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


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.


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.






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.

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

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!

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.

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?

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.

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

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-01-2018

I was recently reading a post which shared the SHARK and billionaire Mark Cuban’s views about the most up and coming job skills.  The piece entitled “Mark Cuban Says This Will Soon Be the Most Sought-After Job Skill” by Betsy Mikel uniquely characterized Mr. Cuban’s personal view that we no longer need kids to go to school to be coders or developers.  Which was somewhat surprising considering he is a billionaire in the technology world.  He predicted the “automation of automation” which was characterized to mean that computers would be coding and building computer language for us.  The article continued to share his views about what he thought were the professions that will be in high demand…

“I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than for programming majors and maybe even engineering,” Cuban said. He cited degrees such as English, philosophy, and foreign languages as being the most valuable. “Maybe not now,” Cuban acquiesced. “They’re gonna starve for awhile.”

Being prepared for the future can be a scary thing for young people and their parents.  Do we really know what kids are going to have to know to be prepared to succeed?  If you were to take out a yellow pad how long would the list be if you started writing the skills down, it could be worthy of a few pages.  I will guarantee to you this,  your list will not simply include getting a 29 on the ACT.  Being prepared for the future encompassing many things but in one regard Mr. Cuban is right.  Being prepared for the future will ask our student to have a broader range of skills and knowledge.  It will also include the need for our students to be skillful with a host of soft skills.  So what can we do to ensure our kids are ready for this?

Over the past two years I have been part of two wonderful experiences.  The first was working with the national AASA on the development of a program to redefine what it means to be ready.  Similarly it is called “Redefining Ready“.  Secondly, was having the opportunity to be part of the ND ESSA Committee and working to build a new accountability system for our schools that is less focused on one test.  This work has resulted in the marrying of Redefining Ready into what we have entitled “ND Choice Ready“.  ND Choice Ready is being rolled out to schools this month and you will begin to hear more about it in the coming months.

As a primer here is a little information about ND Choice Ready.  ND Choice Ready is an accountability component for high schools within the ND ESSA plan.  The choice ready matrix is intended to measure the readiness of our graduates as they leave EHS in the areas of Post-Secondary Ready, Work Ready, and Military Ready.  With the belief that when a student graduates, meeting the ND graduation requirements, they still must meet indicators to ensure they will be ready for school, work, and/or the military.  These ND Choice Ready indicators go beyond simply grades but measure soft skills, work based learning skills, and specific activities within high school.  Thus ensuring each of our students are ready to meet the needs that lie ahead for them in their future.  I will share more in future posts but please begin by looking at the new Choice Ready matrix.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 09-01-2018

b6e65773391975c7c601b3e2f58b1bfea365For the past fourteen years student/teacher/school success has been determined by the use of a single test.  This stemmed from the No Child Left Behind legislation which required all children in grades 3-8 and 11 to be tested once annually.  Those results were then paraded around every community, county, state, and across the nation as we rapidly categorized every school as failing during that time period.  The failing grade again based on the inability to get 100% of our children to proficiency in reading and math.  Many of you will remember the school report card that was published online and in our local paper each year reporting this data.

Today is a new day!  With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act our school and schools across the nation can now build a new accountability system.  A system that will be broader than one single examination.  A system that will share student performance in a wide variety of areas.  A system that will share information about the students we serve, the resources provided to them, and unique challenges found in every school system.  ESSA is allowing the state of North Dakota to provide a portal for all to continue to see information on academic performance and so much more.  This new portal is called NDInsights and can be found at


I encourage every patron in the Ellendale district to take 10 minutes at their computer to look at the NDInsights portal.  At this time it is sharing a wide variety of data about every school district and school in North Dakota.  But, soon it will be showcasing even more.  The Governor’s Office has proclaimed that this site will eventually be the location of accountability data for counties, state government, and other agencies, in addition to schools.  The site is easy to use.  At this time click on FIND MY DISTRICT or enter ELLENDALE in the search bar.  Both will provide you easy access to enrollment, academic, graduation, and demographic data about your school.  The key is using the + symbols on the left to open menus and refine your selections based on which school you choose to view.

Here is a sample of the type of academic information you can find.  This is the 2016-2017 state assessment data in math for Ellendale Elementary.


Dig a little deeper and you will find attendance data separated by ethnic group.capture


I encourage you to each take time to review this data.  You will not find an oversimplified Pass / Fail grade here, but those were never accurate in the NCLB era.  But, what you will find is a growing amount of information about many aspects of your school.  From that make your own determination on our successes and challenges.