2000-09: Looking back at the decade that changed Kaneland

By on February 26, 2010

by Jessica Corbett and Zach Brown
Kaneland Krier Editors

Kaneland—Over 3,300 students have graced the halls of Kaneland High School in the last decade. They have witnessed skyrocketing class sizes, resulting in a sudden increase in cultural diversity.

They have heard the pounding of hammers and nail guns as the high school made the transition from an 800-student capacity to a 1,600-student capacity building.

Classes have been cut, expanded upon and added to the curriculum. Teachers and principals have come and gone. New clubs have been formed, and various sports teams have experienced successful seasons.

A lot has happened in 10 years, and a lot has changed.

“Change, no matter what kind of change, is hard for everyone,” history teacher Scott Parillo said.
Looking back on the last 10 years at Kaneland High School, some may not even recognize what it once was.

New principals

Dr. Dan Bertrand, Mike Davis, Tony Valente and Dr. Greg Fantozzi: four principals in 10 years.
These four men have all served as KHS principals in the last decade.

Bertrand, Davis and Valente have all moved on to administrative positions at other districts, and Fantozzi has just joined KHS for the 2009-10 school year, as well as being the interim principal continuing through the 2010-11 school year.

Bertrand served as principal from 1995 to 2005, and went on to become superintendent of Marengo School District.

“He had advanced his degree and wanted a superintendent position,” Sayasane said.

Following Bertrand was Davis, who served as principal from 2005 to 2007, after which he “moved to a place where he had deep family roots,” McCormick said.

In 2007, Valente entered the scene, but only served as principal from 2007-09, resigning to become the principal at Springhill High School in Roselle, Ill.

“Mr. Valente decided to resign later in the year, when he was offered the position,” McCormick said.

His place was filled by the newest principal, Fantozzi.

Although this is Fantozzi’s first year at Kaneland, he did have a special connection to the school before accepting the position as interim principal.

“Dr. Fantozzi had been Mr. Valente’s mentor,” McCormick said.

Typically, interim principals only stay for one year, but not in Kaneland’s case.

“With the budget situation that we’re in, we felt that stability in the staffing pattern was important,” McCormick said. “So Dr. Fantozzi decided to stay another year.”

It is the plan that, next year, a new principal will be hired for the 2011-12 school year.

Steininger said that changing principals definitely impacts the high school.

The principals have “different views on how things should be done,” she said.

Steininger said that, as principals change, there are also changes made within the school.

“There haven’t been drastic changes,” she said. “They’re smaller, but they add up.”

There is some concern among the administration with frequent changes in administrators.

“The length of time an administrative system is in the district is usually correlative with test scores,” McCormick said. “So it is difficult to get a consistent improvement effort at the high school.”

But McCormick was optimistic, and expressed hope of “building things back up” with the incoming principal.

Size and diversity
The high school enrollment has grown by leaps and bounds, from 803 students enrolled in 2000 to 1,300 students for the 2009-10 school year.

“I think we’re starting to see more cultures coming into the School District,” Parillo said. “As any growth happens, there’s always going to be diversity.”

Diversity impacts schools in different ways.

“In theory, it ought to bring a broader perspective to a setting,” McCormick said.

Sayasane and Parillo said that increased diversity has not affected their classrooms, but it may impact how students interact with each other.

“Increased diversity can sometimes lead to racial jokes or slurs, but for the most part, students at Kaneland seem to get along,” junior Michael Caballero said. “People are more accepting of other cultures (when diversity is increased).”

Students can also learn from their classmates’ varied cultural backgrounds.

“Learning about other cultures and their belief systems is very good for everybody,” Parillo said.

Also, as growth and diversity increase, classes and the curriculum have more options.

“The bigger population helps us offer a broader curriculum,” McCormick said. “We can offer more sections of a class.”

As growth continues, the school may become even more diversified.

“We have become a more diverse school district,” McCormick said. “(But) compared to other schools, our number of students with diverse ethnic backgrounds is still relatively small.”

Sports teams
From memorable games to some teams competing at state, Kaneland sports has had quite a decade.

With the exception of 2007, Kaneland varsity football qualified for the playoffs every year in the last decade.

In 2006, with All-State players like Casey Crosby and Boone Thorgesen, the team won conference.

In the last 10 years, wrestling became a AA school in the 2000-01 season, which former wrestling coach Gary Baum described as the “big school class.”

In 2006, Kaneland wrestlers reset the record for most wins in dual matches and had both conference champions and regional champions, as well as three additional state qualifiers.

Baum gives most of this credit to the fact that most Kaneland wrestling coaches were former Kaneland graduates.

In basketball, senior David Dudzinski recently scored his 1,000th point in a game against Burlington.

Last year, the boys’ varsity basketball team won a tournament in Plano, against 16 other teams.

A variety of teams at the high school have achieved great success in their seasons over the last 10 years.

As of 1997, District 302 consisted of only two buildings on one campus. The district has since grown to seven buildings spanning the 140-square-mile district.

Up until that point, elementary and middle school students attended school at the former
middle school, and high school students were taught at the current high school.

The Kaneland School District expanded in 1998, with a total of four schools in the district. Two identical elementary schools were opened, located in Elburn and Sugar Grove. The new elementary schools were named Kaneland North and Kaneland South.

The district has expanded even more in the last decade, constructing two more elementary schools, one in Elburn and another in Montgomery. This year marked the opening of a new middle school, which is located on Harter Road in Sugar Grove. This building took the place of the former middle school, which is located on the same campus as the high school.

KHS has also experienced building changes in the last 10 years. Due to extensive additions and reconstruction, the high school has doubled in size, McCormick said.

Such expansions include the auditorium and the current cafeteria, as well as the music wing, which houses the band and choir rooms.

Junior Kendall Renaud, who is involved in band and the school plays, has personally experienced the effects of the additions.

“I think (the additions) are helping the arts programs, now that we have new band and choir rooms,” Renaud said.

The fitness and wrestling rooms were also added, and the library was gutted and renovated, McCormick said.

Since the library was renovated, the book collection has doubled in size, librarian Lorna Code said.

“It looks like a college library,” she said. “You almost had to see it before to know how lucky we are.”

Discipline and rules
The frequent administrative staffing changes have impacted a particular aspect of the high school: rules.

Senior Matt Larsen said that, as Kaneland has transitioned from principals Davis to Valente to Fantozzi, things seem to have gotten much stricter.

Superintendent Dr. Charles McCormick said that it’s more the enforcement of certain rules that changes, rather than altering the rules or policies.

“Principals vary on how things are interpreted and how things are emphasized,” McCormick said.

“If a rule is not communicated enough to students or parents, then it will be changed or altered,” McCormick said. “But I don’t think there has been a huge change in topics.”

He said that changes are often due to changes in state or federal laws, or specific circumstances.

“Look at the way cell phones have changed in the last 10 years,” McCormick said.

“We’ve been all over the map on the cell phone policy,” English teacher Jennifer Sayasane said.

In an effort to remove the distraction posed by cell phones, the current policy states that students must leave cellular phones off and in lockers while school is in session, McCormick said.

The ID policy, which requires all students and staff to wear IDs, has also been implemented.

“I don’t think it’s a huge deal, having to wear IDs,” junior Charlene Steininger said. “But I don’t think students like wearing them.”