With every hill there is a valley they say and that is also true in school. It can be success of the basketball team or changes in student enrollment. It could be the hills and valleys our cross country team dashes over. It can also be school funding. Right now we are looking at a deep valley in relation to school funding before us and it will affect your school.
Funding for your school is derived in two ways, state funding and local funding. State funding is derived from a formula highly dependent upon the number of student attending a school. In North Dakota each full time student (here 175 days) is worth about $9,646.00. When enrollment increases state funding increases, when enrollment declines funding declines. Each of these being felt the year after the enrollment adjustment as funding is always one year behind. In Ellendale this year we receive $4,045,243.00 based on 354.5 kids last year. The second type of funding is from taxation and that is derived from the levy assessed by the school board. This year we anticipate that taxation to generate $1,605,350.00 in total funding, with $1,234,600 of that amount supporting the general operating budget.
As I mentioned earlier we are looking at a significant valley in school funding looming next year. This valley is due in part to declining enrollment and a freeze/cut in state funding. The declining enrollment for the district equals about 34 kids less this fall than we had last spring. With each child worth approximately $9,646, as indicated above, this equates to a funding reduction of about $300,000 next year. Then add on the pressures, of declining oil prices, and we are being told to prepare for another reduction of about 5% or $200,000 in state funding on top of the reductions I have already shared.
To meet this revenue shortfall, the district is already working on developing a comprehensive list of services and programs that could be cut. The list thus far includes programs at every grade level, within athletics, transportation, academics, administration, vocational education, technology, and the list is growing. In my view there are no safe programs. We need to take a hard look at everything and validate if we should continue to fund it or not. But, let’s be perfectly clear cuts of this size do not go by unnoticed. Cuts of this nature will include programs and services that families are used to and it will affect our school.
Administrators, teachers, staff, and the school board have been discussing this funding valley and cost cutting for about a month. This blog post is the first of many ways we want to bring the general public into this discussion. The school board is planning to provide a time for public comment and discussion about the funding shortfall at the November school board meeting. If these issues concern you, please be watching for more information on the time and date of that meeting so you can become part of the discussion.
Many of us have memories of Homecoming celebrations at the schools we attended, be that high school or college. Homecoming has a long tradition within the United States and in other countries around the world as the week alumni are invited back to cheer on their old school. The first homecoming game is believed to have been played in 1911 between Kansas and Missouri. This first
game included a pep rally and parade to add to the celebration.
For those of us that remember fondly our Homecoming celebrations they have a special place in our memories and hearts. Be it the coronation with all its pomp and circumstance, or spending several evenings fine tuning the decorations on our class float. Each of these events had special meaning and helped to bond us and our fellow classmates. In my hometown we held a large parade each year with class floats, business floats, fire trucks, bands, the whole 9 yards you might say. I personally kind of miss that. It was the beginning of the culminating day of the the BIG football game which I guess homecoming was all about. But, things are different now…
I had a senior ask me about homecoming and class pranks a couple weeks ago. I think she was feeling me out to see what they could do, without getting suspended. I informed her putting a car on the roof was OUT OF BOUNDS! I also shared with her some of the activities “we” did back in the “old days” (1987) that they might want to think about today. I shared my memory of white washing our town one homecoming night each year. I guess today someone may get arrested for breaking curfew of something but I don’t recall us ever causing much damage. We painted slogans and cheers on the streets and windows all over main street. We also would give the rocks on the hill a fresh coat of paint so our “87” could stand out bold and proud the next morning. My second random memory was not about coronation or the game but about FCCLA and FFA. One early morning during homecoming week the FCCLA officers would kidnap the 9-12 football players and make them breakfast. We were supposed to not know when this was going to happen but we all knew. I mean really, when your mom would ask before bed “did you find your pajamas in the laundry room” you kind of knew it was coming. So they would come to our home about 5:30, wake our entire homes up, and drag each of us (in our PJ’s) to the school for a wonderful breakfast. It was dorky, but it also made them part of homecoming week tradition. I really wonder if they still do that at WSHS?
Despite the changes from the GOOD OLD DAYS I want to ensure everyone that Homecoming is still important to the kids today in our school. They prepare for it, plan activities, and dress up goofy each day. EHS – Edgeley HS & Kulm HS now join up for one shared Homecoming Dance the night after the game. Our kids are so interconnected now, not only by the coop, but by technology that they really do enjoy the combined dance. Coronation is still an important event and as a
student making it on the court is an honor. As a past King (Marshall actually) at NSU I still have a soft spot for coronation. The kids and team still hold a Pep Rally on Friday. All the kids K-12 join in on the cheers and it is always great to see the big seniors helping the new kindergartners learn their class number (I won’t lie it is still awkward to hear 29-29-20-20-29). Despite the changes Homecoming is still a big deal.
