Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 15-09-2015

This is the revenue portion of this two part post.  Where the Money Comes From – the revenue side.  If you wish to see the info-graphic in its interactive form you can go to

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 15-09-2015

This will be part one of my annual two part series on Where the Money Goes & Where the Money Comes From.  To view the larger graphic just click on the picture.  If you wish to see the info-graphic in its interactive form you can go to


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 30-08-2015

This is the beginning of a philosophical debate.. but is school too easy?
Should school, in general, be easier academically so as to be comfortable for all students, with the possibility of boring some students? OR
Should school, in general, be more rigorous academically and challenging all students, with the possibility of leaving some students behind?

This is not a new problem.  In fact I believe it is a problem that is as old as education itself.  What is the proper pace and depth that education should be metered out to our students?

For those of us old enough to remember the picture to the left I would argue that education at that time was:
- More rooted in the basics and had a narrower scope than today.
- Outside of the one room school houses education was a one-size fit all approach.
- Most students, at that time, that did not conform with the average (special needs being an example) were not in the same classroom.  If they were in the same school at all.
- Education was tough but designed to get a child to a 12th grade education.

Somewhere along the line practices changed and ideas like inclusion for all, broadening the curriculum, common core, sex ed, tech ed, bullying awareness, STEM, and P16 (post secondary) became part of our school systems.  I am not at all arguing against any of these notions, in fact I support them.  However, also along the way came this belief that school should be more fun, engaging at all times, and just plain easier.  Why did we begin to think that way?  Shouldn’t education be fun, but also work.  We are exercising our minds.  Practicing to run a marathon (not that I have ever done that) is not always fun.  As a coach I know my athletes enjoyed playing the sport but didn’t always enjoy completing ladders, it is easily noticeable on their faces.  Heck, as an athlete myself I did not enjoy losing my lunch on the edge of the football field, but I did it because I wanted to play.

I think we, AMERICAN parents and students, have lost sight of the fact that school should be difficult.  It is a practice of exercising our brains.  Just as we say in sports you play like you practice, isn’t that the same for learning.  Do we want our kids to have it easy when they are learning to the point they don’t know how to learn/work during their adult lives.  I don’t think so.  Education today must include a strong foundation in the basics and students should be expected to practice these extensively.  Personally, I don’t have an issue with flash cards for sight words or math facts.  Once some of the fundamentals are solid a child can easily build their knowledge upon it.  Secondly, education today must meet high academic standards set to ensure each and every student is prepared to either enter work, the military, or post-secondary.  However, unlike the picture above, this process is differentiated to address the unique learning needs of each and every child.  This is where the debate still rages.. what is best for this child.  What is too hard, and what is too easy.  Lastly, education today must connect the learning a student is doing today to the reality of their future.  The proverbial “why am I learning this” still must be addressed in ways that engage our kids.

Is school too easy.. that is probably a question that will never be answered.  But, I would bet that most of us would rather have experienced an education that challenged us, rather than one that just allowed us to pass through easily.  To that end I hope to create and ensure that the system Ellendale students pass through meet these demands.  It would not please me more to have a graduate come back and tell me their next adventure in life was easier because of the work they did here at EPS.

From kindergarten to graduation, I went to public schools, and I know that they are a key to being sure that every child has a chance to succeed and to rise in the world.

Dick Cheney
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 31-07-2015

The beginning of August is here and with that is the planning for back to school for many parents.  School is almost a month away yet many events are coming up quickly as you prepare for this special time.  Here is a list of important dates and activities for parents.

Aug 10th – 14th is registration week.  Any new students, including kindergarten aged kids, are encouraged to stop by the office during work hours.  During registration you can meet with your child’s principal, arrange grade and class placement, pay fees, and ensure that the school has all the necessary documents for your child’s record.  Be aware new students we must have a ND Immunization form, copy of a child’s birth certificate, and any previous academic records on file before they begin.  In addition we will need to complete the required registration documents, and assist you with lunch accounts, activity fees, ELL survey and much more.

