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News from the week of February 1, 2006


School security measures continue

Classes held as normal after school searches

Extra security measures remain in place at Tracy Area High School this week in the aftermath of a written bomb threat

“We take this threat very seriously,” said Supt. David Marlette Monday. “The safety of our students is our top priority.”

A note—found in a boys’ bathroom at the high school prior to the Christmas break—warned that a “bomb” would go off at the high school on Jan. 27. Marlette said that law enforcement authorities were contacted immediately after the note was discovered in December. Students and parents were informed of the threat last Wednesday. A school district letter was given to students, who were asked to bring the note home to their parents.

Classes were held as scheduled on Friday, after the high school was searched Thursday night and Friday morning. Bags and articles carried by students arriving at school Friday morning were also searched. Students were not allowed to leave the high school over the noon hour, and school staff greatly restricted student movements from classrooms during the school day.

The school “lock-down” policy continued this week, and Marlette said that it hadn’t been decided when the restrictions would end.

“We will do whatever it takes to keep our students safe,” Marlette said.

The superintendent said that a second note was found Friday morning, in the same toilet stall where the first note had been discovered. The second note said that the bomb threat was a hoax. The notes have been turned over to law enforcement authorities as evidence. State and federal officials, Marlette indicated, have joined local personnel in the investigation.

“We want to impress upon students how serious this is,” Marlette said. Students have been informed that making a bomb threat is a federal offense, with severe penalties, he indicated. He asked that parents discuss the matter with their children.

“People have got to realize how disruptive and costly this is,” he said. The school district will prosecute the person or persons responsible for the threat, the superintendent said.

School was held Friday, he said, because canceling classes would have been exactly the step that the note writer wanted.

Attendance was down significantly Friday at the high school, apparently because many parents took their children out of school. About 95 students were absent at the high school Friday out of an enrollment of about 430 students Friday. About 65 of the absentees were in the junior and senior classes.

• • •

“Lock down” procedures mean that students can not leave the school during the noon lunch period, or exit the school interior for any reason during the 8:20 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. school day. A student wanting to leave for an urgent reason, such as a dental or doctor’s appointment, needs to have a parent call the school. Teachers are being guarded granting student requests to leave classrooms for bathroom or library visits. More teachers than normal are patrolling hallways between classes.

“People should understand that 99% of our students are outstanding,” Marlette said. “It is just take the actions of the 1% spoil things for everyone else.”

The superintendent said that he and other school staff are committed to finding out who the perpetrator is. The discovery of who is responsible for the bomb threat, he feels, is more a matter of “when” rather than “if.” But when the offender is discovered, Marlette said he will have mixed feelings.

“Young people make mistakes sometimes. I feel bad for this young man or young woman because of the consequences that they will have to face. But this is something that we have to do. We can’t tolerate threats to the safety of our students.”

District 417 also had a written bomb threat in the fall of 2003.


Chamber banquet shuttle bus needs additional riders

Free bus transportation is being offered to the Tracy Chamber of Commerce banquet Saturday night at Key Largo. But unless more people show interest, the bus won’t get out of the parking lot.

As of Tuesday, not a single person had signed up for the bus ride.

Chamber President Lori Hebig, said that bus sign-ups will be accepted at the Chamber office through 10 a.m. Friday. But unless at least 10-12 people register, the bus will be canceled.

“We thought this would be convenient for people, since the banquet is out-of-town this year,” said Hebig. “But we need to have more than a handful of riders.”

If enough people do register for the bus, it would depart from the Shetek Bend Banquet Bar & Grill parking lot at 5:15 p.m., and return to Tracy immediately following the program. The bus would operate through Tracy Community Education, and would be paid for by the Chamber.

• • •

The Chamber banquet is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Key Largo, on Valhalla Island on the west side of Lake Shetek. A silent auction and social hour will precede a 7 p.m. dinner.

The Chamber banquet has traditionally been held at the Mediterranean Restaurant. But the Tracy restaurant closed last spring, and the Chamber board opted to have this year’s banquet at Key Largo.

The 2006 banquet will be a first for Kayla Hussong, the Chamber’s newly-hired executive director. A recent St. Cloud State University graduate, Hussong started with the Chamber on Jan. 17.

