Jan. 16-22, 2013

The WoodsTock IndependenT



Making peace with Old Man Winter
Despite the fact I was born in the Midwest, I have never really been a coldweather person. As a child, I loved playing in the snow, building snowmen, having snowball fights with my brothers and creating snow angels – but all that changed when I got my first car and had to suffer through the task of scraping the frigid elements off my vehicle every winter. I also have not enjoyed fishtailing along patches of ice on slippery roadways, running out of windshield wiper fluid while driving along highways during snowstorms or trying to navigate my way through winter whiteouts. After I traveled to heavenly places such as Arizona and California and spent a couple winters in tropical countries, I often wondered if I was born in the wrong state or on the wrong side of the planet. But I have now learned how to enjoy the annual dance with Old Man Winter once again. On a recent trip with my boyfriend to northern Wisconsin’s Boulder Junction, I re-discovered the delights winter can bring. Last February, my first attempt at downhill skiing Rhonda did not go all that Mix smoothly as it ended with a face full of powder and a most Mix embarrassing moMessages ment when my skis went sailing through the air, high above my head. So when my boyfriend decided to introduce me to cross-country skiing, I figured it would have to be better than the harrowing experience I endured last year. Cross-country skiing felt completely different than downhill skiing. Though a few pop-up hills tried to turn me into something akin to Bambi on ice, I had a wonderful time exploring and gliding through the snow-blanketed wood. The quiet peace of the forest was much-welcomed and the exercise helped keep the coldness at bay. After working our way through a portion of the forest, we skied across a frozen lake in the Northwoods. It was the first time I’d ever ventured that far out on frozen water and I loved it – nothing around us but nature, ice and thickets of trees. We also lined up to relive the joys of snowtubing – something I hadn’t done in almost 20 years. A mechanism in the tube lift stopped working and, sadly, the lift broke right before we were about to hitch a ride up the hill. We then decided to tough it out and hike up the imposing minimountain. My boyfriend and I were both out of breath and feeling a little dizzy from the thin air by the time we reached the top, but, as the snow flew across our faces on the ride down, my inner-child grew very excited, and I felt 12 years-old once again. Later that night we enjoyed a fish fry at a local eatery as flurries began to fall across the town. When we left the restaurant, the freshly fallen snow looked as if it had spilled out from the pockets of fairies passing through, white fluff sparkling with a bit of shining magic under the moonlight. It truly was a romantic sight. Some of the bittnerness of having to endure a lifetime of harsh Midwestern winters melted away that day. I have made peace with Old Man Winter and look forward to what adventures the season will bring next.

Rhonda Mix is a staff writer for The Woodstock Independent.

schooLs eYe sAFeTY
Chief Lowen: “If it caused the hair on your neck to stand up, make the call”
continued from page 1 eras at the schools and reinforced the importance of keeping the buildings secure with the students and staff. Wesolek said noticing warning signs about a possible threat is important, whether it be in a private business or a school. “Intervene, try to get that person help,” Wesolek said. Lowen said people shouldn’t be afraid to burden the police with requests. “If it caused the hair on your neck to stand up, make the call,” he said. “We’d rather go to 400 of those than to one [tragic event].” Wesolek said the police conduct threat assessments of students if emails, Tweets or other conduct is found to be out of character or dangerous. “Our job is to be as proactive as we can,” Wrzeski said, noting D-200 staff are attuned to student behavior. “I think all of the school district takes this very seriously.” WPD and D-200 officials said recent tragedies demand a review of current emergency policies, but it doesn’t mean procedures are not already in place. Tom Landers, superintendent at Marian Central Catholic High School, said its school emergency and crisis response plan is reviewed and updated each summer with the assistance of police and fire officials. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Wesolek said the police have been asked by St. Mary School and some daycare facilities to review existing emergency plans or to help prepare new emergency plans.


