From “Northwoods college students design food pantry” — RHINELANDER – Some local college students helped design the new Rhinelander Area Food Pantry building. Nicolet Technical College Business Management and Marketing students created the plans for the building.

It took them the entire semester to come up with the design.

“It’s been super exciting,” says Bailey Wheeler, Nicolet Technical College Student. “We started out being a little bit overwhelmed with it but it’s definitely as the time went on we got used to the whole project, and I think we were able to narrow it down a little bit and really see how we were able to help.”

Students were divided into three groups to come up with the new design. Each group handled a different section of the building. After the plans were submitted an architectural student rendered the design. Doing this project gave students real world experience.

“This is a powerful way of learning,” Dianne Lazear, Business management program instructor. “It allows students to concretely see what they’ve learned and use it in a way that matters.”

“These students are engaged and they are committed to the project. For an instructor having commitment and enthusiasm from your students about what they’re learning and doing is just the sweet spot of teaching,” says Lazear.

The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry will move into the new building in July.

From “Nicolet offering new Electromechanical Technology Degree” — Continuing to work with area manufacturers, Nicolet College has announced a new degree in Electromechanical Technology.

The new associate degree focuses on the electronics and computers that control the systems to operate a production line. The college surveyed area employers such as Printpack, Foster and Smith and PCA to gauge demand for the skill set.

Brigette Kumbier, dean of Trade and Industry at Nicolet says the manufactures were excited to hear the college was looking at starting the program and strongly supported Nicolet in the effort.

Graduates with the degree are able to install, troubleshoot, repair and upgrade electronic and computer-controlled mechanical systems.

This raises the number of manufacturing credentials at Nicolet to 12, ranging from certificates to associate degrees. Often credits earned in the certificate programs can also be applied to the degree programs.

Classes in the new Electromechanical Technology program are expected to start in the Fall Semester of 2014.

From “Gov. Walker signs Youth Apprenticeship bill in Rhinelander” — Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill in Rhinelander that he says will help employers get more skilled workers to companies. Youth Apprenticeship integrates high school-based and work-based learning to instruct students in skills defined by Wisconsin industries. It works with local school districts and the area technical colleges.

Stopping at Nicolet College to sign the Youth Apprenticeship Walker says the bill passed both legislative chambers with just one “no” vote, showing broad bi-partisan support. The program is already in action, but the new funding enlarges the program. 1900 students went through the program last year Walker says…

“….we were able to put a half-million(more) in each year…for a total of $4.6 million dollars that will be invested in this program. And in doing so, we’ll be able to place 550 more individuals into this youth apprenticeship program….”
Walker says manufacturing, agriculture, architecture, information technology and healthcare are targeted for apprenticeships. Walker says the business community needs skilled workers in these areas now…

 “….many of our employers across the state, particularly our small and mid-sized employers would add more work but they’re a little bit resistant to do that right now until they know they can fill the positions they have for things like high-skilled welders, CNC operators, machinists, tool-and-dye operators….”

Walker says manufacturing jobs pay more, have more benefits and workers stay longer than many other jobs.


From “Marathon County names new jail administrator” — WAUSAU — After months of sharp criticism and controversy surrounding operations at the Marathon County Jail, officials have named a new leader to complement changes already in motion at the facility.

Sandra La Du-Ives, who currently serves as jail administrator at the Oneida County Jail, will begin her new role Dec. 8; she was chosen from a pool of nearly 30 applicants from across the country. Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks said the change in leadership is part of an overall transformation at the facility, which has undergone intense scrutiny since a March 27 attack on two corrections officers.

“We laid out our expectations for each applicant, and Sandra stood out among the rest,” Parks said. “She understands there is a great deal of work to be done and wants to be a part of that process.”

La Du-Ives was named jail administrator in Oneida County in April after the death of 19-year veteran Kaye Juel. She is a graduate of Nicolet Area Technical College and served as the assistant jail administrator for four years prior to her promotion. La Du-Ives also worked as a corrections officer for Oneida County for nine years. Efforts to reach La Du-Ives were not successful Friday.

A report issued in July by a panel of five community leaders outlined a host of deep-rooted problems at the jail — many which have already been addressed — and recommended massive changes to jail procedures and training. A five-member citizen review panel tasked with identifying the jail’s failings and recommending solutions issued the report; the panel found dozens of issues that need to be corrected and suggested changes that could lead to the termination of employees who do not rise to meet new performance expectations.

