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News from the week of Augsut 31, 2005


Thirteen seek Miss Tracy honors

Thirteen Tracy Area High School seniors will compete this weekend for the title of Miss Tracy. The annual scholarship program begins Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Tracy Area High School.

The group of 13 is the largest group of Miss Tracy contestants in at least 20 years.

Co-director Jesse James said the large group presented a fun challenge in mapping out the evening’s program.

“We didn’t want to make it too long,” James said. “We’re streamlining the program so it’s fair to the girls and the audience.”

Co-director Sandy Fultz said the program was arranged very carefully in order to give each girl the attention she deserves.

James credited the hard-working participants for their willingness to attend rehearsals that have run later than most years.

Fultz agreed, saying the girls have been hardworking and fun to work with—not to mention talented.

“The judges are going to have a very hard decision,” she said.

He said the program will contain many interesting moments. There will be a segment featuring technology, changes in staging, and much music.

Contestants are vying for $4,800 in scholarships. The 2005 Miss Tracy will be awarded $1,300. The first and second runners up will receive $700 and $300, respectively. An additional $500 in scholarships will be given in the following categories, which participants are judged upon: scholastic achievement, creative arts presentation, fitness, presence and composure, and panel evaluation. Each candidate will also receive an alumni scholarship.

James said it is a huge credit to the program that Miss Tracy alumni are willing to contribute to the alumni scholarships.

“I think that says a lot for what it’s done over the years,” he said.

Fultz said she feels fortunate to work this year’s team of Miss Tracy directors. Besides she and James, directors are Vicki Nilius, Lori Bangasser, Dona Daniels, Colleen Schiller, and Sue Warner.

She said she also appreciated the volunteers who help in areas such as scholastic judging, tabulating and coordinating for the judges, taking tickets, and working backstage the day of the program.

“Our program is a success because of all the people who are involved with it,” she said.

This year’s Miss Tracy contestants are:

Amanda Olafson, daughter of Scott and Kim Olafson

Jillian Tholen, daughter of Randy and Elaine Tholen

Krista Swanson, daughter of John and Becky Swanson

Emily Minett, daughter of Lisa Minett, Kelly Miller, and Tom Gladis

Casie Miller, daughter of John and Claryce Miller

Cayla Caron, daughter of Robert and Donna Caron

Jacqueline Coulter, daughter of John and Muriel Coulter

Jenna Fischer, daughter of Elaine and the late Bill Fischer

Emily Miller, daughter of James and Adeline Miller

Ashlee Domine, daughter of John and Joni Domine

Bobbi Jo Buyck, daughter of Joe and Lynn Buyck

Brianna Schroeder, daughter of Dennis and Dawn Schroeder

Stacy LaVoy, daughter of Stephen and Janette LaVoy

Contestant portraits are on display at Summit Place in Downtown Tracy.

Tracy Box Car Days ready to roll

Excitement is building for the 78th annual Tracy Box Car Days.

“It’s a great opportunity for families to get together,” said Tracy Chamber Manager JoAnn Biren. “Tracy Box Car Days has established itself throughout the years as being a weekend of phenomenal entertainment.”

The tradition will begin Friday evening, Sept. 2 and continue through Monday, Sept. 5.

Many favorite events are returning for the four-day celebration. Biren said there is an impressive line-up on deck for Monday’s parade. The Tracy Area High School marching band, Tracy Community Band, Southwest Minnesota State University marching band, Lucan Community Band, and the Over-60 Band promise a parade fit for any music-lover. The parade begins at 1 p.m. sharp on Labor Day, and will follow the traditional route. From Second and Emory, the parade will go west toward Sixth St., south on Sixth to Morgan, and east on Morgan to Second St., before disbanding near Central Park.

• • •

A wildlife art exhibit is a new Box Car Days event.

Nationally-known wildlife artist James A. Meger will have his work on display at the Veterans’ Memorial Center (formerly the Prairie Pavilion) for three days.

