years, so it’s a totally different change for everybody, just trying to get all of the coaching staff on board and believing in what we’re trying to do.

“We want to get all of the girls happy and excited to be in the program every day. And that’s how you end up winning games. You want to be there, you’re having fun, you’re playing together and you’re enjoying it.”

Kaneland Foundation hosts cross country race

Kaneland—The Kaneland Foundation will host its 2nd annual 5k Cross Country Race on Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. at the Kaneland High School campus/football stadium, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park. There will also be a 1/4-mile Kids Track Run at 7 p.m. and a 1-Mile Cross Country Fun Run/Walk at 7:30 p.m.

The 5k and 1-Mile runs will cover a flat cross country course entirely on the Kaneland campus.

Racers will finish on the Kaneland track for a spectator-friendly and exciting event. The 5K will be timed, and awards will be offered in age groups and overall categories. Prizes will be awarded to the top three overall male and female finishers in the following age groups for the 5K Cross Country Race: 14 and under, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-65, 65 and over.

All runners will receive a T-shirt for participating, provided they are registered by Saturday, June 15.

Packet pick-up begins at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21, near the track at the Kaneland High School campus.

Schedule of Events
7 p.m.: 1/4-Mile Kids Track Run—$5 registration fee, signed waiver must be on file.
7:30 p.m.: 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk—$10 registration fee; signed waiver must be on file.
8 p.m.: 5k Cross Country Race—$20 registration fee; signed waiver must be on file.

Download the race applications from, or register and pay online from the website on the Webstore (click on Kaneland Foundation). For more information, please call (630) 365-8295 or email To mail in forms and money, please address it to: Beth Sterkel, Kaneland Foundation, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park, IL 60151.

Kaneland educators honored at the Kane County Educator of the Year Awards

KANELAND—Five Kaneland district educators were recently nominated for Kane County Educator of the Year Awards, and two of the nominees took home awards at the Educator of the Year banquet held on May 3 at the Q Center in St. Charles.

The Educator of the Year Award is meant to honor education professionals who exhibit excellence and devotion to students and teaching.

Kaneland nominees for the year 2013 included: Pam Berth of Kaneland Blackberry Creek Elementary School as Secretary in the Support Staff Category; Mark Meyer of Kaneland High School as Teacher in the High School Category; Rachael Wilson of Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School as Fourth-Grade Teacher in the Elementary Category; Kris Weiss of Harter Middle School (HMS) as Middle School Assistant Principal in the Administrator Category; and Patti Reeder of HMS as Eighth-Grade Teacher in the Middle School Category.

Weiss and Reeder, two long-time educators in the Kaneland School District, both received awards in their respective categories. Weiss was honored as the leading Kane County Administrator of the Year, while Reeder was designated as the Kane County Middle School Teacher of the Year.

HMS Principal Bryan Zwemke has worked with both Weiss and Reeder, and knows both educators well.

“(Kris is) student-centered in all of her decisions (and) exemplifies the Kaneland tradition of excellence,” he said.

Zwemke said Reeder was deserving of the award due to her “problem-solving approach” and her first-rate ability to incorporate common CORE math standards into the school curriculum.

“Both Kris and Patti possess an understanding of what needs to get done right now, but understand that they’re building for the future,” Zwemke said.

Kaneland candidates for Kane County Educator of the Year Awards were nominated by fellow faculty members, and the leaders in each category were selected by an advisory board. The formal awards ceremony was sponsored by the Kane ROE.

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Hometown Hall of Famer

The Kaneland School District last week inducted Kerry Rink, pictured here from her days as a Kaneland High School cross country runner, into its Hall of Fame in the Personal Athletic Achievement category. Rink was a three-sport athlete at Kaneland, standing out in cross country, track and basketball. Courtesy Photo

Former KHS athlete inducted into District Hall of Fame
by Mike Sandrolini
ELBURN—Kerry Rink received a phone call out of the blue a couple of months ago from Dr. Jeff Schuler, superintendent of Kaneland Community School District 302.

Needless to say, she was pleasantly surprised to hear from him.

Schuler gave Rink, one of the most successful athletes in Kaneland High School history, the word that she had been selected for induction into the Kaneland School District Hall of Fame.

“That was kind of nice,” said Rink, who starred in track and field, basketball and cross country during her four years at Kaneland from 1984-88. “I was just honored that I was going to be inducted.”

