Christmas Tree Event Includes Learning Opportunity

An annual community holiday event recently provided a learning opportunity for a diverse group of Fargo Public Schools students.

By Fargo Public Schools Special Education and Student Support Services Director Patricia Cummings

photo portrait of Patricia CummingsThe Social Inclusion classes at Davies and North High Schools participated in Fraser, Ltd.’s 14th annual Festival of Trees. On November 13, 39 students, teachers, and staff members decorated a themed Christmas tree that will be on display through December 5 at the FargoDome during regular business hours. Their tree is one of more than 150 decorated trees for Fraser, Ltd.’s annual holiday event.

The Social Inclusion classes consist of students who have Multiple Impairments (hearing, sight, speech, behavioral, learning, and physical impairments) as well as same-age peers without impairments. These classes have been offered as part of Fargo Public Schools curriculum for 20+ years. They were developed to encourage positive interaction among students of differing abilities and interests.

group of students and adults in front of partially decorated Christmas treet

The North High Inclusion class at the FargoDome, in front of their partially decorated Christmas tree.

By participating in Festival of Trees, the students demonstrate that they, too, are valuable community members who can “give back” in a meaningful way as volunteers.

This opportunity is sponsored by the local FEET (Family Educator Enhancement Team) and was initiated by a former FEET parent member. New ornaments and other tree decorations were donated by FPS staff and FEET members.

photo of group of students and adults standng in front of completely decorated Christmas tree

The Davies Inclusion class in front of the finished blue-themed tree on display at the FargoDome.

All students in Fargo Public Schools take part in becoming college and career ready and this group of students is no different! The students participated in an adapted lesson to select the blue decoration theme and then executed the decoration plan for the Christmas tree. This community activity helped the Social Inclusion students attain the designated course benchmarks for Strategies and Activities Needed to Assist the Student in Reaching Post-Secondary Goals.

Five photos of pairs of students putting ornaments on a Christmas tree


graphic organization logo for Fraser LimitedFraser, Ltd. invites the community to join the Claus Family for cookies and to view the full array of decorated trees on November 28 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the FargoDome, University Drive & 19th Ave N, Fargo.

Update on Fargo Schools Long Range Facility Plan

Recent media reports shared the Fargo School Board decision to begin a land acquisition search in South Fargo. In light of that directive, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Schatz gives an update on Fargo Public Schools Long Range Facility Plan.


photo portrait of Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey SchatzJust over a year ago, the Board of Education approved a Long Range Facility Plan to help guide the District in making decisions about future facility and maintenance needs.  From this plan came a 10-year operational maintenance plan, which now guides the decisions we make regarding building upkeep and overall maintenance of buildings.  Congruent to the plan was the work that occurred during this past summer.  Six buildings in the district received a major overhaul in their HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning).  The work completed over the summer was simply amazing, as each building was gutted and restored back to operations well in time before school started this fall.  The work completed in the buildings was a direct result of the implementation phase of our Long Range Facility Plan.

In addition to building upgrades, the District also developed a plan to offset rapid growth in Fargo’s far south region. The Long Range Facility Planning process laid the ground work, which initiated the building of a new elementary school just north of 32nd Avenue at Ed Clapp Park. (Ed Clapp Elementary School construction site pictured below on October 31.) Through a process of research, discussion, and consensus building, the realization of a new school is now close at hand. In the fall of 2015, Ed Clapp Elementary School will open its doors in a neighborhood setting with walkable distances for the majority of students who will attend the school.  This infill plan reflects a collaboration with the City of Fargo’s “Go 2030” plan.

So, you might ask, “What is the point, Dr. Schatz?”  My point is this: we live in a vibrant and ever changing city.  As the city continues to grow, we must be proactive in planning for future growth.  A Long Range Facility Plan provides us guidance in making decisions to fit that growth.  As a district we are collaborating with the City of Fargo’s Planning Department and have articulated the need to be part of that planning as new developments are plotted and approved by the City.  In other words, we do not want to be the reason for the growth, but rather be part of the planning, so that the District can be prepared if and when that growth occurs.

