News from the week of November 2, 2005
Voters to decide two referendum questions
Voters in District 417 will have two questions before them Nov. 8.
The first question, said Superintendent David Marlette, is a housekeeping type of question. During the span of the current referendum, the district has saved excess funds of about $75,000 from the $425 per pupil unit levy.
The purpose of saving these funds has been to make a final payment in February of 2008 for a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning project. This project was the primary reason for the referendum approved in November of 2001.
Marlette said the benefits of the boiler project have been tremendous. The fuel efficiency at the school buildings have improved 40 percent since installation of the new heating and cooling system.
If voters do not approve saving $75,000 to be used toward the boiler payment, it would have to be returned to the state. At the time the levy was approved in 2001, districts were allowed to save in this manner. Since then, the law has changed. As a result, voters must give the go-ahead for this use of levy dollars.
The second question on the ballot has two parts. First, voters will be asked to revoke the current levy of $425.47 per pupil unit, which would expire in one year. The second part of the question asks voters to authorize a new five-year operating levy for the same amount of $425 per pupil unit.
Approval of the new levy would not mean additional taxes in any given year, but would mean an extension of how long the levy would run. The new levy would end in 2010-2011.
Why revoke the current levy for a new levy of the same amount? The district school board election will also be held Nov. 8. Holding both the school board election and the levy referendum vote will save the district money because it will not have to hold elections in two consecutive years.
The district would use the first year of the levy money to make the final payment on the boiler system. The next four years of levy revenue would be used to complete various capital improvements on the 35-year-old school facilities.
Our buildings are no different than your home, said Supt. Marlette. After 35 years, your home would need to have a face lift and general repairs would need to be performed in order to continue having a strong functioning home. Our school buildings and outside facilities are in the need of the same basic repairs.
Marlette said $1.3 million worth of facility repairs and replacement issues have been identified. They include:
Drainage pipe installation and tile work around both buildings.
Replacement of storm windows and re-caulking and insulation of windows.
Replacement of track surface.
Replacement of old white boards.
Replacement of outside doors and lock systems.
Replacement of worn-out custodial and maintenance equipment.
Repair of parking lots.
Replacement of broken and cracked concrete around buildings.
Tuck point and cement repairs on buildings.
Replacement of 30-year-old carpeting throughout buildings.
Replacement and repair of outside electrical and light requirements.
Replacement of 30-year-old lunchroom tables and chairs.
Replacement of worn-out plumbing fixtures, faucets, and piping.
The operating levy would bring approximately $345,000 of revenue to the district each year. That number will vary slightly depending on the number of students who are enrolled in the district each year.
Of the estimated $345,000 to be generated each year from the levy, the state will pay two-thirds or about $231,000. Local taxpayers would contribute the remaining $114,000.
The district is not asking for the maximum levy allowed by the state. The maximum operating levy allowed is $1,389 per pupil unit. The district is asking for 30 percent of the maximum levy allowed.
Where to vote
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at the Currie municipal building, Garvin town hall, Amiret Township hall, and Tracy city hall.
Write-ins to decide 3 school board spots
By Seth Schmidt
District 417 voters go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 8, to elect three new members to the Tracy Public Schools Board of Education.
The election will be unlike any local school board race in memory. No names are listed on the ballot that voters will be handed Tuesday. But three blank lines will be available to write in a name. There are no names on the ballot because no one filed for office during the official filing period this July.
Eight District 417 residents have announced their candidacies for the school board as write-ins. The candidates are: Rod Benson, Mike Coyle, Diane Ferrazzano, Tom Hook, April Lichty, Keith Lubben, Kim Pedersen, and Beth (Stubbe) Summer.
Voting will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at four locations: Currie Municipal Building, Garvin Town Hall, Amiret Town Hall, and Tracy City Hall. The top three write-in candidates will be elected to five-year terms on the school board. Incumbents with terms expiring at the end of this year are Ed Carter, Eric Nelson, and Garry Hippe.
All of the eight known write-in candidates contacted the Tracy Headlight-Herald to declare their intentions.
Summer became the eighth person to announce a candidacy with a phone call and e-mail to the newspaper office Tuesday morning.
