Rockford Public Schools

Chase Cavanaugh

At the beginning of the school year, Rockford Public Schools experienced a ransomware cyberattack knocking out digital equipment across the district. More than a month later, the technology is still not all the way back.

The most important services, like their online grading and attendance systems just returned at the end of last week. But, whether they work perfectly or not can still be hit and miss.

Mel Gilfillan is the president of the Rockford Education Association. He said he’s been hearing similar concerns from teachers in the district.

State Of The Artist: Here, Go Make Some Stuff

Aug 9, 2019
Connie Kuntz

Every morning at Art Camp, the bell rings at 10:30 and nearly 30 kids from Rockford and Peoria gather in a circle and "sing hello." That means every child is musically greeted by their name so they know they are welcomed, recognized, and loved. After the song, the campers break off into groups organized by age. They learn different disciplines of art including dance, drama, visual arts, gardening and cooking.  This is Ann Rundall's Art Camp. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Schools are putting more emphasis on STEM education, but that doesn't mean they're leaving the liberal arts or interpersonal skills behind.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and educators at all levels are encouraging students to study these subjects. Much of this has to do with the economic growth of Silicon Valley and the higher salaries that jobs in the tech sector can provide. Exposing students to these more advanced subjects can start as early as elementary and middle school.

Chase Cavanaugh

Police can be called to school for emergencies, but they also have a regular presence in the form of resource officers.

Last May, a former student opened fire at Dixon High School’s gym during graduation practice.  Resource Officer Mark Dallas pursued the shooter after he heard the gunfire, and stopped him with a non-fatal shot to the shoulder.  Dallas’s story made national news, and he was hailed as a hero for preventing a massacre. 

Victoria Lunacek

School buses are ubiquitous in northern Illinois. For parents, they're key to getting children to school, and for everyone, they're a significant presence on the road. Brian Scott is Terminal Manager for the buses at Rockford Public Schools. He says it's important for drivers to obey the stop sign that swings out when the buses are unloading children.

"If you are on a two-lane road and you are trailing a school bus or approaching a school bus, all traffic needs to stop when that stop sign comes out," he said.

The Rockford Public Schools Board will vote on several changes to next year's Student Code of Conduct at Tuesday night's regular meeting.

Flickr user Pictures of Money / "Money" (CC BY 2.0)

High school students in northern Illinois will soon have the opportunity to work at a credit union inside their school.

Rockford Bell Credit Union will open a branch inside Guilford High School this fall, the Rockford Register Star reports.

"Am I Next? Student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws" by Flickr user Lorie Shaull / (CC x 2.0) /

Students from several high schools in northern Illinois are preparing for the national school walk-out on Wednesday.

In Rockford, Jefferson High School senior Roberto Vargas says he is one of several students who are organizing a walk-out at the school to protest gun violence and to call for gun-law reform in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 14 students and three school staff members.

Vargas says he hopes all 1,700 students at Jefferson walk out in solidarity Wednesday. He and his friends planned this so students can make their voices heard.

Last week, the Illinois governor’s budget address outlined several proposals to reduce state spending. One focuses on K-12 schools.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants public school districts to begin “cost sharing” their employees’ state pensions over the next few years. Districts would be responsible for 25 percent of their pension cost during the first year, then an additional 25 percent each of the following three years. He said this overhaul is a fiscal necessity.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It’s been 24 years since a federal magistrate proclaimed the Rockford Public Schools had “raised discrimination to an art form” and ordered the schools to desegregate.

The court remedy set up a system of school choice, which led to racially balanced schools. In 2010, the order was lifted and the district chose to return to “zoned schools.” Students now attend schools close to their homes -- but that has led to re-segregation.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Rockford Public School District is hosting a teacher job fair for those looking to move forward in their careers in sculpting young minds.

Some specific areas of teaching will be special targets, but Mercedes Brain – the Director of Talent Acquisition for Rockford Public Schools – says that shouldn’t discourage anyone from attending the fair.

Rockford Public Schools

Two Rockford public high schools made the national Washington Post Most Challenging High Schools list this year.

Auburn High School ranked 13th in Illinois, and Guilford High School was 53rd in the state -- and both made the top 2,000 in the country.

The Rockford School Board voted 5-2 in favor of a bid from Ohio-based First Student to outsource its bus driver jobs.

The bid was around $35.7 million over three years,  according to the Rockford Register Star. If the bid is accepted, Rockford Public Schools would retain control of its fleet and bus routes. Current bus drivers would be hired at existing pay and benefit levels, but they no longer would pay into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

"School buses" by Flickr User JohnPickenPhoto / (CC BY 2.0)

The Rockford School Board is considering a plan that would outsource management of its school bus service for 18,000 passengers per day.

District leaders discussed a potential bid with “First Student” during a public hearing last night, according to the Rockford Register Star.

WNIJ/Susan Stephens

Anthony Dixon won the race for a seat on the Rockford School Board with a Queen of Clubs.  

Eight write-in candidates battled it out for the sub-district A seat in the April 4 election.

Tuesday, the winner was determined by flipping over two playing cards at the Winnebago County Administration Building in Rockford.

According to letters sent to Dixon and fellow write-in candidate Brandi Brown, a total of 517 ballots cast for the eight write-in candidates in the April 4 election resulted in a tie.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Nearly two weeks after a strike from the district’s bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and food service workers, a contract deal isn’t in close reach.