Major changes underway

Chief Deputy Chad Billeb said officials have embraced the panel’s recommendations and made immediate changes to procedures at the jail. The jail intercom system, once broken, is now back online and working properly; the central housing control unit, which once stood empty after a major communications system failure, is staffed 24 hours a day after the system was repaired. More than 10 cameras have been added to eliminate blind spots, and many of the more than 100 existing cameras were upgraded, Billeb said.

Officials also have addressed concerns by the panel and repeated concerns by jail inspectors about unacceptably low staffing levels at the facility. Two new corrections officers have been hired since the report was released, and two more will be named in the coming weeks, Billeb said, bringing the number of jail staff members up to the recommended level of 48. That number includes a jail administrator, six lieutenants and 41 corrections officers.

“The report gave us a road map of where we need to go,” Billeb said. “We shared that road map with our job candidates, including Sandra, so she knows exactly what our expectations will be.”

Not every applicant was quite so interested in a job that will entail fighting overcrowding and other infrastructure issues; three candidates dropped out after receiving the same information, Parks said.

Sheriff’s officials are enthusiastic about two programs they believe will significantly reduce the population in a facility that is consistently filled beyond its intended capacity of 279. On Friday morning, the jail housed 297 inmates; an additional 47 inmates were housed at jails in Lincoln and Shawano counties, according to jail reports.

The Marathon County Board on Tuesday passed a resolution that will allow nonviolent offenders to earn one day of early release for every 12 hours worked in community service at a variety of local agencies. The county’s five circuit court judges signed off on the program Thursday, Billeb said. That program will begin Nov. 1.

The second proposal, which mimics programs in Dane and Walworth counties, would allow inmates who qualify for Huber release to avoid sitting in jail altogether. Instead, inmates would do their time in their homes while monitored electronically. Only nonviolent offenders and people who live and work in areas with cellphone reception would qualify for the program, Billeb said.

For both programs, only inmates already eligible for Huber will be considered to participate. The Huber law allows inmates who have been sentenced to leave the jail to work or search for work, attend school and care for their children for up to 12 hours each day; Huber inmates pay a fee of $17 per day to participate in the program.

An ongoing process

Officials say they are committed to making the changes they know are necessary to create an environment at the jail that is safe for workers and for inmates. Hiring a new administrator from outside the county will allow for a fresh perspective during the rebuilding process.

“Sometimes when you look in the mirror, you don’t always have the clearest view of yourself,” Parks said. “This will provide us the opportunity to look at ourselves clearly and without bias.”

Both Parks and Billeb praised the efforts of Paul Mergendahl, the superintendent at the Marathon County juvenile detention facility, who has served as interim administrator since the April 17 resignation of former administrator Bob Dickman. Mergandahl will continue in his role as interim administrator until La Du-Ives assumes her new position.

“Paul set the groundwork for these changes to be made,” Billeb said.

La Du-Ives was interviewed by a group of six people who reviewed each applicant’s educational background, skills and history. Mount View Care Center Administrator Lori Koeppel, Marathon County Deputy Administrator Deb Hager, jail inspector Denise Ellis and Marathon County Board member Matt Hildebrandt assisted Billeb and Parks in choosing their top candidate.

The brutal assault that sparked the controversy surrounding jail procedures left officer Julie Christensen, 36, critically injured. She last was reported in the intensive care unit at Aspirus Wausau Hospital in April, and her family has requested no further updates be given about her condition. Officer Denney Woodward also was injured in the attack.

Fredrick Morris, 20, of Wausau has been charged in connection with the incident.

Koeppel, along with Rothschild Police Chief Bill Schremp, Intercity State Bank President Randy Balk, LandArt owner Paul Jones and Daily Herald Media General Manager Michael Beck all serve on the panel. Members plan to meet with Billeb, Parks and Du-Ives for a progress review in December.

From “Nicolet College’s EMT’s, Firefighters at High Percentage” — Nicolet College is turning out a new batch of EMTs and state certified firefighters. 25 out of 26 students passed the most recent national certification for Emergency Management Technicians. 17 out of 18 passed the state’s practical firefighting exam. Director of public safety and campus security Jason Goeldner says a new curriculum helped bring in the high passing rates.