Summer, 42, is a single mother with two teenage boys living with her in Tracy. One attends Tracy Area High School and the other is a student at Yankton Country School in Balaton. She moved to Tracy from Balaton this summer.
Her e-mail statement said, in part,
I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child and not just one or two parents. Our lives as parents are much busier than our parents were I have always wanted to be part of helping make decisions for my childrens school(s). I feel that parents should be involved as much as they can be in their childrens schools.
Until this spring, Summers was a reporter and photographer at the Balaton Press-Tribune. She describes herself as an at home mom who plans to re-enter the job market soon. She wrote that she has been pleased with the staff and teachers at Tracy Area High School.
A Slayton area native who attended Slayton High School, Summer earned her high school diploma at Yankton Country School in 2001.
Information about the seven other write-in candidates was published in the Tracy Headlight-Herald on Oct. 19 and Oct. 26. The newspaper also sent a questionnaire to the seven initial candidates last week. At the newspapers deadline early Tuesday afternoon, responses had been received from six of the candidates. Those responses are published on page 3. Summer announced her candidacy too late to be included with the other candidate profiles.
School board candidates share their visions about education
Eight people have notified the Tracy Headlight-Herald of their write-in candidacy for a Tracy Board of Education position. Those people are Rod Benson, Mike Coyle, Diane Ferrazzano, Tom Hook, April Lichty, Keith Lubben, Kim Pedersen, and Beth (Stubbe) Summer.
Six candidates provided responses to questions submitted to them by the Headlight-Herald last week. Summer announced her candidacy too late to be included.
Lichty: I am married to Jason Lichty and we have four children: Jenifer (age 13, 7th grade at Kingsland Middle School), Jeremy (age 12, 6th grade at Tracy Elementary School), Autumn (age 6, 1st grader at Tracy Elementary School), and Austin (age 1).
Coyle: I am the last of 10 kids and my parents are Robert and Joann Coyle. I am married to my wife of 10 years, Amy, and have a 4th grade son, Joshua. Amy runs a daycare and has been in the daycare business for 8 years. Joshua enjoys wrestling, football, baseball, and reading.
Lubben: My family includes my wife, Val, and two children: Kaitlin, a 2005 TAHS honor student graduate, and Joshua, an 8th grader at TAHS. Kaitlin is currently attending Regency Beauty Institute in St. Cloud to pursue a cosmetology degree. Joshua is active in cross country, basketball and baseball and is an avid archer.
Hook: I have been married to my wife Shannon for 16 years. We have five children: Joshua 15, Joseph 12, Cassandra 8, Sarita 6, and Annaka 2.
Benson: I am the oldest of eight brothers and sisters, my family consists of my wonderful wife Dawn and six children: Casey 7th grade, Brandon 6th grade, Tanner 5th grade, Morgan 3rd grade, Mitchel 4 and Kiana 2 years old.
Pedersen: I am the oldest of 7 children. I have one son, Daren, 14 and in the 9th grade at THS. I have 21 nieces and nephews. I also have dozens of cousins.
Employment and career history:
Lichty: I work as a receptionist at the Tracy Medical Clinic, returning there Sept. 1, after taking a year off for the birth of Austin. During that year I did home day care.
Coyle: After graduating from SMSU, I was employed by the Tyler Healthcare Center as Director of Wellness Services. After THC, I taught 6th grade in the RTR School District and started my own consulting business called Coyle EMS Consulting. After moving back to Tracy, I began working as a Paramedic for North Ambulance while continuing to operate my consulting business out of my home. Also, I have been teaching EMS courses for over 10 years.
Lubben: I have been a diesel mechanic for over 27 years. I worked at LaVoys Repair in Tracy for 16 years as a diesel mechanic. Now I am a service technician at the John Deere dealership, Tracy Equipment. I also have a lawn care and snow removal business in Tracy.
Hook: 1983-84, Teaching assistant at University of Minnesota, St. Paul. 1984-87, Graduate assistant for Dept. of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colorado, 1987-1996, Partner with Father, Eugene Hook, in diversified crop and livestock farm. Early 1990s, taught animal nutrition course at Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, MN. 1996-Present, own and operate, with wife Shannon, Hook Farms, Inc. A diversified crop and livestock enterprise.
