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News from the week of August 10, 2005

Pastor Olson accepts new call

Pastor Steve Olson admits that this is a “bittersweet” time for him and his family.

On the one hand, there’s excitement about meeting new people and challenges in International Falls, where Pastor Olson has accepted a call to serve Zion Lutheran Church.

But there’s sadness too.

“The long-term relationships that we’ve established here are what makes it hard to leave,” he reflects. Many of these personal connections, the pastor said, will endure long after the family leaves Tracy. The decision to leave Tracy and accept a pastoral call in International Falls, was among the most difficult he has ever made, he said.

Nonetheless, the clergyman said “it feels like it is time to move on” after nearly 16 years at Tracy Lutheran. “It’s hard to explain. But I feel I am being called to other ministries, and I think that the people of Tracy Lutheran are being called to new ministries as well.” The congregation, he said, might be ready for a new pastor.

“Pastor Steve,” as he is called by parishioners, will deliver his farewell sermon at Tracy Lutheran Sunday, August 14. A farewell brunch and reception for the Olson family is planned in the church dining hall from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The public is invited.

Pastor Olson presented his resignation to Tracy Lutheran church council members August 2. An announcement was made to church members Sunday morning.

Vicki Olson, Pastor Olson’s wife, is head librarian at the Tracy Public Library. She is also resigning from her position. The Olsons have two daughters: Joanna, a junior at Concordia College; and Julia, a high school junior.


Senior Tracy clergyman

Pastor Olson, 58, has the longest tenure of any active Tracy area clergy.

He arrived as Tracy Lutheran’s senior pastor in September of 1989, starting at the same time as Pastor Don McGee. Joanna was four-years-old, Julia was a new baby.

“Tracy has been a wonderful place to raise a family, and the people here have been wonderful,” Pastor Olson said.

His ministry at Tracy Lutheran, he said, has been to teach and reach people with the Gospel of Jesus. He said he has tried to place a special emphasis on visitation.

Outdoor youth programs have also had a special place. During his Tracy Lutheran years, Pastor Olson led “five or six” weeklong bicycle trips and an equal number of backpacking sojourns to the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. The trips were more than enjoying the outdoors. The groups traveled a Christian group, with regular prayer and devotions. Through the shared experiences of the trip, the pastor hoped that participants would bond into a close-knit group.

“We wanted kids to learn what it means to be a community of believers.”

Pastor Olson was chairman of the Tracy Community Education advisory council for about 12 years, and was an organizer for the Tracy Ecumenical Church Council.

In he late 1990s, Pastor Olson helped plan and implement a $1.3 million renovation project at Tracy Lutheran. The project included an elevator, new entrance, asbestos removal, remodeled kitchen, refurbished Sunday school rooms, new bathrooms, remodeled offices, and new heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

The modernization project melded perfectly with Pastor Olson’s earlier background as a mechanical engineer.


Late call

Olson was 31-years-old, possessor of a Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering, and plant manager at Tjernlund Manufacturing in St. Paul, when he decided in 1978 to enroll in the seminary with the goal of becoming a pastor.

“I loved engineering. But I felt a call to do something else with my life.” He and Vickie, who met at St. Timothy Lutheran in St. Paul, were married in 1981. The new clergyman completed his seminary studies in June of 1982, and was called to Kongsvinger Lutheran and St. John’s Lutheran in Donnelly. He served the two-point parish for seven years before accepting a call to Tracy Lutheran in 1989.


Warm feelings

Pastor Olson said he leaves Tracy Lutheran with good feelings. The church’s leadership and staff, he said, has been wonderful to work with. He has met many, many good people in the congregation, he stressed, and he enjoyed serving here. Tracy Lutheran, he feels, has fulfilled, and will continue to carry out, an important Christian mission to continue.

His departure, Pastor Olson hopes, will give the congregation a chance to take a new look at how the church wants to carry out its mission. For example, Lake Sarah Lutheran and Willow Lake Lutheran earlier this summer asked Tracy Lutheran whether it would consider sharing pastoral services.