Meger’s appearance is in promotion of Tracy’s annual Sportsmen’s Show. A James A. Meger print is one of the prizes that will be offered at the Sportsmen’s Show. Tickets will be available at the exhibit.

Meger, a six-time Pheasants Forever “Artist of the Year,” will also ride in the Box Car Days parade with Sportsmen’s Show committee members.

The art display will be open beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday, starting at noon on Sunday, and from 3 to 5 p.m. on Monday.

A concert in the park will again follow the kiddie parade and Tae Kwon Do demonstration. This year, the featured band is “living daylights.” The concert will be held in the Central Park bandshell from 4 to 8:30 p.m.

Biren credited Box Car Days committee members and numerous other volunteers who help to make Box Car Days a success year after year.

“It can’t happen without so many unnamed volunteers,” she said. It starts with the committee, she explained, and has a ripple effect into the community, involving both organizations and individuals.

“By the time you’re done, you have most of Tracy involved and I think that says a lot about the community.”

Other weekend highlights include:

Burger Night

The Chamber of Commerce’s annual Burger Night begins at 5 p.m. Friday. Build your own burger in the municipal parking lot. The beer garden also opens at 5 p.m., and a talent show will take place next to the beer garden from 7 to 9 p.m.

Cow Pie Bingo

The Fine Arts Council of Tracy sponsors this fund-raiser next to Hebig’s Electric Saturday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. Tickets will be sold until Saturday at noon.

Kids’ Day in the Park

Central Park becomes kids’ central from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Vogel’s Exotic Animals, Petting Zoo, and Pony Rides will be there. Kids will also have the opportunity to check out a fire truck, ambulance, and police car. The annual kiddie parade begins at 3:30 p.m.

Tae Kwon Do Demonstration

High-flying action will be on display in Central Park from 2 to 3 p.m. as the USA/Korea Tae Kwon Do Association gives its annual demonstration.

Dodgeball Tournament

A flashback from school physical education has made a comeback. Area teams will compete to be top dogs of dodgeball Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Veterans’ Memorial Center.

Mechanical Bull Rides

A mechanical bucking bull makes its return to Box Car Days for a second year. Brave souls may try their luck on Saturday or Sunday from 7 to 11 p.m. outside the beer tent.

St. Mary’s School 50th

St. Mary’s School will be celebrating 50 years of faith and education during a Saturday afternoon celebration. A hog roast will be held from noon to 2 p.m., followed by school tours and entertainment from 2 to 4 p.m. A special Mass will begin at 4 p.m. (See separate story).

Golf tourney

The nine-hole, four-person best ball Chris Hannasch Memorial Golf Tournament will be held Saturday at the Tracy Country Club. Tournament participants tee off beginning at 9 a.m.

Mud Volleyball

The mud volleyball tournament starts at 10 a.m. Sunday next to the softball complex at Tracy’s Industrial Park.

Mud Racing

The Southwest Minnesota Mud Racers’ Association is coming to Tracy Sunday afternoon, sponsored by the Tracy Fire Department. Races begin at 1 p.m. at the corner of County Rd. 14 and County Rd. 11. Concessions will be available on site.

Miss Tracy

The Miss Tracy Scholarship Program begins at 6:30 p.m. at Tracy Area High School. See separate story for details.

Fly-in/Drive-in Breakfast

The annual Monday morning pancake breakfast will take place from 7 to 11 a.m. at the Tracy Municipal Airport. Airplane rides will be available and antique cars will be on display. The Marshall Radio Control Club will give demonstrations.

Road Race

The Box Car Days Road Race sprints into Tracy Monday morning. Results will be tabulated for a 5K walk/run, 10K run, kids’ mile, and half-mile race.

Registration starts the Central Park picnic shelter at 7 a.m. The 5K and 10 K races will start at 8 a.m., with the mile and half mile to follow. Part of the course will follow the Swift Lake Park bike/pedestrian trail.

Pigeon Race

Following the grand parade, a pigeon race will begin at the beer tent. The race starts at 3 p.m.

