Student performances and art galleries featured at the April 8 Fine Arts Festival
East Aurora School District 131 will host its Fine Arts Festival on April 8 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Student artists, musicians and actors, from elementary school through high school, will showcase their talent at East Aurora High School, 500 Tomcat Lane, Aurora.
Performances will begin at 9 a.m. in the Arlene Hawks Auditorium. The auditorium lobby, as well as the commons area, will feature art galleries that will be open throughout the duration of the event. Over 750 pieces of elementary artwork will be on display.
The Festival will feature dramatic performances in the Little Theatre. In the gymnasium, bands from various East Aurora schools will perform musical selections. There will be choral shows in the Hawks Auditorium. And the first-floor hallways will be filled with paintings, drawings, photographs and other student artwork.
Brian Liska, Director of Bands at East High, said he was most excited about the elementary and middle school students having an opportunity to hear the wind ensemble perform. “It’s a great event to see the progression of band from 5th grade to high school.”
Liska said his high school students look forward to the event as well. “My students really enjoy hearing the 5th grade band because it reminds them of when they started, and just how far they have come in their abilities in just five to seven years.”
The Fine Arts Festival is a tradition in East Aurora School District 131 for more than 25 years, and incorporates the work of all grade levels.
This year a free activity area will be set up in the cafeteria featuring a balloon artist, face painting, and opportunities to take a selfie with artwork.
JoEllen Jacobs, teacher at Gates Elementary and one of the event organizers, said she enjoys watching the students as they participate. “It's always fun to see the students beam with pride as they show off their artwork to family and friends.”
Schedules and programs will be available at the event to guide visitors toward performances. Admission and parking are free.
East High Tomcats help choose furniture for new classrooms
Students at East High have been busy with school work, extracurricular activities, and testing these days.
But many have also taken some time to check out furniture options for the new classrooms now currently under construction.
Recently officials at East High set up a room full of furniture, inviting students to review some of the possible selections for individual seating, the cafeteria, and group seating areas. Students were then asked to write down their feedback.
"Pretty rad!” one student wrote. “A lot of room to do work."
"Great idea for groups," wrote another. “Perfect amount of space. Comfy."
"It spins. I love it,"
And when they didn't approve, they shared that, too. "The back of the chair is uncomfortable," a student wrote.
Having students involved in the furniture choices made sense to district officials, as well as Principal Marina Kosak. "This is their school," said Kosak. "The students are the ones who will use the furniture and they should have a voice in the process."
On a recent morning, students checked out a unique chair from a company called Ruckus.
The chair purposely has generously-sized seating for an “as you like it” sitting experience. East High students tried it out as the company intended, by sitting sideways, backwards, even on top of the chair.
Tomcat Vanessa Montalvo was one of the chair testers. “I loved this chair. It was different than what we have now, and it's very comfortable. It would make class fun.”
In all, over 400 students and many teachers reviewed about 20 pieces of furniture, including desks, chairs for computer labs, library chairs, a cafeteria table, a teacher desk, and visitor chairs.
Kosak said they will be reviewing student feedback when it comes time to make those important decisions about furniture for the 20 new classrooms, new cafeteria and library, all of which will be completed in August.
"The younger students were a little shy about the process," said principal Kosak. "The older students were really into the process and provided a lot of feedback."
Montalvo really liked the fact that students were involved. “It makes coming to school more fun because it shows that we have a voice.”
Simmons Middle School Drama Club presents "Check Please" March 21
Simmons Middle School's Drama Club will present "Check Please" on Tuesday, March 21 at 5 p.m. on stage in the school gymnasium.
Simmons Middle School is located at 1130 Sheffer Road, Aurora.
"Check Please" is a play about a series of bad blind dates that couldn't get any worse—until they do. Could there possibly be a light at the end of the tunnel?
Eric Curtis, Simmons Middle School Drama Teacher and Club Director, says the students are all very excited about the performance. "We started drama club in September, and we have really been working hard on the actual show the last few months."
Immediately following the performance, students will also preview the Club's student-written sketches for the Fine Arts Festival.
Admission is free and concessions will be sold at the performance.
