Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 20-08-2014

The start of school and now a vote for a post Labor Day start many are asking what my views are on this topic.  So I thought I would share a few of my personal thoughts.

- Summer is a fleeting commodity that in all totals hopefully 12 glorious weeks.  I also agree that I wish it could last longer.
- School starting on Aug 19th could be pushed back some to accommodate another summer weekend, but…
- Regardless athletes will be starting around mid August.  This year football started Aug 13; and Cross Country on Aug 11th.  These dates will not change.
- Heat is not an issue for Ellendale, since we are now fully air conditioned.
- For my kids… they are ready for school by mid August.  They want to return to that routine and see their friends. I believe many are the same.
- Lastly, and most importantly, I believe the start time of any school should be decided locally, by you and the school board.

I do appreciate how quickly August returns and all of us are dreading the end of summer and the looming winter season approaching.  I also believe EPS should move our start back a small amount, but this is more to accommodate the increasing demands on professional development and training time for our employees.   I do not support moving the start date back to after Labor Day as I think this is an arbitrary date that is not appropriate or convenient each and every year.  In the case of this year the start date would be Sept 2nd, but other years it could be as late as Sept 8th.  If it was Sept 8th some of our athletes could be in practice for as much as 3 to 4 weeks before school would start.  Some have stated.. wouldn’t these dates change if the law was passed?  My response is no.  The start of football is directly tied to the events in the Fargo Dome… NDHSAA event, respectfully, are not the most important events in that facility (GO BISON!).  Again, most importantly, I feel this is a local control issue.  If you have discontentment over the school start date you can share your concerns with me or any board member.  Together the school board, teachers, and I work to put together a workable school calendar each year.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 18-08-2014

What factors determine the success of teaching and learning?  What is more important the head or the heart of a learner?

In this image what is more important…
- The skills and talents of the student?
- The skills and talents of the teacher?
- The quality of the materials around them?
- Or the relationship between the teacher and the student?

For the past decade American education has been dominated by quality materials and even more dramatically quality tests.  Everything has been predicated on the test and there results.  If we only had better diagnostics so teachers knew exactly what elements of a course were missing we could ensure every child achieved identically.  Some would have had us believe that it was as simple as just monitoring the end product and adjusting the assembly line accordingly.

I never believed in this principle completely.  I will admit the quality of assessments has improved greatly over the past decade and using them in schools, conservatively, can improve teaching and learning.   But something was always missing!

The other day the Ellendale faculty, staff, and I had the privilege of listening to Mr. Dave Weber (@dave_weber).  Mr. Weber spoke about “Sticks & Stones” and the concept of Kiononia.  ”Koinonia is a transliterated form of the Greek word, κοινωνία, which means communion, joint participation; the share which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, etc. It identifies the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ.” (Wikipedia, 2014,  He hit the mark!  Kiononia is FAMILY,  COMMUNITY, it is the concept of the RELATIONSHIP we have with those close to us.  We all experience Kiononia in our family, at church, and possibly at work.  Kiononia put a name on what we had been searching for.

Starting as early as three years ago EPS teachers and administration knew there was a growing disconnect between students & students, teachers & students, even teachers & teachers.  We all rushed around the school doing our jobs but did we have the time and energy to make long lasting significant connections.  Bullying, social media, and simply the pressures of being a young person were appearing to fragment our students.  One example of this was the decline in students participating in extra-curricular activities and clubs.  In the classroom some teachers noticed a greater level of student apathy toward learning and a disconnect between learning and a child’s future.  The creation of an RtI period for students in grades 7-12 seemed to help some, but not all.  Some students, who needed the help, were not taking advantage of it.  Lastly, teachers last winter asked for additional time to meet and collaborate as they were feeling isolated and disconnected from their peers.  All these things were additionally reinforced by parents as part of surveys done through the AdvancEd process last spring.  You were seeing similar issues.

KOINONIA gave a name to what we need!  I believe that education can be filled with facts, busy work and at times can be boring.  We all learned our multiplication tables, don’t lie, it was boring and on occasion some things are just boring work.  But this is not all the time.  What propels individuals to get past that state and learn?  It is RELATIONSHIPS.  It is the power that the heart has on our mind.  When we feel we are part of a FAMILY, COMMUNITY, or in a RELATIONSHIP where  our hearts are engaged learning becomes more meaningful.  The learning becomes easier.

Can the concept of KOINONIA be what our students are missing that would benefit their personal lives as well?  If students had a stronger sense of KOINONIA would bullying and harassment decrease?  If they had a stronger sense of KOINONIA would that translate to more club participation and stronger bonds between our students?  We believe it can.

