Sunday, November 30, 2008

D-Club Seeks Volunteers For Dec. 20 Tourney

The D-Club is looking for former DHS wrestlers to volunteer for the upcoming D-Club Wrestling Tourney, set for Saturday, Dec. 20.

D-Club leaders are requesting the help of former DHS wrestlers and student managers to assist with the many responsibilities of running the tournament, including keeping score, running the clocks, and other various duties.

If you know of a former Longhorn wrestler or student manager who would like to volunteer at the Dorchester Tournament, please call Dorchester athletic director Scott Pohl at (402) 946-2781.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008: A Reminder To Count Your Blessings

Every now and again, the Times receives an e-mail that we feel compelled to share with the rest of our readers. Today, we received such a note. With the permission of the author, the letter is reprinted below.

This message is especially relevant at a time when the outside world presents so much uncertainty and fear. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we did, and that it will serve as a reminder to count your blessings -- everyday.

Happy Thanksgiving.

"Sweet home Dorchester! Oh sweet Nebraska! On this
Thanksgiving we have so many thing to be grateful for.

"You never really know how amazing something, or someplace,
or someone is when you don't have it or them. I lived out of state for several
years and during that time I reminded myself almost daily of the things I
missed back home and am thankful for.

"On this Thanksgiving, I will once again take time to give
thanks for those things that make life worth living. They are...

1.) The fall harvest
2.) My small town and the feeling of community
3.) A Main Street I can walk with no noise, litter or fear of violence
4.) Mom & pop businesses & no big box stores
5.) Dorchester sports
6.) Small town chatter, even the gossip
7.) Hunters, farmers and our community elders
8.) Not being honked at in your car when you don't run a red light
9.) The smell of a wood burning stove or fireplace
10.) Pumpkin pie, homemade jelly and all the great local baking

"This is a good start. Oh yes, I am also thankful for my
great-grand parents who came to Dorchester to start their
families. It is because of them Dorchester and Nebraska is my


-Name Withheld
Mother, wife and farmer

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cougars In Saline County?

(UPDATE 11/26, 3:15 p.m. -- Times' reader JR Wolfe has noted that the photos we were sent were not taken in Nebraska, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The photos actually originated from the Black Hills of South Dakota. Our thanks to JR for his timely correction and for recounting the story of his own siting.)

Earlier this week, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission announced it is looking into the shooting of a mountain lion south of Chadron. On Nov. 22, a 16-year-old boy shot and killed the 100-pound female cat when it approached within 15 steps of the hunter.

The mountain lion was reported to have shown no fear of the boy, who was with a group of deer hunters. Mountain lions are a protected species in Nebraska, but the Commission says the boy won't face charges because he apparently shot the cougar in self-defense.

Over the past 19 months, the Times has received a handful of e-mails from readers who claim to have spotted mountain lions or mountain lion tracks in the Dorchester area. There is no evidence of the cats in Saline County, according to the Game and Parks Commission. However, we certainly don't rule out the possibility that a mountain lion or two are roaming surrounding countryside -- especially after seeing the photos we received from a reader of who resides in Nebraska's Washington County, north of the Omaha metro.

According to our Washington County reader, the pictures accompanying this story were taken a few weeks ago by a wildlife camera attached to a deer stand near Fort Calhoun, Neb. on the county road back behind the local school. We have not been able to confirm whether or not these photos are legitimate.

Most of Nebraska's 56 confirmed cougar sightings since 1991 — some of them duplicates — have been in northwest Nebraska between Chadron and Harrison. However, in the last decade there have been several reported sightings of mountain lions in eastern Nebraska.

As the Omaha World-Herald reports, railroad workers near Blair said a mountain lion trapped them atop a railcar earlier this month. A Ponca Hills man watched a mountain lion eating acorns and apples outside his house in mid-October. A mushroom hunter saw a mountain lion near a deer carcass near Verdel in northeast Nebraska in May and later got photos of the cougar.

Bottom line, the Times staff doesn't fault any Saline County resident who is on the lookout for cougars in his or her own backyard.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dorchester School Compares Favorably To Peers

Education in Nebraska is expensive business. About 65 percent of your local property tax dollar goes to your local school district. At Dorchester Public School, more than 70 percent of receipts come from local taxpayers.

All things considered, school district patrons have every right to expect high standards from their school's administration, instructors and students. (It is also why district patrons should expect efforts to encourage young people to return to their home area after college so they can contribute to the local economy, but that is another story for another day.)

