High school ACT scores reach new high

Stoughton High School’s class of 2014 graduates set a new high for average ACT scores for the school in 17 years of data.

According to figures released last week by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2014 graduates averaged a composite score of 23.8 out of a possible 36 points on the college entrance exam, up from the class of 2013 score of 23.4, which was tied for the highest in the time period for which data is available.

To contrast the score increase, however, the district’s participation rate dropped from 66 percent to 64.8, though that is still the second-highest rate among the seven years of data available on WISEdash, DPI’s information portal.

Among 19 non-alternative Dane County high schools, Stoughton had the sixth-highest average, behind Middleton-Cross Plains (25.4), Waunakee (25.3), Oregon (24.7), Verona (24.5) and Madison West (24.1).


Back to School photos

School is back in session in Stoughton. Students started their new routines Tuesday at Sandhill Elementary School.


SASD: 5 things to watch for in 2014-15

Photo submitted. Kegonsa Elementary School teacher James Young works with a student during science class.

Fresh off the momentum of a successful spring referendum that breathed new financial life into the school district, a next looming problem to solve for district officials would seem to be a long-term declining enrollment dilemma.

Still, with a recently climbing graduation rate (97 percent last year) and a growing reputation for facilities like its “Fab Lab” and innovative learning, the district is in position to stake its claim as a “premier” school in the state, as district superintendent Tim Onsager said earlier this summer.

While the recent drop in state aid to schools has seemed to stabilize, a possible political challenge to the state’s recently adopted “Common Core” standards could have some major effects on the district, as well.

Here are some of the stories and trends we’ll be following this year:

Referendum rebound


District adds new leaders

Photos by Scott De Laruelle. New Kegonsa Elementary School principal Don Charpentier is already feeling at home at his new school.

Keeping a building full of energetic, curious young kids entertained and educated all day is quite a chore. But new Stoughton Area School District elementary school principals Krista Huntley Rogers and Don Charpentier wouldn’t have it any other way as they start their new jobs.

Huntley Rogers takes over at Fox Prairie Elementary for long-time principal Mike Jamison, who retired during the summer. Charpentier succeeds Fred Trotter, who has moved to River Falls Middle School to be co-principal with Trish Gates.

Huntley Rogers has some ties to her new school, as she lived in Stoughton briefly when she was younger, and her sister attended Fox Prairie when it was an intermediate school. After some travel around the country and the state, she said she’s glad to be back in the area.

“Stoughton has a great reputation (and) we thought it would be a great district to raise a family in,” Huntley Rogers said.

Huntley Rogers: Career move


SASD seeks feedback on website

The Stoughton Area School District is seeking input for a planned redesign of its website through a brief online survey. SASD is seeking feedback about how to improve its website to meet the needs of students, staff, families and community members.

District officials are hoping to launch a redesigned website sometime during the 2014-15 school year, and the survey is intended to provide feedback to help guide their next steps. The survey will be open through Thursday, Aug. 28 and can be accessed at


Work projects to give new look in 2014-15

Summer vacation may be in its third month for many Stoughton Area School District students, but construction workers have been plenty busy in the meantime, helping to build or upgrade a variety of facilities in preparation for the new school year to start next month.

From remodeling the Stoughton High School facade and improving lighting on the football field to reconfiguring rooms at River Bluff Middle School, work has been ongoing since students’ last day of the season in June.

District buildings and grounds supervisor Scott Adams updated the school board Monday night on a variety of projects; most finished, and some nearing completion.

“It’s been a busy summer; a very productive summer,” he said.

Traffic marking is underway at the schools, as workers re-stripe the pavement, and about 30 new projectors are being installed in various schools. Rooms were re-configured at River Bluff Middle School after much planning.


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.