Picture Trio

Tracy Hvezda-Lehtola and the cities of Mound and Orono are this year’s recipients of the Ann Bremer White Hawks award, which recognizes outstanding service and commitment to Westonka students and the district. (Submitted photo)

A selection committee made up of the Westonka school board and staff/community members has chosen Tracy Hvezda-Lehtola, the City of Mound and the City of Orono as the 2021 recipients of the Ann Bremer White Hawks Award. The purpose of the annual community award is to recognize outstanding service and commitment to Westonka students and the district.

The award is named in honor of Ann Bremer, a former Westonka school board member whose record of service as a district parent, community member and school board member continues to characterize the contributions made by the award nominees. Bremer served on the Westonka school board from 2004 until her death in 2017.

Those recognized are leaders in positively impacting the lives and experiences of students and their families and advancing the mission and vision of the school district. Award winners are involved in service that makes a meaningful contribution to Westonka students, an individual school or program or the district overall, either over a period of time or in a single, significant way.

Tracy Hvezda-Lehtola is being honored for many years of service to the district, beginning before she even had children in school and continuing to the present day. As a children’s librarian at the Westonka branch of the Hennepin County Library system, Hvezda-Lehtola sought to offer students at Grandview Middle School extra services, like summer book clubs, and she provided help for parents with technology and programming. She has consistently participated in big and small ways like accompanying teachers on field trips or being a tireless worker for an event. 

Shirley Hills Primary School media specialist Deb Loomis nominated Hvezda-Lehtola for the award. She said Hvezda-Lehtola continues to be an advocate for literacy in the district and initiated bringing in authors for student exposure and inspiration. Hvezda-Lehtola has been a Read-A-Thon coordinator and worked on a school-wide goal to promote reading. She faithfully donated countless hours to the Shirley Hills carnival and served as Wolf Ridge parent coordinator. She is also active on the Westonka Community Theatre Board.

“Tracy has a positive, gentle, quiet way of contributing,” said Loomis. “She is a true blessing and asset to our district and community. Our school and district have greatly benefited from her dedication and willingness to give.”

The City of Mound and the City of Orono are being honored in gratitude for their generous allocations to the school district of federal CARES Act dollars to help defray the extra costs of making the schools safe for students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In September, the City of Mound approved $500,000 in CARES Act funds and the City of Orono allocated $105,584 in additional funds to support the district.

According to superintendent Kevin Borg, Westonka Schools was committed from the very beginning to having the schools open for in-person instruction to the greatest extent permitted, but it quickly became apparent that the cost of PPE, sanitation supplies, different furnishings and so on was going to be a significant hit to the school district budget.

Borg was “incredibly grateful” for the extraordinary support shown by Mound Mayor Ray Salazar, Orono Mayor Dennis Walsh and the Mound and Orono city councils, which directly contributed to efforts to provide a safe and successful education plan.

Even more than the financial donation, however, Borg said he appreciated the spirit of community collaboration in which it was given.

“In my 20-plus years in the Westonka community, this is one of the finest examples of how our cities have partnered with the Westonka school district in a time of need,” Borg said. “The cities saw that safely reopening schools to students was in the best interest of our children, our families and our entire community.”

“This assistance not only made a huge difference in the success of this school year but also in how the Westonka school district is positioned to continue to meet the needs of our students in the future,” Borg added.

Borg plans to present the awards to the two cities at upcoming council meetings. Hvezda-Lehtola will be honored at a future event, possibly a fall football game.

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