ABC Newspapers Local News from The Anoka County Union, Blaine Spring Lake Park Life and The Coon Rapids Herald Tue, 25 Nov 2014 23:26:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Enjoy Holiday Fun at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes Tue, 25 Nov 2014 23:26:09 +0000 ArborLakesLead

Tis the season to enjoy the fruits of a year of labor. It’s party season and no one brings festive to the table like the Shoppes at Arbor Lake. Experience the joy of gift shopping and giving again with northwest metro hometown charm.

There’s a diverse and exciting village of shops and restaurants and, of course, the gold standard service that the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes is known for. Truly, something for everyone on your list.

The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes is a year-round entertainment destination that shines bright at this time of the year. Make holiday shopping an experience you will look forward to every year. After strolling the stores, enjoy a great meal or stick around for some entertainment. We’ll see you at the Shoppes


Join us on Friday, November 28th for Black Friday savings! The stores open at 8 a.m.

(individual stores may open earlier)

Visit for a complete list of hours and offers.

Spend $100 on Friday, November 28th at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes and bring your receipts to Guest Services (located in Building G behind Lane Bryant, next to the parking ramp) before 1 p.m. to receive a $20.00 Shoppes gift card valid at participating stores and restaurants at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes. One card per guest, while supplies last.


Paint and Pose with Santa Events at Color Me Mine November 17, 18, 24, 25 and december 1 at 6:00 pm

Paint a cookie plate featuring your child’s handprint with Santa’s! Only $25 includes sitting fee, plate and refreshments.

Bring your camera to capture a photo with Santa! Pre-register by calling Color Me Mine at 763.420.0005!

Space is limited.


Pet Photos with Santa Thursday, December 4 from 4:00-8:00 pm

Don’t miss your chance to get your furry best friend’s photo taken with Santa!

Reserve your space now by calling 763-424-0504 ext. 0. The cost is $15 and includes a digital image and gift bag.

100% of the proceeds benefit Good Karma Animal Rescue of MN


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Sharing memories through art at The Farmstead Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:45:51 +0000 Before moving to the much colder state of Minnesota, Verona Engebretson lived in Texas for 14 years with her husband when he was in the Navy and she owned a hotel.

Verona Engebretson sketches an outline in clay of her memory tile. It is shaped like Texas because she lived there for 14 years when her husband was in the Navy and she owned a hotel. Submitted photo

Verona Engebretson sketches an outline in clay of her memory tile. It is shaped like Texas because she lived there for 14 years when her husband was in the Navy and she owned a hotel. Submitted photo

The memories came flooding back to her as she molded a piece of clay into the shape of Texas and crafted it to include the shape of a boat along and other nautical symbols. A bone signified their dog Samantha.

When Engebretson mentioned she lived in Texas, the woman sitting next to her — Sylvia Richardson — exclaimed that she and her husband lived in El Paso, Texas when he was in the Army.

“Minnesotans in the desert!” Richardson said laughing.

For a couple of weeks, several residents in The Farmstead Presbyterian Homes, an Andover-based senior living facility, worked with professional artist Anne Krocak to mold pieces of clay into tiles that will get a coat of glaze to protect them for the long-haul. Krocak said they could hang their artwork on the wall or even eat off it if they wanted.

This camp, dubbed Memory Tile Making, was the second in three artist camps taking place at The Farmstead over a year period thanks to a grant awarded by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and a partnership with Community Programs in the Arts.

The first camp this past summer gave residents the chance to compose their own songs. The third and final camp next spring will be to create a graphic memoir page.

Cassie Peterson, recreation director at The Farmstead, has learned how art can stimulate memories of senior citizens through her pursuit of a masters degree in gerontology, which is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity. I don’t think all residents realize how big of an opportunity this is,” said Peterson, who admitted she was disappointed that only seven residents participated in this second camp.

Residents took part in a Nov. 20 morning session with Krocak, who first wanted the residents to open up and not be intimidated by creating this tile artwork. This brainstorming stage is the most challenging, so Krocak said she asked the senior citizens to talk about their favorite food or colors before she started asking more about family, pets and places they lived. One story leads to another.

