Is it Bullying or Conflict and Does it Matter?

Is it bullying or is it conflict?

By Tamara Uselman, Supt. of Schools

Is it bullying or is it student conflict? Does it matter? In a word, yes. The difference between student conflict and student bullying is similar to the difference between speeding and reckless driving. Both require investigation; sanctions will differ. Whereas student conflict often includes sharp disagreement between two or more, bullying is defined in policy and NDCC to be conduct (which includes the use of technology or other electronic media)

  • so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it substantially interferes with the student’s educational opportunities;
  • Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of harm;
  • Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of damage to property of the student;
  • Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a public school

For the school to act on bullying, the action must occur or be received by a student while he/she is in a public school, on school district premises, in a district owned or leased school bus or school vehicle, or at any public school or school district sanctioned or sponsored activity. In short, conflict between students is a normal part of school life. Bullying is not.

If the report of bullying involves a student of a “protected class”, the issue is investigated in accordance with the district’s anti-harassment / discrimination policy. Protected classes are protected from discrimination by state and federal law and include characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability (physical or mental), and status with regard to marriage or public assistance. Both bullying and harassment /discrimination must be referred to law enforcement if there is evidence of a crime. Protected class individuals may seek redress in the court system as well.

You might be surprised to learn that while the term “bullying” is used in a fast and loose manner when there is an issue of student conflict, most principals and School Resource Officers (SROs) find very few incidents rise to the level of bullying or harassment. Often what is occurring is two students who are just not getting along. School staff assist in student conflict issues differently than with bullying, much like speeding is dealt with differently than reckless driving. In issues of conflict, staff assist with conflict resolution.

At BPS, we find much of physical bullying has gone by the wayside and cyberbullying has taken its place. Sometimes two students have an argument when texting back and forth, for example. That’s conflict. However, it can rapidly get out of control if one person chooses to take to social media to spread lies or inappropriate photographs about the other person and if adults jump without facts. Many of the bullying incidents school administrators and SROs investigate these days are cyber in nature.

Please know that whether an issue is one of student conflict or one of bullying, BPS is committed to protecting the children in our care. But know as well bullying is not solely a school matter. Schools and parents share a joint responsibility with the larger community to set and live a standard of expected behavior. In the goal of partnering wisely, Bismarck Public Schools has convened a task force to study bullying and make recommendations about curriculum, policy, and parent education.

There is potential for public forums this spring, similar to the sessions held to educate parents on sexting, to share out information on responses to student conflict, bullying, and harassment / discrimination.  Together we can teach students the life skills of self-regulation, conflict resolution, and how to be upstanders rather than by standers when it comes to extremely harmful actions like bullying.

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The Three R’s and the Four C’s: Education in a World of Innovation

Years ago my book club read a book entitled, Down the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman. Marion, the medieval woman, and her husband, Peter Carpenter, lived in a village that had one but one book, the Bible, and one person who could read it, the priest. Her village had no school for her children nor were parents able to read a book if they had one. The Carpenters lived a life of toil, with little chance to improve their lot in life through learning.

Hello, Siri, hello Google Now, hi Alexa, sitting somewhere, awaiting our quest for the score of a game or the recipe for pumpkin pie or the capital of Zimbabwe or the answer to a complex statistical problem. Today, unlike when Marion lived, information is both ubiquitous and instantaneous. Wisdom, arguably, may be rarer.

In the last month I learned: autonomous vehicles are on a road today. Flying cars already exist. Medical patients share personal health data via upload from sensors carried on or in their bodies. “Office calls” are sometimes a video conference call made from home in comfy clothes with a cup of coffee (OK, that’s my dream). Goodness, even prisons are innovating incarceration with the use of GPS monitors and ankle bracelets.

