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Education
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Rock University High School enrollment grows

JANESVILLE

Rock University High School’s enrollment is growing as more students seek to get a head start on college.

In partnership with and located on the campus of Blackhawk Technical College, the school gives students the opportunity to earn college credits with the ultimate goal of having them graduate with an associate degree.

The public charter school is set up similar to a college with Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Tuesday and Thursday classes with embedded breaks in the day for study. In addition to gaining college credits through either advanced placement or dual-credit classes, students learn the routine and habits of college life. They can take night classes at BTC or participate in activities on campus.

“It’s a solution to help students, especially those who are underserved and who are first-generation college students who might have barriers, financial or otherwise,” Principal Kolleen Onsrud said. “It’s designed to provide all support needed for the first two years so when students are juniors they are confident and can advocate for themselves.”

The students can either enter the workforce after obtaining their associate degree or apply it toward additional education.

“Our goal is for students to finish what they started at BTC. Some will transfer to the UW System or other colleges and universities,” Dean of Students Angela Kerr said.

Kerr predicts there will be at least 80 students enrolled this fall. The school is open to any student in Wisconsin at the BTC Central Campus at 6004 S. County G on the northwest side of the campus in its lower level.

“Over 30% of our population is open enrolled into the school, with lots of students from Beloit and Milton, and a few Evansville and Edgerton students,” Kerr said.

Kerr said Beloit students can take a bus which picks up at the Eclipse Center in Beloit as well as the Beloit Janesville Express operated by Beloit Transit and the Janesville Transit System.

Because students from other districts who attend are open enrolled into the Janesville School District, they can participate in athletics or other extracurricular clubs through their home high school, either Craig or Parker, if they are interested.

The soft deadline for enrollment for Rock University High School is July, or Aug. 14 at the latest. For more information people can visit its website at rockuniversity .janesville.k12.wi.us.

Rock University High School opened in 2014 at the UW-Rock County campus and in 2016 it moved to the BTC campus. As an instrumentality charter school, it’s a public school authorized by the Janesville School District. It is one of four charter schools within the Janesville School District.

Kerr said it opened in 2014 with a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for 10th through 12th grades and three years ago it applied for another grant to expand. Thanks to the recent grant, it was able to add the ninth grade and the partnership with BTC.

“We are in year three of a five-year expansion grant,” Kerr said.

While the school usually has around 65 to 70 students, the hope is to reach a maximum capacity of 140 to 160 students in the next two years. Currently, the school has four full-time teachers and a total staff of eight. With a student to teacher ratio of 18:1 or less, students receive lots of individual attention.

Kerr said it’s a great solution for students who want to go to college but don’t think they can afford it or students who want to get a bachelor’s degree two years after high school. She predicts the concept known as “middle college,” a high school on a college campus will become more popular in the future.

Kerr said the school attracts both driven students and those struggling, however, she has noticed that once in “middle college” students take on a new maturity.

“They know they are on a college campus. They want to better themselves and have goals,” she said.

On May 25, Rock University High School was recognized as a Level 3 Advanced Placement Pacesetter School for the 2019-20 school year in May 2021 by the Wisconsin Advanced Placement Advisory Council (WAPAC).

WAPAC is comprised of Wisconsin secondary and collegiate educators dedicated to expanding access to AP coursework and rigorous learning for all students.

As a Pacesetter Level 3 School, more than 10% of Rock University High School students took AP exams and more than 60% of those test-takers received a score of three or higher on a five-point scale to receive AP credit. Students who score three or higher on an AP exam typically receive transferable course credit, advanced standing, or both from most colleges, universities and technical colleges.

Rock University High School is expanding its AP Course offerings for 2020-21 to include AP seminar, AP research, AP environmental science, AP psychology and AP statistics.

Kerr noted the Janesville School District has three other public charter schools: Arise Virtual Academy; TAGOS Leadership Academy, with project-based learning for grades 7-12; and Rock River Charter School, a 9-12 grade school to help students emotionally, socially and academically.


Cole Fishel waves goodbye to the dairy cows as his family exits the barn during a visit to the McNally Family’s farm for the 44th Annual Rock County Dairy Breakfast on Saturday.


Local
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Local man edits book about Negro League baseball

JANESVILLE

John Graf collected baseball cards as a boy growing up in 1960s Janesville.

But unlike many other young fans, Graf copied information from the cards, drew illustrations and made an 80-page book about his diamond heroes.

Prominent among those heroes were Black players, including Hank Aaron of the Milwaukee Braves and Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso of the Chicago White Sox.

