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Jesse Brothers Sioux City Journal 

Northwestern's Ben Granstra grabs Morningside's Arnijae "AP" Ponder in the first quarter of the season of the conference championship Saturday in Orange City, Iowa. Morningside defeated Northwestern 37-27 for the Great Plains Athletic Conference title.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Knife River has donated to The Journal's Goodfellows Charity. Staff members are shown Nov. 5 at the contractor's Sioux City offices.

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McTaggart, Warnstadt close careers with education, Sioux City school board

SIOUX CITY -- They have previously wrapped long careers as educators, and now Jackie Warnstadt and Mike McTaggart are one week from ending substantial stints as Sioux City School Board members.

McTaggart and Warnstadt have served a combined 19 years on the board, which sets policy for a school system that educates nearly 15,000 students. 

Also exiting the seven-member board are David Gleiser, after four years, and Miyuki Nelson, after 1 1/2 years. Gleiser decided not to seek another term, while Nelson lost her election bid in the Nov. 5 election. 

The four outgoing board members will participate in a last meeting on Nov. 25, before the four new members -- Juline Albert, Dan Greenwell, Taylor Goodvin and Monique Scarlett -- are sworn in later in the meeting.  

"I wish them all the best," McTaggart said of the incoming board members.

Warnstadt, who has spent 11 years on the board, declined the Journal's request for an interview. McTaggart, during an hour-long interview, reviewed his toughest days on the school board, plus smiled as he recounted the good times in support of students as a board member, teacher and administrator over a half century.

McTaggart asserted that people who want to get insight into middle school kids should dig into the 1987 book, "Love Me When I Am Most Unlovable." He isn't the type to wax nostalgic for children supposedly having it better in the idyllic 1950s when he came of age.

"Kids tend to be kids...There are challenges in each generation for families that the previous generation didn't have," he said.

He said the challenge of public education is to provide quality instruction to all students, not just those who come well prepared with family support. McTaggart said in many ways schooling is better today, with options beyond the core college-prep curriculum and because years ago many children with behavioral or mental challenges would have been institutionalized rather than in schools.

McTaggart, 76, was born sixth of the seven children William and Lucille McTaggart raised in Fort Dodge, Iowa. McTaggart wanted to be a pro baseball player, but encouragement from a priest and a first stint of coaching sent him in the direction of being a teacher.

After an undergraduate degree from Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, McTaggart in 1967 began a career of teaching, coaching and serving as an administrator at eight schools within the Sioux City School District and Bishop Heelan system, plus the South Sioux City and Homer districts in Nebraska. That included stints as principal at both West High and West Middle schools, and he also added advanced degrees from the University of South Dakota over that time.

He and wife Ann Marie raised three children in Sioux City. He retired from the education field in 2008, then reached "all-time retirement" in 2011 after a few years as Educational Consultant for the Boys and Girls Home in Sioux City.

"I had the best job in the world. I was around kids, I considered myself a lucky guy. No regrets," McTaggart said.

Warnstadt was a classroom teacher for 44 years, including 36 in the Sioux City district. She was the Iowa State Teacher of the Year in 2006 and retired from Leeds Elementary in 2008.

Warnstadt first won a school board election in 2008, when she got the most votes, 1,786, in a field of four candidates seeking two seats. In 2011, both McTaggart and Warnstadt were on the ballot of six candidates, and he led all candidates with 2,721 votes.

That duo was returned to the board in 2015, as joined by Gleiser, who heads the Woodbury County Economic Development Department. Nelson, a self-employed business owner, was appointed to a board vacancy in summer 2018. 

The first time McTaggart ran eight years ago, he was just beginning retirement and figured as a board member, "I was going to try to use my many different experiences in education as a resource to make good decisions for our kids in classrooms."

He added, "It was exactly what I thought it would be. There would be good days and not good days. What an honor to serve people."