What should schools teach in this whole new world? Clearly, students deserve the challenge of rigorous content, yet if students can (and I suspect do) find answers from Alexa and Siri, education at the knowledge level is simply not relevant. Please don’t read what I didn’t write. Do students need skills in reading and math, science and social studies? Absolutely. And moreover, at BPS you are aware that employers want employees who have practiced and mastered the four C’s while in school: collaboration with peers, critical thinking in applying content to solve sticky, wicky, and wacky problems; creativity to find answers not yet found; and deep skills in communicating with a variety of audiences (talk about a new demand in the doctor’s bedside manner). Plus, society wants people who can show up on time and self-regulate.

In addition to rigorous content and the four C’s, students and parents want the modern education experience to be less factory-style like we had where we sat in rows doing the same work at the same time. Consumers today demand a more personalized education. Alexa and Siri cannot design and facilitate quality personalized project based lessons. Such is the forte of good teachers. The two (great teachers and good project based lesson design) are innovating education right now, today. Never fear, the academic standards for ND ensure students still experience rigorous content. Thus, innovation in education is not an “either or” (content only or soft skills only). Instead education is “content plus more”, with more being the four C’s and personalization. You have shown me that on my site visits; I admire your innovative work, teachers.

Whether we like the pace of innovation or we don’t like it may not matter; innovation is happening with or without our permission. As we move from the “old” world to the new world, one step at a time, we are able to ensure students are equipped not only with important skills of the past but also equipped to be “choice ready” – ready to choose the post-secondary education needed for careers they choose in a world that is innovating at the speed of the internet.

Marion and Peter Carpenter had a life of toil with no access to learning outside the rare hour at church. Today, our students have access to that hour, to instantaneous content, and what at BPS is beginning to look like the blossoming of a personalized education. Can public education survive the disruption it faces in the modern world? It must. It is. Watch for it.

 

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A Life Well Lived: Celebrating Lorraine Carmen Emily Perala Olsen

lifesaverMy uncle made me cry last week. My sister Tawnia helped him. Before you ask for names and addresses to send thank you notes, let me explain. My 91 year old aunt Lorraine passed away. Lorraine was famous for repeating her mother’s, my Grandma Lempi’s, line: “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone”.

My uncle Paul made me cry when he shared that Lorraine graduated high school, took a short course at a “normal school” on how to be a teacher, and a few weeks later, found herself in a one room school house, serving grades first through eighth. Lorraine was the teacher, principal, special education coordinator, English language provider, playground supervisor, physical education teacher, custodian, cook, and maintenance person. She arrived early to put wood or coal in the stove. In that one room school house, it was just Lorraine and a room full of kids. Outside it was miles to the closest farmstead.

The footings of today’s education was poured in Lorraine’s era. Classrooms in schools functioned, for some time, as one room school houses. Over time, expectations rose and resources were added. Why? Back when Lorraine taught, students were invited to learn. Today, all student are expected to achieve. The focus has changed from teaching to learning. And that is a huge change which requires a bit of magic.

What is the magic? In part, professional learning communities, where the big questions are asked and answered: what do all students need to know and be able to do? (standards, expressed to students in “I can’s”). How will we know if they know it and can do it? (assessments: formal and large scale, formative and common across the grades, or simply teacher observation). What will we do when students do not know and cannot do? In the old days, students received a D or F and the teacher moved on. In a learning-focused organization, PLCs help work interventions so each child becomes more skilled, in spite of ugly roadblocks children face. And finally, what will we do when students already can do and already do know? How do we accelerate learning for them? Quality learning experiences designed around projects provide one good answer. PBL’s have no lid. Acceleration happens in a good PBL.

I wanted to say two things in closing: one, as little as five years ago, people were bewildered at spending time in a PLC meeting; there was no extra time to waste! Today, PLCs are valuable enough that most staff now crave PLC time. This change is a sign BPS is more learning-focused as opposed to teaching-focused. And two, was it bad we were a teaching-focused organization? Not at all. That’s what students needed in Lorraine’s era through the very beginning of my teaching. Now students need to be skilled problem solvers. Teachers build toward a learning-focused organization every day. You rely on other professionals from custodians to bus drivers to cooks to specialists to support the learning of the child. I am deeply glad BPS kids have you.