A few residents said they enjoyed crafts, but Joanne Scott’s comment that “I’m not an artist” was a common thought.

“I was just looking for something to do,” Deloris Wiersma said.

The purpose of all camps is for residents to remember and share the stories most important in their life, according to Peterson.

“We’re very clear that this is not a drawing class,” Krocak said. “The purpose is to share the stories.”

The seven people who came back in the afternoon session smiled brightly and laughed as they heard the stories. Some of these residents barely know each other because they came from both the assisted and independent living wings of The Farmstead that do not always interact with each other, according to Peterson.

One resident made a cornucopia shape on the edge of her tile artwork, which is the symbol of abundance and nourishment and associated with Thanksgiving in western art. It was fitting because of the upcoming holiday, but also because this resident lived in Cornucopia, Wisconsin along Lake Superior. She included waves to illustrate this lake on her tile artwork.

Another resident made a checkered pattern because she loves to quilt and within the boxes put down other memories such as having a camper for camping trips. Pets and number of kids and grandkids were commonly included in the tile artwork.

Wiersma made a tile in the shape of Minnesota because she has lived in the state her whole life, but inclusion of a football was not for the Gophers or Vikings but for herself. The girls and boys in her neighborhood played football together. When the other residents applauded her work as they had done for the others, Wiersma became very excited to tell her family that others had clapped for her. She said she had a lot of fun coming up with memories for this artwork.

“I’m privileged. I have a lot to be thankful for,” she said.

Sylvia Richardson (right) creates her “memory tile” artwork while others share the stories of their own lives, etched onto these clay pieces. Sitting next to Richardson is Farmstead recreation director, Cassie Peterson, who received a grant to invite professional artists in for a three-part art camp. Photos by Eric Hagen Sylvia Richardson is thankful for her three children, so she put three faces in a cornucopia, which also is significant to her because she lived in Cornucopia, Wisconsin. Pets, kids and grandchildren were commonly included in the memory tile artwork that several Farmstead residents created. Seven Farmstead residents participated in the second of three art camps taking place at The Farmstead throughout a one-year period. This past summer was a song writing camp. Next spring will be a chance to create a graphic memoir. The memory tile artwork from the seven residents of The Farmstead Presbyterian Homes. Deloris Wiersma smiles as she shares a memory of playing football with the neighborhood boys and girls. The purpose of a three-part art camp taking place at The Farmstead senior living facility is to remember and share stories.

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St. Francis council to consider separation agreement with city administrator Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:34:49 +0000 The St. Francis City Council is soon expected to address the future employment of St. Francis City Administrator Matt Hylen, who has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 18 in response to unspecified allegations.

City Attorney Scott LePak is scheduled to present a separation agreement and release for consideration at the council’s next meeting on Monday, Dec. 1.

Michelle Soldo of Soldo Consulting recently completed a civil investigation into the allegations against Hylen, said LePak. As of Nov. 25 the signed report had not yet been submitted to the city but was expected soon, he said. LePak also said he did not yet have a cost for the investigation.

When asked for specifics on the allegations against Hylen, LePak said the charges were not substantiated so the allegation details are not public data according to state law.

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Kindergarten center at Wilson recommended Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:40:30 +0000 A parent meeting on proposed attendance boundary changes for Ramsey Elementary School Nov. 20 yielded disappointment, tears and a lot of frustration.

Anoka-Hennepin School Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann invites parents to bring forward comments and questions at a parent meeting on proposed Ramsey Elementary School boundary changes Nov. 20. Photo by Olivia Alveshere

Anoka-Hennepin School Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann invites parents to bring forward comments and questions at a parent meeting on proposed Ramsey Elementary School boundary changes Nov. 20. Photo by Olivia Alveshere

Parents pleaded with board members and district staff not to traumatize their kids by forcing them to leave their school and their friends to attend Wilson Elementary School in Anoka next year.

Their voices were heard.

The day after the parent meeting, Ramsey Elementary Principal Jeff Clusiau informed parents that administration would forego initial boundary change scenarios to recommend a third option: creating a kindergarten center for Ramsey students within Wilson. Current Wilson Elementary students will continue to attend school there.