So how does Dorchester Public School compare to other Nebraska schools?

Using statistics found on the Nebraska Department of Education Web site, the Times has compiled key figures to give our readers a good idea of where Dorchester Public School is succeeding and where there is room for improvement.

For example, when it comes to preparation of college-bound student, Dorchester appears to be doing considerably better than the majority of other public schools in Nebraska. For school year 2006-07, the latest year for which statistics are available, the average composite ACT score of Dorchester students was 23.8. That compares favorably to the 22.1 statewide average and the 21.2 U.S. average.

Dorchester School earns an "exemplary" rating in both reading and mathematics following standardized tests taken in the 2006-07 school year -- again, the latest results available on the Education Department's site. The statewide assessment tests are given to students in grades 4, 8 and 11.

The vast majority of Dorchester students met the state's reading standards. For school year 2006-07, the 95 percent of fourth graders, 94 percent of eighth graders, and 84 percent of high school juniors could meet the reading standards. This included English Language Learners and Special Education students.

As a whole, Dorchester students scored slightly lower on mathematics and writing assessments. Still, scores in both subjects were well above 70 percent. The lone exception were the eleventh graders, with one-third of the class failing to meet the state's writing test. (While 100 percent of the class' females met the writing standards, only 43 percent of the class' males were able to do so.)

A few more interesting facts we found:
  • For school year 2006-2007, the average Dorchester teacher salary was $34,906 (not including health insurance and other benefits) compared to the state average teacher salary of $42,080.

  • About 98 percent of DHS teachers were endorsed, compared to the state average of 94 percent. (Endorsements mean the teachers majored in the subjects they teach.)

  • Dorchester's graduation rate in 2007 was 100 percent.

  • About 8 percent of Dorchester students were English Language Learners (primarily Spanish speaking) compared to the state average of 6.5 percent.

  • About 18 percent of Dorchester students were Special Education students, compared to the state average of about 15 percent, meaning additional expenses for the local school district.

  • Exactly 80 percent of Dorchester fourth graders receiving free or reduced-price lunches met or exceeded the state's writing standards (NOTE: This is a clarification of our orginial post.)
More Dorchester-specific information can be found here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

EDITORIAL: Entrepreneurial Communities Grant Is A Winner

Gov. Dave Heineman last week announced that nearly $320,000 in grants funding had been awarded to 13 Nebraska communities through the Building Entrepreneurial Communities Act (BECA), which supports regional economic and community development partnerships in rural areas of the state.

According to the governor, BECA is a successful tool for rural development in part because it "brings city and counties together with local partners to promote a stronger regional economy."

Some of the projects receiving grants include:

  • $32,355 for the towns of Red Cloud and Guide Rock to promote regional businesses.

  • $39,600 for Dawson County and the city of Cozad to create marketing materials to help attract and retain residents, promote the Dawson County Careers Web site to those outside Nebraska, and provide entrepreneurship training in technical trades for area youth.

  • $32,000 for the Panhandle village of Lewellen and Garden County Schools to develop entrepreneurship skills among students and local residents, as well as develop green industry and eco-tourism opportunities.

  • $36,000 for the Norfolk Area Recruiters Initiative, a partnership between the cities of Battle Creek, Madison and Norfolk and Cuming County, to implement a recruiting campaign aimed at former northeast Nebraska residents that includes Web site development and direct mail.

  • $36,315 for a partnership between Phelps County and the village of Funk for marketing campaign to recruit alumni and others with compelling local connections to move back to the area.

It is worth noting that only 18 partnerships applied for funding this year. Again, 13 projects were funded.

We at the Times like the idea of smaller communities working together to grow their businesses and retain their younger residents. Perhaps the new members of the Dorchester Village Board can convince their peers that Dorchester needs to become more aggressive in forming a long-term strategy that includes partnering with local businesses and the school in pursuit of statewide grants -- and to allow and encourage the use of village staff resources to do so.

Maybe the members of Dorchester Area Community Association can work with the Village Board or help raise funds to provide matching dollars to improve the chances of Dorchester landing one of these statewide grants.

