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Equal-pay disparity settlement costs Montevideo schools $50,000

ALSO: New Richland police chief dies; frost warnings are out; diversity is up in Austin schools; and more.

Although the Montevideo School District disagrees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the district underpaid a female custodial aide for work equal to that done by a male custodian. Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune says the district agreed last week to pay $50,000 to the employee after the EEOC determined the two positions were the same or equivalent in skill, effort and responsibility. Montevideo Superintendent Luther Heller said in a statement that the district decided the settle the case because the employee “performed work above and beyond the job description or job classification,” but not because the positions were equal. The $50,000 is what the employee would have been paid if she had been paid the same as her male counterpart. Heller said the school’s insurance carrier paid the majority of the settlement.

The Waseca County sheriff’s office reports that New Richland Police Chief Scott Eads died Monday in an apparent suicide. Suzy Rook of the Waseca County News quotes a press release from the sheriff’s office that says Eads had a wife and two children and that deputies will cover New Richland’s police calls until further notice. “Chief Eads was a part of our Law Enforcement family here in Waseca County, so obviously this is shocking news for all involved,” the sheriff’s office wrote.

If it’s football season, then it must be time for a frost. Sure enough, Andrew Krueger of the Duluth News Tribune reports that the National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory Wednesday morning for St. Louis, Aitkin, Itasca, Koochiching, Cass and Crow Wing counties. Some historical data from the NWS: The average date of the first freeze is Sept. 10 in Hibbing, Sept. 14 in International Falls and Sept. 30 in Duluth. The average date of the first hard freeze (low of 28 degrees or lower) is Sept. 24 in Hibbing, Sept. 25 in International Falls and Oct. 12 in Duluth.

The number of nonwhite students in Austin schools is up almost 2 percent this school year, according to the latest district headcount. Jason Schoonover of the Austin Daily Herald reports that 44.1 percent of the district’s 4,980 students are nonwhite. Corey Haugen, Austin School District’s research director, told the school board Monday that the state average is 30.5 percent nonwhite and Austin itself is 21.3 percent nonwhite. Although Hispanic students make up the bulk of the minority student population, the Asian student population – 7.6 percent – is the fastest-growing group. Haugen said students speak 45 home languages — 69.8 percent English and 18.9 percent Spanish. Austin also serves about one-quarter of all Anuak students and one-third of Karenni students in Minnesota.

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In Willmar, the school district on Monday agreed to raise school property taxes 13 percent. Linda Vanderwerf of the West Central Tribune reports that the levy will raise an additional $1 million, of which the majority — $979,000 — will go to bring Willmar Middle School science classrooms up to code. The rest will go to accommodate an increase in the number of students in the district. A final levy will be adopted in December, Vanderwerf writes.

Cities in southeastern Minnesota are feeling the squeeze of a lack of action from state lawmakers on the budget. Heather J. Carlson of the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that money disbursed to the state’s cities is almost $46 million less than in 2002 and city administrators were hoping legislators would agree on the amount the state disburses to cities. Without that agreement, they have to look at raising local property taxes to pay the bills. Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm says his city is losing out on $165,000. “It’s going to affect how much we raise taxes more than anything. I think we’re pretty lean right now,” he said. The Austin City Council is considering a 9 percent levy increase for next year. Rochester is facing $3 million in additional costs for salaries and health insurance. Without an increase from the state, City Administrator Bill Schimmel said the city council will start making budget cuts, most likely in road construction.

Marshall Thomas Jarvela of Brainerd is in a peck of trouble after allegedly threatening to stab and chop up two women while wielding an arrow, a hammer and a saw. The Brainerd Dispatch reports that the 35-year-old man, who lives on the property of one of the women, made the threats last Wednesday. When police arrived, they ordered him to drop the items and move on to the ground. He eventually complied but only after officers drew their weapons and used a Taser on him, the report states. Jarvela faces two counts of felony second-degree non-firearm assault with a dangerous weapon, two counts of felony terroristic threats with reckless disregard of risk and a misdemeanor charge of obstructing the legal process. The Dispatch reports that between 1999 and this year, Jarvela has 18 convictions in Crow Wing County including several disorderly conduct convictions, fifth-degree assault convictions, domestic assault, obstructing the legal process, fleeing police and driving while intoxicated – none of which were felonies. A 19th case for disorderly conduct is pending, the newspaper reports.

More than 300 people have signed a petition demanding that the Wells City Council remove City Administrator Robin Leslie. Deanna B. Narveson of the Mankato Free Press reports that the petition cites Leslie’s work performance and demeanor as reasons for her removal. “Our city administrator, Robin Leslie, has treated community members with disrespectful and rude behavior,” said petition organizer Brenda Weber, who is also running for a seat on the city council. Weber said Leslie was at fault for not getting proper permits for the United South Central school demolition last year. Gene Kauffman said Leslie changed the area allotted for the city’s annual classic car show two days before the event. Leslie, who has been city administrator since 2013, said she was doing her job to the best of her abilities. Mayor Ron Gaines said residents don’t understand some decisions, citing the fact that the school board had much of the responsibility regarding the school’s demolition, not the city. Gaines also questioned whether the petition had legal standing.

On Aug. 17, a St. Cloud man took pages from the book “Ancient Civilizations: The Illustrated Guide to Belief” and started a fire on a chair on the second floor of the St. Cloud Public Library. David Unze of the St. Cloud Daily Times reports that Jorge Ozornia, 47, pleaded guilty Monday to arson in the incident, which has kept the library closed for nearly a month. The fire caused damage to flooring, walls and furniture in addition to damage from the smoke and soot. The city and the Great River Regional Library system is getting bids for the cleanup project. Unze reports that Ozornia has a history of criminal convictions in Minnesota that include motor vehicle theft, assault and making terroristic threats.

Enrollment is up 1.5 percent at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Dave Olson of the Fargo Forum reports that there are 5,897 undergraduate and graduate students at MSUM as of Friday. Numbers are up for new graduate students, new domestic freshmen, first-time students from the Fargo-Moorhead area and new international students. The number of new transfer students was down 1.6 percent. A decline in the number of high school graduates in the region has forced numbers down in recent years, but an uptick in high school graduation numbers and focused recruitment efforts have improving enrollment, MSUM President Anne Blackhurst said.