Softball tournament

The Box Car Days softball tournament will be underway Saturday, Sunday, and Monday starting at 9 a.m. at the Industrial Park softball complex.

Arts & Crafts Fair

The annual St. Mary’s Arts & Crafts Fair will be held Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Food and beverages will be available on site.

Multi-Purpose Center open

The Tracy Multi-Purpose Center in downtown Tracy will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday. Lunches will be served.

Beer garden

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce beer tent will be open Friday from 5 p.m.-midnight, Saturday from 5 p.m.-1 a.m., Sunday from 8 p.m. to midnight, and Monday from noon to 6 p.m. A DJ and karaoke will be in the beer tent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Museums open

Wheels Across the Prairie Museum is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An antique tractor show will be held at the museum all three days.

St. Mark’s Museum is open Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Monday from 3 to 5 p.m.

Midway & Carnival

The Midway Rides & Expositions Midway & Carnival will be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Kids’ rides only will be open from 4 to 6 p.m. All rides, games, and food stands open at 7 p.m. Bracelet night will be from 7 p.m. to midnight. On Sunday, the midway is open from noon to midnight, with bracelet day from noon to 6 p.m. The midway is open Monday from noon to 7 p.m.

Tracy schools exceed goals in 71 of 72 test categories

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

The news Monday wasn’t great. But school administrators weren’t too discouraged by the announcement of the No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress reports Monday.

“We were so close, but we missed,” said Superintendent David Marlette. “We’ll go after it again.”

The only subgroup—one of 72 areas the district is rated in—the district did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in was in reading among Asian/Pacific Islander students in the high school. The group fell short by only .77 of a point.

“It’s a little disappointing because the kids did so well and have improved so much,” Marlette said of their Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results. “I am not disappointed whatsoever in our kids. They have really improved.”

Tracy Area High School Principal Chad Anderson said test scores among high school students went up across the board, and some subgroups performed at a higher proficiency rate than any other school around.

“They have some of the best test scores in the state,” Marlette said.

In math among all students, the proficiency rate at TAHS was 86.93 percent, up from 84 percent in ’04. The target rate was 71.22 percent. In reading among all students, the proficiency rate was 87.32 percent, down just slightly from last year’s 87.34 proficiency. However, that number is still well above the 75.03 percent target rate.

The target graduation rate was 80 percent. Tracy Area High School graduated 98.48 percent of its students in ’05.

Test scores also went up among Asian/Pacific Islander students, the group identified as not making AYP.

“I don’t take this as a negative,” Marlette said. “Even the kids who didn’t make it really improved.”

Eighteen percent of TAHS students have been identified as having Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Fifty-four percent are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

Anderson said efforts will continue to provide the best education possible to all students, no matter their level of proficiency. A half-time English as a Second Language teacher, Sandy Carpenter, has been added to the high school staff this fall to again boost that program.

“We have improved over the years and we will continue to improve,” he said. “We have terrific kids and terrific teachers, and the board has been supportive of everything we have done.”

Tracy Elementary School, which was on the list of schools not making Adequate Yearly Progress last year, made AYP this year.

“I’m pleased with the elementary results,” Marlette said. “That is where the largest number of our Hmong students are.”

Twenty-seven percent of Tracy Elementary students are LEP. In addition, 42 percent of the student body is eligible for free or reduced lunches.

Both schools have stepped up their efforts to help students reach proficiency over the last few years. The ESL and Title I areas have been boosted with increased staff and reworked programs.

• • •

The number of schools not making AYP decreased by almost half in 2005. Last year, 464 schools did not make AYP. This year, the number dropped to 247.

In 2004, 122 elementary schools, 92 junior high and middle schools, 142 high schools, 49 charter schools, and 104 alternative learning centers did not make AYP. This year, these numbers decreased across the board, with only 31 elementary schools, 40 junior high and middle schools, 89 high schools, 36 charters and 83 alternative learning centers not making AYP.

Two-hundred eighty-four schools that did not make AYP last year achieved better results in 2005.

