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—Willmar Middle School has gone through a behind-the-scenes update, but students may not notice most of it when they come back to school Tuesday. They may not realize why the air seems fresher, and that the building is safer than it was when they left last spring. They will certainly notice the expansion to the cafeteria. And they'll likely hear some of the work going on in the new science rooms that will open mid-year.
WILLMAR—Parents and kids will have a new morning routine this fall at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar, but it should be somewhat familiar. When school starts on Sept. 6, buses and cars will follow the same procedures in the morning that they have followed in the afternoon for some time. Adult crossing guards are gone, part of last spring's budget cuts. A Safety Patrol of fifth-graders, the oldest students in the K-5 school, has been trained to guide other students. The school is also installing flashing signs to warn drivers to slow down and be ready to stop.
WILLMAR—Fran Gonzalez had spent the last two days cooking in anticipation of her son's return home from Kuwait. E4 Specialist Jose Martin Gonzalez Jr. was among more than 150 members of the 682nd Engineer Battalion who returned to Willmar Saturday afternoon. Members of the unit had left Willmar in early October 2015. Yellow ribbons around trees and signposts greeted visitors on the drive up to Willmar Senior High School Saturday.
SPICER -- A 38-year-old Lake Lillian man was arrested early Sunday after people at Zorbaz restaurant allegedly witnessed him firing a gun as he drove out of the parking lot.
WILLMAR—Starting high school with a half credit toward graduation isn't such a bad deal, even it if means going to school a few weeks early. About 30 incoming ninth-graders are spending six days at Willmar Senior High School this month to get ready for their first year of high school. The 9-12 school has about 1,200 students. Their reactions are mixed, as might be expected among 14-year-olds. Some of the kids said they weren't all that happy to be going to school in August, but others said they were having fun.
WILLMAR—The Willmar School Board has voted to end the practice of laying off all non-tenured teachers in the district each spring. The board adopted a revised employee handbook at its Monday meeting that changed the policy. In the future, non-tenured teachers will be laid off for reasons of performance or the district's financial or staffing needs, Superintendent Jeff Holm said at the meeting.
WILLMAR—The next effort in resolving contract talks between the Willmar School Board and its teachers will be looking for discrepancies between the two sides' cost calculations. School officials and negotiators for Education Minnesota-Willmar met for about two hours Wednesday afternoon but ended the meeting without a contract settlement. The two sides have met more than a dozen times and participated in two mediation session without finding a resolution. Teachers have been working under an expired contract since July 1, 2015.
WILLMAR—The Willmar School Board will have at least one new face next year. Board Chairwoman Liz VanDerBill did not file for re-election during the filing period which closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday. In all, six candidates filed for four seats on the board. The three other incumbents whose terms are expiring at the end of the year did file for re-election. Tammy Barnes filed late Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for more information. Justin Bos, an incumbent, is a funeral director at Peterson Brothers Funeral Home in Willmar.
WILLMAR—The Willmar School Board has awarded the second phase of contracts for a new elementary school. The board awarded 11 contracts for construction of the shell of the building at its meeting Monday. Future contracts will deal with finishes on the building. The new school is the largest part of a district-wide building program, to be funded by a $52.35 million bond approved by the voters in a May 2015 referendum.
WILLMAR—An official weather observer for the National Weather Service recorded 8.2 inches of rainfall in Willmar Wednesday and Thursday. However, measuring rain amounts is not an exact science. It can vary by how a storm passes over and even the type of rain gauge used. Reports of much higher rain amounts have circulated in conversations and in social media since the storms passed through.