Rink was officially inducted last week during Kaneland’s Senior Athletes’ Night. Members of her family, including her mother, Gerry, and her father, Richard—her varsity high school basketball coach—attended the ceremony.

“I think it’s a great honor,” said Richard, who coached the Knights during the 1980s, first as an assistant and then as head coach. “They finally got her in there, and she deserves to be in there. It’s good that they did it (induct Kerry) in front of the seniors to see what can be done by their athletes.”

Legendary career
Although she excelled in each of the three aforementioned sports, what Kerry accomplished on the track is legendary around the area. She was the Class A 800m state champion three consecutive years, and capped her stellar career by setting the state 800m record in a preliminary heat at a meet in 1988.

She then broke that record during the finals en route to the championship.

Her state record in the 800 stood for 19 years.

In addition, Kerry ran on the Knights’ 4x400m and 4x800m relay teams, the latter of which also set a state record and won a Class A title. The Knights captured the overall Class A team crown in both 1987 and 1988.

In cross country, she was a three-time all-state runner and placed third overall at the 1987 state meet, which at that time was not divided into classes.

Kerry’s track and field prowess landed her a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, where she achieved All-American status her freshman year.

She unfortunately ended up tearing the medial meniscus ligament in her right knee during her sophomore year while running for the UK cross country team. Kerry ran track the following spring, but the injury didn’t allow her to compete in either cross country or track her junior and senior years.

However, Kerry did graduate from UK with honors, and then went on to earn her master’s degree in occupational therapy from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“I’m proud of the way she handled things on the court and off,” said Richard, who is an assistant boys basketball coach at Hinckley-Big Rock and was a sixth-grade teacher at Kaneland Middle School until his retirement in 1999. “I’m proud of the way she handled herself and came back and got her master’s degree after all the adversity.”

Kerry had been living and working in Los Angeles for the past seven years, but recently moved back to the area to be closer to her family. She now works in occupational therapy in DeKalb.

Rarely did a day go by in the Rink family when either Kerry or one of her five siblings—four brothers and a sister—wasn’t taking part in a practice, game or meet.

Kerry’s oldest brother, Patrick, wrestled and played football at Kaneland.

Her sister, Amy, was the starting point guard on Kaneland’s 1982 Class A state champion basketball team. Kerry’s two older brothers, Mike and Danny, each played football and basketball and ran track, as did her younger brother, Greg.

Gerry and Richard Rink had three of their children going to high school at the same time.

“I wish the microwave (oven) had been invented a few years earlier,” Richard said with a laugh. “There was someone in sports all the time. My wife and I used to parcel out watching games. She’d go to one event and I’d go to another. It was somewhat chaotic sometimes, but it worked out.”

Richard, of course, didn’t have to attend Kerry’s basketball games because he was her coach. Coaching one’s daughter or son isn’t unusual, yet Richard was always wary that he didn’t treat Kerry differently from the rest of her teammates.

“It was fun coaching her,” he said, “but it was kind of hard when you coach your own kid. You maybe have to be harder on your kid than you would on the other kids; otherwise it looks like favoritism. But I thought she was a very good player, and she did quite well for herself.”

That she did. Kerry was an all-state player in 1988 and tied a school record for most points scored in a quarter (17). She shares that record with Beth Creamean, a former two-sport star (basketball and softball) at DePaul University.

“It was hard sometimes because I didn’t know whether to call him Dad or coach,” Kerry said, “But I’m honored to have him as a coach. It was a good experience overall. We had a good team.

“He was a great coach and still is. I learned quite a lot from him. He helped me with my shooting and defense, and think I was the basketball player I was because of him.”

Kerry lists her parents and siblings as being among her biggest influences, both on and off the field and court.

“I went to school, went to practice, studied and went to bed (during high school),” said Kerry, a straight A student at Kaneland. “I was very serious and very driven. They were always good about telling me, ‘It’s OK if you get a B (in a class).’ They tried to help take the pressure off me a little bit, but I put a lot of pressure on myself from within (to succeed).

“My parents had a big influence on me, and my siblings did, too. I come from a very sports-minded family. My sister was an influence, as well, because she was a really good point guard.”

Kerry also mentions Lea Ann Machais, her sister’s teammate on the 1982 championship team; Pat Sheetz, the head track and field coach during her varsity career at Kaneland; Doug Ecker and Tom Todd, who also coached her in track and cross country; and Mr. Davis, her favorite high school teacher, as inspirations.