Cowherd Middle School Principal Named “Illinois Middle School Principal of the Year”
Ms. Crystal England, principal of Cowherd Middle School in Aurora, has been named the “2017 Illinois Middle School Principal of the Year” by the Illinois Principals Association.
The award is presented from sponsor Horace Mann and Illinois Principals Association (IPA), who recognizes middle school principals who have demonstrated a positive impact on their students and learning community.
“Like all administrators, I wear many hats,” said England. “My passion as an educator has always been to work with students who face challenges.”
"Our students are often disenfranchised and marginalized, and the joy I have in coming to work each day is knowing that in our work as a school, we make a positive impact on our students and our community.”
The Middle School Principal of the Year winner was selected from a pool of region nominees provided by the 21 regions of the Illinois Principals Association.
In naming England with the award, IPA recognizes her as a principal who:
• Demonstrates a positive impact on education and advocacy for children;
• Ensures the school climate is positive and reflects high staff and student morale;
• Demonstrates creativity and imagination in bringing about positive change;
• Willing to take risks to improve student learning;
• Moves actively to implement the goals and objectives of the school;
• Works collaboratively with teachers and other staff to improve the educational program and student achievement;
• Anticipates emerging problems and acts effectively to resolve them; and
• Involves the community in the life of the school and uses community resources for students.
Ms. England will be recognized at the IPA’s annual Education Leaders Fall Conference in October, and will receive a $1,000 honorarium.
The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization serving over 5,200 educational leaders throughout Illinois.
East Aurora School District 131 food recovery program impacts greater Aurora community
Teachers and staff refer to them as “sharing baskets.”
The baskets sit on a table in designated area at East Aurora High School cafeteria, as well as at the Fred Rodgers Magnet Academy and three middle schools, Waldo, Simmons and Cowherd.
On some days the baskets don’t hold much, while other days they are filled with fruit juice, fresh fruit, and cartons of milk.
The baskets are part of District 131’s food recovery program, now in its fourth year.
“When our district implemented the community breakfast and lunch program for our students, we noticed that a lot of food was going to waste,” said Annette Johnson, school board president at District 131. “I reached out to Simon Seibert from Sodexo and we made food recovery a reality.”
Food recovery is a plan for making sure that little or no food goes to waste within the district. When students cannot finish or choose not to finish their food, they have an alternative to throwing it out, through the food recovery program.
Items in the sharing baskets are meant for any student to take, and many times students will take fruit from the basket and eat it as a snack later in the day.
At the end of the lunch periods, however, the remaining food items are recovered for local food pantries.
Recovered items are transported to Waldo Middle School, and then taken by district personnel twice a week to the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry and Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry.
“We also save and share our leftover heated meals,” said Johnson. “These are frozen and donated.”
She’s referring to another component of the program where all leftover heated food that is of good quality—from Magnet Academy, the middle schools, and the high school, is first cooled and then frozen, following Sodexo’s strict food safety procedures.
The frozen food from the various buildings is collected and made available to Wayside Cross Ministries, a nonprofit that picks up recovered food at Waldo once a week for use in their kitchen.
On a recent day, George Bavas from Wayside arrived at Waldo for a pick up.
“This helps us feed about 100 hungry men, three times a day,” said Bavas, as he loaded boxes of recovered food. “With a very small food budget we appreciate the District saving it for us.”
For Johnson and others, the district’s food recovery program is an important and tangible way to share resources within the community.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, 40% of the food in the United States is never eaten. But at the same time, one in eight Americans struggles to put enough food on the table.
Simon Seibert, general manager for Sodexo, the food service supplier for District 131’s high school and middle schools, says the program has made a tremendous impact.
“Between all of the schools, we recover approximately 17,000 pounds of food each year,” said Seibert.
As a result of the progress made at District 131, Seibert says other school districts have started similar programs with Sodexo and facilitated by the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
Those districts include West Aurora District 129, Geneva School District 304, and Belvidere School District 100, with more to be added soon.
“But it all started with East Aurora,” Seibert said, adding that a national nonprofit, Food Recovery Network, has even recognized the district. “East Aurora District 131 is the only school district in the country designated as ‘Food Recovery Verified.”
