Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 19-09-2017
Social Business Meeting

Social Business Meeting

The first public input meeting was held last night at the EHS Library.  I would like to thank the small crowd that gave up a couple hours of their valuable time to share their insights as to where education in our community should be headed.  I also want to thank those that have sent me letters and emails sharing their thoughts on these same questions.  THANK YOU!

We began the evening with our first question – What are the two or three biggest changes in our society over the past 20 years?  Responses ranged from technology, how we communicate, family changes, pace of learning/relearning, and belief that our kids are under more stresses than we were 20 years ago.   So what do we need to do in our schools to prepare them for these changes.  The insights on this matter were exceptional and followed much of what your teachers echo inside the school.  It is always vital that our kids have the basic skills of reading/math, however in today’s world they need more.  The group ended up adding these words to their list:  Communication,  Collaboration,  Creative Thinking,  Cooperation, Creativity, Citizenship & Work Ethic.  How will these ideas prepare our kids for the future?  How can we as a community and school work to build these skills in our kids?  On these two questions we had great discussion but I would attest that more work needs to be done in this area to refine our thinking and planning.

We discussed the needs of our young people as they enter the work force next.  The above mentioned skills were important but one great comment pointed to basic “common sense”.  The parent/business owner shared how a new hire did not even know how to mop the floor.  Others in the room echoed similar frustrations with young people that lack basic work or labor skills.  Where should these be taught then?  Are these types of skills something that needs to be done at home, at church, in a youth group, or at school?  I would like you to think about that before the second public input meeting as I feel it is a valuable question as it refines the actions of your school.  Where will we invest our valuable time?  There are so many things to learn today.  Can we get all the information and skills into an adolescent mind in 2,275 days.  That is the number of days of school from K to 12.  If we put that into hours (350 min/day) of actual class time it is 795,250 hours not including any absences for any reason, and we know that is not reality.  Let us then propose that we have 750,000 hrs in a K-12 journey, which equates to missing 10 days of classes a year.  What do we spend this precious time teaching?   We can’t teach it all.  What role do others take in our kids learning journey?

The last questions of the night dealt with “Where and when should students learn?”.  It is obvious that our children learn from the moment they are born.  However, kids today have a greater ability to learn than we ever had 20 years ago.  Look at a child today, they have an ipad or smartphone at their disposal almost at birth.  That device is our old encyclopedia only on steroids.  It is not just text which limited us at an early age because we could not read.  But it has pictures, text, simulations, videos, a highly immersive means of engaging the user.  So I ask you, “where and when should students be able to learn during their school aged years”?   Think about that and I will hopefully see you on Monday, October 9th at 5pm for our second public input meeting.



Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 12-09-2017

Each year it is the charge of the Ellendale School Board to provide a venue for patrons to share concerns about taxation and fiscal status of the district.  This year was no exception and that meeting was held last night at the EPS Library.  Aside from school board members, we had no additional attendance.  This low turnout does not take away the need for us to be very open and transparent about the fiscal status of your school.  So here is a condensed version of what I shared last night.

Tax Rates:  These are the requested dollars and projected mills on your property for the 2018 tax season.
General Fund $1,180,000 – 70 mills
Building Fund $50,600 – 3 mills
Miscellaneous $50,080 – 2.97 mills
Interest & Sinking $360,000 – 21.36 (increase of 2.37 mills).

The district’s general fund is by the largest and along with state funding provides for the majority of funding for educational programming.  This fund is expected to be hit by a reduction in state funding of approximately $281,648.00.  This is due in large part on two factors.  These are a declining enrollment during the 2016-17 school year of approximately 30 weighted student units.  Secondly, the state funding formula includes a local contribution (equaling 60 mills) deduct which increased by $37,569.00 this year.  This deduct in 2017 is expected to be near $1,011,279.00.  That deduct grows each year as long as taxable valuations also grow in the district.  A state and local revenue comparison was shared at the meeting and can be viewed here.

captureIn order to address these significant reductions to general fund revenue you will recall last year that the district proposed many cost reduction options to cut expenditures.  At this time the 2017-2018 budget is now $359,402 less than the budget for the previous year.  This reduction equates to a -7.7%.

