Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rock River Charter School

Rock River Charter School is located in downtown Janesville. Because of its small size, the staff is able to offer individual attention to each student. Staff works with students to complete the requirements needed to successfully complete their high school education. Staff members are committed to helping students by meeting their needs and giving them the tools they will need to be successful on their journey through life.  

Rock River Charter School provides 180 students with educational services through five programs.  All of the students who attend Rock River Charter School have experienced barriers to high school success.  Rock River Charter School provides students with a small learning environment and dedicated staff members to help them reach graduation.  Last year, 106 students earned their high school diplomas as a result of attending Rock River Charter School.  Eighty percent of the students who were enrolled were successful as defined by either graduating or by remaining an eligible student.

As a trade off for a shortened schedule, all students who attend Rock River Charter School must make up any time they are absent from school.  To track academic progress, students take the same district and state academic exams as other Janesville high school students.

The Alternative Education Program serves students in grades 9 - 11.  The school day begins at 8 am and concludes at 1 pm.  Students enroll in five academic classes daily covering the four core content areas and one elective.  For students who struggle in math and reading, electives are available which support their growth in literacy and numeracy.

The SAPAR programs serve teenage parents in the last two trimesters through the first six months of infancy.  Students enroll in three core academic classes in addition to a parenting class and a social issues class.  Field trips, as well as community presenters, provide the teen parents with parenting skills as well as area resources.  

The Night School Program serves juniors and seniors who are credit deficient in order to increase their math and reading skills to a level where they can pass the entrance exam for the GED Option 2 Program.  In addition to academic remediation in numeracy and literacy, Night School students also participate in field trips in the community designed to increase their classroom engagement.

The GED Option 2 Program serves seniors who are credit deficient but have high school appropriate math and reading skills.  In this two semester program, students study to take the four GED tests.  Additionally, they complete a portfolio of academic work.  After passing all four tests and completing the portfolio, students graduate with a high school diploma.

The E-Learning Program serves seniors who have at least 13.5 credits.  The students work independently in the classroom using the online PLATO curriculum to earn the rest of their high school credits.  Two certified teachers and two para-professionals provide academic assistance to the students.

Throughout all of the programs at Rock River Charter School, community service and developing school engagement are key priorities.  Rock River Charter School staff members seek to guide students toward the development of a post-secondary career or educational plans.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Open Enrollment

Have you considered Open Enrollment?
Each year the School District of Janesville has students open enrolling from other school districts. I would like to take this opportunity to address a few of the frequently asked questions about this process:

What is Open Enrollment?
Wisconsin’s inter-district public school open enrollment program allows parents to apply for their children to attend school districts other than the one in which they live. Wisconsin residents in grades kindergarten through twelve may apply to participate in open enrollment.

Children who are eligible for Early Childhood or 4-year old kindergarten may also apply if their resident district offers a similar program and they are eligible for that program in their resident district.

There is no tuition cost to parents for their children’s participation in open enrollment provided they meet the timelines outlined below. Parents will be charged the same yearly fees as a resident student including class fees, laboratory or extra-curricular activity fees.

Detailed information regarding the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's Full-Time Inter-District Open Enrollment program can be found at

What are the reasons a parent would consider Open Enrolling their student in the School District of Janesville?


We rank among the top districts academically in Rock County and the State of Wisconsin. The support given to our Gifted and Talented students can be seen with our elementary and middle school “Challenge” programs and the extraordinary number of Advanced Placement offerings available to our high school students. Our district offers a full complement of special education support services with needs ranging from speech and language to severe cognitive disabilities programming. Our district is recognized for meeting each of its student’s needs at their individual readiness (regardless of academic, social, and emotional standing).

The School District of Janesville also has four Charter Schools
          Rock River Charter
Janesville Virtual Academy
       TAGOS Leadership Academy
       Academy for International Studies


The School of Janesville offers a full range of before and after school co- curricular opportunities at all grade levels. Elementary students can participate in a number of clubs and middle and high school students can sharpen their athletic, musical, academic, and leadership skills in a variety of offerings.


With an enrollment of around 10,000 students, the School District of Janesville is large enough to offer a full PreK-12 academic and co-curricular program but is still small enough to stay focused on each individual student.


We have a very progressive nine member Board of Education that is passionate about providing students and families with high quality opportunities and experiences. Our Board members nicely complement all cross-sections of our community: business leaders, parents, and educational advocates.

Parent Involvement

We believe parents are a central part of our students’ success. We have instituted several measures that will allow parents easier access to their student’s performance. For example, our Skyward Family Access allows parents real-time access to their child’s teacher’s grade book. When and if questions arise, parents merely need to pick up the phone or send an email to receive feedback in a very short turnaround time.
Parents are also involved through the Janesville Area Council Parent Teacher Association (JAC-PTA). The JAC-PTA is a network comprised of individual school PTA leaders working collaboratively toward the School District of Janesville’s common vision.