Homecoming Week 2016 begins for EHS on Monday, Sept 26th. As the Superintendent I do “officially” invite back all EHS alumni to join us and celebrate this wonderful event. The game this year is not in Ellendale but the THUNDER will be hosting Northern Cass on Friday night in Edgeley. I hope to see you there.
Go THUNDER – Go CARDINALS – Go EHS!
As the election season nears I have been asked to provide some factual information about Measure 2 and how any changes would affect our school. Measure 2 would change elements of the Foundation Aid Stabilization fund which was approved by voters and put into the North Dakota Constitution in 1994.
At this time 20% of all oil extraction taxes are deposited equally into the Common Schools Trust Fund and the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund. This past year that equated to about $150 million deposited into each of these funds.
Unlike the funds that go into the Common Schools Trust Fund the Governor can use funds from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund when reductions in state aid to schools would occur due to executive action,
pursuant to law. If you recall this past year the Governor has directed two such cuts of 4.05% in January after an initial round of 5% earlier in the biennium. This pulled approximately $120 million from this fund to cover the shortfall.
So why the vote? Right now the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund has approximately $600 million dollars in it and growing. Despite being drawn from this year the fund continues to grow and in a climate where little to no new dollars are coming into the state’s treasury this untapped resource is being considered to maintain the present level of school funding. In contract to probably another round of cuts in the upcoming legislative session.
The resolution would, if approved:
My position is not to tell you which way to vote. My duty is to inform you. But, here is the rest of the story. If Measure 2 would fail it is a strong likelihood that education funding would be cut 5-10% just as most state agencies are facing. A ten percent reduction in state funding would equate to a reduction of about $296,000 for the Ellendale School District. This on top of an approximate $250,000 reduction we are forecasting for 2017-2018 due to declining enrollment. It is real simple, if the revenue is not there then program, jobs, and services are cut, or taxation is raised to fill the void. The truth is we would probably see both in an attempt to balance a nearly half-million dollar revenue shortfall.
If you have questions on how to vote I would advise you to contact one of your school board members:
Mrs. Cay Durheim – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Scott Wertz – email@example.com
Mrs. Charlene Kinzler – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Kent Schimke – email@example.com
Mrs. Michele Thorpe – firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellendale School teachers and staff have been participating in specialized training this year focusing on helping students who have experienced trauma. You may initially say “Trauma, what trauma.. was the ambulance at the school yesterday?” Studies are showing that nearly every school aged child has been exposed to overwhelming experiences during their childhood. Helping kids cope with these experiences is the focus of the training we have been participating in.
Nearly every student in today’s school has been exposed to trauma. This could be witnessing violence between their caretakers, direct abuse, a caretaker who may be dealing with substance abuse or has a mental illness, or even a family with a family member incarcerated. Just reflect upon the news you see each day in our state, Fargo, and even our small towns. Would you disagree that the amount of stories that include items like this are on the rise? The stories are real, their affect on children is real, and we have similar stories with kids in our very own community.
Children that have been exposed to trauma may experience challenges in their daily lives and at school. Experiencing traumatic experiences can diminish a students concentration, memory, and language abilities. Sometimes students may act out in the classroom or have difficulty making and keeping relationships with other students or adults. Each of these are a concern when trying to teach a child.
The training our professional educators are receiving will help us better serve this population of students. Thus, ensuring we can help them cope with their experiences and develop into successful students and young people. The intensive six hour training, spaced over two days is being provided by the Southeast Education Cooperative (SEEC). The teachers and staff took part in the initial 4 hours of training before school started. A followup action oriented training will be taking place during our first late start morning on Thursday, Sept 15th.
After our training Ellendale School will be prepared to exhibit these core characteristics:
Lastly, we want to include the community in an open discussion about the affects of trauma on students. I am sure we all can think of a child who has been affected by trauma. What can we, the community, neighbors, school, or you, do to help these students? Each of them has unique needs that need to be addressed for them to succeed. When students are coping with addiction, abuse, neglect, or even an unexpected event like a death or injury to a loved one they need our help. We need to be recognize their needs and assist the child and family to ensure they can be successful in life. We, the faculty and staff of Ellendale Public School, believe training on how to address these student needs is important and will strive to help our kids in any way we can.
Over the weekend I ran into several parents that wanted to share their “Back to School” stories with me. They were precious stories of kids excited about school, nervous new parents, and hopeful aspirations. For those that shared, thank you. But, during these encounters I thought it was probably more important to say THANK YOU to you. So,….
