Store with a Community Cause Opens in South Fargo

The weather outside is frightful, much as the seasonal song implies, so business has been brisk at one of south Fargo’s newest shopping sites – the Winter Gear Come Here store, located in the lobby of Lewis & Clark Elementary School.

Sign and clothing racks for winter gear store set up

The students received a donation from WalMart for the clothing racks used to set up the store.

A group of 18 second and third grade Gifted Services Reading students at Lewis & Clark Elementary School, under the guidance of Gifted Services instructor Stacy Anderson, have created their own “store” to distribute free winter gear to their fellow Lewis & Clark students who might not have the resources to purchase appropriate and/or properly fitting outerwear necessary for our typically cold North Dakota winters – warm coats, caps, mittens, gloves, boots, and scarves. (NOTE: The store is only available for the students of Lewis & Clark Elementary School.)

three girls work at a table on white poster board with colored markers

Natalie, Anna, and Thea work on store posters, sharing the store’s purpose and hours of operation. The store is scheduled to remain open through March.

“These students identified a need at our school, realized the current system wasn’t working to fill that need, so they brainstormed ways to help out,” said Anderson, telling how their free store got its start. Their idea was then put into action as the students created an inventory system for donated winter gear, wrote donation request letters to businesses, set up donation drop off locations, designed marketing materials such as posters and fliers asking for donations, produced public service announcements, and drew up an equitable store work schedule – all tasks on their 13-step store business plan.

The young entrepreneurs have tackled all phases of running the winter gear store with enthusiasm, utilizing the skills and strengths of each participant to lead certain aspects of the project. Of course, they each have their favorite part of the store project:

“The hardest part of the whole project was picking the name of our store. The whole group voted and we had lots of good choices. The best part is that it’s really fun to run the store.” – Carson

“This project makes me happy. All the kids we help are happy, too. Their families don’t have to worry about spending so much money on stuff they grow out of so fast.” – Alora

“I liked working on this project because we help other kids with what they need. We should all do more to help others.” – Madysin

“This service learning project allows the students to feel connected to the greater school community, and it makes learning real. We’ve created caring citizens, who are serving a valid audience, and they’ve accomplished a real purpose,” shared Anderson. “This project empowers the students to make a difference for others, even as 7-, 8-, 9-year-olds. They are helping other children be safe. It teaches real life skills like collaborating and problem solving, plus they’ve adopted an attitude of gratitude for what they do have. And, let’s not forget that completing the winter gear store tasks has reinforced the students’ reading, writing, and math skills.”

adult and student stand in front of table and clothing racks while reviewing paperwork.

Instructor Stacy Anderson and Carson review the inventory monitoring process prior to opening the store for business one morning.

Service learning is a method of encouraging student learning and development through active participation in community service. It is integrated into and enhances academic curriculum, as well as fostering civic responsibility. Lewis & Clark’s Winter Gear Come Here store fits the service learning model perfectly.

Some photos courtesy Stacy Anderson.

Group of students and one teacher posed in rows in front of lothing racks full of boots and coats.

New High School Graduation Requirement

There’s a new high school graduation requirement beginning with the 2016-17 school year: students must pass a civics test.

Fisher_Kathy_2014By Fargo Public Schools Social Studies Grades 6–12 Facilitator Kathy Fisher

In January, 2015, the Legislative Assembly of North Dakota passed House Bill No. 1087. This bill requires that students demonstrate proficiency in civics as a requirement for high school graduation.  The required test for civics is 100 questions based on the fundamentals of United States history plus the principles and form of the United States government.  The questions are from the same bank of questions that are used by the United States Citizenship and Naturalization Services when administering
tests for application for naturalization.

This law applies to any graduate from high school during or after the 2016-17 school year. If a student is enrolled in the twelfth grade during the 2016-17 school year, that student must, as a condition of graduation, correctly answer at least sixty percent of the questions on the civics test.  After 2017, any graduate must correctly answer at least seventy percent of the questions on the civics test.  Individual compliance provisions will be made for any students who are on an individualized education program (IEP) plan.  A student may take the test, in whole or in part, at any time after enrolling in grade seven and may repeat the test, or any portion thereof, as often as necessary to demonstrate proficiency. There is no penalty for taking the test multiple times and there is never a fee to take the test.

How will this new regulation be implemented within Fargo Public Schools?

