Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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Afton is taking steps to become greener than it already is, and becoming more innovative in the process. At the April 6 meeting of the Afton Planning Commission, commissioners heard a presentation from Peter Vujovich, a representative from the design and review committee, about the Minnesota GreenStar Program.
Once again, the River Valley Riders (RVR) are galloping towards the finish line after the Afton Planning Commission approved the application for a conditional use permit to construct an outdoor riding arena. The planning commission originally sent the application to the city council at its March meeting. But prior to the meeting, the applicants asked to be remanded back to the planning commission because of substantial changes to their application. Rather than having RVR re-apply, the council approved their request to be remanded.
Woodbury High School junior Alyssa Fleming is on the way to her own American Idol audition. During Fleming's spring break vacation to Florida, she competed in the "American Idol Experience" at Disney's Hollywood Studios Theme Park and walked away with the title of idol. Not only did Fleming walk away with the gold, she also walked away with a "dream ticket" that allows her to go to the front of the line at a future "American Idol" audition. For the detailed feature story and photos from Fleming's "American Idol Experience," see the April 15 Woodbury Bulletin.
The Cedar's Bluff Homestead development agreement is still the topic of the moment for the Afton City Council, who discussed the proposed development at an April 8 workshop. The Cedar's Bluff Homestead, Afton's first housing development, was approved in 2006. Over the last two years, the development has hit a few road blocks. These include, litigation, which is why the developer Len Pratt made a request for a two-year extension on Jan. 20, but the council said they were wary of granting this extension until further discussion.
Afton might be getting some major changes soon since the city council interviewed prospective new consultants at an April 9 council workshop. The idea to advertise for the consultant positions -- city administrator, city attorney, city engineer and city planner -- was first brought to the council by Mayor Pat Snyder at its 2009 goal setting session as a way to save money. The council directed staff to advertise for the positions at its February meeting.
It was a creative week in late March in District 833 when three separate Woodbury schools held art shows showcasing their creative students. The entire month of March was National Fine Arts Month and hosting three art shows the last week of March was the culmination. Recognizing the arts in schools is an important thing because art holds so many lessons and benefits for students, Woodbury High School art teachers Nancy Johnson and Tricia Schmidt said. Through art, students learn how to think creatively, look at problems and issues from multiple views and they learn self-expression.
In addition the numerous changes already facing School District 833 this year -- a new high school, new school boundaries, a new superintendent and a transition to a middle school system -- yet another change is looming on the horizon. Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) has brought a bill to the Minnesota House of Representatives that would dramatically change the way districts are funded by the state. "We should be funding those things that are improving a student's education," he said.
The advertising community is a dog-eat-dog world -- it's eat or be eaten. For one Woodbury High School class, the students found themselves in the heart of this cut-throat world, and for a grade. "To create things for a client always adds relevance and realism to the course work that I teach," Lynn O'Driscoll, WHS business teacher, said.
Life's a stage for Woodbury resident Peggy O'Connell who has spent her life bringing characters to stages from Minnesota to Seattle to Broadway. "You never fully disappear or you'd go insane, but it's great fun to pretend," she said. "It's fun to get into someone else's skin." Currently, O'Connell is appearing in "Always...Patsy Cline" at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters as Louise Seger, Patsy's friend and fan. "This part is pretty dang fun," she said.
With the new season of "American Idol" already singing its way to the top of the ratings, Woodbury Junior High is getting in on the phenomena by bringing the singing competition to its halls for the first Woodbury Junior High Idol competition. "Students can show off their singing ability, which is a great accomplishment for them," student council advisor Richard Saintey said.