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.

Safe Schools: Safeguard Your Valuables

A school resource officer offers these simple tips to safeguard your valuables.

Officer Chad MoenBy School Resource Officer Chad Moen,
Ben Franklin Middle School and North High School
chad.moen@fargo.k12.nd.us

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

Many of you may have recently received expensive electronics and other items of high value as holiday gifts. Are you utilizing available resources and following good habits to safeguard your new valuables? Follow these simple tips to protect your valuables: 

Don’t leave valuables unattended and out in plain sight. Store items such as wallets, music players, headsets, and mobile phones tucked into purse pockets or zipped in interior pockets of backpacks and athletic bags when not in use. Lock purses, backpacks, and sports bags in school lockers, or keep them with you.

Don’t leave valuables on vehicle seats. Instead, store shopping bags and purchases, athletic bags, backpacks, etc. out of sight in the car trunk. Most SUVs with cargo areas instead of trunks include a cargo cover – be sure to use it to hide what’s being stored in the vehicle.

As warmer weather arrives, appropriately lock up bicycles, motorized scooters, and mopeds in provided transportation racks at schools and public venues to prevent unauthorized use and theft.

Prevent vehicle break-ins by rolling up car windows and locking all doors.

Keep a record of your valuables, including make, model and serial number. Utilize one of these two online FREE resources to keep an accurate list:

  • Area students have access to My Stuff to assist the police in protecting personal property. Created by SROs and the Fargo Public Schools IT Department, the program uses specific credentials given to students by their school district to create a secure online account, and then allows you to record the serial numbers and other property details. If an item is then lost or stolen, the police have documentation to assist in recovery efforts. (NOTE: The serial number is essential. It separates your item from millions of others, and allows us to be able to prove without a doubt that your specific item is yours alone.)
  • For Fargo residents, the city patterned another website after My Stuff to allow residents to record their valuables, called My Property. There’s no cost to you other than a little time to input your items. This database is also accessible through the Fargo Police Department smartphone app.

If you have any questions about safeguarding your valuables, contact the Fargo Police Department Information Line at 701.241.1437, or contact your school resource officer directly.

South Grad is Fargo Human Relations Award Recipient

Congratulations to 2013 South High graduate Kristina Heggedal, who was selected as the 2015 Fargo Human Relations Student Award recipient.

She is an active young member of various area service projects and holds leadership roles with numerous nonprofit and youth-led organizations, including Fill the Dome, Youth Summit, Fargo youth Initiative, Philanthropy and Youth (PaY), TEDx, TEDxYouth.

Heggedal’s work is community focused and with a goal to create lasting and meaningful improvements that help build a stronger community.

The award, issued by the Fargo Human Relations Commission, was presented to Heggedal by Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney at the City of Fargo MLK Event on January 19, 2015 at the Fargo Theater.

 

(Compiled from a media release issued by Karena Carlson/City of Fargo)

 

BULLYING: What is it really?

Together4Kids will present a FREE community class about bullying, including coping strategies on Tuesday.

Parents, teachers, and the community are invited to attend.
Preregistration is not required and there is no charge to attend.

BULLYING: What is it really?
January 20, 2015
7:00 PM to 8:15 PM
Centennial Elementary Library
4201 25th Street South, Fargo, ND
Presented by Sarah Klimek, Fargo Public Schools Elementary Counselor

Klimek will share the definition of bullying, types of bullying and examples and strategies to address and stop bullying. In addition, the FPS bullying policy and online reporting form will be shared. Access the community class flyer for full details.

Together4Kids is sponsored by The Parenting Resource Center/Cass County Extension Service & Fargo Public Schools.

Confluence of Creativity

Under the guidance of two teachers, a small group of students at Clara Barton Elementary School have created “Living Artists” teaching materials for others about famous artists.

“A complete art education teaches students to see clearly, to think creatively, and to give form to the future. And, yes, it is creative, self-expressive, and fun.” — Rama Hughes, Illustrator

Fargo Public Schools (FPS) Visual Arts Curriculum Facilitator Sharon Eide knows that to teach creativity you have to model creativity. Clara Barton Elementary fifth grade teacher Janelle Sigurdson can spot a creative educational project when she sees one at a professional development conference. The two got together, combined ideas and observations, and created an original, multi-disciplinary creative opportunity with a small group of Clara Barton Elementary students.

Their efforts produced Clara Barton Living Artists, a unique, multi-media educational project to teach students about art and artists.

