Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 08-04-2014

I could restate this, but Dr. Fryer says it better than I can.

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Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 04-04-2014
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Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 02-04-2014

Dispensing medications, both prescription and OTC, during the school day has always been a concern for educators.  Since the very first time I gave a child a Tylenol (back in the dark ages) it has been a concern.  Today, schools across the nation, North Dakota, and in  Ellendale have been struggling with the increasing requests to provide students medication during the school day, while balancing our professional knowledge and responsibility to do this work.   Each day dedicated staff and teachers at EPS are providing students with medications that very from Tylenol, Concerta, cough drops, to Insulin.  It is the new reality of our educational world.

However, with these growing demands we believe we need to provide improved safety for our students and adults that are dealing with these medications.  We also believe we need to improve our dissemination and accountability protocols to ensure the proper medication is given to the right child each and every time.  To these ends the Ellendale School Board has recently approved a new School Medication Program policy.  This policy and the protocols that will be built from its adoption will dramatically change how and when we provide medications to your children.

I would ask that all parents begin to become familiar with the changes outlined in this new policy.  The actual protocols, for families, will not be changing until August of 2014.  However, we feel it best to begin to share them with you so you can prepare to meet the new requirements set forth in the policy.  If one of your children is presently being administered medication during school hours, by school personnel, you need to review these changes.  The new policy and forms can be accessed on the EPS web site at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/health_services/health_main.html


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 19-03-2014

Parents, in an effort to improve school practices, Ellendale School District is conducting a parent survey.  We value your opinion and ask that you take the time to complete this survey.  Begin the survey by going to http://www.advanc-ed.org/survey/public/2320280 Please be assured that your responses are anonymous. Your honest opinion is appreciated.  Thank you.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 19-03-2014

Ellendale School is beginning a new school improvement cycle.  School improvement is a fundamental process for our school.  Without periodic review of what is being done well or not so well from the very top of the organization to the grassroots we cannot improve.  AdvanceEd is being organizes this improvement process into one that is based on data, is measurable, focused on teaching and learning, and sustainable. AdvancEd is the process endorsed by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and was approved by the last legislative session to be funded for all schools.

At this time stakeholder groups including teachers, administration, board members, parents, and support staff have started their internal review of our systems and programs.  This review will look at all aspects of the schools operation from vision/mission, leadership, instruction, assessment and more.  Already committees are completing self-evaluation processes outlined by AdvancEd. Shortly, parents, teachers, and students will be asked to provide their input via surveys.  In the fall of 2014 the committees work, surveys, and student performance data will be combined together to provide a big picture of what is working and what could be improved.  In the winter of 2014-15 goals and action steps will be crafted in cooperation with all stakeholders.
After the goals and actions are approved by the Ellendale School Board the focus will be on doing the work to improve.  This could part of the process could take a few years depending on what is determined to be our action steps.
In the spring of 2015 an AdvancEd team, outside observers, will visit our school to review the process and work that is completed right now.  They will be vital in ensuring the process was used to improve teaching and learning and to validate the actions we propose.
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 13-03-2014

Many of you may have seen this graphic being run on BEK Sports the last few days.  It is in regard to questions being asked as to why BEK is not broadcasting the final night of the Reg 3 tournament.

Let me begin by stating the administrative team and coaches at EHS would like to have the final game televised on BEK tonight.  However, the idea planted in many peoples minds by this slide says that it was our idea NOT to air it.  That is completely inaccurate.  The decision to air the final night is solely based on the contractual agreement between ABC and NDHSAA.  The agreement in short does not allow any other telecasts of ND HS Athletics in direct competition to what is being aired by ABC (ie, the State A tournament).