Fargo Public Schools, in compliance with the law, empowered the social studies department to determine a plan for the implementation of the Civics Test.  Social Studies teachers developed a plan that will give students the background information for the test as well as provide multiple opportunities to reach proficiency.  All students in both eighth grade and eleventh grade U.S. History classes will take the test for the next three years.   After that period of time the focus for the test will be on students in eighth grade with opportunities to re-take the test in high school.  This plan allows all students time to attain success, should multiple attempts be necessary.

Social Studies teachers are confident that they can help students achieve proficiency.  The social studies curriculum focuses on the required information needed for the test. In addition, teachers will provide resources for students to use to prepare for the test as well as tips in taking the test.  Both eighth grade and eleventh grade students will first take the test in December 2015.   Those students who do not pass the test will be given another opportunity to take the test in spring of 2016.  Students will be given feedback regarding their results and students will be given additional help to reach success in the future.

School District IT Projects

photo portrait of Bill WestrickAn overview of several large-scale information technology projects that happened throughout the Fargo Public School District over the past several months.

By Fargo Public Schools Information Technology Director Bill Westrick

This past summer was a busy one for the Fargo Public Schools (FPS) Information Technology (IT) staff. Following the Long Term Technology Plan, we repurposed or recycled 900 personal learning devices, added 3,200 new devices, and updated or refreshed another 2,000 computers. All high school students continue to make use of 1:1 computers that they can use at school and take home, and now the middle schools have 1:1 computers in-school across all grade levels. We also expanded this summer into the elementary schools with chromebook deployments for fifth grade classrooms. We are fortunate to have such a great team of tech workers each summer who can accomplish so much in such a short time frame.

Over the summer the FPS IT department also implemented a new online registration program for FPS parents called School Office Pro. Parents can now fill out necessary forms and update their family contact information online and school office staff can accept and process these online submissions quickly, all without manually typing in information transcribed from stacks and stacks of paper forms. In our first year of using School Office Pro, we achieved a 95% completion rate for our student’s information, which is a tribute to the incredible effort each school put into helping families through their first year of online forms. Special recognition is due to Kerby Engen and Del Vogle in the IT department, who put in countless hours planning, implementing, and monitoring this new system.

graphic title - 90% of FPS families registered online by first day of school

In addition to online forms, parents were also given the opportunity to pay school fees and add lunch money to student accounts online with a new program called SchoolPay. By the start of the school year, more than 20,000 transactions had already been made using the new system, making SchoolPay a rousing success. Joy Retterath from FPS Business Services deserves special notice for driving the SchoolPay project from planning to implementation.

During this fall, 450 staff laptops are being replaced, with teachers getting an opportunity to sit in on device transfer sessions to learn about their new computer and ensure it has everything they need for their classrooms. The bulk of these replacements have already been accomplished, and things are going well.

girl holds small coputer in her hand, looking at an image of herself on the screenAs we look ahead to next spring and summer, FPS is looking at the best options for student device replacements. The tech plan assumes replacing two grade levels each year as devices go through a three year cycle in the hands of students. By spring, device options will be identified and volunteer students will try out new devices in the classroom to evaluate their effectiveness. During the summer of 2016 we will be expanding chromebooks into the fourth grade level as we continue to enhance elementary technology at one grade level each year. We are also applying for a state technology grant that we hope to leverage to move up the third grade chromebook implementation by a year so that we can implement that device deployment over the 2016 summer as well.

Champions of Service Learning

The holiday gift-giving season is nearly upon us. There’s a small group of Fargo Public Schools (FPS) students who aren’t paying that much attention to the holiday countdown, however, because they’ve been practicing the spirit of giving all year long.

The ten special education students of Project inVEST have been giving their time and talents to others in the community as a regular part of their curriculum of study. The educational program, located at Agassiz, helps special education students make the transition from school to independent living in order to maximize their potential for a quality adult life. The program emphasizes community integration, social relationships, and recreation, along with the acquisition of life skills and employment skills. Students may participate in Project inVEST based upon need and ability and are eligible upon graduation through age 21.

4 students outside raking leaves with large rakesThe 2015-16 Project inVEST students have volunteered at many community organizations since the start of this school year, doing a variety of activities tailored to the students’ personal interests and career aspirations. Typically working in small groups, the students have raked leaves at the North Fargo Ronald McDonald House, served in the kitchen at the YWCA Shelter, helped out in classrooms of the Early Childhood Special Education program, served concessions for South High School athletic events, and participated in service projects for the United Way of Cass Clay recent Day of Caring. Two young men have taken over primary weekly care for the aviaries at Bethany Nursing Home. And, all of the Project inVEST students are scheduled to ring the bell for the Salvation Army red donation kettles during the upcoming holiday season. According to Project inVEST Coordinator Deb Mattson, the students are learning socialization and additional life skills while donating their time. “Plus, they are experiencing how good it feels to help someone else,” said Mattson.

