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News from the week of March 14, 2007


Survey shows support for high school addition

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

There is positive support overall for the construction of a new arts and athletics facility in the Tracy School District. That’s the news District 417 board of education members received this week during a report on the facilities survey that was recently conducted in the district.

Don Lifto of Springsted, the company that organized the survey, presented a report to the school board Monday. Only a handful of interested community members attended to hear the results.

Lifto said 300 telephone surveys were completed with registered voters in the Tracy School District. A random sample of registered voters was used.

Lifto said the methodology used in the survey was a three-benchmark test. Early in the survey, people were asked a very general question about a potential new facility without much detail.

This first, “uninformed” showed that 57 percent of those surveyed were in favor of a bond for a proposed performing arts center, athletic practice facility, and new school administrative offices. Only 30.3 percent of those surveyed said they would oppose such a proposal. An additional 12.7 percent were undecided.

“This is a good initial response,” Lifto said.

The second benchmark involved going through a series of more specific statements concerning what the new facility might be used for and whether those statements would make the person more or less likely to vote for such a proposal.

This section of the survey showed that 76.3 percent would be more likely to support a facility designed for both student and community use. Other responses, which ranged from statements on school safety to theater and practice areas, ranged from 57 to 68.7 percent in favor.

Following this series of questions, those surveyed were again asked to say whether they would support a bond for such a facility. The percentage of those in favor went up to 59.7 percent, the number of those opposed dropped down to 28 percent, and the number of those undecided was 12.3 percent.

Lifto said it was interesting to note that there wasn’t much difference between the “uninformed” and “informed” responses. He said this was likely because many in the district had already been informed about the proposed facility and its potential uses prior to the survey.

The third benchmark brought the impact of cost into the picture. For this section, residential and farm property owners were separated. Farm property owners were asked how much they would be willing to have taxes increased per $100,000 of land. Residential homeowners were asked how much they would be willing to have taxes increased based on the average home.

Per $100,000, 60.9 percent of rural property owners said they would be willing to have taxes increased by $95. The percentage dropped to 54.6 for $123, 47 percent for $138, and 37.7 percent for $161. For the average homeowner, 59.4 percent supported an increase of $95 per year, 47 percent supported an increase of $123, 40.9 percent supported an increase of $138, and 33.6 percent supported an increase of $161 per year.

Lifto said the registered voters who are the most active were also the most likely to support a school facilities bond. He said this is a somewhat unusual pattern, and is a positive sign for the district.

Women were also more likely to support a new facility. When uninformed, 50.4 percent of males surveyed supported the facility. This number increased to 54.2 percent for informed males. The percentage of females who supported the facility when uninformed was 62.1 percent. This percentage jumped to 63.9 for informed females. Lifto said females are almost always more supportive of such projects than males.

The pattern of support split up by age was also typical, Lifto said. The 18-44 age group was most likely to support the project, with 81.3 percent voicing support while uninformed, and 79.7 percent after receiving more information. In the 45-64 age group, 52.5 voiced support at first, and 55.1 percent said they’d be in favor after receiving more information. The 65 and over age bracket was the least supportive. In this group, 48.3 of uninformed people were in favor of the project. This number did increase to 53.4 percent when more details were provided.

Lifto said parent status was another interesting aspect of demographics. He said it is fairly for alumni parents and non-parents to be at about the same level of support.

In the Tracy district, 47.9 percent of alumni parents said they supported the project while uninformed, and 51.5 percent supported the facility once they received more information. Non-parents were more supportive than alumni parents, with 57.5 percent supporting while uninformed and 60.3 approving after learning more details. Not surprisingly, parents of current students were the most supportive. A total of 80.6 percent of parents voiced their support, both while uninformed and informed.

Lifto said people who participate in community education were more likely to be supportive of the facility. Among community education participants 66.7 percent of informed people approved of the project, compared to 58.3 percent among those who did not participate in community education.

The pattern of support among Tracy precincts vs. other precincts was common, Lifto said. 64.7 percent of informed Tracy precinct voters approved of the facility, while 54.2 percent of other area voters were in favor.