The BECA program seems to be a good place to start. (For more information on BECA or the application process, contact Linda Fettig at (308) 749-2291, or email We know there are bright, energetic folks in other small Saline County communities, such as Friend and Wilber, who would jump at the opportunity to collaborate with Dorchester on such an effort. It's worth a look.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NEWS BRIEFS: Dorchester Students & Scholars Earn Honors

  • DHS Takes Fifth Place At UNL Math Day: DHS students solidified their school's reputation for excellence in mathematics with a top five finish at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's 19th-annual Math Day last week. UNL's Math Day brings together hundreds of students from across Nebraska. The event consists of two individual and two team mathematics competitions. All students started with a multiple-choice preliminary exam called PROBE I ( Problems Requiring Original and Brilliant Effort ). In Class D, the top five teams in PROBE I were: Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran 50.0, College View Academy 49.33, Bertrand 49.0, Heartland Homeschoolers 48.67, Dorchester 43.33. Dorchester was the only Saline County school to place at UNL Math Day.

  • Longhorns Named To All-District Football Squads: District D1-2 football coaches have named Logan Morris to the all-district second team offense, while Spencer Kotas has received honorable mention. Brandon Bruha has been named to the all-district first team defense, with Morris named to the second team defense and Kotas again receiving honorable mention. Bruha has also been named all-district first team punter.

  • Lady Longhorns Recognized by CRC: DHS junior Karmen Lawver was recently named to the Crossroads Conference first team all-conference volleyball team, while senior Wendy Boller was recognized as an honorable mention recipient.

  • Rev. Roger Wolfe Makes Front Page Of Lincoln Journal Star: We at the Times were impressed a couple of weeks ago when we saw the face of Dorchester resident Rev. Roger Wolfe grace the front page of the Nov. 12 edition of the Lincoln Journal Star. Rev. Wolfe, who is chaplain of the American Legion Dist. 11, spoke at this month's Veterans Day program at Milford High School. One local reader who heard Rev. Wolfe's speech told the Times: "I wish I could have recorded it. He never says the same thing twice because he speaks from the heart and captures what he observes and hears from those surrounding him at the moment."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dorchester Resident Sues Farmland Over Wages

We at the Times have editorialized about the pitfalls of illegal immigration and undocumented workers. Today some of those workers, with the assistance of a Dorchester resident -- who is a legal resident as far as we know -- could end up biting the hand that feeds them.

The Associated Press reports that "former employees who say they weren't paid for work away from the production line are suing a Crete slaughterhouse." The federal lawsuit filed against Farmland Foods and Smithfield Foods alleges hourly employees haven't been paid for time spent dressing in protective gear, sanitizing tools, sharpening knives and walking to work stations, among other things.

The AP report continues: "Mauricio Guarjardo of Columbus and Maria Guzman Morales of Dorchester filed the class-action lawsuit Thursday on behalf of themselves and current and former employees going back to September 2005."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Accident East Of Dorchester Closes Hwy 33

A 25-year-old Saline County man was taken by LifeFlight to a Lincoln hospital after a crash about two miles west of Crete just before 7 a.m. Thursday.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Tyler Brandt of Friend had been driving a F-150 pickup westbound on Highway 33 near County Road 1900 when he rear-ended a westbound garbage truck driven by 51-year-old Michael Scott of Beaver Crossing. Saline County Deputy Tom Mitchell said Scott was attempting to make a right turn off the highway.

Crete firefighters extricated Brandt from the truck. There were no other reports of injuries. Brandt was taken by LifeFlight to BryanLGH Medical Center West. He was listed in serious condition as of early Thursday afternoon. The crash closed Highway 33 for at least an hour and a half.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

EDITORIAL: Challenges Brought By Illegal Immigration Have Just Begun

Throughout 2008, this publication has analyzed and editorialized on the challenges brought to Saline County by illegal immigration. Our staff has tracked the disproportionately high number of crimes occurring in Crete by the Hispanic population. We have also focused on the fiscal strains placed on our schools, public infrastructure and quality of life.

Fortunately, public outcry and pressure on our elected officials is starting to pay off in the struggle to curb the waves of undocumented aliens coming to the Heartland and impacting the Midwest's quality of life, especially in meatpacking hubs such as Saline County.

The Associated Press is reporting that federal officials have deported and arrested record numbers of illegal immigrants over the past year in a five-state region that includes Nebraska, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data released Thursday.

The AP reports: "Bloomington, Minn., ICE field office -- which oversees Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota -- deported more than 4,900 illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2008. The figures for Oct. 1, 2007 to Sept. 30 are up nearly 20 percent from 4,100 the previous year.