Perhaps the most popular volunteer project these students undertake is a weekly activity that has been dubbed the “Hot Dish Club.” For the past four years, the Project inVEST students have been creating hot dish meals that are donated to others in the community. Mattson shared that the students plan the menu, shop for fresh groceries, ask for donations from businesses as needed, read out the recipes, measure ingredients, and cook the meal, all from donated materials, groceries, and gift cards given to the program. “Sometimes I wonder how we are going to cover expenses for the week’s meals, and then a gift card will show up on my desk, or a donation will be in the mail. Everything works out,” said Mattson. The efforts of the Hot Dish Club were publicly recognized almost two years ago, when the program received the YWCA 2014 Friend Award.

two students stand at kitchen counter with recipe and ingredients in front of themBy now, the students have their hot dish meal prep down to a routine: Monday is planning time; Tuesday is for gathering ingredients; Wednesday is baking day; Thursday is cooking day; and on Friday the complete hot dish meals (including a vegetable, bread, sometimes accompanying dishes, and always a dessert) are picked up for distribution to homeless families within the Fargo Public School District by FPS Homeless Liaison Jan Anderson, or given to the YWCA Shelter. Pictured are Kira and Peter mixing up an Italian hot dish last week.

“This year’s group is a great bunch of kids,” said Mattson. “They are adventurous cooks, and like to try new recipes all the time, but one of their favorite recipes to make is Taco Rice Casserole.” Click here to view their recipe and try it yourself.

“The Project inVEST students learn so many independent living skills, and practice reading, writing, and math skills through all of these volunteering activities, in addition to feeling like they are contributing members, showing their support of our larger community,” shared Mattson. In this instance, it seems the givers truly receive as much as the gift recipient!

If you’d like to donate to the Hot Dish Club and experience the gift of giving yourself, contact Deb Mattson at 701.446.3156 or email her at to find out how you can best support the community volunteering efforts of Project inVEST.

Encountering a Cultural Difference

Sanders, VonnieBy Fargo Public Schools English Language Learner (ELL) Coordinator Vonnie Sanders

The path to Cultural Proficiency isn’t always an easy road to follow. And, sorry to say, you will never reach the point where you can proudly proclaim, “I’ve arrived.” Instead, we start out on our cultural journey, stumble along the way, maybe make embarrassing mistakes, and realize how much we don’t know about our world.

Oh, but what a journey! To marvel wide-eyed at wonderful and amazing differences, to learn to respect and appreciate our neighbors, to read world events with a deeper understanding – these are some of the ways you will be changed as you move through this maze of variations in cultures.

You can make this cultural proficiency journey without even leaving Fargo. There are more than 60 cultural groups represented within Fargo Public Schools (FPS) to learn from, so we will all be challenged for quite a while. The proficiency road can be even a little rockier when we add the potential stumbling block of “religion.” Jennifer Schuldheisz, Principal at Ed Clapp Elementary School, shared a thought-provoking cultural learning experience with her staff earlier this month. She saw it as an opportunity for growth, rather than a setback on the cultural proficiency journey.

Ms. Schuldheisz has allowed me to share her communication about her cultural experience as the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha was being celebrated by some of her Ed Clapp students and families.

“Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.” – Bryant McGill

I forced myself to be uncomfortable this week. It wasn’t handling the students running from the classrooms and hiding… or the sub shortage… or supporting the Math PLCs with the main facilitators gone. It was an addition to the morning announcements.

I recognized that some of our students had an important holiday they were celebrating this week. While at first it seems unusual to kids that various groups of people celebrate different holidays, when we practice the habit of “seeking first to understand and then to be understood,” we find more similarities than differences.

To put that information in the morning announcements pushed my comfort level. I knew I was referring to a religious holiday and that line can be a challenge to navigate. I went to bed thinking, How can I use the information as a way to UNITE and not a way to separate? It would have been much easier and more comfortable to skip it. Turns out, I’m so glad I didn’t. Thanks to feedback from our students’ reactions to the announcement, it was truly a learning experience for me. I learned how students “lit up” realizing we KNEW about their holiday. I learned how teachers expertly navigate challenging discussions.