Other schools in the area not making AYP in 2005 were Yankton Country School (charter school) of Balaton, Marshall East Campus Learning Alternatives, Worthington Elementary, Worthington Middle School, and Worthington Alternative Learning Center.

The goal of the NCLB legislation is for all students to reach 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014.

A full AYP list is available online at

• • •

Also released Monday were the governor’s star ratings for Minnesota’s schools. The highest rating is five stars.

TAHS received a five-star rating in school participation, five stars in school safety, five stars in advanced academic opportunities, four stars in advanced academic opportunities at the middle school level, four stars in Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment math scores, and two stars in Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment reading scores (any school not making AYP in an area receives a maximum of two stars in that area).

Tracy Elementary received five stars in school safety, five stars in advanced academic opportunities, three stars in Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in math, and three stars in Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in reading.

Bank marks 100th

It’s 100 candles this week for Minnwest Bank South in Tracy.

The bank is celebrating its 100th year of operation under a bank charter that dates from 1905.

“Our charter has been around a long time,” said President Ivan Van Essen. “We are proud to be here.”

The bank plans a 100th anniversary open house Friday, Sept. 2. Cake, coffee and punch will be served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. People are encouraged to register for door prizes.

Minnwest Bank South traces its roots to a charter issued to Tracy State Bank in 1905. The original Tracy State Bank was located at 163 Third St..

Over the past century, the bank has operated under six different names at three locations. The bank moved from its first location to the northeast corner of Third and Morgan streets (now the Tracy Senior Center) in 1925. In 1979, the bank moved to a new building on the site of the old Tracy Junior-Senior High School, on the corner of Third and Rowland.

The bank’s name changed from Tracy State Bank to Farmers and Merchants State Bank in 1919, and from Farmers and Merchants to Northwestern State Bank in 1968. The institution became Norwest Bank in 1983 before reverting to Tracy State Bank in 1987. The bank became Minnwest Bank South in 2001, when it merged with what had been Murray County State Bank of Slayton.

The merged bank, which also has a branch in Lake Wilson and a loan production office in Owatonna, has assets of about $185 million. Minnwest Bank South’s main office is in Tracy, where 20 people are employed. There are about 40 people employed at all of Minnwest Bank South’s office.

Van Essen, the bank’s president for seven years, feels that the bank’s longevity is due to a tradition of excellence in customer service. Customer satisfaction, in turn, he feels is a tribute to bank employees.

“It all comes back to having good people and providing good service to our customers.”

Bank legacy spans 3 sites

The year was 1905.

Teddy Roosevelt was beginning his second term as United States president. Ty Cobb was a rookie with the Detroit Tigers, and H.G Wells was a popular novelist.

Many Tracy residents kept a horse, either in a backyard barn or downtown livery stable. Some thrifty households milked a cow. Passenger trains stopped daily at the Tracy Depot and more than 100 men labored in local rail yards. Coal was the preferred source of heating businesses and homes. Telephones were a new phenomenon. Only a handful of Tracy’s well-to-do owned one of the new horseless carriage contraptions.

Tracy had an opera house, but no moving picture theatre. Farm families came to town en masse to patronize the town’s three elevators, five general merchantiles, three hardware stores, three blacksmith shops, and three banks.

• • •

Tracy State Bank was the newest of Tracy’s banks five years into the 20th century. Construction of Tracy State’s new brick building at 163 Third St. started in the summer of 1904 and the facility opened in January of 1905. The Bank of Tracy and the First National Bank were rival banks. The Tracy Building and Loan Association was a fourth Tracy financial institution.

John Fitch, became the first Tracy State Bank president. His son, L.J. Fitch, succeeded him to the presidency in 1913.

The Tracy State Bank name disappeared in 1919, when the bank was reorganized with $50,000 of capital stock and renamed the Farmers and Merchants State Bank. Oscar Johnston was the cashier with Fitch serving as president and P.A. Nelson and Ed Hughes as vice presidents.

