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.


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!

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 12-10-2016

sequestration_federal_budget_cuts_2013With 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.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 22-09-2016

Homecoming Court 2016Many 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…

2011612317I 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 resizetoday.  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 for12010552_798119160333462_8104740989954456114_o 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.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 15-09-2016

ballot-box-graphicAs 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:

  • Simplify some language that talks about a 50-50 portion of 20% of the oil extraction tax and simply say 10% of the tax will go into the Common Schools Trust Fund and 10% in the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund.  Really no change, just cleaner language.
  • The second change would be to cap the amount of dollars that can be held in the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund at 15% of what the state of North Dakota spends on education each biennium.  At this time that would be around $300 million.  (Remember, the present fund is now holding about $600 million).  This safety net amount would automatically increase as state funding toward education increased.
    • This measure would then allow the legislature to take any funds in excess of the 15% (about $300 million today) and use the funds within the general fund spending for spending on education.

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 –
Mr. Scott Wertz –
Mrs. Charlene Kinzler –
Mr. Kent Schimke –
Mrs. Michele Thorpe –



Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 02-09-2016

truamaEllendale 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:

  1. A shared understanding among our teachers and staff about the adverse experiences some of our students experience.
  2. A plan to ensure all students feel safe physically, socially, emotionally, and academically.
  3. School personnel address student needs holistically, taking into account all aspects of the student.  There is not a one size fits all reaction to student concerns.
  4. The staff and teachers work as a team, to address trauma’s challenges.  Students in need are now not addressed by one single teacher but a team may be involved in providing resources and support.
  5. The school will monitor and adapt to meet the changing needs of our students.  This may include finding resources to address new challenges or looking for community resources to assist our students.

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.




Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 29-08-2016

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.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 22-08-2016


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.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 24-05-2016

15 Things to do this summer in North Dakota

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.

  1. Take a walk and enjoy either the sun’s rising or setting: In North Dakota we have the opportunity to watch the sun’s travels from horizon to horizon with hardly any manmade objects interfering with that view.  Take time to reflect upon the glory of the sun, and while you do so open your mind and allow yourself to be happy.
  2. Read: During the school year you have to read books.  Take time during the summer to choose books that inspire you, or light your imagination.  “Books are uniquely portable magical places” – Stephen King.
  3. Avoid people and situations that don’t build you up:  Seek others that stimulate you and make you better, find people that understand you and care about you.
  4. Go fishing: The summers in North Dakota allow many great outdoor activities.  But, fishing is one that will cause you to calm yourself long enough to allow the fish to bite.  Embrace that peace.
  5. Give back to your community: The heart of our rural communities is the value of giving back.  Together we all make our communities thrive.  Find an organization or event that you can volunteer to help.
  6. Teach yourself one new skill: It may be crochet, or whip making.  It could be a new language, or how to make and fly a kite.  Regardless, teach yourself one new skill that you did not possess at the end of the school year.
  7. Take a road trip: This may require some parental assistance but take one day to visit a new place in our great state.  You have learned about many of these places in ND studies but you may have not visited them.  Take a day and pick one to see.
  8. Play sports, get outside.
  9. If you feel sad, that is ok: Summer is a wonderful time to reflect upon ourselves.  Write these thoughts down in a diary, or share them if you are willing.
  10. Watch a film with meaning: in order to broaden your view of the world.  Pick something that you would normally not watch and then reflect upon its meaning to your life.
  11. Go stargazing: Our night skies are beautiful.  Gather up a blanket, lie down, and simply gaze up.  Then ponder about your place in this great universe.  Set a goal for your future.
  12. Say thank you: Reflect upon someone that has made a difference in your life over the past year and write them a thank you.  This should not be an email or facebook post, but a real handwritten thank you.
  13. Don’t sear.
  14. Work up a sweat: North Dakotans are known for our strong work ethic.  At some time during the summer work up a good sweat and enjoy it.  Think about the power you have in your bodies that can move mountains.
  15. Be Good.