Students responded with the idea that although we have different celebrations, we do have things in common: wearing new clothes, gathering with family, special kinds of food, going someplace to worship, having a day off of school!

One of the goals for creating a positive student culture is that commitment to achieving cultural proficiency. Skipping it would have kept me in the Cultural Blindness part of the cultural proficiency continuum [graphic below]. This is where I see cultural differences, but I pretend not to. We will continue to search for ways to celebrate our diversity on a regular basis. Our Student Culture Committee will help us implement ideas, and I will continue to push myself to live up to our Ed Clapp School Pledge that says we honor diversity (not ignore it).

— Jennifer Schuldheisz, Principal


Not all people from a particular religion or tradition celebrate holidays in the same way.  Even within a culture, individual families may have different traditions and expectations.  Hence, some will ask for more days off school for a celebration or need additional accommodations for prayer times.

If you are wondering about an unfamiliar cultural tradition, habit, or belief, ask a student or parent. Most people do love to share information about their heritage and beliefs. If you think it might be a sensitive topic, begin by explaining that they are not obligated to answer your question. You are always welcome to ask FPS English Language Learner staff, too. Who knows, your question might be universal and end up in a newsletter article!  Meantime, enjoy your own personal journey towards Cultural Proficiency.

Holiday Alerts for November:

November 1 and 2 El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a national holiday in Mexico. Mexicans regard this annual holiday as a happy occasion that reunites them with the souls of loved ones. Families decorate tombs in the graveyard and home altars with toys, favorite foods, flowers, bread figures, incense burners, and elaborately fashioned candlesticks. On the morning of the second day people gather in graveyards and serenade the spirits with brass bands and mariachi music. The dead are never forgotten because once a year they are honored during this annual holiday.

November 11 marks the beginning of Diwali (Festival of Lights). It means ‘row of lights’ and is the Hindu New Year. The holiday is observed through decorating homes with lights and candles, setting off fireworks, and distributing sweets and gifts.   Diwali lasts for 5 days: Day 1 – New Year for business; Day 2 – Celebrates the triumph of god Vishnu over the evil demon; Day 3 – Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, visits homes lit by lamps; Day 4 – Bali worship day; Day 5 – Devoted to brothers and sisters.

Cost of Education is “Priceless”

The finished home comes at a price, but the learning it affords is priceless.

Minimum purchase price for newly constructed rambler: $58,000
Cost of Educational Learning and Career Experience: Priceless

young man operates construction table sawWhile a majority of career and technical education (CTE) coursework within the Fargo Public Schools (FPS) happens inside a classroom, there are three very visible CTE projects taking place out in the community – the hands-on, real-world construction of three single-family homes by 32 high school seniors who are enrolled in the Construction Technology II (CT2) course. Once constructed by the students, each of the homes will be sold to a private buyer and moved to a location designated by the purchaser.

For the 2015-16 school year, two homes located on school grounds at North High School, along 19th Avenue North, are being constructed by 20 students from South and North Highs; one home is being built on the Davies High campus by 12 Davies seniors.

The two homes being built at North High are each a three bedroom, two bath 1,500 square foot rambler. The home includes a living room with bay window, cathedral ceilings, main floor laundry room, window seats in two bedrooms, and oak trim. View the full North floor plan for further construction details, including elevations. The construction is supervised by instructor Doug Snare.

The home at Davies is also a three bedroom, two bath rambler. The 1,800 square foot home includes cathedral ceilings, expanded kitchen eating area, and main floor laundry room. View the full Davies floor plan and elevations for further details. The construction is supervised by instructor Ron Streit.

Photograph of front view of rambler style house

Construction Technology II Course – North High Project Model from previous year; front view.

The CT2 student crews work on these house projects from the ground up. They level the foundation and mark and set floor joists. Then they install flooring plywood (pictured at right, with instructor Ron Streit in orange shirt) and next build and install headers and walls. After sheathing the exterior walls they set the truss rafters, sheath the roof, apply shingles, and then move to the interior of the house. For interior work the students insulate walls, install exterior windows and doors, and apply drywall. Students may elect to work alongside professional contractors for the plumbing, electrical, and siding installation aspects of the construction project. The final portion of the students’ build process is
installing interior doors and final window trim.

