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 — In the 216 Willmar Senior High School job fair, Cash Wise Foods found five new employees. Store manager Chad Primus said he's glad the job fair has become an annual event, and he plans to have Cash Wise represented each year into the future. The second WHS Student Job Fair & Expo fair will run from 11:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Tuesday in the high school gym. The job fair is sponsored by the school district, Ridgewater College, Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Central Minnesota Jobs & Training.
WILLMAR — Willmar's teachers have voted to approve a tentative contract settlement with Willmar Public Schools. Members of Education Minnesota-Willmar voted 273 in favor to 41 opposed to approve a tentative agreement on Wednesday, union president Tammy Knapper said in a telephone interview Thursday. The agreement was reached in a March 6 negotiating session. Nearly all of the district's teachers, 95 percent, participated in the election. "I think overall, the teachers are satisfied with the contract they were able to negotiate," Knapper said.
WILLMAR — The Willmar Knowledge Bowl team will compete in the state meet this weekend in Brainerd, the first time in four years the team has qualified. And the team members would like you to know they're "pretty cool" and not your stereotypical nerds. The team that qualified includes Brady Newcomer, Manny Obregon, captain Taylor Rudnick, Carson Selander and Francis Winter. All are seniors at Willmar Senior High School. Teacher Todd Lynum is their coach. As a team, they answer questions about science, math, current events, history, music and literature.
WILLMAR — Work on Willmar's destination playground is entering its home stretch. The Willmar City Council approved a playground surfacing contract at its Monday meeting and heard an update on the progress of the playground to be located at Robbins Island. Surface America Inc. of Williamsville, New York, will install a two-layer rubber-urethane playground surface over a concrete base for $181,010. The bid was $30,000 to $40,000 less than an engineer's estimate.
WILLMAR — The veterinary technology program at Ridgewater College opened its doors January to 10 former Minnesota School of Business students. So far, having the students join the program at mid-year has gone well, said program director Dr. Al Balay. Balay spent his Christmas break from school going over transcripts and meeting with students who responded to Ridgewater's invitation to check out the school.
WILLMAR — Richard James Graf, 43, of Litchfield, made his first court appearance Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court on felony charges of theft and theft of a motor vehicle. He was released on his own recognizance. His next court date is April 10. According to court records, Graf agreed to restore a 1968 Torino GT convertible for a person identified in the court file as Victim A. The vehicle was delivered to Graf's business, Custom Graf X Auto Customizing in Willmar, in February 2015. They agreed that the work would be finished by Nov. 1, 2016.
WILLMAR — A Willmar man who allegedly kidnapped an 8-month-old baby in February pleaded not guilty to the charges against him Monday. Angel Esparza-Mendez, 23, also known as Angel Esparza and Pedro Xavier Rivera-Lopez, was charged in late February with kidnapping with the intent to terrorize, a felony. He was also charged with felony fifth-degree drug possession. He has been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar on $250,000 bail since his arrest. His next court hearing in Kandiyohi County District Court is set for June 21.
WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County Community Service workers are using cast-off materials and ingenuity to build wooden recycling boxes as a way to encourage recycling. The boxes, probably more of a recycling center, have so far been placed in county offices and a few other places. As the workers fill the orders they have, the Community Service Program hopes to be able to offer them to businesses and others to promote the county's recycling program. The hope is that a nice-looking recycling station may help remind people to recycle more, said program coordinator Brian Nelson.
WILLMAR — Parents who might be new to using the internet or to U.S. culture got some advice Saturday at the Willmar Middle School Family Day. The Saturday morning gathering at the Middle School offered advice for online safety and for positive parenting. Kathy Hotakainen, community outreach specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, offered some cautionary tales and some practical tips for parents who want to keep their children safe online.
WILLMAR — Jared Anez, chairman of the Willmar School Board, died unexpectedly Tuesday morning in Willmar. Anez, 45, reportedly was found unresponsive after working out and showering at a Willmar health club. Efforts to revive him were not successful. Anez was elected to the School Board in the 2014 election and had been elected chairman in January. He and his wife, Kami, had owned Anez Consulting Inc. since 1997. The business provides farm level services in agronomy, engineering and conservation planning. They have five sons and one daughter.