"About 2,100 of those returned to their native countries in fiscal 2008 had prior criminal convictions."

That's making a sizable dent in the problem. But only a dent. In 2005, the Pew Hispanic Center released a state-by-state breakdown report, making it one of the most recent estimates available. That report estimated Nebraska could have had between 20,000 and 35,000 illegal immigrants. We at the Times believe the figure could be closer to 50,000 or 60,000 today.

But here is the figure in the AP story that blew us away: At ICE's Lincoln facility alone, more than 960,000 applications for immigration benefits were processed, along with more than 178,000 naturalization applications in 2008.

Read it again. Let those numbers sink in.

Clearly, the challenge of illegal immigration is not going away any time soon. Perhaps the citizens of Saline County and other locations impacted by undocumented aliens have been too passive when communicating with government officials.

Last spring, the Nebraska Legislature's Judicial Committee, led by Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, killed a bill requested by the governor to ensure that no illegal immigrant received state welfare benefits of any kind. According to the numbers above, such legislation would be helpful.

The cost of educating the children of illegal immigrants, alone, is staggering and unsustainable. According to the non-partisan Federation for American Immigration Reform, Nebraskans in 2004 spent more than $100 million on education for the children of illegal immigrants. (Click on chart above.)

The debate over illegal immigration should not be about xenophobia or nativism. Indeed, this debate is about sustainability. If you believe that our government -- at both the federal and state level -- needs to intensify its efforts to curb illegal immigration, take a few minutes today to contact your elected officials. Ask them to intensify their efforts to improve border security; do away with welfare and other economic benefits for illegals, including in-state tuition rates at the university; and increase funding for ICE to enforce immigration laws.

The information below will allow you to e-mail your elected federal and state representatives today. Remember, the politicians are obligated to listen to you and consider your priorities. But they can only do so if you let them know what is on your mind.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Little Longhorn Basketball Camp Announced

Beginning this Saturday morning, Dorchester's elementary school students will have a chance to improve their basketball skills.

The 2008 Little Longhorn Youth Basketball Camp will be held November 8, 15, and 22 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the Dorchester School gymnasium.

DHS girls basketball head coach Steve Fusco and DHS boys head coach Scott Leisy will run the camp with current players serving as counselors. The camp is free to any student currently in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

Players may purchase a Dorchester Basketball Camp t-shirt for $10.

The purpose of the camp is skill development and providing younger players "a base knowledge of the rules," while providing the chance for game play and a basic understanding of basketball. But most of all, the purpose of the camp is to have fun!

Numerous offensive and defensive drills will be conducted along with drills to improve ball handling, dribbling, shooting, and passing. Contests will be held with prizes awarded as well!

According to Coach Leisy, campers need to make sure they bring proper gym shoes along with shorts/windpants and t-shirt to participate in. Also each camper needs to have the waiver signed by a parent/guardian before participating in the first week of camp.

Parents with questions should contact the school at (402) 946-2781 and ask for Coach Fusco or Coach Leisy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nov. 4 Election Results Are In

(UPDATED: 10:30 p.m., 11/4) -- According to the Saline County Election Clerk's unofficial results, Lyle Weber (104 votes) and Brandon Koll (84 votes) are the newest members of the Dorchester Village Board. Only two votes separated Koll and third-place finisher/incumbent Alan Slepicka (82 votes), who was followed closely in the tally by incumbent Dean Pracheil (78 votes). Ron Kahle (329 votes), Lindsey Zoubek (281 votes) and Bill Boller (210 votes) have been elected to four-year terms on the Dorchester Board of Education. Only seven votes separated Boller and fourth-place finisher Lisa Wells. (Provisional ballots -- those cast by voters who have had recent, unreported changes of address -- have not yet been counted.) Based on exit poll interviews and discussions with Dorchester voters throughout the day, we at the Times had estimated the following local candidates have won their respective races at 8 p.m. Tuesday evening:

Village Board
  • Lyle Weber
  • Brandon Koll

School Board

  • Lindsey Zoubek
  • Ron Kahle
  • Bill Boller

We can confirm that more than 500 area residents cast votes today at Dorchester's Community Building, likely setting a record in voter turnout for Dorchester.

Statewide Races/Measures

  • U.S. Senate: Mike Johanns (R) defeated Scott Kleeb (D), 57%-40%.
  • U.S. Congress (NE-03): Rep. Adrian Smith (R) beat Jay Stoddard (D), 77%-23%.
  • State Affirmative Action Initiative: Affirmative action banned. 57% for the ban; 43% against.