Each rambler is inspected regularly throughout the entire process by both North Dakota and Minnesota inspectors. The house must meet all building codes and pass all inspections, just as it would if being built by a professional contractor.

“The students leave this program with knowledge in the construction field that will help them enter the work force or serve them well if they pursue continued education at a North Dakota or Minnesota two or four year program,” said Doug Snare, FPS construction trades instructor.


Prospective buyers for any of the three homes currently being constructed may contact Michelle Aarsvold with Park Company Realtors at 701.266.6768. Minimum bid is $58,000. The buyer is also responsible for the cost to move the home to its permanent location.

Pre-sale inquiries for NEXT year’s home constructions (2016-17 school year) can be made with Dr. Denise Jonas, Director of the Cass County Career & Technical Education Consortium, at 701.446.1008. 2016-17 buyers will have the opportunity to select the colors and finishes for the home, including siding, windows, and final finishes (lighting fixtures, cabinets, bathroom installs) if a purchase is negotiated prior to the start of construction, slated for early September 2016.

Students Flying High

The high school students enrolled in Aviation Technology as part of Fargo Public Schools career and technical education courses received a unique learning opportunity in late October – their classroom instruction happened thousands of feet above the ground!

The Aviation Technology course is taught out of Sheyenne High School in West Fargo, as part of the education opportunities of the Cass County Career & Technical Education Consortium (CCCTEC), led by Dr. Denise Jonas. The Consortium’s education partners include Fargo, West Fargo, and Northern Cass school systems. The course offering is an example of a cost-effective, resource-efficient, cooperative education opportunity that expands the reach of career and technical education to many area students.

Approximately 40 Aviation Technology students from the three school districts spent the day experiencing a flight in a small plane, further fueling their passion for aviation. Many of the students took the course to potentially determine a career path for themselves as a pilot, aviation mechanic, air traffic controller, or other aviation related job.

The following article about the Aviation Technology students’ flight day was written for the West Fargo Pioneer, and featured West Fargo students in the interviews, but you could substitute Fargo Public Schools students in their places and have garnered the same reactions and education outcomes. It was a unique learning opportunity for all of the students.


Students Flying High with Aviation Technology
Written by Craig McEwen, published on Oct 21, 2015 in the West Fargo Pioneer

About 40 West Fargo aviation technology students took to the skies last week thanks to four pilots who donated their time and airplanes to provide real flight experiences.

“I want to give something back to these kids that I didn’t have an opportunity to have,” said pilot Rod Scheel, a 1967 West Fargo graduate who now lives in Fergus Falls, Minn.

“I really want to be a pilot someday,” said Sheyenne High sophomore Dylan Aspelund, 15, while anxiously awaiting his flight.

Fergus Falls pilot Dave Jennen taxied up in his Piper Archer 11 airplane and opened the passenger door. Aspelund climbed aboard, strapped himself in and donned a communications headset. Jennen back-taxied south down the 330-foot West Fargo Airport runway, made a u-turn and took off, his left wing dipping slightly in response to a straight west wind.

The volunteer pilots are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program. Since 1992, Young Eagles volunteer pilots have given more than 1.9 million school-age students airplane rides to “start their journey to becoming a pilot, aircraft mechanic, air traffic controller or many other career possibilities,” according to the EAA website.

“The goal is to expose kids to aviation at a young age that inspires their passion for flying,” said 30-year veteran pilot Jay Stein, Young Eagles coordinator for local Chapter 317.

“We try to find kids that are interested in aviation,” Stein said. “Just the physics involved with flight is intriguing to them. They want to know what keeps airplanes in the air.”

Working with the students is fun, said Jennen. “That’s why we do it.”

“Pilots are kind of a close-knit group of people. They love sharing it (flying) with everybody. It’s a passion,” said West Fargoan David Gust, whose airplane hangar became a classroom for the day. Gust owns and operates AgAir Limited, an aerial application crop-spraying business.

This is the second year the Sheyenne High School has offered an aviation technology class as part of its Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative.

Sheyenne aviation teacher Dave Gravdahl was pleased with the day’s outing. “This is a great deal. The kids are loving it. It really ties everything we do, together,” he said. “I’ve got to give all the credit to the Young Eagles people. The key thing for us is the support we’re getting, things like this that give us hands-on experience.”

Aspelund said the class experience will play into his decision to become a pilot via college or joining the military.

He was five years old when his stepfather gave him his first airplane ride. “It just blew my mind,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to be from that point on. I’m just grateful that they have aviation in school to give me experience where my passion is. When I saw it on the class list, I joined it immediately.”