At their November 12 meeting, the Board of Education directed administration to look for potential land sites in the far southwest part of the city, which is an action item included in the Long Range Facility Plan.  By doing so, we can take a long range look at proposed City planning and developments and ensure that Fargo Public Schools has a “place to be” someday when the development occurs.

Unfortunately, long range planning can be misunderstood.  Recently, it was reported that the District is “building another new elementary school.”  Nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is we are planning for the future and there is no current plan to build a new school at this point in time. When the time comes, by being proactive and planning for the future, we will have a place to build a school – most importantly, the right place that fits and meets the needs of any new development.

I would encourage everyone to take some time and review our current Long Range Facility Plan.  It can be found at this link.  Long Range Facility Planning makes sense.  By being proactive, we can be wise in our decision making and ensure that the use of taxpayer dollars is maximized as we maintain our facilities in the Fargo Public School District.

Winter Driving & Safety Tips

Review a few basic winter weather driving and safety tips, along with a Winter Survival app for your mobile phone and helpful online links.

SAFE SCHOOLS, SAFE KIDS: Winter Weather Driving and Safety Tips
by Fargo Police Officer Amy Kingzett

photo portrait of Police Officer Amy KingzettWe live in North Dakota and with that comes some bragging rights… You don’t get named The Weather Channel’s “Toughest Weather City” in 2011 and as a semi-finalist in 2012 and 2013 for nothing. Whether we like it or not, cold weather and SNOW have arrived, and we should be prepared.



Dress for the weather. Having proper weather attire is the first step in the process of keeping yourself safe in the elements. Bring your boots, hats, scarves, and snow gear along with you in the car. It does you no good if it’s hanging in the closet on a -10 degree day if you’ve ended up in the ditch.

Pay attention to weather warnings. When you hear terms like Winter Storm Warning, Wind Chill Warning, Winter Weather Advisory, Wind Chill Advisory, or Blizzard Warning, take note and pay attention. If there is “No Travel Advised” it really means that there is no travel advised. It’s not worth the extra risk to yourselves or the lives of the people who come to rescue you, if you make an unnecessary decision to venture out and get stuck or stranded. You can be ticketed for this, in addition to being charged the costs associated with your rescue.

Slow down. This applies to everyday winter driving. The speed limit is exactly what it is: the limit that one can travel up to, when the conditions are favorable. If the sign says 30 mph, consider that 15 mph might be the speed that’s safe for the conditions. Leave extra room ahead of you so you can stop in time for the unexpected. If you’re sliding through the intersection on a red light, it’s not the ice’s fault – you don’t have control of your vehicle, and you will receive a ticket.

Make sure your vehicle is road ready for winter travel. Check the vehicle battery, belts and hoses, anti-freeze level, oil, lights, brakes, heater and defroster, and check the exhaust system for leaks that would allow carbon monoxide to enter your vehicle. Do not leave without a full fuel tank, even if it’s a short trip.

Tell others about your travel plans. Make sure you have a cell phone with you (and a charger) in case of emergencies. Let someone know your travel plans, your route, and your expected arrival. Before you head out, check the ND Department of Transportation’s website for winter road information. If you do become stranded, stay with your vehicle. Run the engine sparingly and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.

Have a winter survival kit in your car. Gather: blankets, extra warm clothing (parka, boots, long underwear, heavy socks, mittens, ski mask), a heat source (multiple wick candle and matches), water or a metal container that’s suitable for melting ice or snow into water, a radio and a flashlight (with extra batteries), food (hard candy, nuts, raisins, jerky, etc.), reading material, toilet tissue, nylon rope, jumper cables, bright red or orange cloth to signal for help, a bag of kitty litter or sand, and a shovel. If stranded, access to a winter survival kit can be the difference between life and death. Check out this list for more information on what to pack in a winter survival kit.

