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Anthony Wahl 

Rev. Paul Ugo Arinze leads students from St. John Vianney School in a ceremony to burn the palms given in last year's Palm Sunday service for use in Ash Wednesday services at the church.

What's the riskiest thing you've done on Valentine's Day?

The Gazette took to the streets of Janesville and Milton to ask a Valentine’s Day question.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done on Valentine’s Day? Or what’s the riskiest thing ever done to you?

We stopped by Milton House of Flowers, where the workers confirmed the days leading up to Feb. 14 are their busiest of the year. Then we went to Mitchell’s Coffee Shop in downtown Milton and Mocha Moment in Janesville.

We found a few people who shun the idea of celebrating Valentine’s Day.

“I think it’s a scam,” one man in Milton said. “It’s a Hallmark holiday. If you have to have a special day to tell your significant other what they mean to you, you ain’t doing something right.”

Others played along and reminisced about their most memorable days.

Out of the 15 people interviewed, below are our eight favorite responses.

Gina Dummer, 37, Milton: “My daughter was conceived on Valentine’s Day.

“So that was risky.

“We thought we weren’t going to get pregnant, and we did. And our son was only 9 months old at the time. They were 18 months apart when I had her. Risky as hell.

“It ended up being three of five. Five kids—that’s risky in itself. That was 2008. She was a November baby. Good year!”

Erika Kempf, 38, Milton: “It might’ve been on Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend at the time, now my husband, he asked me to be his girlfriend, and it was a surprise.

“He did this big production in my back yard, which, I didn’t know he was there when I got home. My roommate was like, something’s waiting for you in the backyard.

“I’m like, ‘What?’

“So I go out there, and there’s a poem on the back porch, and then in the snow, there’s roses in the shape of a heart stuffed in the snow. And I was like, whooooaaaaaa. It’s pretty Valentine’s Day.

“Pretty risky.

“He was a little nervous. He was much more nervous when he asked me to marry him.”

Sue Lien, 62, Cold Spring: “I got engaged on Valentine’s Day. I had to go to Madison to pick up the ring, and it was in a blizzard.

“That was risky.

“We went to get the ring. We took our life in our hands. Seriously, it was really bad. It was horrible. The ring was ready then. I was kind of hoping to get it done on Valentine’s Day. Ah, isn’t that romantic?

“Every time we come back from Janesville going through Newville, I think of that day and how horrible the weather was.”

Hailey Peterson, 19, Janesville: “Nothing.

“I’m 19.

“I used to work at Pizza Hut, and I brought heart-shaped pizzas to my friends after I was done with work.

“See? There’s nothing.”

Justin Popovich, 31, Janesville: “The one that stood out the most was going to downtown Chicago, Michigan Avenue. Surprising her. She always wanted to go down there.

“I guess it’s always risky when you give a surprise. You never quite know what it’s going to turn out to be. Just went down and drove. She never knew where we were going. Went for a couple of nights. We had a great time.

“Very successful.”

John Sorce, 85: “I can’t think of anything, other than how nice it is to be with Helen on this Valentine’s Day.”

Helen Knox, 79: “It’s the same for me.”

Cain Zoesch, Milton House of Flowers driver, 43, Whitewater: “Delivering flowers. Have you driven in traffic in Milton and Janesville?

“My wife and I don’t really do anything for Valentine’s Day. We usually deliver flowers together, but she’s working at the other store today. That’s how we spend our day.

“This is the first year in 14 years that we haven’t been in the same store on Valentine’s Day.”

Gazette at a Glance for Feb. 14, 2018

Local • 3A

3 running for county board

Incumbent Dave Homan is facing two challengers in the primary race for the Rock County Board in District 26. Longtime county treasurer Vicki L. Brown seeks to unseat Homan, who is looking to secure his second term. Mario Bullock is also vying for the seat. The primary vote will take place Tuesday.

