School District Seeks Feedback for Proposed Boundary Changes

At the February 24, 2015 meeting, the Fargo School Board preliminarily approved changes to the secondary school attendance boundaries for implementation in the 2016-17 school year.  As Fargo grows and changes, enrollment is declining at north side secondary schools and reaching capacity at the south side secondary schools.  Enrollment projections show the south side schools will reach or exceed capacity within the next five years.  Therefore, a shift in boundaries at the secondary level is needed to maintain equitable academic and co-curricular programming at all secondary schools.

For more information, visit www.fargo.k12.nd.us/boundarymaps.

Three public forums on the secondary school boundary changes are scheduled for families to hear about the implementation plan and ask questions:

Wednesday, March 11 – 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Clara Barton Elementary School Gymnasium
1417 South 6th Street, Fargo

Thursday, March 12 – 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Jefferson Elementary School Gymnasium
1701 South 4th Avenue, Fargo

Wednesday, March 18 – 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Centennial Elementary School Gymnasium 2
4201 South 25th Street, Fargo

Feedback is also currently being received on these changes from now until March 19.  All feedback will be collated and provided to administration and Board members.

To submit feedback, visit www.fargo.k12.nd.us/boundaryfeedback

The School Board will discuss the secondary school boundary changes and feedback received at their March 24 regular meeting.

Selection Process for Personal Learning Devices

Westrick, WilliamNext Generation of Devices for Glass Paper Project
By Information Technology Director Bill Westrick

By the start of the 2015-2016 school year, the Glass Paper Project (GPP) will have personal learning devices in the hands of every middle and high school student in the Fargo Public School District. The first devices deployed with GPP are now three years old and reaching the end of their life cycle.  So how do we go about picking the next generation of devices Fargo Public Schools will use for 1:1 deployment?

It all starts with a review of what we know. Three years of device use and device repairs have taught us that a good keyboard is very important to the majority of our students. Wireless keyboards tend to generate a lot of service requests and keep students from the learning tasks at hand when their keyboard isn’t working. We have also learned that while a tablet format might be good for reading materials, it isn’t necessarily the best for completing projects and homework. Battery life is extremely important. And a glass touch screen is a nice feature, but it is also very easily damaged and expensive to replace.

We also look for feedback. Librarians and technology coaches have provided information from day-to-day interactions in the schools and classrooms. Teachers and students have been surveyed and the results have given us a lot of useful information about what each group values in a personal learning device. Students were asked if they would be willing to try new devices this spring as the District evaluates options for the next generation of personal learning devices.

We then take a look at the current technology landscape. Can we get the features we value most in a device that is light, durable, portable, and affordable? This step has involved a lot of online research, many vendor calls and visits, and demonstration units to be poked and prodded by our Information Technology (IT) staff. Microsoft was kind enough to bring a few experts on education and technology to Fargo. They sat down with us to talk about upcoming enhancements in Windows that will help with 1:1 deployments and all of the new devices they have seen in their interactions with vendors.

After all of this, we still need to road test the options. A Windows laptop and a Chromebook have been chosen for an eight-week pilot period. Each of the District’s three high schools has chosen ten volunteers from their student surveys. Half of the students will use the pilot Windows laptop for the first four weeks and the other half will start with the Chromebook. At the start of week five, they will switch and use the other device for the next four weeks. These students will be encouraged to provide as much feedback as possible on what they like or don’t like about each device and complete a survey to summarize their experiences with each device. Their experiences, along with the experiences of the teachers who have these students in their classes will ultimately determine if the District has found our next GPP device, or if we need to put another device into pilot as an additional option.

By the time this school year has ended, our device selections will be made. Over the summer, the thousands of current (2,500) and new (2,450) devices will be prepared for the upcoming school year by the IT staff. And by the time summer orientation begins in August, devices will be ready for distribution to the students.

Fargo Public Schools Budget Building Process

Curious about how the Fargo Public Schools annual budget gets built and what takes place during the process? Read on to find out!

Budget Building
by Fargo Public Schools Accounting Director Jackie Gapp

Although budgeting, in general, happens in every business as well as in our personal lives, developing the Fargo Public School District budget requires the involvement of many different individuals and organizations across all levels of government.  District financial resources come from local, state, and federal dollars, and are often restricted to specific programs.