When my Uncle Paul shared the enormity of my Aunt Lorraine’s first teaching job, he made me cry. To see how my sister made me cry is a whole ‘nuther story. Tawnia shared a conversation she had with her Godmother, Lorraine, which you can read here if you wish. You will want to bring both a red Lifesaver and a tissue.

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Careful Planning and Steady Growth

 

This fall, RSP Associates, the school planning firm who we have used with 98 percent accuracy told us that BPS is projected to see 1,900 more students in the next 5 years, with most of them  in our secondary schools. Where will we find space for 1,900 more students to learn? And how will we pay for that space? A Community Facilities Task Force of 75 people began wrestling with that question over a year ago. The information below should help you talk with your friends and family when they ask about the proposed bond to expand and improve secondary space:

The Bismarck School Board responded to the Task Force’s recommendation to invest in additions on to Horizon Middle School, Simle Middle School, Wachter Middle School, Century High School, and Bismarck High School. The Business & Operations Manager, Darin Scherr, along with five secondary principals and four architects shared plans with the Board. Not only would the “remodel and expand” be less costly than building a fourth new middle school, doing so makes sense because the “bones” of our secondary schools are good. In addition, the community seems to appreciate the feeder system – knowing which elementary schools feed into which middle schools and which middle school feeds into which high school. This plan presented keeps the feeder system intact.

2016-17-projected-mill-levy-for-bondThe Board is sensitive about debt and directed administration to find ways to fund the $57.5 million in projects while keeping the mill rate of 2015-16 flat into the future. The only way to do this is to use a “retire and replace” strategy. Basically, as mills come off the tax rolls for former school construction projects, we would replace them with new mills for the three middle schools and two high schools the mill rate flat can stay flat or a slightly reduce. (See chart).

Most of us don’t talk in mills. We talk in dollars. Here is an example of a $200,000 home. You can do the math to get an assumption for your own home:

2016-17-retire-and-replace-for-bond

This chart shows the tax impact regarding school bonds. If this plays out as we believe it will, you can see there could actually be a small savings to taxpayers as shown by the (bracketed numbers) even if their home values increase. If the bond failed, people would pay less on school bonds.

Please feel free to use the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document online at www.bismarckschools.org under the green Bond Election 2017 tab. Email questions to renae_walker@bismarckschools.org. She will ensure your question is answered and help us build a robust FAQ.

Finally, please plan to attend and invite others to attend one of these bond information meetings:

Tues., Jan. 17   Wachter cafetorium   7-8 pm

Thurs., Jan. 19  Horizon cafetorium     7-8 pm

Tues., Jan. 24   Simle auditorium        7-8 pm

Thank you for your interest in managing steady growth in our schools.

 

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A Thank You to Our Veterans

It was my honor to learn from three BPS veterans. Here is their wisdom (copy and paste into your browser):

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3MDhEP5oKWUZnNiVTJnR3lxa0E/view?usp=sharing

 

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Budget 101

There is an old African adage that says, “When the pond starts drying up, the animals begin looking differently at each other”. That adage applies to school budgets as well. The other saying that applies to school district’s is, “In absence of information, people make stuff up.” This blog, then, has a dual purpose: 1) to acknowledge that when budget gets tight, people may take it personally and blame someone else for “hogging all the water”; and 2) it is best that people have information so they can respond to both fact and fiction.

Here is some budget 101.

  1. The BPS has a budget of approximately 161 million, 83 percent of which goes to staff. Sometimes people are surprised by that percentage. They say, “83 percent of your budget is people!” However, in any service business (think school, hospital, or government) 83 percent is not atypical.
  2. The BPS projected an ending fund balance in the neighborhood of six percent. As a superintendent, I have always known by rule of thumb a good place to end the year is with a balance of ten to twelve percent. Six percent is on the low end, fifteen percent is, most years, higher than the BPS needs. Other school districts’ ending fund balance will differ from ours. Their fund balances makes sense for their context. In North Dakota, the context of a Class B school may be very, very different from a Class A school.
  3. The BPS student body is growing at about 2.3 percent a year or an average of 350 students. Growth is a good thing, at least when compared to the other choice of decline. Note that state aid for last year (2015-16) is being received this year, in 2016-17. In other words, expenses for educating students are incurred the year before the reimbursement in state aid is received. This is one reason we need an ending fund balance as costs to educate more kids are high. (As a side bar, if you look askance at the legislature for this pattern of aid, you are that animal at the pond. The legislature, I believe, instituted the current pattern of aid for good reason: at one time, most North Dakota schools faced declining enrollment. Not so long ago, North Dakota was the oldest state in the union, in terms of citizens’ age. Today, North Dakota may be the youngest state in the union. Whether the legislature should go back to funding in “real time” is a good question. Another good question is could the state could afford it, now. I suspect it could not, this session). However, a decade or more of reimbursement trailing a year after expenses at a time where each new school year brings hundreds of new students and thus, new huge expenses can and will erode ending fund balance unless cost containment / budget cuts outpace enhancements and inflation – difficult at best while maintaining quality education.
  4. Salaries of staff who provide services in new space (teachers in additions, teachers and support staff in new schools / additions) are a general fund expense and do impact the general fund. See #1, above, for the impact of such costs.
  5. The BPS has added teachers, support staff, professional support staff, and administrators in response to increased student numbers. People generally understand the need for additional employees of their category. Building understanding for additions to other categories may be harder to grapple with. Yet every person not at teacher, including myself serves in a support role to the classroom and acts as a liaison to families and the larger community. Teachers and students should see more administrators in classrooms, problem solving issues, and advancing the mission. Extra-curricular coaches and advisers should have more “go to” immediate help than before. Still it is hard to keep pace when there are so many needs, so many more students and families to serve, and limited dollars. We can only spend a dollar once and then that dollar is gone for good.
  6. Health insurance increased seven percent. Under the Affordable Care Act, more BPS employees qualify for health insurance benefits. This impact of both the increased rate and increased number of employees participating is projected to cost BPS four million dollars this year. That being said, the BPS health insurance increase is significantly lower than increases other school districts are facing.
  7. Growth in student numbers certainly provides challenges in terms of space. For secondary schools, HMS and SMS are over capacity and WMS will be shortly. CHS will not be big enough for the incoming enrollment. BHS and CHS are gorgeous high schools and yet need improvements to the physical plant. The BPS continues to be short on space in particular areas of the school district: for elementary schools, on the NE, the NW, the SW, and SE.
  8. The closing of Saxvik Elementary can be a “confounder” for some and a clash point for others. The Saxvik Building with its dirt crawl space on its very tight lot would need millions of dollars invested in it for adequacy reasons. That investment would have been wise for a building on a larger campus, with a better physical foundation, in a growing neighborhood. Students from Saxvik were routed to neighborhood schools, and nearly a million dollars in annual efficiencies resulted. Still, I recognize it is painful to say goodbye to a school that served so many;
  9. Construction of new schools does not impact the general fund positively or negatively. The BPS community has built three new schools, provided additions to several more, and made improvements to many “core city” schools (think office remodel, added air conditioning, safety improvements to the building access, science rooms, improved school kitchens, etc). Voter approved bonds pay construction costs for new schools and the building fund (not part of the general fund) pays for additions and improvements such as those at Highland Acres, Grimsrud, Prairie Rose, Moses, Murphy, and others. Controllable budget (or dollars line-itemed in our budgets) pay for remodels to classrooms such as science rooms and for new roofs and better heating and cooling. A state grant as well as controllable budget was used for safety improvements. The enhancement process was used to provide furniture, fixtures, and equipment in Legacy High School. These dollars impacted the general fund.
  10. In determining to build new or add on, the BPS has been guided by broad-based community tasks forces and the work is done via public Board meetings which invite and encourage public input.
  11. As we continue to grow, new space (new buildings, additions, or equity work) will likely require a bond. We have been studying how to get this work done without adding an additional tax burden much beyond what all taxpayers carry today.

My hope is these info bites will provide you with facts so people do not have to make stuff up. And as North Dakota experiences a bit of a drying pond, having facts can help reduce your stress as we all adjust to a new business climate.

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Creativity is an Everyday Act

sawyer eating a peach in the sunshineI watched my Sawyer try lift a laundry basket full of beach toys off the deck to carry to the lake. He couldn’t do it. Knowing his learning is in his struggle, I forced myself to avoid doing his work for him and thus, cheating him of a chance to develop his thinking. I forced myself to not get up and carry his basket. Sawyer studied the basket, trying several times to lift it. He could lift it up but not walk with it.

He studied longer. Soon he ran across the yard to the dock and returned with a long yellow rope. I have no idea where he had it hidden the rope or why he remembered it.

Next Sawyer tried several times to tie the rope around the basket, eventually figuring out he needed to loop it through the handle. That done, he pulled the basket across the lawn, toys falling out in a steady stream with each bounce and tug. The basket was empty when he reached the beach. He studied his empty basket for a moment and then declared victory.

Sawyer ran with his basket up and down the beach and up and down the dock. When I 090116 evvie in basketbrought Everette to the lake, he studied her for a while and said, “Put her in here”.
Everette instantly had a redneck wading pool.
Sawyer tried to pull Evie in the basket with the rope. He couldn’t budge her. He threw his rope and ran down the dock, calling over his shoulder, “I will pull her with the boat”. At that point, I thought it wise to step in.

How did Sawyer become a creative problem solver? How do we ensure each student at BPS develops the same skill set? Our teachers, parents, students, and business leaders told us what they want in the 21st Century BPS graduate. Please note the ability to be creative while investigating and applying critical content.
Dewitt Jones advises that creativity isn’t magical or mystical or confined to art production. We are all artists, inventors, problem solvers with beautiful answers within us, provided we really care and we:

  1. Break the pattern. Creativity is a matter of perspective: Sawyer looked at a laundry basket and saw a sled and then a wading pool and then, heaven forbid, a water ski;
  2. Learn to be fearless about making mistakes. Every act can be a creative one: it took Sawyer multiple cycles of attempt-reflect-refine before he got his laundry sled moving;
  3. Reframe problems into opportunities, train our technique: Sawyer was unable to lift the basket on his own yet he has not learned to be dependent on adults. He knows his problem is his to solve, and he had discovered his yellow rope had multiple uses;
  4. And finally, every day, look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary. There’s always more than one right answer: Sawyer invented a sled, a wading pool, and was on his way to a baby-laundry-basket-water-ski before he was shut down.

Much of American education community has fallen victim to believing our work in education is to produce the best students in the world. Hear me clearly: I am a fan of bright kids, but I believe our work is to produce the best students for the world. And to be the best for the world, young people be continually immersed in that “radical balance” of content acquisition and collaborative application. By designing learning around that, we put BPS students in the place of most potential.

I send my best to each of you in the 2016-17 school year. Thank you for your service to the students and families of BPS.

 

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Back to School Checklist

I overhead my two oldest grandchildren (Emrie 6 and Romie 5) talking about school. Emrie was amazed to hear Romie say he would be going to kindergarten in four weeks. “Oh Womie,” she said, “you are going to love it”. After all, she just graduated kindergarten and without question, it was a joyful experience. Roman was glad to hear he would love it. He trusts Emrie’s insight and he is deeply impressed that she can read. (Upon watching her read Splat the Cat, he suggested Emrie be a guest reader at his day care, after the mayor and superintendent.)

One-fourth of America’s population who goes to school each day as preK-12 to post-graduate students, teachers, custodians, aides, cooks, administrators, or other support staff. Education plays a huge role in building communities today and in the future. At BPS, we are mission driven: all students, every single one, will be successful at college (any post-secondary education or training), career, and community life. Schools cannot deliver on this mission alone.

As the first day of school nears, parents and students plan for the year ahead: getting school supplies, registering for busing, replacing Z pass if needed, depositing money to provide food for children, and more. All of those tasks are important, yet I would offer the reminder that the single biggest gift parents can give their children is to get them to school consistently. Attendance matters more than new clothes, color crayons, more than the backpack and shoes, more than any other school gift. Students who attend school consistently feel better about themselves, build academic and age appropriate social skills, and are far more likely to graduate than those who have frequent absences. Those who miss as little as one day every two weeks are more likely to fall behind and stay behind, forever. There is a strong link between learning to attend school in elementary and graduating high school. Give your children the gift of an independent future by getting them to school consistently.

Life is stressful and busy. As a mom and grandmother, I know this is true. Yet purposeful planning makes the difference between a great idea (school attendance matters) and great action (my children are at school). Here are proven tips that help parents and students get to school: define a bed time and morning routine and stick to it for 21 days. On day 22, that routine has become habit and the struggle is over. Set out backpacks and clothes the night before. Follow a regular bedtime and wake time. Recognize the difference between sickness such as the flu and sickness caused by anxiety. Your child’s teacher and school counselor will help address anxiety issues. Even with the best plan, “life interrupts”. For days like that, have a back-up plan where a trusted family member, neighbor, friend, or another parent can assist. Plan medical appointments and extended family trips around the school calendar. Students who go to school are more likely to succeed academically, emotionally, financially, and internationally. In a world where much is uncertain, this is for certain: getting your children to school daily is offers to them a more secure future and that is one of best gifts you can give for it will impact your child forever.

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Bismarck is on the Grow!

Are you tall? Seriously, how would you answer that question: are you tall? I recall a conversation with my building principal who was considerably over six feet tall. He was telling me about his brother. I asked, “Is he tall, too?” My boss looked at me and said, “Nah…he’s maybe… six-three, six-four.” (Oh, a little person, then).

I found his reply kind of fascinating. From his benchmark, his little brother was indeed “little”, a mere six-foot-four. That seems rather tall from the perspective of someone who is not quite five-foot-three. Yet I am tall, compared with my 25 year old niece Hannah, who is four-foot-eleven. It seems everything is relative to the standard in mind.

Take for example people who lament that North Dakota is slowing down, maybe coming to a standstill regarding growth. What is the comparison? The good news is we are moving from a period of unsustainable and rapid growth of five percent to a time of consistent and steady growth of two percent. Is that a decline? Yup, two is indeed less than five. However, at two percent Bismarck is still growing much faster than in the recent past, before the boom, when it was growing at one percent. Bismarck was on the grow. Bismarck is on the grow. Our city is now growing at a manageable rate, and as a school district, it is incumbent upon us to manage and plan for that growth. This demands a different strategy than was used during the recent boom.

When I first came to BPS five years ago, we faced a tsunami of new students. In response, the community gave us permission to build three new schools, move the sixth grade to middle school, and the ninth grade to high school, draw new boundaries to both fill new schools and maximize efficiencies wherever we could find space, remodel some areas and provide equity all over the district. Because Bismarck is still on the grow – not so much a tsunami as a gradual and steady flood, we need to respond by managing growth. Providing space at middle schools, studying elementary schools for equity as well as knowing when a building has served its useful life as a school house, and providing equity at the high schools are our next jobs.

People are moving to Bismarck for a number of reasons: jobs in health care and the service industry, as well as retirees seeking senior housing and medical care. The mayor told Renae Hoffman Walker and me in a meeting recently there are plans for $100 million in commercial construction as well as 6,000 new housing starts.

Here is some snapshot data.

