May
12
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 12-05-2020
Mar
27
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 27-03-2020

MPS Teachers,

I thought today that maybe an end of the week update may work best via my blog.  I have not posted near as much via this blog than I used to before moving to Mandan.  I hope this finds you healthy and feeling energized after a week of online learning.

This video was sent to MHS faculty today by Mr. Andresen.  This is an exceptional discussion including some all-star thinkers in education about our new normal.

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I very much appreciate the perspective of the panelists.  Families & students are stressed and how we build and deploy assessments matters.  Our state plan, and the expectations document, spoke about grading and assessment as it was a required portion of our state plan.  However, how we assess matters.  In no way should it be the same as if we were in school all day – every day.  The views of Lee Ann and Rick W were spot on.  Grades now are a temporary status and we have to be ok with that.  We have to understand grades now are monitoring engagement.  The duration and depth of this event may affect our discussions about grading when we look back on this in totality.

We can invite kids to the teaching and learning dynamic.  Rick W makes exceptional comments about getting our kids involved in the teaching and learning process.  They are seeking ways to be engaged and active participants. All the while ensuring we have effective teaching and learning practices.  Consider his views and don’t forget a sense of humor.   He gives great examples.

Give each other GRACE
As we learn to do virtual teaching, please give your self GRACE to make mistakes.  As our students struggle to balance learning at home with the stress of COVID19, give them GRACE.  As our leaders navigate the many questions on their desks, give them GRACE.  If our tech is not quite working perfectly, give our tech team GRACE.  We are a family… let us help each other get through this.

Keep it professional
This is a picture of a PLC held over Zoom in another school.  It is blurred out as one of the teachers took their computer to the bathroom and forget the camera was running.  As we engage with our colleagues and our students, please maintain our professionalism.  As I mentioned earlier this week, keep a good image of yourself and our role as educators presented as you interact via video.

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Grading
These are wonderful thoughts by Ken O & Rick W.   I would encourage us to continue to discuss this as our virtual teaching experience continues.   The idea that grades are temporary at this time and not permanent labels.  We will have a better view of this as we near the end of this adventure.  I would contend that how we look at elementary – JH – 9-11th and seniors may all be different.

Love the “LET IT GO” comments by Rick W.  Focus on the important things!

Next Week
School will continue in this fashion for the foreseeable future.  Dr. Bitz and I want to extend huge thank you for the work you have done.  Thank you for your patience.  Thank you for your GRACE.

Stay healthy,
Mr. F

 

 

Aug
26
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 26-08-2019

handshake-blog

Hello, welcome back to school everyone.  My name is Jeff Fastnacht and I am the Assistant Superintendent here at Mandan Public Schools.

Introductions are an important aspect of humanity.  Introductions have begun every human interaction in history, albeit not always nicely.  An introduction can be a knuckle bump or a handshake.  They commonly are combined with words of welcome but that is not always necessary.  A “proper” introduction should include a verbal welcome and socially appropriate exchange of names or titles.  Introductions are the first step toward a warm and positive relationship.

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In our modern society, we have misplaced the importance of an introduction in direct proportion to our reliance on our cellular devices.  I realize there can be an introduction done via technology and there are new ways of saying “hi”.  I am simply worried that we (all of us, not just kids) are forgetting how to do a nice introduction.  I feel we are forgetting how to create a positive relationship that begins with a handshake, greeting, and personal connection?

From my small corner of the world, I see more people starting interactions in these ways:

  • “Hey” – start with a question
  • “I emailed you and you did not respond” – begin with a complaint
  • Just walk up to me and say nothing (questioning look)

None of these are good.  Before we condemn those people can we consider that maybe their actions are not about WILL but about SKILL.  Most people strive to do things the right way, and when they don’t it is commonly because they lack the skills necessary.  Even with simple things, like an introduction, many lack the skills necessary to execute one with ease.  This is why Mandan Public Schools has concentrated our focus this year on social and emotional learning.  Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.  Learning to navigate an introduction is just a small part of SEL but it is one aspect of maintaining a positive relationship with others.  SEL is also the means to begin to ensure our adults (every educator in MPS) can create a positive relationship with each and every one of our students.  You will be hearing more about SEL over the course of the year and how we are striving to help our students learn the SKILLS to manage their emotions, set goals, and build positive relationships.  I hope you can already see small positive changes.