The budget gives the District the opportunity to justify the collection and spending of the funds we receive from the public.  It is our plan for the future and outlines the goals and objectives set by the Board of Education and district administration.

While District administrators are continually reviewing revenue and expenditure budgets throughout the year, the budget development process for next year doesn’t truly begin until the winter months after school is up and running for the year.

  • In February, administrators begin drafting their detailed departmental budgets, line by line, for the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30.  Collaboration with district stakeholders ensures involvement and transparency as we consider enrollment, compensation and benefit plan increases, teacher negotiations, new legislative requirements, curriculum changes, and for fiscal year 2016: the opening of Ed Clapp Elementary.
  • Throughout the spring months, initial budgets are adjusted based on feedback from staff, the community, legislature, and School Board. Prior to July 1, our goal is to have a solid budget built from the detailed plans of each department and preliminary approval by the School Board.
  • By August 15, the District must file our initial Budget and Certificate of Levy with the County, which substantiates our request for local taxpayer dollars.
  • Final budget approval takes place in September, when the School Board officially adopts the budget and we are off and running on another school year!

Taste of The Season Variety Show & Benefit

Come enjoy a night under the New York City skyline with a treat for your ears, your taste buds, and your heart.

WHAT:            14th Annual Taste of the Season
WHEN:            Monday, February 9, 2015 – Silent Auction opens at 6:00 p.m.;
                         Variety Show begins at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE:          Lobby and Theater, use Northside Entrance to North High School,
8th Street and 19th Avenue North, Fargo

The Fargo North High school Concert Choir is hosting the 14th annual Taste of the Season variety show and silent auction benefit on Monday, February 9, beginning at 6:00 p.m. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the family of Tom Gillen, North High’s drama director, to assist with medical expenses for his son, Josiah.

The variety show features vocal and instrumental music, dance, and comedy acts, including hits from many Broadway musicals such as Wicked, The Addams Family, Beauty and the Beast, The Hobbits, Saturday Night Live, Aladdin, and The Music Man.

Silent auction bidding will open at 6:00 p.m. and the variety show will begin at 6:30 p.m. Desserts and beverages will be served during the show’s intermission. Tickets are $5 at the door.

Silent auction items have been donated by North High students and staff and area businesses. Headline items include a Johnson acoustic guitar autographed by Justin Timberlake, a Yetti Tundra 45 cooler, a Magic Chef wine cooler, car detailing packages, laser cosmetic procedures, jewelry, and much more.

Josiah Gillen has been battling a rare kidney disease and cancer. Tom donated a kidney to his son this past summer as part of Josiah’s ongoing medical treatments.

Help “Stick It” to Cancer

Some of the city’s best high school hockey players will lace up their skates on Tuesday to “stick it” to cancer.

 

WHAT:            “Stick It To Cancer” Fundraiser and Hockey Games
WHEN:            Tuesday, February 10, 2015. See game times below.
WHERE:           Scheels Arena, 5225 31st Avenue South, Fargo and Fowler Rink, Southwest Arena, 4404 23rd Avenue South, Fargo

The 5th annual “Stick It To Cancer” Hockey Games and Fundraiser takes to the ice on Tuesday, February 10. Hometown hockey rivals Fargo North, Fargo South, Davies, and Shanley hockey teams will battle it out on the ice as they raise funds to battle cancer. Special guests have been selected to drop the first puck for each game.

Funds raised through admission fees, silent auction items, raffles, and more will be donated to the Dakota Medical Foundation Lend-A-Hand program, to support Cass and Clay County families experiencing a cancer-related medical crisis.

Hockey games begin at:
4:45 p.m.         Fargo North JV Boys vs. Fargo South/Shanley JV Boys at Fowler Rink
5:15 p.m.         Fargo North/South Girls vs. Davies Girls at Scheels Arena
7:30 p.m.         Fargo North Boys vs. Fargo South/Shanley Boys at Scheels Arena

In addition to the hockey action, Tuesday’s event will include t-shirt sales, a silent auction, 50/50 raffle, and “Miracle Minute” donations.

