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News from the week of January 21, 2004

'He was more than a teacher'

Students honor Steve Jones

By Seth Schmidt

The sugary scene could have been scripted by Hollywood.

Students surprise a beloved teacher on his last day at school.

Secretly assembled in the high school gym, the kids rise in applause and cheers as the teacher enters.

Tears glisten in the teacher's eyes. Some of the kids are crying. So are some of the adult onlookers.

Teens take turns at a microphone, describing how the teacher has affected their lives. He was more than a teacher, the kids say. He was a friend who went to great lengths to help them.

The visibly-moved teacher responds that he has received far more from students than he gave them.

Gifts are presented. Buses wait outside. It's time to go.

A crush of young people envelops the teacher. One by one, the kids embrace or shake hands with their mentor, bidding an emotional farewell.

• • •

The finale from the movie, "Mr. Holland's Opus?"

A poignant moment in "To Sir, With Love?"

A sentimental tear-jerker on television's Hallmark Channel?

No, no, and no. But it's exactly what took place at Tracy Area High School Friday afternoon.

The surprise farewell was for Steve Jones, high school English teacher, who began a new job Monday as high school principal in Mapleton. Student council members staged the farewell in the final 15 minutes of the school day, after teachers quietly dismissed students in grades 9-12. Jones, who does not have a last-hour class, was one of the few people at school who didn't know about the assembly. A colleague led him into the gym.

"We are here to honor someone who has given so much to us," said senior Anders Davidson. "He is a man who has been more than a great teacher, and a great coach. He has been a great friend."

New graduation standards loom

Principal says changes aren't drastic

By Val Scherbart Quist

The District 417 board of education got a glimpse last week at how the new No Child Left Behind (NCLB) graduation requirements will affect Tracy students.

Under NCLB, the federal government is mandating what schools teach in the core areas of social science, science, math, and English.

“They're telling us what we have to offer in those course areas,” said Chad Anderson, Tracy Area High School principal.

The new standards will be tested through the Basic Standards Test and the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment.

In the past, under the Profiles of Learning, students received scores for the standards they completed within the class. These standards, which were developed by teachers, will remain in the curriculum, but students will no longer be scored on those standards. They will simply receive a grade, meaning if they don't pass one of the standards, they can still pass the class.

The new requirements will go into effect for the senior class of 2007-2008 (this year's eighth grade).

Students currently must have taken four credits in English and social science, three credits in math, two credits in science and physical education, and one credit of Quad (Ag, Family and Consumer Science, art, and industrial tech), for a total of 16 required credits. The district requires students to have a total of 24 credits in order to graduate, which leaves eight elective credits.

The biggest change under the new requirements is that students will be required to take one more science course in order to graduate, said Anderson. The district currently requires two science credits.

Anderson said the high school's science teachers have been meeting and coming up with different offerings for students to choose.

“They're working on a better sequence to build on skills, while keeping in mind the different levels of need,” Anderson said. “We want to make sure we reach all kids at all different levels of need.”

The plan is to offer two different routes—college preparatory and conceptual—for students to choose from. Both routes will cover the federally required information, but the college preparatory sections will go more in-depth.

With an added science requirement also comes the issue of class size, Anderson said. The decision will have to be made whether staff needs to be added in order to keep class sizes manageable for lab activities.

“We need to decide which is more important, smaller class sizes or saving money,” he said. He added that as the schedule is gone over in more detail during the next couple of months, the factors in making this decision will become clearer.

Also changed from the previous graduation requirements will be the addition of an art credit. This can be fulfilled in the areas of media arts, dance, music, theater, or visual arts. Tracy students could possibly receive their credit through PTN, physical education, band, choir, or art classes.

Serious crime statistics remain low for Tracy

Tracy continued to be a relatively crime-free place to live in 2003.

Tracy police statistics for 2003 show that for the seventh consecutive year, the city did not have a homicide. City police averaged about one assault, three thefts, and one burglary investigation a month during 2003.

Helping people continued to be a large portion of Tracy police work. Forty-four percent of the department's 1,695 Initial Complaint Reports (ICRs) during 2003 were categorized as either "aid to public" (484) or "miscellaneous public" (386).

Small-town tranquillity also had its jagged edges. Police investigated 15 assaults, 39 thefts, and 12 burglaries during the year. The assaults represented a decline from 27 in 2002. Bad check investigations increased from 26 to 35 in 2003. Police investigated five drug cases. Police responded to six disorderly conduct, 35 damage to property, and nine domestic incidents.

Police logged 143 instances of unsecured businesses, and responded to 97 animal complaints. Alcohol-related offenses rose from ten to 14. Twelve driving-while-intoxicated tickets were issued during the year, up from six the previous year. But speeding tickets declined from 64 to 42. Police issued 32 parking tickets, an increase from the 11 issued in 2002. Fifty-eight violations of the Tracy's residential nuisance ordinance were looked into.

Three car thefts, one fraud case, and two forgeries were investigated. The department assisted with 45 accident investigations and executed three search warrants.

ICRs for the year totaled 1,695, a 12% decline from 2002 and a 17% drop from 2001.

Police Chief Bryan Hillger attributed much of the decline to the department being shorthanded for extended periods. Officer Tony Rolling, who accepted a position with the Lyon County Sheriff's Department, created one vacancy that has been open since November. Earlier in the year, another officer was sidelined for about three months with an injury.

School drainage fix sought

Costs approach $100,000 for one plan

By Val Scherbart Quist

What to do about drainage problems at the elementary and high school buildings is still on the minds of school board members.

Board members heard further information on possible solutions to the problem last week.

Allen Breczinski of G&B Construction, Lyon County ditch inspector Todd Hammer, and Lloyd Goltz all presented information to the board.