Benson: I have been involved with agriculture since birth. After school I worked for Nassau Farmers Elevator in livestock feed sales, in 1993, I moved to Tracy and began working for Land O Lakes as a Livestock Production Specialist (LPS). In 1996, I took on a different roll with LOL as a Beef Consultant. In this job it required a fair amount of travel in the upper Midwest. With the desire to be home more and on the road less, the opportunity to manage the newly merged CHS Feed Mill in Tracy became available in Jan. 1999.
Pedersen: I worked at the Tracy Nursing Home as a CAN while a senior in high school. I tried living in Milwaukee WI, for a couple months after that then when I moved back here to Tracy I worked at the DQ for a year then in Nov. of 1987 I went out to New Jersey to be a nanny for a family out there for a year but I ended up staying there for three and a half years with two different families. In March 1991, I moved back to Tracy to raise my son. I kept my foot I the door at the hospital working some call in hours as well as trying my hand at Tupperware sales. In Feb. of 1998, I began working as a cook in the Tracy Hospital, I took a brief hiatus from there to work at Schott Corp in Marshall before that fell apart, but luckily I had kept my foot in the door at the hospital by working some call in shifts. I restarted there full time again and I have been there since, and just this past month I was also hired in there for the IT position at the Hospital as well as a cook.
Lichty: I attended Tracy Public Schools most of my school years. I attended SSU for one year after school.
Coyle: I graduated from the Tracy High School in 1990. I then attended Southwest Minnesota State University and graduated in 1997 with Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education. I then graduated from the Avera McKennan School of EMS in 2001 with a degree in Paramedicine. Currently, I am attending SMSU finishing my Master of Business Administration degree, and will be attending South Dakota State University in 2006 to start my doctorate in Sociology.
Lubben: I am a 1975 graduate of Edgerton Public High School and a 1978 graduate of Minnesota West Technical College-Canby in Diesel Mechanics. I now take John Deere service training and their computer schools.
Hook: 1980-Graduate of Tracy High School. 1984-Bachelor of Science Degree, University of Minnesota. 1987-Master of Science Degree, Colorado State University.
Benson: I graduated from Bristol High in Bristol, SD and attended college in Brookings, SD at SDSU. To this day, I still take short courses, mostly from SDSU.
Pedersen: I graduated from THS in 1986. I was once certified as a CAN also.
Organizations and community involvement:
Lichty: I am an EMT for the Tracy Ambulance for the last eight years. Was a member of Tracy Women of Today, and the womens auxiliary for the fire dept.
Coyle: I have been involved with the Youth Wrestling Program and with the Tracy Tae Kwon Do club. I assisted with the development of the Amiret First Responders, and have written grants for area EMS services for equipment and training. Statewide, I am active with the Minnesota Ambulance Association, Minnesota Paramedics Association, and with the American Heart Association. I sit on various EMS committees for the Minnesota Department of Health concerning rural Emergency Medical Services.
Lubben: I am very active in the Saratoga Archery Club and presently serve on the board of directors. For a number of years I also served on the board of directors at the Tracy Country Club, including being the president for a year. I am a member of the Sportsmens Show committee. My family and I attend many of the various sporting and music events, supporting and cheering on our students whenever possible. We also attend Skandia Evangelical Free Church.
Hook: Member of Lake Sarah Baptist Church, Sunday School teacher, volunteer leader and coach for various 4-H, FFA, and school youth activities.
Benson: I am the Vice-Chairman for the Tracy Area Housing Board of Directors and I am also a board member on the St. Marys Church Finance Council. I have coached the 4th thru 6th grade basketball team at St. Marys School for the last 2 years and will continue to do so. I am also a past Boy Scout den leader.
Pedersen: I was on the Wee World Preschool board for two years, the second as vice-president. I belong to the Tracy Women of Today.
Describe your leadership style:
Lichty: I think I am a good listener. I am willing to listen to both sides and make a fair judgement. I like to get things done, and am willing to try and learn new things. I stand up for family values.