During this year be watching for aspects of KIONONIA at Ellendale Public School.  It is a focus of many efforts at the student level, inside and outside teacher’s classroom, and even will be extending outside of the walls to you.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 16-08-2014

It is now only a few days before the start of the 2014-2015 school year.  I do hope that everyone had a wonderful summer that included a few days of fun and relaxation.

I want to begin by welcoming back all those returning to EPS.  It will be wonderful to reconnect with each of you next week.  You may not believe it but it can get awfully lonely around these halls during the summer so it is always fun to see our students return.

I would next like to welcome all those that are new to EPS.  This year we are expecting to see 25 new faces in the student body.  This is a wonderful thing for not only the school but our student body as each of you will assuredly bring new talents, experiences, and personality to our hallways.   If at any time you have questions or concerns please do not hesitate to ask a teacher, office staff, or other adult as we are ready and waiting to help.

Lastly, I would like to introduce the new faculty and staff for this year.  Similarly to the students we have a significant number of new faces on the faculty.
- Mr. Dan Girard, Elementary Principal
- Mrs. Nancy Anderson, 4th Grade Teacher
- Mrs. Jasmine Smith, 1st Grade Teacher
- Mrs. Becky Middlestead, 6th Grade Teacher
- Mrs. Sharon Langley, Music
- Mr. Austin Flynn, SPED Aide
- Mrs. Tosha Fuher, SPED Aide
- Ms. Chrissy Hammer, SPED Aide
- Mrs. Norma Trautman, Head Cook


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 09-07-2014

After much distress earlier in the year it would appear that the EEK Thunder are solidly in the 11A division for football for the 2015 and 2016 years.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 02-07-2014
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Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 24-06-2014
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Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-05-2014

Several weeks ago administration at Ellendale School were notified that we were not going to make the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) requirements set forth by No Child Left Behind.  In fact that same message was going out to hundreds of schools across ND as we all come to grips with the full implementation of NCLB.  NCLB had set 2014 as the year when all students had to show proficiency on their grade level examination.  If that goal of 100% was not met then your school is labeled as failing.   Ellendale did not meet that goal and had to attend a meeting with Supt Baesler in April.  We were not alone, it was a large and crowed room.  378 schools were represented at this meeting and it was a very somber day.  Here you can see how the incremental increases in that goal have been eating up more and more ND schools.

At the earliest inception of NCLB very few ND schools did not make the low threshold required for student proficiency.  But as time as gone on that hurdle has increased till 2014 when 100% of student had to meet the testing requirement.  Now you will see in the table that 77 schools did meet AYP.  Honestly, I am glad for them but I want you to know that this does not necessarily mean that 100% of their kids passed the test.  All along this process particularly small districts have escaped some of the consequences of this law.  Even in Ellendale we had had our scores exempted because the group size did not meet the minimum requirement to be statistically valid.  So in some of the instances of the 77 I am positive some are making it due to small school size.

None the less, you need to be aware that soon DPI will be sending out a press release indicating that 378 schools in North Dakota are failing as judged by NCLB.  I personally don’t think the vast majority of schools in our state are failing.  In Ellendale we will soon release our official results (once allowed) but as glimpse here are some of our preliminary numbers.   Please remember that students the vast majority of students (unless severely disabled) are measured against their grade.  So in some cases we have students that are receiving special services through an IEP that are working 1 yr behind grade level, but they are measured against their grades proficiency mark.

EHS High School – Reading 84.21% proficient;  Math 86.11% proficient.
EES Elementary – Reading  87.27% proficient; Math 93.67% proficient.
MR Colony – Reading  58.82% proficient; Math 66.67% proficient.  ** This is one of those weird statistical issues as the colony made AYP in Reading.  That is not 100%.

Please know that any child not making proficiency is a concern.  I am not excusing our work and that we shall always strive to reach 100%.  However, I don’t believe the markers used by NCLB are right and I surely don’t believe that over 83% of ND are failing.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 13-05-2014

In a few recent articles I have presented my views on what standards are and how they effect our school and children.  As I indicated before I have not found anything in the standards, adopted by North Dakota, that I am opposed to.  However here are some things I don’t like:

