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Thursday News, April 17

Le Mars School Finalist For Helmet To Hope Grant

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community School Foundation has a chance of winning $25,000 through the Helmet of Hope campaign as sponsored by Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream, and NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson foundation.  Le Mars Community School Foundation is one of ten finalists for the grant.  The Blue Bunny Helmet to Hope program, which began in 2008, allows fans and consumers across the country the chance to nominate not-for-profit (501c) organizations that support K-12 public education.  Starting today, Thursday, April 17th and continuing through next Thursday, April 24th, people have the opportunity to cast their vote at to determine the five grant winners.  In addition to the $25,000 grant, each of the five winners will receive a Blue Bunny ice cream party and special recognition on Johnson's race helmet during the Sprint Cup Series race on July 27th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  To date, the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope has contributed more than $560,000 to 71 different charities.  The Le Mars Community School Foundation asks people to get online and cast your vote for the Le Mars Community School Foundation.


Benton Selected As "Teacher Of The Year"

(Le Mars) -- On Tuesday, the Le Mars Community School and the Le Mars Community School Foundation awarded middle school instrumental music teacher Mary Benton, the Decades of Excelllence, Crystal Bell "Teacher of the Year" award.  Benton says she is humbled by the recognition.  She explains her teaching philosophy.

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With so much emphasis placed on a student's core cirriculm, Benton says it's also important to include the fine arts as part of the entire education for students.

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While accepting the honor for "Teacher of the Year", Benton says she always looks forward to coming to school, and it is because of the students.

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The band instructor was certainly taken by surprise at the announcement, but she is quick to share the credit with her fellow teachers.

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Official recognition will be conducted during the annual banquet of the Le Mars Community School Foundation scheduled for April 30th at the Le Mars Convention Center.


Boy Threatens School In Van Horne

VAN HORNE, Iowa (AP) - A 17-year-old boy is accused of writing a threatening note on a bathroom wall at a high school in east-central Iowa.
The Benton Community School District on Tuesday sent an email to parents, telling them about the note at Benton Community High School in Van Horne and the resulting increase in security. 
The note said the writer was going to blow up the school on Thursday but only after shooting as many people as possible before committing suicide.
The boy was taken into custody and charged with two misdemeanor counts of harassment. The Associated Press generally doesn't use the names of juveniles accused of crimes.


Lawmakers Work On Education Budget

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers from the Iowa Senate and House have agreed to meet to hammer out details on an education budget, as the chambers have not agreed on public university spending increases, among other provisions.
The Senate rejected a plan from the House on Wednesday that would give the University of Iowa less of an increase than that given to Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, and the House then adhered to it. Lawmakers will now meet to discuss the budget and settle differences between both parties and chambers.
Democrats say giving less money to UI could result in a tuition increase, but Republicans told the Des Moines Register the school has enough cash reserve to avoid raising tuition.
The bill as a whole appropriates funds for educational programs.


Insurance Division Investigates Two Rivers Company

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Insurance Division is investigating an insurance agency that's accused of overbilling thousands of government employees for health care coverage.
The division is focused on Two Rivers Insurance Co. The agency had been acting as an independent agent selling insurance for Wellmark and other companies.
Wellmark spokesman Traci McBee says Wellmark ended its relationship with Two Rivers on April 9 because Two Rivers had "marked up some of its customers' health insurance premiums without Wellmark's knowledge."
Todd Ackerman of Two Rivers said the company "categorically disagrees" with Wellmark's conclusion. He acknowledged Wellmark's allegations "revolve around the way we were compensated, and we believe we were transparent."


Branstad Says Insurance Benefits Extended

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad says Iowa has agreed to a federal recommendation that will allow thousands of residents to hang onto health insurance policies that don't meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. 
Branstad and Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart announced Wednesday that the state would grant the extension of plans through 2016.
The action will let about 330,000 Iowans retain their health insurance policies. Most buy their own insurance or are covered by small employers.
Without the move, some of those policies could be cancelled.
Branstad says in a statement that the decision gives Iowans the flexibility to maintain current coverage or shop for new plans available to them.
Eighteen other states have allowed plan extensions as permitted by federal regulations.


DAS Official Say Federal Money May Have Been Used To Pay Settlements

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An official of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services says federal money could have been used to pay money to former state employees to keep quiet about settlement agreements.
Lon Anderson, Chief Deputy Director of the DAS, appeared before the Government Oversight Committee to answer questions about the Legislature's deepening investigation into the agreements.
Democrats allege money may have been misappropriated to pay laid off workers for silence.
Anderson says in some cases money would have come from fees other government agencies pay DAS for services and it's impossible to know where that money came from.
Senator Matt McCoy says if federal money was used it could jeopardize Iowa's ability to seek federal money or the keep money it has already been given.


Fugitive For 40 Years Finally Caught

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say a man being held in Waterloo is a fugitive of more than 40 years from North Carolina.
The  the man was arrested after the Iowa Transportation Department's facial recognition system flagged his driver's license photo. Authorities say they found information in his residence that identified him as 68-year-old Ronald Dwaine Carnes.
Records say Carnes was convicted of robbery in the Winston-Salem, N.C., area in November 1970 and sentenced to 20 years. He escaped a correctional center in Huntersville, N.C., in August 1973.
The Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office says Carnes was charged Monday with committing fraudulent practices, possession of weapons by a felon and possession of a fictitious license. Records do not list an attorney.
North Carolina officials say they're working to extradite Carnes.


Council Bluffs Has Four Finalists For Police Chief Position

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Four men are vying to become the next police chief in Council Bluffs.
Mayor Matt Walsh will choose the next chief, who will replace Ralph O'Donnell, who retired in March.
Walsh tells the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil he wants to hire a chief who will have the respect of his officers, a good understanding of crime fighting and strength as a communicator.
The four people competing for the position are Fremont, Nebraska, Police Chief Jeffrey Elliott; John Farmer, former police chief in Forrest City, Arkansas, and a former Omaha police lieutenant; and Terry LeMaster and Scott Milner, both captains with the Council Bluffs police.


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