Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mr. Ben Asche Looking Forward to School Year as New Carl Sandburg Middle School Principal

It is with great excitement that I will be able to serve you as the new principal at Carl Sandburg Middle School.  As many of you may know, Carl Sandburg has been my home for the past ten years. I have served in the school as a physical education/health education teacher, dean, athletic director, and assistant principal. Over these years, I have dedicated myself to creating positive relationships with all students, staff, and parents to help promote a healthy educational experience for all.

As an administrator, I will continue to create these positive relationships, but I also believe that it is imperative to support all students, parents, and staff members to be the best they can be. Doing so will foster a climate that is challenging, supportive, and engaging to the 21st century student. We will also strive for students to be productive citizens, critical thinkers, great communicators, and creative collaborators, preparing them to be college and career ready.

Finally, I want to emphasize that being a productive member of our school community is so important to the success of our students.  Please take the time to support your child with their school work, reach out to your child’s teachers with questions or concerns, join us for family nights, volunteer at sporting events or other school activities, and encourage your child to do the best they can do!

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, concerns, or ideas to help support a positive school climate for all. My email is and my office number is 815-232-0340.

Thank you and I can’t wait to see everyone this fall. Enjoy the rest of your summer!


Ben Asche
Principal, Carl Sandburg Middle School

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Summer University Wraps Up Successful 2nd Year

Freeport School District’s Summer University has grown since last year and was a huge success! Summer University is an enrichment summer learning program that is available to all students.  Carl Sandburg Middle School hosted over 500 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The students participated in a variety of 21st century teaching and learning courses including: Backpack through Europe, Brain Works, Build a Computer, CSI, Just Plane Awesome, Kids in the Kitchen, Kids that Code, Lego Robotics, Makerspace, Minecraft Mania, Operation Teamwork, Rockin in the Rainforest, Spanish Fiesta, Video Game Design, and Young Composers.

Students had the opportunity to participate in two different courses during the program. Each course offered the student a new opportunity and experience. The Brain Works course was designed to give some remediation or enrichment instruction in the areas of English and Math, as well as a DefinedSTEM Project. DefinedSTEM was used last summer and throughout the 2016-2017 school year in all FSD145 schools. The DefinedSTEM project allowed the students to use Math and English skills to investigate, problem solve, and create something to display their learning. Within the DefinedSTEM project the students would have a goal to complete, a role to take on (Architect), an audience for their work (Prospective House Buyer), a situation they need to problem solve, and a product to create. The other courses allowed students to build computers through Minecraft, bake delicious food, tinker with Makerspace objects, create/produce music, code, build robotic legos, and learn the true definition of collaboration and teamwork.  

During Summer University, all students utilized their 21st Century Skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity to complete a project. Students presented their authentic learning to parents and community members on July 6th during Summer Showcase 2017. We are very happy with the amazing collaborative work the students completed during their time at Summer University.

As we look forward to next summer, we will continue to reflect on our practices to determine ways to improve our program. Students, parents, and teachers had the opportunity to complete surveys to provide feedback about the program. This information will be used to continue to improve and expand Summer University. The possibilities of Summer University are endless and we look forward to seeing you next summer!

Tammy Shippert & Chris Walocha
Summer University Co-Principals

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Former Board President Encourages Community Involvement

Highly functioning school districts are magnets that attract new residents and draw business investment into the community.  Schools serve as more than a conduit for education; they are interactive partners in the lives of our children, families, and seniors.  The school district is the backbone of this community.  Today, the Freeport School District struggles with challenges such as behavior, diversity, lack of basic soft skills, and lack of parenting, among others.  Our district staff are working diligently to conquer these issues and hopefully improve the lives of our students.  However, the educators in the school district can’t do it alone. 

The traditional African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is often quoted when examining the duration of a child’s life. Marian Wright Edelman also said, “It really takes a community to raise children, no matter how much money one has.  Nobody can do it well alone.  And it’s the bedrock security of community that we and our children need.”

The Freeport community has been my home for 39 years.  I graduated in 1987 from Freeport High School.  I went on to raise my family here and my two older daughters have both graduated from Freeport High School as well.  I founded a title insurance company in Freeport and, while it has branched out to other cities, I chose to keep our corporate office here.  I felt compelled to give back to this community and have done so in many forms.  My recent task, as the President of the Freeport School Board, proved to be quite challenging.  All the reasons I thought brought me to the calling were set aside during my first of many visits to the elementary schools. My heart was broken and my soul awoken as I witnessed the challenges and disparity some of our students struggle with on a daily basis. I soon realized that once I formed that connection it was a little harder to numb myself to their suffering.  It was harder to convince myself that their struggles were not my problem, as well as this community’s problem.

