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Winona teacher resigns after slapping incident

A Winona Senior High special-education teacher who was charged with slapping a student has resigned. Amy Pearson of the Winona Daily News writes that the Winona Area Public Schools Board accepted Theresa Kersting's resignation Tuesday, agreeing that she remains on paid administrative leave through 2012 and banning her from seeking re-employment with the district. The 50-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor assault and was placed on one year of unsupervised probation. According to a criminal complaint, a classroom aide told Winona Senior High Principal Kelly Halvorsen that Kersting had slapped a 19-year-old male special-education student in early April after he grabbed Kersting’s glasses and threw them on the floor. Halvorsen subsequently contacted the Winona Police Department, which initiated an investigation. According to a police report, the boy is not verbal and was not able to give an account of the incident.

The practice of using cover crops to protect fields has been slow to catch on in Minnesota, but more farmers are seeding their fields for winter coverage, reports Kylie Saari of the Fairmont Sentinel. Minnesota farmers have been slow to adopt the practice because it requires a tight dance between harvest and frost. In warmer states, farmers can seed the cover crop after the main crop has been harvested, but our shorter growing season and earlier frost makes seeding more difficult. This year, Darwin Roberts is seeding a field of soybeans with a combination of rye, lentils and red clover — small seeds with good soil-to-seed contact. He's using aerial seeding to ensure proper disbursement. The cover crop has to be dropped so it is established when the cash crop is harvested, but the cash crop can't be so lush that it traps the seeds. By the time the soybeans are ready for harvest, the cover crop plants should be a couple of inches high and hardy enough to survive being driven over during the harvest. The cover crop improves water quality by reducing erosion from fields and soaking nitrogen into the leaves of the cover crop.

Winona city officials and citizens continue to learn more about how the frac sand business will affect their town. Mary Juhl of the Winona Daily News writes that while planners can predict the train and barge traffic — 10 trains and 24 barges shipping the aggregate monthly — the number of trucks hauling sand through the city is difficult to determine because it is based on railcar storage capacity, availability of barges and cars, time of year and market value. Not only that, but David Christianson, a senior planner with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, discussed the interstate bridge. “The Winona bridge is of concern,” he said, because the bridge is "fracture-critical," and some components of the bridge aren’t protected by redundancy in case of structural failures. In a story earlier in the week, the Daily News reported that MnDOT has recommended a new bridge to be built along the existing Highway Interstate 43 bridge. It would be upstream from the existing bridge, and would not require any road closures. Once finished, the existing one would be rehabilitated, and both would remain open. 

In an attempt to bump tourism in New Ulm, city fathers have hired the Minneapolis-based firm Haberman Modern Storytellers to create a  "hip, energetic new tourism campaign," writes Josh Moniz of the New Ulm Journal. On Monday, the Convention and Visitors Bureau rolled out a new, $50,000 multi-media messaging campaign around the slogan "Germans Have More Fun." In an Internet video and in commercials, a Hermann the German bobblehead doll pops up at Schell's, Flandrau State Park, the New Ulm Country Club, Turner Hall and the Brown County Historical Society Museum as well as other sites and appears to down libations of beer and wine. There is also a website and profiles on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and even a Twitter account written from the bobblehead's perspective. CVB Manager Terry Sveine said the campaign was targeted at broadening tourism to New Ulm, particularly with younger age groups, without giving up the city's more traditional tourism sources. 

After Blair Anderson took the oath to become St. Cloud’s new police chief Monday, he made promises to the community and to his fellow cops, writes David Unze of the St. Cloud Daily Times. “We intend to make you say ‘ahh,’ ” he said. “What does that mean? It means we will be accountable, we will be honest and we will be humble. All of the time. And you will say ‘Ahh.’ ” The former chief deputy in the Carver County Sheriff’s Office takes over from Dennis Ballantine, who retired after 10 years as chief. Anderson also addressed the several officers in attendance at the swearing-in. “I don’t like messing with things that aren’t broken,” he said. He said his management style is to be in front of his desk, not behind it. And he won’t forget the jobs he had on his ascent to becoming police chief, he said. “I promised myself a long time ago if I ever made it this far I would not forget what it was like to direct traffic in the rain. ... I’m here to make your job easier, not harder. And that’s what I intend to do.”

Speaking of police, Mankato cops stretched their muscles with a new grant to help enforce underage drinking laws. They issued 28 underage drinking citations near Minnesota State University last Friday, writes Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press.  Three underage drinking parties at Minnesota State University area apartment complexes were broken up between about 12 a.m. and about 1:20 a.m. Friday. The goal was to let young people who are moving to Mankato know right away that underage drinking laws will be enforced. This year, a $4,000 grant from the Invitation Health Institute of Minnesota, formerly the Minnesota Institute of Public Health, will help fund extra enforcement. The extra patrols will extend through additional weekends during the next few months. The overtime funded by the grant helps because busting underage drinking parties can be time-consuming. Everyone at the party has to be identified and officers have to make sure those who have had too much to drink have someone with them and a safe place to go.

After chicken owners squawked at a public hearing, the Fairmont City Council decided chickens could be kept as pets within city limits, writes Meg Alexander of the Fairmont Sentinel. City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist has said Fairmont does not allow chickens except in agricultural zones. A citizen recently questioning the ordinance, at which time Bloomquist decided clarification was needed. She presented the council with a proposed amendment that would change the ordinance to explicitly state: "No person shall keep any livestock, regardless of age, including but not limited to: horse, cattle, sheep, goat, swine, llamas, camels, buffalo, chicken, poultry or fowl or animal of a wild nature." Another section of the ordinance states cats, dogs and other animals customarily kept as pets are allowed.

Bob Charnecki said he has had chickens at his Fairmont home for years. Before purchasing them, he asked City Hall and was told chickens are allowed. Exotic bird owner Mark Anderson was worried: "I want to make sure my pets aren't outlawed because of some semantics," adding that "fowl" technically means "bird." Laurence Lau questioned the meaning of "livestock," mentioning that rabbits are technically considered livestock. At city administrator Mike Humpal's recommendation, the council and staff will take the time to develop a pet ordinance that can be easily understood. In the meantime, chickens, rabbits and the like are safe. "Just remember," Humpal said, "if an animal is running at large — whether it's a cat, dog, chicken, cockatoo or whatever — it's subject to being picked up."

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