I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.
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Student concerns about technology and sufficient numbers of teachers were brought before the Brainerd School Board Monday, April 22. Brainerd High School senior Maddie Schuld came forward during the meeting's public forum and first spoke of the sometimes excessive use of technology in classrooms.
Despite both student and teacher opposition, a first-year English teacher at Brainerd High School will not return this fall. When the news of school district plans not to renew Steven Fetzik's contract broke, juniors Douglas Mikkelson and Aiah Smith-Seelen were among students spearheading a petition to combat the matter. More than 30 students signed the petition, which Mikkelson and Smith-Seelen said they started because of Fetzik's knack for relating lessons to current events and his particular way of treating students more like adults than kids.
After a late snow day April 11, the Brainerd School District decided not to change this year's academic calendar but instead added eight additional certified staff hours in the 2019-20 school year. With multiple snow days during this school year, the district already added four makeup days to this year's calendar. Superintendent Laine Larson said during a board meeting Monday, April 22, this decision comes after much discussion and a conversation with administration at the Pequot Lakes School District.
In the U.S., those who celebrate Easter generally do so by hiding eggs for kids to find or waiting for the Easter Bunny to fill their baskets with treats on Sunday morning. But Nisswa resident Hank Mullen remembers the holiday a little differently when he was a child. "You made a real basket outside," Mullen said of an old tradition he took part in as a boy in the Black Forest of Germany. Mullen recalled the activity Monday, April 8, as he looked at a black and white photograph of a 5-year-old donning a suit while showing off a handmade Easter basket, or nest of sorts.
A petition with more than 30 signatures exemplifies a student-led effort at Brainerd High School to combat the non-renewal of English teacher Steven Fetzik. BHS junior Douglas Mikkelson said he and his classmates were upset when Fetzik, a first year teacher, told them he would not return to BHS next year, as the district did not renew his contract. "The whole class immediately was just quiet," Mikkelson said during an interview Friday, April 19. "And you could hear people saying that they didn't expect to be sad about something like that, but they actually were."
What started with a little girl watching "Sesame Street" ended with a college instructor making waves and earning statewide recognition. In an office full of newspaper clippings from stories on American Sign Language, Gallaudet University paraphernalia and posters alluding to deaf culture, Tanya Hoting Mrazek's dedication to her trade is easy to see—even easier with the addition of two awards honoring her exceptional work. The Central Lakes College ASL instructor was named CLC's Outstanding Educator for 2018-19 in December, an honor bestowed upon her by her peers.
The citizen group raising funds to save Brainerd's historic water tower is up to $5,516 and continues working to meet its goal before October 2020. After forming in October of last year to try to raise funds for the costly repairs needed to save the downtown icon, water tower committee members have met monthly to develop awareness and fundraising methods. Though $5,500 is just a fraction of the roughly $1.6 million the group hopes to raise in the next year and a half, members have no shortage of ideas.
Any lakes area families in search of mission work without having to leave their homes are in luck. Paul and Lisa Bowden, founders of Alexandria-based nonprofit Courageous Families, are looking for families to host Ukrainian orphans for the summer. "If they have a heart for mission and a heart to serve orphans, this is an amazing way to do that," Lisa Bowden said during a phone interview Wednesday, April 17. The Bowdens' story started a few years ago when Lisa heard an ad on the radio about hosting orphans.
With a roughly $500,000 budget, the city of Brainerd plans to resurface two streets and add American with Disabilities Act compliant ramps. The project, which will be funded completely by municipal state aid funds, will consist of a 1.5-inch mill and overlay on College Drive from Quince Street to County Highway 48 and on South Fourth Street from College Drive to South Sixth Street. The top inch and a half of the streets will be removed and a new layer of pavement added. Pedestrian ramps will also be added on South Fourth Street to meet ADA regulations.
In one opinion, restoring Brainerd's historical water tower isn't worth the costly price tag, but the city council will contribute funds nonetheless. Brainerd Industrial Center owner Mike Higgins advocated for a new replica tower in place of the 100-year-old structure Monday, April 15, after the Brainerd City Council agreed to contribute $12,500 to the community effort to save the tower.