Online, tax-deductible donations can also be made. Go to www.dakmed.org/lendahand, click Donate and enter your gift to the Stick It To Cancer Fund.

The Lend-A-Hand program helps caring community members raise funds for families experiencing a medical crisis. All contributions to the initiative are distributed in Cass and Clay counties. For more information, visit http://www.dakmed.org/lendahand/

FPS Seeks Calendar Input

The Fargo Public Schools’ Calendar Committee will soon begin the process of creating the 2016-17 school year calendar. To assist with the process, a short survey has been created to collect input from staff and parents regarding calendar components.

three calendar months displayed in horizontal lineup

Please take a moment to share your feedback online.
Survey closes February 15 at 10:00 p.m.

Take the Survey

FPS thanks you in advance for your time and input!

The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round

Fargo Public Schools transportation coordinator gives a brief history and current overview of the District’s student busing program, including some amazing stats.

By Chris Pinkney, FPS Transportation Coordinator

The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round… A familiar ditty, but oh, how things have changed in regard to the transportation system for Fargo Public Schools. What started out as a few school buses running in our farthest rural areas along with a small number of Special Needs buses, has transformed into a comprehensive transportation system within the entire Fargo Public School District.

Through the earlier years, the busing for school occurring in town was on old transit-style city buses along with city MAT transportation where available. Riding the bus then was a fee based system requiring patrons to pay with a token and later, tickets to ride the bus. Cost for each trip was $.35 per token or ticket. A cash ride for $.50 was also an option. Money generated through the sales of tickets and cash rides was used to help offset some of the associated costs of busing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In July 1994, Fargo Public Schools entered into a contract with Valley Bus Co. to provide bus service in town, using the traditional yellow school bus, as an option to get kids to and from school. Fargo Public Schools was one of, if not the first, large school districts in the state to provide busing in town.  It was only until about the last decade that other school districts have started to provide in-town busing.

During the 2008-2009 school year, the fee based system for riding the school bus was scrapped and all costs of busing were absorbed into the District’s General Fund. Currently, the cost for operating the busing system for FPS is just under $5 million annually.

Through the years, the yellow school bus that delivers students to their schools has also changed. Changes range from compartmentalization (higher seat backs and more padding), to more stringent emission controls on the diesel engines, to the utilization of latest technology on our buses. Each of the large buses used for transporting FPS students (Energy Saver and rural routes) are outfitted with digital camera systems with up to four cameras. All buses for FPS are also equipped with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that allow tracking of each bus through their routes and various other transportation responsibilities of the day. Information from the GPS units provides location, heading, speed, vehicle stops, stop arm deployment, length of stop, and other pertinent information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the safety of our students being the ultimate requirement of FPS’s busing operation, it takes a great number of resources (drivers, support staff, and equipment) to provide transportation to the approximately 6,000 eligible students of the Fargo Public School District. Nationally, the yellow school bus helps to keep an annual estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning, and more than 22 million students ride the yellow school bus to and from school and on various activity runs each year. The yellow school bus is the safest mode of transportation for kids to and from school. Other statistics can be found here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/School-Buses

Here are some interesting statistics about FPS Transportation:

  • Currently, FPS has 107 daily bus routes: 41 in-town transportation routes, five rural routes, 25 morning Special Needs routes, 24 afternoon Special Needs routes, and 12 routes running over the noon hour to provide transportation for our Pre-K students.
  • During the 2013-14 school year, the buses in the Fargo Public School District drove 554,729 miles during their regular transportation routes; this does not include additional mileage incurred for activities travel.
  • The yellow school buses within our district drive about 3,170 miles total each day.
  • A total number of 1,172,292 rides were delivered to our patrons on yellow school buses during the 2013-2014 school year.
  • In-city bus routes combined provide more than 5,500 rides each day to our students.

It is quite the orchestration of schedules, drivers, aides, support staff, and equipment to complete the daily task of student transportation safely and in a timely manner. The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round, indeed.

Drum Circle Promotes Inclusion

An early morning musical activity at Kennedy at Eagles is helping to create an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion, as well as promote diversity.

 

Last week, about 35 students at Kennedy at Eagles Elementary started an early-morning drum circle that met prior to the start of the regular school day. This music-based, community-building experience is open to Kennedy at Eagles second and third graders.