Chief Operations Officer Chuck Holden made that recommendation to the school board at its Nov. 24 meeting. The board will vote on a solution Dec. 8.

Ramsey Elementary is the largest of the district’s 24 elementary schools with 1,368 students. With continued housing and population growth expected in Ramsey, the school’s enrollment is only forecasted to increase, and it’s already bursting at the seams after the implementation of all-day, everyday kindergarten this fall. The school went from having six classrooms full of kindergartners to 11 and is out of space.

Building an addition on the 133,000-square-foot school would be the district’s first-choice solution, but it isn’t a feasible one because the core facility – the cafeterias, the gyms, the hallways, the parking lot, etc. – cannot accommodate more bodies, according to Holden.

So, the district turned to remapping attendance boundaries, presenting parents with two scenarios at an initial meeting Nov. 6. Each would move around 175 kids out of Ramsey and into Wilson.

One scenario proposed that the area east of Highway 47 currently within Ramsey Elementary School boundaries be reassigned to the Wilson Elementary School attendance area. A second scenario involved transporting current Ramsey Elementary students living in the area between Sunwood Drive; the wetland area between Krypton, Potassium and Neon streets; Bunker Lake Boulevard; and Sunfish Lake Boulevard, to Wilson.

Parents vehemently opposed both scenarios and offered a third solution Nov. 6: A kindergarten center would not rip kids from their school, they told the district.

Many Ramsey kids attended the Peter Enich Kindergarten Center in Anoka before it closed in 2010.

Staff came back with three kindergarten center options Nov. 20: Wilson; the old Peter Enich Kindergarten Center, now the Educational Service Center; and the Sandburg Education Center, all in Anoka.

If the board opts to change boundaries or locate a kindergarten center within Wilson, the school requires an addition.

The district would use lease levy funds to finance any addition. To do so, the district can add on no more than 20 percent of a school’s current area, which means around a 10,000-square-foot addition at Wilson: seven classrooms and a maintenance closet, according to Holden. He estimates the addition would cost close to $4 million.

Because kindergarten class sizes are kept smaller, the addition would only accommodate 155 kindergartners, and Ramsey Elementary is expecting 250 to enroll next year, Holden said.

So, a separate Ramsey kindergarten boundary would have to be drawn.

The same would be true if students were moved back to the Educational Service Center. Old kindergarten center classrooms currently house School Readiness Preschool programs, so those would be displaced.

The Sandburg Education Center could house all 250 kindergartners and more, but there is no green space, no playground, no opportunity for kids to go outside.

Both the old Peter Enich and Sandburg options would require $500,000 in annual overhead costs to bring in a principal, secretaries, nutrition staff, etc.

These overhead costs were perhaps the biggest driver in catapulting Wilson to the top of staff’s list, Holden said.

Wilson is also the closet school for Ramsey kids – about a 10 minute bus ride, according to Holden.

District 11 Chief Operations Officer Chuck Holden and Associate Superintendent for Elementary Schools Mary Wolverton provide the school board with its first formal presentation on Ramsey Elementary attendance boundary changes Nov. 24. Staff recommended an addition to Wilson that could serve as a kindergarten center of sorts, Holden said. The board will decide on a solution with a vote Dec. 8.

District 11 Chief Operations Officer Chuck Holden and Associate Superintendent for Elementary Schools Mary Wolverton provide the school board with its first formal presentation on Ramsey Elementary attendance boundary changes Nov. 24. Staff recommended an addition to Wilson that could serve as a kindergarten center of sorts, Holden said. The board will decide on a solution with a vote Dec. 8.

“We 100 percent support a kindergarten center option,” parent Kristie Thorson said after the recommendation was made Monday.

Thorson and parent Jennifer Olson turned in petitions formally opposing attendance boundary changes.

Bringing 155 kindergartners to Wilson isn’t a perfect solution. Five-year permanency, something the board strives for with all boundary change decisions, isn’t guaranteed, Holden said. But because there is a new set of kindergartners every year, the boundaries can be adjusted more easily if need be, he said.

“It’s not the same investment, the same emotional attachment,” Holden said.