“I have nothing but the highest regard for the people of Tracy Lutheran. It has been a privilege to share their pilgrimage.”

Besides Pastor McGee, Pastor Olson has also served with Pastor Marlene Elmstrom and Pastor Gary Gabel at Tracy. Pastor Gabel, who commutes to Tracy from Ivanhoe, has served Tracy Lutheran on a part-time basis for the past three years.


Looking to future

Pastor Olson said he was looking forward to meeting the parishioners in International Falls, where he feels a call from God to serve. He also expressed confidence that his love of the outdoors will be a good fit in the International Falls’ north woods location.

But how will hockey, snowmobiling, hunting, and ice fishing compare with backpacking?

“I’m sure I’ll have many invitations,” Pastor Olson smiled.


Sharp Shooter

Robinson selected for Olympic training

By Johanna Schmidt

Southwest Minnesota may have a local competitor to cheer for in the next Summer Olympics. Kelsey Robinson, a twenty-year-old from Walnut Grove, has been selected as one of five female archers to train for the 2008 Olympic games, held in Beijing, China.

Three of the five girls, plus an alternate, will advance to the Olympics, after the Olympic Trials. For now, the selected archers will be heading to Chulavista, California, one of three Olympic training camps, to begin intense practice schedules for the next several months. Other athletes from across the United States will be training for sports such as softball, track, tennis, and soccer.

Robinson left Wednesday morning for Chulavista, where she will move in with the other athletes in dorms. While training, she will have coach Larry Skinner, plus a fitness trainer, a sports psychologist, a nutritionist, along with room and board - all free of charge.

Though Robinson will be spending hardly any money on her training, the experience does have its costs: She’ll have to forgo at least one semester at Moorhead State, where she has already completed two years. Her friends and family are “excited and proud” of her, yet are sad to see her go. Robinson said her parents, Bernie and Rick Robinson, have been especially supportive. “It’s kind of hard…bittersweet,” said the archer. She won’t be returning to Minnesota until December. After a short Christmas break, she’ll either return to Chulavista immediately or go back to college and return to the training camp next summer.

Robinson will also have to be ready to work hard. Every day at training camp, she’ll have to get up at 6 in the morning, run, shoot, and lift weights as part of her training. That’s not to say she’s a stranger to dedication, which, along with attitude, is what Robinson says is the most important key to being a good archer.

Up to this point, Robinson said she usually practiced her archery for about two hours a day, sometimes in her backyard or basement, but usually at the Walnut Grove high school football field. She met with her coach about once every 3-4 weeks, so for the rest of the time, she was basically on her own. Keeping focused plays a large part in being a successful archer; after all, “archery is 90% mental,” Robinson explains.

Robinson picked up her first bow and arrow at the age of 12, when she began hunting deer with her father, who is also an archer. At 15, she began competitively shooting with the Saratoga Archery Club “They’ve helped me a lot.” Within a year, she had won two national competitions and was being sought out by Olympic trainers.

If Robinson does make it to the Olympics, she’ll be up against professional archers from all over the world. Robinson would be one of the youngest competitors, since, unlike athletes of many other sports, archers are often still at their top performance levels into their late thirties and forties.

And if she doesn’t qualify for Beijing?

“I’ll keep trying ‘til I make it.”


State increase to give Tracy schools about $190,000 more this year

Tracy Public School finances will get a significant financial boost from the recently-passed state education bill.

Supt. Dave Marlette says that the $239 per pupil unit increase okayed for District 417 will result in about $190,000 in new revenue for the 2005-06 school year. The formula increases would generate an additional $410,450 in new revenue for the 2006-07 school year.

“Does this help? Yes.” said Marlette. “Does this mean we are rolling in money? Heavens no.”

The superintendent said that the increases are the first significant upward bumps in the state formula in about five years.

“During this time our expenses have been rising but we haven’t had the (formula) increases.”

The full financial implications of Minnesota’s new education bill for District 417 are unknown. Marlette said Monday that he is waiting for state officials to list financial “what if” projections for individual school districts. The “what if” projections factor in all aspects of Minnesota’s complicated school funding system.