Poppy, Georgia O’Keefe, 1928

O’Keefe style artwork, Lydia W., 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Artists project components completed by each of six Clara Barton students included:

  • Online research about a famous artist, including their work, style of their art, and their lifeReading at least one complete book about the artist or their style of art
  • Classroom book report using the selected book about the artist
  • Writing a letter to the artist as a classroom Language Arts assignment
  • Original artwork done in the style of the artist
  • Assemble a costume that mimicked the artist’s personal style
  • Reproduce a photo portrait of the artist
  • Write, rehearse, and film an interview as the “living artist”

The interviews were compiled into an educational Clara Barton Living Artists video to share with other students, to in turn teach them about the featured artists in an engaging way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Reese A. is pictured above right as the artist  Vincent Van Gogh.)

Eide also assembled pieces of each student’s research, their letter to the artist, and photographed artwork and portraits to create an educational brochure on each featured artist. The brochures can again be shared with others to teach in an engaging manner. Click on the artist’s name to view the Clara Barton Living Artist brochure on Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Grandma Moses, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andy Warhol.

“These students gave everything they had to this project,” shared Eide. She complimented them on their enthusiasm and dedication to the project and willingness to complete work at home on evenings and weekends to pull everything together. Asked if it was a valuable experience, Eide stated, “Absolutely! I would offer it again, despite all the intense effort to create the wonderful final results.” The students’ enthusiasm indicated this creative methodology was a great way to learn curriculum content.

So, what did the students reap as a result of participation in this art-based project? “Of course, they each gained more knowledge about their assigned artist, but they also gained a deeper appreciation for the Arts as a whole. The kids definitely gained more self-confidence as a result of participation and they exhibited real teamwork as they helped each other with the project components,” said Eide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(LivB. is pictured above right as the artist Salvador Dali.)

Eide also observed an unexpected outcome of the Living Artists project, which has affected the entire elementary school. “Beyond the scope of the project, I’ve seen these students and their peers exhibit more focus in the art room at Clara Barton. This project brought attention to the Arts for the whole school, and that has motivated everyone to work more creatively during art class.”

The students’ Living Artists video was presented to the Fargo School Board at their December 9, 2014 regular meeting as an example of the FPS Strategic Plan Result #7 in action: Students will experience the visual arts through appreciation, creation, or performance.

Culinary Boot Camp Brings Healthy Changes

Growing up in our community should mean growing up healthy. Fargo Public Schools (FPS) is part of the movement of health-minded organizations that have come together with the goal to make Cass and Clay Counties the healthiest in America. The Cass Clay Healthy People Initiative (CCHPI) is working community-wide to decrease the incidence of obesity and chronic disease by promoting active living and healthy eating.

As part of the initiative, CCHPI periodically offers healthy eating and active living classes throughout the region. One such class is Healthy Cuisine for Kids, designed to revamp current cooking practices and recipes into healthier options. Fifteen FPS Central Kitchen staff members and school kitchen managers attended, including FPS Nutrition Services Director Deb Laber.

group of boys seated at table, eating lunch from trays

Check out these healthy changes recently made to foods served by Fargo Public Schools Nutrition Services in our elementary, middle and high schools as a result of attending this culinary boot camp:

  • Homemade soups are now served daily at our high school cafeterias. Previously it was purchased ready-made. Lower-sodium soup recipes were developed.
  • FPS Central Kitchen makes lower-sodium ranch and French salad dressings for K – 12 lunch service. This was also previously purchased ready-made.
  • Black bean salsa and humus are made from scratch and served at all schools.

As a result of the class, “our staff also learned new and creative ways to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables and other food items to add to existing recipes to create great meals. It was good hands-on training in a kitchen setting,” said Laber. “We look forward to more classes like this one, so we can send more employees, and continue to make our food selections healthy and enjoyable.”

The CCHPI set a 10-year goal to reduce childhood obesity rates in Cass and Clay counties by 20% by 2020. FPS is excited to contribute to reaching those results through offering healthy food options to our students during their school day.

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Got Kindergarten?

Fat crayons. Your own desk. A new backpack. The anticipation of learning. Kindergarten memories await a new generation of learners…Fargo Public Schools Kindergarten Registration begins mid-February. Here’s the details:

Fargo Public Schools Kindergarten Registration will take place on
February 12, 16, 17, 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (expanded hours during evening conferences)
February 13, 18, 19, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (during regular office hours)
Child must be age 5 by July 31, 2015

seated teacher reading to students sitting on floor

Register at the school your child will attend. If your child will attend Ed Clapp Elementary, please register at any of the following schools: Kennedy at Eagles, Lincoln, Lewis & Clark, Centennial or Kennedy.