After the board votes Dec. 8, staff will work quickly to determine each resident’s school of attendance so that information can be mailed out Dec. 15, within the district’s enrollment window from Dec. 1-Jan. 15.

If the kindergarten center out of Wilson is approved, travel time will be the primary consideration as kindergarten boundaries are drawn up, Holden said.

A long-term solution

Down the road, “there will probably be a need for another school,” Holden said.

Maybe a couple because growth in Blaine is more “explosive” than growth in Ramsey, School Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann said.

An addition at Johnsville Elementary School, Blaine, is in the cards for 2015, Holden said.

Heidemann intends for the board to articulate a long-term vision, Heidemann said.

“We can’t build a school instantly,” he said. It’s a three-year process with voter approval, required with a price tag of around $30 million for a new school.

For now, “we have to look at that northern tier and see where that classroom space is,” Holden said.

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Andover supports county’s pursuit to widen Hanson Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:10:28 +0000 The Andover City Council is supporting Anoka County efforts to continue the widening of Hanson Boulevard where the last project left off six years ago.

The Andover City Council approved a resolution of support Nov. 18 for Anoka County to seek federal funds for the widening of Hanson Boulevard from Jay Street and 139th Avenue to Crosstown Boulevard. If approved, there would be public hearings before any project design is completed. File photo by Eric Hagen

The Andover City Council approved a resolution of support Nov. 18 for Anoka County to seek federal funds for the widening of Hanson Boulevard from Jay Street and 139th Avenue to Crosstown Boulevard. If approved, there would be public hearings before any project design is completed. File photo by Eric Hagen

The Anoka County Board already agreed to seek federal funding for the widening of Hanson Boulevard from Jay Street and 139th Avenue to Crosstown Boulevard. Similar to the project in 2007 and 2008 that started just south of Main Street in Coon Rapids, Hanson Boulevard would be widened to a four-lane, divided road.

Andover Mayor Mike Gamache, who will become an Anoka County Commissioner in January following his election to this seat Nov. 4, said the project would start sometime between 2017 and 2019 if the county receives federal funding. There would still be a 20 percent local match requirement for the county and city to cover, he said.

“It’s a ways out,” Gamache said.

“But it’s on the radar,” council member Tony Howard said.

“In government years, that’s actually pretty quick,” City Administrator Jim Dickinson said.

Council Member Julie Trude wants to see dedicated left, through and right turn lanes on Andover Boulevard at Hanson Boulevard to make it easier for drivers to get through this intersection.

“That’s something we can look at on the design (phase),” Dickinson said. “It’s early in the process, but you’ll get the opportunity to comment.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Hanson Boulevard in 2013 averaged 16,500 vehicles a day between Bunker Lake and Andover boulevards and 13,700 vehicles between Andover and Crosstown boulevards.

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Rewards offered for information in Coon Rapids bank robbery Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:00:32 +0000 Reward money from two sources is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the two armed suspects who robbed Guaranty Bank, Coon Rapids, the evening of Nov. 14.

Video surveillance at Guaranty Bank, Coon Rapids, shows the robbery in progress the evening of Nov. 14. Courtesy of Coon Rapids PD

Video surveillance at Guaranty Bank, Coon Rapids, shows the robbery in progress the evening of Nov. 14. Courtesy of Coon Rapids PD

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering an unspecified amount depending on the information provided.

In addition, the Coon Rapids Crime Prevention Association has announced a reward of up to $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robbers, according to Det. Brian Eychaner, who is leading the Coon Rapids Police Department investigation.

Eychaner has given more detailed descriptions of the suspects in the robbery, both of whom where white males.

One, the smaller of the two, is described as being between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall and medium build. He was wearing a dark jacket with a hood pulled over a fur-lined collar and a black plastic mask. He was also wearing gray, baggy sweatpants, white tennis shoes and black gloves.

The suspect was armed with a dark colored handgun and had a distinctive “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” backpack, according to Eychaner.

The second suspect was the taller of the two, between 6 feet and 6 feet 1 inch, also medium build, and was also armed with a dark colored handgun.