Music teacher Justin Depaolis-Metz shared, “I started this group because I wanted to find a unique and positive way to contribute to the culture and climate of our building. With the diversity in our building, I wanted the kids to be exposed to music and ideas from different cultures.” Kennedy at Eagles (grades K through 3) has a diverse population of students from all over the world. There 15 languages spoken at the school in addition to English.

Drum circles are originally a West African concept, and they encourage participation, creativity, and community. “This seemed like the perfect way for me, as a music teacher, to make every student feel like a part of something, and to experience immediate success. It is accessible to every student, regardless of language capability, ELL status, musical ability, playing skills, or physical ability,” said Depaolis-Metz. “While we have a focus on West African music right now, primarily Nigeria, Ghana, and Guinea, I hope to incorporate East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American components to our drum circle in the future.” Instruments played in the drum circle include djembes, tubanos, dunduns, shekeres, gankoguis, talking drums, gathering drums, and more.

According to Depaolis-Metz, drum circle participation benefits for the students include:

  • Fostering a sense of community within the school
  • Heightened teamwork skills
  • An “extra” opportunity to experience music during the school week
  • A sense of pride in musical playing ability
  • Learning musical concepts of beat, rhythm, improvisation, call and response
  • Cultural insights into the world around them
  • Experiencing heritage and cultural pride as different cultures are studied through music

“This might be one of the most fun and inclusive activities I’ve had the opportunity to lead since I started working in Fargo,” shared Depaolis-Metz. The drum circle will meet weekly throughout the remainder of the school year.

Legislation That Impacts FPS

Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Lietz reviews the District’s position on many of the bills before the ND Legislature that impact the school district.

Photo portrait of Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Lietz

Legislation That Impacts Fargo Public Schools
by Broc Lietz, Business Manager

The 2015 North Dakota Legislative session is in full swing and there are a number of bills that have the potential to significantly impact Fargo Public Schools (FPS). The district has a bill tracking list that contains 70 bills that we are either monitoring, supporting, or opposing. This article will highlight some of the more prominent bills that have the greatest potential impact and the FPS position.

HB 1218: OPPOSE.  This is a bill that would limit ending fund balances for school districts.  As filed, it would have required ending fund balance limitations for next year. The limitation would be 10% or $300,000 for the General Fund and 1.5% or $45,000 for “all other funds.” The second part would include our Building Fund, Nutrition Services Fund, and Health Insurance Reserve Fund.  The sponsor (Rep. Nathe) is providing an amendment to remove reference to “all other funds.”  He also seems interested in a compromise on the General Fund. The North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders recommendation is 20% plus $250,000.  There is some willingness to move in that direction.  The state average in the General Fund is 23%. FPS is currently at 19%.

HB 1216: SUPPORT.  This is a “real time payment” bill. It would allow for foundation aid to be paid on either the June ADM report or fall enrollment as stated in the September 10th reporting, whichever is greater. This continues to be a significant issue in growing districts that have enrollment growth below the threshold for rapid enrollment grants. This bill would pay for every student in the year they are enrolled. Last year, FPS would have received approximately $1.7 million in additional state aid under this plan. The fiscal note is stated at $66 million, however, if passed, the rapid enrollment grants would not be necessary, so that money would be used against the $66 million. Ultimately, this bill simply shifts the state liability from one year to the next.

SB 2178: SUPPORT.  This bill would invest $125 million in the state loan construction program and make funding available either February or March of this year, prior to the legislature finishing.  This is an attempt to fund those projects that are on a waiting list following the last legislative session that were unable to be funded due to lack of available state funds. FPS is on this list for the construction loan request for the Ed Clapp Elementary project. However, this bill has language allowing for prioritization by the Department of Public Instruction. One of the criteria includes voter approval. The current program is “first come, first served.” This pool would be administered differently. This could mean FPS wouldn’t receive these interim funds.  We would argue that our approval was provided in 1991 as part of the building fund authorization.

SB 2210: SUPPORT.  This bill would redefine Regional Education Associations (such as the South East Education Cooperative or SEEC) and provide them a legal status that allows them to be a stand-alone organization if they chose. This would likely mean that FPS would no longer be the fiscal agent for SEEC.