“My teammates inspired me, too,” she said. “There were a lot of different personalities and talents (on those teams).”

Kaneland Sports Boosters present scholarships

The Kaneland Sports Boosters award four $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors each year. This year, due to the success of the Dodge Test Drive event that was held in August during Kaneland’s Knights Under The Lights event, the Brian Bemis Automotive Group of Sycamore submitted a grant application on behalf of the Sports Boosters to the Toyota Motor Company. The Sports Boosters were awarded an additional $2,500, which was used for five additional $500 scholarships. Those scholarships were awarded at the Senior thletic Banquet, sponsored by the Sports Boosters and the Athletic Department. This year’s winners were Joe Pollastrini, Keriann Groen, Dan Miller, Allyson O’Herron, Bradley Johnson, Laken Delahanty, Conor Johnson, Maggie Brundige and Kyle Pollastrini.
Courtesy Photo

Board approves replacement deck recommendation

by Mary Parrilli
KANELAND—Kaneland superintendent for business Julie-Ann Fuchs on Tuesday recommended that the School Board direct administration to execute the contract for the replacement of the plywood deck at John Shields Elementary School. The contract is with Crowther Roofing and Sheet Metal, Inc, which the board has already approved to replace the metal roof panels at a cost of $292, 210.

Fuchs asked the board to approve Crowther as the contractor for replacing the plywood at an additional cost of $123,000; putting the total cost at an estimated $415, 210.

“Remember that the original estimate was $1 million, so we are reasonably happy to see it so much less now,” said Joe Oberweis, board member.

The board approved the recommendation 6-0.

FVCC Students of the Month for April

KANELAND—Fox Valley Career Center (FVCC) recently announced the following as its Students of the Month for April 2013: Caroline Heimerdinger (Early Childhood I), Brianne Strobel (EMT) and Joshua Worley (Electrician I).

FVCC recognizes Students of the Month throughout the school year. To receive this honor, students must demonstrate the ability to do excellent work and accomplish the goals for their particular career training program during the past month. Further, these students have also exhibited a positive attitude, and a willingness to learn and work with others.

KHS Students of the Term

KANELAND—Kaneland administration and staff would like to congratulate the following students for being named KHS Students of the Term for Term 4 of the 2012-13: Julia Lemp, CTE (Business/Technlology); Megan Selenis, CTE (Orientation to Family Consumer Science); Brittany Larsen, English; Riley Hannula, Fine Arts (Art); Collin Seidelman, Fine Arts (Music); Brendan Dunphy, Fine Arts (World Language); Brooke Harner, Math; Nicholas Phillips, Physical Education/Health; Jason Carlquist, Science; Casey Jacobson, Social Studies; Kate Bumbar, Student Services.

The goal of the Student of the Term program is to recognize Kaneland High School 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. The above-mentioned students will receive a certificate, T-shirt and a plaque.

Board announces new appointments

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Tuesday announced the appointment of Mr. Michael Rice as assistant principal for Curriculum and Instruction at Kaneland High School. His position will begin July 1, 2013. Rice is transferring from Sycamore High School, where he has a long history in education.

Also announced was Mrs. Julia Cloat, as assistant principal of John Stewart Elementary School, beginning July 1, 2013. Cloat has worked for Kaneland in various positions over the past 16 years.

Board mulls communication plan

by Mary Parrilli
KANELAND—The Kaneland School board on Tuesday heard a presentation regarding the future Kaneland District communications plan. Megan Jacobs, a communications consultant, worked with Superintendent Jeff Schuler, to establish a plan and to identify key areas of improvement.

The main focus and presentation to the board was regarding a new social media strategy developed by Jacobs and Schuler. The presentation cited the benefits of social media as fast information sharing, free to use, which instantly increases readership of district-generated materials and provides more external media coverage. Social media pertains to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Blogger.

The board shared their support, but also their concerns.

“I know that there are a lot of already existing social media pages for Kaneland groups, such as the PTO, or the music groups, sport groups, etc.,” board member Veronica Bruhl said. “How will we integrate the existing communications? My concern is that there will be too many pages and it will be confusing to the reader.”

Schuler assured the board that they would take some more time this summer to iron out the details and provide the board with secure data.