Banquet highlights will include the presentation of the Outstanding Citizen, Distinguished Farmer, and Boss of the Year awards. Hebig is expected to hand the president’s gavel to president-elect Lary Parker. Candidates for election to the Chamber’s Board of Directors are John Mc Gee, Mev Jackson, LuAnn Jacobsen Hansen, and Paul Gervais.

Wes Harrison, “Mr. Sound Effects,” is the featured entertainer.

The Chamber banquet is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at the Chamber office (629-4021) or from any Chamber board member. In order to provide an accurate meal count, tickets should be purchased before Friday noon.

Hospital earns state patient safety award

Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center has won a state award from the Minnesota Hospital Association.

The Tracy health-care facility was recognized for its “Falling Stars” patient safety program. The program cut the rate of patient falls at the facility in half over a two-year period.

“This award belongs to all of our staff members because everyone is responsible for our success in this patient safety effort,” said Stacy Barstad, SVTMC chief finance/chief operating officer.

The award was presented at the hospital association’s annual banquet in the Twin Cities. Eight SVTMC staff members representing various hospital departments accompanied Barstad.

The Falling Stars initiative involved all hospital staff members with the goal of preventing patient falls. Patients thought to be susceptible to falls were identified with a magnetic yellow star placed on their door. All staff members, from physicians to housekeeping, were instructed to be extra watchful for people in yellow starred rooms. Information on the program was posted in rooms and included in admission packets. Additional bed and chair alarms and bolster pads were purchased for the Falls Stars patients. The program also provided for awareness instruction on fall prevention to patients and their families.

After the implementation of the program, the facility’s rate of patient falls was reduced from 5.6 falls per 1,000 patient bed days to 2.8 falls per 1,000 patient bed days in August of 2005.

The Falling Stars program was sparked by a Sioux Valley System patient safety initiative. After assessing the safety issue associated with patient falls, a six-member Tracy team developed the program. A goal was established to reduce the fall rate to less than 5.0 by the end of 2004.

“I am very proud of the superior quality of this staff and the quality care they provide,” commented Rick Nordahl, SVTCM chief executive officer. “The entire staff continues to be committed to providing the highest quality care possible, with the comfort, safety and well-being of our patients always our No. 1 priority.”

Sue Swan, RN, is the quality improvement/risk management manager for Sioux Valley Tracy Medical Center.


Tracy people tune into Pioneer Public TV forum

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

What does Pioneer Public TV have to offer Tracy? That was one of the many questions considered last week when representatives from the Appleton PBS station sponsored a coffee shop talk in downtown Tracy.

Janet Suckow and Glen Cerny, representing Pioneer Public TV, visited with Tracy residents over steaming hot cups of coffee and tea at Coffee on Third, gathering comments and suggestions.

Cerny, general manager for Pioneer Public TV since 2001, said 2006 is a big year for the PBS station.

“It’s our 40th anniversary this year,” he said.

Another exciting development is that PBS is now offered digitally, on Channel 15 out of Chandler and Channel 31 out of Appleton. Having PBS as a digital channel will allow the station to do more with its programming, including airing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the upcoming legislative session, said Cerny. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Your Legislators.

Cerny said while some staples of PBS programming return year after year, the station is always looking for and developing new programming.

“That’s the fun part of what we do is the local programming,” he said.

A program last year on methamphetamine addiction received an outstanding reaction, he said. A program on 4-H was also well-received, and is one Cerny hopes to continue producing.

“We always keep an eye open for local programming,” he said. “Often we can enter that kind of programming without funding and funding finds us.”

• • •

While there are times when finding funding for programming is not a problem, funding is always an issue for Pioneer Public TV. The PBS station receives about $160,000 in state funding every year, and $480,000 in federal funding. The station’s annual budget is around $1.7 million, which means the remainder must be sought from viewers and other donations.

“We have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what we should do as a public TV station and that’s a conversation that needs to continue,” Cerny said of the decisions that are made about programming. “Who else is going to do television about our region?”

Currently, Pioneer Public TV is in the early stages of creating a program on art and music in the region. Another program being considered is a contest for high school students to create a program for the TV station.

Often, said Cerny, the programming created by Pioneer Public TV has surprising effects. When the station did four Our Town programs, a premiere was done for each program. IN each case, Cerny said, the people at the premiere said they learned something new about themselves and their community. One participant in the program about Murray County, a teenage boy, commented that he hadn’t thought so positively about his community before the program.