If you do not know which school your child will attend, call 701.446.1043 or check online at www.fargo.k12.nd.us/boundarymaps.

When you come to register your child, be sure to bring:

  • child’s certified birth certificate,
  • child’s current immunization record,
  • a document (i.e. current city utility bill or bank statement) that includes parent/guardian name and address to verify the correct neighborhood school.

More information and registration forms are online at www.fargo.k12.nd.us/registrationforms.

Impact of Upcoming Legislation and Enrollment on FPS

Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Schatz reviews upcoming legislative issues and enrollment projections and the potential impact they will have on the Fargo School District.

photo portrait of Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey SchatzI want to touch base on two issues: the upcoming ND legislative session and a quick update on our student enrollment projections for the next five years.

 

 

 

LEGISLATIVE OVERVIEW
This week is the start of the 64th legislative session in Bismarck.  Over the next few months, the Fargo Public School District will actively participate in the debate over several educational issues, including:

Student Funding
Over the past two legislative sessions, the legislature has provided local property tax relief by buying down local mill levies to the tune of 125 mills.  In doing so, the State has assumed a greater responsibility in funding local education. The property tax relief provided to local property owners has been well received by local school districts and property owners. The State has progressively increased per pupil payments to assist local school districts in meeting the needs of educating their students.  However, there are additional needs that require a long term solution.  One of those needs is funding for the ever-increasing population of English Language Learner (ELL) students.  In the 2013-14 school year, Fargo Public Schools served 786 ELL students.  In addition, we provided academic support services to another 250 students who have exited the ELL program but still require those academic supports.

Fargo’s population base has changed dramatically through the years and the educational needs for diverse or refugee populations are immense. Twenty-seven languages are represented in our ELL student population.

During the 2013-14 school year, the actual cost for educating ELL students totaled $2,328,069. Total revenue received by this District to serve this population totaled $646,462.  The remaining $1,681,606 was funded with local General Fund expenditures. The current pre-filed Education Funding Bill increases funding for ELL students.  We will be closely monitoring this bill as it works its way through the legislative process.  The proposed increase in ELL funding is definitely a great start in finding long term, sustainable solutions in assisting our ELL students.

Another area needing attention is funding for Special Education services.  During the 2013-14 school year, the actual cost for special education totaled $19.7 million, which provided services to a total of 1,272 students. Total revenue received by this district for these services was $12.5 million. In the 2012-13 school year the Federal government imposed a process called sequestration – a systematic cut of funding at the Federal level.  The revenue loss to Fargo Public Schools was around $900,000.00.  To make up for those losses, General Fund dollars had to be used to cover the increasing cost of providing Special Education services.  Fortunately, the progressive year by year plan of sequestering funds at the Federal level was stopped last year; however, the lost funds from the previous year’s sequestration were not restored.  Therefore, Fargo Public Schools will continue to encourage additional funding support for Special Education services.

Real-time payment of per pupil state aid funding is another area where local school districts experiencing student growth are paid for new students the year following their initial enrollment in the district. The current model uses spring enrollment data to drive the factors in the funding formula. Growing districts assume 100% of the cost of new students in the fall of each year, yet receive no payment for these students unless certain thresholds are met. Fargo Public Schools will continue to encourage the legislature to fund students that are in our classrooms during the year they arrive, rather than the current one year lag.  The one year lag in per pupil payments amounts to almost one million dollars annually in lost state aid.

Funding for Early Childhood Education
Nearly all educational research indicates an early start of the education process yields higher results for students throughout their educational career. Because of this research, there was a movement to add all-day kindergarten in our schools.  Fargo Public Schools supports the need for separate state funding for early childhood programming. Specifically, Fargo Public Schools is supportive of expanding the Gearing Up for Kindergarten (GUP) program to the entire district.  GUP is funded by United Way of Cass-Clay, the North Dakota Legislature, and participating schools, and is co-sponsored with NDSU Extension & South East Education Cooperative.  It is a free school readiness and parent education program that includes sessions covering topics such as parenting styles, brain development, early literacy and math, responsibility, social/emotional development, importance of sleep, and much more.  Parents and children attend together and onsite child care is available.  Providing support for young families and helping young families better prepare their children for their first step in the K – 12 system is critical.  Fargo Public Schools will be pursuing funding for this program and closely watching this legislative topic.