School and Police Information Alliance in the works in Sugar Grove

by David Woehrle
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove interim Police Chief Ronald Moser on Tuesday informed the Village Board that an intergovernmental agreement is in the works between the Police Department and Kaneland School District 302.

“The Kaneland School District will enter in a reporting agreement with the Police Department,” Moser said. “If we proceed, then there are guidelines. In summary, it helps the School District provide the Police Department of criminal activity of students. Also, we inform the School District of such matters if we feel it would help.”

Moser pointed out that the deal is not final. Village attorney Steve Andersson is currently reviewing the language of the agreement and collaborating with Kaneland school officials.

Village trustee Robert Bohler raised questions about specific guidelines.

“Will every little violation of a juvenile be discussed, such as local ordinance violations?” he asked.

Moser said the guidelines clearly state that if the matter is not a threat to the school or community, then the information is not disclosed.

“This measure is only to inform police and school officials of any vandalism, gang activity, violence or drug activity,” Moser said.

Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said more clarification would be needed to move forward in any substanstial way.

“It’s my understanding that the Kaneland rules in extracurricular activities, in sports and other matters, are quite strict,” he said. “If a student is caught with a cigarette or a beer one night, will it take away from their future endeavors?”

Bohler agreed with that concern, claiming that a student’s permanent record shouldn’t be gambled with on minor offenses.

Village trustee Kevin Geary also voiced his concern with the pending agreement.

“It shouldn’t be a matter of mere tattle-telling. It should be about safety and only that,” he said.

Andersson then clarified the mission of the deal.

“This is not designed for getting students in trouble, or ruining futures. It’s about two entities, the school and the police department—the good guys—having a clear, concise conversation on dangerous crime,” Andersson said. “Most of it won’t be recorded. We will have professionals using good judgment.”

The proposal will be finalized and officially brought to the board sometime within the next month.

Kaneland Knights GIVE program

KANELAND—The Kaneland Knights GIVE program has been set up to recognize and acknowledge students who gave back to the school and community through voluntary service. GIVE stands for “Generosity Involves Volunteer Effort.”

The guidelines are as follows:

• The volunteer service hours may be in conjunction with organized service projects sponsored by church, scouts, etc.

• The volunteer service hours may be earned for work at school, such as filing, cleaning, working concessions, tutoring, helping others in need or at the discretion of the school staff.

• The student must log all hours of volunteer service and have a supervising adult, class sponsor or class president sign off on the hours recorded on the log sheet.

• Students will submit a completed log sheet to the high school office.

Levels of recognition:

• Level 1: Forty hours of volunteer work will result in certificate, T-shirt, and name recognized in a press release and on announcements

• Level 2: Eighty hours of volunteer work will result in certificate, T-shirt, movie gift card, and name recognized in a press release and on announcements

Kaneland High School would like to recognize the following students for at least 40 hours of volunteer service this year: Amanda Felella, Spencer Good, Brooke Harner, Kevin Healy, Amelia Likeum, Kellyn McMullan, Cody Pitstick, Spencer Serwin and Taylor Spooner.

KHS would like to recognize the following students for at least 80 hours of volunteer service this school year: David Barnhart, Hailey Boyd, Jaemee Cordero, Melyssa Cordero, Marshall Farthing, Shannon Gilkey, Tyler Hill, Ryan Koeppen, Alexander Kovach, Stephen McCracken, Nicholas Messina and Aaron Steenwyck.


Rhapsody in May

The Kaneland High School band presented a concert May 9, featuring American works by such
composers as Aaron Copland, John Phillip Sousa, George Gershwin and more.
Photos by Kimberly Anderson

School Board bids goodbye to two members, welcomes new additions

by Mary Parrilli
KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on May 8 said goodbye to two of its members, Elmer Gramley and Kenneth Carter. Both men chose not to seek re-election in the April 9 Consolidated Election.

Gramley offered a farewell speech during the meeting.

“There were many highs and lows during my time on the board. I think it’s very important to have all opportunities open to all students,” Gramley said. “You know, my uncle and my grandfather served on the (District) 302 board, as well, so education is very important to my family and I,” said Gramley in his farewell speech at the meeting.

Gramley served two terms over eight years on the School Board. In addition to his regular board responsibilities during that time, Gramley served on the Facility Committee and Hall of Fame Committee. According to School Board President Cheryl Krauspe, Gramley was instrumental in the formation of many intergovernmental agreements with local municipalities.

