By Bob Trott


ROCKTON – Multiple topics were presented by schools and municipalities at the annual joint meeting that preceded a Hononegah School Board regular meeting Wednesday, June 17.

Opening the joint session was Kelli Freedlund, superintendent of Kinnikinnick School. She said recent negotiations with teachers were successful.

“We passed,” she said.

Another big item for Kinnikinnick was the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Stone Creek School. A couple of present teachers worked there when it opened, Freedlund added.

“We talk a lot about being a family,” the superintendent said. Student successes in 2014-15 included a Science Olympiad and writing contest, she added.

Freedlund said there was high participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) by teachers at Kinnikinnnick. Participation by students included VetsRoll, through which military veterans get rides to national monuments and cemeteries, for instance.

Other involvement included a letter-writing effort called “Mail Call,” and another called “Free the Child.” A third effort involved buying 12 goats for an African country, exceeding the goal of three. Also, Kinnikinnick was awarded a Physical Education Program (PEP) Grant, Freedlund reported.

Freedlund reported Kinnikinnick is meeting its strategic planning goals, which it set in 2012.

Kinnikinnick students and staff have been involved with law enforcement from Winnebago County and the Village of Roscoe in Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE) crisis training, Freedlund said. Other priorities include meeting special needs of students, she added.

“I got here 11 years ago,” Freedlund reported.

Also, that district is involved in a new pre-kindergarten language arts program called “Super Kids,” which it collaborates with Rockton School for, the superintendent reported. In addition, it survived Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing in meeting Common Core standards, the Kinnikinnick superintendent reported.

Kinnikinnick also has an English as a Second Language (ESL) program, Kids Hope USA mentoring and Open Arms summer lunch program.

“Churches really support us,” Freedlund said. One program involving churches is “Heroes Run,” provided by Life Church of Roscoe.

*Overall, it’s been a good year,* Freedlund added. She said teachers just received a five-year contract, so that won’t have to be negotiated again for another four years. Curriculum and instruction will be the main focus until then, she said.

Prairie Hill School

Ted Rehl retired as Prairie Hill School District superintendent and is taking over as mayor of the City of South Beloit.

Rehl said there have been four Golden Apple winners in his 10 years at Prairie Hill, and there’s another winner this year. “It cost me a lot of money, but it’s worth it,” he added.

Rehl reported Prairie Hill is a National Blue RIbbon School. “I’m incredibly proud of that,” he said. Also, the district is doing “relatively well,” given the dynamics in the rest of the state, Rehl said, and he added, “Kudos to the teachers’ association.”

Rehl said he has been proud to be a part of Hononegah Nation. The new superintendent of the Prairie Hill School District is Wes Heiar.

Rockton School

Rockton School District Superintendent Bob Willis reported the Rockton Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) raised $100,000 for the Super Kids reading program. The funds were supposed to have been raised in three years, but the PTO did it in two, he said.

An anonymous donor contributed $2,000 for first and second grades, and Rockton United Methodist Church officials wanted to provide help to keep the grounds and gardens in good shape at the school. “The community embraces its school, and it shows,” Willis said.

Willis said Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith talked about the importance of having a community-friendly school. “Rockton already has that,” Willis said. In addition, Rockton has educators who won’t let go when a student is having trouble. He added that it’s a challenge to have the financial ability to “survive and thrive over adversity.”

Shirland School

Bill Diemel, president of the Shirland School Board, reported it’s been “a very good yearin his district. It has added new windows, gates, lights, and computers, he said.

A new T6 tower at the school has speeded up the Internet, and the faster Internet was cheaper because of a grant, Diemel added.

Shirland has had an increase in cash on hand since 2010 because it benefited from a hold harmless agreement, through which one party usually agrees not to sue the other party for any expenses. Revenue from the state has decreased significantly in recent years, Diemel reported.

Shirland has Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing goals next school year, Diemel said. Response to Intervention (RTI), used to identify and support students with learning and behavior needs, is an area of emphasis at the school, he added.

This is the first year there have been as many kindergarteners as graduates at Shirland, and the same is possible next school year, the school board president added.


“This (Hononegah) is the best district in Northern Illinois,” Hononegah School Board President Dave Kurlinkus said in the opening statement of his report at the joint board meeting.

“The elementary districts do a lot of heavy lifting,” Kurlinkus said in reference to the feeder districts for Hononegah High School. Hononegah plus its feeder schools were referred to as “Hononegah Nation” during the joint meeting on June 17.

At Hononegah, the average American College Testing (ACT) score is 31.64, and its top grade points are extremely high. The district is at the “absolute topin those areas, Kurlinkus said.

