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News from the week of October 2, 2002

Tracy's oldest resident hits 104

Tracy centenarian Elvina Olson celebrated another milestone last week.

One-hundred four years ago, Olson was born Elvina Louise Olava Holten to Lars and Elvina Holten. Her mother, who was 19, died 10 days later. The baby girl was baptized on the day of her mother's funeral.

Olson, now a resident at Prairie View Healthcare Center, celebrated her 104th birthday last Thursday with her family. She also received many cards.

She doesn't let age or the fact that she's now in a wheelchair bring her down. She's described as someone who participates in all activities at Prairie View and a great coffee drinker.

And how does it feel to be 104?

“I feel fine,” Olson declared.

She's also happy to oblige a request for a photograph with a bright smile. When told she has a lovely smile, she asks, “Do you think so?”

Olson hasn't always has an easy life. After her mother's death, she and her brother went to live with aunts. When she was 4, Elvina's father remarried, and the siblings went to live with their father and stepmother near Maple Grove.

Nine new siblings followed, and Elvina was often in charge of their care.

At age 19, Elvina went to live with her aunt and uncle, Carl and Josephine Rygh, in Tracy. There, she worked as a telephone operator for about three years before marrying World War I veteran Gilbert Olson.

Gilbert Olson and his brother, Lewis, were the proprietors of Olson Brothers Grocery Store from 1918 until 1943. He later worked at the Hedger Brothers Red & White grocery store.

The Olsons had a son, Howard, and four daughters, Naomi (Jansen), Lorraine (Frisvold), Arlene (Gleason), and Connie (Harnack). Howard died at age 18.

Gilbert died of cancer in 1947.

Elvina remained active in the community for many years. She was a charter member of Zion Lutheran Church and the Tracy VFW Auxiliary. She also spent a great deal of time volunteering and sharing her talents as a cook and seamstress.

Elvina lived in the same house for 65 years before moving to Twin Circle Apartments. She moved to Prairie View in 1994.

School levy to jump when operating levy kicks in next year

Taxes still far below '01 levels

Tracy school board members have approved a preliminary 2003 property tax levy that is about double the 2002 property tax levy. But the proposed 2003 school levy is about one-fourth the size of the 2001 school levy.

Why the big swings?

The taxes-payable 2002 levy reflected changes enacted by the state legislature to shift state K-12 education aid away from the property tax.

The proposed taxes-payable 2003 levy includes an operating levy that was approved by District 417 voters in November of last year.

The proposed 2003 school levy is $403,233, a figure that includes $162,160 from the operating levy, a $208,067 general levy, and $33,005 for community service.

The Tracy school levy for taxes payable in 2002 was $211,592. The school levy for taxes-payable in 2001 was $1,601,262.

The proposed 2003 levy for the general and operating levy categories are the maximum allowed by law. The community service levy is $19,375 less than the maximum allowable levy.

The District 417 Board of Education will finalize its 2003 levy in December, after holding a “truth-in-taxation” public hearing. School board members can reduce, but not increase, the proposed 2003 levy.

Tracy Elementary test scores rise

Area schools received the results of the 2002 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) test last week. The test is administered to third and fifth graders.

The test consists of math and reading sections for both grades, and a writing section for fifth graders.

Students are evaluated according to five achievement levels, with Level I being the lowest and Level IV being the highest. Scores are also evaluated on a scale average.

Tracy Elementary

Test scores at Tracy Elementary improved slightly over 2001.

In grade 3, the average score in reading was 1489.4, up from 1447 the previous year. The state average was 1486.2.

Elementary Principal Scott Loeslie said he is pleased with the school's consistent improvement. “I think we've been moving right along,” he said. “We seem to be moving from Level IIa to Level IIb to Level III.”

He said the scores are monitored closely each year, because if the averages fall below the 1420 mark, the state will target that school for improvement. “They're making sure schools are accountable for the money that they're spending,” he said.

The scores are examined closely by third and fifth grade teachers also. The teachers go through the tests student by student and objective by objective, Loeslie said. If they see less than targeted scores in a certain objective, they make plans to improve that part of their instruction.