Carter served as a liaison to the Finance Committee during his lone term on the School Board. Krauspe said that Carter made his board commitments a priority in spite of his busy travel schedule for work, and he could always be counted on to be present with his valuable contributions.

“I just wanted to say that I appreciate all of the effort from all teachers and administration,” Carter said during the meeting.

“I do thank Elmer and Ken for their combined 12 years of service on the Board of Education,” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. “Both have been very committed to our students, and as board members have put the needs of interests of students first. We thank them for their service.”

Krauspe said the board has benefited immeasurably from the commitment and dedication of both Gramley and Carter.

“Both Elmer and Ken will be missed as we transition forward without them. They have shared their vision for the Kaneland School District, and worked tirelessly to meet the goals of the strategic plan when the work has been very crucial,” she said.

Replacing Gramley and Carter will be newly elected School Board members Veronica Bruhl and Pedro Rivas. The two were recognized during the meeting and then called to their respective spots at the School Board table.

“We are excited to work with Pedro and Veronica,” Schuler said. “Both have been very involved in our advisory committees and come to the board with a very strong understanding of the district, our finances and our operations. That helps significantly with the transition to the board.”

The board also voted on its president, vice president and secretary seats. Cheryl Krauspe, who was re-elected in April, will retain her School Board president position. Board member Teresa Witt will take over for Gramley as vice president seat, while Gale Pavlak will assume the role of board secretary.

Kaneland Krier receives awards during NISPA journalism competition

KANELAND—The Kaneland Krier staff attended a journalism competition hosted by the Northern Illinois School Press Association (NISPA) at DuPage Community College on Friday, April 12, and received awards as a whole and individually.

The paper earned a Silver Certificate for Excellence in Journalism. Editor Elizabeth Such earned first place in Feature Writing and Column Writing categories. Editor Amelia Likeum earned honorable mention in Photography. Executive editor Alexis Roach earned first place in Ad Design. And editors Alexia Orosco and Michelle McCracken earned honorable mention in team In-Depth.

KHS principal to become Rockford School District assistant superintendent

by Mary Parrilli
KANELAND—Let the search begin for a new Kaneland High School principal.

Current KHS principal Chip Hickman was recently recruited into the Rockford School District, and will take a position as assistant superintendent of Secondary Education on July 1.

Hickman has served as KHS principal the past two years, and was previously Batavia High School associate principal for seven years.

The Rockford School Board recently approved the promotion of current assistant superintendent Ehren Jarret to the position of superintendent. The board also approved the demotion of two principals and the firing of two assistant principals.

Jarret subsequently picked Hickman as his successor. Hickman’s salary will start at $135,000 a year.

Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler and School Board President Cheryl Krauspe both wished Hickman well in his new position.

“I’d like to thank Chip for his two years of service with the district,” Krauspe said.

Schuler said the process to find a new KHS principal is already in place, and anticipates that administration will be ready to present a recommendation to the School Board at its meeting on Monday, April 29.

“It’s a tremendous impact to have a positive influence over so many more students’ lives with the new position in Rockford , but it’s also bittersweet, because I had an opportunity to work with tremendous students and staff at Kaneland High School,” Hickman said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments we achieved during my tenure at Kaneland. These are great kids.”


Hall of Fame worthy

Longtime Kaneland community contributors Don Watson (above, left) and Laurie Erdmann (below, right) were inducted into the Kaneland Hall of Fame on Monday evening. Watson, who became the Elburn Herald’s first sportswriter in 1974 and spent 28 years covering Kaneland sports, was inducted by Harter Middle School Patricia Pattermann. Erdmann arrived at Kaneland High School in 1974 and developed a single-course journalism curriculum into a three-tiered sequential program. She also advised The Krier student newspaper for 34 years. Erdmann was inducted by Kaneland graduate Eric Ferguson, co-host of the “Eric and Kathy” morning show on 101.9 The Mix. Photos by Keith Beebe

D302, other school districts say no to charter schools

by Mary Parrilli
KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on April 8 voted unanimously in favor to deny the online charter school application from Virtual Learning Solutions, the nonprofit corporation in charge of opening the school.

The school was to be named Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley (ILVCS@FRV), and the application was extended to Kaneland and the 17 surrounding school districts. Subsequently, the remaining 17 districts voted to deny the application, as well.

