Mar
23
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-03-2017

downloadAs the school board and administration continue to grapple with the implications of declining enrollment and no new monies from the state or federal level, we continue to refine the needed cuts to ensure fiscal soundness of the district.  At the last meeting of the school board several cuts were finalized and a new high school schedule was approved.  Before I explain I do want to thank all the school staff and teachers that have provided guidance and support during these tough fiscal times.  I also want to thank the administrative team and school board on their work to actually make the hard decisions.  Lastly, to all the parents and community members that have stopped us or attended board meetings to listen, share, and be part of the process.

At this time the projected expenditure budget is showing a reduction of about $353,000 or -7.6%.  This is very tentative as many items have yet to be finalized for next year including contract costs for purchased services, salaries for all employees, summer work projects, and other items.  However, at this time the board has taken action on the following reductions which are reflected in this budget:

  • Elimination of the Health Careers course.
  • Reduction of Library e-book subscription.
  • Reduction in instructional technology equipment purchases.
  • Delaying of bus purchase.
  • Significant reduction in capital improvements budget in general fund.
  • A couple early retirement payments are no longer being paid out to retired teachers.
  • Reduction of 2 teaching positions in the high school.   Will not rehire to fill the spots created by the retirement of Mr. Ulmer or spot left with resignation of Mr. Sykora.

In addition to these major items a few areas of supplies or fees have been reduced but they are not directly impacting a full program or service as you see in the list above.  I do believe this is a healthy reduction and I have been sharing my view that I do believe this is sufficient for the district, but the final decision is the school boards.

 

 

Mar
10
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 10-03-2017

dakotabowl2016_trophyhoist735 668Starting this year many hoped for another good year.  A year of successes, some snow days, great learning, and an occasional setback to challenge us.  Never, never in my mind would I have predicted the path we have ventured down this year.   The year started more depressing and difficult than most as we began a long journey of grappling with a declining enrollment and zero state funding.   Reducing budgets, cutting positions, and the like are never fun and it kind of brings everyone down.  But, then….

Then we begin a string of WOW moments:

  • Chloe T – finishes 16th in the State XC Meet.  WOW!
  • The Thunder FB team, who we hoped would just make it to the playoffs, runs all the way to the goal of a 11A Football Championship.  WOW!
  • We then take two EHS students to the State Wr Championship with Josh F taking 3rd in 285# and Clayton G finishing as champion at 195# WOW!
  • We are honored to be celebrating the State Championship EHS earned in 1967. WOW!
  • Now we get to add in our 2017 Reg 3 Champions who are DOME Bound. WOW!

Times do get tough and it takes people with a Champions heart to persevere.  I know I am surrounded by Champions here every day.  The adults that work with our kids are amazing and they do it during good times and bad with a smile on their face.  But, this year they are surrounded by another set of CHAMPIONS our kids.  Now, athletic accomplishment are not the only thing that matters.  But, I will tell you it is amazing how championships like these can put a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and a tear in your eye.

I am so proud of our students and fans.  Congratulations on all your accomplishments.  Ellendale relish in the glory of the Champions from 1967 on Friday night of the Class B Tournament this coming week.  Delight in the Parade of Champions on Saturday night as our football team takes center stage.  Rejoice and raise your hands and voices to cheer on our basketball team!  Wow, life is good! #50YrsandNow

Feb
21
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 21-02-2017

democrats-republicans-education**This post is directed to my party, the Republican Party, and our legislators both in Bismarck and D.C.

Dear Legislators:

Do you support rural America?  Would the idea that you promote policies and programs that support rural America be a cornerstone of your campaign?  I am going to make the assumption that your answer is yes, since we do live in a highly rural state.  So what have you done to strengthen our rural areas?  Have you promoted investments and policies to:

  • Provide affordable housing
  • Enhance rural health care
  • Support agriculture and all that support feeding the world
  • Improve rural utilities including water, power, and sewer
  • Provide incentives for businesses that develop and grow in rural areas
  • Strengthen the corner stones of rural communities (health care, civic organizations/faith, schools)….. Oh wait!