Many of those players had one thing in common: They got their start in the Negro Leagues, leagues that existed because white professional baseball kept Black players out from 1884 until Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Graf became interested in those who were left out or marginalized. Decades later, his dedication to that history led to an editing job on a new book on Black baseball, “Rube to Robinson.”

The title refers to Robinson, of course, and Andrew “Rube” Foster, a superb pitcher and manager, who organized the Negro National League, the first of its kind, in 1920.

Graf did a short stint as a sports writer at The Gazette in the 1970s, when he wrote a story about the first Black player in the minor-league Wisconsin State League, Milton Bohannion, who played for the Janesville Cubs in 1949-50.

Graf went on to other pursuits, but baseball stuck with him. He got involved in the Society for American Baseball Research, an association of historians.

“My childhood interests matched with what was going on in the research world. I was hooked,” Graf said.

The book was published last year, an auspicious time, as 2020 saw the deaths of Black hall of famers Aaron, Bob Gibson and Joe Morgan, Graf noted. It was also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first Negro National League.

And it was the year that Major League Baseball proclaimed—some say belatedly—that Negro Leagues were major league, and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted to remove Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ name from its most-valuable-player awards.

Landis, the first commissioner of baseball, is blamed by many for preserving segregation.

“Rube to Robinson” provides the background for these historic moves with such chapters as “Jackie Robinson’s signing: The Real Untold Story,” and “Negro League Baseball, the Black Community and the Socio-Economic Impact of Integration.”

The chapters take deep dives into the influence of Black players who were not fully appreciated in their time, including Oscar Charleston, said to be one of the greatest players of all time.

Graf said his role was largely copy editing, as the previously published articles had already been well researched and edited.

But Graf wrote the book’s introduction, in which he tells the story of Jerry Kenney of Beloit, a major leaguer in 1967-73, who was once asked by a reporter about how the big money of free agency and endorsement deals, which kicked in after he retired, might have made a difference for him.

Kenny, a Black player, changed the question and the answer. What if he had played decades earlier, he said, before Black players were allowed to play in the majors?

If not for the change that Jackie Robinson started, “I wouldn’t have had a career,” Kenney said.

The book’s articles “collectively assert that Black baseball’s history belongs directly alongside that of white or segregated baseball. Furthermore, the development of Black baseball as an institution was part of the larger struggle for racial justice,” Graf wrote.

Graf is white, but an associate editor, Larry Lester, is Black.

Lester wrote the book’s article on Landis, which includes the story of how Landis threatened to ban players in an all-star team led by Babe Ruth if they played an exhibition game against Charleston’s Colored All-Stars.

The teams played anyway, and Landis withheld the white players’ World Series pay and suspended Ruth and two others for 39 days.

Less than a year after Landis died, Robinson had signed a major league contract.

“Baseball is a part of an ongoing conversation our country is having about its true history,” Graf said. “And what is a complete history of the United States? Well, it includes this underside of injustice and the adversity that Black people have endured, going back to slavery.”


Janesville Parker’s Hunter Woodworth hits one back over the net during a No. 2 Doubles match against Middleton on Friday, June 4.


Obituaries and death notices for June 7, 2021

Arthur S. Burns Sr.

Alan “Al” Cashore

Marjorie Catherine (Schetgen) Corcoran

Donald W. Dean

Vincent “Pat” Gorman

Michael A. Jeffords

Cleve H. Johnson Jr.

Janice Mickelson

Nancy A. (Woodman) Pearsall

Marilyn B. Pfammatter

Violet M. Robert

Robert J. Soderberg

Carol J. Swenson

Don C. Terrell

Donna M. Wilmovsky


The line to eat extends out onto East Bingham Road during the 44th Annual Rock County Dairy Breakfast on Saturday.


Indoor and outdoor dining at the 44th Annual Rock County Dairy Breakfast on Saturday.


Business
AP
US economy: Plenty of growth, not enough workers or supplies

WASHINGTON

The U.S. economy is sparking confusion and whiplash almost as fast as it’s adding jobs.

Barely more than a year after the coronavirus caused the steepest economic fall and job losses on record, the speed of the rebound has been so unexpectedly swift that many companies can’t fill jobs or acquire enough supplies to meet a pent-up burst of customer demand.

“Things exploded—it was like a light switch,” said Kirby Mallon, president of Elmer Schultz Services, a family-owned Philadelphia firm that repairs and maintains kitchen equipment for restaurants and other clients. “The labor market is just out of control. We literally cannot hire technicians ... We ramped up so quickly, the supply chain wasn’t ready for it.’’

Economic forecasters, with little historical precedent to guide them through the aftermath of a global pandemic, are pondering questions they can’t answer with any confidence.

