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Phillips gardening project seeks to unite people and plants

phillips_gardenPrice County Review: It may be the middle of winter, but for three Phillips residents, ideas are sprouting like spring’s first seedlings.

While it is currently buried under snow and ice, a brand new community garden rests on the eastern front lawn of the Phillips High School. Community members Eric Knudson, Marc Peterson, and Julie Olson are the organizing energy behind the garden, which will be planted for the first time this spring after snow melts. While yet unplanted, the garden has already been the focus of many volunteer hours and community involvement… and the trio hopes it will grow from here.

“We want to make something that is useful and something the community can be proud of,” said Knudson.

The garden has ten 4×12 raised beds, and the location offers the opportunity for expansion as community interest in the garden grows. The garden’s organizers are currently investigating the possibility of writing grants down the road to help with expanding the garden’s use to the community.

“We think this will be substantial enough to be able to provide produce to community, the school lunch program, and even the local food pantries eventually,” said Olson. “Our overarching goal is to provide fresh produce for community members who don’t have it for whatever reason – be it a lack of space, finances, knowledge… Whatever it may be, they can have the opportunity to come and help with the garden.”

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Phillips School District: Working towards greater community connection

Price County Review: Improving workplace morale and building a positive presence in the community has been the aim of Phillips School District’s culture-climate project over the last three years.

The initiative, titled Creating Community Connections, was first introduced in August 2013 at the school’s in-service day. While formerly just for teachers and support staff, the in-service day now encompasses all staff, and has seen nearly 100 percent participation in all three years.

Numerous studies indicate that improving employee and community relations within a school district can actually improve the education offered to students. While other school districts in the state do engage in culture-climate improvement activities, the majority of these do not connect back to the local community as does the Phillips series of activities.

Phillips’ culture-climate improvement activities are designed to bring all staff together in varying projects, facilitating a forum for those who would not ordinarily meet or communicate in their normal workday. Understanding of the other jobs and who does them is encouraged to promote a greater communication and respect amongst all staff.

The first stage of the initiative brings all staff together on the first in-service day in August, where group activities take place. The second stage of the culture-climate activities continues throughout the school year, as staff members come up with activities to engage in. This stage is purely voluntary – employees may choose whether or not to participate. Participation rates have remained high, either at 100 percent or just below.

This year, many staff members will be spotted around the community participating in a variety of events. Staff planned and engaged in events ranging from ice fishing tournaments to baking contests.

The aim of this year’s activities? Improving communication.

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DNR grant to help Phillips plan for emerald ash borer, involve students in experiential learning projects Forty-year-old ash trees line Highway 13 entering Phillips from the south. But these same trees are at risk of the deadly emerald ash borer.

EAB hit the city of Rhinelander in fall 2014, making Oneida County the first county in the Northwoods with the pest. Price County has yet to find the beetle, but naturalists in Phillips are planning ahead.

Phillips has offered people the chance to adopt and care for ash trees in town, and the town is also looking into using chemicals to protect some of its most important trees. Meanwhile, the city has been removing ash trees that are already weak, sick, or dying.

“We’ve been taking those out, probably 10, 12, 15 trees a year,” said Phillips Tree Committee chair Marjory Brzeskiewicz. “We don’t have a huge ash population as far as numbers of trees, but it does make up 17 percent of this urban forest, so that’s a little bit high.”

A new $25,000 matching grant from the DNR will help Phillips create a plan for fighting the emerald ash borer. The grant will also allow the city to work with Phillips schools. Students will help with a citywide tree inventory, learn about urban forestry, and plant trees.

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Books on the Bus: New initiative introduced at Phillips School District

Price County Review: It all started with reading.

For Megan Peterson, special education teacher at Phillips Elementary, it was while reading an education magazine that she happened upon a story about a Wisconsin man who introduced the idea of putting books on school buses… and changed the entire experience of bus riding. As reading tends to do, it inspired Peterson to introduce the concept into the Phillips School District.

Ted Chaudoir, a  bus driver for Southern Door County School District, invented what is now known as the Books on the Bus program. It combines extending literacy outside of school hours at the same time as decreasing disruption on buses… especially during long bus rides. In practice, the reading initiative has existed – and thrived – at the Southern Door County School District for two years.

Peterson, enthused by the success story she read, turned to fellow PES teacher Julie Zumach. Zumach was equally excited, and together the two teachers traveled to the district’s bus garage where bus garage supervisor Cindy Quelle jumped on board with the rapidly expanding idea.

“We had a lot of support right away… which was very exciting,” said Peterson. School administration was supportive of the project and so was the school board when the idea was presented to them, so Peterson moved forward on the next step of the project – getting books. She printed up fliers, letters and posters asking community members for book donations to help get the project off the ground.

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Small student body no obstacle for Mercer basketball

WJFW TV-12: To the untrained eye, the Mercer boys basketball team may not have appeared to make major progress last year.
After all, the Tigers went 6–17.
But during the previous five years, Mercer posted a combined record of 5–93.

The significance of those numbers comes into slightly clearer focus when you consider that Mercer has just 32 students in its entire student body. That total makes it one of the smallest schools in the state, and ensures that the Tigers regularly play against teams from schools several times Mercer’s size.

The participation numbers this year might feel paltry at some other schools, but they’re nearly record-setting for the Tigers.
“This is the first season—I looked back—in many, many years that we’ve had 10 people,” said Mercer head coach Adam Miller.
In total, only 16 boys attend Mercer High School.
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