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 — An increase in the Willmar Public Schools' general fund balance is at least partially due to unresolved teacher contract negotiations. In an audit report to the Willmar School Board this week, auditor Paul Harvego said changes in the special education funding formula and the lack of a contract settlement contributed to an undesignated fund balance of nearly $7.5 million, about 15 percent of annual expenditures. Harvego is an auditor with Conway, Deuth & Schmiesing accountants of Willmar. "Everything looks good," Harvego said.
WILLMAR — An addition at Willmar Senior High is expected to cost about $600,000 less than originally estimated. The Willmar School Board approved contracts for the addition at its meeting Monday. The original estimate for the gymnastics room, fitness room and two-court wood floor gymnasium was $7.5 million. The contracts awarded Monday, including some add-ons, was $6.9 million, a difference of $613,000.
WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board will meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the boardroom on the first floor of the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 Fifth St. S.W. The board is scheduled to receive the district's annual audit and to award contracts for an addition at Willmar Senior High School. The notes attached to the audit by school district administration indicate that the district's enrollment increased in the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Enrollment increased 70 students from one year to the next.
WILLMAR — Willmar's first Blessing Box is already a busy place, just a few days after it was placed along Willmar Avenue. The Blessing Box, at the corner of Willmar Avenue and Sixth Street Southeast, functions as a miniature food shelf. The wooden box with doors contains a variety of non-perishable food items and other basic necessities. Think of it as a little free library with food instead of books. People in the community are welcome to stop by the box and take what they need or to leave food donations for others.
WILLMAR — President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 102 people Thursday, including a man from Willmar. Nathan Robert Engel, 37, has been in prison in Iowa. His sentence was reduced by more than 10 years. According to a 2008 Drug Enforcement Agency news release, Engel was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison in August 2008 after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in western Iowa. He was ordered to serve 10 years on supervised release after he was released from prison.
WILLMAR—A bomb threat to Willmar's schools posted on Facebook Monday morning was investigated and found to not be a credible threat to the school district. The Willmar Police Department investigated the post immediately, Superintendent Jeff Holm said in a message sent to parents and staff members Monday afternoon. The Police Department's school resource officers identified the person as a 17-year-old girl who lives in Willmar and were in contact with her, Police Chief Jim Felt said Monday afternoon.
WILLMAR — To her classmates, Anisa Abdulahi deserved to be elected Willmar Senior High's homecoming queen because she's so nice, and everybody likes her. The other members of her royal court recognize she's the first Somali-American homecoming queen, but they pay more attention to the type of person she is. Anisa was crowned Monday evening, along with homecoming king Grant Duininck. They were elected by the entire student body after seniors chose the candidates.
WILLMAR—Willmar's teachers and the school district may have taken a step toward resolving a two-year labor contract that expired nearly 15 months ago. Negotiators for the the Willmar School Board and Education Minnesota-Willmar met Wednesday to compare the formulas they have been using to calculate the overall dollar value of their proposals. Most language issues have been resolved, but there has been no agreement on salaries.
WILLMAR—The Willmar School Board has approved about $13.3 million in contracts for the district's new elementary school. At a special meeting Thursday morning, board members approved 30 different contracts for the third phase of bidding on the project. Work started in the spring at the site along Lakeland Drive Southeast east of the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA. Site preparation and underground utilities are finished. Footings were poured this week. The fourth bidding phase will be for playground equipment and asphalt.
WILLMAR—Bids on the third phase of construction on Willmar's new elementary school were opened Tuesday afternoon. The Willmar School Board will meet at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to award the contracts, contingent on a full audit of the bids by the construction manager hired by the board. Stephen Plantenberg, senior project manager with R.A. Morton Construction Managers of St. Cloud, read the bid amounts for more than 30 different aspects of the project.