District gets high marks

In addition to questions about the support for the proposed arts and athletics facility, those surveyed were also asked to grade the district.

Lifto said the comments received were a positive commentary for the district.

“The board should feel really good about this section of questions,” he said. “Your responses were really, really excellent.”

The majority of those asked—51.7 percent—gave the district a “B.” Twenty-nine percent said the district had earned an “A.” Only 6.3 percent gave the district a “C,” two percent gave the district a “D,” and .3 percent gave the district an “F.” An additional 10.7 percent said they were unable to evaluate.

Lifto said Tracy’s numbers were far better than those collected nationally, where only 36 give school districts a “B” and 32 percent give them a “C.”

The district’s facilities also received high marks. Of those surveyed, 19.3 percent gave the facilities an “A.” Most gave the district’s facilities a “B,” at 56.7 percent. An additional 16.7 percent gave the facilities a “C.” Only one percent of those surveyed gave the district’s facilities a “D” or an “F.” Six percent said they were unable to evaluate.

The board of education received high marks when it came to financial management. A “B” grade was given by 45.3 percent of those asked, while 22 percent gave an “A,” 16.3 percent gave a “C,” three percent felt the district deserved a “D,” and only .7 percent an “F.” Those who said they were unable to evaluate the district’s financial management accounted for 12.7 percent.

The vast majority of those surveyed said they feel the district does a good job of informing the public of district plans for the future. Forty percent gave the district an “A” in this area, followed by 34 percent giving the district a “B.” Only 19.3 percent gave the district a “C,” 1.3 percent gave the district a “D,” and one percent gave the district an “F.”

The district is also widely trusted when it comes to spending tax dollars wisely. Over 80 percent of those surveyed answered “agree,” or “strongly agree,” when asked whether Tracy Area Public Schools can be trusted to spend tax dollars wisely. Only 12 percent disagreed and 2.3 percent strongly disagreed.

The final question on the survey was asked with a negative spin, Lifto said. People were asked whether they would never vote for a tax increase no matter what the money raised would be used for. Of those surveyed, only 13.3 agreed with that statement. Three percent strongly agreed. Nearly 81 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.


Lifto closed his presentation with recommendations for the district. He said the base support for a bond is good overall, and is strongest among parents, women, in the Tracy precincts, among younger voters and in households where someone has participated in community education.

He said tax tolerance is in the lower end of the scale. As a result, he recommended that the cost not exceed $107 per year for a home with an assessed value of $100,000. That would amount to about $5.8 million for a new facility.

“If you communicate your needs well and keep your tax impact within that ceiling, you should have a reasonable chance of getting this passed,” Lifto said.

The board will continue discussion on the building issue at their April board meeting.

Expansion could link Prairie View & hospital

By Seth Schmidt

Sanford Tracy Medical Center and Prairie View Healthcare leaders are discussing the possibility of linking the two facilities.

Both Sanford Tracy and the nursing home are now studying expansion plans. One concept that’s under consideration would physically connect the two buildings across what is now Fifth St. East.

“That would be ideal, if it could be worked out,” said Steve Harl, vice president of operations for Tealwood Care Centers, the company that manages and owns Prairie View. “We’d like to have a single campus setting.”

Rick Nordahl, chief executive officer for Sanford Tracy , echoes Harl’s thoughts. Nordahl called a linked medical center and nursing home “a best case scenario for the health-care needs of this community.”

Tealwood officials have previously announced the possibility of adding onto Prairie View, and have hired an architect to draft plans for an addition. Sanford and City of Tracy leaders have also hired an architect to look at remodeling and expansion options for the hospital and clinic. Hospital and nursing home officials met several weeks ago to discuss the linkage possibility.

Harl said that Prairie View’s addition could involve about 25 additional resident rooms. The added space, he said, would make it possible for all Prairie View residents to have a single, private room.

No timetable has been set for construction, but Harl said he’d like to see Prairie View’s expansion get started “as soon as possible.”

Prairie View is now at 100% capacity with 58 residents, according to Tennis Eeg, Prairie View administrator.

