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BACK ISSUES: December 1 | December 8 | December 15 | December 22 | December 29 | January 5 | January 12
Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Wright County Journal-Press & The Drummer

BHM's total enrollment gradually decreasing, projection shows

State aid for schools is based on enrollment, and a decline in enrollment is underway in the BHM School District.  The current enrollment is 5,672, and lower numbers are projected.  (BHM chart)

By Ed DuBois

The total enrollment in Buffalo Hanover Montrose (BHM) Schools is gradually decreasing.

An enrollment projection report was a prominent feature on the school board agenda last Monday, Nov. 27.  Gary Kawlewski, director of finance and operations, delivered the report.

He said growth halted in the 2009-10 school year.  Between last year and this year, the enrollment went down 22 students.  The total enrollment decline over the past five years is minus 70 students or minus 1.22 percent.

As of Oct. 1 this fall, the enrollment total was 5,672.  The peak enrollment in 2009-10 was 5,772.  The projection for next year is 5,638.  The largest class next year is expected to be the sophomores (with 487 students in the class).

Open enrollment has been a growing source of enrollment decline.  BHM experienced a net loss of 537 students in the 2016-17 school year.  The net loss in the previous year was 497.

The largest numbers of students leaving BHM are going to Rockford and Delano.  The largest numbers gained by BHM are from Maple Lake and Monticello.

School Board discussion about open enrollment included the topic of school buses from neighboring school districts picking up students inside the BHM District.  Kawlewski said a gentleman's agreement prevented this in the past, but the game has changed.  He mentioned that the only local area districts not sending buses into BHM are Maple Lake and Delano.

Supt. Scott Thielman talked about marketing efforts being made to tell local families what BHM has to offer.  Social media has been used to show marketing videos, and realtors have been given information packets to pass on to families.

The reason the School Board is paying so much attention to enrollment is because state aid to schools is based on enrollment.  When the enrollment goes down, state aid goes down.

An open enrollment survey conducted a few years ago indicted families have a variety of reasons for sending their students elsewhere.  Often, geography plays a part in the decision.  For example, students are sent to schools that are close to where the parents work.

As Kawlewski concluded his report, one of the board members commented, "I hope your projection is low."

In other business:



In other actions, the Board:

• received a student council report from Jack Oistad, who said a fall leadership forum was attended Nov. 5-6 in Baxter, Minn., and he mentioned a candy cane fundraiser that will help support the student council, as well as Make a Wish; he also said RAVE (Respect and Value Everyone) Week is being planned for February with a "body positive" theme (love yourself, whatever your height, weigh, etc.);

• thankfully accepted $71,691 in donations, including a few very large amounts, $50,000 from the Hanover Athletic Association for athletics at Hanover Elementary School and $9,700 from the same association for a Northwinds Elementary School obstacle course;

• approved teacher seniority lists, which showed the teachers with the most years in the district are Carlton Urdahl with 45, Nancy Anderson with 42 and Lynn Tolkinen with 40;

• approved a resolution authorizing certificates of election for Ken Ogden, Amanda Reineck and Bob Sansevere, who prevailed in the Nov. 7 school board election;

• approved a large number of updated policies in areas ranging from attendance boundaries to privacy of pupil records, violence prevention, curriculum, and system accountability; and

• conducted a first reading of policies being updated in areas such as student promotion or retention and graduation requirements.



The next regular school board meeting is scheduled on Monday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., in the board room at the Discovery Center in Buffalo.

Nick Knese Construction


County earns financial reporting award two years in a row

By Ed DuBois

For the second time in two years, Wright County was honored with an award of financial reporting achievement.

Auditor-Treasurer Bob Hiivala and Assistant Finance Director Lindsey Meyer were on hand at the Tuesday, Nov. 28 Wright County Board meeting to tell about the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, which has been awarded by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA).

The award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management, according to the GFOA.  The county's comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) was judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the GFOA, which includes demonstrating a constructive "spirit of full disclosure."

The County Board offered congratulations and gladly posed for a picture with Hiivala and Meyer.

In other business:



The Board heard concerns expressed by Darlene Haus of St. Michael in regard to a roundabout being planned at the junction of CSAH (County State Aid Highway) 18 and two offset roads, Maciver Ave. NE and Barthel Industrial Dr. NE.

Haus said she wanted to be engaged early in the process of planning the roundabout because the project will likely affect some of her farm property.  She expressed frustration with not being able to get questions answered.  She feels disrespected and ignored.

