Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-11-2015

It is my hope that the title of this blog post will be shocking enough to get community members thinking and acting upon this issue.  Because without any action we could be facing the reality of not running buses due to a driver shortage.

During the 2014-2015 school year Ellendale School buses transported approximately 100-130 students daily.  That is nearly 1/3 of our student population.  During that same year our buses traveled a total of 120,509 route miles (688.6 day) and 41,304 extra-curricular miles.  The vast majority of these miles were run by six dedicated, highly-qualified drivers that many of you know.  But, they could not be here every day.  Even bus drivers get sick, take a vacation, or have to drive a team on an extra-curricular trip.  When these events happen we call on our short list of substitute drivers to come in and help us out.  However, that list of substitute drivers is dwindling and it is jeopardizing us providing the quality transportation service that many of us have become accustom.

As an example of how busy we can keep our subs here are some recent stats:
September = 11 sub routes – (drivers names left out) DriverA = 1, Driver2 = 3, Driver3 = 6, and Driver4 = 1.  These are actual drivers.  However of these four – two work for the school in other capacities and were helping where and when they could.
October = 25 sub routes – Driver5 = 3, Driver6 = 3, Driver3 = 15, Driver4 = 2, and Driver2 = 2.  Some of these helped us in September and some only in Oct.  The number of the drivers do correspond month to month.

Now comes the scary part.  In the information above Driver4 will not be driving anymore and Driver6 is obligated as a coach now and cannot drive during our busy winter months.  Secondly, we are just now heading into our busy time.  The fall can be busy but football is only one night a week and fortunately for us we have a coach that can drive the team to Edgeley/Kulm when needed.  This is not the case in the winter.  We are now heading into a season with 2-3 wrestling, boys basketball, and girls basketball events per week.  This is not including elementary and JH sports.  Now our A.D., Mr. Matt Herman, does a fine job ensuring we are only scheduling two away events per night.  But, there are times we can have three buses out at any time of the day to field trips, sporting, or fine arts events.  This causes extreme pressure on our driver pool as you can see.
So what happens if we don’t have enough drivers?  Commonly if we are short a two rural routes are combined into one larger route.  Students still get a ride home, but it just may take longer for them to get to their door step.  But, I know there are some out there that could help.  Even if you are not willing to drive twice a week, even three times a month can be very beneficial for us and ensure that all our buses are running normally.  If you can help, or would like to know more about the requirements to drive a bus, please contact me at or call me at 701-349-3232.  This is a fragile dance we are doing right now and only one extended sickness or departure of one sub could put our bus routes in jeopardy.  The time to act is now and if you again can help, please contact me.
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 03-11-2015

The Dept of Public Instruction has issued a press release stating that the ND State Assessment results are out for ND schools.  If you recall these are the results from the new Smarter Balanced assessment that was conducted in the spring of this year.  This is the test that is more closely aligned with the common core instructional standards and is reported to show proficiency more aligned with the NAEP assessment (which means lower).

I thought you may be interested in these results as well so I am going to try to show them to you in a series of graphics that I have snapped from our testing portal.  The results are show as bars with with Red = Novice, Yellow = Partially Proficient, Green = Proficient, and Blue = Advanced.  Of course we would like to see all students in the green or blue categories.  On each image are both the results for the Math test (shown on the left) and the English Language Arts test (shown on the right).

The first graph shows the results for all students tested in North Dakota.  The state level result.  ** Click on the image to make it larger if you desire **

Next are the results for Ellendale Public School District.  These are all students tested in Ellendale Elementary, MR Elementary, and EHS.  Students tested last year were in grades 3-8 & 11.  Again, Math on the left, and ELA on the right.


Next are the results for each building at Ellendale Public School.


Here are the results for Ellendale Elementary – Grades 3 – 6th.  Again from the spring of 2015.


Here are the results for Ellendale High School.  Grades 7, 8, and 11.

Lastly, are the results for the Maple River Elementary School.  In several of these categories you will see that data was suppressed.  This is due to the small class sizes which can cause statistical and identification concerns for the students taking the test.

If you have made it to the bottom of this page thank you for taking interest in this information.  But, I again want to share my view on this data, and it contradicts what you may be hearing from state officials.  This is a valuable test, if you desire to take a one-time snap shot of student performance and use that to measure school success/failure and compare schools.  However, it is only one single event.  It is not a diagnostic that I use, or promote at EPS, to be used for classroom use.  Any test that does not provide its results till nearly 6 months after the fact has little benefit to a classroom teacher.  We will focus on assessment that we can provide us timely results to modify instruction and adapt our resources to fit the needs of our students and teachers.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 15-10-2015

Each day as I open up the news online I am met with another article of a child that is being left in the cold, beaten, left in a hot car, starved, or even killed by a parent.  It is sickening.  It boggles my mind how this behavior can persist in our nation, in our society.  Parents, can we get ourselves together!

