Looking back Part 2: Crosswinds whirled into Legislature, class rank dumped, Ballinger sentenced, more ...
Standoff suspect gets 36 years
The 26-year-old responsible for shooting at a 19-year-old man and raping teenage girls during a standoff at the Red Roof Inn in August 2012 was sentenced to 36 years in October 2013.
Demetrius Santreell Ballinger is eligible for release after 24 years. His sentence includes lifetime probation.
Principal sues school district
A human rights investigation continues in the case of Woodbury High School Principal Linda Plante who accuses District 833 of gender discrimination.
Plante alleges the district hired former Park High School Principal Craig Paul at an overall better compensation package.
All principals in the district are hired under a contract that lists a pay schedule with set amounts for senior high principals that advance depending on their tenure. Plante alleges Paul received about $60,000 more in an independently negotiated contract which was not approved by the Principals Association.
But District 833 attorney Mick Waldspurger said that number is not correct and “the district vigorously denies all allegations and intends to contest them to the end.”
According to District 833 figures, Paul’s total salary was $122,272, while Plante was paid $125,772 in 2011.
Work being done to one major roadway in Woodbury caused major disruptions over the summer.
Woodbury Drive was completely redone with four lanes from Park Crossing down to one-quarter mile south of Bailey Road.
A center divider, two new roundabouts and pedestrian trails were added as part of the project.
A portion of Radio Drive was also closed to traffic this summer when Washington County decided to expand the road past Bailey Road to the south.
New chamber director
The Woodbury Chamber of Commerce brought on a new face to the organization this year.
In January, Barbara Tuccitto Warren joined the chamber as its new president.
Tuccitto Warren has worked in the chamber of commerce industry for 15 years and ran her own management consulting firm where she worked with state and government agencies before coming on board.
Globe University sued
Five students filed a class-action lawsuit against Globe University, headquartered in Woodbury, in October alleging the school falsified job placement rates, salary wages and credit transfer opportunities.
Globe was also criticized this year for its admission practices when a former dean won a whistleblower lawsuit against the school in August, and was awarded nearly $400,000 in damages by a Washington County jury.
Woodbury had a number of notable deaths in 2013 including Dick Wolff, Beth McAulay, Glen Moon and Andrew Sommer.
Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf founder Dick Wolff died of natural causes on Jan.9 at the age of 78.
Wolff was instrumental in the founding of the Christian Cupboard In 1983.
Woodbury native and 1992 Woodbury High School graduate Beth McAulay died Jan. 28 of alpha hemolytic streptococcus, a rare bacterial infection, at the age of 38.
McAulay was living in Littleton, Colo., where she worked as a paramedic and firefighter at the time of her death. A memorial was erected in her memory at WHS.
Woodbury High School remembered a beloved teacher early in 2013 after Andy Sommer died of esophageal cancer.
The former Spanish teacher was memorialized during a Jan. 3 tribute event at the high school, where current and former students shared memories of Sommer.
A pall was cast over the Woodbury youth sports community in February when Glen Moon lost a long battle with cancer.
Moon, a popular youth sports coach, died Jan. 31 at age 51. He was remembered for his loyal devotion to the Woodbury Athletic Association – through which he was a coach of baseball and basketball – and Woodbury High School Royals sports.
The year started out a little rocky when East Ridge High School found itself under fire for a poem read in honor of Black History Month.
During the morning announcements on Feb. 14, students recited “The Black Child’s Pledge,” written in 1968 by Shirley Williams and published in the controversial Black Panther group’s newspaper.
The poem quickly drew criticism from parents within the District 833 community, who cited the glorification of the Black Panther Party, which supported militant action in support of progress for the “black power” movement of the 1960s.
No more class rank
Last spring, District 833 officials made the decision to stop reporting class rank at the high schools to the frustration of some parents.
In addition to not reporting class rank at school, class rank will not be reported to colleges, scholarships or to parents.
District officials said the decision was made because class rank is becoming less and less relevant and because some students are negatively impacted when class rank is reported.
However, if a college, or scholarship, should require class rank, and not reporting it would negatively impact a student, the schools would gladly report it to colleges.
After the decision was made, parents expressed frustration over taking out the competition and jeopardizing students when compared to other students around the country that report rank.
WHS Spanish immersion
This year saw the full implementation of District 833’s Spanish immersion program now that the program has finally reached the high school.