Despite the hard budget cuts that the our school board made, we continued to increase spending for social-emotional support, especially for the younger children.  Today, I ask for your help as good citizens of Freeport!  There is a need for volunteers within our schools.  Our children need positive role models in their lives.  They need to know that this community, our great city, cares about them as well.  A few minutes of your day can make a difference in the lives of our students. The process will prove to be rewarding to you and will increase your knowledge of the community issues that our youth face on a daily basis.  There are many things you can do for the district, some as simple as going to a school and reading to the children.  Please consider getting involved in some way.  The district’s phone number is 815-232-0300.

Finally, I close this with saying that we are all responsible for our community.  When we see things happening in our streets, we must not turn a blind eye.  Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.  Help someone in need and pay things forward right here in Freeport.  I believe the world is changed by ordinary people doing extraordinary things!  Be the change!

Billy W. Shroyer, Jr.
Former President of the Freeport School District No. 145 Board of Education

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Empire Elementary Teachers Shares Educational Highlights from the School Year

Over the course of the school year, Empire students have had many amazing educational opportunities.  Each grade level chose to highlight one area that they thought was extra special this school year.  

Kindergarten students have been learning about the life cycle of the chick.  We have looked at our poster to compare the growth chart with the number of days our chicks have been developing. We know they will start to hatch on Monday, May 1st because it takes a total of 21 days for a chick to develop inside the egg. We have also learned that it only takes 8 weeks for them to grow into an adult.

First Grade:
Way back in October, the first grade students learned about the pumpkin life cycle. When our unit was over, we decided to fill the pumpkin with trash from snack time and see what would happen if we buried it over the winter.  We made a list of the items, which included candy corn, apples, styrofoam bowl, wrappers, a part of a granola bar, and some extra paper.  We buried our pumpkin and waited for Earth Day.  This week, we dug up the pumpkin to see what was left.  The students wrote predictions about what we would find and then we searched through the soil.  We found that the stem, seeds, wrappers, and bowl were left, but everything else was gone!  We discussed composting, recycling, and biodegradable materials!


pumpkin 2.jpg pumpkin 1.jpg

Second Grade:
Empire’s 2nd grade classrooms enjoy a unique partnership with the Freeport Park District and the University of Illinois Extension Service.  For several years, our grade has walked to Read Park for an Arbor Day Celebration that includes the boys and girls helping to plant trees, educational centers that teach our science learning standards, and an awareness of our individual environmental responsibilities.  A few highlights of our day this year included a study of seed dispersal, the needs of plants, preserving the Pecatonica watershed, and planting a Kentucky Coffee Tree.  We are grateful for our community support in teaching learning standards and in raising responsible citizens.

Third Grade:
Third grade worked hard all year preparing for the PARCC assessment through RtI and classroom instruction.  When it came time for the assessment, students were still very nervous. The third grade teachers gave them a chance to write down their fears and concerns each day. They then tore those papers up into tiny pieces of confetti, getting rid of those fears and concerns. When all 3rd grade students had completed the PARCC assessments, they were able to celebrate by throwing the confetti up in the air and cheering with excitement.  What a wonderful celebration of hard work!

Fourth Grade:
On May 2nd, our 4th graders will be heading to Dubuque, IA, to visit the National Mississippi River Museum.  This is a culminating experience that will bring the history of Illinois living and environment to life.  We are excited to connect the lessons we’ve taught about the Native Americans to actual artifacts and natural wonders of our state.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Center Elementary Students Share Their Love for School

According to the students, Center Elementary is a great place to go to school.  When asked why recently, here were some of their responses:

  • Teachers want to know what we are interested in and then make lessons around our interests. 
  • When I learn, it is like a big question every day. They keep asking us why. This makes us think more. It is impressive that we learn so much new stuff in one day. 
  • All of my teachers have been amazing and our principal is beyond amazing. They all want us to do our best every day.
  • The teachers challenge us to do our best every day. And they make us challenge ourselves.
  • Our PE teacher chooses fun games and we are expected to get stronger.
  • Everyone at school helps me achieve my goal to be successful at school.
  • Our principal is very nice. When you get into trouble, she isn’t real mad but helps you learn from your mistake. She is always very nice to everyone.
  • My teacher believes that you can do anything you put your mind to. She tells us every day and now I believe it.
  • When we make good choices, we get assemblies from people that we would never get to see. For example, we got a magic show and the Jesse White tumblers.
  • We do Fun Friday activities when we are good during the week. We do fun things like putting a cookie on our face and trying to get it into our mouth. When we couldn’t do it, we had to talk about it and figure out a better way.
  • Each quarter we get to celebrate good behavior.  Sometimes we take field trips, like to the park and pool and other times we get assemblies. We had a carnival at the beginning of the year to remind us to make good choices and this year we are going to have a giant water balloon fight at the end of the year for being good.
  • We get to do fun things in class like Break-Out-Boxes. We have to solve clues to open locks on a box and it is challenging and fun. It takes teamwork and hard thinking. They are so much fun to do.
  • I have done a lot of exciting lessons and activities this year. We even do lessons with 21st century skills. This means we have to collaborate, be creative, use our hands, and solve problems. Sometimes it is hard, but it always fun.
  • Our teachers give us choices on the things we want to do or how we like to learn. Sometimes I don’t like to write so my teacher lets me draw to explain. And I like sitting on the floor instead of my desk. She lets me do that too.
  • We have studied more than what is in a book, like Greek myths, mystery science, and holidays around the world.
  • School is very safe and bullying is not allowed.
  • We have great technology at school and that helps us learn in different ways. We get to use our computers every day in class.
  • The teachers encourage us to have good attendance. If our class comes to school 90% of 20 days, we get a popcorn party. It inspires me to come to school.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Marching Madness at Blackhawk Elementary