Thank you parents for entrusting your most prized possession in the world with us, Ellendale School. On behalf of the bus drivers, cooks, aides, teachers, administrators, office staff, everyone one of us, please know this is not a task we take lightly. We appreciate your trust to let us help raise and nurture your child. I want to reassure everyone that we spend every day working to bring forth the very best your child can provide. Be it their academic excellence, their artistic abilities, or athletic prowess we wish to see the very best from each and every child . We want to see your child, every child, flourish and grow into the very best they can be. Thank you for giving us the opportunity this year to again work with your child. Thank you for trusting us. It means more than you will ever know.
Ellendale School would like to welcome our new faculty and staff for this coming school year. From left to right we have:
Mrs. Reis – Nicole was with us last year working as an instructional aide. This year she has taken the role of teaching Family & Consumer Science.
Mrs. Seefeld – Darcy and her family are new to the community coming to us from Fargo. Darcy has experience in child care and will be an instructional aide at the Maple River Colony school.
Mrs. Arndt – Tricia is our new speech language pathologist and works for the James River Special Education Unit.
Mrs. Riggan – Sherri was recently in the news as the wife of the Nazarene Church pastor. She is also a new teacher also within the James River Special Education Unit. Her expertise is working with students with emotional or behavior needs.
Miss Betting – McKenzie is the new K-12 music instructor. She should also be familiar as she is an alumni of EHS.
Miss Moe – Christine comes to us from Minnesota and will be taking the role of H.S. Science teacher. This is her first teaching position.
Miss Olson – Alexis is also starting her first teaching position. She will be teaching K-3 at the Maple River Colony.
Welcome to each of you and I wish you an exceptional year. Parents and community members if you see these new faces around town please don’t be shy. Introduce yourself and please welcome them to Ellendale.
A guide for North Dakota students
I will be honest this is an adaptation from the work of Cesare Catà of Bon Bosco High School in Fermo, Italty. In 2015 he proposed a similar list for his students departing his classroom for their summer break. This list, set in North Dakota, is hopefully an inspiration to Ellendale Public School students, and others, to make the most of their summer. Because learning is not just about the core subjects but also about expanding our horizons, experiences, and nourishing our souls.
I had the wonderful opportunity to engage in some solid educational discussions about today’s kids and schools. For those of you that were at the Bakery on Monday, thank you. These sort of discussions help me be a better educator and I do listen to your concerns. In one small part of our discussion we talked about the new things in our education that have slowly pushed out the 3 R’s. It is true, schools today are dedicating more time to other topics then schools did in 1920-30. To help explain here is a list. I took this from www.jimievollmer.com as I heard him speak about this same subject this last year.
** Disclaimer ** I am not getting into who actually mandated these be taught but in short it does not matter if it was federal or state. Each of these is being driven by changes in our society and each of these changes is expected to be addressed in your school. It is just our reality. At the same time, the actual length of a school year has changed little since the mid 1900’s (175 days for us).
———– from www.jamievollmer.com ————-
In the 1950s, we added:.
In the 1970s, we added:
Whew.. that is one heck of a list.
Have you ever opened up an utility bill for your home or business and been shocked at the cost? I have to believe everyone has had this feeling. Electricity, water, sewer, telephone, internet all cost money and for your school district these are big ticket items within the budget. During the 2015-2016 school year the following amounts were projected to be spent in these areas:
Since the installation of an electric boiler to replace one of our two aging fuel oil boilers in 2008 the districts fuel oil costs have declined dramatically, however electricity costs have continued to rise. Additional, the square footage added in 2011 and improved HVAC systems have increased electrical usage. When your school is budgeting nearly $150,000 dollars a year on these utilities it was a wise course of action to see if there were ways to save. Late last year the Ellendale School Board agreed to use the services of the CTS Group. CTS provides site wide energy efficiency studies to schools, counties, and cities. Over the winter CTS has been reviewing utility usage and bills. They have completed lighting, heating/cooling, and site surveys. All of these with the goal to find ways that the district can save money.
This week the Ellendale Public School Board agreed to formally hire CTS Group to manage a multi-faceted energy efficiency improvement project. This project will begin in the summer of 2016 and take about 12 months to complete. The elements of their recommendations are:
All together these three projects, along with fixing some minor building envelope air leakage issues, will cost $1,087,012. WOW that is a big number. The intriguing part of using the services of the CTS group is they use a portion of NDCC that allows schools to lease purchase these improvements, at little to no cost over 15 years. This is contingent upon the energy saved can exceed the capital costs to pay for the project. Ellendale School is leveraging this program to complete these improvements with little to no new costs being added to the budget. CTS Group shall monitor energy savings for the 15 years and if at such a time that projected savings fall below their estimates they are bound to reimburse the district the difference. Thus ensuring the quality and sustainability of these improvements. Ellendale School has secured a 15 year lease with an attractive interest rate of only 2.55%. The district will pay for the majority of the annual payments for these improvements with funds presently allocated in the budget for energy expenditures.