98% of parents in our state report they are pleased with their local school their children attend.  School pride in both academics and athletics fill rural community centers each and every week.  I would presume many in rural communities would have a positive response toward their school and the pride it brings to their community.  Schools can be the unifying force in many communities.  But, are YOU really trying to support rural communities and keep their schools alive?  Lets take a second to look.

My party, the Republic Party promotes many education reforms.  You be the judge as to how these will affect your small rural schools.
* http://www.republicanviews.org/republican-views-on-education/

  • Reforming Higher Education – We believe in expanding community colleges, technical institutions, and online schools.  We believe in reducing the debt load kids are incurring right now.  We believe higher education needs to be more in tune to the needs of the job market.  And finally, they indicate that the failures of higher ed are due to the failures of K-12.
  • Accountability – My party believes in merit pay, developing character and financial literacy skills, rigorous student assessment to demonstrate student success, STEM, and they believe reforms are best left up to the states.
  • Home Schooling & School Choice – My party believes parents need ultimate control over their child’s education.  They support removing all restrictions on home education.  They believe in development of charter schools and online academies.  Republicans promote vouchers allowing portability of state dollars, and they believe in prayer in school.
  • Students Success Act – This act, supported by Republicans, revamped NCLB and gave control of education back to the states.  It required accountability and removed the Common Core Curriculum from federal requirements.

So which of these are supporting your community and its school?

  • Reforming Higher Education – I don’t see anything here that hurts rural America and if we can find ways to reduce students debt as our kids attend higher ed that is a positive.
  • Accountability – Merit pay, bonuses and the like are most commonly based on student assessment performance.  Is this really the focus of what we want for our kids to be test prepped?  My party will say out of one side of their mouth they want no tests or test opt out for parents, but then on the other side still retain legislation requiring tests in three subject every year from 3-8 and once in high school.  My party needs to take a step back and allow states and schools to provide a more well rounded report of school/student progress to our communities.  My dear legislators, we are not factories… kids are not widgets.. and sometimes they need more than just a test to show success.  This is not purely a rural issue but when you want to use a single measure to give one teacher (since we don’t have many) a bonus, that does not build a sense of unity and joint accountability.
  • Home Schooling and School Choice – Over the past decade my party has put forth bill after bill removing the restrictions on home schooling.  I do support the basic option, but I do believe they now allow home education with little to no accountability to anyone.  Is this the best option for the future work force in our rural communities?  In addition, since the ability to support your local schools derives significantly from state foundation aid, each and every child that home educates removes funding from your local school.  This despite the fact that home education families may still take part in special education services, transportation, academic courses of their choosing, and activities & athletics.    Then add in the concept of vouchers and I struggle to understand how the Republicans are supporting small rural communities.  This program would possibly draw students away from their community school, reducing funding more, and even allow home education families to receive a state payment.
  • Student Success Act – This is a positive for all public education in our country.  The intent to provide more state level control versus federal is a breath of fresh air after over a decade with NCLB.  However, the federal delegation appears to not be able to keep their hands off the wheel, pulling it back from the states already.  The promises of less federal regulation are eroded when I look at H.R. 610.  This is a bill in the US House putting vouches and private school requirements on states in order to get federal dollars.  Isn’t this the same thing we just argued against when Democrats were in control?

I could go on… reducing transportation funding (not helping), reducing health care services (not helping), and ignoring growing mental health needs (not helping).  My question again to my party is… Are you really supporting rural communities and their schools?

 

Feb
14
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 14-02-2017

The Ellendale School Board finalized a few of the budget reduction measures it will take next year to address a shortfall in funding.  The school district has been working on addressing the expected $250,000 shortfall since September.  This reduction in funding is due in large part to declining enrollment within the district but is also compounded by limited to reduced state funding projected next year.  Starting in September the Board has been working on a list of possible cuts while weighing the benefits and consequences of each cut.  Here is the list of cuts discussed and the status of each at this time.