Since 1996, the Janesville community has provided us with a new elementary school, a new middle school, a $ 16.99 million renovation of 5 elementary schools and a $71 million dollar high school expansion and remodeling project. Our schools serve as a centerpiece to a community that is embracing forward thinking and change in the decade ahead.


We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of highly qualified staff members whose mission is to serve our students and community. You can count on the School District of Janesville employees to have the attitude, skills, and desire needed to leave a positive, lasting impact on each child entrusted to our care. Therefore, quality relationships are built between teachers, students, and parents. Administrators make decisions based on what is in the best interest of students.

How and when may parents apply?
Parents may apply at Paper application forms may be obtained from the district office after January 15, 2014 and must be turned in to the Administrative Services Office during the application period.

The Open Enrollment application dates for the 2014-2015 school year are
February 3, 2014 to April 30, 2014 by 4:00 p.m.

Unfortunately, early and late applications cannot be accepted unless a student’s situation allows late application under state statute.  If you have missed the deadline and feel your situation may qualify please contact Administrative Services Secretary Tami Carlson at 608-743-5006 immediately.

How many students are accepted on Open Enrollment each year?
The number of seats available for the upcoming school year will be determined by District and school administration. Among the many benefits of attending a school in Janesville is a lower student/teacher ratio. Our ultimate goal is to preserve this. All valid applications are reviewed after the application period. If more students apply to attend the School District of Janesville than there are spaces, we must give preference to students who are already attending our district and to siblings of students who are already attending. After granting this preference, students will be assigned to any remaining spaces through a random lottery.

Can an application be rejected?
Nonresident school districts may deny an application for any one of the following reasons:
Space is not available for the student in the nonresident school district.

If the student has been expelled during the current school year or during the two preceding school years (for certain state statute identified conduct) or is currently under expulsion.

If the special education program that the student needs is not available in the school district; if there is no space in the special education program; or if the student has been referred for an evaluation but has not yet been evaluated.

If the student was habitually truant from the nonresident school district during any semester of attendance at the nonresident school district in the current or previous school year.
The student is not age eligible for the open enrollment program.

If accepted, do I need to reapply every year?
No. If you continue to reside in the same resident district, you only need to reapply for the transition from elementary to middle school.

Who is responsible for providing transportation to and from school under Open Enrollment?
Parents are responsible for transporting their children to and from school, unless transportation is legally required as part of a child’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP) through the Special Education Department.

Where can I get more information?

If you need assistance or have access to a computer, please contact Mrs. Tami Carlson, at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin Street, by calling 608-743-5006 between 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. or emailing Further information and forms are available by contacting the school district and are also available on the Wisconsin Department of Instruction web site:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Phil, Grace and Edward

If you see Phil, Grace and Edward and they appear to be walking around a foot off the ground, don’t be alarmed. They are on Cloud 9 after a visit to the Capitol last week.

Phil and Grace are in Janesville for two weeks. They will return to their home in Beijing, China. Their son, Edward, will stay in Janesville to attend Craig High School as a junior.

And why are they on Cloud 9?

During their State Capitol tour; Phil, Grace and Edward were invited to meet with Gov. Scott Walker in his Capitol office.  Why is this a huge deal? We need to take every opportunity we can to highlight our initiatives and successes that we have. Meeting the Governor is yet another way to let him know what great things are happening in Janesville. This allows him to use Janesville in his speeches as he tours the state informing people about the great things are happening in our schools.

“We are so excited,” Phil said after the meeting. “I can’t tell you how honored we are to have met with the highest public official in Wisconsin.”

The meeting was a case of luck and the old axiom “You’ll never know unless you ask.”

While touring the Governor’s Conference Room, the receptionist was asked if the governor was in the Capitol. One thing led to another and Walker’s Executive Assistant, Dorothy Moore, said the governor was between meetings and would like to meet the Beijing visitors.

The rest is history.

Phil, Grace and Edward were also able to meet with Sen. Tim Cullen and Rep. Deb Kolste.

The same day as their Capitol tour; Phil, Grace and Edward visited the Madison Club and the historic Wilson Street State Office Building, the state’s oldest office building.

After lunch at Paisan’s in a booth with a Lake Monona view, the tour continued to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. While at the historic Union; Phil, Grace and Edward sampled Wisconsin’s finest ice cream – Babcock Hall ice cream from made on campus with milk from the school’s happier cows. By the way, Grace prefers Blue Moon.

Ice cream was followed by a tour of Bascom Hill from the Science Building at the bottom to Bascom Hall at the top and a look at the famous “sifting and winnowing” plaque.

Phil summed up the day with the following statement:
“It was really a big day for us. We feel greatly honored meeting Governor Walker, Senator Cullen and Representative Kolste. We are so lucky to have our pictures taken with them.”

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rock The School House Results

You just knew something good would happen when Parker High School teacher Bill Conway and his sons Richie, Charlie and Lee took down the house with their cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” off the  “Not Fragile” album.

Yes, The Conway Family Band rocked the school house, despite many in the audience too young to have ever listened to or even heard of BTO, a popular 1970s rock band out of Canada.

