City of DeKalb

A former DeKalb mayor and long-time community activist died Sunday. Bessie Chronopoulos was 72. 

She was a teacher in Genoa-Kingston schools for more than 35 years and served on DeKalb City Council for decades before she was elected mayor in 1997. After serving one term, Chronopoulos stayed involved in politics as a fixture at city council meetings, a prolific author of “letters to the editor,” and as a voting rights advocate.  

The coldest, snowiest, most miserable time of year means one thing for many of the hardiest folk in Wisconsin – time to drag your ice auger and a bucket of shiners out onto the nearest lake.


Spectrum School

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Mary Beth Cunat! She’s the principal at Spectrum Progressive School in Rockford. Talking to Mary Beth is like taking a free master’s degree class in education. We went in-depth about what it means to be a “progressive school,” her lengthy career in education including her time at Chicago Public Schools, teaching working with her family at Spectrum as well as her love of animals (specifically we both love otters and talk about that for a while. Don’t miss it!)

Local businesses have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. Seventeen percent of U.S. restaurants have closed due to COVID-19. They’ve swung from closed, to open with restrictions, to closed again -- and some have operated in spite of mitigation rules, potentially putting customers and employees at risk for the virus. 

NIU Board Of Trustees Approves Minor Tuition Hikes

Feb 18, 2021
Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees approved a minor tuition increase for undergraduate students entering in the coming school year. This comes after five years with no change in rate. NIU President Lisa Freeman presented the rate proposal to the board.

“In the context of NIU’s commitment to accessibility, affordability and student success, the recommendation for this request is a 1.5% increase in base tuition and no change in undergraduate differential tuition rates.” 

This means the per-credit hour rate for new students will go up by $5.23 in the fall. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is offering grant funding to airports across the state to help with COVID-related expenses.

This applies to commercial airports and smaller general aviation facilities. Renee Riani is the manager of DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport. She said funding last year from the CARES Act addressed areas such as personnel costs. But the roughly $13,000 available this year will help with snow equipment.

Musicians across the world have had to accept performing without a live audience. One DeKalb folk musician has adapted to this and is still able to make a living doing what he loves.

Joe Jencks grew up in Rockford. He is the youngest of seven children. He said his family was always surrounded by music.  

Proposed Law Aims To Help Business Owners With Succession

Feb 17, 2021

A new bill could aid Illinois business owners in creating succession plans.

Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos helped introduce the legislation. She said it’s important, especially during the pandemic, to have provisions if an owner retires, falls ill or dies.

“The whole idea here is that you have almost six in 10 business owners don’t have a succession plan. These are people who in some cases, they own the only business of its kind in a community.”

Pritzker Outlines $41.6 Billion Budget With Flat Spending

Feb 17, 2021

Gov. JB Pritzker outlined a $41.6 billion budget proposal Wednesday that would hold most state agencies at flat funding levels but which relies heavily on increased federal funds as well as changes to the state’s corporate tax structure that lawmakers have not yet approved.

The budget proposal, which is only the governor’s request for lawmakers in the General Assembly, does not call for income tax increases. Over the next four months, lawmakers will work on an operating budget of their own to send to the governor which may or may not address all of his requests. 

Northern Illinois University Career Services is holding a virtual career fair Wednesday open to NIU students as well as the public.

“Frankly, our employers really appreciate being able to connect with as many candidates as possible,” says Cathy Doederlein, director of internships and external relations at the Career Services department. She says they’ve retooled all of their programs and moved them online during the pandemic.

Connie Kuntz

Snow, cold or COVID, spring is on its way and in Illinois, that means farmers will be planting soon. The University of Illinois Extension is offering a free Zoom webinar on Thursday about safety during the planting season.

History shows that agriculture-related injuries increase in the spring. Illinois Extension specialist Josie Rudolphi is one of the lecturers. She says farming is stressful and in the rush to get plants in the ground, there is always an uptick in injuries.

Beloit International Film Festival.

Drive-in movie theaters were very popular several decades ago, but the pandemic has caused interest in them to rise again. A Beloit film group is taking this movie experience to the parking lot.

The Beloit International Film Festival has a 10-day virtual festival starting Feb. 19 but some films will show outside at the Ironworks campus parking area.  

Greg Gerard is the executive director of the film festival. He said the festival wants to help diminish the community’s hunger for outside entertainment.  

Connie Kuntz

National Poetry Month isn’t until April but some Rockford high school students are preparing now for an upcoming spoken word showdown. 

Poetry Out Loud is a competition that takes place for high school students across the country. This year young poets at Jefferson High School are participating.  

Spencer Tritt

In the first varsity basketball game of the year, the gym was so quiet and the crowd so sparse, Auburn High School junior guard Robert Chaney could hear his mom yelling from the stands. 


The Knights came out slow but cruised to a blowout win against Guilford. Basketball is usually the longest sports season of the year. Get into a shooting slump? No big deal, shoot out of it, and be your best when the games really matter. Now, it’s one of the shortest seasons -- only about four weeks -- so Chaney says they have to keep their heads down.


Photo by Northern Illinois University - Pick Museum of Anthropology.

