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 a survey this spring, 100% of the students at Willmar's Area Learning Center said they felt their teachers believed they could go to college. As they waited in their red caps and gown to graduate Thursday afternoon, several seniors admitted they were nervous and relieved to be graduating, and they talked about what the support of their teachers meant to them. "It's an unexplainable feeling" to know the school staff is there for them, said Sara Diaz-Romero. For Connor Stevens, "It's nice to know people are rooting for you."
WILLMAR — A Willmar man is serving prison time for his role in a burglary and armed robbery in July at a Kandiyohi home. Lateef Deondra Mahaffey, 22, was sentenced last week in Kandiyohi County District Court to 45 months in prison. He was given credit for more than nine months already served in jail. State records show he is in custody at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud. In April, Mahaffey had pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and second-degree assault. Eight other felonies were dismissed at his sentencing under a plea agreement.
OLIVIA — A Franklin man has lost his bid to have manslaughter and vehicular homicide charges against him dismissed. Russel Allen Doucette, 38, faces three felony counts in the July 2017 death of Randy Lee Oletzke, 59, of Franklin. A jury trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 12 on one charge of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of criminal vehicular homicide. Doucette is accused of running over Oletzke at the farmsite where both of them lived and waiting 24 hours to report the death.
MONTEVIDEO — A judge has denied a petition for a restraining order filed by a young woman who said a former police chief had been harassing her. Eighth District Judge Charles Glasrud filed the order May 10. The 18-year-old woman sought the harassment restraining order in November, saying Montevideo Police Chief Adam Christopher, 47, had sent her hundreds of texts, some of a sexual nature.
WILLMAR — One of the men charged with multiple felonies for threatening a Montevideo man and robbing him at gunpoint has pleaded guilty to one felony. Jawaanza Osayande Kiambu Jones, 25, of St. Cloud, pleaded guilty May 10 to a felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Other charges will be dismissed at sentencing under a plea agreement.
WILLMAR — There's never a dull moment with the Willmar speech team. This weekend at a national competition in Omaha, team members will interpret the writings of a survivor of the Sandy Hook school shooting and offer an informational presentation about the way early trauma can affect a person's brain. There's a funny bit about beauty queens marooned on a deserted island and an informational presentation tracking the changing public opinion of same-sex marriage. Speech competitions are a lot more than getting dressed up in a suit to recite a famous speech.
WILLMAR — Rachel Lanning can transport an audience from a Willmar Senior High School classroom to a different time and place in her prose interpretation. Using words written by a Connecticut teacher, Rachel takes onlookers to a tiny bathroom in the back of an elementary school classroom. Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, to be specific — the day 20 young children and 6 staff members died in a mass shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.
OLIVIA — A Cambridge man has received a 29-month prison sentence for attempting to bribe a witness set to testify in a 2017 burglary case in Renville County. Anthony Steven Kalland, 39, was sentenced in Renville County District Court this week to 29 months in prison. He received 188 days of credit for time already served, a little longer than six months. Under state law, Kalland will serve a minimum of two-thirds of his sentence in prison and may serve the rest on supervised release.
MONTEVIDEO — Two men have been charged with multiple felonies for allegedly entering a man's home, threatening him with a gun, robbing him and forcing him to drive them away from the scene. Jawaanza Osayande Kiambu Jones, 25, of St. Cloud, and Kenneth Nathanial Roundtree, 21, of Franklin, made their initial appearances Monday in Chippewa County District Court.
WILLMAR — Harley Anez and Mateo Marin-Mera have been best friends since they met in sixth grade. Now 18 and a few weeks from graduation, they are about to go their separate ways — Harley to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and Mateo to the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., visited Willmar Senior High School on Monday to congratulate the two students, the first time he can recall two academy appointments from the same high school.