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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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