Dorchester voted 257-217 for John McCain over Barack Obama, who won the presidency with 52% of the national vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nov. 4: Decision Day In Dorchester

It is Nov. 4 and the election is finally here. It's decision day in Dorchester.

Dorchester area voters have 12 hours, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., to cast their ballots, if they haven’t already done so through early voting. (For a recap of local races, see our Oct. 8 story.) The polling place for most residents of the Dorchester area is the Dorchester Community Building.

If you reside outside of Dorchester city limits and are uncertain of where you should cast your vote, go to to find your designated polling place.

In addition to races for Dorchester School Board and Village Board, as well as the presidential contest, local voters will choose a new U.S. senator and their congressmen. Other key ballot measures include Initiative 424, which would ban affirmative action, and Amendment 1, which would allow communities new means of raising funds for economic development. (We at the Times will be voting "For" both of these measures.)

Secretary of State John Gale predicts 72 percent of registered voters will cast ballots statewide, which would result in a record 833,000 voter turnout.

As a reminder, campaign buttons, stickers, hats, T-shirts and other campaign paraphernalia are not allowed in a polling place. It is illegal to campaign within 200 feet of a polling site. Proper identification will be required at the polling place of people who are newly registered by mail and did not provide identification. ID at the polling place is not required of other voters.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lady Longhorns Face Do-Or-Die Scenario Monday

The road gets dangerous for the Lady Longhorns beginning tomorrow. From here on in high school volleyball, it's win or go home.

DHS will take on rival Meridian in the D1-2 volleyball subdistrict, which gets underway tomorrow (Monday), Nov. 3., at 6:30 p.m. in Fairbury. The winner will go on to play either Deshler, Diller-Odell or Bruning-Davenport in the subdistrict final on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Tomorrow's foe, Meridian (17-7), is ranked No. 10 in the D1 standings of both the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald. The Lady Longhorns are 11-12 on the season and more than 20 spots behind the Mustangs in the Class D1 point standings. (UPDATE: The Mustangs ended the Lady Longhorns' season Monday night, defeating DHS in three sets, 25-11, 25-20, 25-20. The Lady Horns finish with a 11-13 season, with key players returning next season.)

Dorchester Residents Face Election Day Choices

Election Day is less than 48 hours away. As we reported last month, residents of Dorchester and the surrounding area face some tough choices Tuesday, including deciding who will represent them on the village and school boards.

A near record voter turnout is predicted this year, thanks largely to the hotly contested presidential race. Here in Dorchester, however, local races dominate much of the current political talk.

For those who cannot get enough of local politics, the Times is running two separate online polls in the left column of our Web site. The online polls will end at 5 p.m. on Election Day.

In the comments section of this story, we want to hear which candidates you are supporting and why. (Please, no negative campaigning. Tell us why we should be voting for someone -- not why we should be opposing others And keep it civil.)

Once again, here is a recap of the school board and village board races.


Three seats are open on the Dorchester Board of Education. The primary election last spring eliminated one school board candidate, while allowing three others to emerge as popular choices among the voters.
The results of the May vote were as follows:

  • Kahle (incumbent) -- 170 votes;
  • Zoubek -- 131 votes;
  • Boller (incumbent) -- 120 votes;
  • Wells -- 92 votes;
  • Burkey -- 79 votes;
  • Jacobson -- 66 votes; and
  • Hoffman -- 32 votes.

All the school board candidates listed above, except Mikki Hoffman, will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. The top three vote recipients will go on to serve four-year terms.

When asked last spring which single issue was most important when voting for school board members, a Times' poll found that nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said student performance. Other key issues cited by readers were teacher/staff evaluation (16 percent); cooperation with the village government (15 percent); and new spending (14 percent).


In the race for Dorchester Village Board, six are running for two open seats. The condition of Dorchester's streets seems to be the issue atop the minds of most voters. A June poll conducted by the Times showed that 62 percent of readers said town streets should get immediate attention by the village board. Other top concerns were unkempt yards/homes (12 percent) and the water/sewer system (11 percent).

The six village board candidates appearing on the Nov. 4 ballot are:

  • Jeff Jacobson;
  • Todd Jensen;
  • Brandon Koll;
  • Dean Pracheil (incumbent);
  • Alan Slepicka (incumbent); and
  • Lyle Weber.