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News from the week of January 19, 2005

Eight-period day proposed at high school

District 417 could have some significant schedule changes in the fall of 2005.

The changes are proposed because of the No Child Behind legislation that, as of the 2005-2006 school year, will require one additional credit of science, beginning with this year’s freshmen. In the past, Tracy Area High School has required two science credits for students to graduate.

Principal Chad Anderson provided the school board with several different scheduling scenarios at their Jan. 10 meeting.

“Every scenario you have has advantages and disadvantages,” he said.

Anderson gave scheduling options for both seven and eight-period days. The high school now operates under a seven-period day.

Anderson said if the high school stays in a seven-period day, students will have fewer elective choices because of the increased science requirement. An eight-period day would solve the problem of fewer elective choices, but raises other questions.

“Whatever you decide to do, I’ll make it work,” Anderson said.


Seven-period scenario

Under a seven-period day scenario, one additional science teacher would have to be hired to meet NCLB requirements and keep class sizes between 20 and 25 students.

A full year of earth science would have to be taught to eighth grade students to accommodate the new requirements. In order to do this, Anderson said, some other areas would have to be cut.

There are two options under this scenario. First, computer 8 would be reduced to half a semester in order to increase earth science to a full year. Quad (FACS, art, industrial tech. and music) would be eliminated in seventh grade, and replaced with computers. FACS would be eliminated from the 9th grade Quad and replaced with computers.

Teachers whose schedules would be affected by this change would teach an upper-level elective.

A second option would be to reduce computer 8 to half a semester and leave the 7th grade Quad as it is.

Also under a seven-period day scenario, an additional science requirement in grade 11 would result in one fewer elective for high school students. Juniors would be required to take chemistry or conceptual chemistry.

Anderson said one option being considered is to offer a seven-period day with a 30-minute “mini class.”

Class periods would be 45 minutes, with the exception of the mini class. Each teacher would teach five classes, have one study hall, one preparation period, and a 30-minute homeroom or enrichment class.

This 30-minute mini class would be held from 12:07 to 12:37 p.m. Choir would meet for 30 minutes during this time. Teachers would also offer enrichment classes for students who are not doing well in the subject. Other teachers might offer a .25-credit class during that time.

Friday would be “reading day” or “meeting day.” Student council, National Honor Society, athletic, and other meetings could be held during this time. Students who do not have meetings will have time to read.

Under this scenario, said Anderson, students who are in choir and want to take another elective would be able to do so because choir would no longer be a regular class.



Eight-period scenario

The proposed eight-period day would still have 45-minute classes, meaning 14 minutes would be added to the school day.

Superintendent David Marlette said this could be an issue when it comes to negotiation of teacher contracts. Teachers would each have six 45-minute classes during the day. They currently have five 50-minute classes. A teacher who has six classes now is considered to be on overload. Teachers would still have one study hall and one preparation period.

Anderson said one way to solve this would be to have 43 and 44-minute classes. Some classes would be 43 minutes long and others 44, thus keeping the school day at its current length.

Under the eight-period scenario, an additional science teacher would not need to be hired, and a half-time social studies position could be eliminated. An additional half-time computer/business instructor would be needed in place of a half-time math teacher.

The addition of an eighth period to the day would allow for 14 potential new electives. The seventh through ninth grade Quad classes would remain in place as they are now. Seventh and eighth grade classes could have a full year of computers.

Another issue to consider, Anderson said, is that an eight-period day would not only provide an additional elective choice for students, it would also result in more homework and tests.

Marlette said he sees potential in the eight-period day format.

“The eight-period day, as I look at it, has a lot of benefits,” he said.



The decision on whether to switch to an eight-period day for the 2005-2006 school year could hinge on teacher negotiations.

Planning needs to begin soon for the fall schedule, said Anderson. Negotiations, however, may not be able to begin for several months.

Issues such as changing what is considered a class overload, the number of students teachers see in a day, preparation period length, end and start time of the school day, and compensation for an extended day would likely all have to be considered in negotiations, Marlette said.

One issue is that if the district plans for a seven-period day and hires new instructors to fit that scenario, an eight-period day may be settled on in negotiations after the new teachers are hired. Similarly, if the district plans for an eight-period day and does not hire the new teachers who would be needed for a seven-period schedule, there is a chance that negotiations would not be settled and a seven-period day would have to be implemented in the fall of 2005. It may be difficult to find the new teachers who would be needed in this scenario, Marlette said.