Tracy school finances remain dependent upon enrollment. Marlette expects some enrollment fall off from last year, when District 417 started the year with 815 pupils. This year, K-12 enrollment “may be down in the 775 to 780 pupil range,” the superintendent said.

Before the legislature increased the formula, the school district projected a $196,553 deficit for the coming school year, based upon the conservative enrollment estimates. If the enrollment assumptions are correct, Marlette noted, this year’s increases in the state foundation formula will roughly equal the projected deficit.

District 417’s overall 2006-07 budget is about $7.5 million.


Performance pay is option

The new education bill creates a local option to tie a portion of teacher pay to performance. District 417 could receive an additional $210,600 in “Qcomp” money to pay teachers for the 2006-07 school year, if the school system works out an acceptable plan.

For Tracy schools to access and use the $210,600 in Qcomp money, district teachers and administrators would need to work out a teacher pay plan that is based at least 60% on teacher compensation on performance. The criteria used for measuring performance would include both quantitative and subjective yardsticks.

At the present time, teacher compensation is based solely on levels of teaching experience and education (steps and lanes). The performance pay provisions would have to be included in the district’s master teaching contract.

District 417 and Tracy Education Association representatives have met several times in recent months to discuss terms for a new master teaching contract for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

In order for District 417 to be considered for the “Qcomp” money, the school district and teacher’s union need to submit a non-binding “letter of intent” to participate by mid-September. About 20% of the $210,600 comes from the local property tax levy, and the remaining 80% from state aid.


JoAnn Biren resigns Tracy Chamber post

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new manager.

JoAnn Biren, executive director of the Chamber since January, submitted her resignation to the Chamber’s Board of Directors Tuesday. Her last day of work with the Chamber will be Sept. 9.

Biren resigned in order to accept a youth education position with Catholic parishes in Slayton, Iona, and Lake Wilson.

“My church called, and I just couldn’t turn them down,” said Biren.

The rural Iona woman will be Faith Formation Director for St. Ann’s Catholic Church of Slayton, St. Columba of Iona; and St. Mary’s of Lake Wilson. Her work will focus on Catholic religious instruction for youth.

“I feel a calling. Young people today are looking for something beyond the quick fixes out there.” She said that her priest offered her the job on Saturday, and she thought about it and discussed it with her husband over the weekend.

“When I came here, I said that could see myself staying with the Chamber for five or 10 years. But I also said that my priorities in life were first my family and church and then my job.”

Biren said she has enjoyed her Chamber duties.

“I think the Chamber here is exciting. Tracy has a lot of good things going on.”

Biren said that even though church leaders wanted her to start her new job almost immediately, she insisted on saying with the Chamber through Tracy Box Car Days, which is Sept. 3-5.

• • •

The Chamber board accepted the resignation and passed a motion to advertise for new applicants. The Chamber manager position is about 30 hours a week

English, elementary posts filled

A recent South Dakota State University graduate and a Slayton woman who taught part-time in Tracy last year are the newest full-time members of the District 417 faculty.

Eve Becker, the SDSU graduate, will be teaching junior and senior high English. Nichole Paulzine, the Slayton resident, will be a Title One and English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) teacher at Tracy Elementary School. Tracy school board members approved one-year contracts for the women Monday night. Both will start at a base salary of $29,036, the beginning point of District 417’s teacher salary schedule. School administrators recommended the contracts.

Supt. Dave Marlette and High School Principal Chad Anderson said that Becker had impressed the interview committee with an outgoing personality and positive attitude. Marlette said that he had been concerned that Tracy would lose Becker to a larger school district. But Becker called later to say that she had been so impressed with the warm reception she received in Tracy, that she felt District 417 was the right place for her to start her teaching career.

“We think she is going to work hard and be a real asset to our school,” Anderson said. The principal said that three candidates were interviewed.

Becker is a former runner-up in the Miss South Dakota scholarship pageant.