  • The Federal Govt did a good job when they implemented laws to protect special ed. and disadvantaged students in the 60′s and 70′s.  However with NCLB (enacted in 2001) the Federal Govt has become more and more overreaching in what is a state activity.
  • Standards are needed to ensure students that move from state to state receive equitable education.  However the Federal Govt should not have hog tied these standards to their Race to the Top program.
  • I do believe we need to test students to ensure they are learning and that schools are teaching.  However, the high-stakes aspects of these tests must go.  No single test will ever measure the totality of a person’s knowledge, a teacher’s skills, or the quality of a school.
  • The idea that if we test students and tie those scores to a teachers evaluation is completely unfounded.  Their is no scientific data to support that when testing is used to evaluate a teacher, that it leads to improved student performance.
  • I don’t like being told by those in congress how to teacher, when they have never taught a group a children a day in their life.  Let educators regain more control over education policy.
  • I am frustrated by the repeated rhetoric that our schools are failing, I don’t believe the statistics agree with that thought.
  • I am upset that shortly nearly ever school in ND will be labeled as failing under NCLB.  When most schools in ND, including Ellendale, will be getting +85% of their students (all students) to reach proficiency at grade level.
  • I am disheartened when I hear about instances in schools where the Holocaust is downplayed, or history is rewritten, or just plain non-sense is being taught.  This is not a sign that education in general is failing, but an instance of bad teaching by a single teacher.
  • Lastly, don’t judge your neighbors crop by the work done by a stranger down the road.  Don’t judge the meal at your local restaurant by the service you get in a far away town.  Please don’t judge our school by the work done by others in schools in California or wherever.   Come in and judge our work for yourself.

That concludes my rant for the day.  Thanks for listening.



Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 07-05-2014

The buzz about Common Core Standards is heating up again.  After fielding a couple exceptional questions from Ellendale citizens I thought it a valuable topic to discuss again.  There questions asked simply “What are standards and how does it affect what kids learn in school?”.


Standards have been around for almost as long as I have been in education (over 20 years).  A standard is an endpoint, or a target.  It is the point in which we strive to get our students to at the end of any given grade or course.  Ellendale has been using ND State Standards for these targets again since I started my career here.   The Common Core standards are simply the new and improved version of the older standards.   Here is an example of a 4th Gr Standard in Writing.  This one deals with writing an opinion piece.  As you can see the standard tells the teacher, student, and parent what is going to be expected of the student to do at the end of 4th grade.  Again, is is the target behavior.

As I shared this response with those that asked me the question, I believe that most of the uncertainty about the Common Core is not the idea of the target but how we get to the target, the pathway.  In a school the pathway is called our curriculum, it is the tools and resources we use to reach the standard.   An example might be your child’s math textbook, or Read180.  Again, using the idea of a pathway, each school picks their own path just as if we were all driving to Fargo we would pick our own route.  The target is the same, but the routes are different.  Each of these curriculum choices is made here in Ellendale by educators, reviewed by administration, and finally reviewed by the School Board.  They are not dictated from the state or federal level.  So when you hear the horror stories (and I am appalled by some myself) of schools in some far off place using a certain reading book or science program that is not the same here.  We have and will continue to select curriculum that does push our children to reach the target.  However, that will be grounded in common sense, classical reading selections, and respect to the community values that we believe reside in our community.

I hope this helps some better grasp the concepts of standards versus curriculum.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 24-04-2014

This summer, starting in May, EHS will be starting an extensive remodel of the EHS Track.  This project will include the following:
-Grinding of the present track
-Creation of 3 ft wide drainage area on inside of track including fixed drains.
-Raising the existing track bed
-Laying of 2 asphalt layers (base of new track)
-Laying of rubberized all-weather surface
-Sealing and Striping

In addition the high jump area will also be rebuilt with the same application being used for the track itself.

The present EHS track was constructed in 2000 with the addition of the fence and storage shed in 2003.  At that time the track was constructed in no small part due to the generosity of many community members, efforts of the Ellendale QB Club, and Garry Mertz & Craig Martin.  Garry and Craig were instrumental in laying out the track, completing the ground work, and actually making the track a reality at that time.  In no way is this work a poor reflection on the work done in 2000.  In fact our contractor now, Sam Fisher, from Fisher Tracks is very impressed with what we have and how it has stood the test of the last 14 years.

None the less the track is in need of repair.  The EPS School Board received advisement on how address the track concerns last year from Fisher Tracks and now this year has approved the work to be completed.  The estimated costs for this project are around $168,000 to complete the base track work with an additional $78,000 for the rubberized all-weather surface.  Additional costs for ground work, fencing, and unexpected costs are also being considered making the total estimate for the project around $300,000.  All these funds will be drawn from the Ellendale Schools General Fund interim account so no new taxes are needed to pay for this project.

The Ellendale School Board, Mr. Herman, the Coaches, and I all believe the investment in a track made in 2000 is too valuable to let to turn to crumbling rocks today.  If we expect to keep this investment working for us today and into the future improvements, such as this one, must be made.  We hope you enjoy watching the work being done at the track this summer.  **Please do keep out of the work zone for your own protection**  However, this is a wonderful improvement and will continue to allow Ellendale to host 2-4 meets each year along with other special events such as the “Relay for Life”.