Despite these potential problems, Marlette said he believes the district’s teachers would be willing to go the extra mile to make an eight-period day work.

“I think they understand that we’re trying to do what’s best for the kids,” he said.

Board members agreed that, before making a decision on whether to switch to an eight-period day, they need to find out when they can begin teacher negotiations. They will take further direction on the issue at their February board meeting.

Fire destroys mobile home

No one was hurt in a fire that destroyed a mobile home in Tracy Saturday afternoon.

Tracy police, fire, and ambulance personnel responded to the call at 3:36 p.m. in the Cedar Lane Mobile Home Park.

Fire Chief Keith Engesser said that the mobile home, which was lived in by Lloyd Bronstad, was “a total loss.” Cause of the fire was still under investigation, the chief said, but he felt there is a possibility that it was “smoking related.”

Claire Hannasch, Tracy, owns the fire-damaged trailer.

• • •

The mobile home fire call was one of three in four days for the Tracy Fire Dept.

Monday morning, two Tracy fire trucks assisted at a Marshall Fire Dept call south of Marshall. The Lake Marshall Township fire destroyed two tractors and a machine shed at the Pat Verly farmstead.

Friday night, Tracy firemen assisted Walnut Grove firemen at a blaze that destroyed the Kong Yang home.

Walnut Grove Fire Chief Steve Hanson said that the story and a half house was a total loss. No one was injured. The Yang family was not home at the time of the fire. Hanson said that the cause of the fire had not been determined.

Firemen battled the fire in minus 10-degree temperatures, and were on the scene for about five hours.

Dovray Manor to re-open
as T-Tommy's Log Cabin

The Dovray Manor is getting a new name and a facelift. The change comes courtesy of Tom and Tammy Buesing, owners of T-Tommy’s Mill Street Grill in Currie.

The Dovray eating establishment is expected to re-open in mid-February under the name T-Tommy’s Log Cabin.

The Buesings are no strangers to the former Dovray Manor. Tom leased and operated the restaurant and bar four years ago. He thinks that his prior experience gives him an advantage in that he already knows the customer base, and the people know him.

The Dovray Manor has been closed for the past two years. Buesing said he knew the restaurant was for sale, but hadn’t thought about buying it until recently, following a conversation with former boss Don Fischer. Buesing worked for Fischer at the Valhalla Steakhouse for many years, he said, and learned the ropes of the business from him.

Fischer expressed interest in working for Buesing. At the time, Buesing didn’t have any positions open. He said he began to think about it more, and decided it would work if he opened another restaurant.

Buesing said expansion of the T-Tommy’s restaurant was in his plan from the start. He planned to open another location about 60 miles from the Currie restaurant.

“I still hope to do that within another two to five years,” Buesing said. “This isn’t going to be it for T-Tommy’s.”

Buesing said the Dovray location will allow him to expand his catering business as well. The Mill Street Grill, he said, doesn’t have a big enough kitchen to accommodate much catering. He hopes that the larger kitchen at the Log Cabin will allow him to pursue catering jobs more aggressively.

Before T-Tommy’s Log Cabin can open, the restaurant is undergoing a major remodeling project. Buesing said the most work is being done on the floors and walls. The restaurant’s front area will reflect the new name, with a more rustic-styled décor.

Matt Jackels of Dovray is doing the construction work, and Steve Zens is doing the plumbing. Grams Floor Covering is helping out with the flooring, and Steffen Electric is doing the electrical work.

The front end of the restaurant, which seats about 75, will be both a bar and a restaurant. The back area, which seats about 150, will be non-smoking and cater more to the dining customers. Buesing expects the front portion of the restaurant to open in mid-February, with the back area opening a few weeks later.

Buesing plans to have T-Tommy’s Log Cabin open seven nights a week.

Buesing said he is coming up with a whole new menu for T-Tommy’s Log Cabin. Some menu items may be the same as T-Tommy’s Mill Street Grill, he said, but he wanted to come up with something unique for the new place.

“We’re just doing something different and we’re going to have fun with it,” he said.

