I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.
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WILLMAR — Seventh District U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and Minnesota's two senators weighed in Wednesday on Gov. Mark Dayton's pick to succeed Sen. Al Franken in the U.S. Senate. Dayton has appointed Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to join the Senate when Franken submits his resignation in the coming days. He is stepping down after allegations of inappropriate behavior. In addition to praising Smith's experience, Peterson commented on her skill as a sportswoman.
WILLMAR — The Community Integration Center in downtown Willmar will host a Coffee with the Community gathering at 10 a.m. Saturday at the center at 201 Fifth St. S.W. The gathering is open to the public and is intended to be a way for people from the city's different cultures to get to know each other a little better. The center opened earlier this fall to provide a place to welcome newcomers to the town and to try to break down cultural barriers in Willmar.
WILLMAR — The property tax levy for Willmar Public Schools will be dropping 7.6 percent for 2018. The School Board adopted the tax levy Monday after holding its annual Truth-in-Taxation public hearing. The levy was unchanged from the preliminary levy adopted in September. Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington described details of the levy during the public hearing Monday evening. No one from the public attended. After the hearing, the board unanimously approved the levy for next year.
WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board will have a regular meeting Monday before holding its annual Truth-in-Taxation public hearing in the boardroom on the first floor of the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 Fifth St. S.W. The regular board meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m., and the public hearing will begin at 6 p.m.
WILLMAR — The school year started three months ago, but Willmar Public Schools is still looking for employees. The district isn't alone. Having trouble hiring enough teachers, paraprofessionals, even lunch workers is a common issue for Minnesota's school districts. In November, Human Resources Director Liz Fischer said the district was still looking for a couple teachers plus many support staff members. That included food service workers, playground supervisors, paraprofessionals, interventionists and secretaries.
WILLMAR — Willmar Middle School students' math scores are above the state average, exceeding the goals set in the district's World's Best Workforce plan. While Willmar is making progress in nearly all areas, the math scores were the highlight when the district conducted its annual public hearing on its World's Best Workforce progress recently.
WILLMAR — It's up to you, but people who know about these things wouldn't recommend going ice fishing for at least a week, maybe longer. Jeff Denz, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer in the Kandiyohi County area, said lakes started to freeze up early this fall, but warm weather and wind thawed much of it. "Everything is back to square one," he said in a phone interview Friday. The water has reopened in many spots where people were walking a couple weeks ago, he said.
WILLMAR — Calvary Lutheran Church's Advent Festival, beginning Friday, honors Martin Luther and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The theme, "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come," comes from Luther's Christmas hymn of the same name. Organizers Clarice Novak and Krista Willis call the festival "our gift to the community," a chance for a peaceful gathering to prepare for the approach of Christmas. There is no charge for admission to the festival, which runs from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
WILLMAR — The Pizza Ranch dining room buzzed with activity Wednesday as a small crowd of new workers learned about their new jobs. It didn't take long before the excited members of Community Christian School's fifth-grade class had settled down to work. As part of a class project at the Willmar school, the students had written their resumes and sent them to Pizza Ranch manager Jeff Keller to apply for jobs. He interviewed them a week ago and hired them to work there at lunchtime Wednesday.
WILLMAR — Teachers and administrators of Lakeland Elementary School are gearing up for their move to the Willmar School District's new elementary school. Principal Gretchen Baumgarn and Assistant Principal Melissa Wilson have been planning since they started their jobs July 1 for a move that includes about 600 students plus teachers and staff. At times it seems they "get one thing done and add 10 to the list," Baumgarn said. The school was originally scheduled to open in the fall, but delays have led to a December move and a January opening.