Aspelund got off the plane with a wide smile. “It was pretty good, just like I expected,” he said. “We saw our school and my house. It was pretty smooth, and a good landing, too.”

Students from West Fargo High and Sheyenne High School, Northern Cass High School, and Fargo Public Schools took part in the Young Eagles flying experience.

Library Trend: Maker Spaces

Libraries. They’re not just for books anymore. Turns out, the library is no longer a quiet zone for most schools, but is instead a hub of activity and learning. Yes, there are still books in the school library, and quiet reading time DOES happen there, but so does online research, classroom presentations, teacher lectures, writing workshops, technology labs, and scissor-and-glue craft projects. Wait! WHAT?! Messy craft projects, in a library quiet zone? You betcha!


Discovery Middle School Librarian Patty Donat recently created a “maker space” in the school’s library. It’s basically a space where students can make stuff, before and after school. Donat’s got a do-it-yourself (DIY) featured project scheduled for each month, but the students are welcome to come in and DIY on their own as well. “The idea is to make kids feel comfortable in the library, and give them a place to belong,” said Donat.

100_2463The Discovery DIY maker space is following a recycling theme for their projects, and Donat intends to involve words in some way with each featured project. October’s project was a book pumpkin. More than 120 students and teachers created decorative pumpkins out of recycled books, ribbon, plastic leaves, and a bit of spray paint. One student even collected natural items such as sticks and leaves from the outdoors to use for the project. Pictured, above, are Maren Ewertz (7th grade) and Tommy Wadholm (6th grade) working on their pumpkins.

Future maker space projects will include earbud holders, snowmen, and memory books. Donat plans to enlist help from area businesses, families, and teachers for donations of recyclable items and basic craft supplies for additional monthly DIY projects. Discovery’s art teacher has already planned a cooperative activity for the maker space in the spring.


Other shools around the District have plans to start a maker space in their school library:

  • Carl Ben Eielson Middle School will have four maker spaces that rotate weekly; their first activities will feature Ozobots projects that introduce students to computer coding.
  • South High School is scheduled to open a permanent, dedicated maker space at the start of second semester.

Donat shared that the students’ comments have been positive about their maker space experience, and she’s seen additional traffic in the Discovery library as a result. The road map to library use may have detoured through DIY crafting, but the result is student learning through greater engagement with library resources and personnel. (Don’t tell the students, but mission accomplished.)

students_working_cropped“This is fun!”
“What will we do next month?”
“Will you please do this a lot?”
“Can we come back to the library?”

Lessons from a Lost Boy

Perseverance and Positivity – Lessons from A Lost Boy of Sudan

One of the 20,000 “lost boys,” the young boys displaced and orphaned by the second Sudanese civil war, shared his story of overcoming hardships using his attitude of perseverance and being positive with the students of Fargo South High School. Afterwards, he worked with the school’s English Language Learning students to help them tell their own journey-to-America stories of overcoming.


Sudanese “Lost Boy,” author, and motivational speaker John Bul Dau spoke to the entire South High School student body on October 6, promoting cultural proficiency while discussing his own challenges and success with education and literacy. Dau escaped the terrors of war in Sudan by walking hundreds of miles across the country and eventually making his way to the U.S. He wrote about his journey in his memoir “The Gods Grew Tired of Us,” which was also made into a movie. Dau’s assembly presentation encompassed themes of hope and perseverance, and being positive.  “What I’ve found out was that to be positive would actually keep you alive. Let me explain. To be positive mean[s] to be able to help somebody else,” said Dau.

Dau_croppedFollowing the assembly, Dau held a question and answer session and conducted a writing workshop with the South High English Language Learning (ELL) students in Leah Juelke’s ELL English Level 4 class to help the students craft narrative short stories about their own journeys to America. These ELL students are writing about their experiences and journeys to America during a narrative short story writing unit, which is part of their English curriculum.

During the Q and A, one student asked Dau what was the most difficult part of getting used to living in America. His response was a surprise. “The hardest part wasn’t getting used to the weather, it was making choices,” said Dau. “Growing up I did not have choices. We were served one food for a meal. No choice. I did not have many pairs of shoes to choose to wear – only one. No choice. I could not really comprehend that I had to make a decision for myself when my host asked me what I wanted to drink – water, milk, juice. Every day in America there were choices to make.”