Front-line paratrooper
Justin Morin savors life back home
after arduous Afghanistan, Iraq duty

Bullets whined overhead.

Justin Morin’s U.S. Army unit fired back.

Their mission?

Destroy or capture the Afghan guerillas that had just ambushed and killed seven U.S. soldiers.

“The adrenaline kicks in and you do what you were trained to do,” Morin recalls. “It’s only later when you think, Holy Cow, did that really happen?”

The 2000 Tracy Area High School graduate served an eight-month combat tour in Afghanistan, in 2002-2003, as a paratrooper with the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division. In January of 2004, Morin returned to the Middle East and served four more months in Baghdad. He’s been home since last summer, after fulfilling a four-year active duty commitment to the Army. He lives with his wife, Tara, on a farm near Wabasso, where he cherishes the serenity of Minnesota.

Some days, though, Sgt. Morin admits that it is hard to reconcile the peace of Minnesota with the on-going turmoil where he’s been.

“It is so different. It’s weird being back home after being in a place where you’d think, ‘well, we had a rocket attack, and a bomb went off down the street today, but it was a good day because no one got killed.’ “

Morin says that he thinks about his comrades in Iraq and Afghanistan every day. While he appreciates the chance to be home with family and friends, in some ways he feels as if he should still be in harm’s way with his paratrooper buddies.

“It’s hard, me being here and them being there.”

The pain and horrors of war still linger. He feels fortunate that he didn’t lose any close friends in Afghanistan and Iraq. And yet there is a catch in his voice as he talks about the men in his battalion—men who he knew by face and name—who didn’t return home alive.


Early enlistment

Morin, 22, accepted an early-enlistment offer from the Army at the end of his junior year in high school.

“I knew that I didn’t want to go to college right away, and I knew that I wanted to do something different, “ Morin recalls. The chance for travel and adventure, while earning money for college, was appealing. So was the idea of becoming a paratrooper.

“I’d always wanted to jump out of a plane,” he relates. “I knew that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk. I wanted to fight the fight.” The added challenge of becoming a paratrooper was another perk.

“It separates you from the rest. You are America’s guard of honor. It’s wasn’t enough for me to just be in (the service),” he says of his decision to become a paratrooper.

Lofty goals were nothing new for the Lyon County native. In high school, Morin was an all-conference, all-area football player who played on two Section 3A runner-up teams. He earned a Tae Kwon Do black belt and enjoyed Boy Scout adventure trips. Well-liked by his fellow students, Morin was a homecoming king candidate and an honor roll student. He kept extra busy working at the Mediterranean Restaurant, his parents’ family business.

Life was good. Perhaps the worst thing that happened to him growing up was having an apparent fumble recovery and touchdown return against archrival BOLD called back by an early official’s whistle.

Never did the high school student dream that someday he’d be called upon to serve his country in combat on the opposite side of the world.


Eager to defend country

Morin had been in the Army barely a year when over 3,000 Americans died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Morin remembers his reaction, and the reaction of his fellow soldiers.

“We wanted to go right away (and fight the terrorists). Everyone just wanted to do their part. That’s what we were trained to do.”

Their training intensified over the next year. There were more training jumps. More war games. More drills. And more physical conditioning.

“Our conditioning definitely got harder before deployed to Afghanistan,” Morin said.

Morin’s unit, for example, began going on three-mile runs, twice daily, while wearing 40 pounds of body armory. Soldiers practiced realistic life and death combat situations, such as carrying a medical stretcher over long distance with a buddy, and playing war games with live ammunition fired overhead.

Combat soldiers needed to meet exacting physical requirements, such as 80 pushups in two minutes and 85 sit-ups in two minutes.

The training would prove to be invaluable when Morin’s Second Platoon, Alpha Company, Second Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division shipped out for Afghanistan in December of 2002.



Arduous duty

He and other soldiers prepared themselves for the worst possible conditions they could imagine. That attitude, Morin feels, helped them endure the rigors of the next eight months.

While in Afghanistan, Morin’s company participated in ten major U.S. military operations against Al-Qaida and Taliban forces. Inter-mixed with the major battles were many Quick Reaction Force operations. In these campaigns, small numbers of soldiers responded to special circumstances, such as the downing of a helicopter, the sudden sighting of an enemy force, or an unexpected ambush.