He was wearing a black jacket with what appeared to be a dark, hooded sweatshirt underneath, the hood being pulled up, and a bandana with a maple leaf insignia on the front covering most of his face. In addition, he wore blue jeans, black work boots and black gloves.

The two suspects entered Guaranty Bank, which is located in the closed Rainbow Foods store at 3340 124th Ave. NW, shortly before 7 p.m. Nov. 14, brandished guns, demanded money and locked two employees in the bank vault before fleeing on foot with an undisclosed amount of money. The employees were not hurt.

According to the Coon Rapids Police report, a K-9 unit was brought in and tracked the suspects west, then south across the railroad tracks into the residential neighborhood in the area of Round Lake Boulevard and Wedgewood Drive before losing the scent at 121st and Tulip Street.

Anyone with information is asked to call Eychaner at 763-767-6407 or Det. Mike Plankers at 763-767-6559.

The Coon Rapids Crime Prevention Association is a nonprofit organization that provides financial support to the Coon Rapids Police Department to prevent and deter crime through the purchase of equipment not included in the city budget, special programs and informant payments.

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Coon Rapids man charged for injuring three in severe car accident Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:32:16 +0000 The Anoka County Attorney’s Office charged a 19-year-old Coon Rapids man Tuesday, Nov. 25 who allegedly injured three people while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Kyle Norman Wold is facing three charges of criminal vehicular operation, two at the felony-level for causing great bodily harm and one gross misdemeanor for causing bodily harm.

According to the criminal complaint, Wold told authorities that he had been drinking at a party the evening of Nov. 21 into the early morning hours of Nov. 22. He said he drank a couple of beers and four or five shots of Jim Beam whiskey. He left the party in his Subaru with two passengers – a 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old woman.

Wold allegedly admitted to speeding as he was driving east on 131st Avenue and he was unable to stop for a red light at Coon Creek Drive, where he T-boned a Ford Explorer driven by a 38-year-old woman.

Police officers responded to the Coon Rapids intersection of 131st Avenue and Coon Creek Drive 2:12 a.m. Nov. 22. They found Wold sitting in a snow bank near his Subaru. He allegedly told police, “I’m drunk. I’m in a lot of trouble. Arrest me. I was driving,” according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, the 20-year-old man in Wold’s vehicle suffered a traumatic brain injury and is on life support systems at Mercy Hospital. The neurosurgeon informed Det. Michael Lapham of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office that the brain damage cannot be repaired and he cannot sustain life if the ventilator is removed.

The woman driving the Explorer suffered a critical head injury and required a ventilator, but her status was later upgraded from critical to serious and stable. Her medical reports currently indicate a fractured scapula, serious head injury and multiple contusions, according to the complaint.

A blood draw taken from Wold 4:10 a.m. Nov. 22, two hours after authorities responded to the accident, came back with a reading of 0.043, which is less than the legal limit of 0.08.

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Boys’ basketball preview: Saints, Huskies look to continue success from last season Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:21:28 +0000 Andover

The reigning Section 7AAAA finalists return with four seniors including captains Jake McNallan and Zach Swanson along with Tyler Goltz and Tom Terhaar, who saw varsity minutes last season. Look for senior Nick Eliason and junior Corbin Johnson to get into the rotation and contribute on both ends of the floor.

Second-year head coach Matt Aune believes his group is ready to challenge for a Northwest Suburban Conference title and a top-seed in the section after compiling a 14-14 overall record (10-9, fifth place NWSC) last season after graduating three of the top four scorers including Connor Wilike, Kyle Kettler and Evan Olson.

McNallan, a guard, averaged 14.9 points per game, second on the team behind Wilkie’s 17 point-average. McNallan averaged 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game with 25 steals and 11 blocks in 25 games.


Anoka looks to build on an impressive showing in the section tournament after upsetting Cambridge-Isanti in the opener before losing to rival Andover by two points, despite a 4-23 overall record.

Senior Bryce Doppler, who was named captain, averaged 4.7 points in 11 games. Senior Dillon Hansen averaged 6.6 points in 19 games and 6-foot-6 senior Max Kukharchuk played in five games.


