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News from the week of May 19, 2004

School to add teachers because of more pupils

Some staffing changes are on the horizon for Tracy Area Public Schools in the 2004-2005 school year. But rather than cutting staff, as the district was forced to do just a few years ago, an influx in students and new federal requirements mean that the district will have to add staff.

“These are great problems to have,” said Superintendent David Marlette. “It's a very positive thing.”

The District 417 school board discussed several personnel issues in a closed session following their regular meeting last week. The board heard from administration about several proposed changes for the upcoming school year.

The first change will be to provide three sections of kindergarten in order to keep class sizes under 20 pupils. Projections are that there will be more than 50 students entering kindergarten in the fall. Splitting kindergarten into three sections will keep numbers at about 17 to 18 per class.

Jennifer Larson, who currently teaches sixth grade at Tracy Elementary, would be shifted over to teach kindergarten. Each class would also have a paraprofessional. Marlette said that the district would likely not have to hire another paraprofessional; one already working within the district could probably be shifted over to kindergarten.

The second change is being implemented with the goal of improving the district's English as a Second Language (ESL) or English Language Learners (ELL) programs. The goal is to provide 90 minutes of ESL time to students in kindergarten through third grades and 60 minutes of ESL time for students in fourth through sixth grades. More structured ELL classes would be provided to students in the secondary level as well.

In order to achieve these goals, the district would be adding two staff members, one certified ESL teacher, and the other a reading specialist who would work with ELL and Title students. Sue Johnson, who is .6 FTE in speech and works the rest of the time in ESL, will take on the new full-time ESL position. Speech services will be contracted through the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative.

In order to balance the teachers' schedules better, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classes will be split into three sections in the morning and two in the afternoon. In the morning, students will be split into three sections for communications and math, with Title services provided in one section in each grade level. Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classes will each be split into two sections for their music, physical education, computer, science, and social studies classes after lunch, while the three Title teachers work with other Title students.

Marlette said he feels that the new staffing arrangement will allow the school to utilize staff to the maximum.

Weiner chooses Avera

Officials for Weiner Memorial Medical Center in Marshall announced their intention Tuesday to become affiliated with the Avera Health Network.

"We believe that by partnering with Avera Health, we will be able to ensure that quality health care stays a vital part of this community for years to come," said Art Olson, board chairman for WMMC, in a prepared statement.

Weiner's decision to enter into exclusive negotiations with Avera, means that Tracy Area Medical Services and the Sioux Valley Health System will continue to be a competitor with Weiner. Sioux Valley, which manages TAMS, had actively sought a partnership with Weiner. The Marshall hospital had considered proposals from both Sioux Valley and Avera.

"Our goal is to be the medical center of choice for the citizens of Lyon and neighboring counties," said Richard Slieter, Jr., administrator and chief executive officer for Weiner. Slieter indicated in Tuesday's announcement that he felt that a partnership with Avera Health is a good fit for Weiner's future vision.

The Tracy City Council, and TAMS administration, had sounded out Weiner leaders this winter, on whether cooperative possibilities existed for medical operations in Tracy and Marshall. Weiner and Marshall officials toured the Tracy Hospital and had dinner with Tracy, Westbrook, and Murray County officials.

Anglers cast off Saturday for Shetek walleye tourney

More than $3,000 in prize money is at stake in the 13th annual Lake Shetek Walleye Fishing Tournament Saturday.

The Lake Shetek Area Improvement Association is sponsoring the event. Hopes are to attract 100 or more two-person boats of anglers.

Boats are scheduled to leave Key Largo Restaurant on Valhalla Island in three waves, beginning at 7:30 a.m. Contestants are to return to Key Largo by 3 p.m. for the fish weigh-in.

Ten prizes will be awarded to the fishing teams who bring in the heaviest four-walleyes. However, walleyes must be15 inches or longer, and only one walleye per boat may be 24 inches or longer. The top prize is $1,500, with $800 for second-place, and $400 for third, $175 for fourth, and $150 for fifth. Cash prizes continue down to $60 for tenth place.

Other prizes are being offered for heaviest stringer of 15 panfish ($65), and largest walleye ($75).

The tournament encourages anglers to release their catches after the weigh-in.

Tournament proceeds will be put toward the goal of buying an aerator for the south half of the lake. Shetek now has one winter aerator that operates on the north half of the lake near Tepeeotah. Hopes are that winter fish kill in Shetek could be reduced with a second aerator.

Joe DeSchepper is chairman of the fishing tournament committee. Other committee volunteers include Leon Mumm, April Schettler, Matt and Krista Loftness, Dean McDaniel, Steve Illig, and Nancy Beech.

Entry fee for each two-member fishing team is $60. More information can be obtained by e-mailing

ECCO plans open house

Brian Bakker is a working man, and he's proud of it.

"I like my job, yes I do," he said, smiling broadly.

Brian is one of 16 people who work at the ECCO Developmental Achievement Center in Tracy, where an open house is planned Friday to show off a recently-completed expansion project.

"We love our new space," said Jeanne Hillger, a "job coach" at the work site. "It is really working out well."

The ECCO work site has operated in Tracy since 1994. Originally located in what is now the Rainbow Pre-School building on Morgan, ECCO moved to the former People's natural gas office in the late 1990s. A 20x70-foot addition was completed on the building's south side recently.

"We are very happy with how everything turned out," said Kathy Nelson, ECCO's executive director. "We really needed the extra room."

ECCO provides supervised work experiences for people with disabilities. Job coaches assist the workers to perform tasks ranging from light cleaning and housekeeping to simple assembly, sorting and sewing jobs.

"Our goal is to provide a meaningful work experience for clients, and provide a needed service to the businesses and organizations that work with us," explained Nelson.

For example, ECCO has a contract to assemble window-treatment pulleys for a company. The job requires tying, knotting, and stringing skills. Almost every Thursday and Friday, ECCO inserts and counts out advertising flyers for Tracy Publishing. ECCO workers have made blankets, and beanbag games. Another job involves crushing aluminum cans that are donated to ECCO.

ECCO workers, accompanied by a job coach, also work on-site at several area businesses, including Tracy Ace Home Center, Prairie View, Red Rooster, Tracy Food Pride, and the Balaton and Tracy municipal liquor stores. Cleaning and sorting inventory are typical jobs.

Recently, an ECCO person performed light housekeeping chores for a private individual.

"We are always looking for more work opportunities," said Hillger.

Businesses and groups who receive services pay ECCO. ECCO, in turn, pays individual workers.

"People from the Tracy and Balaton areas have been wonderful about supporting us," said Nelson.

Tuesday Night at the Pops

An eight-year spectrum of musicianship was on display at a spring "pops" concert at Tracy area High School tuesday night. Four bands-starting with a beginning fifth-grade band and ending with a high school band-performed for the near capacity crowd.

"This is fun," said Director Chris Miller, of the students chance to perform in front of a full house. He said that band members had worked hard to learn the music for the concert. A special salute for band seniors and their parents was held prior to the concert.

Vocal Extravaganza

The melodies were catchy, the harmonies pleasing, and the rhythms pulsing as Tracy Area High School musicians presented their annual "Vocal Extravaganza" Friday night. Shirlee Gilmore directed the singers.