Woodbury High School began offering Spanish immersion courses to its freshmen in the fall.
The high school Spanish immersion curriculum, which is a partial immersion program, includes the courses human geography, taught in Spanish, and Spanish language and literature.
WHS has a total of 20 students enrolled in the Spanish Immersion program.
Students will take additional Spanish-infused courses as they progress through the grades and will eventually go out into the community and use their language skills with some sort of community service component.
Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School got a fresh start this fall when the Perpich Center for Arts Education assumed control of operations at the school.
Crosswinds, which serves grades 6-10, was under threat of closure after the East Metro Integration District (EMID) announced it could no longer financially support the school.
EMID School Board decided to ask other education entities for proposals to take over the school and received offers from both District 833 and Perpich Center for Arts Education.
Whereas District 833 proposed changes to Crosswinds’ curriculum, Perpich vowed to keep its unique integration model in place.
Legislation aimed at keeping Crosswinds open moved slowly through the Legislature and ultimately sank when lawmakers adjourned for the year without acting on the bill.
District 833, which hoped to acquire Crosswinds as part of a possible reshuffling plan among its buildings, withdrew its offer after EMID made clear it would only convey the building to a program that would preserve Crosswinds’ integration model.
That paved the way in July for Perpich and EMID to reach a one-year agreement to keep Crosswinds open for another year – while maintaining the existing integration model.
Crosswinds has remained largely the same under Perpich, except for expanded and added music and art curriculum.
School levies pass
District 833 and District 834 earned the support of their communities after voters passed operating levies in both school districts.
District 833 voters approved a $4.9 million levy renewal, with 65 percent, as well as a $6.9 million levy increase, with 54 percent.
However, a third question asking for $8 million for land acquisition failed with 50.15 percent of the vote.
District 834’s levy request, which included both a levy renewal of $11 million and a levy increase of $5.2 million, received support from 63 percent of voters.
Voters pick new board members
District 833 voters picked two new faces and three incumbents during the November election.
Incumbents Tracy Brunnette and Kathleen McElwee-Stevens were re-elected to four-year seats and newcomers Katie Schwartz and Sharon Van Leer were elected to serve, beating out incumbent David Kemper.
Incumbent Laurie Johnson, who previously served a four-year term, was re-elected to serve a two-year term.
Agri-tourism in Afton
One topic dominated the focus of Afton City Council and Afton Planning Commission this year – agri–tourism.
The concept first came across the desks of Afton officials in February when two Afton residents, Clare and Tom Hoelderle, approached the city about opening a commercial wedding venue in the city’s rural residential district.
Related to the discussion was the idea of agri-tourism – commercial uses with some agricultural component.
Examples of agri-tourism would include farm wineries, barn dances, hay rides, pumpkin patches, apple orchards and other related uses.
Another topic of concern in Afton was the threat of annexation – properties potentially wishing to be annexed to Woodbury in favor of increased services. City Council and Planning Commission looked at creating an agri-tourism overlay district, in addition to developing an open space ordinance, as possible safeguards against annexation.
This year saw a boom in Afton business with the opening of three new businesses and the reopening of one.
3:17 Vintage Furniture & Home Décor, which specializes in refurbished and salvaged merchandise, opened in the old “Little Red House” space in Afton’s Old Village.
Another new business, Crowne Laurel Bouqique, opened in the space next to Baglio’s of Afton. The boutique houses an eclectic mix of new and old merchandise ranging from vintage housewares and decor to contemporary clothing, bags and soaps.
A new partnership also formed in Afton when Dina Catalina Couture, which sells dresses and jewelry, opened in the same space as Donae Cotton Photography – thus making a one-stop wedding shop.
An old favorite, Afton Press Booksellers, also reopened this year in downtown Afton.
Unprecedented hiring move
In April, Washington County officials approved adding nine full-time jobs to manage an increasing load of Affordable Care Act cases.
All five county commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new positions, an unusual and daunting request by Community Services Director Dan Papin who said he’s never had to ask county officials to approve this many positions at once.
“Never in this capacity,” said Papin, who’s worked for the county since 1984.
Black box theater
A five-year dream came true this year when the Merrill Community Arts Center’s black box theater opened its doors and later held its debut show, “Nunsense,” in April.
The 3,800 square foot theater includes a lobby, office and a theater seating up to 120 people.