Thank you for your time and have a wonderful day.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar
20
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 20-03-2019

In my years as a school teacher, head negotiator, BEA President, principal, and superintendent I have always felt transparency in the area of negotiations built trust or the lack of eroded it.  It is just something I believe in.  So to promote that same view in my new position I have created an online folder that should be open to view by all.  It is on the left and named “Mandan Negotiations…”    I hope this helps everyone keep informed and enhance our work to ensure everyone is valued and heard.

Jul
16
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 16-07-2018

Here is a quick link to my resent presentation at the 2018 ND Governor’s Innovative Education Conference.

Presentation Link

Jul
10
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 10-07-2018

As of July 1, the transition to the position as Asst. Supt. at Mandan Public Schools is official.  For those that have followed this blog I hope you continue to watch it for the occasional news and commentary about education and events now particular to Mandan Public School.  Thank you for all that have support Lisa and I during this transition.  I also want to thank the Mandan School Board and administration for their willingness to let me continue to learn, grow, and support education in their community.   THANKS!

Apr
02
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 02-04-2018

The impacts of behavioral health concerns impact all of us.  It could be our neighbor, our friend, or a loved one.  The negative impacts of these concerns have already impacted health care, EMS, churches, and the teachers in your community.  This is not a BIG city concern.  This is an everywhere concern and Ellendale is just one part of it.  A discussion has already started on how we can work together to support and help.  Are you willing to speak openly and honestly about it?

The Ellendale Behavioral Health Taskforce hopes you are ready to help.   The taskforce was convened for the first time in January of this year.  It was brought together by the leadership team at Ellendale School and included representatives from Prince of Peace Care Center, Dickey County Health, Dickey County Social Services, community counselors, teachers, and Ellendale School principals and Superintendent.  The taskforce has met four times with the goal of identifying behavior health needs, identifying and unifying support systems that are presently available, and lastly working to determine what additional services are needed in our community.

Our work has been tremendously beneficial in connecting all the services in these separate agencies.  However, we have progressed to the point that we need you.  We need to discuss these issue with a larger group of stakeholders and community leaders.  We believe that the community policy makers and concerned citizens now must engage in this discussion if we are going to truly help those in our community that are suffering.  That is why we have scheduled a community forum.  We are inviting all community boards, policy makers, and leaders to join us.  We are inviting representatives from agencies in our community that deal with behavioral health concerns.  We are inviting community members that wish to engage in this discussion.  We have enlisted the help of Mrs. Jodi Bruns, Area Extension Specialist, to assist us in organizing this community discussion.  The forum will be held at 6:30pm on Wednesday, April 18th at the Ellendale School.  We hope you can join us.

Mar
23
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-03-2018

xbehavioral-counseling-ccap-jpeg-pagespeed-ic-s2h3ieipp7truamaBehavioral health is the scientific term for the emotions, behaviors, and biology related to a person’s mental well-being, their ability to function in every day life, and their concept of self.  Behavioral health includes both mental health and substance use.  Behavioral health looks at how behaviors impacts a person’s health, physical and mental.  Some examples of could be depression, anxiety, ADHD, or schizophrenia.  It can also include substance abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm.

Reflect for a moment, thinking about this broad definition, and think if any behavioral health issues, your own or others, have impacted your life?  I believe the majority of us would say yes.  These issues are not new.  However, their impact on us is growing.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that North Dakota teens are three times as likely to commit suicide as their peers nationwide.  Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among our kids aged 15-24.  That should be alarming to everyone.

Behavioral health is more than just depression and suicide.  In a study published in Psychiatric Services it reported that more Americans than ever before are suffering from mental and emotional distress.   More of our friends and family are experiencing anxiety, stress, and addiction disorders.  Have you noticed it?  Have you noticed that more of those around us are suffering?  I believe if you take an honest look you would say yes.  The question for you and I, and our community, is “What are you going to do about it?”.

The impacts of behavioral health concerns impact all of us.  It could be our neighbor, our friend, or a loved one.  The negative impacts of these concerns have already impacted health care, EMS, churches, and the teachers in your community.  This is not a BIG city concern.  This is an everywhere concern and Ellendale is just one part of it.  A discussion has already started on how we can work together to support and help.  Are you willing to speak openly and honestly about it?

Feb
15
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 15-02-2018

ap18045839657957_10797348_ver1-0_640_360Today is another sad day for America, our children, and our schools.  I wish to begin by extending my deepest sympathy to the community of Parkland, Florida, and its schools.  The thoughts and prayers of many at Ellendale School are with you.