If you would like to know more about “Where the Money Goes” please go to

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 06-09-2017

visiononmountainEllendale School is seeking your help.  If you are a parent, community member, retired, business leader, or simply someone that cares about education, we need you.  We need your counsel and guidance.

Over the past 18 months several things have taken place in education that are allowing us to rethink how we do education.  These new flexibilities come from the dismantling of the old “No Child Left Behind”, the passage of the ND Innovative Education bill (NDCC 15.1-06-08.2), and a renewed emphasis on schools ensuring students are “Choice Ready”.  Each of these can breathe a breath of fresh air into our school and fundamentally change how we provide education to our children.  Each of these are driving our faculty and leaders to focus on a creating a new vision or path for our school.  These changes also drive home the stark reality that we need your voices to set this new path.

Starting in August the faculty and staff began a year-long process of setting a new course for the district.  Part of this process will begin with development of a new vision which will be the underlying principle for all we do.  We are working to refine our beliefs on education and how they could be in need of change.  Later this year we will be working on other topics including vocational readiness, star qualities, and systems to ensure our kids are “Choice Ready”.

We need you to solidify our work.  We need your input on these and other ideas that are fundamental to setting a new course for education in our community.  We understand that we honestly only see education from our perspective and that you (parents, business leaders, community members, etc) may see it from a different and valuable perspective.  To help gather your input we are scheduling several community forums in which we would love you to attend.  The first is set for Monday, September 18th at 6:30pm in the EPS Library.  A second meeting is set for Monday, October 9th at 5pm.  You are welcome to attend one or both.  Additional forums may be planned based on the results of these two gatherings.

To prepare for these forums consider these questions:

  • What are the two or three biggest changes in our society over the past 20 years?  What 2-3 skills do our students need to address these changes?
  • What skills are needed for our students to be successful in the working world?  Businesses what skills to our students need?
  • How and when should a student be able to learn?
  • What do we do to ensure each child is ready for college, career, or military?
  • What role does early childhood education play in the entire educational process?  How do we support that?

That is just a start and hopefully entices your to participate.  We hope to see you on Monday, September 18th!


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 29-08-2017

emperorsneI am not referring to my new clothes.  I am referring to the changes made last year as we dealt with looming fiscal concerns at the district and state level.  The difficult decisions that were made have resulted in obvious changes to the high school schedule, course options, personnel resources, and the fiscal standing of the district.

This year the district’s FTE count is down by 2 full time positions.  These were in the high school and resulted from not hiring to fill the vacancies left by Mr. Ulmer and Mr. Sykora.  Their courses have now been given to other teachers or in some instance the course is no longer available.  Options for students within the science department are experiencing the least flexibility as now Miss Moe teaches all courses in science (Physcial Science, Adv Bio, Biology, Earth Science, and Chemistry).  This leaves little room for additional sections or flexibility in students schedules.  Decisions like this have a ripple effect on all departments as you can predict.  Once a grade has to be in a required course in period 3 all other courses have to fit around that for them.  Mr. Herman has done an exceptional job at constructing a new schedule to accommodate the graduation requirements while still providing as many elective courses as we can.

Our teachers participated in a back to school training in cooperation with Edgeley and LaMoure schools entitled Top20 for Teachers.  You will surely see more about this wonderful experience in the school newsletter and in my blog as the topic was inspirational and moving.  Top20 focused on the top twenty skills needed for effective teachers.  But, along the way the training hit upon some key points that I believe EPS has been zeroing in on for some time.  The first, was the fundamental belief that one cannot teach to the brain until they have someone’s heart.  Since the inception of our Kiononia time in the fall of 2014 EPS has been striving to improve relationships between students and between student and teachers.  Top20 reinforced that and the need for us to continue to take opportunities to grow positive healthy relationships with our students.