AFSCME represents the workers who protested what they call “dead end contract negotiations.” 

Ed Sadlowski, with the labor union, says the strike was successful in giving school employees a voice.

“It’s a new awareness and a new understanding about what needs to happen and how, and the very appropriate approach to when you’re encountered being provoked to strike, just how do it," he said.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Update, 3/16/17 12:30 pm: This morning, the district released Wednesday's student attendance totals for all grade levels.  The official average attendance across the district was 77%. That's down from 92% the previous Wednesday. 

School attendance was down in Rockford on the first day of a three-day strike by school support workers.

Elementary school attendance in Rockford Public Schools was at 81%. That's down 12% from last Wednesday. Some parents had a hard time getting their children to class without school bus service.

rps205.com

Hundreds of Rockford School District employees are picketing at schools throughout the city as a three-day strike gets underway.

Rockford Public Schools

About 900 Rockford Public Schools workers, including bus drivers, food sevice employees, and paraprofessionals begin a three-day strike Wednesday.  

During that time, schools will remain open.  However, there will be no buses to take students to school. The only students with bus service are those transported by Sunrise, a contractor unaffiliated with AFSCME Local 31, which is organizing the strike. 

Rockford-area teachers received several honors at this year’s Golden Apple awards. 

The Rockford Register Star reports two schools had teachers that won the award for the first time.  Jared Young of Belvidere North High School and Sarah Schaefer of Roosevelt Community Education Center were honored in such a way.  Linda Julian of Willowbrook Middle School also became the longest-tenured award winner, with 39 years of experience.  

A program designed to get more minority teachers into Illinois classrooms is turning directly to the public for support. 

Rockford Public Schools

The Rockford School Board voted to adopt its “last, best and final” contracts for several groups of employees, including bus drivers, food-service workers, and paraprofessionals.  

The measures would result in $1.7 million more in spending for bus drivers over the next three years, $178,287 for food service workers over the next two years, and $1.5 million over the next three years for paraprofessionals.  This increased spending also means annual raises.   

"Faucet Drip 1" by Flickr User Eric Norris / (CC BY 2.0)

Several Rockford public schools tested positive for lead in their drinking water. 

The Register-Star reports 22 samples at seven schools had concentrations higher than the EPA standard of 15 parts per billion.  Those faucets were immediately taken out of service and are being replaced. 

The affected schools are Gregory, Conklin, Haskell Year-Round Academy, Johnson, McIntosh, Carlton, and Bloom.    

Rockford Public Schools

The time to file petitions to run for office in the upcoming local elections came and went, but no one filed a petition for one Rockford school board seat.

There were no petitions filed in time for those to be listed in the primary elections for the Rockford School Board Subdistrict A seat. That’s according to the Winnebago County Clerk’s office.

However, those who want to file as write-in candidates for the seat for the April 4th election have until the beginning of February to do so. If no one files to run for office, then someone is appointed for the position.

Rockford Public Schools pushed back its final exams because of inclement weather. 

Normally, these would have started Monday.  But principals closed down schools when a fifth of their bus fleet failed to start Monday morning.

Principals agreed to push back finals by one day.  This means students will take their last set of exams on January 9, after winter vacation.  That date also is the end of the grading period. 

Teachers plan to hold a 20-minute review session before each test that day.  RPS says families should expect report cards by January 16th.

Rockford Police Department

The Rockford Police Department plans to spread holiday cheer to elementary school students this week.

Officers and command staff will be at the schools for about a half hour near the end of the day.  They'll hand out candy canes and talk with the students as they leave for the day.

 

Most of the visits will take place Tuesday and Wednesday.  They were also scheduled for today, but Rockford Public Schools are closed due to severe weather. 

 

Rockford School Bus Drivers Approve Strike

Nov 2, 2016
"SCHOOL BUSES" BY FLICKR USER JOHNPICKENPHOTO / (CC X 2.0)

Bus drivers are giving a greenlight for AFSCME Local 1275 to call a strike if a contract agreement isn’t reached.

The previous contract with the workers and the Rockford School District expired in June.

Main points of contention are wages and health insurance costs.

Ed Sadlowski, with the union, says the bus drivers are struggling to make ends meet.

"School buses" by Flickr User JohnPickenPhoto / (CC BY 2.0)

Around 100 Rockford Public Schools bus drivers picketed in front of the district’s bus terminal at 2000 Christina Street.

They chanted: “No Green, No Yellow,” warning of a possible strike if contract negotiations continue to drag on between the district and AFSCME.  The main sticking points include requests for higher wages and concern over employee contributions to health insurance.   

afscme.org

AFSCME members spoke out at a Rockford school board meeting Tuesday and held a march  in favor of higher wages for bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and food service workers.  

Current wages for bus drivers are $16,181, $14,280 for paraprofessionals and $11,373 for nutrition services workers. Advocates  say current these levels aren't enough to adequately support  families, and believe Rockford Public Schools can afford higher raises.  

Rockford Public Schools

Negotiations continue in Rockford  between the Public Schools and property owners to expand into areas around Lincoln Middle School and Kishwaukee Elementary School. 

The Register-Star reports Board members learned of four negotiated purchases Tuesday night near both sites, while eminent domain authority was approved for two lots on Second Avenue. 

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