Coyle: My leadership style is straight forward. Lead by example, gather, analyze all options, and make decisions that have the greatest benefit. I believe that rural schools and school districts will continue to face reductions in state assistance, declining enrollment, and increased cultural diversity. It is imperative that our School Board have the ability to make difficult, and sometimes, unpopular choices to ensure the viability of the Tracy Area Schools. I have the ability to make quality decisions that will benefit the students, employees, and the future of District 417.
Lubben: I am a reliable person. If I say I will do somethingwhether its getting more information or an estimate on a project, submitting a proposal, calling people, etc.-I will do it. If you call me with a question and I dont readily know the answer, I will find out and call you back. I am the type of person who will follow things through. I am also willing to listen to different sides of an issue.
I served for nine years on the Tracy Country Club Board of Directors. Knowing how a board meeting is run will help me to be a good school board member. During that nine-year stretch, I missed only one meeting. I remember the year I was president, we had some important meetings due to some big projects and purchases that we were deciding on. Sometimes at the meetings not everyone showed up. It didnt happen often, but when it did, we were an incomplete team because we were missing important information and input that we needed to have a successful meeting. No matter how intelligent people are, when they fail to make the meeting, they have no input. If I am elected, I will do my very best to attend every meeting (it will be my goal to do so). I will do any necessary research ahead of time.
Hook: I am a consensus builder with a team approach. I believe in researching an issue, having an open discussion on the facts and then taking appropriate action. I have strong opinions on issues, yet I am open to hearing the facts and feelings from both the pro and con side. Integrity and honesty are the cornerstones of my leadership skills.
Benson: I have been the most successful at surrounding myself with great people and empowering them to make good decisions.
Pedersen: I like to be involved in community things and think of my self as a take-charge type person. I work well with others as well as alone.
Why do you want to serve on the Tracy Board of Education? List any goals you would like to pursue as a board member:
Lichty: I have children in the school systems. I would like to be a voice for the children and the community. I care about the future of our schools. Goals: To help make our school system the best it can be.
Coyle: My main goal for becoming a Board member is the continued success of the Tracy Area Schools through prudent spending, quality decisions, and employee support. I would like to see our schools continue with technology development and retain our quality teaching and administration staff. I would also like see an increased cultural education program in both the elementary and the high school, as well as increased support for our academic and athletic programs.
Lubben: I decided to run for the school board because of my two children, of course, but there are other reasons. I have had the privilege to work with many high school students in my lawn care and snow removal business. I hire from 2-4 students each time we go out to work. Usually they start when they are in 9th or 10th grade and continue until they graduate. I have hired a number of good students throughout the years. I get to know the kids quite well. We have had some interesting conversations. Many times we have talked about school and their future. I hear about their views, their likes and dislikes. This gives me a unique insight into the way they, as students, picture our school.
Our school in Tracy is vital to the well-being of our kids, our community and our future. If I am elected, I will start attending them before my term starts so that when it does start in January, I will be more familiar with many of the issues before the school board.
My goals are: to keep the positive trend of the excellent education that the kids are receiving now; to provide the best education possible with the funds available; to work with teachers, staff, administration and students to make Tracy the best school we can make it; to give the students as many options for classes as possible to prepare them for the future.
Hook: I want to serve on the leadership team that ensures a solid education for all the students of District 417. The students of Tracy area schools are our local communities best resource. We need to equip them with the knowledge to be positive contributors to their community and country.
My goal is to provide the best possible educational experiences for the students while operating within the financial framework of state funding and our districts budget.
Benson: As a parent, it is my responsibility to see that our children get a good education and my wife and I invest a lot of our time to see that this gets done. My desire to serve on the Board of Education comes from a parent that wants to make sure that our school system continues to provide a quality education, and offer our children experiences that they will use in their lifetimes.
My career has led me down a path that has in the last ten years become so driven by computers and the technology that goes with it, that my main goal would be to make sure that our school continues to keep up with this technology because it has become so important for the future of our kids. I also enjoy the budget process. This process brings the reality of what we want to do and what we actually can afford to do. So I look forward to getting involved.
Pedersen: I believe education is a very important aspect of our childrens life and I believe we have a great school system here in Tracy and I would like to be a part of making sure it stays that way! My goal is to see that our kids get the best possible opportunity for their education.