Regional superintendent pushes for new school safety measures
Schermerhorn calls for “bigger toolbox” to protect students
By KATELYN STANEK The Independent Regional Superintendent of Schools Leslie Schermerhorn has called for more ways for teachers and administrators to confront school violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 students and six educators in December. Schermerhorn organized a vigil on the Woodstock Square Dec. 27, 2012, in memory of those murdered in Leslie Newtown that atSchermerhorn tracted about 100 people. There, attendees were handed cards introducing them to the McHenry County School Forum, a web-based group created by Schermerhorn intended to help community members exchange ideas about school security and raise awareness of student safety issues in McHenry County. “I just think we need to give our educators a bigger toolbox, should something like that happen,” Schermerhorn said. To that end, Schermerhorn has been investigating different school safety plans recommended by experts, some of whom contend that schools’ primary course of action during emergencies such as shootings — “lockdowns” that involve locking students in classrooms, moving them away from windows and instructing them to keep quiet — may not be effective in all situations. Schools in Illinois are required to hold lockdown drills every year, much like fire or tornado drills. “Ninety-eight percent of these incidences are done by a single shooter, so keeping students in a room makes them sitting ducks,” Schermerhorn said. “If there’s any possibility of evacuating students, it might be the better tack to take, whether it’s using a door that can get them outside, or, if they’re on the first floor, trying to get them through the window. “I’m looking at some different programs that talk about other ways to handle a situation where there’s a shooting, and what teachers and administrators can do in the 6 to 7 minutes that are critical before first responders can get to the school.” Those programs include ALICE Training, a critical response strategy intended to teach civilians how to stop active shooters in schools. The program’s acronym stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, the five steps its creators say are necessary to minimize deaths and injuries during mass shootings. The program has been criticized by some, including the National Association of School Resource Officers, for coaching people to confront attackers. “Countering” instructs teachers to throw projectiles at gunmen in an attempt to limit their ability to reload and fire their weapons. Schermerhorn said the program is up for debate. “It’s a bit controversial,” Schermerhorn said, “because that, of course, requires teachers to put themselves in harm’s way. ... That will be something that our schools and our police departments will have to agree on.” In the meantime, Schermerhorn said school districts throughout the county are reviewing their emergency procedures, and she had immediate plans to meet with local superintendents to discuss school safety issues. She said in addition to school administrators, elected officials have also approached her with their concerns. “There will be copycat [shootings],” she said. “County board members have come to me and said, ‘We’ve got to do something. If we don’t do something, and something happens, how can we live with ourselves?’” The McHenry County School Forum can be found at www.facebook.com/ MchenryCountySchoolForum.


Food pantry is located in new office building

continued from page 1 Pierce said. “We have two storage rooms that are as big as the previous assessor’s office.” Visitors through the Martha Lane entrance walk directly into the community room, which also serves as the board room. The room can be expanded to nearly double its size for larger meetings or events, accommodating as many as 300 people. Pierce said homeowner’s associations and family reunions already have rented the space, which is attached to a kitchentype area, though no cooking is available other than with a microwave. He said the space would work for bridal showers, organization meetings and a variety of other events. While alcohol is not allowed, he said renters are free to have events catered. The township is currently working out a rental agreement and fee structure. Beyond the board room is a computer training laboratory and storage rooms. The township is submitting grants with the hope of equipping the computer lab. Kristina Danitz, mobile activity director at Senior Service Associates, will staff an

Senior citizens play cards at the Dorr Township Office. Pictured, from left, are, Margaret Jezek, Rudy Pahl, Clara Bruns and Hettie Wilke. INDEPENDENT PHOTO BY MIKE NEUMANN

office at the township on Thursdays and host programs for senior citizens. For information, call 815-344-3444. Games, cooking demonstrations and parties are all examples of activities that have or will be presented. Also on the west side of the building is the new location of the Woodstock Food Pantry, which is about two-and-a-half times as big as the former Washington Street space. While the pantry is not paying rent, it is contributing $100 a month for utilities.