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News from the week of February 18, 2004

AFS students carve out new niche in Minnesota

By Val Scherbart Quist

Two AFS students are getting a taste of life in America with their Tracy host families this year.

Nanna-Maria Lindholm of Lahti, Finland, is staying with the Bill and Kathy Brockway family. Sandra Hohlfeld of Celle, Germany, is staying with the Tim and Mary Byrne family.

“It's so different here, but it's a nice change,” Lindholm said.

Hohfeld, like Lindholm is open to new experiences. “Everything is so new and different. I came here without expecting anything, so whatever happens, happens.”

No public transportation

Lindholm is no stranger to Tracy or to the Brockways. The 16-year-old stayed with the family two years ago through a 4-H exchange program. When she left, she and the family talked about having her come back for as an AFS student.

“They're a really nice family,” she said.

So while there were no big surprises for Lindholm, there are some aspects of life in Tracy, Minnesota, that have taken time to get used to.

Lindholm is used to living in a town of about 100,000 people, a big difference from Tracy's population of about 2,300.

“It's small, but you get used to it,” Lindholm said.

One major difference, she said, is that there is no public transportation here. While this makes it more difficult to get around, Lindholm has still had many opportunities to meet new friends both in Tracy and in other area towns.

The school system is also quite different from what Lindholm is used to at home. Again, size is a major difference. At home, Lindholm's school has about 1,000 students.

Colder than expected

Hohlfeld's exchange trip marks her first time visiting the United States. Her mom, Petra, encouraged her to join the AFS program.

“I never thought I would do that,” she admitted. Now, Hohlfeld is pleased with her decision to come.

One shock for Hohlfeld has been the cold Minnesota winter and more snow than she's used to at home. She has been sledding and ice skating in Germany, but had never been snowmobiling before coming here.

Tracy's small size isn't a shock to Hohlfeld. In fact, she likes small-town life. She used to live in a town smaller than Tracy that did not even have a supermarket.

Like Lindholm, Hohlfeld believes school is easier here, and also said the teachers are nicer. The 17-yer-old, who is a senior at TAHS, would be in 11th grade at home, and has two senior years left to take once she returns home.

While in Tracy, she is taking math, English, art, Spanish, biology, and history while she's here. Her favorite is history, because she loves history and enjoys studying it and reading books.

Hohlfeld also likes to write, and used to write for a newspaper in Germany. The newspaper had a special page for students, mostly juniors and seniors, to submit stories.

Administrator: Pool Season is likely lost

Dreaming of a refreshing afternoon at the Tracy Aquatic Center this summer? Dream on...just don't count on getting wet.

Audrey Koopman, Tracy city administrator, said Tuesday that it is unlikely that the aquatic center will be able to open this summer.

"I think that we have to accept the reality and plan according," she said. "In my opinion, it is unfair to dangle the possibility of the pool being able to open this summer. I just don't think it is realistic."

Significant structural problems have been uncovered at the aquatic center since it closed after its second season in August. Problems have included the discovery of holes in the aquatic center's concrete pool shells. More than $80,000 has been spent by the city testing the facility, a process that included jackhammering off the pool's top surface and the removal of concrete core samples. In November, consultants reported that they couldn't guarantee any pool repairs, and that the only solution might be to demolish the pool shell and start over.

The City of Tracy is pursuing litigation to recover damages. A Minneapolis engineering firm has been retained to conduct a second evaluation of the pool, and make recommendations to the council this spring.

To facilitate that inspection and evaluation, work began this week to erect a temporary shell over the aquatic center pool areas. City of Tracy workers removed snow from the areas. The shelters—2x4 wood framework covered by plastic tarps—will be heated on an as needed basis. The goal is to provide a dry working environment for the latest round of engineering tests, and keep snow from accumulating in the pool areas.

The temporary pool covering will cost the city $25,000 to erect. Karl Campbell Construction is the general contractor.

City council members discussed the possibility of erecting a temporary shelter over the pool on Feb. 2, when Public Works Director Rick Robinson was instructed to obtain competitive quotes. Council members authorized Campbell to begin construction after an informal poll of council members. The council is expected to ratify the action to hire Campbell at a Monday, Feb. 23 meeting.