Fee Payment – If you are new or returning online fee payment is now open.  You can go to our web site at and click on the PaySchools button in the bottom right portion of the main page.  If you need assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Back to School Newsletter – this will be sent to all families, that we have registered or returning, the first week of August.  It is PACKED full of valuable information on back to school, free/reduced applications, and much more.  Be watching your mailboxes for this.

PeeWee Football and Westberry Dance are both community programs that will be taking registrations for students in August.  Football will be on Monday, Aug 10th between 4-6pm at the school.  Westberry Dance will be Monday, Aug 3rd between 4-6pm also at the school.  For Westberry Dance you can also find information online here.

Athletics will begin in earnest in August.  Here is the list of starting dates and contact information if you child is interested in participating:
Volleyball – Coach Smith – Begins Monday, Aug 17th
Cross Country – Coach Crabtree – Around Aug 10th.  Please contact him for specific information.
Football – Coach Flynn – Aug 12th

Get our App – If you have an android device or iPhone we highly encourage you to get our school app.  You can find it on either app store by searching for “ellendale school”.  Have it ready before you come in to registration as we can give you login & password information that will make your app smart and specifically configured for your family and child.  This information will also be sent home after the school year begins so be watching for it.

PowerSchool – This is an invaluable tool for families to keep track of their child’s progress at school.  It can provide you with lunch balances, attendance, and grades for all your child’s courses.  If you are not presently using PowerSchool Parent please ask you principal or the office staff during registration.

Busing – Back to School bus letter should be out around Aug 21st.  Rural parents be watching for them please and review the information with your children.  New this year is the requirement to wear a seat belt.  If any school vehicle, including a bus, is equipped with seat belts they must be worn by all occupants, while the bus is moving.  This is a new policy and will be new to riders on our new bus, expected Oct/Nov of 2015.

Love & Logic Parent Session – Mr. Chris Peterson is coming to EPS on Monday, Aug 24th to provide a full day training to our teachers on Love & Logic and how it can help address student behaviors in the classroom.  EPS has also paid to have him present a parent course also on Monday, Aug 24th between 4-6pm.  This will take place at the Ellendale School Library and we highly encourage parents to attend.  He will be providing information on how certain techniques and phrases can make child discipline much easier in your home.  We hope you take advantage of this event.

Start of School – Classes will begin at normal time (8:40) on Wednesday, Aug 26th.  Breakfast will also be served that morning from 8-8:30am.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 14-07-2015

I have always been comfortable with change.  Change is constant in our daily lives and pace of change just seems to be getting faster and faster each passing year.  Yet, this year.. thus summer… Change is happening at Ellendale School in a wave.

That wave is a tsunami of new teaching faculty and support staff all joining our teaching family at our school.  I have seen summers with 2 or 3 new employees.  I have seen some years with none.  Even on the high end I think it was 9 but many of these were support staff, not teachers.  Yet, this year we have broken all records.

Starting in the fall of 2015 we will have eleven new employees with most of those teachers.  Here is a short list:
Mrs. Kira Fischer – Counselor
Mr. Troy & Mrs. Amy Goehring – Elementary 4th & 2nd Grades
Mrs. Candice Klipfel – HS English
Mrs. Joni Lematta – Elementary 2nd Gr.
Hal Phoenix – Maple River Elementary
Ashli Powell – Title I
Andrea Hiles – Elementary 4th
**That makes 8 new teaching faculty out of 35 teachers last year or 22% turnover.  My head is starting to spin.. I need to sit down.

That does not include Mrs. Cindy Rall – IT Director, Miss JewelLee Waldholm – Custodian, and an office secretary position that is yet to be filled.  That will make a total of 11!  I know the Dickey County Leader does some get to know you pieces for new faculty the first few weeks of school.  Roberta, you may want to keep a spot open in the paper for these till about Thanksgiving, NO JOKE!  This is by far the most new faces we will have entering our school system in any one year.  I must admit I am very pleased with the quality of people that are listed here.  I am nervous about ensuring they are ready to go for the upcoming school year, but I am not nervous about their abilities.  Each and every one of them were outstanding applicants and were at the respective top of the heaps when it came to us making our selections.  Again, I am very confident that EPS has done well in hiring these fine individuals.