Winter Survival App graphic logoWinter Survival Kit smartphone app. Developed by the NDSU Ag Extension Office, this smartphone app can help you determine your current location coordinates, call 9-1-1, notify your friends and family, calculate how long you can run your engine to keep warm and stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, and more. The app is available for free on Google Play and the iTunes App Store. Download Winter Survival Kit for Android or iOS (iPhone).

More winter driving information is available online at the ND DOT website.

If you’re not sure whether you should venture out or not, consider staying home. Take the opportunity to spend the night in as a family. As always, call 9-1-1 if you have an emergency and need assistance.

Musical Experience-of-a-Lifetime – TWICE!

One Fargo South High senior has gotten to experience a “once-in-a-lifetime” musical performance opportunity twice!

photo portrait of student Christiena TaralsonChristiena Tarlason auditioned and was selected to play her trumpet in New York City with the Great American Marching Band (GAMB) in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was such a memorable performing experience that she auditioned again, and was selected to perform this Thanksgiving with the 185-member GAMB as well.

While in many ways this second trip to New York City (NYC) will be much like the first, there are differences. Last year, family paid for her participation and travel expenses; this year Taralson has had to raise the funds on her own, which she has done through rummage sales, special fundraisers, and taking on extra jobs/hours. Last year she traveled to NYC with her mother and sister; this year she is traveling on her own. Last year, she knew none of the other GAMB members; this year she is rooming with her three same band roommates from 2013. Last year she was also part of a select group of GAMB members who performed on the TODAY show (Taralson is pictured below on the TODAY Show); this year, that honor may not be offered to the band.

Taralson plays her trumpet in Red and White band uniform with TODAY show logo in foreground

Similar to last time, Taralson has had to prepare two musical numbers, which must be memorized prior to her arrival in New York. She received the GAMB music online about six weeks ago. Taralson credits a wide circle of musical instructors and mentors with her love of music and playing abilities, which earned her the spot in the parade band. Sebastian Tackling and John Syverson are her current band instructors at South High; Dan Italiano (North High) has directed her in numerous Trollwood and North High production orchestras; Sarah Lichtblau (South High) has directed her in South production orchestras; Fargo Moorhead Youth Symphony Conductor Jane Capistran and Jeremy Brekke (NDSU), her private lesson instructor, round out her top list.

group of 4 girls in red and white band uniforms, arms around each other

Tarlason (pictured left, second from the left) will leave for New York on November 22 and return to Fargo on November 28. While in New York City to rehearse and perform for the parade, the entire band is also scheduled to visit the World Trade Center Memorial Site, Top of the Rock Observational Deck, and Rockefeller Center. There are plans to see a Broadway musical, and spend some free time at Times Square.

While she’s seen most of those sights before, Taralson is truly looking forward to her second trip to NYC and marching and playing in the Macy’s parade. “This year I’m looking forward to making some new friends, and having the opportunity to play with such a talented band again. I’m also looking forward to seeing my roommates again. Even though we’re all in different parts of the country, we still talk to each other frequently. It amazes me as to how close I got with some of the band members in that short week from last year.”

You can watch for Taralson’s performance during the 88th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live broadcast on CBS – KXJB Channel 4 beginning at 8:00 a.m. CT on Thursday, November 27. The parade is seen by 2.5 million spectators along the NYC parade route and more than 50 million television viewers.

Middle School Schedule Adjustments for Fargo Public Schools

In order to positively impact student performance, a new Middle School schedule will be implemented for the 2015-16 school year that includes a consistent intervention and extension period. This schedule adjustment will allow Fargo Public Schools to provide a better learning opportunity for all students. The two-year process to develop this new Middle School Schedule is now coming to a close.

Middle School Schedule Adjustment Process
By Associate Superintendent Dr. Robert Grosz

This year the Fargo Public Schools (FPS) Teaching and Learning Department is working with our Middle Schools to finalize the details regarding a change in the schedule for the middle school day.  The genesis of this schedule change has been worked on for the past several years and is now in the stage of implementation.  This is a comprehensive overview of this process and the plan for implementation during the 2015-16 school year.