Proposed Cut Savings Action By Board
Eliminate Health Careers Course $20,482.00 Board approved elimination at Feb meeting.
Postpone Replacement of Desks & Furniture $16,000.00 Board approved removing this from expenditure budget at Jan meeting
Do not replace any retirees $49,449.00 The board approved no filling any vacancies, at the time, during Jan meeting.
Elementary – Reducing Instructional Faculty  61,550 – 98,200  No action at this time.
Reconfigure to K-8 9-12 Building – Reducing Instructional Faculty in HS $53,474.00 The Board has directed the administration to present a revised schedule and staff reduction recommendation at the March meeting.
Postpone Bus Purchase $87,000.00 The Board removed this from the expenditure budget at the Jan meeting.
Technology Support Reduced Undetermined at this time No action at this time.
Reduce Extended Contract or Eliminate. $16,875.00 This has been withdrawn as an option.
Eliminate SRCTC Counselor & Hire Locally $1,700.00 Board has determined to continue partnership with SRCTC on this program.
Eliminate SRCTC Voc Ed Courses $54,500.00 The Board has reviewed and determined to continue this program at this time.
Oakes VocEd Bus $22,579.00 *same as previous
Eliminate 1 bus route and consider family trans. $22,702.00 Mr. F presented first information about family transportation at the Feb meeting.  The Board has approved 1st reading of a policy allowing the practice.  Still under consideration.
Reduce Athletic Coaching Staff Undetermined The Board has directed the administration to present to the Personnel and Finance Cmty projections if Golf and Cross County were eliminated.  No official Board action at this time.
eBook Reduction $3,500.00 This was reviewed by the Board and a new reduced contract has already been signed for 2017-18
No longer use Viewpoint and transition to SLDS $3,150.00 This program is being evaluated by the administration at this time.

Other items have been discussed but not included on the formal list as they were rejected right away.  However, it should be noted that there are reductions in areas still being considered that are not on this list.  As the expenditure budget for the upcoming year becomes more clear it will surely solidify the actions already taken or cause more considerations to be made.

 

Jan
19
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 19-01-2017

12133485-school-funding-reform-800x445I was impressed this week to see an education related article, not deriving from Ellendale School, on the front page of the Dickey County Leader.  The article entitled “North Dakota Legislature Addresses Education” was penned by Mike Jacobs from the ND Newspaper Association and reports on several interviews with key legislative and state leaders on education issue at the legislative assembly.   Thank you Leader for running this article.

After reading the article I thought it appropriate to share some of my thoughts also on these topics as I have been meeting and working with several of these legislative leaders and others to protect funding cuts from affecting small rural schools.  I do believe that without exception legislators believe education is one of their top priorities.  The education budget is a substantial portion of the state budget and definitely draws attention in the hallways of the Capitol.  I become concerned when the article talks about desires “to hold harmless” education and I compare that with budgets and bills that seem to not live up to that promise.

Here is a table of the areas that have been proposed to be cut (showing dollars cut) at some point thus far this session.  I realize bills can change and in some aspects they already have.

Item Appropriations Bill Gov Dalrymple’s Bill
Transportation 0.00 $ 5,700,000
ELL Refugee Resettlement Impact Grants $ 1,000,000 $ 1,000,000
Career & Technical Education $ 1,302,972 $ 2,477,406
Rapid Enrollment Grants $ 12,504,530 $ 12,504,530
Early Childhood Education $ 3,000,000 $ 3,000,000
$ 17,807,502 $ 24,681,936

As you can see the initial education funding bills were not holding education harmless.  For Ellendale the significant impact would have been in the area of transportation where the reduction would have ended up in a 10-12% reduction in state funding.  However, the significant reduction in CTE also affects our school as we receive partial reimbursements for some of our CTE programs we provide in Ellendale and receive at the SRCTC.  Any reduction in funding for CTE is a reduction in reimbursement for us.  Several education leaders and I met with Sen. Schaible last week and some of these cuts have already been reinstated, but we need to keep watching to ensure education is made 100% whole.

