High school board: Statements made responding to Monday stabbing incident
‘There is no evidence to indicate anything other than this being an isolated incident’
ROCHELLE — At its monthly meeting Monday, the Rochelle Township High School Board of Education read a statement responding to a Monday morning stabbing incident between two students at the school that resulted in both being transported to Rochelle Community Hospital and one being airlifted to another medical center with significant injuries.
The incident, isolated to the two students, caused a lockdown at the school and an early dismissal was seen at 10:30 a.m. The board meeting was held in the auditorium Monday and only included essential business. The statement was made by Board Member Jeff Tilton.
"Today we experienced an altercation between two students which resulted in serious harm to one student," Tilton said. "We'd like to publicly thank the Rochelle Fire Department, Rochelle Police Department and Ogle County Sheriff's Office for their support today. We would like to acknowledge the efforts made by RTHS personnel, especially School Nurse Lawrenz. The incident involving the two students this morning has been and will continue to be handled by the Rochelle Police Department and the Ogle County Sheriff's Office. We have received confirmation from law enforcement that there is no evidence to indicate anything other than this being an isolated incident between two students. We understand that this is a frightening time for students, parents, staff and our community and will have a plan for school that calls for increased police presence and mental health support to help our students process today's events and feel more safe at school. At this moment we will not be issuing any further comment. We ask for your continued patience as we work with law enforcement and other entities. If you or your student has any information pertaining to this incident, no matter how small, we urge you to contact Dean of Students Brett Zick at [email protected] or 815-562-4161 ext. 5106 or contact law enforcement directly. If you have any questions or concerns for your student's safety, please contact Superintendent Jason Harper at [email protected] or 815-562-4161 ext. 5108. The RTHS Board of Education will continue our meeting tonight to conduct essential school business. As the incident is still unfolding and under investigation, we deem it inappropriate to comment further at this time."
Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle spoke at the meeting. His office responded to and investigated the Monday incident. VanVickle is a former RTHS board member and attended his last meeting last month.
"This is my first month not sitting at the table, but here I am," VanVickle said. "What I want to say is that everything that we and you have done as a board was put into effect today. Everybody should be very pleased with not only the administration, but the teachers, support staff and kids and the way that they responded. Everything that we've done over the years with our policies, procedures and training paid off today. Even though there wasn't a threat to the kids, there certainly could have been and nobody knew that. And they responded appropriately and took the steps that we put in place as a board. Everyone should be very proud of the way we responded. I'm sure we'll find things that we could have done better and things that will be changed, but at the end of the day, everything worked exactly the way it should have. It was limited in scope and area, and the staff and students should be commended on their response."
RTHS teacher Kristin Flanagan spoke on behalf of the Rochelle Teacher Association during the meeting.
"I just want to thank the administration," Flanagan said. "I talked to a lot of teachers after we got out of school and everybody felt safe and very informed with the emergency response protocol.”
Students returned to normal schooling on Tuesday.
Harper swore in new board member Kathy Olson at the meeting. Olson was unanimously appointed last month and will serve the remainder of VanVickle's open term until the upcoming school board election on Tuesday, April 4. Olson served on the board for 20 years in the past and will not hold the position after the election.
The board unanimously approved personnel changes including the resignations of Aby Guerrero (Spanish teacher), Ryan McQuade (social studies teacher and head girls basketball coach), Lizzie Cartwright (girls tennis coach for fall 2023 season only) and Abby Kerns (assistant girls soccer coach) and the employment of Sarai Orozco (special education teacher, 2023-2024 school year).
The board also unanimously approved the re-employment of first, second, third and fourth-year teachers.
The board established that RTHS graduation will be held on Saturday, May 27 at 10 a.m. As the calendar stood Monday, the last day of final exams is planned to be Thursday, May 25. Summer school will begin on Wednesday, May 31 and conclude on Thursday, July 13.
Harper said that graduation will take place outdoors on the football field as it has in recent years if weather allows.
Following meeting in executive session, the board accepted retirement letters and approved retirement contracts for both Assistant Superintendent Tony Doyle (after 2026-2027 school year) and District Business Manager Kevin Dale (after 2027-2028 school year).
The board also approved employment contracts for Zick and Alison Vrana to serve as assistant principals for the 2023-2024 school year. Vrana will replace Assistant Principal David Perrin, who will finish his last year at the school before retirement in an instructional position to assist Vrana’s transition to her new role.