The 2014-15 FPS Operational Plan states:

Finalize the revised Middle School schedule recommendation including staffing costs, changes to transportation, interventions (including costs associated with interventions), and curriculum writing. (Indicator 4.2)

The need for a revised Middle School schedule with a consistent intervention and extension period for all students is evidenced by district level mathematics and reading trend data.  The data shows that for the past seven years approximately thirty plus percent of our Middle School students have not shown proficiency on the Measures of Academic Performance (MAP) Assessment in mathematics and reading.  In addition to these courses/areas of instruction, based on a review of student grades, students have also shown a need for additional help and assistance in the other Middle School classes.  In order to positively impact student performance, students need the opportunity to be provided interventions and extensions that vary in intensity based on their needs.  A new Middle School schedule with a consistent intervention and extension period will help the district to provide this opportunity for all students.

Grade 6 – MAP Trend Data


Grade 7 – MAP Trend Data

Grade 8 – MAP Trend Data

The Middle School schedule recommendation was developed by a committee of eight Middle Level teachers, three parents and six administrators over the course of two years.  Many committee meetings and literally twenty-five (25) draft Middle School schedule recommendations were developed before the committee came to consensus on the 25th draft. Along the way, the committee kept the general good for all students in the forefront of the planning.

During the committee’s first two meetings, the group determined the following areas of focus to drive conversation and in the end a Middle School schedule recommendation.  (The group re-affirmed the focus areas during the meeting in which the group voted to see if there was consensus on DRAFT 25.)

1. Strive to eliminate quarter length courses.
2. Strive to move Tools for Schools to 6th grade.
3. Strive to create a consistent intervention time.
4. Strive to remain true to Middle School Philosophy.
- Required exposure to coursework instead of elective coursework
- Relationship  building in Advisory
5. Consider revamping 6th grade (e.g., block scheduling).
6. Strive to move World Language to an earlier grade
- Strive to keep World Language Survey
7. Consider difficulties created by A/B schedule (e.g., Art)
8. Consider strengths of A/B Schedule (e.g., World Language, PE)

The committee determined that consensus would be met when all but two dissenters indicated support of the decision.  There were no dissenters at the meeting when the group voted to see if there was consensus on DRAFT 25.  One member was absent the day the committee voted to see if there was consensus on DRAFT 25.  It was later discovered that this member dissented.

The committee’s recommendation was reviewed by district administration and the Teaching and Learning Department was charged with developing the final plan for implementation for the 2015-16 school year.

Below is the current Middle School Schedule:

Below is the committee’s recommended Middle School Schedule:

The changes from the current Middle School Schedule to the committee’s recommendation are:

How does DRAFT 25 address the areas of focus developed by the committee?

Will DRAFT 25 increase the amount of student contact time for Middle School staff?

  • No, it will not increase student contact time for Middle School staff.
  • As mentioned above in the Discovery Middle School Period Schedule for 2014-15, Middle School teachers’ class periods are 44 minutes in duration.  One period is extended for announcements to 49 minutes in duration.  Middle School teachers teach five periods a day (49 + 44 + 44 + 44 + 44 = 225 minutes per day).  In addition, Middle School teachers have 34 minutes per day of student contact in Advisory.  The total minutes of student contact for a middle school teacher is 259 minutes per day.
  • Under DRAFT 25, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, Middle School teachers’ class periods will be 50 minutes in duration.  Middle School teachers teach five periods a day (50 + 50 + 50 + 50 + 50 = 250 minutes per day).  In addition, Middle School teachers will have 9 minutes per day of student contact in Advisory.  The total minutes of student contact for a middle school teacher will be 259 minutes per day.
  • Under DRAFT 25, on Wednesday, Middle School teachers’ class periods will be 45 minutes in duration.  Middle School teachers teach five periods a day (45 + 45 + 45 + 45 + 45 = 225 minutes per day).  In addition, Middle school teachers will have 34 minutes of student contact in Advisory.  The total minutes of student contact for a middle school teacher on Wednesday will be 259 minutes per day.