Some legislators and others have argued that almost all other areas of the state budget are taking 5-10% cuts, why not education.  My quick response is because of the will of the voters.  Voters approved, last fall, the opening up of the Foundation Aid Stabilization fund which presently has approximately 600 millions dollars in it.  It would seem that to make education whole and still use some special funds to reduce the states obligation to the foundation payment itself are within it’s capacity.  I hope we all watch closely what the legislature does to ensure they fulfill the will of the people.

Now time to dash back to Bismarck!

 

 

Dec
23
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-12-2016

During the Christmas season we all know about the role of Santa Clause.  He is the man bringing the presents to all the good little girls and boys.  Behind him are some exceptional characters, the elves.  Without the elves Santa would not be able to have all the gifts to put in those stockings around the world.   At school, the work of education is obviously Santa, it dominates the building.  But, we also have elves and I want to give them some credit.

Each and every day, behind the scenes, our four elves (Dennis, Steve, Dan & Jewel) keep Ellendale School comfortable, clean, and functioning properly.  Some have asked during our budget cutting discussions, why not cut out one custodian.   I believe all areas are open for discussion.  However, I don’t know if everyone appreciates what these four people do.

  • Each and every day our custodial elves clean 65,000+ sq ft. (total school is 87,391 sq ft).  That equates to 16,250 sq ft per custodian, per day.  Most homes are 2,000 to 3,000 sq ft so that is like cleaning your home nearly five times, every day!
  • They clean 13 urinals, 40 toilets, 55 sinks, and 24 showers, every day.
  • They fill countless paper and toilet paper rolls.
  • They scrub the MPR every day along with entrance ways during wet parts of the year.
  • Hallways are swept every day but are also scrubbed and burnished one time a week.
  • Sport floors receive a dry mopping once or twice daily, then a wet towel treatment once a day along with weekly scrubbing.
  • Windows are part of the weekly routine but when is the last time you saw hand prints on an entry door in the morning? You don’t because our elves wash them once a day.
  • Our elves fix door closers, water heaters, desks, leaky faucets, door latches, lights, boilers, and pretty much everything an elf can handle.
  • During winter weather they are responsible to move snow off of nearly a 1/3 of mile of sidewalk, 30+ parking spots, and 17 doorways.

The list could keep going on and on but I think you get the picture.  These elves are MAGIC!  However, don’t forget the little miracles they provide during concerts, sporting events, or community events.  Concerts require them to be experts in engineering and sound system setup.  Sporting events require sound and music systems, clean seats, trash collection, and team logistics all under the scrutiny of thousands of eyes.  Finally, many do not realize how many community events our elves help provide.  These events range from dance, taekwondo, DRN banquets, post-prom parties, meetings, and more.

The next time you have the opportunity to visit another school look around.  Look at the floors, the sinks, gym floors, look up and down.  When I do this, I leave thankful for the efforts of these four exceptional people.  It also reaffirms my view there is no way we can provide the service to this community facility, that it deserves, without them.20150804_095825

Merry Christmas & a huge THANK YOU to our elves!
Thank you – Jewel, Dennis, Dan & Steve

Dec
16
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 16-12-2016

The Ellendale School Board on Tuesday took action on a proposal to add women’s fast pitch softball.  The Board had been approached about adding the sport in late summer, so it creating an ad-hoc committee to research the program.  During, the past few months the committee & Mr. Matt Herman A.D. looked at the requirements of the program, start up costs, gathered interest of students, and interest in coops with other schools.  During this same time the Board has been working on budget cutting options due to declining enrollment, as shared in a previous post.  It was these budget cutting needs that eventually drove the committee to decide on Tuesday to not approve fast-pitch for the upcoming year.  The ad-hoc committee, chaired by Mrs. Kinzler, indicated the committee did not feel they could responsibly add a program while having to cut other programs in the district.  They did indicated that it could be an option in the future but it would not be recommended at this time.