George Floyd’s death ignited protests and conversations around race relations last year. But racial tensions have existed for many years in America. A traveling exhibition featuring racist imagery has landed at Northern Illinois University. The goal is to inspire more discussions.  

Aunt Jemima on a pancake box, board games, books and other racist items are some of the objects that can be seen in the “Hateful Things” exhibition at NIU’s Pick Museum of Anthropology.

Chase Cavanaugh

2020 was the year Chicago Rockford International Airport saw the single largest amount of cargo pass through. 

Last year, 2.7 billion pounds of cargo transported to and travel through the facility. This is compared to 2.3 billion in 2019. Deputy Director of Operations and Planning Zach Oakley said it’s a sign of local economic growth.

Chase Cavanaugh

2020 was the year Chicago Rockford International Airport saw the single largest amount of cargo pass through. 

Last year, 2.7 billion pounds of cargo transported to and travel through the facility. This is compared to 2.3 billion in 2019. Deputy Director of Operations and Planning Zach Oakley said it’s a sign of local economic growth.

Boone County Health Department

Boone County is beginning to expand its COVID-19 vaccination efforts to workers in manufacturing. 



Manufacturers are partnering with the Boone County Health Department to deliver vaccinations to their employees. Amanda Mehl, with the BCDH, said these workers are among the most likely to contract the coronavirus. 


“Over the last 10-and-a-half months, we have identified that the number one exposure location for individuals here in Boone County has been in a factory setting,” said Mehl. 

Connie Kuntz

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week's episode features Christopher D. Sims. 

Sims is from the West Side of Rockford and first shared his poetic gifts onstage at Haskell Elementary School thanks to Dorothy Paige-Turner. 

Provided by Marcos Lara.

The pandemic has hammered the art industry’s finances. The effect was felt across the field according to a report by Americans for the Arts. But one Rockford artist couple found ways to keep each other going after their main sources of income temporarily disappeared.  

Why Are There Feral Swine In Illinois?

Feb 12, 2021

This Valentine’s Day the Byron Forest Preserve wants you to cuddle up on the couch and watch a free Zoom lecture about keeping feral swine out of Illinois. 

Feral swine are also known as feral hogs, wild boar, Russian boar, Eurasian boar or razorbacks. They are the same species (sus scrofa) as pigs found on farms -- but are considered feral because they are the descendants of escaped or released pigs. They look similar to farm hogs, but are leaner, have coarser fur and grow longer tusks. 

Free Tax Help Available Throughout Northern Illinois

Feb 11, 2021
Genoa Area Community Food Hub

It's income tax season and the DeKalb County Community Gardens is one of several organizations offering free tax prep help.

The nonprofit is partnering with AARP and the IRS to provide free tax assistance to anyone, especially those who are:

The Winnebago County Health Department announced mixed progress this week when it comes to COVID-19.

At a Wednesday press conference covered by WREX-TV, the Department noted that it did not receive its allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine this week. So they had to postpone some residents’ appointments as a result. However, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara complimented a low positivity rate of 4.4% .

A Princeton theatre festival is celebrating love with a virtual Valentine cabaret.   

Frank Monier is the assistant artistic director of Festival 56. He stated that the theatre didn’t do much until last November and he said the group prides itself with bringing live shows to the area. 

Spencer Tritt

The Biden Administration wants to reopen all schools within his first 100 days in office, but around half of all Illinois students are still learning remotely. DeKalb Public Schools is transitioning students to a partially in-person hybrid schedule for the first time since the pandemic began.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Count Birds!

Feb 9, 2021
Guy Stephens

The Christmas Bird Count is over but now the public is encouraged to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It's open to everyone and the premise is simple: Take 15 minutes -- or longer -- and count every bird you see. When you are done counting, upload your information to

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, Illinois is lagging behind most states. DeKalb County is in Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That includes people 65 and older as well as frontline workers and educators.

Connie Kuntz

Calling all nature lovers in northern Illinois! Severson Dells Nature Center wants you to participate in a community science program. Andrea Wallace Noble is an educator and naturalist with Severson Dells. She calls the program "a broad global idea" and a says it's a partnership between the public and professionals to "observe the world around us."

Included in that "world" are bats, bluebirds, bumble bees, frogs and plants that live in Winnebago County's forest preserve system.  

Provided by Paige Monet.

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases works by northern Illinois poets. This week we share a poem by Paige Monet Wright of FourPoets, OneMic. 

Wright was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia but moved to Illinois at the age of 14. She and her older sister were raised mainly by their mother.

Wright is a sophomore at Northern Illinois University studying biological sciences. She says she wants to be a pediatrician so that she can help children stay healthy and safe. 

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Shelly Tranchita! She’s a physical education teacher at Sycamore High School. We talked about how physical health is a vehicle for mental health, and how she focuses on mind and body wellness in her classes. With the trauma her students have endured during the pandemic, she’s started teaching about meditation along with the physical fitness. We also talk about what a virtual or socially-distant P.E. class even looks like. Hint: lots of masks and open windows for air circulation, even during the winter!