Will Middle School staff be required to teach an intervention or extension during period 8?

  • No, Middle School staff will not be required to teach an intervention or extension during period 8.
  • The Middle School principals, the district’s Multi-Tier System of Support (MTSS) facilitators, district office staff, and FPS teaching staff will continue to design the protocol for the interventions and extensions that will be provided to students during period 8.
  • The protocol will include:
    • How students will be identified for structured interventions or extensions
    • The types of structured interventions or extensions needed
    • The duration of the structured interventions or extensions for students
    • Who will provide the structured interventions or extensions to students
    • What compensation will be provided to individuals who choose to provide structured interventions or extensions

What still needs to happen for implementation in the fall of 2015?
Administration is carrying out the following items to prepare for implementation of the revised Middle School schedule for the 2015-16 school year:

  • Meet with principals to see what, if any, changes will be needed to start times at the Elementary and Middle School to accommodate the recommendation.
  • Work with FPS transportation coordinator to determine changes to bus routes.
  • Meet with music staff to discuss their questions and concerns.
  • Develop curriculum writing projects for changes to the courses and new courses.
  • Continue to work with activities coordinators to schedule games and events after the Intervention/Extensions and Large Group Music time is over.
  • Work with Middle School principals and FPS Multi-Tier System of Support facilitators to develop protocols for the Intervention and Extension time.
  • Make budget adjustments needed to accommodate the change in Middle School schedule.
  • Develop communication process to be shared with parents and students.

Happy Birthday, North Dakota!

It’s been a week full of birthday celebrations for North Dakota, honoring the state’s 125th anniversary of statehood (November 2, 1889). The students of one Fargo Public elementary school invited a few special guests and held a birthday party of their own to celebrate.

students jumping and waving red, white, blue colored paper streamers








The three honored guests wore suits. The students wore red, white and blue and entered the Clara Barton gymnasium waving streamers. Everyone wore their best smiles to celebrate North Dakota’s 125th anniversary.

The third through fifth grade students at Clara Barton Elementary and the second graders from Hawthorne Elementary held the birthday party for North Dakota on November 3, one day after the state’s actual statehood anniversary. The party was complete with balloons, an oversized cake, and invited guests.

red, white, blue decorated "Happy Birthday" mylar balloons

fake cake decorated with images and logos of North Dakota







Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Schatz was on hand to greet all partygoers. North Dakota Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley thanked the students for his party invitation and shared how wonderful it is to live in the state of North Dakota. Mr. History, Steve Stark, acted out the “history mystery” surrounding President Benjamin Harrison’s secret signing order for North and South Dakota’s statehood proclamations on November 2, 1889 (North Dakota became the 39th state by alphabetical default).

Mr. History re-enacts 1889 signing of Statehood Proclamations

The celebration also included a musical number by the third graders, who sang an original song about North Dakota written by third grade teacher Cheryl Bombenger. “I use music to teach curriculum material. Research shows how music and songs have a way of assisting students to learn and retain a much greater percentage of information for later recall. In this case, the students use the song’s tune to pull out facts about North Dakota,” said Bombenger.

students stand on risers as they sing, with audience members seated on floor in gymnasium

Party decorations included strings of hand-drawn tags created by the students, celebrating why they love North Dakota. They are patterned after North Dakota Department of Tourism’s website and “Legendary” marketing campaign.

And what party would be complete without cake? Cupcakes were waiting on each student’s desk once they got back to their classrooms following the party in the gymnasium. The students threw a legendary party, indeed – the Lt. Governor’s got the selfie to prove it.

Lt. Governor Wrigley holds out camera to take photo of himself and three students

Happy Birthday, North Dakota!