Here are some interesting stats about our new teachers:
5 of them hold a Masters Degree
4 of them were teaching in South Dakota last year.  Sorry SD, we stole 4 more!
1 is a rookie right out of college.
Only 1 is older than the Superintendent (not surprising is it).


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 28-05-2015

This time of year always makes me smile. In good clean fun, I am sure, every time I enter Cenex or other places in town someone will surely ask me how I am liking my time off.  I understand their jab and again it is in clean fun.  But, I thought maybe some don’t understand what actually happens in a school office during June – July & August.  So let me give you a brief synopsis.

May & June
-State Reporting- This is the bane of most administrators this time of year.  I do remember when state reports could be counted on one hand but not now.  We now have 13 spring reports not counting the couple federal reports.  Some of these are Transportation Report: # of rider & # of miles for all buses; Enrollment – an accounting of pretty much everything about each student.  Courses completed, attendance, enrollments, special programs, etc; and one of our favorites Suspension & Expulsion.  This is an easy one but you still need to validate and submit the report.
-Title I Reports – This requires a needs assessment including student data, surveys, and reports on success of the program.
-Summer Projects – This is the time that we ensure all summer work both general maintenance and larger projects get started.
-End of Year Meetings- Commonly a busy time for Special Ed meetings and Summer Conference.
-Bus Repair – Buses are inspected and work is organized to get completed over summer.
-Ordering – Most of our ordering of books and school supplies takes place in June.  So during this time all requests are reviewed, approved/rejected, and ordered.
-School Board Election – The first Tuesday in June is that special day.
-Summer School & Drivers Ed – Ensure that both of these programs begin and are effective.
-Newsletter, Report Cards, and hopefully the finalization of any hiring that needs to be done.

- End of Year Financials- The top of my list is always the end of the year accounting (June 30) and then getting the budget ready for the start of the next year.  Here again we must complete a Title I End of Year Report, Title III End of Year Report, and the District Financial Report for DPI.
- School Board- The annual board meeting in July is the big one.  Here new members are seated and a long list of compliance issues reviewed by the Board.
-Orders Received – Almost all the orders will now start pouring in.  It is hard to believe but commonly we will fill a normal sized classroom with stacks of boxes.  The hard working staff in the office does a great job of receiving and organizing all these orders.
-Summer Projects – they continue in July and this is a month when the push is really on to get all the summer projects completed.  As a Supt. it is my duty to ensure they are progressing and done on time.
-Audit Report – In late July or early August will be preparation for the annual audit.
-Planning for August- This is the time when we are working to ensure all is ready for the back to school.  This is for kids, and teachers.  We commonly are planning teacher training days, required training on HIV, CPR, and Bullying.  Preparing our new teachers for their start in Ellendale including updating PowerSchool, ParentLink, Web Pages, and payroll system.

***The final two weeks in July is commonly a very quiet time for the office and I.  Principals are out of the office and most projects are completed or on their way to being completed.  This is commonly when we want to have office staff taking a few days off.

At this point summer is really over.  We are nearing the first days teachers will be returning along with other support staff.
- Teacher Training:  I will commonly send out a long list of required training for teachers.  Some of these are done online and others are organized days.  Two of these days are commonly for new teachers to the district where we train them on the ins & outs of  working for EPS.  We will also pair them with their mentor.
- Transportation: Work on buses is completed and final prep is done to get them ready for the first day of school.  Commonly I will be meeting with bus drivers about a week before school begins.
-Registration Week:  This is a busy time for all the office as we prepare to receive new students, help students with schedules, and receive fee payments.
-Title I Application:  The application for Title I and other federal dollars is due by Aug 31st.  This is more than just a one page application but an extensive plan including goals, objectives, activities, and funding requests.
-More State Reports: Fall Calendar, Employee Reports on all faculty & staff for DPI, and several other DPI reports.
-Teacher Inservice – This is much of our August work as we prepare to welcome back teachers and assist them in getting ready for students.