“We’ve incorporated an online platform, which is either called a blending or a hybrid learning style. And even though most of the learning takes place in the classroom, through lecture or hands on, we are able to stream online supporting materials – videos, exams, practical sessions in which the students can also learn outside of the classroom.”

Goeldner says high quality instructors are also to thank for the good scores. He says most students will use their certifications to volunteer.

“Many people in the Nicolet district are doing this on a part-time basis to support their communities. There are a small portion that do it full time, mostly on the medical side of it.”

The number of training hours required for EMTs at Nicolet went up significantly this year. Goeldner says he hopes to improve the passing rate even further in the future.


From “Trailer will bring Nicolet College to area communities” —  The Nicolet Area Technical College district covers more than 4,000 square miles so for those living in the district it may not be easy to get to the main campus located just outside of Rhinelander for certain services.

The college has moved to remedy this with a new trailer that will be taken around to area communities to bring the school to prospective students.

“We can really do anything in the trailer that we can do in our office,” Kenneth Urban, Nicolet vice president of teaching, learning and student success, said. “The only thing we can’t do is testing. But financial aid, registration, we can do that in this trailer.”

Urban was one of the leading figures in trying to find a way the college could reach all corners of the district.

“Our district is 80 percent the size of Connecticut so we have a big area to cover,” Urban said. “It is not easy for people to sometimes get the services they need by coming to the main campus.”

The idea to bring those services to the district via trailer was the logical next step so the college began looking for a suitable vehicle.

Fortunately, they did not have to look far.

“Luckily the Wisconsin Technical College System Foundation is the organization that handles federal property in Wisconsin,” Urban said. “They had a FEMA trailer sitting in their lot in Waunakee.”

The trailer, Urban said, was just a typical camping trailer so the college needed to put work into it to make it a mobile extension of the college.

Again, the school did not have far to go to find qualified help.

“We have some very talented students and staff at this school,” Urban said.

Students and staff went to work on gutting the trailer and putting in the equipment and finishes needed to make the trailer function like the home office.

They removed the bathroom and made that they technology hub and electrical hub that feeds the two computer work stations in the area. They turned a couch into a work surface and installed an oak table with the college’s oak leaf logo.

On the outside, of the trailer, the students modified the main side window and inside built a storage case that houses a flat panel television, one of two in the unit.

“The idea is that you would pull up to where you are going to set up, you put the awing down and set up a table in front and have the television playing behind you with information,” Urban said. “We can customize the message to whatever we are doing that day. If we are there for financial aid sign up, we can have a video about financial aid playing. Or if it is a general visit, we can have a video of information about the school playing.”

Urban said the idea is to have at least two school representatives with the trailer when it goes to events in communities to help people with their needs. But he adds the college is still experimenting on how it best works in the real world.

“It has been out on one official event and that was Rediculous Dae in Rhinelander,” he said. “People really liked it. We learned thought that we need paper weights for the papers on the table outside. But that is where we are at right now, we are experimenting to see what we need and how the trailer works best.”

The trailer will be used for two more events this year though those dates have not been finalized but Urban said he is excited to get the unit out in the public.

“We want to take it where the people that will use the college the most will be,” he said. “We will stay away from tourist events, but you will see this trailer at high school football games where a couple of schools in our district are playing each other or other events where people that use the college will be.”

From “Nicolet’s Summer College Camp gives kids a taste of college” — Rhinelander – Going to college in summer may sound boring, but Nicolet’s Summer College Camp proves class can be a lot of fun.

The College Camp ran Monday through today. The camp was for 6th and 8th graders around the Northwoods and cost $75.

“The overall goal is really to have students not only start to think about what they might want to be when they grow up, so to speak, but also to get a feel of what a college campus feels like and actually walk on it, spend some time there,” says Teri Phalin, College Camp Organizer. Each of the 60 students picked two, 90-minute classes to rotate through during the afternoon. The classes specialized in welding, engineering, cartooning, sports medicine, and cooking – just to name a few.

“I’ve always been interested in theater. I’ve always wanted to be an actress when I grow up. And this just helps me with improv. I always thought improv was going to be kind of hard so this has kind of reassured me that it’s not as hard as I thought it would have been,” said Livi Roberts, Theater Class – 8th Grader.

Many students said they wished the camp ran longer because it was so much fun. Some already have asked to sign-up for next year.

%d bloggers like this: