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 — 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 and two partners opened Fabulous Finds at the beginning of October last year, just a few days after the former Lillian’s closed in the first floor of her building at 414 Becker Avenue. “Now I rent from myself,” Dougherty said. They put the shop together in two nights and opened it up. They purposely gave it a fun, but “vague” name “because we weren’t sure where we would go with it.”
By Linda Vanderwerf firstname.lastname@example.org WILLMAR — Work is already under way on some of the goals included in the Willmar School District’s new strategic plan, even though the final draft isn’t completed. Other work, including appointing a committee to study the facilities and revamping programs for students learning English, will take place in the near future. Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard told the Willmar School Board this week that the final draft would be finished after comments are received from board members and the public.
WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board voted to terminate the contracts of 80 non-tenured teachers Monday, an annual practice. Many of the teachers may be rehired before the next school year, depending on the district’s needs and financial condition. The list includes 25 full-time equivalents among elementary teachers, 7.6 FTE in English Language Learner teachers and 4.3 FTE in physical education. Some of the teachers are working full-time while others are part-time. New teachers must work for the district for three years to be eligible for tenure.
WILLMAR - No more overloaded backpacks or sore back for Karina DeJong — or her classmates — this year. The Willmar Senior High senior says the Apple iPad tablet computer she carries has replaced heavy books, and she hardly ever carries a backpack anymore. The Willmar School District provided one-to-one iPads for juniors and seniors this year, with the help of a community fundraising effort. The school plans to provide iPads for sophomores next year.
WILLMAR — The social studies department at Willmar Senior High makes about 3,000 copies a month now. A year ago, that number was 20,000. The primary reason for that 85 percent drop? iPads. Willmar started the school year by issuing an Apple iPad tablet computer to every junior and senior in the school. The district went from a half dozen iPads a couple years ago to more than 1,700 across the district this year. The district is in its third year of working with iPads. Faculty learned to use the tablets first and looked at ways of using them in classes.