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 — A Willmar woman is facing felony drug charges for allegedly stealing opioid painkillers at the pharmacy where she worked. Amber Rae Morton, 26, of Willmar, made her first appearance Wednesday in Kandiyohi County District Court on two felony charges of third-degree drug possession and one charge of felony theft. Morton was released on her own recognizance with orders to remain law-abiding and to stay in contact with probation and to not possess alcohol or drugs. Her next court date is Sept. 11.
WILLMAR — A Willmar man pleaded guilty Wednesday to kidnapping an 8-month-old baby in February. 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, but that charge was dismissed in a plea agreement. Esparza-Mendez has been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar on $250,000 bail since his arrest Feb. 24.
WILLMAR — Imagine living in a one- or two-room house made of mud bricks. The bricks are a terra cotta color, as is the dust that rises from the dirt path outside your door. Your closest neighbor probably lives only feet away in a community of a half million people, smashed into an area originally intended for 90,000. There's never enough to eat, and, sometimes, the little basic food you have is the currency used to obtain "luxuries" like tea, or underwear. You'd like to have a job but that isn't allowed.
WILLMAR — The city and schools of Willmar are featured players in "Warehoused," a documentary about refugees to premiere around the world Tuesday, which is World Refugee Day. The movie will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center auditorium. Admission is free, and the community is invited to attend. The film is 80 minutes long and is expected to end at dusk, when Muslims observing Ramadan will break their daily fast.
WILLMAR — The 2017-18 budget approved this week by the Willmar School Board reflects the many changes coming for the district this year in both increased revenue and expenses. The School Board adopted the 2017-18 budget at its meeting this week.
WILLMAR — So far, projects in the Willmar Public Schools building program are under budget. Voters approved the $52.35 million bond referendum in May 2015. It included a new elementary school and additions at the middle and high schools. Remodeling and maintenance projects were also part of the total. There were some cost overruns on a Middle School science classroom addition, because the school needed to install a new fire suppression system. However, bids on the new school and a Senior High gym addition have been less than estimates.
WILLMAR — Twenty or 30 years from now, children who walk into Lakeland Elementary School in January will point to the school and say, "I was there on the first day." Anticipating the pride decades of students will feel in their school makes the multiple layers of planning required all worth it, according to Willmar Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Holm.
WILLMAR — Three candidates will compete in the Aug. 22 special election to fill a vacancy on the Willmar School Board. Mary Amon, Katherine E. McGill and Monica Villars filed to run before the filing period closed Tuesday afternoon. The person elected Aug. 22 will succeed the late Jared Anez, who died in March. Anez was chairman of the School Board. The person who is elected will serve the remainder of Anez's term through the end of 2018. Until the election, the School Board is operating with six members.
WILLMAR — A Willmar man was sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to register as a predatory offender for having sex with a 14-year-old girl at his home in January. Chase John Hodapp, 26, of Willmar, was sentenced to serve 365 days in the Kandiyohi County Jail on a felony charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He will receive credit for one day already served in jail.
WILLMAR — A Willmar man who gave methamphetamine to an 11-year-old boy was sentenced Friday to jail time and chemical dependency treatment. Travis Richard Summerlet, 29, of Willmar, was charged in October in Kandiyohi County District Court with three felonies for storing meth in the presence of a child, permitting a child to use meth and for fifth-degree drug possession. In a plea agreement, two charges were dismissed, and Summerlet was sentenced for the drug possession charge.