And before you know it, it is school time again.  This is a pretty abbreviated list but I hope you get a feel for all that is accomplished in your school during the summer.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 27-04-2015

We are on the final days of another Legislative session and yet again some in Bismarck are touting the millions of dollars more they are spending on education.  They will tell you that they have approved 2% or 3% or more new money for your kids.  That may be true when you look simply at the state foundation payment per child.  But, in the words of an admired radio celebrity, Paul Harvey, now for “The Rest of the Story”.

State Foundation payments for pupils have grown rapidly over the past five years in support of education and in 2013-14 to pay down local taxes.  This in an honest attempt to get state contributions to the cost of education over 70%.  Here are the numbers on this:
2011-12 – $3,779
2012-13 – $3,910
2013-14 – $3,980
2014-15 – $8,810
2015-16 – $9,092 ;  and their projections are to go move this to $9,274 at a minimum for this coming year.  Yes, that is 2.5%.

But, here is “The Rest of the Story”.  In the funding formula that we have now and will continue to have for the next two years the state calculates the number of kids a school has and in a simplistic calculation multiplies that times the state foundation rate.  So 100 kids x $9,092 = $909,200.  You might expect that this is what Bismarck would send… nope hold on.

The calculation then includes what is a 60 mill deduct.  The state determines what 60 mills of local taxation would generate and subtracts this from the formula.  Last year, for Ellendale, that was $833,198.  Schools are then required to tax locally at that amount at a minimum.  This then equates to the $9,092 per kid.

The problem is that the new money promised for education is not going to Ellendale.  It is in fact going to Fargo, Bismarck, and other schools.  Each year, due to valuation changes, the value of 60 mills in Ellendale grows.  So looking ahead here is what I see happening.  (You can find this information in detail on the EPS web site at

2014-15   State$ $2,769,748  and 60Mills $833,198.  The local is picking up 23%
If projections hold this is what will happen the next two years..
2015-16  State$ $2,818,200 and 60Mills $933,182.  Local is now 25%
2016-17 State$ $2,807,810 and 60Mills $1,012,833.  Notice what happened here.  The local contribution is now 27% and state money actually went down.  They are not providing our kids with an additional anything.  They are shifting the cost of education slowly and surely right back to all of us. This is all while taxpayer shares in the big communities are as such:  Fargo 15.13%, Bismarck 16.91% and  Jamestown 14%.  That is the “Rest of the Story”.

I do want to commend Rep. Kelsch and Rep. Amerman for seeing the errors in this formula.  I also believe some in the other party are seeing the problem as well.. however the big power players in Fargo and Bismarck are not going to let this go without a fight.

“Good Day”





Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 14-04-2015

A couple weeks ago I published an opinion editorial in the Aberdeen News, concerning low teacher wages in South Dakota, that has been garnering a great deal of attention.  Subsequently, I have received many emails and comments from teachers and community members from my home state of South Dakota.  Some of their responses have been critical stating, in a nutshell, low wages are just the reality of teaching, teach or don’t teach.  None the less the vast majority of responses have been supportive of teachers and frustrated by the apparent lack of support for educators and education.

Every teacher in South Dakota or North Dakota, where I work now, comes to their classroom striving to help the precious children within it, each and every day.  They may have decided to become a teacher because of some important teacher in their past.  They attended four or more years of higher education preparing for the challenges that await them in the classroom.  Then they come to their classrooms each and every day because they care about kids, your kids.  Their commitment is not a concern.

My concern is this, what is the lack of political and fiscal support for education in SD doing to your kids?  Are we naive enough to think that teachers, just because they love kids, should work in a profession that is not respected, compensated, or supported?  Every profession is hopefully filled with people that love their jobs.  But, let’s be real.  The reality of being a parent, raising a family, providing for your home is not without concern and the wage we pay those working in our classrooms matter.  The recent piece done by KELOland identified this perfectly.  Sixty percent of juniors and seniors at SDSU in elementary and secondary teaching said they were leaving.  They are leaving your state, your schools, your classrooms, and your kids.  Why are they leaving, let’s be honest, it is in part due to pay.  If you are a teacher in any SD town would you move if you could earn an additional $5,000 in North Dakota, Minnesota, or Iowa?  I think your teachers will.  I think your teachers are moving already.