School Calendar Conundrum

A group of eighth graders from Ben Franklin Middle School tried their hand at creating versions of the 2015-15 school year calendar. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

photo of public presentation of calendar solution in school cafeteria before an audienceTurns out, great minds don’t always think alike. Last week, the 125 eighth graders of Team 8-1 at Ben Franklin Middle School tackled school calendar scheduling as a project based learning opportunity. The students were assigned to small groups that each completed research, conducted surveys, and then designed their version of a 2015-16 school year calendar. The project was incorporated into curriculum study for all core classes.

photo of 12-month calendar with highlighted daysSome of the requirements that students had to incorporate into their calendar included:

  • Students are required to attend 175 days of classes (mandated by the North Dakota Century Code)
  • Teachers are required to put in 191 days, with 5 paid holidays
  • Two storm makeup days and required holiday/vacation days
  • Teacher professional development time



And, according to various student-conducted surveys, the students learned:

  • 83% of those polled (students, teachers, parents) preferred a start date
    after August 24
  • 86% wanted school to end before Memorial Day
  • 59% wanted two or more weeks of vacation time over Christmas/New Years
  • 64% preferred fewer but longer breaks rather than shorter, more frequent
    time off throughout the year

Some of the more creative calendar solution strategies utilized were:

  • Teacher professional development time on Saturdays
  • An early release schedule on Wednesdays to allow students more time for homework and activities

“Some of the kids really got into the project. They understood how this issue directly affects them. They could dream a little with their calendar, but had to satisfy the requirements as well,” said Jessica Smith, 8-1 Social Studies instructor.

8-1 Language Arts instructor Matt Hallquist was excited about the skills the students gained as a result of the project-based activity. “In addition to facts, they learned collaboration, consensus building, data analysis, research skills, public speaking skills, and presentation strategies,” he shared.

three girls show their calendar graphic to audience membersNine calendar proposals were selected by the 8-1 teachers based on research, group collaboration, mechanics and grammar of presentation, and persuasiveness. These top proposals were then presented on October 31 to family and invited guests, including Fargo Public Schools administration.

After hearing all nine proposals, the eighth graders had varying opinions on the calendar options presented. Cody Stark (below middle) didn’t want school days to go into June, and preferred school to start in early September. Dwayne Peltier (below right) opted for a calendar with regular breaks, but not too many days off. And it turns out, Joey Erebia (below left) is a proponent of going to school year-round, which wasn’t even one of the top nine calendar proposals, although it was an option touted by one of the groups not selected for the final public presentation.

photo of three boys in audience

Presentation attendees were invited to vote for a proposal that best met their ideals. The winning calendar was designed by Alex Janssen, Elise Jordahl, Amber Peterson and Tori Tatum.  According to their 2015-16 calendar, the school year begins on September 8 and concludes on June 10. They incorporated three weeks of vacation at Christmas/New Year’s, but did not offer a spring break. The team also scheduled their teacher professional development time before the start of classes.

So, will any of these middle-school designed calendars be adopted by the Fargo Public School District? Ben Franklin Principal John Nelson closely monitored the project process and outcomes. “I sit on the committee that helps to determine Fargo’s school year calendar, so the resulting calendars were quite interesting. I think the students learned this is a much harder issue to solve than it seems.”

Dr. Schatz discusses a proposal with a group of seated students










Fargo Public Schools (FPS) Superintendent Dr. Jeff Schatz (pictured above with a group of students) was impressed by the variety of the students’ solutions. “This is a very complicated issue, and it’s hard to satisfy everyone with one calendar. The students incorporated various elements in their calendars, such as the required days in class and mandated holidays, that you will also see in the final 2015-16 FPS calendar.”

School administrators will begin work on the official Fargo Public Schools 2015-16 school year calendar in late November. You can bet this group of eighth graders will keep a close eye on all the final details!

NOTE: On November 4, 2014 in the North Dakota General Election, 55% of voters DEFEATED Initiates Measure 8, which would have mandated a North Dakota public school start date after Labor Day.


