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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District 833 students headed back to class Tuesday, facing the 2011-12 school year with new school leaders, programs and goals. "We're settling in," District 833 Superintendent Mark Porter said, "but we are still continuing to grow." District 833 will see an assortment of new faces at the district level and at the school level.
The Merrill Community Arts Center has undergone some major revisions. Rather than being entirely housed in an addition at East Ridge High School, the center will be divided between East Ridge and a space on Rivertown Drive. The initial vision, by Arts Connection, was to a build a $4.1 million community arts center, to be attached to East Ridge High School's Loft Stage.
East Ridge High School held its first-ever graduation Saturday in the school's gymnasium. The East Ridge senior class included 345 students. United States Sen. Amy Klobuchar served as a special guest speaker during the graduation ceremony. "You leave here with everything you need to have an extraordinary life," Klobuchar said during her speech. "They have put the world in the palm of your hand." Another special guest during Saturday's graduation ceremony was a red tailed hawk, a physical representation of the school's mascot, from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.
At the start of his high school career, East Ridge High School senior Thomas Bearrood made a goal for himself to do his best. Bearrood's hard work has paid off. His 4.28 GPA has earned him the title of East Ridge High School's 2011 salutatorian, the second-ranked student. "I just wanted to get as good of grades as I possibly could," he said. "I guess it worked out. I didn't ever feel like I'm competing because I just wanted to do the very best I could." Bearrood will next attend St. Olaf College to study chemistry. "It's exciting to be able to start a new chapter in my life," he said.
All year long, East Ridge High School senior Lisa Fan knew she was at the top of her class. Each grade report included her rank. So when Fan, who has a GPA of 4.377, was officially named the 2011 East Ridge High School Valedictorian - making her the school's top student - it wasn't much of a surprise, she said. But it was still exciting. "It's pretty awesome to be the first valedictorian," she said. Fan will be attending the University of Chicago next year to study economics.
Woodbury High School has taken the first step to bringing a Spanish immersion program to the school. The high school held a public meeting with Spanish immersion parents on Thursday, May 12 to discuss the process and receive any feedback from parents. Reaction was mixed as some parents are concerned about students having to move from the immersion program at Cottage Grove Middle School to a program at Woodbury High School.
The topic of expanding the Spanish immersion program is once again on the minds of District 833 leaders. Earlier this school year, the School Board initiated discussions on how to expand the elementary Spanish immersion program, known as Nuevas Fronteras and housed at Crestview Elementary School in Cottage Grove. Options included moving students out of neighborhood elementary schools so Spanish immersion could have a freestanding building, but discussions fizzled in December after parents expressed frustration with the options.
Politicians will have to pay to play in Afton's annual Fourth of July Parade this summer. The Afton City Council recently approved a policy requiring politicians and candidates to pay $50 to march in the popular holiday parade. It is free for other entrants. Previously, Afton did not charge politicians. "They really don't bring anything to the parade," Mayor Pat Snyder said. Council member Randy Nelson disagreed. "I do think they bring something," he said.
Gregory Seftick, the Afton native gone missing in Grand Teton National Park while skiing, was found dead Sunday. Seftick and his skiing partner, Walker Pannell Kuhl, were found buried under 15 feet of snow near a large boulder, according to Jackie Skaggs, public affairs officer for the National Park Service. The location was within avalanche debris in Garnet Canyon Meadows in the park. "It was a pretty dramatic find," Skaggs said. Seftick was a 1998 graduate of Stillwater Area High School and was living in Columbia Falls, Mont.
An Afton native and 1998 Stillwater Area High School graduate is missing after a hiking trip turned ugly at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A search by the National Park Service has been under way since Sunday for Gregory Seftick, 31, after he and another man went missing. Seftick's parents, Afton residents Susan and Daniel, were at Grand Teton National Park on Thursday. According to Jackie Skaggs, public affairs officer for Grand Teton National Park, Seftick and Walker Pannell-Kuhl, 27, of Salt Lake City, set off on a ski trip Saturday afternoon at about 1 p.m.