In the end what is left over?  It is not money.  What you have are fewer dedicated professionals trying to do more with less.  You have schools that are putting kids in front of computer screens instead of warm blooded teachers.  You have hundreds of vacancies that will be unfilled in August leaving your kids in classrooms with no trained professionals to help them.  Is this what you want for our kids?  This argument ends unfortunately much like that critical comment I shared earlier “teach or don’t teach”.  However, let me edit it slightly.  For those in or new to the profession of teaching the question is “teach here or teach somewhere else”.  South Dakota can your kids handle the repercussions of hundreds of teachers making that choice?  I would argue they cannot.  So parents, teachers, school administrators contact someone that can begin to fix this problem, before it is too late.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 31-03-2015

When the International rankings for student proficiency in reading or math are released do we not all take pause and believe that the U.S. can do better?  Very few people are satisfied with 36th place in combined math, reading, and science.  Then how can my home state, South Dakota, appear to be freely accepting of 50th when it comes to teacher salary?

I grew up in South Dakota and let nothing I share here today deter from the exceptional work those teachers did with me from kindergarten to my high school graduation.  In my small rural school of Gann Valley Elementary to Wessington Springs High School my teachers cared for me and worked hard to get this unwilling student to learn.  I had great teachers and they were not the lowest paid in the nation.  They were respected by member of the community, were given autonomy, and received a fair wage.

Now looking back to the mid 1980’s what has happened?  Neighbors of South Dakota have continued to make education a priority increasing support not only to teacher pay but the actual costs of education.  What has South Dakota done?  I know that teachers in the classroom believe more can be done to finance education.  I know that South Dakota has good teachers.  But, can you keep the great ones in a climate where teacher pay is 50th in the nation?  I know Superintendents and school leaders see the problem because they and the ASBSD worked last summer to complete a survey and study on teacher shortage.  The results of that survey were shocking reporting 258 unfilled teaching positions state wide.  As published by the ASBSD Baltic Superintendent Bob Sittig stated, “We are at a crisis stage”.  He is right!  Low pay, NCLB, highly competitive neighbors are all pulling your best and brightest away from you.  When will Pierre take notice?

It was not until this year that I ran into two perfect examples of how detrimental this pay differential is for South Dakota.  Ellendale is only 35 min north of Aberdeen along US Hwy 281, so when we post for applicants we look in both North and South Dakota.  My first example was a 1st year English teacher with no education beyond her bachelors.  She was an absolutely exceptional candidate and we offered her a position.  To my dismay that offer was in excess of $5000 more than her present salary.   She did not end up taking our offer, but engagements do funny things.  Next, we ran into a husband and wife team from down by Yankton.  They were NSU grads that had been teaching 20 plus years each.  They had masters’ degrees, did many duties, and were highly regarded by their present school.  With that experience and education they were presently being paid less than Ellendale’s base salary.  That is shameful!  We ended up getting both to agree to move north and they probably made over $25,000 in additional salary.  Wouldn’t you move for that?  South Dakota you lost.  You lost at least two of your best and brightest.  Your schools are losing their very best every day, when will you notice?

I was born and raised in South Dakota and I am posting this OpEd only because I care and think more can be done.  I have family, school aged relatives, that enter your schools every day.  They deserve the best and brightest.  I believe your good teachers should not follow the footsteps of Williams and Ree and leave the state and promise to never return.  Just like those two comedians they can, they will, come back but the climate must change.   Start making education the priority, and not the entity that gets the 1-2% that is left over, when it is all said and done.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-03-2015

The number of new students arriving at Ellendale School is beyond anything we have ever seen before, at least in my tenure here.  Here is a comparison of actively enrolled students as of today (3/17/15) as compared to the same date last year.





As a note.. as I am crafting this post.  We just had two more 5th graders enroll.  Like I said it is beyond anything we have seen before.