Seibert added that officials at Northern Illinois Food Bank believe school district food recovery programs, like the one at East Aurora, have the potential to close the gap between what their clients need and what the organization is able to procure to fill those needs.
Johnson admits that food recovery is a passion for her. “A tremendous amount of food is thrown away daily in our country. We’re proud of this program because food recovery is a way for our district to impact our community of Aurora in a unique way.”
Mr. Tomcat to be crowned during East High’s annual Prom Fashion Show on March 23
Four East Aurora High School seniors will compete to be Mr. Tomcat at the annual Prom Fashion Show on Thursday, March 23. Vincent Delao, Jose "Pepe" Martinez, Joaquin Oscar Miranda, and Juan Perez will all compete for the title.
The show will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 in the Hawks Auditorium at East Aurora High School, 500 Tomcat Lane, Aurora. The public is invited. Tickets are $5 at the door. Students can buy $3 tickets during lunch hour. Children 12 years old or younger are free.
“Participants love the entire process of the show,” said Laura Pedroni, East High teacher and German Honor Society Sponsor. “They go to get fitted for dresses and tuxedos. The rehearsals are a lot of fun. And the Mr. Tomcat nominees are always the highlight of the show.”
In order to compete in the Mr. Tomcat contest, the students had to have good grades and be actively involved in their school. The four East Aurora seniors will then be judged in four areas: formal wear, bathing suit, talent and question-and-answer.
Four East Aurora High School staff members will serve as judges: French teacher Sarah Birdsall, social studies teacher Ken Gerk, math teacher Gary Hoyne, and ROTC instructor William Moore.
More than 100 students are involved in the production, from backstage work, to models, to serving as emcees for the night.
The event is sponsored by the German National Honors Society.
The competition is supported through donations from Camilla's Boutique, Aurora; David’s Bridal, Aurora; Formally Modern Tuxedo, Aurora; Men’s Wearhouse, Aurora; and Ocon’s Creations, Aurora.
Cowherd’s Cooking Cougars clean up at competition
Student chefs from Aurora’s Cowherd Middle School won two of four trophies in the fifth Top Healthy Chef cooking contest at Aurora University’s alumni cafeteria, Wednesday afternoon, March 8.
Young chefs from four area middle schools including Cowherd, Herget and Granger in Aurora and Bednarcik in Oswego competed in the final round, a 30-minute cookoff to create a healthy breakfast from a surprise basket of ingredients.
Earlier contests featured healthy salads (2016), sandwiches (2015), pizza (2013) and snacks (2011).
Cowherd’s team, the Cooking Cougars, comprised Assyria Balfour, seventh grader; Charisma Farmer, eighth grader; Bryan Hernandez, sixth grader; and Mykael Williams, seventh grader. They won awards for best presentation and judges’ award for best overall creation.
Other award winners were Granger Middle School’s Eggbeaters who received the Chef’s Award and Healthy Huskies from Herget Middle School, Aurora, for best tasting dish. The Bulldog Breakfast Ninjas from Bednarcik Junior High School, Oswego, also competed.
Contest emcee Zaida Rodriguez, community relations coordinator for Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, presented awards.
Judges were Robert J. O’Connor, Aurora mayor; Sherry Eagle, Aurora University; Faith LaShure, Communities in Schools board president; Barbara Jeffers, executive director, Kane County Health Department; James Wurst, chef, Sodexo food service-Aurora University; and Larry Fullmer, Sodexo district manager-schools.
The event was part of the Kane County Fit Kids 2020 initiative, designed to promote making healthy eating fun for county kids during the next three years.
Preliminary contests involved teams from nine Aurora-area middle schools.
(Al Benson photo)
East Aurora Student Services to host parent meeting on effective praise and encouragement
East Aurora School District 131's Student Services will host a parent meeting, “Effective Praise and Encouragement” on Tuesday, March 21, from 6 to 7 p.m.
The meeting takes place at Benavides Kindergarten Center, 250 E. Indian Trail, Aurora (enter door #1).
School Psychologist KaliQa Nicholas will present frequently-asked questions about praise, and introduce parents to the concept of praise, encouragement, and social rewards (PES), and why it’s important to a child. Parents will hear different scenarios of effective and ineffective ways of using PES.
Spanish interpretation and childcare will be provided.