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The Owatonna boys track and field team poses after becoming the Section True Team champions in Lakeville on Tuesday. (Photos courtesy of Owatonna Boys Track and Field, @OwatonnaBoysTra/Twitter)

OHS boys true team champs

The 25th Annual recipient of the Ted G. Ringhofer Memorial Scholarship is Arianna Shornock. Arianna is the daughter of Shane and Amy Shornock and is planning on majoring in Accounting at the University of Northern Iowa. Arianna was awarded a $1,000 scholarship given by North Risk Partners and the OACCT Ambassadors on May 5th. (Photo courtesy of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce)

Shornock awarded Ringhofer Memorial Scholarship

Shornock awarded Ringhofer Memorial Scholarship

From left, DFL First Congressional District candidates Richard Painter, Jeff Ettinger, Candice Deal-Bartell, Sarah Brakebill-Hacke and Warren Anderson line up at the Democratic Forum. (Carson Hughes/

From left, DFL First Congressional District candidates Richard Painter, Jeff Ettinger, Candice Deal-Bartell, Sarah Brakebill-Hacke and Warren Anderson line up at the Democratic Forum. (Carson Hughes/

DFL Forum

ALC students, staff begin new fence mural
  • Updated

For the last couple years, students and staff at the Owatonna Area Learning Center have created fence murals with positive messages to display for the community.

Science teacher Kim Penning, along with art teacher Jessica Klein, have been working with several students for the past few months drawing up plans and ideas for the fence lining the west side of the school campus.

Emily Kahnke / By EMILY KAHNKE 

After learning more than 14 languages are spoken in the district, Owatonna ALC art teacher Jessica Klein and science teacher Kim Penning were inspired to spread the message of ‘hope’ in the different languages spoken around the community. (Emily Kahnke/

“The theme is ‘hope’,” Penning said. “With all of the hard things going on in the world today, we wanted to share the message of hope. Since we view the ALC as an inclusive school, we thought why not speak the word of hope in many languages”

The idea of displaying the message in several languages was inspired by Klein, who had an interaction with a parent of an Owatonna Online student. She said the parent spoke only Mandarin Chinese, and she decided to look further into the diversity of the students in the school district to be able to include as many languages as possible for the new fence display.

Klein and Penning contacted Martina Wagner, the Equity Coordinator for the district, and received information about all the demographics represented in the school district.

“Martina told us about 14 different languages are spoken by our students throughout the district,” Penning said. “Then we started to research the word ‘hope’ in the different languages and translate it to include in the fence.”

While working on the fence with her students earlier this week, Klein was struck when a student asked her if she thought people will feel included when they see their language displayed on the fence.

“That is the whole point of why we’re doing this — so everyone feels included,” said an emotional Klein. “I think it means a lot more to the students to know they’re making a difference and contributing.”

Emily Kahnke / By EMILY KAHNKE 

Many students at the Owatonna ALC were thrilled to get involved with the newest fence mural at the school to spread the message of ‘hope’ in 14 different languages. (Emily Kahnke/

Penning said she and many of the students were unaware just how diverse the languages spoken in the district are and many tend to take for granted how the overwhelming majority speak English.

“We wanted to make sure we are representing our kids with all their different backgrounds,” Penning said. “We also wanted to send the message of positivity, equity and inclusivity, and inspire kids to take the power within themselves to have a positive affect on others.”

To make the elaborate designs on the fence was no small feat either. Klein began using graphing paper to plan out how the words would fit on the fence (with a little help from the internet) and a guide on how to do the letters.

Penning said as a science teacher she was less than thrilled with the amount of waste they dealt with with previous designs using different colored plastic cups.

“I’m passionate about the planet, so I started researching alternatives to the cups that would be less waste and also wouldn’t fall out as easily as the cups did,” Penning said. “I found these cups that are specific for fence designs and we can reuse and recycle them.”

Penning said they were also able to receive a grant to purchase the cups. They were thrilled with this news and were able to order dozens of the cups in many different colors to make their designs eye catching and aw-inspiring.

ALC staff and students began working on the fence earlier this week and were able to complete six of the 14 words for the design. Klein said she anticipates they will be finished by the end of the school year and has ideas of adding flower designs along with the several translations of the word “hope.”

Commissioners continue to grapple with Detention Center future

Tensions were high inside the county board room Tuesday, as Steele County commissioners continued to tackle what they see as an ongoing issue with the high costs and low revenue stream at the county jail.

During the work session meeting prior to the regularly scheduled meeting, the Board of Commissioners discussed a strong desire to “put this to bed” in reference to how the operations at the Steele County Detention Center should continue.

Commissioner Greg Krueger, who was most vocal about wanting the discussion to come to a conclusion, originally made a motion during the meeting to allow the jail to continue running “as is” with the caveat that the board take an annual in-depth look at the operational budget line items and re-evaluate if they feel inefficiencies are not being resolved. Though the motion was seconded by Commissioner Rick Gnemi, both commissioners ultimately withdrew their motion and second to allow for one more attempt to gather additional data.

The discussion was placed on the work session agenda by the request of Commissioner John Glynn, who is the current board chair. Glynn said he felt they had not explored “all possible options” on ways to up the revenue. In 2021, the detention center had roughly $3.9 million more expenses than revenue.

“I just want us to explore all our options, and I feel like we haven’t done that yet,” Glynn said, noting that he would like to see numbers on costs for a potential partnership with Dodge County.

Though County Administrator Scott Golberg warned the commissioners that any numbers on “potential” solutions would only be a guess, the commissioners ultimately agreed to table the discussion until such numbers could be brought to the table.

While Krueger was focused on public safety and allowing the detention center staff to no longer have to worry about whether or not their jobs were in jeopardy and Glynn was focused on the costs, Commissioner Jim Abbe said he could see both sides of the coin, but encouraged the group to still take one final look at the possible options still out there.

“It was insinuated that we don’t care about public safety — that is not at all the case, and nobody here has ever said otherwise, but I take a bit of offense to that,” Abbe said. “The dollars do factor in to what we decide here, as does public safety; we have to weight it all in, and I think that is all [Glynn] is asking for. If that means regurgitating information that we had before, like the book and transport option, then let’s take a look at it.

“We don’t have to decide tonight,” Abbe continued. “No one is closing the facility tomorrow. Let’s take a look at the numbers.”

While Krueger did withdraw his motion, he asked that the board “make a firm decision,” so the conversation is no longer dragged out.

Key players in the local criminal justice system attended the work session to express their support for the county jail. Both Judge Joseph Bueltel and Owatonna Police Chief Keith Hiller described the operations at the detention center as smooth, and said the facility is an integral part of the overall criminal justice system. They two men also voiced concern to the commissioners that transporting inmates to another county may be detrimental to the process currently working well in Steele County.

The discussion took place despite action taken last fall to move ahead with the operation as a class III facility. The board awarded a contract last month in the amount of $609,850 to construct a wall in the center pod to allow the facility to remain operating as a two-pod jail, but with four classifications instead of three.

The classifications will include maximum, medium and minimum security male inmates and one general classification for female inmates.

The current Steele County Detention Center opened in October 2003. It sits on 18.63 acres, is a total structure of 58,575 square feet, and has a rated capacity of 154 beds.