Conway and several other teachers volunteered their time and talent Saturday to perform at the School District of Janesville’s “Rock the School House” to the tune of more than $9,400.00 raised for several school organizations.

Final numbers are still being tabulated, but I’m told that after expenses, more than $9,400.00 will be available for donations to school organizations including:

Washington Seminar
Global Youth Summit
Junior Achievement
Craig and Parker robotic teams
Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Model United Nations
Bridges International Conference
And possibly several others

Here’s a list of the artists who made this successful event possible:
Conway Family Band
Evan Riley Band
Brian and Jan Knutson
Seth Matusak
Steve Pease & Swing Fish
Trygve Danielson
Kyle Elsberg
Chris Kohn & The Two Ton Heavy Thing
We were also please to receive the support of the program’s sponsors:
105.9 The Hog
Lamar Outdoor Advertising
Bob and Nancy Kimball
Voigt Music
Prairie Farms Dairy
Fagan Automotive
Rock Road Companies
Harris Ace Hardware
Red Stop Productions
Camilla Owen
Chambers & Owen
Budget Truck and Auto
HOPE INSTITUTE of Uganda – Joy and Gideon Ngobi
American Family Insurance – Mark Ackerman
Martha and Frank Scott
Tim and Marcy Weber
ABC Fire & Safety
Whiton House Consulting
E&D Water Works
Professional Pest Control
AMP Electric
KANDU Industries & Best Events Catering
Blue Farm Chips

We also had individuals who spoke about how this event will help the district
Anthony Pierson-Parker High School
Harmony Shepard-Parker High School
Emma DiStephano- 5th grader Harrison Elementary School
Sam Liebert- Janesville City Councilman/UW-Whitewater Student

My thanks to all involved in our project including JPAC Executive Director Elizabeth Horvath and her staff who made us feel welcome and provided us with an exceptional opportunity.

The performers, sponsors, volunteers, students and staff all rocked the school house and helped raise funds for very deserving district organizations. Let’s do it again next year. In the meantime – keep rockin’.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thanks For Your Support

We really rocked the school house Saturday night! The entire cast set the tone opening the event with, Rock the School House, an original song written by Steven Pease. Jaws were dropping and hands were clapping when Steven Pease “took us to church” with his piano playing prowess and very fine vocals.

Next on stage was the Evan Riley Band and they "Wowed!" us with contagious, rhythmic energy- you would've never know how ill Evan was shortly before this exhausting event. Evan is an inspiration!

Brian & Jan Knutson’s success as a married couple carried over on to the stage as their beautifully paired voices delivered our message in prayer like song.

Our next teacher/musician looks the part…of musician that is! And cool teacher! And rockin’ Dad! Bill Conway’s family band cranked out jams that captured the spirit of the event!

The variety of sets held the interest of the audience. The appearance of Cellist Seth Matuszak was totally unexpected by our guests. Seth’s cello melodies soothed our souls.

The first of two 50/50 raffles got the crowd in a giving mood when winner Betsy Reimer (Craig alumna) gave her cash prize back to the event!  Intermission gave the guests a chance to buy meat and more 50/50 raffle tickets, T-shirts, snacks, talk to students representing outstanding programs, and observe the Craig/Parker robot in action! The lights flickered and the crowd of 436 filed back into the gorgeous, acoustically pleasing JPAC theater (formerly Marshall Middle School Auditorium).

Stage manager Mike Drinkwater had things under control backstage; including the curtain that revealed a whole new side of Yolanda Cargile! Yolanda raised the bar when she raised her heel height with every costume change (4 runway worthy outfits in all)! No fear if her sense of style broke the SDJ dress code - she might have a career in standup comedy in her future.

The house was back in groove with the undeniable and unbelievable talent of Steven Pease & Swingfish!  Retired teacher, Dave Viemeister, kept the beat on drums and retired teacher, Dave Lennox, played tuba to round out the sensational sounds of Steven’s band.

Retirement doesn’t mean “out of tune” for the next truly wonderful performance by Tryg Danielson. There were not a lot of dry eyes in the house after Tryg’s touching performance.

Concert goers thought it couldn’t get any better – but it did! Kyle Elsbernd’s amazing guitar playing and tambourine shoes stomped his way into our hearts! Steven Pease (guitar) & Stage manager, Craig Bergum (stand-up bass), accompanied Kyle and raised the roof on JPAC!

A winner took home a nice cash prize from the second 50/50 raffle and lucky Larry Danks won the meat raffle.

We realized what a family the SDJ is with the concert goers’ embrace of Chris Kohn's original song written for a fellow teacher fighting cancer. Then he took the crowd for a great ride on the "Wagon Wheel". (Dr. Ehrhardt’s new favorite song.)

What you didn't see was Denise Jensen, Kevin D. Leavy, Jane Thompson, Joe Van Rooy, Veronica McMahon, Amanda Werner, and other behind the scenes volunteers to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude.

Periodically throughout the night, a few special guests and I shared stories and reminded the audience of why we were all there. Let those words linger and grab onto them when our students and teachers need us most.