I did reach out to Mr. Jordan Hassler at BEK to inquire as to why he was directing you to contact us about this issue.  In short it was due to his view that the NDHSAA was not responsive to concerns BEK had with the contract and airing of tonights game.  His view is that by calling me I have the power to change it.  I am sorry but I don’t.  EPS is a member school of the NDHSAA and we do have the power to vote for representatives on the NDHSAA Board.  However, once they are elected I don’t have much power left until the 4th year when I can vote for a different SE Reg Representative.  With that said, can I complain to my representative, Yes.  I will share my concerns not only with the televising of this evenings game but also concerns stemming from VB and Wrestling not being televised.  But, know that this is a multi year deal with ABC that was negotiated with a sub committee of the NDHSAA Board and approved by the full board.  I won’t hold my breath that it will be changed.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 08-03-2014

Over the course of this first year of our 1:1 iPad implementation we have experienced many ups and downs.  The rollout and early meeting with students and parents were very positive.  The inclusion of these new learning devices in some classrooms was successful.  But, we then had bumps in the road that make you feel was this all worth it.  Seeing some students use them more for a gaming  console or posting to facebook more than doing work was depressing.  However, after a few experiences the last couple weeks I am fortified in my belief that our students need these devices intertwined in their educational experience even more than ever.

Since December we have hosted three school teams from both North and South Dakota that wanted to meet our teachers and students to learn more on how they could implement a 1:1 program like ours.  During these visits we openly shared our experiences both positive and negative.  We fielded hundreds of questions from how we selected this technology, professional development of teachers, and impacts in the classroom.  Each of these schools were tremendously impressed at what they saw in Ellendale and how well we are doing only after one year.  They each voiced an appreciation of the hard work done by the teachers and the respect the school has for them in doing it.  It was shared by a teacher from Langdon, that if she knew her school respected her time and efforts as much as Ellendale did for theirs she would work harder for them.

The stories shared by students and teachers reaffirmed to me that we are on the right track.  Despite our pitfalls this year, we are making progress.  For example Mrs. Irey has been piloting a program that we plan to roll out in all classrooms next year called MyBigCampus.  This allows students to use their iPad to complete assignments, compose essays, and test using their device. It will also provide parents with greater information on their child’s progress in their studies.  Second, we strive to provide options for students to learn all day, every day.  Take a look at Mrs. Land’s web site.  She posts every slide from her classwork on her site so students can review it easily with their iPad, anytime.  Next, we are starting to test digital textbooks.  Mrs. Herman tested a digital text earlier in the year.  Why is a digital text good?  A digital text is never out of date, it can be easily updated and changed as information and knowledge changes.  Lastly, our students are starting to learn how to share their knowledge in ways aside from a paper and pencil test.  A student, in one of these meetings, shared how their teacher is assigning tasks that ask them to produce 3-4 minute videos, or digital presentations, sharing what they know.

We have a long way to go, this is only the first year of our 3 year implementation plan.  But, we are making progress.  I want to conclude with some recent comments from Mr. Patrick Halley from the FCC.  He contacted me a week ago to ask if I would be willing to participate in a video conference on Rural Broadband.  This conference is being hosted by the FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler.  He specifically requested EHS to be part of the conference due to the work being done by EHS and DRN on using broadband to improve education in rural America.  When he inquired as to what EPS does to provide access to our students, he was amazed.  We are the example that they are striving to move all schools in our nation toward.  This conference will be taking place on March 19th.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 19-02-2014

Parents do you know about Snapchat?  When I tell you it is an app for your smart phone or tablet device does your head start to spin?  Have you heard your children mention it?

Snapchat is an app that has been a buzz within schools and among parents a lot this year.  The reason it has been a buzz is because Snapchat is a trendy service used by young people that allows them to send messages, pictures, or videos to other users in real time.  These messages are quick and more personal then standard text messages.  One of the initial cool features of the app was that the messages were believed to be only retained for only as long as the user viewed them the 1st time. (Not totally true)  Young people were enticed to believe that they could communicate in a way that was not being recorded, retained, or able to be shared with others.