Paulzine did her student teaching at Tracy Elementary during the 2003-04 school year. During the 2004-05 school year, she worked in several capacities, including as a paraprofessional, as an enrichment teacher, and as a substitute teacher. She was the lead teacher for an after-school program.

“She has done everything we have asked her to do and she has done it pretty well,” said Elementary Principal Scott Loeslie.

The Southwest Minnesota State graduate will be considered .57th in ESL and .43 in Title I.

Paulzine succeeds Kristie Mayo. Becker succeeds Eileen Schimming.

Tracy's first AFS student is honored in Holland

By Johanna Schmidt

Aleida “Alice” Stonebrink, Tracy’s first foreign exchange student, recently received a prestigious honor in her home country of Holland.

Stonebrink was inducted into the royal Order of the Orange-Nassau, an honor given annually to Dutch citizens who have displayed outstanding service to others. The honor came as no surprise to local people who knew Alice during the 1962-63 school year.

Stonebrink was hosted by Wendell and Helen Anderson and their children,Cyndi,Blair,Allan, and Gretchen.

Since Tracy had never had an AFS student before, students, teachers, and residents alike didn’t know what to expect from an overseas girl who would share their lifestyles for a year. Luckily, a confidant, outgoing, “intellectually bright” girl showed up in the Twin Cities the day the Andersons went to meet her for the first time. One of her host brothers, Blair Anderson, said she “seemed to bond very quickly with our entire family.” Communication was no problem; she spoke English “very fluently”, as well as French, German, and Italian in addition to her native Dutch language. Anderson remembers her as a “great conversationalist” with “a great sense of humor.”

While a student in Tracy, Stonebrink sang in the school choir and girls’ chorus as an alto, participated in the Girls’ Athletic Association, joined the Teton staff, and wrote her own column in the Tracer, the school newspaper. Stonebrink was also an extremely accomplished oboist and was first chair in the band.

Clint Peterson, the high school band instructor at the time, was one of the teachers Alice connected with the most. He describes Stonebrink as an “appreciative and enthusiastic” individual who really got along well with her classmates. “She was really a neat person.” Peterson gave Stonebrink the opportunity to take a few professional oboe lessons from a music professor at Mankato State, which “helped her to get a good perspective” of how the differences in teaching styles varies from culture to culture.

When she returned to the Netherlands, she took with her a record that the Tracy music ensembles had recorded that year. On one side was the choir, and on the other was the band. Apparently, she must have been willing to share the record with others; shortly after she returned, Dutch relatives of the Gys Beukof family of Garvin sent word that they had heard the Tracy High School band over the airwaves of Netherlands radio.

Stonebrink’s love of music most likely came from her family’s influences back home;

“On Sundays, her mom, dad, brother, three sisters and Alice would get together and make ‘chamber music’,” said Anderson. Alice also played the recorder.

Since her return home, Stonebrink has visited her American host family five or six times. Her most recent visit was last October, when she came to celebrate Helen and Wendell’s 85th birthdays and 60th wedding anniversary.

Stonebrink has worked many years as a physical therapist and is the director of volunteerism in her hospital. Her induction was a result of the secret application process that one of Stonebrink’s colleagues underwent. The colleague started the process one year ago by filling out forms, listing Stonebrink’s accomplishments, such as her positions on various boards and committees for public service, and her work as a volunteer. All references were then checked by a committee. Two weeks before the ceremony, Stonebrink’s colleague found out that she had been accepted, but was sworn to secrecy.

On the day of the prestigious ceremony, Stonebrink was told that she was to give a group of visitors a tour of the hospital. When she arrived at the meeting room, Stonebrink was flustered to see how many people she was expected to lead for the tour. It wasn’t until she looked more closely that she spotted many of her friends and relatives. She learned that this was the ceremony for the initiation.

She was inducted into the royal Order of the Orange-Nassau on the annual day of celebration, the day before the Queen’s birthday, along with two other Dutch citizens.

Flashing cameras and bouquets surrounded the new inductees.

A flattered Stonebrink commented, “It was such a big surprise to me and such a great honor, and I was so happy all of my family could attend.”