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Celebrating Seuss

It’s Read Across America week, during which children around the country celebrate the wacky, long-lasting legacy of Dr. Seuss.

Students in Beatrice elementary schools spent the week wearing silly socks and mismatching clothes and had other themed days in celebration of the rhyming “Green Eggs and Ham” author.

On Thursday, it was pajama day at Paddock Lane and the kindergarten students in Lindsay Bent’s class had a mysterious mission. They were instructed to bring a pillowcase to class but they didn’t know what they would be doing with it until Bent broke out the markers.

In honor of pajama day, and after having read “Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book” and “I am not Getting up Today,” kindergartners turned their pillowcases into flashcards to help them learn their vocabulary words before catching some Zs.

“Since we're in our pajamas and we're doing Dr. Seuss week, we are writing sight words on pillow cases so they can take them home and they can practice their sight words before bed,” Bent said.

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9 file for Beatrice School Board

And then there were nine. 

As the deadline for candidates to file for the next election drew to a close on Thursday, a pair of political newcomers joined a crowded field for a total of nine candidates vying for a spot on the Beatrice Public Schools Board of Education.

Eric Trusty joined the race for a seat on the board, saying that he wants to make sure Beatrice has the best school system possible.

Trusty, who works as practice administrator at Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center, has two children currently enrolled in the Beatrice district, including one at the high school and one in grade school.

“I want to make sure we’re providing the best educational opportunities for the students in the district,” Trusty said. “When I’m doing physician recruitment for the hospital, they do look at the schools as one of their decisions about if they live in the community or come to Beatrice. I want to make sure we’re continuing to make an economical impact on the community.“

Trusty admitted that elementary facilities will be a source of great discussion in the future and admitted that the topic of a new centralized elementary school might be resurrected although voters have twice denied the notion.

“I think it’s definitely something that the voters have already addressed that issue,” Trusty said. “I think in the future when you look at it from an economic development standpoint, it’s something we need to definitely look at. Is it a definite need? I think those are things that need to be addressed. Can we get by with the buildings we have? Yes. But does that give staff the resources they need and is that what’s best?”

Trusty, whose wife, Erin, works for the school district, also gave his opinion on a recent proposal from school administration that would make grade-level specific elementary schools.

“There’s going to be families that have students that fall across different grade levels and I would see that as a burden on those families. I think we want to keep families in the same school, it helps create somewhat of a family atmosphere.”

Trusty, who has not ran for public office before, said that while facilities will be a hot topic, he wants to make sure the district is being fiscally responsible.

“There have been some students who have left the district,” he noted while explaining lost revenue. “We need to look at why they have left and change that thought process.”

Joining Trusty in the race, Erin Chadwick filed to run for a spot on the board.

Erin and her husband, Trevor, own and operate Brown’s Shoe Fit in downtown Beatrice. Chadwick also works as the marketing coordinator for NGage economic development group.

The School Board currently has six members, though beginning in 2019, a seventh will be added. With the seventh seat being added, there will be four spots up for grabs in the 2018 election.

Board member Nancy Sedlacek did not file for re-election. Board members Jon Zimmerman and Doris Martin have filed with hopes of another four-year term. Eric Book, Eugene Fiester, Monte Lofing, Andrew Pinney and Matt Langley have also filed for election to the school board.

Because there are more than double the number of open seats, the election will be featured on the May 15 primary ballot. The top eight will then move on to the general election.

Among the other key contested races around Gage County, four candidates have filed for the Gage County Supervisor District 1 spot. 

District 1 is currently held by Myron Dorn, who will give up his seat on the county board and turn his attention to campaigning for the District 30 seat in the Nebraska Legislature, where incumbent Roy Baker has decided to not seek a second term. Dorn is joined in that race by Joe Murray of Firth and Don Schuller of Wymore. 

Battling for the county board seat are Republicans Eddie Dorn and Norm Parde Jr., along with Democrats Rob Ruskamp and Paul Weber. 

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Liberty man arrested for sex offender violation

A Liberty man was arrested Wednesday on two counts of failure to register as a sex offender.

Timothy Erks, 23, was arrested by Gage County Sheriff’s deputies on Feb. 28 on a warrant for violating the Nebraska Sex Offender Registration Act.

Erks, who in 2015 was sentenced to two years in prison for sexually assaulting children, was arrested for living or staying at addresses that he hadn’t reported to the sheriff’s office, as required under the sex offender act.

The arrest warrant issued for Erks on Feb. 15 said that the Gage County Sheriff’s Office began a month-long investigation containing emails, voicemails and reports from citizens, Diller-Odell Public School District, the Superior Police Department, the Odell Village Marshal’s Office and Erks’ employer, which indicated that he was in violation of the sex offender registration act.

The warrant said that Erks had been occasionally staying at one residence in Superior and another in Odell. Both residences had children in them and Erks may have been left alone in the company of the children before the owners knew of his sex offender status, the warrant said.

In January of 2015, Erks was sentenced to two years in prison for crimes committed in June of 2013. Three additional charges were dropped due to a plea agreement, with the two remaining charges being class 1 misdemeanors. One year on each count was the maximum allowed sentence for the charges.

According to Court documents, a 6-year-old told police Erks put his hand in her pants and underwear when she was five. She said she told Erks “no,” and tried to pull away, but he was too strong for her.

A 16-year-old reported that Erks performed sex acts on her as many as 20 times when she was 7-8 years old and he was 9-10 years old. When she told him to stop, the affidavit states, Erks blackmailed her into continuing.

A 12-year-old girl said that when she was five, Erks attempted to have sex with her in a shed and allegedly removed her clothes. She also told authorities that Erks had exposed his genitals to her and several others when she was seven. Erks was 11 and 13 during the alleged incidents.

A 15-year old female reported that Erks made several sexual advances towards her when she was 13, explaining how they could have sex and not get caught. She told investigators she refused his advances.

She also said when she was 13, Erks began tickling her in a bedroom and used his hand to advance on her sexually. The report states the girl struck a wall several times trying to get someone else’s attention and she tried to move away from Erks.

The girl also said that Erks allegedly exposed himself to her when he was 17 and she was 14.

Erks will have his first appearance in court on Friday morning to face the two new charges.

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Couple given probation for pot charges

A married couple from Wymore were sentenced to probation on Thursday, stemming from marijuana charges in 2017.

Nicholas and Audra Troxel appeared in court for sentencing on March 1. Nicholas Troxel was given four years of probation for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a playground and Audra Troxel was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 18 months probation for attempted possession of THC and attempted possession of greater than one pound.

During a police investigation, Gage County Sheriff’s deputies found three pounds of marijuana, mostly in heat-sealed plastic bags and some in one-ounce bags for individual sale, as well as a digital scale, a box of baggies, a heat-sealing machine, a .270 rifle, six jars of suspected hash oil and $6,738 in cash that was recovered from the residence.

Judge Julie Smith also ordered the civil forfeiture of the $6,738 in cash that was found during a search of the couple’s home.

Smith said that due to the serious nature of the felony offence that Nicholas Troxel was being sentenced for, she was imposing several 15-day jail sentences. The sentences—scheduled in March and September for the next three years—are waiverable, the judge said, meaning if Troxel does well on probation, avoids controlled substances and completes required drug treatment, the court will waive the jail sentences.

“I really want to stress that the biggest incentive for you to do well on your probation, other than having a healthy life and being able to provide for your family is, if you don't, and you come back in here for resentencing, you could be looking at as much as 50 years in prison,” Smith told him.