Communication is a good starting point
The events of the past few weeks have made it clear that the West Fargo School District has some major issues that need to be addressed. From comments we have been hearing from the community at large, from teachers, administrators, and parents, better communication seems to be needed at all levels.
During the April 14 regular School Board meeting, Joan Baltezore, President of the West Fargo Education Association, approached the Board with a list of complaints and concerns from District teachers. Baltezore said staff morale is at an all-time low.
A letter of resignation from Mark Lemer, the District's business manager, was also on the evening's agenda, although that item was tabled until a later date. No reasons have been disclosed for his decision to resign.
Topping off the meeting was a surprise announcement from Board President Duane Hanson scheduling a special meeting to consider the recommendation not to renew Dr. Dana Diesel Wallace's contract for next year.
Definitely a full agenda with a hotbed of concerns.
How did things get to this point? The problems didn't just happen overnight.
Dr. Wallace passed her annual evaluation review from the Board in March with satisfactory ratings. Why is her performance being questioned now, only a month later? There has obviously been a communication breakdown somewhere.
WFEA concerns centered around the lack of communication, trust, and respect. With the implementation of block scheduling and MAP testing, WFEA members say there have been too many changes, too fast, without adequate information or training.
On March 10, the principals from the District approached the Board requesting that 10 additional calendar days be added to their school year to help them get caught up with their additional workloads. While embracing the new changes, many of them said they had been working on their days off and weekends in order to complete added duties required of them this year.
With our rapidly growing School District, it has been hard for everyone to keep up with the pace. Increased enrollments and building expansion projects have forced Board members and administrators to make a lot of major decisions quicker than they would like.
Good communication is always important, but with all the big changes that are occurring throughout the District, communication is more critical than ever. Allowing time for discussions and brainstorming between teachers and their immediate administrative supervisors could help teachers feel like they are part of the visionary team. More dialogue and planning between all levels would help build better relations and help alleviate confusion caused by the rapid changes.
The administration and Board have already made some progress in attempting to find better ways to communicate. At a Planning and Development Committee meeting last week, Dr. Wallace suggested that when subcommittees such as the Budget Committee, Planning and Development, or Policy Committees meet, they should hold meetings in the round, giving the entire Board more opportunity to hear dialogue first-hand. It has also been suggested that WFEA members could meet with the Board throughout the year to discuss ongoing concerns.
Communication is the first step.