During the month of March Madness our thoughts normally turn to basketball, but not at Blackhawk Elementary School. March has become “marching madness” with a kickoff for an experimental "Student vs Adult" stepping competition.

Physical Education Teacher Jason Long, Family Resource Coordinator Gigi Ditzler, and School Nurse Cyndie Bouray decided to "step up" the physical fitness of their students after Mr. Long discovered 20 pedometers in storage. The group thought it would be fun for both the school's adults and students to compete for steps throughout the school day while getting fit in the process. This evolving program has gained mileage since its start during the first full week of March, with students and adults spontaneously requesting to join in the fun.

Students are randomly selected and are given a pedometer to use while at school. They are in direct competition with a volunteer staff to see how many steps they can get while at school. One motivated student, Lupita, picks up her pedometer as soon as she is allowed in the building. For her, getting an early start on the day is important and she said she “wants to get as many steps as possible." Dyvon, another student and a fierce competitor, exclaimed, "I am always excited to know how many steps I have and if I beat Ms. Kleindl."

Principle Stacey Kleindl laughed. "I can hear students marching in place trying to increase their steps," she said. Ms. Kleindl competes against students and they check in throughout the day to see who is winning steps. It has been enjoyable and beneficial for everyone at Blackhawk.

Second Grade ELL Teacher Holly Perry reports that her entire class has picked up on the get fit craze. “I had a student in my classroom participating in the pedometer challenge with me," she said. "The other students picked up on his excitement and started asking to do exercises in between our work throughout the day. That enthusiasm has carried through and we are still doing jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, etc. every day.”

Cyndie Bouray
School Nurse, Blackhawk Elementary School

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Taylor Park Principal Shares The Importance of Family Involvement

I recently read an article that stated, “Ongoing research shows that family engagement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents' confidence in their children's education. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior.”*

Parental involvement is an integral part of a child’s educational journey. Together, we are raising the next generation. This is not an easy task and at times it can be a bit overwhelming, especially if it is done in isolation. I firmly believe the school and household must work together in unison with one common goal in mind. The goal at Taylor Park Elementary is to raise Responsible, Organized Achievers who are Respectful. The first letter of each of those words form the acronym our students model when they follow the Taylor Park Rules to ROAR each and every day.

On March 8th, Taylor Park families got involved! That evening, Taylor Park Elementary hosted a Family Involvement Night at our school. We had over 120 people in attendance, with almost 50 of them being Taylor Park students. Attendees were treated to academic stations, an AVID Elementary station, the Scholastic Book fair, a storyteller, and a “build your own” hot dog bar. For two hours, our school modeled what a cohesive partnership looks like. All attendees came together for one common goal. Knowledge was gained, smiles were observed, and hearts were warmed.

How else can families get involved? The article “The Benefits of Parent Involvement: What Research Has to Say” lays out 3 simple ways parents can get involved in their child’s education.

  1. Create a home environment that encourages learning.
  2. Express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for your children's achievement and future careers.
  3. Become involved in your children's education at school and in the community.

Taylor Park always welcomes and greatly appreciates family support. Family members are welcome any time to read to a class, work on site words or math flash cards, sit down for lunch in the cafeteria, or stop in to play a game. Many of our most challenging students act out negatively because they are seeking adult attention. We can fulfill this need by giving our children positive attention on a daily basis. 15-30 minutes of positive attention can go a long way. Together, we can make a positive impact.

Brian Lamm
Principal, Taylor Park Elementary

*The two articles I referenced in this blog post may be found below:
- "The Enduring Importance of Parental Involvement"
- "The Benefits of Parent Involvement: What Research Has to Say"