In addition to Dau, the North Dakota Refugee Consortium will assist the ELL students with their writing assignments over the course of the five-week study unit. Consortium members include the African Initiative for Progress group, Giving + Learning Program, and a group of refugees from Bhutan and Somalia. These member groups will provide speakers and mentors to come into the ELL classroom to support the students with ideas and technical writing skills. Christian Harris, the executive director of the Refugee Consortium, and others in these organizations were refugees themselves and several have backgrounds in journalism and writing. Under the direction of professor Kevin Brooks, NDSU students from the English department will also assist with the technical writing portion of the unit.

The final result of this writing project will be a collection of the students’ stories displayed as hard copy bound books and featured on the South High School website.

The entire project, including Dau’s visit and workshop and the work time with the additional groups, has been funded by an Eleanor Laing Law Grant supporting innovative literacy and library projects from the Fargo Public Schools Development Foundation.

Community Partnerships are a “Good Thing!”

Photo portrait of Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc LietzBy Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Lietz





As a public entity, Fargo Public Schools (FPS) is very intertwined in the fabric of the Fargo community. With the opening of Ed Clapp Elementary, there has been a great deal of acknoIMG_4555wledgement of the community partnerships required to make an in-fill project such as that become a reality. What may be more eye opening for many is the extent of similar community partnerships throughout our School District, specifically with Fargo Park District.


At our three comprehensive high schools, Fargo Public Schools owns typical school amenities such as football fields, soccer fields, tracks, indoor pools, and gymnasiums. Fargo Park District owns other amenities that are shared for use with FPS. For example, all three high schools have outdoor swimming pools that are solely owned by the Park District; in addition, each school also has either a baseball or softball complex owned by the Park District. At South High and North High, the Park District owns the hockey facilities as well.

The three middle schools each have a unique arrangement regarding space with the Park District. At Ben Franklin and Carl Ben, the Park District does not own any property; however, Ben Franklin does share gym space to assist with Fargo Parks’ needs. At Discovery, the Park District owns the softball and soccer fields, while FPS owns the tennis courts, football field, track, and gymnasiums. The two sets of facilities are shared to meet the needs of both entities.

IMG_2869It is likely a little known fact that nearly all of FPS elementary school sites have a Park District ownership interest and in some cases both entities cost-share maintenance expenses. Generally speaking, when it comes to the elementary sites, the outdoor amenities are the property of the Park District. This includes items such as outdoor ice rinks, warming houses, tennis courts, baseball fields, and football/soccer fields. Years ago, school playgrounds, although located on FPS property, were a jointly funded effort between FPS, Fargo Parks, and the City of Fargo. At Longfellow, Clara Barton, Centennial, Roosevelt, and Ed Clapp, FPS built and owns the gymnasiums; however, at the time of construction the Park District participated in a cost-share to enhance the facilities.

So, how and why does all of this collaboration happen? Primarily it is an effort by both entities to maximize space usage and collectively provide for the needs of the community in specific areas of town. For example, when FPS determined the need to build the gym at Centennial Elementary, it was done based on building needs for a growing student population. When that decision was made, leadership from FPS and Fargo Parks began discussing programmatic needs expressed by the Park District in and around the Centennial neighborhood. The Park District saw a need for gym space for adult basketball and volleyball leagues. At that point, the Park District requested some design changes to enhance the facility and committed resources to pay for those enhancements. The final step was the development of a joint use agreement between the Park District and the School District regarding access and availability.

IMG_20130827_112921_416Differences in the partnerships that exist at various FPS locations are primarily based on neighborhood and programmatic demands, and mostly driven by the Fargo Park District. For example, when FPS built Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, conversations occurred with the Park District. At that time, they reviewed the makeup of the CBE neighborhood, looked at the proximity of the site to other Park District owned amenities such as outdoor fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds, and determined they did have a need to participate and obtain usage of those facilities. This is why there are many shared spaces at our school sites even though they are not identical. FPS has had a philosophy of neighborhood schools and, logically, neighborhoods have other needs as well. This is where the Park District comes in and provides usable neighborhood spaces. This is the genius of these discussions when collaboration opportunities arise.

Both entities receive taxpayer funds from the same taxpayers, so collaborating is an effective way to pool resources and save taxpayer dollars. Community partnerships are a collective win for all shareholders. Fargo Public Schools will continue to seek collaborative opportunities as we serve a vital role in the continued growth and development of the Fargo community.