On August 20, 1923, L. J. Fitch sold controlling interest in the Farmers and Merchants State Bank to Dr. William James, a Tracy dentist, and his brother, Frank S. James of Winona. Other bank stockholders were: Dr. Andrew Hoidale, a Tracy physician; J.A. Vickerman and Tom Nelson, local farmers; and Charlie Gustafson, owner of a eyeglass-jewelry-pharmacy business. Dr. James became president, while his son-in-law, Oscar Johnston, continued as cashier.

In March of 1925, the Farmers & Merchants State Bank and First National bought out the struggling Citizens State Bank. Farmers & Merchants moved to the larger Citizens State Bank building (present-day Tracy Senior Center) at the corner of Morgan and Third.

With America in the midst of a deep economic slump, the Farmers and Merchants State Bank, and all other banks in the country, were ordered closed in March, 1933 by Franklin Roosevelt. Farmers & Merchants was the only Tracy bank that was financially sound enough to reopen after the bank holiday.

In May of 1933, local shareholders sold Farmers & Merchants to Northwest Bancorporation, a holding company of Northwestern National Bank, Minneapolis.

• • •

The Farmers and Merchants State Bank grew and prospered from $234,000 in deposits in 1934 to $4.3 million by 1950 and about $38 million in the mid-1980s.

The F & M Bank building was enlarged and remodeled in 1956, the same year that Oscar Johnston retired as chief managing officer of the bank. Wendell Anderson, who joined the bank in 1952, was named to succeed Johnston.

The bank’s name was changed from Farmers & Merchants State Bank to Northwestern State Bank in 1968. The name was changed again to Norwest Bank in 1983.

In January of 1987, the sale of Norwest banks in Tracy, Slayton, and Redwood Falls to a bank holding company known as Minnesota Valley Bancshares was finalized. Jack McHugh, president; and Todd McVay, chief financial officer; were principals in the company. The name of the Tracy bank was changed back to Tracy State Bank. A major interior remodeling of the Tracy facility was completed in 1996.

• • •

In April of 1999, Tracy State Bank acquired 21st Century Bank of Tracy, which had originally been established in 1982 as a “detached facility” of the Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Balaton. The new bank was located in the 1896 Sioux Quartzite building at the corner of Third and South street that was originally the home of First National Bank.

In 2001, the name of Tracy State Bank was changed to Minnwest Bank South. The name change took place because of a merger between Tracy State and Minnwest Bank South of Slayton (formerly Murray County State Bank), Minnwest Bank South branches in Lake Wilson and Waseca also became part of the new bank. In 2004, the Waseca branch was sold.

The combined Minnwest Bank South today has assets of about $185 million, with offices in Tracy, Slayton, and Lake Wilson, and a loan production office in Owatonna. The main office for Minnwest Bank South is located in Tracy. Ivan Van Essen is the bank president. The bank’s Board of Directors is comprised of Richard Maertens, Gary Hansen, Gordon Edwards, Dale Peterson, Ralph Knapp, Robert Bloemendal, Dr. James Behrends and Todd McVay.

Minnesota Valley Bancshares is now known as Minnwest Corporation. Other Minnwest Banks are located in Montevideo, Luverne, Redwood Falls, Ortonville, and Sioux Falls, S.D. Each bank operates a number of branch banks.

Minnwest Bank South operates today under the original charter issued to Tracy State Bank in 1905.

Reading, writing & Religion

St. Mary's School marks milestone

Alita Lenertz remembers how pleased she and her husband were in the early 1950s about the plans to build a St. Mary’s Catholic grade school in Tracy.

“We thought, if we were ever fortunate enough to have children, it would be nice for them to be able to go to a Catholic school,” said Mrs. Lenertz, who was married to Laurence in 1950.

Their hopes were realized. The young couple was blessed with 11 children, and St. Mary’s School opened in September of 1956. Their oldest son, Laurence Jr., was a first grader at St. Mary’s in 1957, the first of nine Lenertz children to attend St. Mary’s. (Two children died in infancy).