The charter school was set to open this fall. According to its mission statement, the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley will “provide an individualized education plan for each of K-12 students in the Fox River Valley, based upon proven best practices. Delivered online and offline, this unique program will put public school accountability, teacher competence, and meaningful parent involvement at the center of student learning.”

The charter school would be funded by taxpayers, with no tuition cost or admission criteria—all students are welcome. The charter would operate much like a regular public school, with standardized tests, a common core curriculum and daily classes.

The company K12 was contracted to manage ILVCS@FRV. K12 is a for-profit “technology-based” education company out of Virginia that is one of the largest companies of its kind.

The company sent a member of its team, John McMurray, to present a proposal to the Kaneland School Board on March 18. McMurray explained to the board that the estimated cost for the first year was $8,000 per student, estimating the charter school would have approximately 500 enrollees in the first year (which adds up to $4 million). Therefore, the local school district would be required by law to allocate $8,000 per student enrolled in the online charter to K12.

During the March 18 meeting, School Board member Joe Oberweis asked McMurray to clear up the claims that the charter schools are failing, as well as an incident in Pennsylvania in which K12 was accused of fraud. McMurray said he knew nothing of the claims, and that he would get back to the School Board on the issue.

Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said that K12 wasn’t providing the board with enough “real information”—statistics. Schuler said he couldn’t understand why someone would make a proposal without having definitive answers.

McMurray, during his presentation, couldn’t name the graduation rate of K12 schools, even the school that he worked at in Pennsylvania. Oberweis asked if McMurray could state how many seniors were enrolled in the Pennsylvania school, and McMurray again failed to provide a definitive answer. McMurray said that K12 doesn’t collect an aggregate number tracking the graduation rate of their schools. Oberweis then asked Schuler the same questions regarding Kaneland student population, to which the superintendent immediately provided specific numbers.

McMurray told the board that all of its questions would be answered prior to the vote date, set to take place on April 8. Kaneland then submitted its questions via email. K12 on April 6 emailed Schuler a 1,100-page document.

Two nights later, Schuler shared details of the document with the School Board
“I read over portions of the document, and it reminds me of the proposal—very unorganized. In essence, our questions have not been answered,” Schuler said.

Oberweis said that the only possible explanation for K12’s presentation is that the company was just going through the hoops because it knew that the charter commission could, or would, overturn the districts’ decisions.

“I don’t understand why a business would make such a half-witted attempt otherwise,” he said.

“(K12) was just going through the motions,” School Board President Cheryl Krauspe said. “The real story here, after all the districts decline their application, is the appeal process with the (Illinois Charter School Commission). K12 spends a lot of money in lobbying, so who knows what is going on downstate.”

It is currently unclear whether Virtual Learning Solutions plans to file an appeal with the Charter Commission. Schuler on Tuesday said he expects to get a definitive answer on the matter next week.

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat from Aurora, recently introduced legislation that would place a one-year moratorium on all online, web-based charter schools. The bill has passed in the Illinois House of Representatives, and is, as of Tuesday, on the senate floor. If Virtual Learning Solutions appeals the ruling, and the Charter Commission decides to overturn the districts’ votes—and the moratorium does not pass—school districts have the option to file their own appeal.

Oberweis said he doesn’t have a strong opinion about charter schools, and always supports competition in the marketplace, especially competition to “improve government services.”

“I am a free-market economist at heart. I don’t think that (K12) is out for the interest of the kids, and I wanted to give them the opportunity to correct that. They didn’t,” Oberweis said. “I’m wondering why a business needs to take public money. If it’s really as good as it says it is, why not just use private capital? My main problem with this situation was the funding mechanism. It needs to change.”

KHS senior places first in Skills USA test

by Elizabeth Rago
KANELAND—Besides having fun and adding an impressive accolade to his resume, Kaneland High School senior Alec Koczka’s reason for participating in the Skills USA program includes fine-tuning his skills as a future electrician, and eventually becoming a commercial pilot. Taking first place in the written portion of the Skills USA Championships in March, Koczka recently traveled downstate to Springfield, Ill., to challenge his hands-on ability in the practical portion of the nationwide test.

Placing second out of 180 students statewide, Koczka’s road to take the Skills USA championship ended in Springfield, but certainly does not stop his mission to gain knowledge before he enters his post-secondary education. With an intent on majoring in aviation mechanics/aviation management at Lewis University in southwest suburban Romeoville, Ill., he said he can’t wait to implement the skills he has learned from the electrician classes at the Fox Valley Career Center.