The Bengals are still a young team but will have one of the tallest lineups in the conference with two 6-foot7 players in return starter Ben Scherer and regular contributor Andy Leo. They will be joined by 6-foot-4 junior Zach Baker, 6-foot-5 junior Nik Keller and 6-foot-6 sophomore Tim Leo. Combine that size with senior guard Garrett Willis and junior guard Dakota Neppl and the Bengals look to build on a 13-14 overall record after falling to St. Francis in the Section 7-3A semifinals.

Willis and Andy Leo will serve as captains this season.

Coach Mark Arzdorf said the early portion of the season will be a time of adjustment for the younger first-year varsity perimeter players.

“We are excited to have the group we have as they are a very coachable group that works extremely hard,” he said.

Coon Rapids

Head Coach Mike Ogorek begins his second season leading the Cardinals with several returning players from last season’s 1-26 team that lost to St. Francis 75-63 in the Section 7-3A opener.

Senior starting guards Chris Buckley and Timmy Nguyen return along with senior Payton Foy and sophomore Sam Carver. But eight underclassmen will split time between varsity and JV and both sophomores will be counted on to play significant minutes and possibly start.

Buckley played AAU basketball for Minnesota Heat 17U and worked hard in the classroom to retain his eligibility.

Ogorek didn’t sent expectations on the team. “I know they will work hard and they understand that’s the only way for us to improve as a program,” he said. “If they process like they did during last season and during the off-season, I believe we will take definite strides in turning this program around.”

Legacy Christian Academy

No information was provided.

PACT Charter School

A larger number of seniors return to the court for PACT, which posted a 10-18 record last season, losing to Southwest Christian in the second round of sections.

The Panthers two leading scorers Dan Nelson and Danny Mooers have graduated, but return with several contributors.

Seniors Derek Stone (9 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 2.2 steals per game), Drew Johnson (10.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Luke Johnson (5.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg) return while junior Zach Hagen will be a new contributor to the varsity team.

Stone and Luke Johnson will serve as captains.

Spring Lake Park

Last season Spring Lake Park reached the Section 3AAA finals before losing to eventual state champion DeLaSalle to compile a 14-14 record. They had a 9-5 record in the final North Suburban Conference season and join the Northwest Suburban Conference along with Totino-Grace and Irondale.

Spring Lake Park returns with senior captain Danny Williams and junior Jake LeVahn along with key players senior Derek Salwei, junior Aaron Fink and sophomore Zach Ojile.

Spring Lake Park will be an athletic team balanced on both ends of the floor.

Head coach Grant Guzy returns for his 22nd season guiding the Panthers and 25th overall and says the team will rely on playing team basketball to win.

St. Francis

The defending Section 7-4A champions return 6-foot-7 forward Blake Moreno but graduated nearly all of the rest of the team that went 24-6 in its first season in the Mississippi 8 Conference.

Coach Ryan Hauge beings his 13th season in the Saints program and seventh as head coach. He expects the team to play a similar style from last season with several new varsity faces.

Senior Justin Kane and junior Tanner Carlson will share point guard duties as they bring different elements to the game.

Hauge is confident that the success from the lower levels will translate to the varsity team as the Saints JV team went 20-1 and sophomore squad posted a 19-2 record.

They scheduled a much tougher non-conference schedule against Hopkins. Mounds View, Roseville and White Bear Lake among several section opponents.

“If this team can develop chemistry and find consistent scoring to their solid rebounding and defense they’ll have a chance at a top seed in the section tournament,” Hauge said, as many seniors will compete for their first varsity minutes. “They are a talented and dynamic group that is a lot of fun to watch and coach.”

When asked about this season being a rebuilding season, Hauge said it doesn’t feel like it. “They have really embraced the challenge of trying to continue to move the program forward and defend a section title which is a tall task.”

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Column: House, Senate education leaders share several priorities Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:15:47 +0000 Here’s some good news, looking ahead to the 2015 Minnesota Legislature’s discussions about improving public schools. Two leading Minnesota Senate Democrats described several of their priorities as similar to those described last week by leading House Republicans. While this doesn’t ensure agreement, it’s encouraging that these leaders share some similar priorities. They include a review of testing and funding formulas, along with efforts to strengthen the teaching profession.

