On Monday, the West Fargo School Board gave the go-ahead to begin the pursuit of a demographer to help with the district's ongoing long-range facility planning process.
"I believe there are some significant benefits to having a consultant who does this kind of thing for a living," Superintendent Dr. David Flowers said.
A demographer is needed to help project future enrollment for the district, Flowers said. Though West Fargo Public Schools has used internal resources in the past to predict enrollment trends, some taxpayers have questioned the validity of their findings.
With a budget "not to exceed $25,000," hiring a demographer won't come cheap. But it's a necessary expenditure, board vice president Ben Koppelman said.
"This is one of the areas where I think it makes the most sense to use outside help," he said.
Flowers noted that a demographer would be able to accurately predict growth trends by "looking in the rearview mirror...but folding in what's happening through the windshield."
Possible companies could include Excensus LLC, of Lakevill, Minn., or RSP & Associates, of Overland Park, Kan. Flowers worked with the latter company when he was a superintendent in Kansas. Flowers said they helped on two occasions: when analysis was needed for building space, and when elementary boundary changes came up.
With their unanimous vote Monday, the West Fargo School Board authorized Flowers and administration to enter into an agreement for consultant services. Any final contracts, however, would still come before the board for approval.
Flowers said the move was necessary because of the district's tight timeline. Escensus and RSP each came back with proposed timelines of six to 12 weeks, which could potentially put any findings late into the planning process and much closer to the cutoff for a possible bond vote in March.
Board member David Olson cautioned that administration be transparent with the public.
"We have to be above and beyond with the public," he said. "We need to share all the information with the public, not just bits and pieces needed to push an agenda."
Flowers said all information found from demographers would be presented to the long-range facility planning process task force. A list of a nearly finalized list of task force members also was presented to the board Monday. Only a handful of those listed had not replied to e-mails sent for confirmation, Executive Assistant Heather Leas said.
The task force is made up of board members, district staff and administration, as well as parents of students and taxpayers. The proposed members are as follows:
Board members: Karen Nitzkorski and David Olson.
Superintendent: Dr. David Flowers.
Business manager: Mark Lemer.
Assistant Superintendet: Louise Dardis.
Director of Buildings and Grounds: Pete Diemert.
Technology Director: Rob Kaspari.
Administrators: Gary Clark (high school), Greg Grooters (Sheyenne), Don Lennon (middle school), Carol Zent (elementary) and Betty Hanson (kindergarten center).
Activities Director: Curt Jones.
High school coach: Nate Knudsen.
Teachers: Mary Sherman, Bob Bjornson, Jeff Weber, Ron Boehm, Heidi Wolf, Robin Johnson amd Cari-Ann nostrum.
Parents: Jon Holland, Tim Rheault, Julie Breidenbach, Tonya Pringle, Jill Inman, Heather Sand and Valerie Fiske.
Taxpayers/community members: Tom Hall, Susan Bailey, Frank Lenzmeier, Todd Warner, Chuck Cheney, Allan Skramstad, Dan Levin and Amy Beaton.