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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The peace cranes were flying across the wall in a Roosevelt Elementary School hallway this week, but they will soon be on their way to help out a good cause. Roosevelt students have been folding do-zens of origami cranes to benefit the Crane-storm-Wishes in Flight project of the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota. The association is attempting to collect 100,000 cranes folded by volunteers during March, which is Brain Injury Awareness Month. That would be one crane for every Minnesotan affected by a brain injury. Julie Knutson, a retired teacher who works with the gifted and talented pr
WILLMAR -- For Chuck and M'Liss Switzer of St. Paul, the physical violence in their marriage started on their honeymoon 48 years ago. But after 18 years, he realized he needed to make a change. The couple sought help and ended the battering. "Their goal was to stop the violence, not the marriage," said Connie Schmoll, director of Safe Avenues in Willmar. "They are a very rare couple." Since seeking help 30 years ago, the Switzers have worked to educate law enforcement, clergy and many others about the issue of domestic abuse. "Their life has revolved around this," Schmoll said.
WILLMAR -- The latest addition to the downtown Willmar business community is Whirled Up, a nutrition club offering Herbalife shakes and other products. Whirled Up is located in the former Northern Grounds coffee shop at 333 Litchfield Ave. S.W. Proprietor Brenda Rouse opened a month ago. She calls her meal replacement shakes "fast food in a cup that tastes like dessert." People join the club one day at a time by paying a fee for which they receive a shake, hot or iced tea and a shot of aloe.
WILLMAR -- Lee Byberg of Willmar has announced his plans to launch a second campaign for Congress. Byberg, the endorsed Republican, ran against U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Detroit Lakes last year. The long-time Democratic incumbent won the race with 55.2 percent of the vote. Byberg received 37.6 percent. Byberg is vice president of operations for Life Science Innovations Inc. in Willmar.
RENVILLE -- When bear cub twins Faith and Jason are happy, they make what first-graders call "a motor noise." Faith and Jason are the favorite bears of the first-graders at Renville County West School in Renville. Their mom Lily and sister Hope are popular, too. The students in the classrooms of teachers Sharon Krogman and Lavonne Erickson have been watching the wild black bears via a live webcam operated by the North American Bear Center at Ely. The cubs' mother Lily became famous a year ago when the webcam broadcast the birth of a cub, named Hope.
WILLMAR -- Jennie-O Turkey Store has donated more than $85,000 to the Willmar School District. The School Board voted Monday to accept the Jennie-O donation and several other donations. The Jennie-O gift will be distributed to the district's four main school buildings. The largest portion of the gift was announced earlier -- $28,107 to pay for installing new audio and video equipment at Willmar Senior High. In addition, Jennie-O has donated $25,400 to purchase library books for Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools, $19,200 for elementary technology projects and $12,270 for computers at
WILLMAR -- The Willmar School Board has voted to lay off 52 non-tenured teachers and reduce the hours of one tenured teacher. The layoffs represent the equivalent of 45 full-time jobs in the school district, many of them paid for with federal funding which is no longer available.
WILLMAR -- An online survey about school cooperation is waiting for the residents of 17 school districts in central and west central Minnesota. The survey will gauge people's views on curriculum, teacher evaluation, staff training and shared services. The survey is open to anyone and is not limited to people with a connection to the schools. School leaders from an area stretching from Ortonville to Lester Prairie have been meeting since last summer to discuss the future of education in the area.
Thousands of people have taken advantage of programs of the Willmar Community Education and Recreation Department during the past year. The department, a joint venture of the Willmar School District and the city of Willmar, provides a wide range of educational and recreational activities, director Steve Brisendine said. Brisendine presented an annual report to the Willmar School Board this week and plans to present a similar report to the city soon. The program's budget includes $2.2 million in expenses for the school district and $1.3 million for the city.
WILLMAR -- Participation in sports and other activities has been strong in Willmar's schools, even with a higher fee structure in place this year. If voters allow an operating levy to expire at the end of the year, those fees could go even higher. The district's attempt to renew and increase the operating levy was turned back by the voters in 2010.