Super Teacher, elementary students & staff salute 'one-in-million'mentor
By Seth Schmidt
Fifth grader Kelli Soupir summed up Bonnie Hook as neatly as a Dr. Seuss punch line.
Youre everyones favorite teacher.
Tracy Elementary School students and staff member saluted the well-known teacher at an emotional 15-minute assembly Friday. The surprise gathering honored a mentor who has taught three generations of Tracy children.
I wasnt here very long before I learned that Bonnie Hook is a very special teacher, said Principal Scott Loeslie. The kids run up to her and hug her because they love her so much. That says it all.
Hook has taught District 417 elementary children for parts of six decades. During most of her years, she taught kindergarten or first grade. She retired as a full-time teacher eight years ago, but has returned to Tracy Elementary classrooms frequently as a substitute. She is moving to Waconia this week to be closer to her two children and three grandchildren.
The kids of this school have been my whole life, she told the school assembly, after teachers and students from each grade bestowed gifts upon her.
But she insisted, this isnt goodbye, this is thank you. Ill be back.
Deb Miller, school media assistant, read a poetic tribute to Hook.
But are you leaving? Come on, tell us why,
When you know that your leaving will just make us cry.
Your going will leave a big hole in our heart,
That will last for as long as were so far apart.
But we have our memories to help get us through,
Memories of all of our years spent here with you.
Your wonderful outfits, so fun yet so chic.
The teasing you took, and your comebacks so slick.
Cheering us up with a joke or a smile.
Making our days here seem much more worthwhile
The hugs for the kids who all just adored you,
They could see in your eyes that nothing would bore you.
You gave them attention, when some others wouldnt,
And you made them feel special when they thought that they couldnt.
You stood just their height, but oh, you were cool.
Several have said that you helped them loved school.
You brought so much joy to all of your friends,
And though you are leaving, the memories wont end.
Youre one in a million, lets face it, its true.
Oh, what are we going to do without you?
But we know that wherever you go, it will still be the same,
The people you meet will be so glad you came.
Children listened with rapt attention. Many pupils, as well as school staff members, were moved to tears. As students sang Thank You Very Much, the diminutive teacher described by superlatives was escorted around the gym.
The beloved teacher blew kisses to students as she passed.
Shes a legend, remarked a colleague.
A native of Redwood Falls, LaVonne Johnson Hook began her teaching career at Tracy Elementary School in 1952. Vernon Grinde was the principal who hired her. An imposing three-story brick edifice at the corner of Rowland and Fifth streets housed her classroom. The second grade was her first assignment.
In the fall of 1957, she stepped down from her job to raise a family. But over the next ten years, she worked part-time as a Chapter One teacher. She returned as a full-time with the 1967-68 school year, teaching kindergarten until 1975. She taught first grade until retirement in the spring of 1997.
It was absolutely breath-taking, Hook said after the Friday afternoon assembly.
Hook substituted in Nat Boyers fifth grade classroom Friday, but had no inkling of the farewell program.
I was never so surprised in my whole life. It was unbelievable. No one, she said, had even hinted about the end-of-school program.
Her teaching career is far from over. She said shes already applied to be a teaching substitute in Waconia.
Murrayland opens office
Murrayland Agency, Inc. has opened an office in Downtown Tracy.
The real estate and insurance is located at 125 Third Street, just south of Charter Communications and Johns Drug.
We are really excited to be here, said Realtor Luann Hansen.
The agency specializes in real estate sales and insurance. Hansen will oversee the firms real estate operations, with Loretta Gervais in charge of Murraylands insurance business.Regular office hours will be 9 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Murrayland Agendys main office is in the Currie State Bank building. The agency was established in 1987 when Patti Dold and R.E. Hagen launched a real estate business.Dold is still the broker in the Currie office. Murray land opened a second office in Slayton in 2003,with agents Karen Burch and Beth Ann Winter.
Hansen and Gervais feel that the new Tracy office is a natural extension for the business.
I already have a lot of clients in Tracy, said Gervais. I look on this as something we can do for the convenience of our customers The agency offers a full line of insurance products, including health, life property and casualty, and crop insurance for farm customers.
Murrayland has always been a supporter of Tracy activities, Gervais said.
Hansen feels that Murraylands history of selling Lake Shetek area property dovetails well with a Tracy real estate presence.