“To me, that was a very special moment showing what public TV can be,” Cerny said.

• • •

Another program Cerny is proud of is Pioneer Public TV’s children’s outreach program. The program, whose coordinator work out of Marshall, explains to parents how to use PBS children’s programming along with reinforcement in the home.

“Parents entrust us with their kids,” Cerny said of PBS children’s programming, which includes classic shows such as Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Reading Rainbow, as well as newer additions such as Bob the Builder.

Cerny feels strongly about PBS’s programming and the benefits as the only area-wide cultural promoter in the region.

“It’s good programming and we’d like to think it adds something culturally to the region,” he said.

Thursday’s visit was part of a year-‘round tour of Minnesota communities that benefit from Pioneer Public TV. Representatives from the public TV station visit two communities per month to gather ideas and get input on programming.

Sub-section champs

The Tracy Area High School one-act play took first place in subsection competition over the weekend. The cast of “Final Exam” competed Saturday in the Subsection 11A contest at Yellow Medicine East High School in Granite Falls. They move on to compete in section competition this Saturday, Feb. 4, in Redwood Falls. Competition begins at 9 a.m. Cast members include (front row, from left): Emily Gilmore, Patrick Van Nevel, Dani Thooft. Back row: Jacob Gilmore, Dalton Kirk, Bekah Zens, Mai Xiong Vue, and Tara Norstegard. Not pictured are cast members Levi Miller and Sam Van Nevel. Megan Gilmore is stage/props manager for the production, Sandy Carpenter is director, Sandy Fultz is assistant director, Jesse James is art director, and Karen Ziemke is public relations manager.

New members revive Tracy Women of Today

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The Tracy Women of Today is getting a boost—and renewed life—from new members this month.

The Tracy service organization was in danger of losing its charter by the end of this month due to lack of younger members. Facing this difficult problem, chapter president Brenda Wieme sought help.

Denise Crumrine, who is Minnesota State Women of Today Secretary and a member of the Balaton Women of Today, stepped in to help.

“Tracy was in a bad place and I came in to help,” Crumrine said. “That’s what the Women of Today does. We help each other as much as we can. It’s a terrific source of support.”

According to the Minnesota Women of Today bylaws, each local chapter must have seven members under the age of 40.

“To continue the organization you need to have younger members,” Crumrine said.

She said that in today’s busy world, it has become more difficult for people to volunteer their time to any organization.

“We have more demands on our time than our mothers did,” she said.

That is why, she said, the Women of Today structures itself around the schedules of its members.

“You don’t have to go to every meeting or participate in every project,” she said.

Following a successful membership drive, the Tracy Women of Today now has 12 members and meets the requirement that there are seven members under the age of 40.

Both Crumrine and Wieme can relate to the hectic lives young, working wives and mothers face today. Wieme became involved in the Women of Today about seven years ago. As someone who was not originally from the area, she wanted to become involved in the community and meet new people. Having been involved in FFA and her church council, she sought another good leadership experience.

“This has been a good experience for me,” Wieme said.

Wieme has now been president of the Tracy Women of Today chapter for two years. She has also served as a state delegate and was state program manager for Ways and Means.

Crumrine said many people join for the same reasons as Wieme: to meet new people and for the leadership training the Women of Today provides. Many also want to do good things for their community, and enjoy the camaraderie that the Women of Today provides.

Traditionally, the Women of Today has done many different fund-raisers and events in the community, including a baby-sitting clinic, kids’ Christmas store, and Box Car Days Whopper Wagon.

Since there are so many new members, it is difficult to say what events the Women of Today will keep doing.

“I anticipate they will keep some of the old things but brainstorm for new ideas. We won’t keep something around if people are not excited about it,” Crumrine said. “The Women of Today is only limited by people’s imaginations.”

One event the Women of Today have kept around this year is the Valentine’s Day cookie sale.

The money raised through these fund-raisers is donated locally. Wieme said the Tracy Women of Today donate to places where there is a need, generally something the members feel strongly about. Recently, the Women of Today made a donation toward the climbing wall at Tracy Elementary School.

Crumrine said that while the Tracy Women of Today has enough new members now, they will continue to actively recruit new members.

“We want to bring in more people, bring in new ideas, and remain healthy and positive,” she said.

For more information on the Tracy Women of Today, call Wieme at 629-3161.