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In teacher-training review, Greater MN colleges’ programs rate better than most

ALSO: Gopher feet stolen; State Rep. lines up against Walz; baby wipes blight pipes in Mankato; Willmar flag burning suspect may have been ID’d.

A national group says most colleges that teach teachers how to teach aren’t up to snuff, reports Stephanie Dickrell of the St. Cloud Daily Times. The National Council on Teacher Quality says U.S. programs are mediocre at best in comparison with highest-performing education systems around the world. The report determined overall ratings based on a set of key standards at 608 institutions, including many in Minnesota. The review looked at such items as content preparation, professional skills and student outcomes as well as early reading, English language learners, classroom management, lesson planning and assessment data. Fewer than 10 percent earned three stars or more. Only four programs earned four stars. The University of Minnesota — Morris, University of Minnesota — Duluth, the University of St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus College earned three stars at the undergraduate secondary level. St. Cloud State University gets two and a half stars out of four in undergraduate secondary training and one and a half in undergraduate elementary training. Minnesota State University — Mankato, similar to St. Cloud State in size and programs, received the same ratings.

Here’s something you don’t read every day. A mother and her son have been charged with stealing nearly $5,000 in frozen gopher feet, according to John Weiss of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Apparently, townships pay a bounty for dead gophers to keep the population down, and the method of counting your gopher haul is in pairs of tiny frozen gopher feet. Tina Marie Garrison, 37, and Junior Lee Dillon, 18, both of Preston, are charged with stealing bags of frozen gopher feet from a freezer in Granger and selling them for the $3 bounty. They are charged with four counts felony receiving stolen property and theft, and gross misdemeanor receiving stolen property and theft. Garrison has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial; her son is awaiting a July 29 omnibus hearing. The story goes on to talk about the pair pointing fingers at each other and other people, but really, who cares.

The Worthington Daily Globe is among the southern Minnesota news outlets reporting that State Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, will run for Congress in Minnesota’s First Congressional District against incumbent Rep. Tim Walz. Here’s a sample of Benson’s words at his announcement Monday. “This is not the United States I grew up in, and with new representation I believe that our country’s best days are still ahead of us. … I will work tirelessly to secure the Republican nomination and restore a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It’s reprehensible that this president, whose policies are carried out by Tim Walz, would turn its power on the people and bully them with the IRS and the NSA keeping record of every one their phone calls.”

This headline out of the Mankato Free Press kind of wrote itself, but it’s still very clever: “Baby wipes blight pipes,” it read, with the subhead “Clumping cloths raise Cain with St. Peter’s sewer system.” Apparently, baby wipes don’t break down like toilet paper but rather gather in clumps, forcing the water utilities department to break them down with a grinder or high-pressure spray. City officials said more than $40,000 was spent last year in repairs to wastewater pumps. “We’ve seen them as big as a bowling ball,” said Water Utilities Supt. Pete Moulton. “If they got stuck in a homeowner’s line, they wouldn’t be flushing them down the toilet.”

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Few things anger people more than burning a flag, much less two of them one after the other. That’s what happened earlier this month in Willmar and police think they have a suspect on hand, according to the West Central Tribune. “We have a strong suspect,” Willmar Police Chief Dave Wyffels told the Willmar City Council in an update Monday night. Wyffels said a security camera video of the June 1 incident was sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for enhancement. Police are holding off on interviewing any suspects until the BCA’s analysis is complete, he said Monday. Police have said the flag-burnings don’t appear to be bias crimes or related to any larger subversive effort.

Here’s a headline that is shocking because it is no longer shocking: “Priest faces sex charge” writes the Fairmont Sentinel. Father Leo Charles Koppala, 47, of Blue Earth, was charged Monday with second-degree criminal sexual conduct and will face an initial court appearance 1:30 p.m. Monday. The charges stem from an incident June 7 in which Koppala allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with a child under 13 years of age. Maximum sentence for the felony is 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine. Koppala, the priest at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth, is being held in the Faribault County Jail. Here’s the creepy stuff: News reports have indicated the child is an 11-year-old girl. According to the statement of probable cause, the child said that on June 7, Koppala was invited over for supper at the location where the child was staying. The child went downstairs to watch television. Koppala later came downstairs. Koppala kissed the child on the cheeks and lips, then moved his hand around on the child’s chest, touching the child’s breasts. Koppala told the child that when the child was done with school, he wanted to come to the child’s house so they could be free together. Koppala told the child that he loved the child. The adult in the house said that at one point, the adult was on a phone call and it was at this time that Koppala went into the basement where the child was. After Koppala left, the child told the adult what had happened. Koppala acknowledges he kissed the child on the cheeks and mouth. He admitted to placing his hand on the child’s chest, but did not believe he touched the child’s breasts. Koppala admitted he told the child they could be free together, but said he meant something different.

Graduate photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn.