Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 31-03-2015

When the International rankings for student proficiency in reading or math are released do we not all take pause and believe that the U.S. can do better?  Very few people are satisfied with 36th place in combined math, reading, and science.  Then how can my home state, South Dakota, appear to be freely accepting of 50th when it comes to teacher salary?

I grew up in South Dakota and let nothing I share here today deter from the exceptional work those teachers did with me from kindergarten to my high school graduation.  In my small rural school of Gann Valley Elementary to Wessington Springs High School my teachers cared for me and worked hard to get this unwilling student to learn.  I had great teachers and they were not the lowest paid in the nation.  They were respected by member of the community, were given autonomy, and received a fair wage.

Now looking back to the mid 1980’s what has happened?  Neighbors of South Dakota have continued to make education a priority increasing support not only to teacher pay but the actual costs of education.  What has South Dakota done?  I know that teachers in the classroom believe more can be done to finance education.  I know that South Dakota has good teachers.  But, can you keep the great ones in a climate where teacher pay is 50th in the nation?  I know Superintendents and school leaders see the problem because they and the ASBSD worked last summer to complete a survey and study on teacher shortage.  The results of that survey were shocking reporting 258 unfilled teaching positions state wide.  As published by the ASBSD Baltic Superintendent Bob Sittig stated, “We are at a crisis stage”.  He is right!  Low pay, NCLB, highly competitive neighbors are all pulling your best and brightest away from you.  When will Pierre take notice?

It was not until this year that I ran into two perfect examples of how detrimental this pay differential is for South Dakota.  Ellendale is only 35 min north of Aberdeen along US Hwy 281, so when we post for applicants we look in both North and South Dakota.  My first example was a 1st year English teacher with no education beyond her bachelors.  She was an absolutely exceptional candidate and we offered her a position.  To my dismay that offer was in excess of $5000 more than her present salary.   She did not end up taking our offer, but engagements do funny things.  Next, we ran into a husband and wife team from down by Yankton.  They were NSU grads that had been teaching 20 plus years each.  They had masters’ degrees, did many duties, and were highly regarded by their present school.  With that experience and education they were presently being paid less than Ellendale’s base salary.  That is shameful!  We ended up getting both to agree to move north and they probably made over $25,000 in additional salary.  Wouldn’t you move for that?  South Dakota you lost.  You lost at least two of your best and brightest.  Your schools are losing their very best every day, when will you notice?

I was born and raised in South Dakota and I am posting this OpEd only because I care and think more can be done.  I have family, school aged relatives, that enter your schools every day.  They deserve the best and brightest.  I believe your good teachers should not follow the footsteps of Williams and Ree and leave the state and promise to never return.  Just like those two comedians they can, they will, come back but the climate must change.   Start making education the priority, and not the entity that gets the 1-2% that is left over, when it is all said and done.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-03-2015

The number of new students arriving at Ellendale School is beyond anything we have ever seen before, at least in my tenure here.  Here is a comparison of actively enrolled students as of today (3/17/15) as compared to the same date last year.





As a note.. as I am crafting this post.  We just had two more 5th graders enroll.  Like I said it is beyond anything we have seen before.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 06-03-2015

Transparency in all we do in education is even more important today than it has ever been.  I feel with the increasing scrutiny of education, political power grabs, and general sense of skepticism that we need do our best to give as much information as we can to our patrons.  I do think Ellendale School does a pretty good job of sharing information, but I know we can do better.  As we embark in a couple weeks on our AdvancEd external team review I thought it might be a good time to share with you many of the things we share with our public.  Much of this will include links to our district web site, which is the portal to almost all of this information.

AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress.  This is the district report card required by NCLB and can be found at Here you can see our student performance data and required postings for NCLB.

AdvancEd – this is our school improvement plan including our goals and actions we plan to take.  This can be found at In mid March an external team of educators will be visiting Ellendale School for two days reviewing our plan and our school.  This will culminate in a report which will guide us for the next few years.

Standards – the news about standards has been in the news a great deal the past few months.  We have supplied a link to information on the standards at This is a great place to read the specific standards and learn more about them.

School Board – this section contains present and past board meeting documents.  These will include almost all of our handouts and is being worked on monthly.  This section also has a link to school policy which is easily searchable.  There are links to employee handbooks and much more at

Scholarships Information and Career Guidance – this can be found on Miss Weeds page and is an outstanding resource for parents of Jr’s and Sr’s.  It can be found at You will find information on how to apply for scholarships, career planning checklists, and NCAA eligibility regulations.

Bullying – We believe bullying is a serious issue and that by knowing we can help.  This section explains more about what is bullying and provides a form so people and share with us information about instances that may be happening outside our view.  It can be found at

Weather – Weather is a conversation every day.  Ellendale School hosts a permanent weather station on our roof and this data can be retrieved by anyone.  So if you want to see the monthly observations from this station they can be found at On this page make sure to check out the Weatherbug EHS page and also the ND Winter Wx Briefing.  They are both exceptional resources.

Tradebooks – have you ever wondered what books teachers read to students.  We have supplied a list of all the tradebooks we use along with their lexile and in what class we use them.  This can be found at

Health – need to learn more about immunzations or head lice, then go to our Health and Wellness page at

I hope you check out all the information we have posted on our web site.  These are in no way all of the information we have for parents, teachers, or our students.  Again, I think we do a good job of sharing a great deal about what is happening in your school.  I hope this will ensure that we have everyone using this information and learning more about their school.