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 — In the past, students who didn’t speak English at Willmar Senior High needed to learn the language to “unlock” all the learning they had experienced. In the past six years, “we have students (arriving) that do not have a history of education,” Senior High Principal Paul Schmitz told the Willmar School Board Monday. Schmitz spoke with the board about a plan for improving achievement at the Senior High and explained some of the school’s past test scores. “The snapshot doesn’t tell the whole picture,” he said.
WILLMAR — The FIRST Robotics team from Willmar Senior High is waiting to find out if it will be invited to statewide competition in just its second year of competition. The Willmar team, No. 4239 WARP SPEED, was in an alliance that fell just short of winning in regional competition last weekend on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Scores from the four regional competitions will determine who is invited back to the statewide competition in May. Teams will hear in the next couple weeks if they qualified for the state meet.
WILLMAR — Ridgewater College will celebrate a “Building Breaking” for its $14 million remodeling project at 11 a.m. Friday in front of the Student Services Building on the college’s Willmar campus. The construction and remodeling project has been in the works for several years. A first phase was completed several years ago, but the second phase was dropped from two successive bonding bills before winning final approval in 2012. The project includes expanding and improving facilities for agriculture and veterinary technician programs.
WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board will meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the board room on the first floor of the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 Fifth St. S.W. The agenda includes the recall of nearly 50 of the 80 non-tenured teachers who were notified last month that they would be laid off. School officials said at the time that many of the teachers would likely be recalled once the district had a better idea of what its needs would be for next year.
WILLMAR — Juan Raul Cardenas, 38, of Willmar, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday for repeatedly molesting a young girl at a Willmar residence. Cardenas was convicted of two counts of second-degree and two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct after a court trial before Judge Stephanie Beckman in Kandiyohi County District Court. According to Beckman’s conviction order, the girl, who is now 15, testified that the abuse happened when she was 11 to 12 years ago at a Willmar residence. She told an adult about the abuse in July 2012.
Ten years ago, a newcomer might have thought Willmar’s downtown was going downhill. That may have been the right impression then, but a lot has changed. Through the work of some ambitious non-profit organizations and a mixture of long-term and new businesses, downtown Willmar is a vibrant, busy place again. “I think it’s a big success story downtown,” said Beverly Dougherty, director of The Design Center in downtown Willmar and also a business owner downtown. The Design Center is a nonprofit working to revitalize downtown Willmar.
Public schools are always introducing new technology for their students. At one time, it meant film strips, then films, then televisions, then computers, then smart white boards, now iPads. It’s all part of the need to stay current on technology to prepare young people for the world they’ll find beyond high school.
A recent study indicated that Ridgewater College has a $90 million economic impact on the region around its campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson. Ridgewater President Douglas Allen said the college often works with businesses by providing training for employees and sending out well-qualified graduates. The college has about 350 separate contracts with area businesses to provide training, Allen said.
Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard often visits elementary classrooms to read to the kids. Part of the fun for him is looking at all the different faces, he said recently. About 44 percent of the district’s students come from ethnic or racial minority groups. That’s 1,804 of the district’s 4,135 students. The most prevalent groups are Latinos and Somalis. The district has smaller numbers of students of Native American or Asian Pacific heritage.
WILLMAR — It was a bit of a problem for Bev Dougherty — her biggest tenant was leaving her downtown Willmar building. Her solution? Open a new business herself. Dougherty...