Project Wisdom

Character isn't just a word in Tracy Elementary classrooms

By Val Scherbart Quist

“We are kids of character,” Tracy Elementary students sang Friday morning at a rousing school assembly. Some students held hands, while others draped their arms over each others' shoulders and swayed back and forth to the music.

The assembly was a celebration of determination, the school-wide “Project Wisdom” character word of the month for January.

The Project Wisdom program is new to Tracy Elementary this year, but the concept is not. It's something that's been expanding and improving over the past four years.

The emphasis on character building began when students first got planners. The planners had a new word for each week—36 in all—that teachers and staff tried to focus on with students. Thirty-six words were too many, especially for the younger students, said Principal Scott Loeslie. The following year, the planners again had focus words, but this time there were nine—a much more manageable number.

Last year, the Subway restaurant franchise became involved, by offering to give out a certificate to one student each week. Tracy Elementary decided to combine the two concepts, and established a reward program for students who get “caught” demonstrating the focus word. Every time students demonstrate the word, they receive a coupon. The coupons are put into a jar and names are drawn out to determine the winners.

This year, the concept was taken to another level, when Project Wisdom was added. Project Wisdom is a designed character building series that Loeslie began looking into last year.

Loeslie said he felt it was important to help students build the assets emphasized in Project Wisdom in the school system, especially with the current demands of society on families.

The school began using Series I of Project Wisdom this year. Loeslie would like to get Series II and III in coming years, and rotate them. He also would like to add another facet of Project Wisdom called “Ten Wise Choices.”

The vision of Project Wisdom is, “To build character by encouraging students to take responsibility for their choices and actions; to build self-esteem by motivating students to do their personal best; and to build community by inspiring students to contribute to the world around them while honoring the diversity that makes our country great.”

Each morning, a message is read over the intercom on everything from gratitude and tolerance to productivity. The short messages have been read by teachers, paraprofessionals, and others involved with the school so far. Loeslie said he would like to bring in more people from the community to read the messages.

“I think we can build that desire to listen if we bring in more people to read,” he said.

Each month, students focus on a new character word. The word for February is “caring.” Students who exhibit caring are recognized at the monthly school assemblies and given certificates. Their pictures are taken and displayed in the hallway. Some students also write essays on the character word, and read them at the assemblies.

Loeslie said student participation has been good.

“It puts kids who are doing the right thing in the spotlight with their peers,” he said. “I think the kids look forward to it.”

Loeslie said Tracy isn't the only school working on character building. During the year he spent in Fulda before coming to Tracy, that school implemented many of the same ideas Tracy is using now, he said. Luverne has created its own program, which includes a cross-reference library with a list of books that teaches each characteristic.

Character building in Tracy isn't just for the students, either. In his self-introduction when he began as principal at Tracy Elementary, Loeslie focused on three words: work, respect, and belong. The goal is for everyone to do their best work, so that everyone gains respect for one another. The final step is gaining a sense of belonging.

Today, those three words hang in the school's media center on banners purchased by the Parent-Teacher Club.

“It's not his place, or her place, it's our place,” Loeslie said. “That's a good environment for kids. If we're modeling it, we don't have to say it. It's a powerful non-message for kids.”

'Get second opinion,' Tracy man advises after successful surgery

Wayne Brock returned from an idyllic trip to Hawaii with his wife last week.

"It was beautiful," he said, of their first-ever trip to the Aloha State. "Everyone should have a chance to go there at least once in their life."

Six months ago, a Hawaiian vacation was just about the last thing on the Shetek Township farmer's mind. Last September, a CAT scan turned up evidence of a kidney tumor.

The news hit Brock like a ton of bricks, because three years ago, his other kidney was surgically removed after the discovery of a tumor on that organ.

The initial prognosis was discouraging.

A specialist that Brock saw in Sioux Falls mentioned a new technique called cryotherapy—freezing the tumor into oblivion. But the specialist expressed misgivings about the possibility of damaging the colon during the procedure. Another opinion was sought at a well-known medical center in Minnesota. The second specialist recommended traditional surgery as soon as possible. There was a chance that normal kidney function could return following the surgery, Brock was told, but there was also a chance that it wouldn't.