 

 

Dec
09
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 09-12-2016
MIKE McCLEARY/Bismarck Tribune Governor Jack Dalrymple gives his Budget Address to members of the North Dakota legislators and the public in the House chamber Wednesday morning 12-3-2014 at the state Capitol in Bismarck.

Governor Jack Dalrymple

With the kick off of the session this past Wednesday we saw the release of the Governor’s budget for the next two years.  His 2017-2019 Executive State Budget can be found on the OMB web site at https://www.nd.gov/omb The news has been bleak for state agencies for over the past year and this budget continues to paint a similar picture.  Little to no new funding will be coming to Ellendale Public School to reduce the financial pressures that I have shared previously.  Here are some specifics:

  • Foundation Aid – the formula for year one will remain at the $9,646 that was in place this past year.  The second year it will increase 1% to $9,742, a total of $96.00.  Based on our present foundation aid formula (Total Weighted Student Units = 413.07) that would be an increase of $39,654 the second year of the biennium.
  • Transportation Funding – this will be cut by $5.7 million at the state level.  This equates to a 10% reduction at the state level for both years.  This year Ellendale receives $168,899 in transportation funding.  Based on the Governor’s budget recommendation we should see an approximate cut of $16,889, per year.  Over two years that is a reduction of $33,798 and pretty much eats up all the gains in the second year of the foundation formula.
  • Career & Tech Ed – The Governor’s budget has about 8.7% in cuts to that entire department.  The grants for school, which we all receive to offset costs for Tech Ed, Office Ed, FCS, Health Careers, and other CTE programs is shown a cut of 8%.  The past year Ellendale School received $37,436 in funding from CTE for the courses provided at Ellendale High School.  This does not include state support for courses received through the SE Vocational Center.  An 8% reduction in these funds equates to another $2,994 in reduced funding per year.

When you look at the gains ($39,654) and then subtract the reductions ($33,798 + $5,989 = $39,787) that is about as a close to a net zero wash as you can get.  The Governor’s Executive Budget request could be changed by the Legislature during the session, however I am not holding my breath.  If I had to bet I would expect more cuts being made to this budget by the assembly.  We are not going to see many positive changes in my view.

The nearly $300,000 Ellendale needs to cut in our own budget, due to declining enrollment this yea,r is not going to get a reprieve from Bismarck.  Getting our budget to balance will take continued tough decisions, many of them cutting programs and resources we have become accustom to having.  There will be no easy decisions and as I have said before the Board and Administration are considering all options – GREAT and small!

Nov
23
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-11-2016

Rural-EducationThe recent victory for President-Elect Donald Trump was in large part due to the support from rural America.  Many news organizations have realized that the frustrations of the middle and working class in America have risen to a level to repulse the desires of our growing urban centers.  The win for the Trump campaign has lead many, I included, to optimistically hope that President-Elect Trump and the GOP will focus like a laser on issues related to the middle class.  This is not the time to further lift up the rich, but you need to provide a hand to the poor and working families.  But, how will the new administration support rural schools?  That is the new question we as educators are asking.

My comments today are focused on what I hope the Trump presidency could do for education in rural America.  I am not focusing on urban, urban poor, or suburban.  My thoughts are directed specifically at us out here in the middle lands of America.  Those of us that live in rural America.  President Trump here is what we need you to do for us, those that elected you.