Conditions were arduous. When airlifted into the field, the paratroopers carried everything they needed to survive on their backs: weapons, ammunition, food, water, and supplies. Including 40 pounds of body armor, each paratrooper had to carry 160 to 180 pounds of equipment. Often they slept outside with only a sleeping bag for protection. If they got cold, or wet or ran out of supplies, they simply had to make do.

Once, Morin’s unit did run out of food on an Afghan mission after bad weather prevented their re-supply from the air. They quenched their hunger by butchering and cooking a goat, rice and vegetables that they bought from some villagers.

Danger was their constant companion in Afghanistan. They had been in the country only a few weeks when their battalion suffered its first combat fatality.

“A guy was shot in the face three times. Everyone knew him. It was really hard,” Morin remembers. “It was a reality check for us.”

In Afghanistan, Morin said, American soldiers didn’t know who was friend or foe.

“Who do you trust? You don’t trust anyone.”

An Afghan man who acted as their interpreter, Morin said, was executed by his own people two weeks after they left Afghanistan.

The Second Battalion returned to Fort Bragg, North Caroline, on July 17, 2003.

Tara was there to welcome him home.

“It was the greatest feeling,” Justin said of the homecoming.



Another danger zone

The Tracy soldier thought that his days in a danger zone were over. But in December of 2003, just before his unit was ready to go home on Christmas leave, their commander informed them that they would be deploying to Iraq upon their return. The battalion arrived in Baghdad on Jan. 5, 2004, and stayed until April 17. Their missions included providing security at the main city airport and later, for the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad’s “green zone.”

Not a day passed, during his tour in Iraq, Morin said, when there wasn’t some sort of trouble in Baghdad, in the form of a suicide bombing, roadside bomb, mortar or rocket attack, or kidnapping.

When soldiers heard a rocket or mortar coming in, Morin said there was nothing they could do but jump into a bunker.

His most precarious mission in Iraq, involved the detonation of a landmine that had been turned in by a civilian. He and a few other soldiers had to take the mine to a remote location in Baghdad at 3 a.m. for the detonation.

“You don’t want to be roaming the streets of Baghdad late at night,” Morin explains.

How most Iraqi people feel about American military forces is difficult to discern, according to Morin.

“Some love us and some hate us,” he says. Morin says he has “no idea” what will ultimately happen in Iraq. But he says that morale remains high among American troops in Iraq. American military personnel overseas, he says, appreciate the support they received from home.

“In general, it seems like we had a lot of support. I got letters from people almost everyday,” Long-distance telephone cards, were especially welcome, as were letters from school kids.

Most American military personnel, he says, believe strongly in their mission, and support President Bush’s policies.

“It was time that someone had to do something,” Morin said of America’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

News reports, Morin feels, don’t tell the entire story of what is happening in Iraq.

“A lot of the news is biased,” he says. Media reporting, he feels, doesn’t always present a balanced view of both the positive and negative. Some of the good things that are happening in Iraq, he says, are overshadowed by the on-going reports of violence in Iraq.

Morin also feels that news reports don’t come close to depicting the horrors of war. Pictures and images seen on American newspapers and television, he says, are edited to show only a small side of the ghastly carnage of a suicide attack or a roadside bombing. As a result, Morin feels, many Americans have only a foggy idea about what Allied forces face in Iraq.

“I wish they would show more,” Morin says. Having to see the charred bodies and severed limbs of the victims of a suicide bombing attack, for example, would give the American public a better idea of the ugly ruthlessness of the Iraq insurgency.

Morin has no regrets about his decision to join the military. While wouldn’t want to repeat his rigorous months of combat duty, he also glad for his military experiences.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve had so many experiences, and met so many people.” Once, for example, he shook hands with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“How many people my age can say that?” he says.

Nor, have many people of any age leaped from an airplane at 800 feet.

Life in the military has given him a new perspective of the world, he adds, and an enhanced appreciation for the little joys of life,”

“It is so different being back here, and listening to some of the things that people complain about. They really have no idea.”

Morin, on inactive reserve from the military, could be called back to duty anytime within the next 2 1/2 years. He tries not to think of the uncertainty, but if called, he says he will resume his military service without complaint. If not, he plans to go back to school and complete his education, possibly in some field of law enforcement.