The Things We Do For Our Kids

An interview with one Fargo Public Schools family that has taken extraordinary steps to ensure their children have a better education and a better life.

By Vonnie Saunders, ELL Coordinator for Fargo Public Schools

Most parents would do just about anything for their kids.  One of Fargo Public Schools immigrant parents proved this point.  The Chaudhry family came here from Pakistan to give their son a better education.  Khurram, the father, with his priorities in mind, searched the Internet for a place to settle his wife and three children.  He found Fargo – a place with:

  • Good schools,
  • Low unemployment rate,
  • Low crime rate, and
  • A family-oriented atmosphere.

They sold almost everything they owned and came here to Fargo, North Dakota to start a new life.

Photo portrait of Chaudhry family: dad, mom, and three children

How has that worked out for the Chaudhry family?  It has not been easy.  The family began with no transportation, no employment, no knowledge of our systems, no friends or relatives.  They had come as permanent residents and thus had no access to any government services.  What they did have was determination and a plan.   Two and a half years later, their children are doing well in school, they have moved to a lovely apartment, and have jobs, a car, and two drivers licenses.

Their oldest daughter shared her transition from school in Pakistan to school in Fargo. “School in Pakistan was very different.  You mostly write and study from books.  Everything at school here was completely new and different – a good different.”  She remembers her first day in eighth grade.  The other kids were very nice and helpful.  Another student volunteered to be her buddy and helped her navigate the school all day.  When the bell rang at the end of the first period, she wondered, “Hey!  Where are you all going?”  because she was used to the teachers changing class while the students stayed in their seats – even over lunch.

The “happiest moment of her life” came when she found out she was going to get a school locker all to herself.  No need to share.  Another school difference that surprised her was how many papers students throw away.  She was taught to neatly keep everything for later study.  To throw papers showed disrespect to the teachers.  She also enjoys elective classes and having a say in what she will study.

The Chaudhry’s two oldest children went to an English immersion school in Pakistan, so reading in English wasn’t too hard for them.  However, they struggled with listening.  Their Pakistani teachers spoke British English with a Pakistani accent.  Our Midwestern American English sounds entirely different.  The girls were surprised by the large amount of slang and idioms we use, compared to the more formal style of speech they had learned in Pakistan.

When the Chaudhry family moved into their new apartment, the kids had to change schools.  Their oldest daughter is now enjoying her new high school.  She gets great grades (she was awarded second place in the state for her Spanish!) and is taking accelerated classes.  Her biggest regret is that it is very difficult to be involved in after school activities due to lack of transportation.  She knows the importance of a well-rounded high school experience for college entrance, but also wants to get the most out of her high school years.

The Chaudhry family has short term goals that include getting another driver’s license.  Perhaps that will allow access to more activities for both girls.   Long term, they want another car and a home to call their own – “the American Dream.”  But, Khurram explains, “More than that, we want a good future for our kids, the second generation Americans.  For them, the sky’s the limit!”

The family is happy in Fargo where people are nice and helpful, although it is hard to be away from their native home and relatives.  Their oldest daughter wants to become an orthopedic surgeon.  Maren, the Fargo Public Schools ELL social worker assigned to the family, says their daughter “has unquestioning drive, discipline, and courage.”   In turn, she simply credits her parents with her success.

Just like most parents would, the Chaudhrys have gone the extra mile for their kids – and our community will benefit, as well.

Alumni and Haircuts “Play” Their Part

Two Fargo South High School alumni and 20 haircuts help to set the stage for the school’s fall musical, South Pacific, which opens November 6.

Tickets online at

Twenty young men involved in the upcoming South High School Drama Department production of South Pacific received military-style “buzz” haircuts on October 25 to look the part of military personnel for their show. Directed by Drama and English instructor Kevin Kennedy, South Pacific is a musical romance that centers on a group of American sailors and Navy nurses stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.