In many ways, the news has been cause to cheer: The economy grew from January through March at a red-hot 6.4% annual pace. And in the current quarter, that pace is thought to be accelerating to nearly double-digits.

Yet the full portrait of the U.S. economy is a rather more nuanced one. Here is a closer look at five vital signs:

Jobs

Employers last month added 559,000 jobs on top of 278,000 in April. Those would ordinarily be seen as quite healthy numbers. Yet against the backdrop of record-high job openings and free-spending consumers, forecasters had expected much more hiring. Some economists had envisioned the recovery from the pandemic recession driving monthly job growth of 800,000, 900,000, even 1 million a month or more.

What explains the shortfall?

Economists point mainly to what they call a short-term mismatch: Companies are posting job openings faster than applicants can respond. After all, many Americans are contending with considerable tumult at home—health issues related to COVID-19, child-care problems with schools slow to reopen, career uncertainty after many jobs permanently vanished over the past 15 months. And some people, earning more from federal and state jobless aid than they did when they worked, are taking their time before pursuing another job.

Some say the labor shortage is nothing that can’t be solved the old-fashioned way: By raising pay and offering more generous benefits and working conditions. In fact, that process appears to have begun: Average hourly wages rose solidly in April and May.

Consider Gina Schaefer, who owns 13 Ace hardware stores in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and who has been rapidly staffing up for the spring and summer, when her sales typically hit highs.

Schaefer has hired nearly 120 people since March, both seasonal workers and long-delayed replacements for people who left last year when COVID ravaged the economy. Her company pays a minimum of $15.50 an hour, to compete with larger chains that now pay $15, and provides health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave and a 401(k) plan after employees have been on the job for about six months.

“We firmly believe that better workplaces do not have a problem finding employees,” she said.

Consumers

After months cooped up at home, millions of consumers have rushed back out again in buoyant spirits and eager to spend, their finances bolstered by $1,400 federal stimulus payments earlier this year. Among the affluent, sharp gains in home and stock market equity have further emboldened their impulse to spend.

Consumer confidence is high. And Americans stepped up their spending again in April after a powerful gain in March fueled by $1,400 stimulus checks to most individuals.

That said, Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, sees cautionary signs. Confidence and spending, though still healthy, have trended lower. And retail sales were flat in April after having surged in March, suggesting that the positive effect of the stimulus checks might have faded. Similar trends occurred late last year after the effects of earlier federal stimulus money began to wear off.

In addition, a monthly survey of consumer confidence by the Conference Board found that expectations for the next six months actually fell in May.

“I’m not sure how this is going to pan out,’’ Farooqi says.

Inflation

Financial markets endured an unwelcome jolt last month when the Labor Department reported that consumer prices had jumped 0.8% from March to April and 4.2% from 12 months earlier—the largest year-over-year increase since 2008.

Some leading critics, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, have been warning that President Joe Biden’s trillions of dollars in federal stimulus money risk igniting inflation and forcing the Federal Reserve to resort to interest rate hikes, which could derail the economic recovery.

But Fed Chair Jerome Powell and many economists say they think the inflation surge will prove short-lived. They say it reflects mainly temporary supply-chain bottlenecks that have forced up prices but that should ease over time. For now, though, shortages of lumber, computer chips and other materials have contributed to inflation pressures.

Mallon at Elmer Schultz Services in Philadelphia said supply shortages are so severe in his industry that members of the the Commercial Food Service Equipment Association trade group are sharing inventory.

“I can go to a friend if he has a part in stock,’’ he said. “In my 30 years in the business, no, I’ve never seen anything like it.’’

Housing

The housing market has served as a source of economic strength and resilience during the pandemic, supported by ultra-low mortgage rates and the desire of many locked-down families to move to more spacious digs to accommodate work-from-home needs.

But with prices having risen beyond the reach of many and with the supply of homes for sale severely limited, the housing boom has lately shown signs of fatigue. Home construction tumbled 9.5% in April—a drop that economists attributed, at least in part, to builders postponing projects because of accelerating costs for lumber and other supplies that have contributed to swelling home prices.

In April, sales of new homes dropped nearly 6%, and purchases of existing homes fell 2.7%. Many would-be buyers will remain on the outside looking in as long as a shortage of available homes keeps sale prices elevated.

Manufacturing

U.S. factories are thriving despite the clogged supply chains and the shortage of workers. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose to 61.2 last month. Any reading above 50 signals growth, and manufacturers have been on a 12-month winning streak.

Half the purchasing managers surveyed by the trade association said they had had trouble finding workers. Given the supply problems, it’s unclear whether factories can sustain their steady output: The ISM found that deliveries from suppliers were coming in at their slowest rate since 1974. Sixteen of 18 industries reported slower deliveries.


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