I realize this post will probably offend some, so be it.  I am writing this today, figuratively standing on my soap box, advocating for those in our community, in North Dakota, that do not have a voice.  So before I begin, I make no apologies if you are offended… I am speaking for these children.  Child neglect is nothing new, it has been around thousand’s of years.  We have dealt with predators, abusers, and delinquent parents before.  But why, does it seem to be more pervasive today than ever before?  Let me share some thoughts…

The middle class is shrinking in the US which is causing a larger number of kids to be categorized as children of poverty.  Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to a child’s well being. ( 2015). In the US more than 16 million children – 22% – live in families considered to be below the poverty line.  Local-State & Federal policies need to begin to address this issue ensuring that families are given the opportunities to pull themselves out of this poverty cycle.  Children in poverty must be afforded health care, good nutrition, and educational opportunities to ensure they have every opportunity to break the poverty cycle.  However, I want to be clear… poverty should never be an excuse for any parent to neglect their child.  As a person that has visited a third world country poor in America is affluent compared to poor in Haiti.  As parents, poor or affluent, our financial standing cannot be a crutch for how we treat our children.

Drug use among parents does seem to be increasing.  The number of parents shown in the FORUM each week that are losing their children due to actions taken while under the influence is staggering.  Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, you name it… none of these are making any parent better.  In my view, trust is a critical element for the parent/child relationship.  When a parent is an abuser of drugs children understand this at a young age.  They soon realize these actions are wrong but they must cover up the illegal activity in their own homes, on their parents behalf.  What implications does this have on a child.  Drugs use by a parent not only impedes their own lives but how can they provide a healthy, loving, nourishing environment when they are craving their next high.  There are avenues to get help… parents take the step.  Families get the help you need.  We cannot continue to have parents raising children while high.

*Stepping Up One Step*
Parents you can get mad at me if you wish.  You can post negative comments to this blog, so be it.  But GET YOURSELVES TOGETHER.  Each and every day members of our society must complete competency tests to drive, dispense medication, teach, practice law, or even coach.  But, parents you can conceive a child with little more than a desire.  Then take that precious gift, given to you by your creator, and neglect it for some no good reason.  Get help if you need it.  If you can’t care for your child get help within your family.  Ask a neighbor to care for the child before you beat it to death.  Stop using drugs today and if necessary get help.  If all else fails work with social services or another agency to find a family that is able to care for your child.  But, for heavens sake lets stop injuring and killing those that have no voice.  Lets stop this insanity of shaking and beating our children.  Please – Please – Get the help you need.  All of our futures.. depend upon it.



Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 12-10-2015

In the next few weeks parents of students who were in grades 3 thru 8 or 11 last spring will be getting their child’s results from the first session of the Smarter Balanced assessment.  This assessment replaced the old bubble sheet test and is aligned with the ND ELA and Math Standards aligned with the common core.

Your child’s results will be provided to all families during Parent-Teacher Conferences on November 5th.  So please be patient with us as we prepare the reports for you.  However, before you review the results I want to share with you information on how to interpret your child’s performance and then some thoughts about the test itself.

When you obtain your child’s results for both Engligh-Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics you will see a scoring page similar to this one (see image).  On the scoring page you find information about the test, year it was given, and actual testing day along the left side.  In the middle is your child’s actual performance.  At the top is their overall score, in this case a 2631 Level 3.  The score is probably not as important to you as the level.  The levels are:  Level 1 – Novice, Level 2 – Partially Proficient, Level 3 – Proficient and Level 4 – Advanced.  On the bar you will find your child’s score highlighted with a bracket around it.  The brackets are the error band and signify the low to high band that your child would probably score in if given the test again, during the testing session.  Lastly, at the bottom of the page you will find the competency areas and how your child performed in each.  Based on your child’s report you can determine if they performed below, at, or above in each of these areas.

So what does this mean for you?  Some have articulated that taking this annual test is like a check-up.  Yes, in my view any state/national test of this nature is just a check-up.  It is that child’s performance on one single day in time and just that; nothing more, nothing less.  Can it be a benchmark for you as a parent, yes.   But, I would propose that you have better benchmarks to watch than this in Ellendale.

As I once mentioned in a previous blog post ( I will not be putting too much attention on the results of the smarter balanced test at this time.  I, and I hope you, will keep your eyes on the meaningful results we provide you from the NWEA MAP diagnostic.  The MAP tests were just completed for the fall session.  They were almost painless to administer and again teachers had valuable instructional data within hours, versus months with the state assessment.  Teachers, use data from your child’s performance on the MAP test to refine instruction, determine appropriate instructional groups, and focus their limited time & energy.  The school year is short and the actual time a teacher has to work with any one student is even shorter.  By using data from the MAP tests, your teachers, can focus like a laser on the specific skills your child needs assistance on.  The results of the MAP test should be coming to you shortly.  Be watching for them and I encourage you to discuss your child’s performance with their teacher(s).  Again, I am keeping my eyes on our students performance on the MAP.  I hope you continue to do the same.

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.