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News from the week of July 9, 2003

Work camp volunteers roll up sleeves

What's become of the younger generation?

Well, in Tracy this week, some 210 young people from 14 states and provinces are helping paint and fix-up 39 area homes. The students, ages 14 to 19, are working through the Group Workcamp Foundation, a non-profit Christian home repair organization based in Loveland, Colorado. About 40 adult leaders accompanied the young people.

The youth are staying at Tracy Area High School this week, sleeping on classroom floors, taking showers in locker rooms, and eating breakfast and supper in the school cafeteria.

Western Community Action of Marshall lined up the local work sites.

"We are so happy to have the work camp people here," said Jill Houseman, a Western Community Action worker from Marshall.

"This is just wonderful," said Diane Gunvalson, another Western Community Action staff member.

The students and their adult leaders arrived at the high school Sunday afternoon toting sleeping bags, pillows, and clothing bags. They headed out to local work sites Monday morning. The projects are to be finished up by Friday, with students scheduled to head home Saturday morning.

"I'm glad to have them," said Jerry Treptow, as students scrapped, caulked, and prepared to paint his Seventh Street Tracy home. "I know I wouldn't have been able to do this on my own."

Fifteen of the 39 work sites are in Tracy. Eight houses are in Marshall, and four are in Walnut Grove. The other sites are scattered among Ivanhoe, Minneota, Ghent, Balaton, Delhi, Lamberton, Sanborn, Seaforth, Delft, and Jeffers. Many recipients were seniors; some had disabilities.

About 60% of the local work projects involve exterior painting. Some crews are tackling the construction of a handicapped accessible ramp. A few houses are getting roof repairs.

Students are divided into six-person teams, with one adult for every five kids. Work assignments match the skills of those involved.

Upbeat words come easily for new superintendent





Talk to Dave Marlette about his new job as Tracy Superintendent of Schools, and the words are apt to pop up frequently.

"I really am excited about being here," said Marlette, who officially assumed the District 417's top administrative position on July 1. "The people I've met here so far have been just outstanding. I've been very impressed with the community, and the school facilities are very impressive."

Marlette, 53, comes to Tracy from Clear Lake, South Dakota, where he was superintendent of schools and athletic director for Deuel County Public Schools. His educational career dates back to 1973, when he became a math teacher and coach in Roscoe, South Dakota.

His first few days on the job have been spent getting to know his surroundings and the school district.

"Sometimes, I go exploring," he said, of his early visits through Tracy schools and grounds. His goal is to become familiar with everything about the district—its curriculum, staff, facilities, students, finances and community—before setting goals and embarking upon an action plan.

He describes his leadership style as "collaborative." Seeking ideas and opinions from others before making a call, he feels, is important.

"The days of the iron-fisted leader are long gone," he said. "I like to surround myself with good people and let them do their jobs."

He intends to have an "open door policy" at his office.

"I want people to feel comfortable stopping in and talking about school concerns. I want people to feel connected to their schools. We need to get the community more involved."

Principal can't wait to meet new Tracy students

As Tracy Area High School's new principal Chad Anderson settled into his office Monday morning, the halls were eerily quiet. There was no slamming of lockers, or the shuffle of hurried feet on their way to the next class.

“Only a little more than a month to go,” Anderson said of the approaching first day of school.

It's a day Anderson is excited about—a day when he gets to meet the students.

“That's what I look forward to the most is meeting the students,” he said.

Until then, Anderson will spend the coming days and weeks getting acquainted with his new school district, and the town he will soon call home.

Anderson comes to Tracy from Canby, where he was assistant principal and activities director for four years. He officially became TAHS's new principal July 1.

As a former assistant principal moving up the ladder to principalship, he doesn't expect there to be too many changes for him professionally.

“Getting to know a new school system will be the main challenge,” he said.

Walnut Grove pageant set to roll for 26th year

Wagons are being hitched this week in Walnut Grove for the 26th running of the Laura Ingalls-Wilder pageant, Fragments of a Dream.

The Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night performances this weekend are the first of nine 2003 pageant dates. The others are July 18-19-20 and 25-26-27. Gates open at 7 p.m. Pageant Singers perform at 8 p.m. The pageant begins at 9 p.m.

The Wilder Pageant depicts the Charles and Caroline Ingalls family, who settled near Walnut Grove in the 1870s. One of the Ingalls' daughters, Laura Ingalls-Wilder, later wrote about those experiences in a series of popular children's books. The books provided the inspiration for the television series “Little House on the Prairie” that began in the 1970s and is still shown in re-runs.

A 49-member cast is the pageant.

The story is narrated by Beth Kleven, who portrays a mature Laura looking back at her life in Walnut Grove.

Pool grand opening (Part 2) makes splash

Grand opening festivities for the Tracy Aquatic Center were completed Thursday night.

Attendance was heavy. More than 200 free ice cream floats were served. A total of 427 swimmers took the plunge for the day.

A short recognition program, emceed by former Tracy Mayor Claire Hannasch, honored people who had helped make the $1.7 million aquatic center a reality. Hannasch also thanked Tracy citizens for supporting a bond referendum to build the awuatic center. "None of this wold have happened without your help," he said.

Regional jail idea explored

Is it feasible for area counties to band together and build a regional jail to serve area short-term incarceration needs?

About 100 county commissioners, sheriffs, local government leaders, and legislators from a 14 county area gathered in Tracy Tuesday night to consider the question. The group also heard a presentation from Corrections Corps of America, a Nashville, Tennessee company that operates prisons across the country.

Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) organized the meeting. "This is just an initial meeting to see if there is an interest and a need," he told the group. He said he organized the meeting because of conversations he has had with county commissioners in his district, including Lyon and Redwood, about the existing shortage of county jail space. Another reason for the meeting, he said, was the interest expressed by communities in his district in becoming a site for a private prison that could serve state inmates. (A bill that would hvae allowed the Minnesota Dept. of Corrections to send state inmates to a privately operated prison was considered, but not passed, by the 2003 legislature. Tracy, Canby, and Lamberton were among the communities that expressed an interest in hosting such a prison).

Potential support for a new regional jail remained an unanswered question Tuesday night. An official from Nobles County pointed out that they recently built a new jail with the idea of serving the needs of the Fifth Judicial District for the next 20 years.