Board tries to avoid pulling strings

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. River Bluff Middle School seventh-grader Luke Soderbloom talks at Monday’s school board meeting, asking board members to keep strings programs for district fourth- and fifth-graders.

No doubt encouraged by both impassioned pleas and reasoned arguments to keep elementary orchestra programs in the district, school board members will take the next several months to consider the possibility of keeping the fifth-grade strings program.

A small but vocal group that included parents, students and music teachers attended Monday night’s Stoughton Area School District board meeting, highlighted by a discussion on a proposed phase-out of fourth- and fifth-grade orchestra programs. Parents of these students were recently notified about the district’s intention to eliminate the fourth-grade program this fall and offer only the fifth-grade program next school year. 

The district had 77 fourth-graders and 72 fifth-graders in strings programs this past year.


Parents upset with end of elementary orchestra program

The success of the four-year, $20 million referendum in April might have spared the Stoughton School District some deep, painful cuts, but it doesn’t mean some programs won’t end up on the chopping block.

That became clear last month, as district officials sent a letter to parents of third- and fourth-graders, notifying them of the phasing out of elementary school orchestra programs during the next two school years. Starting this fall, orchestra will only be offered to fifth-graders who participated last year. Those students will receive instruction twice a week, including an after-school session at River Bluff Middle School.

The matter will be taken up as a discussion item at the school board’s next meeting, slated for 7 p.m. Monday, July 14.


State student poverty rate climbing

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the percentage of public school students in the state eligible for subsidized school meals increased slightly during the past school year, continuing a decade-long trend.

For the just-completed 2013-14 school year, 43.3 percent of students were eligible for free and reduced-price school meals – a tenth of a percentage rise from the previous year, and up 13.8 percent from the 2003-04 school year. According to DPI, most public school students in federal meal programs qualify based on household income.


Eighth-grader spearheads fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s

Photos submitted. River Bluff students Destiny Lind, left, and Mackenzie Krueger embrace a student who agreed to shave her head as a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Colette Vitiritti gave up some of her time and a lot of her locks for a good cause.

It has paid off.

A fundraiser organized by Vitiritti and staged by River Bluff Middle School students had raised about $2,500 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation between online and monetary donations as of Monday, June 9.

A dozen students, including Vitiritti, and one teacher agreed to shave their heads to show support for kids who suffer from cancer, since many of those children will lose their hair during treatment. The students encourage others to donate money to support childhood cancer research.

“My cousin did it at her school,” Vitiritti, an eighth-grader at River Bluff, said. “I thought it was really neat they could raise money.”

The students shaved their heads during lunch periods on June 5. Students were made aware of the fundraiser through school announcements and posters, Vitiritti said, and the event itself was covered by Madison’s ABC affiliate, WKOW.


SHS’ Norse Star wins WNA awards

The Norse Star's March cover.

The Stoughton High School newspaper racked up six awards from this year’s Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) High School Better Newspaper Contest, including one first-place award.
Entries submitted to the contest were required to be published during the current school year from September through March.

This year’s awards consisted of third place in the General Excellence category for the entire publication, first place in Photography to senior Kimberly Wethal, two second-place awards to senior Payton Gross in Graphics and Feature Writing for her articles titled “King of Extracurriculars” and “Carl Sampson: Stoughton’s local historian and living time capsule”, respectively. A third-place award in Investigative Reporting was given to junior Kristen Nett for her article, “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you” and Erica Keenan won a third-place award in Column Writing for her “Praise Your Teachers” editor’s column.


Saying farewell: District losing more than 175 years of service

Photos by Kimberly Wethal. Fox Prairie Elementary School principal Mike Jamison, center, spent time as a school psychologist before becoming a principal.

Change is inevitable, and each year, the Stoughton Area School District loses valued and talented staff members to retirement, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.

Nine long-serving staff members are retiring this month after serving the district for 175 1/2 years, and the parting will be bittersweet. Carol Riley, Mike Jamison and Lisa Thompson have 77 of those years between them, and while caring for their students’ success was always a common thread, they all took very different routes to get to Stoughton.

Carol Riley

River Bluff Middle School reading teacher Carol Riley became a teacher because she loved working with kids, and had that as a goal even before she herself started school.

“I always talked about being a teacher when I was growing up,” she said. “Teachers have always been a part of my life and have inspired me.”


SHS senior heads to China, Stanford

Stoughton High School senior Amara McCune is wrapping up a school year in which she’s earned many honors, and is continuing into a busy summer before attending Stanford University in the fall.  

McCune recently won a special award $2,000 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair earlier this month in Los Angeles. She was selected for the fair after winning second place at the Badger State Science and Engineering Fair.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, providing an annual forum for more than 1,700 high school students from over 70 countries, regions, and territories to showcase their independent research and compete for more than $5 million in awards, according to the website. Finalists qualify for Intel ISEF by participating in local, regional, state, or national fairs associated with Society for Science and the Public.


Goodbye, for good: SHS graduation photos

The class of 2014 said goodbye to Stoughton High School for good Sunday as they received their diplomas.


Energy savings pay off for district

Saving money on energy continues to reap benefits for the Stoughton Area School District (SASD). The district was one of just nine in the state to have all its K-12 schools earn the Energy Star certification, meaning buildings average 35 percent less energy use than typical buildings.

During the past six years, SASD has received more than $30,000 in incentives from Focus on Energy for improvements that reduce energy use by more than 425,000 kilowatt-hours – equivalent to the energy use of about 50 average-sized Wisconsin homes for one year. Representatives from Stoughton Utilities and the statewide program Focus on Energy have assisted the school district with measuring and tracking its energy use, identifying and implementing energy-efficiency updates in the schools and securing financial incentives.  

Stoughton Utilities Director Bob Kardasz said it’s a well-deserved honor for the school district.


SHS senior takes home award for painting

Photo submitted. “The Octopus,” Gabbie Bahrke’s acrylic on canvas submission to the annual Badger Conference Art Exhibit, earned second place honors in the painting and prints category.

Stoughton High School senior Gabby Bahrke was awarded second place in the painting and prints category in the annual Badger Conference Art Exhibit on display at The Stream on the campus of Edgewood College in Madison.

One hundred young artists are participating in this year’s exhibit. They come from 11 of the 14 Badger Conference schools: Baraboo, Fort Atkinson, Edgewood, Milton, Monona Grove, Monroe, Mt. Horeb, Oregon, Portage, Sauk Prairie and Stoughton.

The Badger Conference exhibit opened on May 18 and will be up through June 7 at The Stream, Edgewood College’s new visual and theatre arts center.

“This is a very good looking show,” said Mary Ann Germanson, one of two judges for the exhibit.

She is an art instructor at Viterbo College in LaCrosse and the co-author of “The Bookmaking Experience.”

“There are some very talented young artists represented in this show,” Germanson said.