"He told me that I might be on dialysis for the rest of my life. I didn't want to do that if there was anything else that I could do," Brock said.

Not knowing what to do, the 69-year-old Brock sought still another option in the Twin Cities. This specialist felt that cryotherapy was an option. The intestine could be moved so the organ wouldn't be damaged. But this surgeon was relatively inexperienced in the procedure.

Brock continued his research. He contacted a friend, Suds Carlson, a nurse in Virginia. She researched information and e-mailed it back. One of the connections she suggested was an expert at Harvard University. The specialist answered an inquiry from Brock. Yes, the Harvard physician said, cryotherapy was a better option than traditional surgery.

"He said, 'Wayne, you've got only one kidney left. Be very protective."

The cryotherapy, however, appears to have been a complete success.

"The kidney is working just as good as before the surgery," Brock said. He will have his first catscan this week to see if there has been any change in the size of the tumor. "They say it may be nine months before it starts to disintegrate."

Today, the Tracy man feels terrific. His kidney is working well now. He will have a catscan every three months to monitor the tumor.

He's not wasting energy asking "why me?" or reliving the decision that resulted in the needles removal of his first kidney for a non-cancerous tumor.

"It doesn't do any good to be angry. I don't worry about it. I try to enjoy every day, because you never know what the future will bring."

Coke gets nod over Pepsi for Tracy schools beverage contract

Coca-Cola products will continue to be the real thing at Tracy Area Public Schools. The District 417 school board has tentatively agreed to sign a new exclusive beverage contract with Viking Coca-Cola of Marshall. The board last week approved a new seven-year contract contingent upon language that states the contract is for a fixed term.

The contract will begin April 1, 2004 and end on March 31, 2011. In exchange for the right to continue to be the district's exclusive beverage supplier, Viking Coca-Cola is to give the district $12,000 that will be put toward the purchase of a new scoreboard. The board had also considered an offer from the Pepsi distributor based in Pipestone. Pepsi offered a five-year fixed contract and $10,000 for a new scoreboard.

Viking had originally offered a five-year contract and $10,000 toward the purchase of the scoreboard. However, the Viking contract could have remained open beyond five years based on the amount of beverages sold. Supt. David Marlette and board members expressed concerns about the open-ended nature of Viking's original offer at the January board meeting. Subsequent negotiations produced the current seven-year proposal.

Coca-Cola is the school district's current beverage supplier.

Firemen raising money for cold-water rescue device

An icy drama is expected to unfold next month at Swift Lake Park, where the Tracy Fire Department is planning a drill to practice techniques for rescuing people who have broken through ice on lakes and ponds. Members of the Tracy Ambulance Service, and Balaton fire and ambulance personnel will also participate in the training exercise.

The drill was originally planned for this Saturday, but was postponed, ironically, because the lake ice is too thick to easily cut open with a chain saw. Tracy Public School's Panther Television network is expected to film the exercise for broadcast at a later date.

The training drill will utilize a portable pontoon/sled that is designed to make ice rescues less risky. Called a Rescue Alive, the lightweight device can be paddled, pushed or pulled over open water to a victim in open, icy water, while keeping the rescuer safely out of water. Once the victim is safely pulled onto the platform, the entire device can be pulled to shore by other rescuers on shore. The Rescue Alive is light enough to be carried by one person.

The Tracy Fire Department is attempting to raise about $3,400 to purchase the Rescue Alive. The fire department has a demonstration model that they hope to keep if they can raise enough money.

Dale Johnson, III, Tracy fireman, feels that Rescue Alive is an important piece of equipment to have, considering Tracy's proximity to area lakes such as Shetek, Sarah, and Yankton. This winter, lake ice has been especially dangerous, resulting in a number of vehicles falling through the ice. Tracy fire and ambulance personnel responded to one emergency call where a father and two young children had scrambled to the roof of their vehicle after it broke through the ice.

The fire department previously purchased four cold-water rescue suits. The impermeable, orange suits are designed to keep rescuers warm and buoyant in water. Several Tracy fire department members donned the suits in late January for an open-water ice rescue drill on Lake Marshall.