Haus also stated the roundabout would be a massive "overbuild," and she is concerned about increased traffic, air pollution and noise pollution.

Board Chair Charlie Borrell asked Haus for a list of her questions, and he offered to get the answers for her.

Meanwhile, Haus requested a meeting between county officials and people who could be affected by the roundabout project.  The Board agreed to work with her on setting up such a meeting.



The Board adopted a resolution correcting drainage system records for County Ditch 13 in Buffalo Township.  The cost of correcting the records is $16,200.

Commissioner Mike Potter commented that the County Board has an obligation to provide complete ditch records, and right now many of them are grossly incomplete.  He indicated the county is about a third of the way through updating and correcting all the ditch records.



The Board accepted committee recommendations for the 2018 salaries of elected department heads.  The salary of the County Auditor-Treasurer is increasing 2.5 percent to $128,670.  The Sheriff's salary is increasing 2.5 percent to $130,318.  The County Attorney's salary is increasing 4 percent to $147,997.  The 4-percent increase was approved to bring the salary up closer to those of County Attorneys in other comparable counties.  Commissioner Potter said the salaries of the other two elected officials are already close to those in comparable counties.



The Board is not meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5 to allow attendance at the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) Annual Conference in St. Cloud.



In other actions, the Board:

• scheduled a Dec. 12 committee of the whole meeting at 11 a.m. to discuss a space study about county facilities;

• approved a $535 assessment on 193 42nd St. SW in Montrose for a court ordered compliance inspection of the subsurface sewage treatment system;

• completed a hearing on drainage system records for County Ditch 18 and will consider findings on Dec. 12;

• approved a tax-forfeited land purchase by the City of Albertville for economic development purposes;

• adopted a resolution for a grant application to obtain new voting equipment;

• approved filling positions for a sheriff's deputy and a communications officer;

• authorized signatures on a 2018-19 County Feedlot Program Delegation Agreement Work Plan; and

• approved a memorandum of agreement for county contributions for 2018 health insurance plans with International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local No. 49.


Holiday Train coming here on Dec. 11

The Canadian Pacific Railway Holiday Train is coming to Wright County on Monday, Dec. 11.  At approximately 5:45 p.m., the Holiday Train will be stopping at the depot in Buffalo.

A stop in Annandale is scheduled for about 7:15 p.m.

In Buffalo, the Lions Club and the Buffalo Food Shelf will be the hosts.  Expect Santa to be there before the train arrives, and the Lions will serve hot chocolate and cookies.

The Rejoice singers from Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Buffalo will provide pre-train arrival music of the Christmas season.  If you plan to attend, please bring food items or cash gifts for the Buffalo Food Shelf.

The concert from the train will feature performers Teri Clark, Dallas Smith and Kelly Prescott.    The concert is expected to last from about 6:00-6:30 p.m.


You can help seniors with Christmas Angels

Join the Christmas Angels and adopt a senior.

While the holiday season can be a time of joy, it is also be a time of giving, especially to those in need.

"Many seniors are alone throughout the holiday season, without any gifts.  So many do not realize how our seniors have been forgotten," a spokesperson said.  "When you think of Christmas, you think of little kids.  You don't think of elderly individuals who are trying to survive off of very little a month.  I hope everyone can pitch in and help those who are in need in our community."

"Christmas Angels is desperately seeking your help," she continued.  "We are looking for people who are willing to help us make the Christmas of a senior citizen wonderful.  Unlike many of the other programs, we are focused on the seniors.  We will be providing each senior with a blanket, a sweat suit and personal hygiene products (lotions, soaps, chapstick).  We are taking any donations that will go towards these items, as well as providing a full Christmas meal."

They have donation boxes at: Buffalo Hospital, Cub, Kids Haven, Bank West, Stellis Health, and Allina Clinic St. Michael, and they are adding more drop boxes daily.

If you would like to adopt a senior this year or require more information, please email


BCO presenting annual Holiday Concert with
Handbells and Chorus on Dec. 9

The wRight Ringers Community Handbell Ensemble will collaborate with community music ensembles in the Buffalo Community Orchestra's concert "Holiday for Orchestra with Ringers & Singers."  Join them on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at the Buffalo High School.  Pictured above are: (front row, from left) Sheryl Reid, Brenda Roberts, Jill Starr, Sherilyn Burgdorf, Joan Johnson, Jenny White; (middle row) Lisa McConnon, Mary Augustin, Jill Norlander, Connie Hermerding, Helen Lee, Diane Huston; (back row) Kacie Carlsted, Mary Andrews, Jason Chalupnik, Lyle Jans, Julie Johnson, and Jill Nauman.  (Photo courtesy of wRight Ringers)

The Buffalo Community Orchestra will be presenting their annual holiday concert, "Holiday for Orchestra - with Ringers and Singers," on Saturday, Dec. 9.