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Interviewed via email, Minnesota Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, told me his priorities include: “Funding formula—fair and adequate; teacher prep, evaluation and compensation—review, including revisions on Q-comp; early (pre-k) education-greater coordination, closing/eliminating achievement gap; reading and math proficiency—best practices; school facilities—recommendations from MDE task force; increasing postsecondary opportunities for students and streamlining testing.”

Wiger’s priorities are important. He has served as chair of the Senate Finance Committee’s subdivision that deals with E-12 finance (“E” standing for “early childhood”). While committee chairs have not yet been named for 2015, it’s likely that Wiger will continue to be a leader in education.

Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, probably also will continue to be a leader in this field. She chaired the Senate Education Committee. She told me when we met after the election that her first priority is to answer the question, “What can we do to create a more meaningful system of teacher preparation, mentoring and support?” She wants to start with teachers in kindergarten through third grade, as she sees these educators as “crucial to student success.” This is the time when students should learn to read and form, hopefully, positive attitudes about school and learning.

Torres Ray acknowledges that there will be discussions, as suggested by leading House Republicans, about removing ineffective teachers. She agrees, “We need to encourage more talented people to enter the profession. Eliminating bad apples has to be part of this.” But she does not want “all the attention focused on this, which can be a toxic topic.”

Torres Ray is hopeful. In 2015, “We can get so much done.” She hopes “we don’t get stuck as they are in Washington, D.C.”

There will be disagreements, some of them potentially deep disagreements. As mentioned in last week’s column, leading Republicans such as Reps. Pat Garofalo and Sondra Erickson want to examine teacher tenure rules. They may well disagree with some Democrats about considering changes in tenure and “last in-first out layoff provisions.”

But there also is agreement between leading Senate Democrats and House Republicans on the need to, as Wiger explained, “streamline testing” and improve school funding.  The debate and discussion in these shared areas can focus on what should be done.

It’s encouraging to see that there is an agreement on several priorities for public schools. Readers who have suggestions for revisions in these areas might want to share them in the next month. It’s far easier to reach legislators now, before the legislative session begins early in January.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at

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15 years’ probation on drug conviction Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:37:53 +0000 A Coon Rapids man was placed on probation for 15 years Oct. 2 after pleading guilty in Anoka County District Court to a felony second-degree controlled substance crime charge, possession of methamphetamine, for an incident in Blaine.

Gregory Thomas Erickson, 43, who entered his guilty plea June 27, was jailed for 21 days with credit for three days already served and must perform an indeterminate amount of community service work in lieu of a $300 fine. He must pay $385 in fees, however, and reimburse the Anoka County Corrections Department $485.

Probation conditions include chemical dependency evaluation, treatment and aftercare, random urinalysis and breath testings on demand at his own expense, no use of mood-altering chemicals unless prescribed by a doctor, no alcohol use, no use or possession of firearms and submit a DNA sample.

Co-defendant Lisa Ann Ross, 36, formerly of Blaine, entered a guilty plea to a felony fifth-degree controlled substance crime and was placed on probation for five years earlier this year and jailed for 60 days.

Shortly before 1 a.m. March 13, 2013, a Blaine Police officer responded to a residence on 90th Curve Northeast where a man reported that his wife, Ross, was locked in the bathroom with a person he described as “dopeman” and who later was identified as Erickson, according to the complaint.

The man told police that his wife had locked herself in the bathroom for the past two days doing drugs and ignoring his requests to leave the bathroom, even though there were three children, ages 1 to 9, in the home, the complaint states.

Officers requested the man pick the lock of the bathroom with a pen and when the door was opened, they found Ross and Erickson and in between them, plastic bags, a straw, an opened bobby pin and a garbage can that contained swabs with burned residue, several lights and a broken glass meth pipe.

Erickson was asked to step into the hallway and as he did so, an officer saw him toss a black package to the left of the toilet, according to the complaint.

The black, zippered bag was picked up and a search revealed a plastic bag containing a substance that later tested positive for 14.87 grams of methamphetamine.

In a post-Miranda statement, Ross admitted using the broken meth pipe to smoke meth the day before.

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