SB 2031: SUPPORT.  This is the K – 12 funding bill.  Significant changes in the funding formula includes: increased weighting factors for At-Risk students, specifically K – 3; increased weighting factors for English Language Learning (ELL) students; the establishment of ELL Grants to providing distribution of $2.5 million to those six districts in the state with the highest enrollment of ELL students; new weighting factors for days three, four, and five of professional development; and increases in the per pupil aid to $9,482 in year one and $9,766 in year two.

Some additional bills that have been introduced, but have not yet had committee hearings, include:

HB 1055: MONITOR.  Changes property tax calculation from valuation per mill to cents.  Former School Board member Rick Steen has indicated that the County will oppose this bill.

HB 1080: MONITOR.  Recommended increase in North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS), 1% on each side effective January 1, 2016.  This is the fourth increase for NDPERS, bringing it in line with the 4% increase in the Teachers’ Fund for Retirement (TFFR).

HB 1131: MONITOR.  Expands Veteran’s Preference to Superintendents and Teachers.  They currently are exempt from this law.

HB 1195: OPPOSE.  This bill would allow anyone with a concealed weapon permit and appropriate training, to carry a weapon on school property with the approval of the governing board.

HB 1461: OPPOSE.  This is a bill that intends to move K – 12 education away from the North Dakota State Standard, adopted as the Common Core Standards.

Here is a web site where you can input a bill number and read the actual legislation that is proposed, rather than the summary provided in this column:

http://www.legis.nd.gov/

If you have any questions regarding the current legislative session and potential bill action, please feel free to contact me at lietzb@fargo.k12.nd.us or 701.446.1026.

ND Senate Testimony – Bill 2048

The 64th Legislative Assembly of North Dakota is now in session. Several area students are gaining first-hand knowledge regarding how state government operates and legislative funding happens.

Abby Haug (pictured below at podium), a South High School senior and an Imagine Thriving Student Board member, testified before the North Dakota Senate Human Service Committee on January 14 at the State Capitol in Bismarck, along with Skylar Jones, a West Fargo Public Schools senior, and Tailor Rudolph, a Concordia College freshman. At the hearing, they asked the committee members to pass Senate Bill #2048 along with the NDCEL bill amendment.

Bill 2048 is an Act to provide appropriations to the department of human services for improving behavioral health services; to provide an appropriation to the department of public instruction for teacher and child care provider training; and to provide for legislative management studies. The accompanying North Dakota Counsel of Education Leaders (NDCEL) bill amendment suggests that part of the appropriation dollars be used for an innovative pilot program for mental wellness projects that can impact a variety of school settings, sizes, and geographies, modeled after the Fargo Public Schools student wellness facilitators program.

The Goetz Mental Wellness Initiative (GMWI) provides Fargo Public Schools with funding for two student wellness facilitators, licensed clinical social workers or similar background, who connect a student struggling with mental health concerns to the appropriate mental health care.  The wellness facilitators work with other school staff, parents/guardians, and mental health care professionals to give the student a strong support system. These facilitators are also able to utilize the GMWI’s Access to Care Fund which helps families in need with the expense of mental health care (co-pays, prescriptions, and transportation).  Although based at Carl Ben Eielson and Discovery Middle Schools, the two facilitators at Fargo Public Schools  ̶  Amber Neal and Bethany Zimmerman  ̶  serve the entire Fargo Public School District, grades Kindergarten through 12.  The GMWI is working to raise enough funds to expand mental wellness programming in Fargo and into West Fargo and surrounding school districts.

Imagine Thriving is a community action project of the GMWI that works to raise awareness of and educate students, parents, and the community about mental illness and ways to be mentally well.  The Imagine Thriving Student Board is made up of high school and college students from Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead.  These students deliver mental health presentations to their peers, younger students, and community organizations.

Imagine Thriving desires to expand their Student Board into area middle schools, add more members from each high school, as well as bring on adult volunteers. For information on how you can be part of this mental wellness advocacy group, contact Abby Tow, Executive Director of GMWI and Imagine Thriving, via email at abby@imaginethriving.org. Additional information is posted to the group’s website, www.imaginethriving.org.