William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009.
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Newport Elementary School is overcoming one of the biggest obstacles to learning: poverty. The school's improved scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test earned them a spot on the annual "Beating the Odds" report that was published in September by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It was the school's second consecutive year on the list. "Newport has historically been one of the lowest performing schools," Principal Rich Romano said. "That's not the case anymore."
East Ridge High School's fall musical, "Les Miserables" opens Friday, Nov. 9 and runs two weekends through Nov. 18. "Les Miserables" chronicles the journey of French peasant and ex-convict Jean Valjean as he tries to build a new life and be a surrogate father to a little girl named Cosette. But he also must stay one step ahead of Javert, the relentless police inspector who is determined to put him back in prison.
ST. PAUL PARK — A neighborhood Halloween attraction signed off Oct. 31 after more than 30 years. The Nelson family's tricked-out yard display in St. Paul Park attracted generations of costumed kids with its rows of tombstones, hanging skeletons and gallery of glowing jack o' lanterns. Family members would dress up as witches and vampires. "I've never been at my own home for 33 years to pass out candy," said Dawn Walker of Hastings. "'Cause I'm the head witch here."
Republican incumbent Tony Jurgens beat DFL challenger Tina Folch in the state house race to represent District 54B. Jurgens, an insurance agent who lives in Cottage Grove, finished with 9,951 votes. Folch, a Hastings City Council member, received 9,531 votes. As a member of the state house, Jurgens helped to carry the HERO Center, for which bonding was approved this session, into the bonding bill as members of the capital investment committee.
SOUTH WASHINGTON COUNTY — Voters flocked to the polls in today's state general election, braving rain, sleet and a bitter cold wind that seemed to echo the country's acrimonious political divide. As of midday, a polling place at Newport Elementary School had been averaging about 85 ballots an hour, according to one election official. By 1:12 p.m. Tuesday, 537 ballots had been cast, election clerk and assistant to Newport City Administrator Travis Brierley said. By 6:30 p.m. the number of ballots had swelled to nearly 1,200, he said.
Representatives from Old National Bank presented teachers, staff, students and parents with a $1,000 grant Oct. 24 at Pine Hill Elementary School. The grant was awarded thanks to the efforts of the school's parent teacher association. They collected the most online votes in the bank's Tools for Schools competition, which took place in September. One school from each of the bank's 17 regions in the Midwest received a $1,000 grant based on the number of votes they generated. Pine Hill was the only school in Minnesota to win.
"Once Upon a Mattress" is the fall musical at Woodbury High School. Based on the children's story "The Princess and the Pea," it features a dictatorial queen, aptly named Queen Aggravain, who decrees that nobody in the kingdom can marry until her son, Prince Dauntless, finds a wife of his own. That's not likely to happen anytime soon, thanks to the queen's interference. The kingdom's maidens and bachelors seemed destined for a life of singlehood until a feisty princess named Winnifred blows into the kingdom like a hurricane.
TJ Maxx/Home Goods opened Sunday morning in Cottage Grove. The 40,000 square foot complex is the company's first dual site in Minnesota. The scene was skin to black friday, with some shoppers camping out overnight in order to get the best selection of Rae Dunn pottery, clothing, food, housewares and other items.
SCHOOL DISTRICT 833 — If anyone deserved to write his name in the wet cement at the brand-new Oltman Middle School, it's Mike Vogel. Vogel, who will retire Oct. 31, arguably did more than anyone to help grow and reshape the district's footprint during a quarter century of change. He negotiated purchase of the land and oversaw the construction of both East Ridge High School and the new Oltman Middle School. The South Washington School Board bid farewell to Vogel at its Oct. 17 meeting.
District 833 students scored well on an annual standardized test that measures college and career readiness. Results released Oct. 17 showed that the graduating class of 2018 exceeded the state average in all four categories — mathematics, science, English and reading. Their overall composite score of 22.4 beat the state average of 21.3. "We're pretty proud of that percentage," said Brian Boothe, director of professional development and accountability. "A majority of our students who take the ACT are demonstrating some aspect of career and college readiness."