“I think that they've done that, because our scores are definitely very much improved,” he said. “That's a credit to the teachers, but it's also a credit to the students.” He adds that the scores are especially significant when demographics, such as the percentage of LEP students and the poverty level, are figured in.

Nelson is `commended' National Merit student

Eric Nelson, a senior at Tracy Area High School, has been named a commended student in the 2003 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Nelson, the son of Todd and Laurie Jo Nelson, is president of the TAHS student council and peer counselors, and is a member of the National Honor Society. He is in his fifth year of participation in knowledge bowl, fourth year in speech, and third year in the Panther Television Network.

Nelson entered the competition by taking the 2001 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last fall. He is one of about 34,000 commended students throughout the nation being recognized for exceptional academic promise.

Although they will not continue in the 2003 competition for Merit Scholarship awards, Nelson and the other commended students placed in the top five percent of more than one million students who entered the competition.

Nelson's scores placed him in the 97th percentile.

“I'm very pleased with how I did and I'm very glad I took it,” Nelson said.

Midwest Supply changes to `Hardware Hank' brand

Midwest Supply of Tracy and Slayton are making the switch to Hardware Hank.

Owners Ken Schiller and Myron Trulock believes that the switch in hardware vendors will be an advantage for customers, while still providing a recognizable name in Hardware Hank. “They're tailored more to stores like us,” Schiller said. Both stores will still belong to Wheat Belt, a major buyer that supplies most of the stores' merchandise.

The major change customers will be seeing is the expansion of the store's paint center, said Schiller. The enhanced paint center will include a Color Match computer that will allow customers to bring in a swatch of fabric or other color sample and make a paint color to match.

The Tracy and Slayton stores will be carrying the Valspar line of paint, which has gotten high ratings for all of its paints, Schiller said. While there will be a few changes, Schiller said the difference won't be too noticeable to customers.

“Our product mix is going to be the same as it always has been,” he said. The goals will also remain the same.

“It's our goal to stress the importance of buying a good, quality product at a reasonable price,” he said. “Customer service will still be important—that's why people come here.”

Schiller also emphasizes that the Midwest Supply stores carry a variety of other products, from farm supplies to a line of clothing and outerwear. “Our store is not only a hardware store,” he said.

Midwest Supply is planning a customer appreciation anniversary celebration for mid-November. At that time, the store will also be kicking off the Hardware Hank theme.

Internet classes would expand school curriculum

Courses available, if district is willing to pay extra costs

On-line classes could someday be just a mouse click away for Tracy Area High School students.

The Tracy Board of Education and community members got a glimpse last week at what on-line learning could evolve into for District 417.

Cliff Carmody, director of educational services for the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative, briefed the board Sept. 23 about the availability of on-line classes through the Voyageur Learning Academy.

“We look on this as a choice for your district,” Carmody said. “It is a neat way to use technology to deliver (educational) services. We believe on-line courses are an opportunity for rural school districts to enhance curriculum.”

The Marshall-based educational co-op offers 54 on-line classes to member school districts. Last year, about 70 students enrolled in web-based courses through the academy. Many of the participants were in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City school district, where 30 students took an on-line oceanography class.

The Internet, Carmody said, can help small school districts maintain and expand curriculum when it's not financially feasible to offer small enrollment classes on-site. “We would rather put a teacher in front of the students but it isn't always possible,” he said.

For some schools, on-line learning represents “cutting edge technology,” Carmody said. Other districts might see web-based learning as a way to survive. “If it is a struggle to maintain elective courses, you might want to use this as a way of keeping kids in your district.”

On-line courses from the Voyageur Learning Academy run the gamut from math and science to English and business offerings. Driver's education is one of the newest on-line courses.

Unlike a traditional classroom, on-line classes operate with the teacher and students at widely-separated sites. Students do course work on personal computers, and communicate with teachers through e-mail. Class discussions can take place in on-line “chat rooms.” The Voyageur classes—designed to be finished within 18 weeks—are about a semester in length.