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News from the week of July 17, 2002

Controversy still swirls around counselor vacancy

Issues surrounding the hiring of a District 417 guidance counselor will remain unsettled at least until Monday,

On Monday, July 22, the Tracy Board of Education will again consider an administrative recommendation to hire Susan Bowen of Austin to fill the guidance counselor position that has been held by Chris Kamrud for the past 31 years. The Monday deliberations will mark the third time in two weeks the board has considered the action. Board members tabled the issue twice—at a regular meeting July 8 and at a special July 12 meeting attended by about 70 people.

The vacancy was created when Kamrud resigned last month, in order to accept a retirement pension package. Kamrud later applied to be re-hired, at the bottom of the district's teacher pay scale. But, after interviewing Kamrud and two other candidates, school administration recommended that Bowen be hired.

Friday night, Ed Carter made the motion to table action until July 22. Carter said he'd originally hoped the board could resolve the issue Friday. He changed his mind, Carter said, because he didn't feel he had all the necessary information to make a decision. The board member said he didn't want to rush into making a decision, and then “have something come back to bite us because it is not legal or right.” He stressed that he wants to be certain that school board policy was followed in the guidance counselor's hiring process, and that the board “does the right thing,” while also observing data privacy laws.

Excitement still rippling from new aquatic center

The newly-opened Tracy Aquatic Center continues to be a busy place.

The multiple pool facility, which opened July 6, had attracted 3,701 admissions through its first ten days. Friday, Saturday and Sunday have been the aquatic center's three busiest days, with 449, 443, and 443 admissions.

Sales of season swimming passes have been brisk. As of Tuesday afternoon, 274 season passes had been sold. The biggest category was City of Tracy resident family passes, with 168 pass sales.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman says she is pleased with the early turnout. “It has been more than we anticipated.”

Heidi Miller, pool staff member, said that “there are still new people who come everyday.” Out-of-town visitors, she said, have included significant numbers from Marshall.

She said she has also noticed many grandparents who have been bringing their grandchildren to the pool.

The first session of swimming lessons has 152 students registered. The second swimming lesson session begins July 29.

A full compliment of swimming activities are underway. Water aerobics are held Tuesday and Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. A competitive girls' swim team will practice Tuesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Early swimming hours are offered every weekday beginning at 6 a.m.

Joe Kemp accepts Wabasso teaching job

Joe Kemp has resigned from a social studies teaching position at Tracy Area High School to Accept a position with the Wabasso school district.

The Tracy board of Education accepted Kemp's resignation "with thanks and best wishes for the future" Friday night.

Kemp has been with the district since the 1997-98 school year, when he was hired to succeed the retiring Bill Bolin. Besides teaching social studies, Kemp has been active coaching extra curricular sports. He has been an assistant baseball coach, head wrestling coach, and was the head football coach this past fall. In the summer of 1998 he coached the Milroy American Legion Baseball team to a state championship.

Mediator joins contract talks

With the help of a state mediator, Tracy Education Association and Tracy School Board negotiators met Tuesday in an attempt to reach a new contract settlement.

The closed session was held at Tracy Lutheran Church. As of Wednesday morning, no announcements had been made on what progress, if any, the mediation process had stirred.

Teacher and board of education representatives have met 17 times since June of 2001 in an attempt to work out a new master teaching contract for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years.

“We would really like to have a contract by the time we go back to our classrooms (this fall),” said SuAnn Christiansen, co-president of the Tracy Education Association, on Monday. She said it was frustrating for teachers to work an entire year without a new contract.

Dr. Rick Clark, Tracy superintendent of schools, said Tuesday morning prior to the mediation session that he would also like to see a settlement. He said he welcomed the third-party mediator in Tuesday's negotiations.

Christiansen said Monday that six points need to be resolved by negotiators. They include retiree insurance, a financial incentive plan for teachers at the top of the district pay scale, rising health insurance premiums, language changes related to extra-curricular activities, elimination of age discrimination language, and improvements in the district's salary schedule.

Christiansen said that the district “can't afford to fall behind” in teacher pay if it expects to continue to attract good teachers.

Franchise motel studied

A drive is underway to raise money for a new motel in Tracy.

A goal has been established to raise $500,000 to $600,000 in capital stock to build a franchise motel in Tracy. The Tracy Area Development Corporation has agreed to invest the first $50,000.

A group of Tracy area people has been studying the motel possibility since this spring. Dean Salmon, one of the organizers, feels that a national chain motel has good potential in Tracy. He notes that there now isn't a single franchise motel on Hwy. 14, between Brookings and Sleepy Eye.

The possibility that Tracy might be selected as a construction site for the planned upgrading of Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, is seen as another positive for a new motel.

Vacant land on the south side of Hwy. 14, between the Mediterranean and the Dairy Queen, is under consideration as a motel site.

Open house spotlights remodeled funeral home

Tim and Joy Kulow hosted an open house at the newly-remodeled Tracy Area Funeral Home Monday.

“We're very pleased with the number of people who have stopped by,” said Tim Kulow.

The Kulows purchased funeral homes in Walnut Grove and Tracy from John Jacobson effective Feb. 1. After taking possession, the Kulows began extensive renovations of the Tracy facility, located at 372 Third St. The Kulows are building a new funeral home in Walnut Grove.

The former Jacobson Funeral Home was gutted on the first floor and replaced with all-new construction, including new floor coverings, wood trim, wallpaper, and furnishings. Several interior walls were removed to create more spaciousness. The new chapel area has room to seat about 100 people, with an overflow area capable of handing another 100 people, Kulow said.

New handicapped-accessible men's and women's bathrooms were constructed. A family conference room features a hardwood dining room set, with a nearby small refrigerator and coffee area. A casket display area is located in a separate room. A ramp to a side door was removed.

Exterior improvements include a new front entry door, a new front entry ramp, and new landscaping around the building.