We hope to bring a fresh energy to Tracy real estate sales, she said, by working to attract more buyers to the Tracy area housing market. More buyers will translate into more demand for Tracy real estate, she said, and better property values.
Bringing more people to Tracy will benefit everyone, Hansen said. She added that she is looking forward to working with all Realtors and real estate agents in the Tracy area.
Hansen feels that tapping into the growing Marshall population is a key to a vibrant Tracy real estate market. Murraylands affiliation with the Multiple Listing Service and connections with Marshall Realtors, she said, will help that effort.
Hansen is especially pleased that their office is located in what is commonly known as the Ford building. She recalled that her best friend in high school was Angie Ford, daughter of longtime Tracy Realtor and insurance agent Jim Ford.
We spent a lot of time in this office. Its special that now Im working out of that same
Tracy called 'senior friendly'
By Seth Schmidt
Tracy is a good place for older people, a survey sponsored by the Southwest Minnesota Foundation concludes.
Tracy rates pretty well, says Amy Weile, a Meeker County commissioner who coordinated the 18-county survey. It is unusual for a town this size to rate this well.
Services and amenities for older people are an especially important issue for Southwest Minnesota, Weile says, because of the regions high proportion of seniors.
In Tracy, about one in four people (26%) are at least 65-years-old, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The percentage of seniors in other Lyon County communities is: Balaton, 22%; Russell, 20%; Cottonwood, 15.6%; Marshall, 12.4%; and Lynd, 10.6%.
Statewide, 13% of Minnesotas population is 65 and older. Demographers predict the aging trend will continue. By 2030, one in four Minnesotans will be 65 or over. The number of state residents 85 and over will continue to increase through 2050.
Senior citizens, Weile says, are an important community asset. Older people tend to be more loyal to local businesses, and have more disposable income to spend or invest. Retirement-age people with a lifetime of skills to share are often mainstays to local service organizations, churches, schools, and civic boards.
Towns without supportive services for seniors risk losing their older residents, Weile says.
Older people require some accommodations, Weile relates. But if you dont offer those services, senior citizens will move elsewhere.
One reason that Tracy is a very livable community for seniors, she adds, is that its downtown is accessible to walkers.
You cant walk everywhere in Bloomington, but you can in Tracy.
Small towns with good services, Weile says, have great potential to attract retirees from urban and suburban areas, especially if the retiree once lived in the town.
The Southwest Minnesota Foundation written survey polled 25 Tracy seniors. The survey showed high satisfaction with community services, infrastructure, and housing choices.
The Tracy Multi-Purpose Center (senior center) was rated either excellent or above average by 80% of respondents. Home-delivered meals were viewed favorably by 84%. Pharmacy and grocery shopping services were viewed above average or excellent by 60%.
Eighty percent of surveys said nursing home care in Tracy is above average to excellent, with 60% calling the care is excellent. Sixty-four percent gave favorable ratings to the communitys senior rental housing.
Fifty-two percent termed senior transit services as good to excellent. The same percentage gave favorable rankings to services that help seniors remain independent in their homes.
A majority of survey respondents expressed satisfaction with the number of handicapped parking spaces and the availability of sidewalks and benches.
The surveys also suggested areas for improvement. For example, only 36% of surveyed described the availability of seasonal chore services as above average. Only 20% gave above average ratings to telephone check-up systems for frail or ill people. Only one in five seniors said that Tracy has above-average support groups for caregivers. Sixty percent of respondents said that sidewalk maintenance was average or below average.
Like any small community, Weile comments, Tracy cant provide all services that older people may need. However, she feels that a high proportion of no answer/unsure responses to some questions indicated that some providers need to do a better job of getting the word out to seniors.
Minnesota Living Well
The Minnesota Living Well survey was distributed primarily to Tracy Senior Dining and Home Delivered Meals participants.
This is not a scientific survey, she says. It is more of a snapshot of your community. She says she would have liked to have more survey responses.
Nonetheless, Weile feels that the survey can be a useful resource for community leaders by pinpointing community strengths and weaknesses, while providing data for grant applications.
Weile presented a plaque to Tracy City Council members last week honoring Tracy as a senior friendly community