captureTop20 also addressed long standing concerns about learning that I believe EPS started to address in earnest last year with the addition of ICU.  This concern is probably very common to us that are over 30 years old.  How many of us left school thinking, in some way, we were “stupid”?  This label was thrust upon us on many occasions.  It could be how we dressed, that we failed an assignment, or unfortunately even when others put the label directly upon us.  Top20 shown a light on how we all learn and how we commonly, but mistakenly, brand ourselves with “stupid” when in fact we are just learning.  Top20 demonstrated this as the mountain of learning.  In the picture shown, how many have seen the look of confusion on a baby as they learn to roll-over.  Yes, all of us.  But do we immediately label them as stupid because they could not do it the first time? Of course not!  Then why, in many ways within our society, do we put the stupid label on others as they are learning.  Somewhere after birth if we don’t understand something right away, or make a mistake, we are “stupid”.  We have to rip this word out of our vocabulary!  We must not let students think they are ——-.   We must reinforce that learning is a process.  When learning everyone is on a different timeline, and that if additional time or resources are needed we need to find ways to provide them.  This is why ICU is right for us.  We will not let a student simply fail, move on, and label themselves as ——–.  We must intervene.

Lastly, I want to share that our student count is up for the fall.  At this time we are up about 16 at Ellendale Public School and up 7 at the Maple River Colony.  This is good news.   Have a great week everyone.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 25-07-2017

The summer months, despite school not being in session, can be filled with many changes.  It is the time of year that custodians hustle and bustle to hit every corner of the school in preparation for the upcoming year.  Summer is the time supplies are ordered and received and when teachers are busy training on various educational items.  Education is still taking place as well as we complete drivers education along with some specialized summer courses.  Summer is such a unique season for those of us still in the building.

This summer we have been planning for several changes for the upcoming school year.   These are:

  • New HS Schedule – with the reduction in 7-12th grade teaching faculty changes were made to the 7-12 class schedule.  Student’s should have a copy as they were provided to them last spring however, if you need a copy one will be on the EPS website in the first week of August.  The retirement of Mr. Ulmer is shifting some of the social studies courses to Mrs. Klipfel.  She came to EHS with a strong background in the social sciences.  In the science department with the departure of Mr. Sykora you will see that all science courses 8th-12th will now be taught by Miss Moe.  This will force some students to move their course selections as there will be few double sections in this department.  The 7th grade science classes will be taught by Mrs. R. Middlestead in the HS wing to accommodate the kids moving around the building.
  • STEM Training – Over the past year EPS in cooperation with VCSU has been training several teachers on how to incorporate STEM activities into their courses.  This summer we took the opportunity, during a second round of this training program, to additionally train Mrs. Land, Mrs. Smith, and Miss Powell.  They will be concluding their training shortly and you should look forward to see not only activities in your child’s classroom but also at a public event.
  • Redmond Home – About a year ago the Redmond family graciously donated the home to the east of the gym to the school.  At the time they donated it they cautioned us about concerns with the building including significant deterioration in the basement along with a sewer problem.  Over the past year the school board looked at several options for the property including parking, instructional area, storage options, and leaving the house untouched.  It was their eventual decision to demolish the home to reduce both liability and maintenance while they further discuss options for the property.
  • Roy Lynde Improvements – Much of these have already been in the Dickey Co. Leader but to recap a new scoreboard was installed in the spring.  The Ellendale Park Board in partnership with EPS is just this week installing a new sprinkler system to the entire baseball/football field.  The present sprinkler was thirty years old this baseball season and needed significant repair.  Finally, hopefully completed by early September, will be a new press box near the center field fence.  The press box is a school project and will benefit us in providing broadcasting options for all Thunder games at the facility.
  • ICU Database – I spoke about ICU in a previous post so if you want to know more just read my post from May of 2017.  This fall will mark the first full year of implementation of our new ICU database and parent notification system.  Parents of students in grades 7-12 will now be able to receive almost instant updates when their child is unsuccessful at an academic task.  The HS staff and leadership believe this new system, which will text and email you, will promote communication and a joint partnership between parents and teachers in the education of their children.
  • CREAM – This fall will also mark the roll-out of courses designed for Jrs. and Srs. that may be unprepared to fully enroll for college coursework.  Unfortunately each year we have students that enroll for college coursework to only be turned away from traditional freshmen enrollments due to a poor ACT score.  These students are then required to take remedial coursework, at college, which costs them money, time, and they earn no credit.  This year EHS will be working to “leverage the senior year” to provide these students additional opportunities to meet the academic enrollment options before they even step on a campus.