A 21-year span of Lenertz children at St. Mary’s ended in 1978 when Joseph Lenertz finished the sixth grade. Diane, Brenda, Judy, Steven, Theresa, Tom, and Joan are the other Lenertz family alumni of St. Mary’s School.

“It’s been a good school,” said Mrs. Lenertz. “We’re thankful that we’ve had that school.” She and Laurence, who died in 1992, also had three grandchildren attend St. Mary’s.

• • •

Dozens of families like the Lenertz’s will be at St. Mary’s School Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the laying of the school’s cornerstone.

“We’ve sent out letters to lots of school alumni and we’re hoping a lot of people will come,” said Lisa Schaar, a reunion planning committee member.

A pork barbecue dinner, from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, kicks off the festivities. Afternoon entertainment will include live entertainment from the Gale Otto band, a spiritual puppet theater production by Wee Bee Kings Kids, a magic act by Lary Parker, and children’s games and activities. Weather permitting, all activities will be held outdoors near the school. Food will be served in the St. Mary’s Church basement, with tables set up outside. The public is invited.

St. Mary’s School will be open all afternoon for informal tours, with school memorabilia on display.

The 50th anniversary celebration concludes with a 4 p.m. Alumni Mass at St. Mary’s Church.


Inspiration for school

A 1985 history of St. Mary’s parish credits Father Henry Cahill as an inspiration for the school’s construction.

“It was his lifelong dream to build a Catholic school in Tracy,” remembered longtime member Dar Ford, who had five children attend St. Mary’s.

Father Cahill came to Tracy in 1914 and spearheaded the construction of the present-day St. Mary’s Church in 1919-20. He didn’t live to see the groundbreaking of St. Mary’s School. But at the time of his death in 1952, St. Mary’s Church had accumulated $140,000 in savings that was put toward the school’s construction. Father Cahill also left a personal bequest of $33,000 for the school.

Father Richard O’Connor, Father Cahill’s successor, directed and planned the school building project. In May of 1955, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the school. The cornerstone was laid on Oct. 27, 1955.

The school building committee consisted of Harold Rolling, Frank McKenna, Vincent Ford, Wilfred Green, Lloyd Guimond, William Lord, Jack O’Brien, George VanDeWiele, and Al Zender, Sr.

With the help of much volunteer labor, the school was completed for $300,000. The school was dedicated on August 26, 1956, with Archbishop William Brady presiding. About 850 people attended a dedication dinner.

The new 180x182-foot school had eight classrooms and 100x62-foot gymnasium. A convent between the school and church was completed at the same time.


School opens

When St. Mary’s School opened its doors to students in 1956, 140 students were enrolled in grades 1-6. Sisters of the Order of St. Francis of Rochester staffed the school. Sister Killene was the first principal, with Sisters Monessa, Colleen and Ethna serving as teachers. Margaret Mary McKenna was the only lay teacher.

Seventh grade was added in 1957 and enrollment increased to 160 pupils.

In the fall of 1962, St. Mary’s added an eighth grade. In the spring of 1963, St. Mary’s graduated its first eighth-grade class. Many students had attended St. Mary’s for eight years. Members of the first class were Robert Anderson, Suzanne Cain, Mary Guimond, Nancy Zens, Dianne Bosacker, Colleen Buyck, Marsha Buyck, Linda Henkel, Robert Lenertz, Mike Roeder, Margaret Stefanick, James Stefanick, Helen Thielges, Tom Vandeputte, and Marlyn Radermacker.

St. Mary’s operated as a grades 1-8 school until the spring of 1971, when the seventh and eighth grades were discontinued. Curtis Brewers, Joel Buyck, Marietta Buyck, Dawn Buzzell, Kevin Hannasch, David Haecherl, Julie Lanoue, Steven Lenertz, Mary Marks, Gail Powers, Dean Ruppert, LeAnn Scott, Patrick Silver, and Steven Hannig comprised St. Mary’s last group of seventh graders. Students in the last eighth grade class were: Patty Cain, Cynthia Haecherl, Lynne Henkel, Susan Knuth, Judy Lenertz, Anthony Majeres, Michael McCoy, Paul Mickelson, Tony Peterson, Tom Peterson, Murray Powers, Jennifer Schotzko, Mary Jo Silver, Kevin Tholen.