"I try to not get too excited, to keep my emotions. That can be tough for an Irishman. I try to listen to people. I've been really lucky to be on a board with really talented people."

McTaggart said the toughest two decisions were pinpointing the placement for a new version of the Bryant Elementary School, which opened in August, and moving away from a middle school "team concept" in which teachers for the three grade levels met to plan and discuss key issues.

The middle school team dynamic had been in place since the district moved from a junior high to middle school conception in the 1970s, and McTaggart said those were popular with teachers and parents. He voted to replace the team concept, which was a move to financially save teaching positions, with another model, which he said got strong blowback.

"There are people who won't talk to me," McTaggart said.

McTaggart said there were 17 public meetings on the Bryant placement question, when moving it some blocks away near Leif Erikson Park and other sites were aired. Ultimately, after a new 10-acre spot could not be found, school officials settled on a three-level option at the same spot where the old school was located, and the final result was a $24 million building.

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Dean Foods bankruptcy
Too early to know how Dean Foods bankruptcy will impact Le Mars plant


LE MARS, Iowa -- It's too early to know how -- or whether -- Dean Foods' bankruptcy -- will impact the milk giant's plant in Le Mars, local officials say. 

Le Mars Mayor Dick Kirchoff said the bankruptcy has not impacted operations at the plant so far, as far as he knows. 

"As near as I can gather, it's business as usual, and so we just have to wait and see how everything works out," the mayor said Friday. "You never want to see an industry close."

Dallas-based Dean Foods, the biggest U.S. milk producer, declared bankruptcy Tuesday after a years-long slump in demand for milk. The 94-year-old company lost money in eight of its last 10 fiscal quarters and posted declining sales in seven of the last eight. 

Dairy Farmers of America, a national dairy marketing cooperative based in Kansas City, is "engaged in discussions to potentially purchase some or all assets" of Dean Foods, a Dairy Farmers of America spokeswoman said in an email to the Journal. She said, however, that "it’s premature to provide any details about specific locations at this time." 

"Any potential transaction is contingent upon various approvals, an extensive review of Dean Foods’ assets and thorough due diligence, among other conditions, including approval from the US Department of Justice and the Bankruptcy Court," the spokeswoman wrote. 

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Dean Foods' bondholders were not impressed with the Dairy Farmers of America talks, and such a deal also may cause antitrust problems. 

Neal Adler, executive director of the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce, agreed that it was too soon to gauge the fate of the Le Mars dairy plant. 

"I think it's way too early, this is going to drag on for a long period of time, and none of us here know anything as to what's happening," Adler said. 

Built in 1963 along U.S. Highway 75, the Le Mars plant was formerly operated by Wells Enterprises, the Le Mars-based family business and the nation's second-largest ice cream maker. 

Dean Foods acquired the Le Mars milk plant in a 2007 deal after Wells decided to divest its fresh milk and cultured dairy holdings to focus solely on the production and sale of ice cream and frozen novelties.

[More business coverage: Cloverleaf Cold Storage being acquired for $1.24 billion by Atlanta-based Americold.]

At the time, the new owners kept the plant's 180 employees, which includes managers, production workers, truck drivers and other support personnel. A current workforce number was not immediately available.

Awash in red ink before the bankruptcy filing, Dean Foods reportedly closed plants elsewhere. According to the Farm Journal's MILK Magazine, Dean closed dairy plants in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts in 2018, while rumors circulated of other closures. 

Kirchoff said that, whatever happens down the road, the Le Mars plant remains a valuable asset for Dean Foods.

"This happens to be a very top-notch plant, I think, for them, and the reason I can say that is because when they first bought Wells out... I know that they were very, very pleased with the condition of the plant and the efficiency of the plant, to the point where I know, at that time, they closed a plant in Lincoln, Nebraska -- a lot of that material was moved into this plant," he said. 

The Journal's Dave Dreeszen contributed to this story.

PHOTOS: 19th century Sioux City Corn Palaces