Well summer is nearly over.  Welcome back to school letters have already went out to teachers and staff so we are nearly ready to get started.  Registration for students runs Wed., August 9th through Tuesday, August 15th.  The office will be open and principals here to assist you.  Classes will begin on Wednesday, Aug 23rd.  See you all then!

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-05-2017

1960powellIn 1987, when I graduated from high school, I recall a few unwritten rules in the classroom.  One of these was I knew my teachers cared about me and how I progressed in school.  The second was they were never going to hunt me down or go beyond the lecture to ensure I was learning.  It was on me.  My teachers had the viewpoint that if you don’t do the work, you will fail, and so be it!  But, it was a different time.

During that time student apathy to learning existed but there were also other pressures in place (grandma, mom, dad, siblings) to keep a wayward student in check.  At that time advancement to college was not viewed as much as a right but a privilege that many aspired to.  Lets be honest though many of our classmates did not go to college, some joined the military, some went directly into work, and others dropped out entirely.  In that time dropping out of school was much more common than today and probably had less economic impact on the student than it does now.  The world has changed.

Student apathy still exists.  Despite changes in instructional practices, technology, individualized learning, online learning, STEM and others advancements, educators still struggle with students that have not yet found the pathway of learning.  Many of us have watched for years at what we feel are an increasing number of student with struggles that prevent them from be ready or willing to learn.  Today that is not always a lack of desire to learn (apathy).   It could be hunger, drug abuse (child or parent), mental illness, or a lack of a positive pressure to succeed, or maybe something entirely different.   What cannot be the same as it was in 1987, is our actions toward it.  No longer can we simply write a student off and let them effortlessly fail or drop out.

image-20160331-28462-qliwnlThe past couple years educators at Ellendale Public School have been working on how to address these issues.  This past year the high school implemented the ICU program.  Similar to ICU in a hospital it was designed to strategically ensure that teachers recognized, identified, and addressed student academic needs.  ICU, or We See You, simply assures we are not going to watch you fail without our intervention.  The 1987 model of I teach, and you get it or not, is out!  ICU encompasses many actions but one of the paramount elements is that “Every Student Passes Every Summative Assessment”.   New learning is built upon previous learning.  When a student fails to fully understand previous concept they have a lesser chance of adding new knowledge successfully.  The ICU model asks that teachers take the time and resources to reteach students, reassess, and if needed continue this until students show understanding of the concepts.   Often students suffering from the roadblocks shared before are not the first to come and ask for help or even want help.  This results in another element of ICU being deployed and that is time before, during, and after school being used aggressively to remediate and relearn.  We no longer accept that you can only learn during the set class period.  If a student needs more time, we will give it and often demand it.  This can be uncomfortable for the student.  Sometimes they would rather just dismiss the work and move on as just ignoring something is often easier.

Here is specifically what I see that is different than good ‘ole 1987.  With ICU in place all teachers are communicating about each student who has academic needs and working together to address them.  As I walk down the hall now it is not uncommon to see teacher A talking to a student about needs in teacher B’s class and directing them to use their ICU time with that teacher.  I now see teachers and students here as early as 7:45am and as late as 4:30pm working on relearning vital concepts.  The high school as recently implemented an ICU database to share information and communicate directly with parents so they know how their child is progressing.  This ICU database automatically emails and texts parents providing almost instant communication.  I hear students commenting about ICU and how they need to get some work completed.  In one instance a student stopped in my office and told me he now knows that his teachers care about how he is doing, and want to see him succeed.