Kindergarten was added in the fall of 1976. Twenty-two students were in the first kindergarten class.


Religious education

The Christian faith and the instruction of Catholic doctrine have been a cornerstone of the St. Mary’s curriculum since its inception. Daily prayer is part of school life. The annual St. Mary’s Christmas program, Holy Days of Obligation, All Saints Day, May Crowning, Catholic Schools Week, support for missions, and weekly Mass are some of the religious traditions observed at the school.

Other St. Mary’s traditions include extra-curricular basketball, a science fair, marathon weekend, field day, and sixth-grade class trip. St. Mary’s 50th school year begins Thursday. Projected enrollment, kindergarten through grade 6, is 60 students, according to Principal Jina Baartman.


Constant change

Beginning in 1963, school uniforms became a hallmark of St. Mary’s School. Girls were to wear a blue jumper, with white blouse. Boys were to wear trousers and dress shirts (no t-shirts allowed). The dress code was discontinued in 1981.

School busing was another major change for the school. For the first 13 years of St. Mary’s existence, parents were responsible for transporting children. Changes in state law allowed Tracy Public Schools to bus St. Mary’s students beginning in 1969.


School staff

St. Mary’s relationship with the Sisters of Saint Francis ended with the 1981-82 school year. The Sisters of Notre Dame served St. Mary’s for several years with Sister Mary joining the school as principal in 1982. The 1984-85 school year was the last time a nun was a full-time classroom teacher at the school.

St. Mary’s School has had 14 principals. Sister Kilene, 1956-59, was followed by:

Sister Samuela, 1959-62; Sister Maigread, 1962-67; Sister Reginald, 1967-75; Lois Schotzko, 1975-76; Sister Karee Finnegan, 1976-82; Sister Mary Rivers, 1982-85; Jim Oelke, 1985-86; Pam Maertens, 1986-88; Harriet Reed, 1988-93; Brenda Lenertz, 1993-95; Irene Palzer, 1995-98; Lisa Schaar, 1998-2004. Baartman is beginning her second year as principal.

St. Mary’s teachers for the 2005-06 school year are: Mindy Otto, kindergarten; Amanda Drake, first grade; Julie Neuman, second grade; Jocelyn Wester, grades 3-4; Suzanne Lightfoot, grades 5-6. Mary Engesser is the grades 3-6 religion teacher.

An education committee oversees St. Mary’s Schools. Karen Lanoue, Chad Buysse, Natalie Vandeputte, Robert Gervais, Karen Robinson, and Beth Lanoue are committee members.


Anniversary committee

The general committee that planned this weekend’s 50th anniversary school event is comprised of Schaar, Elise Lanoue, Chad Buysse, Baartman and Father Brian Mandel. Bobbie Anderson, Ford and Lenertz serve on a school memorabilia committee. Sue and Terry Nelson are responsible for the children’s games and entertainment. Lenertz heads the event’s food committee.

Lanoue said that preparations are being made for a crowd of about 250 people.

Past St. Mary’s priests and nuns are among those invited to Saturday’s festivities. Sisters Gladys Meindl, Alice Thraen, and Doreen Van Uden have indicated that they plan to attend. Fathers Phil Schotzko and Father Anthony Plathe have responded that they will be unable to attend.


School raffle

In conjunction with the 50th anniversary celebration, St. Mary’s School is sponsoring fund-raising raffle with over $8,000 in prizes. Up to 500 tickets at $52 each will be sold. Weekly prize drawings will be held over the next year. Proceeds will go towards school operations.