Justin is the son of Tom and Sue Morin of Tracy.

Tryouts set for 'Bye-Bye Birdie'

Look out for Elvis. Rock-N-Roll mania is coming to Tracy.

Tryouts for the Tracy community musical Bye-Bye Birdie are scheduled to begin next week.

“We’re really excited to be doing another musical,” says Ade Miller, who will be directing the production with Jeff “Jesse” James. Miller hopes that Bye-Bye Birdie will generate as much community interest as past musicals. “We hope that a lot of people will try out.”

Tryouts are planned Wednesday, Jan. 26, 5-8 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 28, 5-8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 30, from 1-3 p.m.; in the Tracy Elementary School music room. Scripts and sheet music will be available for people to read and sing.

Walk-ons are welcome. People can also set a tryout appointment by calling Marge Robinson at 629-3114.

An equal number of high school students (grades 7-12) and adults are needed for the play, Miller said. She said that every person who tries out would be cast in a part.

Performance dates for the Tracy Community Education musical are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 1-3, and Friday and Saturday, April 8-9.

• • •

The original Broadway cast of in 1960 included Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde, and Dick Gautier. The musical’s lead character—Conrad Birdie—was based upon Elvis Presley, then the hottest heartthrob of American pop music.

Like the real-life Elvis, rock-n-roll star of Bye-Bye Birdie gets the disquieting news that he has been drafted into the U.S. Army. That sets in motion a scheme by Birdie’s music company and agent, to drum up a last bit of publicity before he goes into the Army. The name of 15-year-old Kim MacAfee, of Sweet Apple High School, in Sweet Apple, Ohio, is chosen at random as the lucky girl to give Birdie his last kiss as a civilian.

The news that the teen idol is coming to Sweet Apple sets off a chain of comic and romantic sub-plots.

Birdie’s secretary hopes that the rock star’s departure will allow the music company’s director to go back to college and become a teacher—and maybe get married to her.

Kim is thunderstruck about her momentous date with Birdie, even though her boyfriend, Hugo, is not pleased. Hugo’s jealousy has unpredictable consequences for Kim’s TV encounter with Birdie.

Sweet Apple’s teenagers, naturally, are whipped into a hysteria at the news that Birdie is coming. But many of the town’s upstanding citizens, including the mayor and Kim’s father, fret about the moral implications of a rock-in-roll star in their midst. Mr. MacAfee gets a more upbeat attitude only after learning that his entire family will appear on the Ed Sullivan television show, where the momentous kiss from Kim is to take place.

The musical, Miller feels, can be uproariously funny.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun with it.” She said that the musical is far better than the 1963 Bye-Bye Birdie movie.

“Don’t judge the musical by the movie,” she suggests.

The score includes: “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” “One Boy,” “How Lovely to Be a Woman,” and “Baby Talk to Me.”

• • •

Besides actors and actresses, Bye-Bye Birdie will also require large numbers of supporting people. Volunteers will be needed to help with costumes, props, set construction, lighting and sound, and publicity. Anyone who can help is invited to call Robinson at 629-3114.

Bye-Bye Bird will be the third community musical directed by Miller and James. The other two were The Music Man (1999), and Oklahoma! (2000). James and Miller also collaborated on four children’s community choir productions: Annie Junior (1999), Wizard of Oz (2000), Peter Pan (2001), and Babes in Toyland (2002).

Shakespearean prose gets tortured one-act play twist

Tracy Area High School will stage the one-act play Sorry, Shakespeare! on Sunday, Jan. 23.

Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the high school gym stage.

Cast members are Levi Miller, Emily Gilmore, Emily Baumann, and Kyle Lessman. The Sunday performances will be a preparation for Section 3A one-act play competition Saturday, January 29 in Granite Falls.

Sorry, Shakespeare! is the story of four high school students who have anxiously reported to the high school auditorium for a play rehearsal only to discover that the director is not coming. To add to the confusion, one of the cast members has dropped the three rehearsal scripts. The pages are unbound and unnumbered. The scripts are MacBeth, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, three plays by William Shakespeare.

The cast reasons that, “We don’t know anything about Shakespeare, but it all sounds the same anyway, so grab some pages. We came to rehearse and we’re going to rehearse.” Mayhem ensues as the audience is left wondering if this play is “To be, or not to be.”