In addition to ICU at the high school Ellendale Public School has taken action with similar intentions in other areas.  These are MTSS in your elementary and a program called CREAM for our students focusing on college.  I will share more about both of these in upcoming blog posts.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 24-04-2017

img_2677Over the course of my nearly 21 years in Ellendale School I have had the fortune of getting to know and care for many kids.  Each has had their own story and have changed my life in some small way.

I would like to put a spotlight on this wonderful group that many of you may not know.  They are similar to all the other kids in our school in that they are joyful, caring, funny, determined, and hardworking.  They participate in sports and come to school eager to learn.  But, they are different in some unique ways and I think you should know their story.

I want to introduce to you Jude, Zach, and Luke (back row) and Lydia Taylor.  They are the adopted son’s and daughter of the Taylor family and they are all born in China.  Luke & Jude have attended classes in Ellendale School for about two years, while Zach and Lydia started the past fall.  They are all young people that inspire me.

This wonderful band joins Mrs. Fastnacht, EPS English Language teacher, each morning.  They come in almost without exception with the same smiles as you see here.  Because they are in my wife’s classroom,  like many other of her past classes, I get the opportunity to build a special relationship with them.  I remember when they first arrived.  Imagine it, they are 10-14 years old, moved to a new country with a new language, cultural changes abound around you, and now school too.  The spoken language, written language, everything is new.  This is what these kids faced and they are a shining example of success.  I recall attempting to communicate with Zach and Lydia this fall and it was apparent much of what we were each was saying was being “lost in translation”.  But over this year, starting with basic picture cards, then phrases, phonics and hard work with Mrs. F each morning they have excelled.  Today, Monday, April 24th, I must admit I was in tears as I had the opportunity to listen to Zack and Lydia read. Read English!  It was a simple story “Ann hit the ball”, and sentences like that, but they read it with pride and joy.  I really struggle to find the right words to share my joy for their accomplishments.  But, it was amazing and a blessing.

As educators we see kids make new accomplishments each and every day.  Now and then something a kid does just hits you, hits you straight in the heart.  That was today.  As I think about the challenges these four have overcome to now be these gleaming success stories touched me and I think it will touch you.  Luke & Jude are good readers and they work hard in social studies and math in the high school.  Their studies are not easy and with some great help from teachers they are excelling.  Luke & Jude also participate in sports (basketball, wrestling, and track).  Zack and Lydia are new to our country, community, and school and maybe that is why today’s experienced touched me so much.  To look back in the not so recent history and know they were just struggling to communicate verbally with us…. to now sharing stories, laughing, and READING!

Leaving the room this morning I was cheering on each of the kids for the accomplishments they have made and I commented to Mrs. F how impressed I was to have four kids in the school that know two languages, like this group.  They are so hard working and have overcome many obstacles with the help and guidance of their family, friends, and teachers.  In the past some, even myself, were concerned about what it would cost to educate EL students like these.  How could we provide the needed services they would need to allow them to succeed.  Where would the teachers, programs, and money come from.  I regret those thoughts and comments now.  Because, now I cannot image a school without them.  They are a blessing to so many in so many ways.  I would hope that more get to know them as their story should be an inspiration of what hard work and determination can do.  If you have not met them, reach out and say “Good Morning”.  They may even teach you how to say it in Mandarin “Zǎoshang hǎo” like they did to this old teacher.



Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 13-04-2017

budget_bucketofmoneyCutting expenditures, particularly when that means the loss of teaching positions, staff, or programs, is always difficult.  These types of cuts affect employees in many ways. Just wondering how working in a school with less sections, or options will affect teachers.   Around here it is apparent they are grieving and trying to adjust to what is a new normal at Ellendale Public School.

These types of cuts also affect kids, and parents.  It is a small town and people are rightfully concerned for their school and the programs.  I shared previously how appreciative I was of the few parents that stopped to talk about the budget reductions.  It is important for me to have those conversations and to hear your concerns.  I also know that your Board members feel the same way as they have shared similar thoughts with me.