School supporters hope to wrap up raffle sales, which began in August, over the Labor Day weekend. The first drawing, for $250, will be held Monday after the Tracy Box Car Days Parade. Most weekly prizes will be $100, with several $500 drawings also planned. The name of a $1,000 grand prizewinner will be drawn during Box Car Days 2006.

School board considers levy vote

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

With building projects continuing to pile up, the District 417 board of education is again considering asking taxpayers to approve a levy referendum.

The question could go before taxpayers as soon as this year.

At a special meeting last Thursday, board members considered several levy options. Connie Hayes of Springsted Incorporated presented the options to the board.

The district currently receives $425 per pupil unit each year from a five-year capital facilities bond, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2001. The new referendum dollars were first available for use by the district in the 2002-2003 school year.

The levy dollars have been used, in large part, to pay for a $1.3 million heating, ventilation, and air conditioning project that took place in 2003 at both of the district’s school buildings. At the time of the 2001 levy, it was anticipated that each boiler would cost approximately $120,000 to replace. The actual costs ended up being much more than the board had expected. As a result of the increased project cost, some other projects intended for completion with the levy dollars had to be postponed.

Some of those projects have yet to be completed, and others have popped up in the past four years. These projects had the district strongly considering the capital facilities bond option once again.

However, Hayes notified the board that upon further review of the capital facilities bond approved in 2001, the district should not have been able to utilize this option for the amount sold, because state statute dictates that with capital facilities bonds, the annual payment cannot exceed the annual operating capital revenue.

She was unsure why Springsted had advised the district to pursue the capital facilities bond route when the statute forbids it, and added that the person who worked with the district on this project no longer works for the company.

“We’re not sure how it happened,” she said.

Hayes assured the board that there would be no consequences to the district for the mistake, and said she had contacted the Department of Education to be sure.

While there will be no consequences, Hayes’ discovery takes capital facility bonds out of the picture—at least for the time being.

“Once we discovered that, we had to look at other options,” Hayes said.

She presented options under two different scenarios: “Pay as you go,” and “Complete projects all at the same time.” Under the each scenario, Hayes presented two options.

Operating levy

The first option is an operating levy. The district could pass an operating levy and complete capital improvement projects as the money becomes available; in a sense, saving up for the projects. This plan would maximize the opportunity for state aid, Hayes said.

• Capital project levy

Similar to an operating levy, the district could pass a capital projects levy and complete different items in the capital plan as the money becomes available. The difference is that the money may only be used for capital projects, and there would be no state aid provided.

If the district wants to complete the projects at the same time, these are the options:

• School building bond

This option would allow the district to bond for all the projects at the same time, but would not provide any state aid. The district could, however, transfer any excess operating levy revenue to the operating capital fund and then to debt service to reduce the amount needed to levy.

• Capital facility bonds

This option would only be available once the current capital facility bonds are paid off. New capital facilities bonds could then be issued within the level of authority granted by state statute.

Of the above options, board members seemed most interested in the operating levy option.

In addition to these different options, the board also has the option of revoking the current levy and passing a new one for the amount desired, or passing a levy for the additional amount needed only. With the second option, new issues arise once the first levy expires, and the district would no longer receive the original $425 per pupil.

Board member Eric Nelson said he believes it would be better to revoke the current levy and start anew, so the district would not have to ask taxpayers for money again right away. He felt that taxpayers would be willing to approve the levy since the money is intended for capital improvements.

“We sold this one on capital improvements, and we can show that’s where every dollar went,” he said, adding that the availability of state aid is another selling point for an operating levy.

Hayes said that even if the district decides to pursue an operating levy, the capital facilities bond could be renewed if needed.

“Chances are, you will,” she said. “That’s the way building maintenance works.”

Nelson said that before anything is done, the board needs to discuss what improvements need to be made, the schedule for improvements, and what they will cost.

“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said.

Hayes offered to create a worksheet for the board so they can plug in different per pupil amounts and see the tax impact.

The board directed Hayes to put this information together, so they have it before their Sept. 12 meeting. If the board intends to put the levy on the ballot this November, they must pass a resolution stating so by Sept. 15.