BISMARCK POPULATION  
Year Population Actual/Projected 10-Year Increase  
2000 55,392    
2010 61,272 +5,880 actual increase over 2000  
2020 79,370 +18,098 projected increase over 2010  
2030 96,865 +17,495 projected increase over 2020  
2040 114,361 +17,496 projected increase over 2030  
2000-2040 TOTAL +58,969 projected increase; more than double actual 2000 population.  
Source: U.S. Census Bureau & Community Development Dept., 2015.
BURLEIGH COUNTY POPULATION  
Year Population Projected 10-Year Increase
2010 81,308  
2020 100,986 +11,595
2030 110,932 + 9,946
2040 113,937 + 3,005
2010-2040 TOTAL +24,546 projected increase
Source: 2016 ND Dept. of Commerce Census Office “Projected Migration Scenario”– assuming a higher rate of in-migration to the state in the earlier years and a gradual leveling off in future years; changing economic conditions can affect actual population change.

EMPLOYMENT

  • Bismarck-Mandan employment gained 2.2% in 2015 (compared to Fargo-Moorhead at 1.0%).
  • North Dakota’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.8% for December 2015, unchanged from December 2014. The national rate in December 2015 was 4.8% un-employment.

Source: ND Job Service Dec. 2015 report.

  • ND has highest Gallup Good Jobs employment rate of all 50 states at 51.5%.

Source: Gallup January 2016.

BISMARCK HOUSING DEMAND PROJECTIONS  
Year Owner Rental Total
• 2015-2020 1,754 1,250 3,004
• 2020-2025 1,668 1,215 2,883
• 2025-2030 1,884 1,306 3,190
TOTAL 5,306 3,771 9,077 additional housing units in 15 years (2015-2030)
Source: Hanna: Keelan Associates, P.C., 2015, ND Housing Demand Analysis through 2030.  
PAST STUDENT ENROLLMENT
• Bismarck Public School first day fall enrollment (K-12) for 2011-12 through 2015-16 school years.
2011 11,008 +   233  
2012 11,417 +   409  
2013 11,776 +   359  
2014 12,049 +   273  
2015 12,410 +   361  
5-year increase: +1,635    
PROJECTED 5-YEAR ENROLLMENT
Grades 2015-16 2019-2020    
K-5 6,124 6,909 +  785 (1,152 students per K-5th grade by 2020)  
6-8 2,734 3,379 +  645  
9-12 3,546 3,955 +  391  
K-12 12,422 14,242 +1,820 (added to 1,635 in past 5 years is 3,455)  
Source: school demographer Rob Schwarz, RSP & Associates

As people talk about growth in North Dakota, remember Bismarck was on the grow at one per-cent, then was on the grow too fast at five percent, and is now on the grow at two percent. We need to respond to that growth in a manner that provides equitable schools for students and staff and protects academics, culture, and economics. Please stay in tune with plans to do just that.

 

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Birds, Blossoms & Budgets…

Springtime means birds chirping and flowers blooming. It’s also budget season. Do you know the five major budget categories in our district, what they fund, and why?

General Fund: this is the main fund for all financial resources and district expenditures EXCEPT those below. This fund provides for employees, books, materials, etc.

Capital Project Funds: these are used to acquire or construct major capital facilities. Some of the revenue in this fund comes from the sale of bonds, as well as building and special assessment levies allowed for school districts. For example, some of the money for the new district Athletic Complex will come from this account, as well as from private donors. With spring will come the first major use of that facility—a soccer game between CHS & St. Mary’s on April 9th!

Debt Service Funds: an account for the accumulation of resources for, and the payment of, general long-term debt, principal and interest.

Child Nutrition/Food Service Funds: for operations of lunch programs that are financed and operated in a manner similar to private busines The stated intent is that the costs (expenses, including depreciation and indirect costs) of providing food services to the students are financed or recovered primarily through user charges/meal fees.

Student Activity Funds: for activities supporting school related extracurricular activities. Under state law, school districts are required to deposit all receipts from extracurricular activities in this fund.

You will start to hear more about the 2016-17 budget on Monday, March 14. We are taking some positions to the School Board that we feel we need to post now to get the best candidates. There are other positions and program/school “enhancements” being proposed by administrators; we will roll those out as we get a better handle on how much we may be able to underspend at the end of this school year (2015-16). We anticipate it will be the kind of budget year where we have to do some “spring cleaning” by identifying what we are willing to forgo if we want to add something else.

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