Now we are in recovery mode, but the wounds are still very fresh and it will take time to heal and feel “better”.  Nobody wants to appear to take these loses lightly or appear to benefit from the loss of another.  These are right and justified thoughts.  At the Board meeting on Monday several times members shared concerns about perceptions of their actions in the aftermath of these budget cuts.  Specifically, it is hard to approve updating a set of old text books, or purchase a new bus, or make improvements to facilities while balancing the unknown perceptions community members will have.  They struggled with several of these decisions Monday night and I want to express to everyone they did not take them lightly.   They were painful decisions to make.

The title of this blog post is “Different Buckets” because I want to share with you something many don’t realize in regard to school finance.  In no way do I want my statements here to take away from the feelings many are sharing and going through.  I just want to clarify and my thoughts are stemming from a comment from one of our students I recently received.

A student caught me the other day as I was leaving my office and stated, “How can we purchase five new desks in the FCS room when we are cutting teachers?”  Wow, first that is an impressive question from a student and I appreciated him asking.  My response was that the funds to purchase the new desks came from a grant from the state Career and Tech Ed Department.  The grant was received in response to a CTE audit conducted in the fall that noted new desks in that room would afford our students better flexibility with the wide range of projects they are asked to complete.  The new desks and grant are not really my point, but the perception of buying something new, while cutting teachers or programs is.   Most patrons, including this student, do not know specifically where the funds these come.  So, they assume it is just one large bucket of funds causing him concern, which I understand.  This was not the case.  In this desk example, it was one time grant funds.

In addition to grant funds we also have other buckets of funds within the school system.  These other buckets include sinking & interest funds, building funds, and general funds.  All have different funding sources, purposes, limitations, and obligations.  Sinking & Interest funds are collected from taxation and used to pay off the bonds the school owes.  Funds in this account cannot be transferred to help with program cuts at this time, as we still owe on our outstanding bonds.  The next bucket are General Fund dollars, also gained from taxation and more importantly the state student payment.  This is the main bucket of funds for the district and the fund that has taken the most significant cuts due in part to declining enrollment.  It is the fund that teachers and staff are paid from.  This fund also buys buses, books, fuel oil, supplies, and much more.  General fund dollars can be transferred to the building fund if a school board desires, but not the other way around.  The last bucket is the Building Fund.  This fund receives its revenue from taxation and is used for building repairs and construction.  This is where it gets sticky, and the buckets matter.

The Board took action on several summer projects at the meeting on Monday.  The facilities & transportation sub committee had reviewed a projects list, prioritized it and recommended several projects to the full Board.  The work within these projects they knew never ends as we must continue to maintain and update facilities.  Just like our homes the “honey do” projects never seem to end.  However, they fretted considerable about their actions, because of the perception the public may have.  They fretted about the exact same question that my student posed.  Despite knowing that the projects they would approve would be paid from a completely separate bucket that could not be used for academic programs.  I say this because they talked about the perception and the belief that many would not understand the restrictions on each of the fiscal buckets.

The Board on Monday approved several summer projects including:
Replacement of a fuel oil hot water heater ($40,000) – It leaks and has to be replaced;
Replace one basket mount in the old gym ($6000) – the old wobbly on the north side of the old gym has nearly hurt a custodian so we thought best to replace it before it did;
Demo the Redmond property ($5,000) – this property was gifted to the district so it was felt the need to remove any hazards there was a high priority; and
Install a fence around the high jump area at the track ($3,400) – we still have some driving over the new track and we need to protect that investment.
Each time the Board weighed these projects, and others not yet approved, they struggled with “perception”.  Perception by you, our patrons, to spending monies on these project while cutting programs.  I can assure you they do not take these decisions lightly.  I can also tell you that the funds they are cutting in one action and spending in another are in different BUCKETS.

I thought you would just like to know.


locksmith-brick-mortar-560x315Recently in the FORUM I found two separate editorials that depicted differing views on education that I feel are worth shedding some light upon.  What is education, a singular process of gaining knowledge or is it more than that?  Is education an experience?