If you have not used Snapchat here is a video that may benefit you.   It explains more about what Snapchat is and how it is used.  http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/video/what-should-parents-know-about-snapchat

What should parents be concerned with?  Here is a wonderful guide to what parents should know about Snapchat. http://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/snapchat_guide.pdf

Snapchat and other social media apps can be wonderful tools or they can be problems for kids and their parents.  Either way it is important for the adults in students lives to know more about them so we can help guide our kids as to what is acceptable behavior with these services.  At Ellendale School we believe that by helping to educate you on these services we help our kids. Specifically EPS has blocked Snapchat on our student issued iPads.  However, it is impossible to block it on their personal smartphones, nor would I want to do that.  We must be informed and watchful. If you or we see problems stemming from its use, lets communicate and work together to educate our kids on how it could be used better.

Hope you found this article to be beneficial.  Don’t lie, how many of you are installing it right now….

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 10-02-2014

It is always good to hear when parents or families have concerns with some aspects of how we communicate with them as often we are unaware when technologies are not working.  One of these is commonly notification of a child’s lunch balance.  To help clarify here are the steps EPS will take to communicate your child’s lunch balance.

1. PowerSchool Parent – This is by far the best way for you to track your child’s lunch balance and grades.  This can be accessed via the EPS web site.   You will need to know your login and password to access PS Parent.  If you have difficulty please contact the office as we can assist you.

2. PowerSchool Parent Emails – You can set up automatic email notifications within PS Parent in the Email Notification section.  Here you can set up either grade or lunch balance emails to be sent to you daily, monthly, every 2 weeks, or weekly.  This is a very easy way to keep track of both grades and fees.  If you are unable to access PS Parent to set up this feature we again can help you, please call.

3. SchoolReach – When your child’s lunch balance reaches $5 or less EPS will send you an automated reminder call once a week.  This commonly happens on Monday evenings and goes to your home phone.  This is one of the steps that is difficult for us to monitor to see if it is working properly.  PowerSchool and SchoolReach have both automated this process so it happens without any direction from us.  Thus, if the technology is not working we really don’t know till someone lets us know.

4. Reminder Letters – The EPS office will send out reminder letters to families every other week to those that have a balance of $5 or less.   Unfortunately, to save some postage, if your child had a balance of $6 on that date, they could be -$15 or so by the time the next notice goes out.  We know this, and that is why the first notice is just a courtesy.

5. Reminder Letter with a personal message – If a balance remains unpaid after 1 reminder letter then we often send another reminder letter home a couple weeks later.  However, I will personally jot a quick note at the bottom of this letter to better let you know that the balance needs to be paid.

6. Phone call – If the balance remains yet unpaid I will reach out to you personally by phone, email, or text.  This varies on the family and the best way I know to communicate with you.  This is the step taken before a child is put on the peanut butter/cheese sandwich option that is shared in the letter.

Thanks for your questions on this matter and I hope this helps everyone understand what steps are taken by EPS to inform you about your child’s lunch balance.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-01-2014

Today, I experienced two things that reaffirmed my belief in free public education and the successes being made at Ellendale Public School and education in general around the country.  The first was shared with me with my elementary principal, Mrs. Sell.  Below you will find a snap shot of the results of our winter interim assessment for 2nd graders at EES in both reading and math.  Their performance was exceptional with every child in math scoring average or above.  Even more outstanding is their performance in reading where 59% of the class is performing the HIGH category.









This shows our students are performing at exemplary levels in both subjects.  But, behind the numbers it validates the exceptional work being done by teachers.  Teachers that are increasingly being made out to be lazy, irresponsible, unaccountable, and not prepared to meet the needs of their students by those with a voice on TV or radio.   Do you listen to the nightly national news and wonder why our schools are failing?  They are not failing, we are doing exceptional things.  Do you ever wonder why state and national leaders want to turn over education?  The reason is simple, money and power.

I was reaffirmed today by a video defending public education that I would like to share  http://riseabovethemark.com/action In a nutshell, this video tugged at my heart as it made me think of some recent teachers, at Ellendale School, that have made the decision to leave education.  These EPS teachers also shed tears, and said the same exact things you will hear on this video.  It makes me wonder if the profession will endure the onslaught of negativity and micromanaging, but today I have hope.