From Prairie View perspective, Harl said that the next step in the proposed expansion is to work with their architect, and see if a linkage plan can be agreed upon with the hospital and city. Once a plan is agreed upon at the local level, then approval would be needed from state officials.

“There are a lot a steps in the process, but financially we are prepared to do this,” Harl said.

Construction that would physically connect the medical center and the nursing home would require the city to vacate East Fifth St. Nordahl has written a letter to City Administrator Audrey Koopman requesting that the city begin the process to vacate the street. The Tracy Planning Commission could consider the street vacation issue as early as April 2.


Principal gets crown, kudos from students

Students honor Scott Loeslie

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

When it comes to character, there’s no question who’s king at Tracy Elementary School.

Principal Scott Loeslie was dubbed “King of Character” by his students and staff last week in a surprise ceremony during a school assembly for the finale of “I Love to Read” month. The school’s media center was transformed into a royal court complete with jester, crown and robe bearers, a throne, and loyal subjects who bowed to their role model in character education.

Student Kelli Soupir began by reading a fairy tale created especially for Loeslie.

“Once upon a time, in a small kingdom lived a group of people lacking some direction with character goals. Then the day came when a prince came riding in on a white horse (some of you might think it looked like a white pick-up!),” she read.

“After many years of building together we feel it is time to acknowledge and give credit to this great Emperor.”

Students and staff members decorated a crown for Loeslie with jewels representing nine character words: Caring, fairness, responsibility, respect for others, trustworthiness, citizenship, respect for self, ambition, and determination. Students read the following anecdotes for each word.


C is for cool

A is for awesome

R is for respectable

I is for intelligent

N is for nice

G is for great

Fairness: Thank you for showing us how to be fair by working hard every day, treating everyone with kindness and respect.

Respect for others: You have shown us how to respect others by listening carefully to us and thinking about our feelings. Even though we are smaller than you, you always look up to us because we show good character.

Responsibility: Responsibility is coming to work on cold winter days. Responsibility is remembering to do your job every day. You have taught us about responsibility through your actions.

Trustworthiness: We are proud to say we trust you! We trust that you will be honest. We trust that you will keep your promises. We trust you will make good choices for our school and community. And you can trust that we will work to do our best.

Citizenship: You have shown us citizenship by taking pride in our school and also in us. You believe in us, and let us know that everyone here is important. You make our school a great atmosphere to work and play in.

Respect for self: We all know that you have respect for yourself! You dress with really cool, colorful ties. You have surrounded yourself with many wonderful people. You care about what the school looks like, and we know that every day you wake up smiling in the mirror saying, “I know I can, I know I can, I know I can!”

Ambition: Did you know that Mr. Loeslie has a secret? His real middle name is ambitious. We know this because he sets goals and believes he can do difficult things. He tries things that will make our school a better place. He doesn’t compare himself to others—though he secretly wants to be our one and only super hero. Last but not least, he always does his very best and never gives up!

Determination: Mr. Loeslie, you are determined! You are determined to make us the best we can be every day. You are determined to make this the best school in the whole world. You are determined to do what is right and not just what is easy. You are determined to help us reach our goals, and we are determined to help you reach yours!

“Emperor Loeslie, we dub you King of Character,” Soupir said in closing. We pledge our allegiance to follow your example as a leader of good character.”

The students then sang the song “Thank You Very Much.”

“That’s our way of saying thank you to a great person we know,” said music teacher Ade Miller.

Loeslie, clearly surprised, thanked the students for the honor they had bestowed upon him.

“In order to be the emperor or the king you have to have a great court,” he said.

Loeslie thanked the people who are important to him who have helped to guide him; particularly his wife, Becky and daughter, Kasey, who were in attendance.

“I really do appreciate this,” Loeslie said. He remarked at the great improvements that have been made at Tracy Elementary through the character education program.

“I think we have really improved who we are,” he said. “It’s truly my pleasure to be here every day and work with all of you.”

Pie-in-face contest to raise money for playground

Pie: Coming soon to a face near you.

Ten Tracy Elementary School staff members are putting their mugs on the line for a good cause—a new school playground. Money will be collected in jars between now and Monday, March 26, when the “winner” will be announced following the performance of a school musical.