The first was from a March 31st FORUM editorial entitled “Letter: Maple Valley gymnasium project would be ‘boondoggle’“.    It is obvious in the editorial that they are frustrated with the high per pupil cost at the Maple Valley School and their desires to complete a gym construction project.  However, what I gleaned from the editorial was from this statement:

“Internet technology is ravaging the days of bricks and mortar at warp speed. The big box stores are closing while massive numbers of college students are earning their degrees having never stepped on a campus. In fact, right here in the Maple Valley School District, students have been able to electronically earn dual credits from Mayville State University while more and more families are homeschooling with the enhancement of the internet. The writing is on the wall. Who will read it?”  by 

Who will read it?  I read this to mean they believe our local public schools are blind to the future they see coming.  A future where students are free to take their learning exclusively from the internet, ditching the brick and mortar schools of the past.  A future where kids and families can freely direct their interests and learning down their path.  A path with little time for distractions, divergent thinking, opposition of philosophy, or more importantly experiences.

Is that really what we want for our kids?

Today I found the second editorial by Mike Jacobs also in the FORUM entitled “Mike Jacobs: Campus life provides experience, not just knowledge“.   What I found interesting in his editorial is that education is not just “knowledge transfer” it is also about the experiences that teach our young people about leadership, the arts, and how to assess knowledge.  The educational experience needs to include interactions with those of a similar viewpoint but also differing viewpoints.   The process of refining our knowledge and beliefs cannot be done in isolation.  Being challenged by others during our learning makes us defend our ideas, improve them, and even broaden our view of the world.  Young people both in our K-12 system and in our colleges and universities, gain from participation in band, participating in a sport, being a member of a student group, and also from being a daily member of the societies these intuitions provide in their hallways.  Learning can take place exclusively online in seclusion.  But, is that the best means of providing for the future leaning and socialization of our young people?

Public schools are not and should not be a monopoly on education.   Modern high schools can do more, we need to broaden our course offerings and learning pathways, much of which can in fact be done with technology.  We need to endeavor to personalize learning for our students meeting them where they are at in their learning process.  But, we must also not forget that public education is about experiences that a child cannot get in front of a computer screen or in isolation  or in like minded groups.  These experiences students receive at a brick and mortar school or on a campus bind them together, enlightening their educational experience.

In my view, this notion that we can all move to an exclusive, secluded, online education is the first step in the demise of our democracy.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-03-2017

downloadAs the school board and administration continue to grapple with the implications of declining enrollment and no new monies from the state or federal level, we continue to refine the needed cuts to ensure fiscal soundness of the district.  At the last meeting of the school board several cuts were finalized and a new high school schedule was approved.  Before I explain I do want to thank all the school staff and teachers that have provided guidance and support during these tough fiscal times.  I also want to thank the administrative team and school board on their work to actually make the hard decisions.  Lastly, to all the parents and community members that have stopped us or attended board meetings to listen, share, and be part of the process.

At this time the projected expenditure budget is showing a reduction of about $353,000 or -7.6%.  This is very tentative as many items have yet to be finalized for next year including contract costs for purchased services, salaries for all employees, summer work projects, and other items.  However, at this time the board has taken action on the following reductions which are reflected in this budget:

  • Elimination of the Health Careers course.
  • Reduction of Library e-book subscription.
  • Reduction in instructional technology equipment purchases.
  • Delaying of bus purchase.
  • Significant reduction in capital improvements budget in general fund.
  • A couple early retirement payments are no longer being paid out to retired teachers.
  • Reduction of 2 teaching positions in the high school.   Will not rehire to fill the spots created by the retirement of Mr. Ulmer or spot left with resignation of Mr. Sykora.

In addition to these major items a few areas of supplies or fees have been reduced but they are not directly impacting a full program or service as you see in the list above.  I do believe this is a healthy reduction and I have been sharing my view that I do believe this is sufficient for the district, but the final decision is the school boards.