Offered to students in the Kane County area, the Fox Valley Career Center is meant to prepare high school students for a career in a technical field. By partnering with area businesses and providing opportunities to participate in programs like Skills USA, the students learn necessary skills to help them be more marketable and knowledgeable as they enter the field.

“Skills USA is a great experience and shows me where I need to improve in my knowledge as an electrician,” Koczka said.

Alec’s father, Richard, spoke of the opportunity students who are interested in working as an electrician have at the Fox Valley Career Center. Actual hands-on experience by carrying out necessary maintenance in and around the KHS grounds is required of the students. Richard said he likes the fact that Alec is consistently encouraged to increase his skill level at the Fox Valley Career Center, and appreciates that his son will be immersed into his chosen field before he even hits the workforce.

The Fox Valley Career Center offers career and technical training during the school day for students, as well as internships and job shadowing.

“It’s a great opportunity if your child is interested in pursuing a career in the trades,” said Alec’s mother, Jeanie. “We can see how taking ownership of on-campus projects gives students pride for taking care of their school.”

In addition to actively participating in the Fox Valley Career Center classes, Alec is captain of the Kaneville soccer team and is just hours from completing his private pilot’s license from Fly America.

What’s on the horizon for Alec? Graduation, starting college and literally more time in the air as he is practicing for his first cross-country solo trip. As his senior year of high school comes to an end, the opportunity for Alec’s future as a pilot and experienced electrician has only just begun. Peers, teachers, flight instructors and his parents alike all rally behind the potential of this tenacious and determined young man.

“Our kids are an enhancement to our lives,” Jeanie said with a smile. “Rich and I are so proud of our children, and know they are fortunate to have community programs and a chance to dive into their interests.”

If you are interested in participating in a Fox Valley Career Center program, visit or call (630) 365-5113.


Musical groups receive awards in Washington, D.C.

by Dave Woehrle
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Three bands and three choirs from Kaneland High School received eight awards at the Heritage Music Festival in Washington D.C. on March 21.

Over 25 instrumental ensembles and 20 choirs from 11 different states participated in the festival.

The KHS groups were led by musical directors Bryan Kunstman and Aaron Puckett. The choirs were judged on vocal tone, intonation, interpretation, balance, blend, diction, rhythm, music selection and overall effect. The bands were judged on tone, intonation, technique, balance, and interpretation. Three judges gave each ensemble a score, and the scores were averaged to determine the award levels.

KHS won the Festival Sweepstakes Award, the most prestigious award of the event. To qualify for festival sweepstakes, schools must enter one choral group, one instrumental group, and a third musical group of their choice. The school that accumulates the highest number of points toward a perfect score of 300 determines the winner.

“This award was given regardless of school size, which caused our school to be put in an overall category with schools that were both larger and smaller than Kaneland,” Kunstman said. “Each of the bands and choirs received the highest score in their class.”
Bella Voce, Concert Choir and Madrigals each received a gold superior rating by averaging a score of over 90 points out of 100. Bella Voce and Madrigals also received an adjudicator’s award for averaging 95 points for their performances.

As a result of the gold rating, these choirs have been invited to perform in the Heritage Festival of Gold, held at Carnegie Hall in New York next year. Concert Band, Jazz Band, and Wind Ensemble each received a silver (excellent) rating by averaging a score of over 80 points out of 100.

Denise Blaszynski, president of the Kaneland Performing Arts Boosters, said she was impressed by the awards.

“This was a great opportunity for the young musicians,” Blaszynski said.

Preparation for the festival began in January after the holiday concerts, when the students began learning the new repertoire.

“The trip was student-funded with opportunities for fundraising,” Kunstman said. “The students worked hard for these achievements, and their families, our school, community and district should be commended for the support they have shown. They were excited about their achievements, and really enjoyed the experience.”

Kunstman won the festival’s Top Director Award.

School Board announces Maras as new KHS principal

by Mary Parrilli
KANELAND—Kaneland High School officially has a new principal.

The Kaneland School Board on Monday introduced Jill Maras as the new KHS principal.

Maras is no stranger to KHS, having served there in various roles during the past 10 years—most recently as its assistant principal for curriculum and instruction. She’s also served as a special education teacher as well as an administrative role as a special education coordinator.