Tragedies of this nature shake us to our core and force us to confront even the unimaginable thought of “what if this was our school?”.   What happened in Parkland can happen anywhere.  I used to believe it could only happen in “those” schools, but over the years since Columbine (1999) I have continually been shown that it does not matter.  School shootings have taken place in urban and rural schools, small and large, diverse and predominately white communities like ours.  The need to ensure all schools are safe is something every school is addressing.

In Ellendale, over the course of the past 20 years, we have done many things to help ensure the safety of our students.  None of these are a 100% guarantee of their safety, but nothing is.  Here are some measures we take to ensure our students remain safe:

  • Physical Security
    • Exterior doors are locked for most of the school day to only allow entrance to the school in a controlled manner.  During school hours, visitors must enter Door #1 and be validated to enter using a door access system.
    • Video Surveillance is installed throughout the complex to monitor activity and is also available to law enforcement when needed.

** Physical security in my view is honestly the easy part and is in no way fool-proof.  It provides a simple line of protection but anyone could find a way into the school if they were determined.

  • Planning to Respond
    • Emergency Response Planning- Our school has an extensive emergency response plan that outlines how we will address not only actions like what happened in Parkland but also accidents, snow days, tornadoes, and even gas leaks. This manual was developed and is maintained in cooperation with Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, DC Emergency Management, and other community leaders.
    • Response Team – More important than the plan is practicing the plan. The school has an Emergency Response Team that meets monthly to review aspects of the plan, practice scenarios, and make changes to the plan as needed.

** Nobody wants to think about any tragedy or accident occurring at a school.  Commonly incidents at our school have nothing to do with physical security measures.  However, severe weather, accidents on the playground, and student illnesses are common and the fact that we practice for these incidents is beneficial.

 

  • Relationships
    • The People – Ellendale School has many professionals in place to help students work through tough times. These are teachers, counselors, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, everyone.  Our staff receives training on how to stop bullying, identifying suicide risks, and how to create positive relationships with our students.  Our daily interactions with kids is by far the most import way to keep our school safe.
    • Kiononia – This is a program in our high school that organizes students into families. These cross-grade families then engage in team building and relationship building activities two times a month.
    • Positive Behavioral Support – These come under many names, but you may have heard of MTSS-B, Nurtured Heart, Love & Logic, or the Parenting Professor. All are tools and means we have deployed to improve our relationships with students and improve how we deal with students not making good choices.

Providing a safe school both emotionally and physically is an important task.  Being safe in our school is not as simple as locking the door or putting an armed guard on the sidewalk.  It begins by purposefully working to improve relationships between students and the adults in the building.  Students and families need to have strong support systems around them and not feel afraid to ask for help.  In fact, all students need to be comfortable sharing any concern with an adult.  That way we, the adults, can act before a tragedy like what happened in Parkland takes place here.

Jan
19
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 19-01-2018

have-a-good-oneThe phrase “Have a good one“, according to Wiktionary is a commonly spoken valediction, typically spoken by service employees or clerks to customers at the end of a transaction, particularly in North America.   When did this become popular?  Honestly, I hear it said all the time recently but I don’t recall it being said 2, 3, or more years ago.  Where did it come from because I would like to have it go away.

Have a good one“, a good what.  I understand that within the English language I am supposed to apply context to this phrase as it is being spoken to me to provide meaning.  I realize that when a teller says “Have a good one” they are just saying “Thank you for your purchase“, I get it.  I grasp that when a friend says “Have a good one” to me when passing on the street, they are simply saying “Have a wonderful day Jeff“.  Yup I got that too!  Even when officiating basketball I realize that the nasty basketball fan saying “Have a good one” is really saying “$*#^!@)$% Ref“, I didn’t miss the nuance of his message.

I just think we can do so much better than “Have a good one“.  I mean if I purchase a product from your store I just want you to say “Thank you“.  That is even shorter than “Have a good one” and means so much more to me.  It actually shows you appreciation for my business.  In school, my domain, I would expect a teacher to say, “Joey I hope you have a good day and good luck at the game tonight“, not “Have a good one!“.  The former conveys a deeper sense of caring and concern for the student.  Finally, in my personal life I hope I am telling my friends and family “I love you and look forward to seeing you soon” vs “Have a good one” when we depart.

I realize I am not a hip young person and this phrase is probably all the norm in those circles.  But, I hear more and more adults, old people, using it all the time.  My hope is it goes away like the Dodo bird.  Let’s broaden our vocabulary and spend just one extra second conveying more meaning and understanding with a few more words.  It can mean so much!

Have a good one“,  (see it just sounds bad)
Mr. Fastnacht