The concert will feature the Wright County Chamber Chorus with members of the Buffalo High School Concert Choir, led by Director Michael Walsh, and the wRight Ringers Community Handbell Ensemble, led by Directors Sherilyn Burgdorf and Jill Starr.

The orchestra will be led by Conductor Ernesto Estigarribia.  This community-wide musical celebration of orchestra, chorus and bells began in the year 2000 and draws attendance from a four-county area.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Buffalo High School Performing Arts Center.  Refreshments will be served in the commons area following the concert.

Individual pieces performed by wRight Ringers will include holiday favorites, such as: "Ding Dong! Merrily On High," "The Holly & The Ivy," "Children, Go Where I Send Thee," and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

There will be several combined numbers, as well as a Christmas carol sing-along.

Tickets for the event are available in advance at Buffalo Books & Coffee and at the door on the night of the performance.  Online tickets are also available through the BCO website,  The 2017-2018 concert ticket prices are as follows, adults $12 and seniors $10.  The BCO now offers free admission for students.  Children, age 5 and under, are also admitted without charge.

This organization is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.


Toys for Tots project underway

Toys for Tots have a number of drop-off sites around the community.  Boxes were placed in many area businesses this past week.

"As you see the Toys for Tots boxes, please know that all the toys dropped off at your local businesses will stay right here in the Buffalo and Montrose communities," a spokesperson said.

Cash donations may be submitted online at or mailed to Toys for Tots, c/o Buffalo Rotary, P.O. Box 501, Buffalo, MN  55313.

Toys for Tots drop off sites are located at the following area businesses:

BUFFALO: All Over Nutrition, American Family Ins., BankWest, Buff N Glo Car Wash, Buffalo Books, Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, Buffalo Community Ctr., Buffalo Family Dentistry, Buffalo Gun Club, Buffalo H.S., Buffalo Hospital, Buffalo Middle School, Coldwell Banker Burnet, Community Education, Cub Foods, DoJo Karate, First MN Bank, Fitness Evolution, Gymnation, Health Source of Buffalo, Huikko's Bowling, Kjellberg Carpet One Floor & Home, KleinBank, Lake Ridge Care Center, Lake Ridge Manor, Lakeview Antiques & Collectables, Lillian's, Menard's, Mid-Country Bank, Personal Touche, Ryan Chevrolet, Ryan Chrysler, St. Francis Xavier School, Sportsman Dream Financial, State Farm Ins. - Cindy LaMont, Sterling Drug, Stellis Health, UPS Store, Walgreen's, Walmart, and Wright County Historical Society.

MONTROSE: Citizens State Bank, Montrose Elementary School, and Montrose Family Chiropractic.

The boxes will be out until Dec. 18.  If you are in need of assistance, you may request toys by filling out an application, which is available at Buffalo Food Shelf, Chamber office and Wright County Human Services or online at  Applications must be received by Dec. 8.

"Please help Buffalo Rotary make our community strong by giving to those in need," a spokesperson said.  For more information call 763-269-5739 or email


Caricature-style realism

Art is play for lifelong artist Jennie Beck of Buffalo

By Ed DuBois

Growing up in Chaska, Jennie Beck was "the naughty little kid who was always drawing on the walls," she said.  She drew so much, her parents gave her sketchbooks so she would leave the walls alone.

Jennie has been an artist most of her life, and now she enjoys teaching others how to draw.  She has done some teaching at Artistic Me in Buffalo.

"I like interacting with students.  I tell them to 'play with art.'  It's OK to make a mistake.  You can try again.  I tell them it's OK to fail.  That word, 'fail,' stands for 'First Attempt In Learning,'" Jennie said.

She encourages students to try and "mess up," and then try again.

"You can do better.  You can make it precious," she said.

Sometimes people come over when they see her sketching somewhere.  They often say, "I can't draw."

"Yes, you can," she responds.

She gives them a mini-lesson, and then they give it a try.

"See, you can draw," Jennie says.

"Everybody is a creative person," she added.


Build a foundation

She wants to teach some more.  She is looking for a place where she can bring people in and let them try it out.

