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 — 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.
WILLMAR — It's a moving moment when you hear 40 people chanting "We believe her" and you know they're chanting for you. A rally in support of victims of sexual assault brought more than a few tears from Willmar native Emily Schlecht. Schlecht told her story at a Break the Silence rally in front of the Kandiyohi County Courthouse Sunday afternoon in Willmar.
LITCHFIELD — The Meeker County Sheriff's Office and Litchfield Police Department have been investigating 13 burglaries of homes, businesses and sheds since October 1. A search warrant executed Monday led to the recovery of more than 200 suspected stolen items, according to a news release from Sheriff Brian Cruze and Police Chief Patrick Fank. The items were recovered in the 400 block of South Austin Street, Litchfield. A subsequent traffic stop in Cass County led to the recovery of additional stolen items.
MONTEVIDEO — A Montana woman pleaded guilty Thursday to using her mother-in-law's assets to support her own lifestyle while the elderly woman was evicted from a nursing home. Martina Annette Christie, 61, of Billings, Montana, entered an Alford guilty plea in Chippewa County District Court in Montevideo. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a likely conviction.
WILLMAR — Willmar Public Schools spent $5,545 per student on instruction costs in the past year, nearly $400 more than the 2016 state average. The Willmar School Board heard a report on the district's annual audit Monday. The audit covers fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30.
WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board will hear a report on the school district's annual audit when it meets at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the boardroom at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. The audit covers the fiscal year which ended June 30. The Conway, Deuth & Schmiesing accounting firm of Willmar conducted the audit.
WILLMAR — Carlos Trevino has returned to school after dropping out in the 10th grade, and he's glad he found Willmar's Area Learning Center. Trevino, 18, said a new schedule and other changes implemented this year have helped him a lot, he said. He credits the Advancement Via Individual Determination academic support program with helping him make progress toward a diploma. "I'm more accountable," he said. "I have to do it myself." Trevino came back to school to earn his diploma with the goal of going on to study law enforcement in college.
WILLMAR — In two months, about 600 students will be rushing through the doors of Lakeland Elementary School. The new school is scheduled to open in January. Students who will attend the school are now going to school at Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools. Lots of finishing touches remain, but the main infrastructure of the new building is complete and enclosed. During a tour this week, Superintendent Jeff Holm and Preston Euerle of RA Morton Construction Managers described the work that's been finished and what remains.
WILLMAR — The lawyer for a man who tossed a raw pig's foot onto a table at the Willmar Farmers Market has filed another motion for dismissal, this one seeking dismissal of the most serious charge, which alleges bias. Joseph Francis Fernkes, 61, of Willmar, faces three charges stemming from an incident in August. He is accused of throwing the raw pig's foot onto the table where Muslims from the local Somali community were selling vegetables. The vegetables could not be sold after the raw meat had been on the table.
MONTEVIDEO — A man convicted of stealing from his mother's estate while she was evicted from her nursing home was ordered to pay restitution in the case. Michael Scott Christie, 63, of Lame Deer, Montana, was sentenced Tuesday to jail time and more than $40,000 in restitution. He had earlier pleaded guilty to two felony charges of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, his mother who had lived in Clarkfield.