  1. Reduce the Bureaucracy – Most small rural schools are under staffed and the ever increasing amounts of reporting and paperwork being asked for by OCR (Office of Civil Rights), DOE, Dept. of Transportation, and those items being required by the federal government but hidden in state reporting requirements need to be reduced.  We would benefit greatly from these efforts which would allow us to focus our limited personal capital on our students needs.
  2. Increase Title Funding & Reduce Supplement/Supplant Rules – First, rural schools receive less funding per child compared to larger school districts even where rural schools poverty rates are higher.  Rural schools need these funds just as desperately to serve our ever growing populations of disadvantaged students.  Rural schools are experiencing 20-30-40-50% poverty and need these funds to provide the intensive and direct instruction our students need and deserve.  The other factor is the upcoming rules in regard to Supplement/Supplant.  Federal rules may put forth a complex accountability system for Title funds.  This may affect mid size schools in rural America more than micro schools like mine but these rules do not provide the needed flexibility we all need in rural America.
  3. Support Pre-School Education – Access to high quality pre-K education in rural America is almost no-existent.  On top of that dual parent employment is greater in rural areas where both incomes are needed to make ends meet.  The Trump administration would help rural America greatly by helping to fund nourishing pre-K educational opportunities in all our communities.  This would help families, return some money to their pockets, and help ensure all children are ready to succeed in school.
  4. Less Focus on Charter and School Choice – President Elect Trump these things do not affect rural schools.  Focus your energy and resources on making all our schools better, which can then benefit the one and only choice most families have in rural America.. their community school.  Recently in a survey conducted North Dakota had the highest percentage of respondents rating their local school as excellent or good, as compared to all the states in the union.  We do not need you to select a Sec. of Education focused on Charter and School Choice.  We need you to drive home policies that will help us in rural areas. Charters and school choice are not it.
  5. Help with Challenging Students – As I mentioned in my first point, resources and specialists in rural America are limited.  Rural schools are seeing the same increases in the number of student with emotional and behavioral challenges as in urban areas.  However, our access to mental health services is drastically different.  Your administration could help us greatly by providing resources to assist with these student.  We need better access to mental health services.
  6. English Language Learners – Throughout the country rural schools are seeing increased numbers of students classified as English Learners.  President-Elect Trump focus on ways to support the development of programs to assist our teachers to address the needs of these populations.  We need training programs for our professionals that they can access without leaving their district.  We need educational and technology resources that allow us to meet the wide range of language needs of our new families.
  7. We Need Teachers – Throughout the nation the teacher shortage is real.  No longer can rural America be the feeder program for all the teacher vacancies in the country.  My home state has had a positive reputation for developing outstanding teachers, but we can’t afford to ship them out any more.  Rural America needs you to support the development of quality teacher programs for young people.  We need you to assist in tuition or pay off student loans so more young people join the teaching ranks.  We need you to provide financial assistance to rural schools so we can pay a competitive salary as compared to our counterparts in suburban areas.  Not until we can help teachers into the profession and then get them to believe teaching in a rural school is a quality choice will our teacher shortages be eliminated.

President-Elect Trump I hope you are listening.  Your election as our President was in no small way, achieved due to the hopes of rural America.  We do believe you can make America great again.  Just, don’t forget the young people in our schools.

 

Nov
17
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-11-2016

If you are a fan of ESPN and their NFL broadcast you will know about their C’mon Man segments.  This is where they point out funny and not so funny mistakes by players, fans, and officials.  Here is one of their previous segments.

YouTube Preview Image

So I thought I would share some of my Cmon Man moments from school.

  • Patrons calling on Monday about cancelling school on Friday due to snow – C’Mon Man!
  • You can pay for a Dakota Bowl T-Shirt but not your child’s lunch money – C’Mon Man!
  • Running the stop signs around the school, not rolling them… running right through them – C’Mon Man!
  • Upset Parent, “I know my child is not doing well in reading, but I do not want them getting help after school” – C’Mon Man!
  • “We are to busy to help our child with their studies” – C’Mon Man!

Have a great week!