Increase State Funding for State School Construction Loan Program
Finally, with unprecedented student growth in many school districts across the state, funding for capital improvements and new school buildings is needed.  Fargo Public Schools is in a growth pattern, with overall student enrollment predicted to hit near 12,000 students in the 2019-20 school year.  An increase on average of 200 students per year will cause stress on our current building capacities and necessitate the need for capital improvements or construction of additional facilities.  Increased funding from the State Construction Loan Program would assist local school districts by providing low interest construction loans thereby lowering the overall cost of construction projects.  By doing so, we can decrease the burden of construction cost on the local tax payer.  Early indication shows that the legislature will be discussing this topic and an increase in the amount of money made available for school district construction projects will be increased.  Once again, we will monitor this discussion and advocate for additional dollars.

DISTRICT ENROLLMENT GROWTH
Continued growth in the Fargo metro area will provide challenges for the District as student enrollment numbers continue to increase in the far south side schools.  Overall, construction in the Fargo metro continues to be robust as is indicated in the 2014 building permit report where, for the first time, Fargo has exceeded the $1-billion milestone:

2014 building permit totals top $1-billion
FARGO, N.D. (Dec. 30, 2014) – For the first time, building permit values in Fargo have exceeded $1-billion. This milestone is two and a half times higher than the previous record of $377-million set in 2013.  As of noon on Dec. 30, the value of permits was $1,012,057,686.

2014 permits have included:

  • 79 new commercial buildings with a value of $516 million, which includes the $334 million Sanford hospital project and $41 million Essentia Health expansion.
  • 44 multi-family apartment buildings, with 1,897 apartment units, valued at $148 million.
  • 312 new single family homes and 65 attached housing units.
  • 61 public building projects with a value of $117 million. This includes the $35 million Sanford Athletic building and $23 million STEM building at NDSU. The Ed Clapp School was $12 million.
  • Commercial remodeling was $83 million, including the $8.2 million Union Storage remodel in downtown Fargo.

Current Enrollment Projections Report
RSP & Associates, LLC (RSP) conducted an enrollment analysis for Fargo Public Schools in the fall of 2014.  The result of the report indicates that student growth will continue in the District.  Growth in the next two years will be modest, at a rate of 100 to 150 students each year.  The following three years indicate a much more aggressive enrollment increase of 200 to 250 students each year.  The projected five year student enrollment increase indicates that the District will grow by more than 900 students in the next five years.  The following charts obtained from the most current fall of 2014 RSP report provided more detailed information.

FPS Enrollment History


Detailed Enrollment History and Five Year Projections

It is important that Fargo Public Schools closely monitor the legislative process and advocate for funding to adequately educate our students.  I, along with our School Board and other administrators, will continue to work with our legislators to be an advocate for education in our state and for Fargo Public Schools.  Further, administration will also be mindful of the enrollment projections provided to us, so that we can proactively prepare for additional students in the future and ensure that we have the funds to properly educate all of our students.

 

Nominations NOW OPEN for Fargo Schools Staff Recognition Program

Community members are invited to nominate a Fargo Public Schools teacher, administrator, or support staff member they feel is serving our students with excellence for consideration of a yearly recognition award.

Nominations for Fargo Public Schools Teacher, Administrator, and Support Staff of the Year Awards will be accepted NOW through February 15. Online instructions, forms, and application process can be found at www.fargo.k12.nd.us/StaffRecognitionProgram.

Fargo Public Schools deeply values its more than 1,800 staff members. Each person is an integral member of our large team that ensures each student receives a high quality education in a safe learning environment. To honor our employees, the District annually awards the following:

Teacher of the Year Award − awarded to a certified staff member
Administrator of the Year Award − awarded to a principal, assistant principal, director or coordinator
Support Staff of the Year Award − awarded an educational support staff member, custodial/maintenance department staff member, or nutrition services staff member

Each award will be given in the spring of this year. The Teacher of the Year honoree is then forwarded to the North Dakota Department of Instruction as a candidate for the North Dakota Teacher of the Year.

To nominate a staff member for consideration via electronic submission, please visit www.fargo.k12.nd.us/StaffRecognitionProgram.

Written nominations may be submitted to:

Staff Recognition Program
c/o AnnMarie Campbell
415 North 4th Street
Fargo, ND 58102