Some people think you have to be born an artist.  To them she asks, "Do you yell at a baby for not running a marathon?"

You must build a foundation to become an artist.  It takes practice.

In fact, if Jennie does not draw for a while, she needs to warm up and exercise her mind and hands to get back into it.

Her advice to those who want to try it is, "Give yourself permission to play."

She enjoyed drawing so much, she finished her art class coursework at Chaska High School in short order.  Her teacher was dismayed and said, "I don't know what else to teach you.  Here's some sketchbooks; go out and draw."

She remembers a clay bear she made for an art exhibit at the school.  She was very proud of that bear.


Hired before graduated

After high school, she worked at a food company in nearby Jonathan, where she packed brown sugar and peanut butter until she had enough money to cover the tuition at the Hennepin Technical College.  For two years, she studied graphic arts and loved it.

"Graphic arts always intrigued me.  I fell in love with design of newspapers and magazines, and I enjoyed animation very much, too," she recalled.  "It was a great experience."

Jennie ended up getting hired before she graduated.  During a field trip to a film company in Edina, she saw an animation of a horse that did not look quite right.  She offered the illustrator an opportunity to see her cousin's horses, and the offer was accepted.

It turned out the illustrator was an owner of the film company, and he sent Jennie a note of thanks, along with an offer for a job interview.  She ended up working there two or three years until a recession hit in the 1970s.

Jennie was then able to hook up with some work friends who had a business in Minneapolis.  They said they liked her cartooning and illustrating style.  She did freelance work for them about four years.  Some of their clients included Betty Crocker and the Old Dutch potato chip company.


Met a guy on a Honda 750

Around 1977, she met a guy on a Honda 750 motorcycle.  He was helping her parents move.  His name was Tom Beck, and Jennie ended up marrying him in 1983 at the old Buffalo United Methodist Church, just down the block from the Discovery Center and Parkside Elementary School.

Jennie did not draw as much as they raised their son, Shawn, who was born in 1985.  When Shawn was old enough, Jennie took a food service job at Parkside Elementary.  She worked there 20 years.

Tom was a meat cutter.  He worked at Red Owl stores before being hired at the Cub Foods store in Maple Grove, where he retired ten years ago.


Back into it

During a camping trip to the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin, Shawn urged his mom to bring along her sketchbook.

"He knew I liked to draw.  I credit him with getting me back into it," Jennie said.

A teacher at Parkside saw Jennie's sketchbooks, and one day the teacher invited Jennie to be a guest speaker at a Buffalo Art Guild meeting.

"I instantly became a member of the Art Guild," she said.  "The people in that group are great."

That was about three years ago, and now Jennie serves on the Guild's Board of Directors.


Fundraising caricatures

Now and then, Jennie draws caricatures at fundraising events.  A wife of a Guild member was involved with Friends of the Buffalo Library fundraising, and she asked Jennie if she would draw caricatures at the library during Buffalo Days last June.

"I find people's faces very interesting," Jennie said.

She had fun meeting people, talking to them and drawing caricatures for them all day long.

Meeting Elmer Abbas, who owns a golf range in Buffalo, was particularly fun.  He brought along a golf club.

"The interaction with Elmer was free and silly," Jennie recalled.  "I like being a little goofy with people to see how far I can take the caricature."


Realism with a caricature style

When drawing a caricature, you exaggerate the facial features.

Some of Jennie's paintings involve a combination of realism and caricature drawing.  The result can be almost mesmerizing.  Viewers are drawn into the painting and its exaggerated facial features and hands and fingers.

For one of her paintings, she included facial features of women in her life.  She was looking at the painting the other day and commented that the woman in the painting mostly looks like her mother.

The painting is one of many works by Jennie that are currently on display at Thrivent Financial in Buffalo.  The Art Guild has been displaying art at a handful of businesses in town, including MidCountry Bank and the new Allina Health Clinic - Buffalo Crossroads.


Full circle

The display at Thrivent Financial is all over the walls inside the business.  The naughty little kid who was always drawing on the walls at home while growing up in Chaska has come full circle.  Now instead of drawing on the walls, she hangs her paintings on the walls.

If you get a chance to look at the paintings with Jennie nearby, she enjoys talking about them and encouraging others to "play with art."  (Search for Jennifer Beck on Facebook to learn more.)

"Everyone is a creative person," she said.

She adds that the goal of playing with art is not necessary to impress others.  The goal can be discovering what you can do to impress yourself.


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