Maras was selected from a pool of 38 candidates for the principal position, which was previously held by Chip Hickman. Hickman will become Rockford School District’s assistant superintendent on July 1.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Mrs. Maras will be the new Kaneland High School principal,” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said.

The School Board also introduced Paul Mayer, who is the new assistant principal of John Shields and McDole Elementary schools after serving as a Career Tech Ed teacher at Kaneland High School the past six years.

“Again, we are pleased as can be to welcome Mr. Mayer to our administrative team,” Schuler said.

Prior to announcement of Kaneland’s new additions, School Board and administration held a moment of silence to recognize the recent loss of Kaneland Harter Middle School student Caitlyn Phillips.

KHS hosts 14th annual Fine Arts Festival

by Mary Parrilli; Photos by Patti Wilk
KANELAND—The 14th installment of the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival was held Sunday afternoon at Kaneland High School.

The festival is the only one of its kind in the state of Illinois. Sponsored by the School District, the festival offers free public performances and art displays, and operates outside of regular school hours.

This year there were a number of performing artists in the school auditorium, including the Maud Powell String Quartet, the Waubonsee Community College Steel Band, an a capella group named Acappellago, an opera singer named Margaret Fox, and the M & M Dance Company.

In addition to the auditorium, there were also performances in the pavilion. The Cubs Dixieland Band, Kaneland String Ensemble, Bethlehem Brass, and Common Taters Square Dance Band also performed their talents.

Visual artists showcased their work throughout the festival, as well. There were professional artists with installments in the pavilion, and some with work being displayed and auctioned at the entrance. There was a separate section called the Kaneland Senior Art Gallery, displaying art created by four KHS seniors: Nicole Grossman, Brandi Norton, Manuel Tapia and Danielle Wylie.

In the auditorium lobby was an artist showcase for Kaneland alumni. The featured artist was Elburn resident Megan Cline, who is a junior at the Art Institute in Chicago.

“I’ve stayed in contact with some of my Kaneland teachers, and when they heard about the arts festival coming up, they thought, ‘Well how about Megan?’ And they recommended me for the festival,” Cline said.

Cline specializes in printmaking, and uses a technique called photo etching. She also creates relief prints by carving wood and using oil-based ink to create prints. Cline also had on display a sculpture project she created at the Art Institute. The sculpture was of a human rib cage made of twigs and small branches, attached to an undergarment that she carved out of wood.

Among the professional artists on hand was Sue Norris, a potter from Sugar Grove. Norris creates elegant, but functional, salt- and wood-fired pottery. At the festival, she demonstrated her work and also allowed some children in attendance to try their hand at throwing pottery.

Edward C. Cook, a miniaturist, was also on display at the festival. Cook is a painter, but specializes in miniature paintings, which are just what they sound like: very small and detailed paintings. When asked if he had been painting his entire life, Cook responded with “Not yet.”

Cook has always had a knack for painting, but for a long time decided to work in the corporate world. Thirty-two years ago, he decided to make a career change and pursue his artistic talent. He does paintings of all sizes, but specializes in miniature paintings. Cook lives in Batavia and participates in art shows, and has his work in various galleries. He also sells to private buyers.

“If there’s one thing I can tell you about my husband, (it’s) that he is a miniaturist, not a miniature artist,” said Cook’s wife, Janice.

Several other professional artists showcased their hard work and unique talents during the festival, and there were also rows and rows of Kaneland student artwork on display. There were pieces from all grades, K-12, as well as sculptures (paper, foam, wire, metal), collages, mosaics, ceramics and drawings.

One of the works on display was a foam sculpture done by Rhyanna Pettry, a seventh-grader at Harter Middle School. The idea of the project was to pick an adjective and sculpt the word, creating a piece that reflected the student’s affinity the word, as well as why they picked it. Pettry picked the word “draw” because, well, she likes to draw. She added color to the word with paint; underneath the word, she painted a little pencil.

“I like to draw with charcoal the most … I like to draw people. It’s fun to draw them and to capture their movement,” Pettry said. “One time, I drew Albert Einstein, and I drew his hair all crazy. It was fun.”

District 302 seeks Kaneland Foundation, CAC, FAC 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. Its 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 of 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. The district 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.

To learn more about membership on the CAC, FAC or the Kaneland Foundation, contact Beth Sterkel at the Kaneland District Office, (630) 365-5111, ext. 109, or

Applications are due Monday, April 15.