Breczinski said that rainwater is not being properly drained away from the buildings.

“You need to get it off the roofs and away from the building,” he said.

He showed board members a map detailing the proposed location of downspouts and new tile. At the high school, he said, fewer tiles would need to be installed, but the tile would have to be larger. In addition, more asphalt would have to be cut and repaired at the high school.

He estimated that the cost at the elementary school would be about $46,700. The high school project, he estimated, would cost slightly less, approximately $46,200. He said the project could cost the district anywhere from 10 to 20 percent more than that, because of utility costs and other unforeseen costs that may arise.

He said the county tile would still be used, but the way it is used may change somewhat. The new tile would intercept the county tile at some point.

Breczinski also said he had received some indication that the City of Tracy would consider a joint project with the school.

While the project would help the water problem by clearing roof water away from the building, Breczinski told the board, it probably wouldn't solve it completely.

“The problem is that you're still sitting in a bowl of water,” he said.

Hammer gave board members a map showing the location of county tile. He said there is a process the district could go through to request an improvement. This petitioning process requires a requisite number of petitioners—26 percent of those who will be affected by the improvement. Hammer said this may be difficult because of the large amount of land owned by the district that would be affected.

Once the petitioning requirements are achieved, the petition must be presented to the Lyon County Board of Commissioners. The next step in the process is to hire an engineer. The county would require a minimum $10,000 bond up front. In all, Hammer said, the process would likely take one-and-a-half to two years. The cost of the project would be paid for through real estate taxes over a period of time.

Goltz agreed that installing tile would help, but not solve the problem according to experts he had consulted. One had suggested “finger tiling” around the buildings, he said.

Goltz raised the point that the elementary school was built on top of tile. He questioned whether that tile could possibly still be good, and whether it could still be utilized.

Board member Ed Carter said he didn't feel it would be worth the wait it would take to petition the county, considering the current problems.

Following the presentations, the board decided to have the building and grounds committee to study the matter further. The board also agreed to reimburse Goltz for expenses related to his research.

Recording studio, tattoo parlor envisioned for vacant building

Remodeling plans for a vacant Downtown Tracy building are taking on a different slant.

Jason Stephens acquired a South Street building east of the municipal liquor store last year, with plans of remodeling the structure into an apartment. Stephens says that he still plans to remodel the building, but for a different use.

He would like to renovate part of the building into a recording studio. The 1998 Tracy Area High School graduate said he also has a party interested in opening a tattoo parlor in Tracy. The remainder of the building could be remodeled for that purpose, Stephens said.

Stephens had originally wanted to remodel the property into an apartment where he planned to live. However, his interest in the apartment waned after learning that a residential use wasn't allowed by the city's downtown zoning laws. He has since moved to Marshall.

The City of Tracy could also have an interest in the property.

At a recent Tracy City Council meeting, council members discussed an idea to acquire the property, tear down the structure, and use the space to create a patio area for on-sale patrons at the liquor store.

The former pool hall building has been vacant for more than 20 years. The structure was inspected by the city last year as a possible hazardous building, but found to be in repairable condition.

'67-68' AFS student says Tracy year was milestone

Editor's note—Pyatat Tatsanaviva attended high school in Tracy during the 1967-68 school year as an AFS exchange student from Thailand. Now a physician in Thailand, Tatsanaviva wrote to the Headlight-Herald recently and reflected on his AFS year in Tracy and the affect it has had on his life.

"In 1967-68, as a student from the largest and poorest northeastern rural area of Thailand, I was very fortunate, after careful selection and family matching processes, to be chosen as an American Field Service (AFS) exchange student to be with an American family and community for a year. I was to learn more intimately of the people and culture plus to improve my use of the English language.

"Although the AFS international scholarship program had tried to make a close match of the American family and community with those of the student, there remained many differences between American and Thai ways of life to be learned and shared.

"After the first few weeks of adjustment to the new friendly and warm welcoming environment, the rest of the year was so rewarding and filled with unforgettable experiences. The most impressive learning experience was being a Thai son of the Donaldson family (Richard and Mary Donaldson and their children Mark, Laurel and Scott) and going to Tracy High School, which has had so much influence on what I am today.

"I was invited to introduce information about Thailand at many social clubs, including the Kiwanis Club, and to join school activities such as the basketball team, the choir and art class. I traveled to eastern U.S. with family to learn about American history. These experiences are still fresh in my memory. The school, community, friends and the Donaldson family helped so much to improve my English and my ability to communicate well with groups of people of different backgrounds and to gain self confidence, gain an attitude of being service-minded, accountability, responsibility and to learn leadership skills.

"Since my American dad and mom knew about the political problems in developing countries such as Thailand, they always reminded me that education will help to empower people of these countries to solve their problems.

"With this concept in mind, despite having few economic resources, I, plus my brothers and sisters, after some of my influence, determined to go for a university education.

"The very important year in Tracy has had a great impact on my life, including being elected as chief coordinator of the education club for third and fourth year medical students, chair of the annual medical exhibition committee of the fourth-year medical students, fifth year medical student union of Chulalongkorn University in 1973 and a committee of the student union.

"With full self confidence, after graduation from Chulalongkorn Medical School, one of the most well-known Universities in Thailand, along with fourteen medical graduates from different institutions I volunteered to pioneer the new training track for a provincial service hospital in my own province, Khon Kaen. This later proved to be one of the very successful programs in Thailand. In addition to that I was subsequently appointed to the Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University before gaining a full appointment to the same faculty three years later. It has demanded a lot of work and personal commitment to become a lecturer at the new and only medical school in northeastern Thailand and to keep pace with other medical schools locally and globally.

The Thai physician address is:

Pyatat Tatsanavivat M.D.

Faculty of Medicine,

Khon Kaen University

Khon Kaen,

Thailand 40000