Fourteen percent of Hononegah teachers are nationally-certified, and 69 percent have master’s degrees, Kurlinkus reported. A total of 1,038 Hononegah students took Advanced Placement (AP) tests in the recently-concluded school year, and Hononegah offers credit recovery programs to help students graduate on time. The Homoni Program, for freshman transition, offers help for at-risk students, he said.

In addition to academics, Hononegah has won the NIC-10 Conference All-Sports Trophy 10 of the last 13 years, and five years in a row. Hononegah had its first team state championship in boys’ bowling in 2014-15, Kurlinkus said.

The school board president added:

* Hononegah Math and Forensic Teams went to state.

* Two-thirds of students at the school participate in at least one extracurricular activity.

* Hononegah received a Physical Education Program (PEP), Grant.

* VetsRoll flags night was held at the school May 20, the same date as the last regular school board meeting.

* The school has probably the best group of administrators it has ever had.

One person at the meeting said, about Hononegah, “You have leadership throughout the district, and it’s coordinated.”

Village of Rockton

Village of Rockton Mayor Dale Adams said that, from 2008-12, his municipality had three new homes built in what was “an economic downturn.” That situation has reversed this year, as there have been 37 new homes built, but that is nothing like previous years when the village experienced growth of 250-300 new homes in a year.

Adams said there hasn’t been a lot of recent commercial development starting in the village, and demolition and clean-up of the Sonoco building are occurring. He said the village is well-suited for commercial development and added the Wagon Wheel Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) District is not doing well, but the Chemtool TIF district is. Adams added a third TIF district downtown was recently approved.

“We’re looking for a one-cent sales tax for the downtown business district,” Adams told officials at the joint meeting. He added Rockton is doing well with its lighted parks with fields for football and baseball. Events in Rockton include a Wednesday night farmers’ market.

City of South Beloit

Rehl, new South Beloit mayor, said his city is 98 years old, but “some parts of our city look 150 years old.” He added, “There’s a sense of laissez-faire about what your city should be doing.” He said members of the board where he’s at “really have a good time.” According to Rehl, when you’re doing your job on board, it paralyzes you, and at other times, it energizes you.

Rehl reported the city just approved a major TIF district along the river and Turtle Creek. He said ConAgra Foods has moved to South Beloit, after its plant closed in Ripon, Wis.

The new mayor reported construction of 12 houses has started west of Highway 251 in South Beloit, and that’s unusual, because most of that type of activity has been east of 251 in the past.

Running Start

For the third consecutive month, the board discussed the possibility of Hononegah starting to offer the Running Start program that would allow some students to participate in sports at the school, while at the same time earning an associate degree at Rock Valley College.

Tim Mazurkiewicz reported he is a coach for Team USA Kickboxing and a concerned father of four boys in school. He said he had a 40-signature petition calling for Hononegah to start participating in Running Start.

Mazurkiewicz told the board and presented a written statement that said he read that Hononegah is the only area school district not supporting Running Start, and asked why.

Troy Stoffregen attended his third regular Hononegah School Board meeting in recent months to discuss the issue. He has two daughters who are taking the accelerated academic program at Rock Valley College and has been trying to get Hononegah to join the other area districts in supporting it.

Stoffregen told the board June 17 he was unable to attend a recent co-curricular committee meeting, for which Running Start was on the agenda, because of another commitment. Three members of the school board are on the committee.

Stoffregen asked why there had been no discussion of the issue at the committee session. “I was just curious why that would be,” he said. He said he had served on the school board at Belvidere, which supports Running Start, and asked the superintendent there about the program. Stoffregen said he was told there were many graduates and enrollees in Running Start.

Board President Kurlinkus said Stoffregen was making an “unfair statement.” Stoffregen said there had been “zero input from you.” Bob Geddeis of the board said, “Just because we didn’t talk about that at the meeting (co-curricular) doesn’t mean we didn’t research it.”

Kurlinkus said there was no dissent by the board on the recommendation of Superintendent Lynn Gibson, and she recommended non-participation.

Just before leaving the meeting, Stoffregen said he hoped the board would consider his request.

Amended budget

The amended Hononegah School District budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 was approved by the board, following a budget public hearing on June 17. A budget summary showed receipts and revenues in the educational area, the biggest part of the budget, totaling $19,161,237 and disbursements/expenditures totaled $19,254,530, a deficit of $93,293.

FY 15 is the same as the 2014-15 school year, which ends June 30, 2015.

Board Member and Finance Committee Chairman Sandy Fordell said there was one month left in the fiscal year, in regard to the district’s financial situation. She said insurance is one issue that needs to be discussed.

Fordell had reported throughout the 2014-15 school year that insurance claims were high and a major area of concern.

One of the items set for discussion, following a closed session at the meeting, was action on insurance rates for 2015-16.

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