State • 2A

GOP stays away from Nehlen

Wisconsin Republicans are distancing themselves from Paul Nehlen, a Republican challenger to House Speaker Paul Ryan who has been suspended from Twitter after a series of posts criticized as being racist or anti-Semitic. Nehlen, who got just 16 percent of the vote against Ryan in 2016, is mounting another primary run this year.

Nation/World • 6B-7B

Conservatives slam budget

While Trump and most of his closest allies largely avoided the subject, fiscal conservatives lashed out against Monday’s release of President Trump’s $4 trillion-plus budget, which would create $7.2 trillion in red ink over the next decade if adopted by Congress. That follows congressional passage of last week’s $400 billion spending pact, along with massive tax cuts, which some analysts predict will push deficits to levels not seen in generations.

District reports on promise progress


Third-graders are doing better.

Ninth-graders aren’t doing quite as well.

And next year, high school seniors are expected to really excel.

On Tuesday, Alison DeGraaf, the Janesville School District’s director of curriculum and instruction, updated the school board on the district’s five-year promises. The promises, established at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year and approved by the board in October, include goals for academic success, parent and employee satisfaction, fiscal responsibility, and health and safety.

The promises discussed included:

  • Every student is known by name, strength and need by at least one adult.

Why: When students feel safe in school and have good relationships with teachers, they are more likely to succeed academically, DeGraaf said.

How it’s measured: Success will be measured by responses to the Hope Gallup Survey statement “The adults at my school care about me.”

Students in fifth through 12th grades took the survey in fall, and the average score was 3.88 out of 5, DeGraaf said.

  • Teachers will modify instruction from direct to engaged and empowered.

Direct instruction is the traditional teaching method. An example of engaged instruction is giving students a real-world problem and asking them to solve it, DeGraaf said in an interview before the meeting.

Why: Anyone can look up information. Engaged instruction requires students to learn more deeply and to understand ideas rather than just parroting information.

How it’s measured: The promise will be measured by responses to the Hope Gallup Survey statements “I have learned something new in the last seven days” and “At this school, I get to do what I do best every day.”

The baseline score for “I have learned something new” was 3.86 out of 5.

The baseline score for “At school I get to do what I do best” was 3.57 out of 5.

  • Ninety percent of third-graders will read at or above grade level.

At the end of last year, 43 percent of students who are now third-graders were reading at grade level. In January, that number increased to 47.5.

Why: Third grade is the make-or-break year for reading. After that point, students are not learning to read, but reading to learn, specialists say.

How it’s measured: A variety of reading tests.

  • Ninety percent of ninth-graders will complete Algebra 1 with a grade of C or better.

In spring 2017, about 76 percent of students met that goal. In January, that number dipped to 73 percent.

Why: Algebra 1 is the basis for almost all higher learning. If a student wants to go to college or technical school, a solid grasp of Algebra 1 is crucial, Superintendent Steve Pophal has said in previous interviews.

How it’s measured: A variety of state assessments and local tests.

  • Ninety percent of graduates will successfully complete an Advanced Placement class or transcripted, industry credential or dual-enrollment credit class.

In spring 2017, 74.9 students had met the criteria. As of last month, that number was 74.1.

Why: Completing a dual-credit course is an indicator of college and workplace readiness.

In an interview before the meeting, Pophal said he expected that number to rise significantly next year.

The district is working with Blackhawk Technical College to increase the number of dual-enrollment courses. The district already teaches many similar classes, but the curriculum must be beefed up to meet higher standards.

  • Ninety percent of graduates will complete career-ready indicators as detailed at

Career-ready indicators include 90 percent school attendance, community service, dual-credit courses and two or more organized co-curricular activities.

In spring 2017, about 61.9 percent of students met that criteria. Last month, about 73.2 percent of students met the criteria.

  • Increase the graduation rate by 1 percent each year to 92 percent by 2022.

The district’s graduation rate is about 87 percent. The new numbers won’t be known until the end of this year.