The program, “Mighty Minds: A Musical that Makes Learning Fun,” will begin at 7 p.m. at the Tracy Area High School auditorium. Free-will donations will be accepted with all money raised going toward the playground fund.

“Mighty Minds” will feature singing by the whole student body as well as acting by sixth grade students and eight teachers. The program centers around test anxiety and other issues students face.

Director Ade Miller said audience members will also be asked to participate. Those who are interested are encouraged to arrive at 6:50 on the evening of the program to learn the song “We’ll Be There.”

Following the musical will be the culmination of the pie-in-the-face contest. Donations can still be brought in the night of the program, or sent to the school ahead of time. Those who send in donations are reminded to indicate which bucket they’d like their donation to go into. Candidates are Ade Miler, Kristin Haugo-Jones, Scott Loeslie, Jen Kainz, Nat Boyer, Nikki Paulzine, Lisa Schaar, Lisa Dieter, Deb Maki, and Kelly McConnell.


City lighting study continues

Should the City of Tracy proceed with a plan for replacing aging downtown light fixtures?

Should Hwy. 14 lighting improvements be incorporated with the downtown plan?

If Hwy. 14 lighting upgrades are pursued, should fixtures be on one or both sides of the street?

Would Xcel Energy help pay for new lights? How would assessments be handled?

Those were among the unanswered questions city leaders confronted at a Monday night public hearing to consider downtown lighting improvements. The hearing had been continued from Feb. 12. Council members decided to postpone decisions about proposed lighting improvements until at least April 9, when the public hearing will be reconvened again.

“Obviously, we need a lot more research,” said council member Sandi Rettmer, who offered to help gather information.

City Administrator Audrey Koopman said an estimated $151,000 would be needed to put decorative, breakaway lighting fixtures along Hwy. 14. An alternative would be to put new lights only along the north side of Hwy. 14, where most of the highway businesses are located. She said some communities have also mixed new decorative fixtures with existing, traditional lights.

Councilman Russ Stobb said that the planning commission’s recommended that the downtown lights be replaced first.

Chamber President Carol Cooreman said that the Chamber remains supportive of downtown lighting improvements.. Perhaps, if the goal is to al improve appearances along the Hwy. 14 corridor, less costly improvements could be implemented before the lhighway ights are upgraded, she said.

Koopman said that the need for improved lighting along Hwy. 14 is not as great as the downtown area, since most of the highway lights are functional.

The proposed downtown lighting project calls for 40 to 43 new decorative light poles in a six-block area. The 14 to 18 foot poles would be similar to those in Central Park. Estimated cost is $159,000. An estimated $70,000 worth of sidewalk and curb repairs would be done at the same time.

City leaders have discussed financing the lighting improvements by including the cost in a large city-bond issue later this year. City policy calls for 25% of costs to be assessed to benefitting property owners.

Students coming for 'International Weekend'

The Tracy AFS Chapter is sponsoring an “International Weekend” for area foreign exchange students.

Eleven students from neighboring communities will be in Tracy for the March 15-18 activities. Tracy Area High School’s three exchange students—Tinke Albach and Lisa Schreier from Germany and Davide Ottogalli from Italy —will help host the students.

Activities include a Thursday night potluck supper at St. Mary’s Church basement, an “International Fair” in the TAHS cafeteria Friday from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., a Friday night dance sponsored by the Amiriet Busy Bees, Saturday afternoon bowling, and a Saturday night supper and party for exchange students and host siblings.

The International Weekend concludes with an 11 a.m. to noon farewell at the Tracy Multi-Purpose Center Sunday.

Visiting exchange students will stay with Tracy area host families beginninig Thursday night. Students coming to the International weekend are: Mariella Carniero, Brazil; Ayushjax Daraa, Mongolia; Yuan Fujita, Japan; Flora Hlawana, Austria;

Kamonwan Jewwattanarak, Thailand; Panchuta Panprom, Thailand; Fahsarng Parivudhiphongs, Thailand;

Thanya Pigulsri, Thailand; Witchulada Saetabang, Thailand; Pajareeya Suriwong, Thailand.