“The haircuts help set the stage for the time period of the musical,” said Kennedy. “The show takes place during World War II, and most of the male characters are in the military, so the boys needed military-style haircuts. We even put the haircut on the audition sheet as a requirement so there would be no surprises.”

Corinne Calvert, an independent stylist with Urban Edge Salon, gave the South actors their short haircuts. She is a former theater student and 2008 South High alumna, and provided the haircuts gratis. “I thought it was time to do something to give back to the program that gave me so much during my high school years,” said Calvert.

South Junior Connor Nichols, a South Pacific sailor and chorus member, probably had the most drastic hairstyle change. “I’m not sure I’m gonna like the results, but it will be easier to take care of my hair,” said Nichols, prior to the haircutting session. Check out his and a few others’ before and after photos. (Pictured are Connor Nichols, Evan Wood and Gunnar Lundblad.)

Connor Nichols - before haircut

Connor Nichols - after haircut

Evan Woods - before haircut





Another alumni contributed to South Pacific. Christian Ekren, a 2014 graduate of South, created the graphic used for the show’s poster and other publicity and marketing efforts. Although Ekren is now majoring in computers at NDSU, he is continuing his devotion to theater as a sound technician for NDSU’s current theater production. Ekren designed all
of South’s theater show graphics last year during his senior year.

Kennedy selected South Pacific as the school’s fall show because he loves Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. “I actually think this is their best musical, even though The Sound of Music and Oklahoma are better known shows. Also, after doing a modern musical last year, I wanted to expose the students to a classic Broadway show.” (The South Drama Department presented High School Musical last school year.)

All these new ‘dos take to the stage beginning November 6. All seats are reserved. Tickets are available online at



The Politics of Education

Election Day, initiated measures on the ballot, and District legislative priorities are highlighted by Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Lietz.


Photo portrait of Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Lietz

As the month of November begins, one portion of the political arena will come to a close, while the legislative portion will begin finalizing plans for the upcoming legislative session.

November 4, 2014 is Election Day. There are many house and senate seats up for election, which will determine your voice in Bismarck during the 2015 – 17 North Dakota Legislative Session. Also, there are eight initiated measures on the ballot during this general election, two of which, Measure 5 and Measure 8, have the potential to have a direct impact on K – 12 education throughout North Dakota.

I encourage all of you to do your due diligence regarding candidates and measures. Become an informed voter.

Once legislative races are determined, the month of November becomes the time when many bills and resolutions are finalized for the upcoming session, with a mid-December filing deadline. Fargo Public Schools is very active during the legislative session.  The Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) of the Board of Education works to establish the District’s legislative priorities.  Once approved by a majority of the Board of Education, efforts begin in earnest to either propose legislation within the established priorities or follow legislative activities related to the priorities.  Superintendent Dr. Schatz and Business Manager Broc Lietz lead the legislative effort from an administrative perspective, while GAC Chairperson John Strand and Board President Robin Nelson play a crucial role from the Board of Education perspective.

Recently, the Board of Education established the following as the District’s legislative priorities for this session:

1)      K – 12 Funding Bill
         a.      Increase funding for ELL students
         b.      Increase funding for Special Education students
         c.      Use fall enrollment numbers for state aid formula
                  i.    Replace S & L taxes – fold into argument for fall enrollment

2)      Separate State Funding for Pre-K

3)      Increase State funding for School Construction Loan Program

4)      Changes to the TFFR and PERS Retirement Plans

During the 2015 – 17 North Dakota Legislative Session there will be weekly updates available monitoring the progress of these priorities, as well as following other legislative efforts directly related to K – 12 education.  If you have any questions during this time of year or during the legislative session that may help you become better informed regarding process or understanding of the educational funding issues facing the District and the state, please contact me, Broc Lietz, at 701.446.1026.  Your local legislators and school board members are also great resources for you during the legislative session.

Most importantly, Be Informed . . . Be Your Own Advocate . . . Be an Advocate for Fargo Public Schools…and Be an Advocate for K – 12 Education Statewide.